Ukraine: Peace without justice is no peace at all

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As the death and destruction caused by the Ukraine war continue to mount, millions of people worldwide are calling for an end to the conflict, with its devastating economic and social effects. But opinions are deeply divided on what a just peace would look like, how to achieve it, and even the nature of the conflict. In order to show true solidarity with the Ukrainian people, these disagreements are owed a hearing.

A battle for survival against imperialist aggression

For some leftists, this is a “U.S. war,” disregarding that it is Russian bombs and soldiers killing tens of thousands of Ukrainians. Encroachment eastward by the U.S. and NATO forced Putin’s hand, this argument goes. Its proponents see only a “proxy war” between the U.S. and Russia, one they say the West provoked.

The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) identifies many advocates of this perspective, like the Party for Socialism and Liberation, as Stalinists, supporters of the former Soviet Union more or less uncritically even after its terrible anti-democratic degeneration under the Stalinist bureaucracy. As FSP does, they see the U.S. as the biggest threat to freedom and justice worldwide. But they tend to support even brutal dictators against their own populations if these rulers are seen as opponents of the U.S. An example is Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Today, the left forces in question extend that unearned political generosity to the ultra-repressive, anti-communist Putin. Yes, this is a proxy war. But it is above all a vicious assault by a capitalist aggressor, Russia, bent on growing its imperialist reach by subjugating a weaker, smaller nation.

Since Russia invaded, as the death toll on both sides has climbed, at least 13 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes, with many more cut off from essential supplies, services and education. Gender-based violence has skyrocketed. In the Russian-occupied provinces, discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ people has increased. Underlying all of this, the very survival of Ukrainians as a people is at stake.

To defend themselves, Ukrainians need weapons

Another difference of opinion concerns weapons. Ukrainians, including socialists and anarchists, have overwhelmingly embraced armed resistance. However, pacifist liberals and Stalinists abroad argue against the country getting arms from the U.S. and its allies.

The FSP condemns the U.S. military machine and calls for dismantling NATO. At the same time, we believe that Ukraine, a country under siege by a greater capitalist power, has the right to arm itself by any means it can. To take the contrary position is to join with the congressional right wing and to guarantee Ukraine’s defeat. Recognizing and passionately defending the right to self-determination of all nations against imperialist attack is a cornerstone of international solidarity, and must remain so.

However, FSP does not back sanctions against Russia. The party judges sanctions on a class basis. For example, we support those raised by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in defense of Palestinians. We reject those imposed by imperialists, which primarily serve to punish the working class of the adversary, not its rulers.

The call for “negotiations” — a path to treachery

War opponents are increasingly raising the demand for negotiations. Seeking a just peace by this route has been aptly described as delusional by Ukrainian leftists like those writing at commons.com.ua/en/. Putin has made acceptance of Russia’s occupation of four provinces a precondition to negotiations. And there is absolutely no reasonable basis for assuming that Russia would abide by treaty terms made with a nation it seeks to obliterate.

“Peace” through forced concessions by the injured party is unacceptable. Anti-war activists should insist on the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the aggressor, as in past wars waged by the U.S. and other imperialist and colonial powers. It is up to Ukrainians to decide whether and under what conditions negotiations are in their interest.

Solidarity with the working classes of Ukraine and Russia

The invasion, combined with the neoliberal policies of the Zelensky administration, has triggered immense social ferment in Ukraine. Unionists have come together against anti-labor government policies. Feminists have taken leading roles in the resistance and are organizing around the special burdens war brings to women. Students are protesting university disruptions and closures. By throwing light on the anti-working-class nature of Zelensky’s regime, the conflict with Russia has opened new possibilities for the growth of a Left capable of leading a revolutionary way forward.

Reason for optimism also comes from the anti-war protests that erupted across Russia itself, despite truly draconian repression. Opposition was particularly marked among feminists and among oppressed ethnic and national minorities who are disproportionately drafted as cannon fodder.

Today, Ukrainians have no choice but to defend themselves against Russia with weapons from other imperialists. But that does not change the fact that the greatest enemy of global peace is the U.S. military-industrial complex. In the interest of peace in Ukraine and throughout the world, FSP calls for:

  • U.S. nuclear disarmament and closure of all imperialist military bases internationally.
  • Victory to the Ukrainian workers’ defense of their sovereignty. Russia out!
  • Cancel Ukraine’s external debt to support relief for its people and rebuilding.
  • Justice for Russian anti-war protesters. End Putin’s repression at home.