Russians Against the War (RAW) is a front of Russian socialist and communist activists, organising resistance to the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. Due to the harsh and authoritarian restrictions the Kremlin have placed on freedom of speech, RAW are forced to conduct their business underground, and to rely on strict anonymity for their own safety. In this interview, members of the front offer an analysis of the economic and social drivers towards war in the Russian Federation itself, the situation of Russian social movements, and the class character of the current conflict. They also point towards what they see as the possibilities for an international anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement capable of breaking the horrors of our current impasse.
This interview was conducted by James Bell and Luke Beesley from the Prolekult Films project. Prolekult has been soliciting submissions from Ukrainian and Russian socialist activists and organisers on the impact of the war and their visions for peace and justice. Those submissions, alongside an audio version of this interview, are freely available here.
Please note that these responses were written at the end of March 2022; therefore, statistics used and events described were correct at the time of writing.
James Bell and Luke Beesley: Russians Against the War is an openly socialist and communist coalition. In the West, working-class Russians are often depicted as either brainwashed zombies with a personal loyalty to Putin or (if they’re young and well educated) as being only interested in their country becoming a more liberal, westernised capitalist state. Can you start by telling us a little bit about socialist militancy in the Russian Federation? What struggles were you and your comrades involved in before the invasion began?
Russians Against the War:
Class, politics, protests
Contemporary Russia has been shaped by the transition from command to market economy. Just like globalisation, this transition has created its own set of ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’ The 1990s witnessed unprecedented economic devastation and a dramatic rise in inequality. The winners were inclined to support President Yeltsin who initiated the neoliberal reforms. The losers, including most industrial workers, tended to support the “red-brown” opposition that included communists and nationalists. Within this alliance, social demands and resistance to market reforms were entangled with issues of identity, culture, and Soviet nostalgia. This contradictory fusion of left-wing and right-wing rhetoric was not just the product of a temporary alliance; it defined the political character of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation as well as most other opposition forces in the 1990s. Since its birth in early 1993, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has combined social populism of a paternalistic kind with ethnic Russian nationalism.
Although economic recovery in the 2000s was highly uneven, creating new inequalities and divisions between regions, classes, and occupations, these divisions were not politicised. With Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 2000, political polarisation receded at the cost of widespread public apathy towards politics and the emergence of an authoritarian regime.
The 2010s were a period of economic stagnation and renewed political contestation when class and politics were complexly intertwined. In December 2011, hundreds of thousands came to the streets in Russian cities to protest electoral fraud. Since these demonstrations, the biggest since 1993, a mass movement of the opposition has always been present in Russia. On average, the protesters were more educated and better-off than the rest of the country. At the same time, this first phase of the movement against Putin’s regime (2011-12) reflected the features of the society that developed under this regime: an apolitical mood, a lack of class identity and consciousness, and a significant discrepancy between actual social grievances and the slogans and demands articulated by the protestors.
After the protest rallies declined because of the state repressions and the protest movement’s inability to articulate a clear political agenda, the protesters started creating local activist groups to sustain collective action. As a result, Russia’s new politicised local activism emerged that combined “real deeds” (solving urban problems) and oppositionist agendas. The post-protest local activism became a laboratory in which the techniques of de-legitimisation of the regime had been developed, reproduced, and widespread. Activists accused those in the power of being not interested and incapable of solving local problems and troubles. Many of these activists then became involved in elections to municipal district councils. However, the protest movement still lacked a positive political program.
The Kremlin’s response to the movement of 2011-12 was not only ‘tightening-the-screws’ through repression, but also the counter-politicisation of its loyalist electoral base. The regime organised mass rallies of its own, though mainly through administrative mechanisms. At the same time, the Kremlin initiated crude media campaigns to delegitimise the protests in the eyes of the regime’s supporters. The regime sought to polarise the society by setting the population of industrial towns and rural areas against the ‘big city liberals’ who had joined the opposition movement – a familiar trope of right-wing populism worldwide. This counter-politicisation of the regime’s supporters reached its peak in 2014. The annexation of Crimea dramatically increased Putin’s approval rating. Nevertheless, even in the nationalist fervour of 2014, the regime stopped inches away from creating its own loyalist street movement.
