What the British left is saying about Ukraine

A look at how the British left has responded to the Russian invasion of Crimea.

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James Bloodworth takes a look at the various positions of the fractious British left on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has just delivered his response in the House of Commons to foreign secretary William Hague’s statement on the crisis in Ukraine. The statements from both sides were fairly predictable – both condemned Russian provocations – but the Labour foreign secretary was right to press the government on what action it plans to take in order to pressure Russia into pulling back from Crimea. This was especially important considering the revelations yesterday evening that the coalition is seeking to protect the City of London from any punitive EU action against Russia.

But what about the rest of the British left? Well, here we find a wide range of positions, from the Stop the War Coalition’s apparent attempt to pin the entire blame for the Crimea affair on the West to Left Unity’s somewhat abstract and blanket opposition to “foreign military intervention” and “foreign political and economic intervention”.

The Labour Party

Douglas Alexander told the House of Commons that there could be “no justification for this dangerous and unprovoked military incursion”. In terms of resolving the crisis, he insisted that firm measures were needed to apply pressure to Russia, saying that the international community needed to “alter the calculus of risk in the minds of the Russian leaders by…making clear to the Russians the costs and consequences of this aggression”.

The shadow foreign secretary also mentioned the coalition’s apparent unwillingness to upset the City for the sake of Ukrainian territorial integrity, saying he was “afraid the United Kingdom’s words will count for little without more credence being given to these options and a willingness at least to countenance their use in the days and weeks ahead”.

The Green Party

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett called on all sides to show “restraint”, adding that the Russian Federation must be “put under pressure to abide by international law and respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and independence”. If it failed to respect international law it should “expect diplomatic and economic consequences, and the international community needs to unite in agreeing and implementing those consequences”, she added.

The Stop the War Coalition/Countefire – 10 Things to Remember About the Crisis in Ukraine and Crimea

Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition and Counterfire has written a lengthy 10-point post in which she tries to paint the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a rational response to NATO/EU provocations. There is a lot that’s wrong with the piece, and you could do worse than read this take down of German’s article in the Economist.

“Who is the aggressor? The obvious answer seems to be that it is Russia, but that is far from the whole picture…Ever since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the European Union (EU) and Nato have been intent on surrounding Russia with military bases and puppet regimes sympathetic to the West, often installed by ‘colour revolutions’.”

The Socialist Workers’ Party – Putin Raises the Stakes in Imperialist Crimea Crisis

Much clearer in its stance has been the Socialist Workers’ Party (surprisingly perhaps), which has condemned much of what has been taken as read by Stop the War Coalition and Counterfire as “Moscow propaganda”:

“Those who claim Yanukovych’s overthrow was a “fascist coup” are parroting Moscow propaganda. He fell because the section of the oligarchy who had previously backed him withdrew their support…Putin claims to be acting in defense of Ukraine’s Russian speakers—a majority in Crimea and widespread in southern and eastern Ukraine. But beyond a parliamentary vote in Kiev to strip Russian of its status as an official language, there is little evidence of any real threat to Russian speakers.” – Alex Callinicos, Socialist Worker

The Alliance for Workers Libery – Russian Trade Unionists and Leftists Oppose Invasion of Ukraine

The Alliance of Workers’ Liberty has published a statement on its website from the University of Russian University Workers, which is unequivocal in its denunciation of Russian aggression:

“Declaration of the central council of the ‘University Solidarity’ union of Russian university workers:

“The central council of the “University Solidarity” union expresses its concern at the situation caused by the decision of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia on 1 March 2014, granting the president of Russia the right to use Russian armed force on the territory of Ukraine.

“We believe that this decision does not help the defense of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine and that it promises grave consequences. Support to the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine can be given by other means, by the means of state and popular diplomacy, by economic cooperation, by human rights.”

