I figured something out after tossing and turning all night. We on the Left often make the mistake of still looking upon Russia as a somewhat socialist enterprise. Of course, it isn’t. The Soviet Union ended in 1991. Russia is an unadulterated neoliberal capitalist gangster’s paradise, modelled during the time of its horrific restructuring under Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999) on the United States. It should come as no surprise that its autocratic, and possibly unhinged, leader Vladimir Putin has no more respect for the United Nations Charter and international law than recent presidents of the US or prime ministers of England have had. (For example, remember George W Bush and Tony Blair during the Iraq invasion.)
I do care about international law and the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and can unequivocally state that if I had been eligible to vote in the General Assembly on 2 March, I would have voted with the 141 ambassadors who supported the resolution condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and demanding that it withdraw its armed forces.
Would that the General Assembly had a mandate to govern. Sadly, it doesn’t, which means it is even more beholden on all us freedom-loving, law-abiding anti-war activists to stand shoulder to shoulder with all our brothers and sisters all over the world, irrespective of race, religion or nationality, in pursuit of elusive peace. That of course means standing with the Russian people and the Ukrainian people, the Palestinian people, the Syrian people, the Lebanese people, the Kurds, African Americans, Mexicans, Ecuadorian rainforest dwellers, South African miners, Armenians, Greeks, the Inuit, the Mapuche and my neighbours the Shinnecock, to name but a few.
It has been monstrous to hear white Western news reporters (such as Charlie D’Agata of CBS News) bewailing the plight of Ukrainian refugees on the grounds that “they look like us” when addressing what they must assume are white Western audiences, and that the conflict in Ukraine is exceptional because “this isn’t Afghanistan or Iraq”. That is outrageous. The implication is that it is somehow more acceptable to make war on people whose skin is brown or black and drive them from their homes than people who “look like us”. It’s not. All refugees, all people who struggle are our brothers and sisters.
In these difficult days, we should resist the temptation to pour good guy/bad guy gasoline on the fire; demand a ceasefire in the name of humanity; support our brothers and sisters fighting for peace internationally, in Moscow and Santiago and Paris and Sao Paulo and New York, because we are everywhere; and stop pouring weapons of war into Eastern Europe, further destabilising the region just to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the international armaments industry.
Maybe we should raise our voices to encourage the idea of a neutral Ukraine, as has been repeatedly suggested by wise individuals of good faith for many years. First things first, of course, Ukrainians should demand a ceasefire; but after that, maybe Ukrainians would welcome such an arrangement. Maybe someone should ask them. One thing’s for sure: it can’t be left up to the gangsters. Left to their own devices, the gangsters will kill us all.
This article was first published by Globetrotter. Roger Waters is a musician.