Since its emergence in 2011, the Russian protest movement has changed and evolved in terms of agenda. By 2017-18, it received a substantial injection of populism. The movement overcame its narrow liberal focus on fair elections and civic liberties, integrated some socio-economic demands, and attracted more people outside the educated middle class. Indeed, the ideological move of the protest movement was accompanied by the enlargement of the social base of this movement: the poor, the workers, public servants, and the unemployed joined it. This evolution happened when Alexei Navalny became the main organiser of the protests after the state had persecuted several other leaders and activists.
In 2018, the unpopular pension reform, raising the retirement age from 55 to 60 for women and from 60 to 65 for men, led to a decline in Putin’s approval rating, bringing it back to the pre- ‘Crimean Spring’ levels. Despite the tightly controlled nature of the elections, United Russia, the Kremlin’s party, lost the vote in several regions. The independent trade unions organised big rallies against the reform.
Russia is one of the most unequal countries globally, with 114 billionaires, around 250,000 millionaires, and 17.8 million people living below the official poverty line (150 USD per month). Due to widespread poverty, the traumatic experience of the transition to the market economy, and the residual Soviet ideological legacy, the population is generally very supportive of welfarist demands. The disillusioned youth joining the opposition movement en masse are especially receptive to left-wing slogans. Yet the socialist camp is weak and disorganised. When left-wing groups such as Sergei Udaltsov’s Left Front began making progress in 2011-12, they were broken up and decimated by the authorities. The regime understands full well the threat coming from the organised left.
However, there are some leftist successes as well. For instance, the Confederation of Labour of Russia, consisting of various independent Russian unions, is thriving. Even though the unions are staying quite careful, their leaders have left-wing views and participate in politics; for instance, they organised the anti-pension reform rallies.
The latest example of leftist success was the campaign of Mikhail Lobanov. Lobanov, who had been known in small circles as a socialist activist, was nominated as a candidate from the systemic party, CPRF. Lobanov’s campaign team consisted of activists and volunteers; his campaign relied on the active recruitment of people into the struggle: from the ability to contribute monetarily (the campaign’s budget wholly consisted of ordinary citizens’ donations) to working as observers during the election days. As the paper ballots from the whole district were counted, Lobanov, who was not widely recognised before the campaign, was found to have a 10,000 lead over his opponent, a famous TV presenter, who had been supported by the ruling party and Moscow’s mayor and had a massive campaign budget. Even though after the online voting results were published (which, according to the majority of experts, had been fully or partly falsified), Lobanov’s opponent took the lead and was proclaimed the winner, Lobanov’s campaign can be considered unprecedented, given its mobilisation ability.
Before the war, Russia had the necessary conditions to develop a left-wing movement. Regular protests and the opposition movement had formed. And even though the left-wing of the protest movement had been repressed, this movement shifted from a liberal position to a socio-political agenda, broadening its social composition. Independent unions kept developing the union confederation, which fights for workers’ rights and supports strikes—meanwhile, their leaders have also carefully taken part in the protests. The Alliance of social activists and KPRF have carried out an impressive campaign for Mikhail Lobanov, and the young socialist politician who almost made it to the City Duma.
JB & LB: Many Western communists have a rather romanticised view of the global role of the contemporary Russian Federation, even going so far as to say that the invasion of Ukraine is an “anti-imperialist” war as it stands in contradiction to the NATO imperialist alliance. To what extent do you see your anti-war activism as anti-imperialist work, and how would you respond to the view that Putin is leading the charge against the imperialist world system?