International Viewpoint (Fourth International) – No War with Ukraine

Encouragingly, the Fourth International has also condemned what it calls the “foreign policy adventurism of the current regime” in Moscow:

“War has begun. With the aim of protecting and increasing the assets of the oligarchs in Russia and in Yanukovich’s coterie, Russia’s leadership has undertaken an invasion of Ukraine. This aggression threatens catastrophic consequences for the Ukrainian and Russian peoples – most especially for the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Ukraine’s southeastern industrial regions…Today, the struggle for freedom in Russia is a struggle against the foreign policy adventurism of the current regime, which seeks collusion in forestalling its own end. The RSD calls on all sincere left and democratic forces to organize anti-war protests.” – Statement from the Russian Socialist Movement

Left Unity – Against Nationalism, Corruption, Privatisation and War

Left Unity is an interesting one, and appears to draw a (false) moral equivalence between unwanted Russian military intervention in Ukraine and economic assistance requested by the Ukrainian government to support its ailing economy:

“The continuing political and economic crisis in Ukraine is taking a dangerous military turn.

“Left Unity takes the position that there can only be a political solution to this crisis and that neither foreign military intervention nor foreign political and economic intervention provide the answers to Ukraine’s complex problems.

“Whether under the flag of US, NATO, Russia or the European Union, military intervention only ever makes the situation many times worse. So it is in Ukraine. The West’s hypocrisy in condemning Russia for breaking international law is breathtaking: nevertheless, Russian troops hold no solution to the crisis.”

Communist Party – Solidarity with the Communist Party of Ukraine

At the more extreme end, the Communist Party takes the Moscow line that the Ukrainian Euromaidan movement is ‘fascist’:

“The failure of  EU leaders to uphold the 21 February Agreement on early elections has given sanction to a coup d’etat against a democratically elected government that threatens to destabilise the country and sets dangerous precedents for the future. The open involvement of US, EU and NATO leaders in the build up to the coup exposes it as part of the drive  to change the geo-political balance in Europe in ways that threaten security and peace in Europe and the World… The Communist Party of Britain pledges its support to the Communist Party of Ukraine in its resistance to fascism, predatory capitalism and  imperialism.” – Robert Griffiths, CP general secretary

Workers’ Power – Neither Moscow nor Berlin – for workers’ internationalism

…as does Workers’ Power:

“The bourgeois nationalist parties have taken power in an anti-democratic coup, using the fascist paramilitaries and rebellious police forces. Workers should make it clear they do not recognize the legitimacy of this government, its orders, the laws, and decisions of the counter-revolutionary Rada…The working class should not wait for outside intervention from Russia, nor allow the reactionary, undemocratic new regime to consolidate its power with the May 25 elections, held at gunpoint.”

As for the Twittersphere:

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OJj

Mehdij

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And on the right…

Liamj

5 Responses to “What the British left is saying about Ukraine”

  1. Jim Denham

    A useful overview, which I’ve reblogged at Shiraz Socialist:
    http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/what-the-brit-lefts-saying-about-ukraine/
    By the way: who is that horrible, right-wing Putin-apologist Liam Halligan, who I think was on the Today programme this morning?

  2. James Bloodworth

    Not sure. I’ve only just come across him. He writes for the SUnday Telegraph and (I think) the Economist.

  3. Matthew Blott

    He used to Channel 4’s financial expert, wheeled out from time to time to counter the accusation the station is the broadcasting arm of The Guardian.

  4. benyoudel

    What would England do if Scotland broke away from the UK and suddenly we had our ports in a country which is now controlled by a disproportional extremist group? Would we be able to find a political solution or invade as the Russians have? I would argue the latter.

  5. GetReal

    Liam Halligan deserves an article to himself. He writes a column for the Sunday Telegraph business section. Most articles are basically hawkish on inflation and in favour of tougher banking regulation but every so often he would write an article glorifying the Russian economy.

    On the 8th the first weasel words on Crimea crept into his article on economics

    “John Kerry condemned Russia’s actions in Crimea, where it has long had tens of
    thousands of soldiers legally stationed in Sevastopol and other military
    bases, as “a brazen act of aggression”.”

    The implication was that Russian soldiers invading the Crimea was ok because they had the legal right to station troops there,

    By the time of his article on the 15/4 it has turned to pure (but very carefully crafted) Putin propaganda.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/10700292/Why-China-is-right-on-the-future-of-Ukraine.html

    Quite bizarre that the Sunday Telegraph is okay with this.

    Liam’s attitude to Putin is quite understandable given he lives in and makes most of his income from Mother Russia

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