One year after the Russian invasion, what should solidarity with Ukraine look
By Kavita Krishnan
February 25, 2023
(Excerpted from the
have written about the ways in
which the Left parties and intellectuals, advocate for a value-free
“multipolarity” to avoid substantive protests against crimes against humanity by
Russia and China. They also limit their solidarity to Ukraine lest efforts to
correct the Putinist propaganda rampant in India distract us from our “national
priority” of fighting fascism in India. They also hold their members and
supporters back from complete identification with and advocacy for the Ukraine
resistance. They argue that an outright defeat might weaken Russia and thus be a
setback for “multipolarity”, which they claim is important, “regardless
of” whether these non-US Big Powers are despotic. But instead of
being a “pole to keep US imperialism in check”, they are emerging as a lighting
rod for anti-democratic forces all over the world.
The sources where we sought moral leadership and intellectual, fact-based
analysis in the past are now themselves victims or propagandists of untruths. We
need to look at the changing world with humility, without the hubris that all
the answers to today’s problems are to be found in outdated paradigms of the
past, which are at best distorted, at worst dishonest – and always dangerous.
When we inform
Indians about the connections between the fascists and despots – Putin, Trump,
Modi, Xi – when we tell people details of the Ukraine resistance, we are
strengthening our own movements for democracy. We do expect people fighting
Trumpism in the US or racist Brexiteers in the United Kingdom to take the time
to show meaningful solidarity with our struggles in India.
We need to
ask sharp questions of our friends who defend and expand democracy in India
- but do the opposite when it comes to Ukraine. So let us first ask
ourselves the questions we wish to ask others.
Are we willing to reject the demands of a “speedy end to the war” and
instead to clearly and robustly advocate for a speedy victory for Ukraine?
Are we willing to say, without ifs and buts, “Victory to Ukraine” and
“defeat to Russia”?
- Are we willing to say that “end the war” can
only mean “an end to the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine”?
- Are we willing to say that a “negotiated
peace” that has not been
initiated by Ukraine itself but by US pressure, can only be that familiar
story of imperialist powers deciding Ukraine’s fate among themselves. That’s
what was done at the end of World War II, when the the US and Britain
colluded with the USSR to betray Poland and condemn it to continue to be a
colony of the latter. We cannot allow (let alone advocate) for this shameful
chapter to be repeated in Ukraine.
- Are we willing to say that Ukraine has the
moral right to demand and receive the weapons it needs to defend itself?
In fact, there
is something that does undermine our struggles. When we suggest that the
invasion and occupation of Ukraine in 2014 was“retaliation”
by Putin against the “toppling of the elected Yanukovych regime” –
even if we say that this is a matter of “opinion” or a “difference of judgment”
and not an outright lie – we are creating a climate where people tend to doubt
facts and believe a lie that is repeated often enough. If we believe that
perhaps Putin is right when he talks about Nazis in Ukraine (or gay people, or
Satanists, depending on which is your bias of choice), we make it easier for our
own fascists’ canards to take root: that the farmers’ movement or activism
against climate change and other movements are following some sinister “toolkit”
backed by Greta Thunberg or Rihanna or
“regime change” plots funded by Soros to undermine the Modi government.
Building meaningful Ukraine solidarity is
possible only if we stop putting a concern for “multipolarity” over above a
concern for Ukraine’s victory. It is possible only if we defend the
international laws based on universally defined baseline standards of democracy
and stop defending “multipolarity”, which is nothing but an alibi for despots
(both in the US and in other states) to violate and attack those laws.
In 2023, we
need a new slogan that reflects our identification with Ukraine’s struggle and
our recognition that we cannot fight fascism in India if we say of invader and
invaded that “both sides are bleeding”; if we say “there are far-right forces on
both sides” or indeed any version of this.
Ukrainians are not asking for solidarity with
their far-right: they are asking us not to equate their far-right with the
fascists that are in power in Russia and want to wipe out Ukraine and its
people. Ukraine is doing us a service by helping us recognise and resist the
language and ideology of Putin, Xi and the Modi government, which dress up
attacks on democracy as “freedom from colonialism”.
Krishnan is a feminist and left activist, and author of Fearless Freedom
(Penguin India, 2020).