RAW: Vladimir Putin and his entourage’s constant complaints about the scheming of the US and the collective West is perceived by some, especially in the Third world, as anti-imperialist rhetoric. Moreover, due to the historical inertia, many still consider Russia to be a continuation of the Soviet Union—not only in the legal sense but also in the ideological one. However, Putin and his team pointedly distance themselves from the communist and socialist ideology and from everything progressive that existed in the USSR. Continuity regarding the Soviet past is accepted in the same sense as the USSR is accepted as the successor of the Russian empire. The Kremlin’s expansionism is also an attempt to recreate the former imperial sphere of influence by pushing away the foreign capitalists and cementing the control over resources in the hands of Putin’s oligarchy. Meanwhile, the restoration of capitalism in our country has caused deep decay in the productive forces, so the Russian ruling class objectively cannot even claim to occupy the place held by Tsarist Russia before 1914. Their nostalgic imperialist ambitions do not solely break against the Ukrainian resistance but are nullified by the ineffectiveness of the neoliberal economic regime, thrust upon the country by the Yeltsin and Putin rules.
Throughout the entirety of Putin’s rule, the propaganda apparatus glorified the former state glory and systemically attacked the idea of equality and solidarity. In practice, the gradual dismantling of the welfare state was taking place, of which the most glaring examples are the predatory pension reform, and the evisceration of the social health and education services under the guise of budget optimisation and austerity (while the oligarchy kept receiving generous help and unprecedented tax cuts from the government at the very same time). Putin keeps pointing out now as well that there will be no change in the country’s course—he predated his invasion of Ukraine with a long speech, where he accused the Bolsheviks of creating this “artificial” formation and promised to respond to the sanctions with a gradual introduction of free-market principles.
It’s not just the ideology, or the socio-economic policy of Putin’s regime, though, but also the actual contents of his foreign policy, including that in the direction of Ukraine. In 2014, when Ukraine had a coup, the people rising up against the new power in the South-East had hoped that Putin and Russia would support their democratic and social demands, expressed sporadically by the masses in the streets of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv. However, the Russian government gradually removed the undesirable people from power in the new People’s Republics—not just the leftists, but anyone who had an independent opinion and relied on grassroots support. A large part of the initial uprising leaders, such as the “Luhansk Che Guevara” Alexey Mozgovoy, were murdered—and few in Donbass believe it was at the hands of Ukrainian special ops, usually blamed for all the crimes. All the progressive initiatives tied to nationalisation attempts, workers’ control, widening of social rights had folded in the people’s republics under pressure from the Kremlin. Real people’s representatives were switched for corrupt puppets of Putin’s administration.
Such developments in Donbass explain why Russian policy has lost mass support in the region over the past eight years and why Mariupol and Kharkiv, which were central to the anti-Kyiv uprising back in 2014, have now become bastions of Ukrainian resistance. Of course, this does not mean that the policy of the central government of Ukraine aimed at the region was at any point favourable. However, today, the residents of this region recognise the Russian invasion merely as an attempt to subjugate them and take over their resources coveted by the Russian oligarchs.
JB & LB: In the article you’ve published in Jacobin, you briefly note that you are equally opposed to the monstrous treatment of the people of Donetsk and Lugansk at the hands of Western imperialism and the Ukrainian state as to the war, and that opposition to the Russian invasion does not equate to support for the West. To us, this appears to be the central point for any meaningful anti-war movement in the current moment. Would you like to expand on that in more detail?
RAW: We also consider this to be the central point upon which we will build our anti-war movement, so we’re happy to see like-minded people on such a fundamental level.
1. It’s easiest to start on the moral level. Murders, kidnappings, violence, destruction of the environment—anything connected to the war, cannot and must not be excused, no matter who carries it out. There is no contradiction in condemning the inhumane shelling of Donetsk and Luhansk by the Ukrainian military in 2014-2022 and the current criminal bombings and shelling of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and other Ukrainian cities. Moreover, it’s the position of those who see some crimes but ignore the other ones that is full of moral contradictions and hypocrisy. Those who are now condemning the actions of the Russian military but applauded the burning of people in the Trade Union House of Odessa 8 years ago. Or those who shed tears for the victims of Ukrainian nationalists but now condone the murders of civilians by the Russian military. Thankfully, there are no people like that among us. When the Russian propaganda charges at its opponents with the hypocritical question, “why were you silent when Donetsk was being shelled?” we have every right to respond: we were not silent. That’s why we won’t be silent now either.
