The Russo-Ukrainian War that started in February has now cost as many as 15,000 Russian and Ukrainian lives, if not more, in addition to tens of thousands maimed and millions displaced. As anarchists in Australia, we oppose this imperialistic war just as we oppose all imperialist wars. In the wars of the ruling classes, it is the workers that are thrown into the meat grinder. By the same token we oppose the Russian state just as we oppose all states, which exist only to ensure the reproduction of the capitalist system and the ongoing exploitation of workers across the globe.
Opposition to one set of capitalists and imperialist invaders does not mean support for another. Our solidarity is with the Ukrainian and Russian workers being sent to the slaughter, not the states that facilitate that very slaughter.
As anarchists living across the globe from this invasion our solidarity and support remains little more than platitudes put to paper. We can send money to those struggling and we must fight to ensure that Australia increases its refugee intake (and expands it to all refugees, not just those fleeing European conflicts), but our biggest responsibility remains fighting against our own ruling classes. Australia has participated in most imperialist conflicts of the past century (WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the list goes on) and it will surely trail after the US into its next imperialist endeavor. Australia has also been at the forefront of escalating tension with China in the Asia-Pacific region, building up its military and increasingly intertwining itself militarily with the US, to the extent that our government is now lobbying to build nuclear submarine bases along our east coast in a move that would place us at the forefront of a nuclear conflict should one erupt.
The most significant solidarity and support we can provide to the workers across the world is to continue to work to build up the sort of organised working class power that can threaten capital and its capacity to wage war, which can halt capital's ability to manufacture and transport arms at will, and which makes the prospect of imperialist conflict too risky for states to continue pursuing. A powerful, organised and militant working class is the best defense against imperialist wars and holds the greatest potential to end them, a potential we hope to see fulfilled by Russian and Ukrainian workers in the months to come.
Our government and media have already begun to beat the drums of war. This conflict has only fueled the propaganda drive of the Australian government to justify an increased military build-up and to further bolster its imperialist alliances such as AUKUS and for general support of NATO. We must counter this propaganda as best we can with a clear message of opposition to NATO, AUKUS and any escalation by Australia and its allies in Ukraine, or any other flashpoint across the globe. That is, we need to oppose all imperialist wars and all imperialist states. We must oppose all arms deals, all military build-ups, each attempt by the Australian government to fuel the likelihood of a global imperialist war in which the workers on each side are the ones that lose. Now is the time to build an anti-war movement that avoids campism or taking any sides with imperialist powers.
Down with NATO, down with Russia, and down with the entire capitalist-state system. No war but class war.
These must be the slogans of the anarchists, and we must endeavor as much as possible for them to become the slogans of the entirety of the working class. In our view this is the only position that is consistent with anarchism.
Freedom News, a UK based online anarchist press, originally established by the famed anarchist Peter Kropotkin and his comrades in 1886, has recently published two articles; Fuck Leftists Westplaining and A Thousand Red Flags, which present a different view than the one we outlined above.
As the Anarchist Communist Group has already responded to A Thousand Red Flags, we will focus on Fuck Leftist Westplaining. As it is a difficult article to summarise we've included extensive quotations in order to show that we are not nitpicking out of context, however at its core a few messages can be seen as central. Most directly is the notion that leftists in the west should "shut the fuuuuck up" about NATO. The article argues that non-Eastern Europeans cannot properly understand NATO, nor the drive of Eastern European countries to wish to secure membership to it.
The article states that:
... in your heads, NATO and other Western organisations are always on the wrong side, and always perpetrators of everything bad in this world. You could, ofc, google it, but who would bother if you have such intellectual figures as Noam Chomsky with his disgraceful, relativising stances to tell you what to think...
We [here referring to Eastern Europeans] see NATO in a completely different, and I dare say much more nuanced way. We are not fans of it, and we can agree with you on many, many reasons to criticise it. But when you say "Fuck NATO" or "End NATO expansion", what I hear is that you do not care about the safety and wellbeing of my Eastern European friends, family and comrades. You are happy to put my mum at risk for cheap political points you would not even be able to act on, you bastards...
When you talk about "expansion", with everything this word implies, really, you are referring to this process in which Eastern Europe, for the reason of other countries making decisions over our heads in 1945, quite literally tip-toed around Russia petitioning it to allow us do what we wanted to do...
Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary joined NATO in 1999, the Baltic countries followed in 2004. And for now, I want them to stay there, and it doesn't have much to do with politics tbh. It is a self-preservation instinct, but this is another thing you will just not get. You talk more about "NATO expansion" than you talk about the fact that you are the funding members of it...
Further, you talk about how you desire to stop "NATO expansion" but you don't really mention what, exactly, would be a viable alternative to it. This is not acceptable at all, it just shows your privilege of growing up in a country where your life story was not littered with, how exciting, tantrums and aggressions of various scales of this great, unpredictable force that assumes it can throw its way anywhere where there is no NATO. So tell me, how exactly will you assure our safety? What is this NATO alternative you are advocating for? ...
There is a significant amount to attempt to unpack in the above quotation, not all of which can be tackled in this article but suffice to say we disagree strongly with the arguments presented, constituting in our opinion a very poor grasp of the fundamentals of anarchism as a revolutionary working class movement.
Now is not the time for the socialist movement to "shut the fuck up" about NATO, but to be yelling loudest about it (which in no way means that we should lessen our denouciations of Putin). Earlier in March several ACM members attended a rally in solidarity with Ukraine which saw around 200 people attend. Throughout the crowd of this rally were signs and banners calling for NATO to institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Such an act would likely constitute nothing short of a third world war, and possible nuclear escalation. When no fly zones are spoken of, it is often obvious that those calling for them have little understanding of what they entail or what the likely outcomes would be. We can certainly understand the immediate drive to save Ukrainian lives, but the escalation of the war by further imperialist intervention is not something we can shut up about as socialists. We must be loud and clear about our opposition to such a move and attempt as much as possible to talk about this, to win people over. Escalating this war won't save lives, it will cost more.
A further point we feel it important to rebut is the implicit notions of NATO membership as being in the best interests of the workers of Eastern Europe. While we can certainly understand why there may have been significant support for such membership across the region after the fall of the USSR, mass support does not necessarily mean that such a position is correct. Support for such moves generally stem from capitalist propaganda and the encouragement of nationalist rivalries. These exact same factors fuel Australian workers' support for AUKUS alliance, and military buildup in the Asia-Pacific in order to defend us from the 'peril' posed by China. Just because a significant portion of Australian workers fear China and support AUKUS and Australian-US militarism does not mean such a position in fact constitutes a correct one, nor benefits workers.
One should also remember that while NATO may be seen by some as a protective force against Russian imperialism, for millions across the Middle East NATO, along with its lapdog Australia has been the invader, the brutal imperialist murdering citizens, and demolishing infrastructure. If NATO is a protective force for Eastern Europe, then we would be forced to admit that a bloc made up of China, Russia, and other nations in opposition to NATO is equally essential to the countries upon which the west sets its sights. In short, we would be forced to support the buildup of opposing imperialist blocs on the path to inevitable catastrophic conflict just as we saw occur in the lead up to the First World War.
The solution for imperialism does not lay in support for imperialist blocs, but in the strength and solidarity of the international working class. Understanding the factors leading to support for imperialist projects does not mean condoning such support nor change our fundamental task in opposing such projects.
Fuck Leftist Westplaining's fundamental arguments are essentially the same as those presented by the governments of Australia, the US, and every other imperialist force to justify the very capitalist-imperialist system that the socialist movement seeks to overthrow, and which lays at the root of the current war in Ukraine and all wars across the globe. Campism, whether it is Stalinists providing support to brutal dictators such as Assad and Putin because they oppose the west, or 'anarchists' supporting NATO as the defenders against Russian or Chinese aggression, needs to be tossed out and rejected as the anti-working class dross that it is.
To be clear this article is not an attempt at playing 'what aboutism'. The various ways that NATO contributed to this war, and the brutal invasions and occupations by NATO forces over the past 50 years, in no way lessens or excuses the actions of the Russian state. Nor should anarchists fall into the trap of looking down their noses at people who in a period of fear and desperation have looked towards a force such as NATO for protection. We can understand such a position, and we can have sympathy for it, but we still need to argue against it. We must continue being clear that peace will not come from support for imperialist powers, but the internationalism of the working class. This is our alternative to NATO.
So no, we will not "shut the fuck up" about NATO, because doing so would mean being silent at the very time when the socialist movement needs to be at its loudest about imperialism and the need to reject all attempts at allying the working class with its rulers, rather than the workers of the world. This mistake has been made before and we can't afford to make it again.