2. On the political level, we’re also consistent. Eight years ago, we called for an international left conference. We wrote back then:
The leftist movement in Russia, Ukraine, and Europe mostly has become the hostage of this geopolitical logic. Activists, intellectuals, and parties are moving in a vicious circle of arguments, choosing from binary oppositions. Whom do you support – America or Russia? Are you for America or against America? What would you choose: to be for “Western values” or against “Western imperialism”? That kind of approach deprives the leftists of their own subjectivity in this important issue, forcing them to become a junior partner of one of the warring camps. Moreover, the “geopolitical” approach makes the war virtually endless, until the complete triumph of one side and the complete defeat (most probably military) of the other side.
Today, we’re once again confident that the left forces must transcend the geopolitical logic that’s been common ever since the Cold war. It doesn’t matter which imperialism is stronger or weaker. You can’t pick between these two monsters: this way, we’re just condemning ourselves to become the petty extras somewhere in the background of an unfolding catastrophe. No matter how weak we are, if we can give the people not the lesser of two evils but an image of peace based upon principally different, more humane, and just principles, we will have a future.
3. All of that can be said in concrete terms. The central issue we have at hand today is the bloody military intervention of Putin’s regime into Ukraine, which will cost our peoples tens of thousands of casualties, millions of refugees, pitch-dark ruins, and poverty for decades. But Putin’s venture had been prepared by the whole 30 years of post-Soviet Russia’s history. In 1993, Clinton, Kohl, Mitterand, Major, and other Western leaders applauded the military coup conducted by Boris Yeltsin for the sake of “market and democracy.” What else could have grown out of the coup in the smouldering ruins of the parliament? The foundation of today’s Russian regime was created with the direct participation of Western leaders.
For three decades, the Western government and financial institutes observed calmly how Russia, Ukraine, and other post-Soviet countries were robbed by corrupt officials and oligarchs, who took our national wealth to the West. It was considered a triumph of globalisation. Well, today’s tragedy stems directly from this “triumph.”
The neoliberal order of the last few decades is full of contradictions. It was based on the “Washington consensus,” which assumed that the ruling class of the US is the ultimate arbitrator in all serious issues. But the rules of such “justice” were not equal. Saudi princes were allowed to inherit power, while the post-Soviet regimes were urged to have “a turnover in power.” Since the very beginning, the Russian oligarchy had demanded that it be “equalised” with the Saudi vassals of the US. Putin asked Clinton and Bush Jr. to consider accepting Russia into NATO. The informal condition of this union would have been the acceptance of the takeover of property and power by the Russian oligarchs as unconditional. But the West decided not to give such guarantees because they would demand negotiating, not giving orders. In 2014, the West broke many formal rules and demands when it supported the factual coup d’etat in Kyiv. Violence and ultraright demagogy were legitimised as a means of struggle for this territory and its resources. Like Peter the Great before him, Putin considers the West his teacher. He has learned his lesson. As a result, we have today’s riot of the peripheral demon against the hegemon. Tens of thousands of people are paying for it with their blood; millions—with their mutilated destinies.
4. One can’t choose between Western and Russian imperialism from the moral and ideological point of view alone. This choice itself eliminates the possibility of a sustainable democratic world on this planet.
The hypothetical victory of Russia on the battlefield will likely not mean such peace. On the contrary, the Russian power will lean upon the worst elements of the corrupt bureaucracy and open criminality. The occupied territory will have a cruel terrorist regime installed—just like in Chechnya. Blood will keep flowing. Human rights violations will become systematic. There will be no money to resurrect the infrastructure and the economy. Unavoidable social frustration of the Ukrainians will develop into the ugliest forms of nationalist mobilisation. The risk of further military conflicts will rise exponentially. Russia will remain a military dictatorship, evermore dependent on China.
The withdrawal of the Russian military from Ukraine is our primary demand today. But we must also demand change in the existing socio-economic and political order in the post-Soviet countries. Otherwise, it will lead to the repetition of tragedies of the past centuries. The so-called “Weimar syndrome” will go through the roof in Russia. It will nourish the radical forms of nationalist reactions. The “clash of civilizations” model will be perpetuated. Russia will become the Eurasian Somalia, only with nuclear weapons. In Ukraine, the nationalist regime will reign, exploiting the complexes of military victory, just like in the Russian Federation right now. Citizens of the majority of regions will lose all hope for self-determination. The prospect of development, democracy, progress will be irrefutably lost.
5. The left has no right to support the efforts aimed at the triumph of such catastrophic scenarios. Our goal is to have the right to determine the future of our countries to return to their peoples. This will only be possible if the ugly regimes that had grown out of the violent neoliberal transformation of post-Soviet societies will retreat into the past. And above the rest—Putin’s dictatorship. That’s why we see the role and goal of the left forces not in support of one of the military-political camps in the not-quite-Cold war, but in resisting imperialism in principle. The fleshing out of such a new world’s outlines is our historical responsibility.
JB & LB: In the same article, you note that the economic consequences of the war will be mass poverty and unemployment and rampant inflation. This already appears to be in motion, with most of the sanctions placed upon Russia by the West very clearly targeting the Russian population rather than the private interests of monopoly capitalists. We also understand that the Russian economy has been in a considerable crisis since the crash of 2008. Would you be able to speak a little about the living conditions of the working class in Russia and how these developments have impacted them?
RAW: Russia is highly integrated into the global economy. Its share of imports to GDP (20.5%) is the highest in the BRIC group (19% in India, 16% in China, 15.5% in Brazil). However, by targeting Russia’s reserves denominated in euros and dollars and blocking access to paper currency, the West has severely restricted Russia’s ability to import goods from the EU and the US. At the same time, the EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 36.5% of its imports. Another 5.4% of Russia’s imports come from the US. Russia can still pay for its imports with the currency that comes from current exports; however, this currency is also needed to stop the ruble’s freefall. Overall, financial sanctions dramatically limit Russia’s capacity to import goods. Furthermore, exports are bound to fall too. The US has already stopped importing Russian oil. The EU is still buying oil and gas from Russia, but for how long and at what volumes?
Sanctions by logistical companies such as Maersk, excluding Russian banks from SWIFT, and cutting other options for international financial transactions further restrict imports. Finally, many Western companies simply stopped exporting goods to Russia. The Russian economy is no different from any other modern economy because it is integrated into complex global supply chains. Logistics works on the just-in-time principle (so the stockpiles of foreign-produced components are very limited). Consequently, restrictions on imports will destroy Russian production capacity in most spheres. Many factories (even those that are Russian owned) stopped production because they lacked foreign components. They might retain the workforce, waiting for the renewal of imports, but if this doesn’t happen in a few weeks or months, a dramatic spike in unemployment is guaranteed. In addition, some of Russia’s productive capacity is directly organised by foreign capital. The number of employees in foreign and mixed-ownership firms in Russia is 5 million (some 10% of the informal workforce employment). Many of these companies are currently suspending activities or leaving Russia altogether, leading to the severe unemployment crisis. Of course, because of economic linkages, unemployment will be cascading further and further.
All in all, no other economy in the world has experienced anything like this – extreme de-globalisation in a matter of days. It is impossible to adapt to this situation. Nationalisations of Western companies, even if they happen, do not guarantee that the new managers would be able to resume production. Trade with China and other countries cannot replace trade with the West: the volume is simply too high; the quality of Chinese goods and components is uneven and unreliable; and knowing that it can hold Russia hostage, China will offer highly unfavourable trade terms. This is worse than Iran and Cuba because Russia is a bigger economy and de-globalisation happened at a much more globalised stage of its development. The damage already done is extreme, but if the situation goes on for, say, a year, one can predict a 30% drop in GDP, 20-30% drop in employment, and the elimination of at least half of the middle class. Hunger might be avoided by controlling prices on essential food items, but overall, this is misery and poverty that rivals and surpasses the early 1990s.
JB & LB: To turn now to the repression of resistance to the war in Russia. We have watched as the Putin government has rolled out exceptional measures, which even criminalises the word “peace” with a sentence of potentially 15 years. We applaud your efforts in the face of this, and our thoughts are with comrades in Russia. Would you be able to speak about this repression, how broad it is, and the potential for, as you say in your article, “dictatorships unlike any that living generations have seen”?
Since its very first days, the representatives of many communities – artists, journalists, scientists, and many others – had published open letters calling for the Russian government to stop the military action. Even in its small cities, anti-war protests would sporadically gather almost every day across the country. Social media and independent media had been full of hundreds of thousands of indignant statements against the war.
The government responded with tightening censorship and repressions, which are now not limited to the narrow, politicised stratum. Many of those who had signed open letters against the war have experienced pressure at their places of employment, as well as terminations and even death threats. Students, who had been arrested at anti-war protests, have been threatened with expulsions and forced conscription into the armed forces and then the warzone in Ukraine.
During the second week of the war, the State Duma passed a law, which carries a maximum sentence of a 15-year prison term for disseminating unreliable information about the actions of the Russian military, the so-called “fakes law.” As a result, some media have decided to abstain from covering the issue. And the websites of some independent media, which kept on discussing the situation in Ukraine, had been banned on Russian territory. In addition, popular social networks have also been banned: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube.
By mid-March, almost 700 people with anti-war positions had been placed under administrative arrests for up to 30 days, and 27 people had become defendants in criminal lawsuits initiated per the new law. In some police precincts, those arrested at anti-war actions had been humiliated and tortured. Public defenders were often not allowed to see the defendants even during the court hearings. Even though the extent of repressions in Russia today is unprecedented, at this point, the power has not proceeded to violent mass crackdowns. Instead, by using criminal lawsuits, the regime shows its brutal power and frightens the more politically active citizens.
Will the power switch to mass arrests, or is the law enforcement apparatus not prepared for mass repressions? This will largely depend on how long the war will last. With the pressure of sanctions and the regime’s inability to combat their economic consequences, Putin’s plunging ratings even among the patriots will only increase anti-war sentiments. Mass protest might sweep up not only the urban middle class but also those who have previously formed the silent buttress to the regime: the public sector workers, industrial employees, and senior citizens. Maybe when the power realises that it’s losing its social base and legitimate means of justifying its actions, it will increase the speed and intensity of repressions. Or it will give the green light to nationalist ultra-right groups, which it had already been using to ‘take care’ of some activists. Another option is that the power will escape the hands of Putin and his entourage. The repression apparatus will fall along with the regime. But today, all political forces that are prepared to stand their ground and express their position within Russia are under threat.
JB & LB: In Western Europe and North America, there’s been a very visible, but very confused response on the streets to the attack on Ukraine. A general desire for peace, based on feelings of solidarity and empathy with Ukrainians, has become a vehicle for pro-war demands – including shipments of heavy arms to Ukraine from NATO members, the establishment of a no-fly zone, and even bizarre suggestions that British Special Forces should assassinate Putin. From your standpoint at the coalface, what interventions should socialists be making in these movements to prevent them being turned into popular mobilisations for further conflict?
RAW: Each war raises a wave of patriotism, creating the “rally around the flag” effect. We can see that many Western politicians and a large part of the civil society now see the way out of this crisis in the military response to the Russian aggression. It’s easy to understand this psychological reaction. But you’re right, it conceals many hidden threats within it. A local war in Eastern Europe might turn into a World war, not leaving any of us a chance to see peace on earth.
This doesn’t mean we must take the position of abstract pacifism. On the contrary, Ukrainian resistance to imperial aggression deserves support. And this support might come in different forms. Perhaps Europe should forgive Ukraine the debts that its oligarchs supported by the West plunged it into? Cancel the predatory demands of liberalising the energy market? To look over the discriminatory quotas to export Ukrainian products which have led to deindustrialisation? Of course, the left may and should demand that the criminal wealth of the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs immediately go to finance a new “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine.
Already, the Western mobilisation is effectively using Russian propaganda. Here is one of its most persuasive examples. “Whoever started this war, Russia has no other choice—the whole of the West, united like one civilization, is against it,” the propagandists shout at us everywhere. News about Russians not being allowed into a cafe in Berlin or discriminated against in other ways is being replicated by the pro-government media in troves. They’re pushing the Russians to respond to the Western mobilisation with one of their own and to “rally ‘round the flag” themselves. This is a destructive path, which will condemn us to an endless “war to a decisive victory.”
To resist this logic, we really need the solidarity of leftists and Democrats in the West and across the world. We want to show those who can hear us in Russia that the current war is not a war against Russia and the Russian people. It’s Vladimir Putin’s war, and he and his criminal regime are the only ones who deserve to be defeated in it.
We can openly say that the path to peace is incompatible with preserving the current power in Russia. An ever-growing number of people understand this. In some weeks or months, the majority will realise this. We want our voice to be heard outside of our country’s borders. Because the path to peace and democracy cannot and should not be made using tanks. Our own peoples must uphold the liberties of Ukraine and Russia.
To show Russians that Putin’s defeat will not mean new national humiliations, occupation, and division of our country, we must offer a program of peace and security, where there will be space for democracy and the self-determination of the peoples. We urgently need a whole new security system in the post-Soviet space and Europe in general. A security that is not based upon the ability to end each other but on the refusal of war as a means to solve contradictions. We can’t say that the West is innocent in this aspect: aggression in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, intervention in the politics of Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Ukraine all occurred. Such imperialist actions are used by Putin’s propaganda as an alibi to justify today’s aggression in Ukraine.
Our common goal is to juxtapose this monstrous imperialist logic of the ruling classes with a programme of democratic peace among peoples. Therefore, we must discuss the specific parameters of this world together. And our Ukrainian comrades must participate in this dialogue.
JB & LB: Finally, we understand that you comrades are calling for an international socialist peace conference. Would you be able to explain what you hope to achieve from this and how comrades can get involved?
RAW: We remember the conference in Zimmerwald in 1915, where four dozen socialists from various countries demanded immediate peace from their own and foreign governments. Today’s Zimmerwaldists have two goals—first, to demand that Russia withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory immediately, without any conditions, and then, the participation of the Russian Federation in the reconstruction of the destroyed country. Second, the left must offer a scheme of arrangement in Europe.
As to the Russia-NATO conflict, we don’t need either of the sides to dominate, nor do we need the so-called “multipolar world” that Putin’s idealogues keep talking about. Such a world has a couple of prominent players instead of one. Like earlier, these refuse other countries and people any sort of subjectivity, treating them as merely agents of someone’s substantial interests.
Evidently, Russia in its current state cannot guarantee the countries of the European continent any territorial integrity or protection from military aggression. On the contrary, it is a direct threat to its neighbours. We understand why so many Eastern European countries rushed to join NATO: it’s all about their historical experience linked to imperial Russia and the USSR. We also observe with horror how today’s Russia’s aggressive policy is throwing even the formerly neutral states into NATO’s grasp. But we also consider NATO to have discredited itself as an expansive military bloc—one need only mention the war in Iraq, whose rhetoric Russia is copying right now. We can only hope that the aggression launched by it will not have the same death toll.
Protecting the European countries, reigning in Russia and the US with their pocket military alliances, and creating a new security system is only possible through a drastic reformatting and strengthening of such European structures as OSCE. And the strengthening of the European project is impossible without renouncing the neoliberal model, the EU bureaucracy, which builds united Europe, once conceived of by the left, on colossal social and political inequality of countries and people. New Europe and New Russia, founded upon a common antifascist, left, and democratic heritage for the twentieth century—this is our plan for reconciliation.