Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

We Are All Ukrainians Today – Everywhere on this Earth : Left Wing Parties, Progressive Social Movements, Labour Movement Activists Oppose the Barbaric Russian Invasion of Ukraine

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A new mass international anti-war movement is emerging in 2022. There is one test :

Demand : Russian Troops Out of Ukraine Now!

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Michael Taaffe, SIPTU Trade Union Researcher, Dublin : “At times, the debate over the Russian invasion of Ukraine reaches the bottom of the rhetorical barrel. Some commentators portray an informed and intelligent discussion as an apology for one side or the other. If you criticise NATO policy over the last two decades, you are a tool of Putin. If you criticise Putin, you accept the many US-led abuses. It is reminiscent of Albert Camus’ observation: when I criticise Franco, I’m called a communist; when I criticise the invasion of Hungary, I’m called a stooge of Western powers”.

In this spirit we continue to reproduce and report on solidarity actions and statements. The first comes from Die Linke (The Left) in Germany, which is represented in that country’s parliament the Bundestag with 39 seats. . This war is producing seismic changes on the international left. Some, like Die Linke, have origins in the old pre-1990 communist parties of Eastern Europe – but have shifted to to the left, confronted with the criminal 2022 Russian imperialist assault on Ukraine.

Die Linke Statement :

DIE LINKE strongly condemns attack on Ukraine, Russia must immediately cease hostilities!

On Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the party leaders of DIE LINKE, Susanne Hennig-Wellsow and Janine Wissler and the leaders of the parliamentary group DIE LINKE in the Bundestag Amira Mohamed Ali and Dietmar Bartsch declare:

The bombing and invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops is a new level of aggression by Putin, which we condemn in the strongest possible terms.

This war of aggression, which is contrary to international law, cannot be justified by anything. Russia must immediately cease hostilities, agree to a ceasefire, and return to the negotiating table.

This is the most dangerous situation for peace in Europe in decades.

The German government must do everything possible to prevent a spiral of escalation with an unknown end. A special UN conference involving Russia, Ukraine and all neighboring states could enable the way to the negotiating table.

Neighboring states must not be left alone to take in refugees.

We call on all people to participate in the numerous rallies for peace, a ceasefire and disarmament!

The party DIE LINKE and the parliamentary group DIE LINKE in the Bundestag call for a joint vigil on Friday, February 25, 2022 at 5:30 pm at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz.

Translated with DeepL [.] com/Translator (free version). The source is the Leftist Trainspotters’ Facebook Group–xizXiP90hbRXsABkcIXTTEDtRGOreLjip2VNUT2OeZb_Wvo9I

From Ireland, we recommend a second post published by Michael Taaffe, a researcher working for the SIPTU Trade Union

Neither Washington Nor Moscow

Source :

(I’m stealing this title from Gavan Titley’s thoughtful contribution on the Ukrainian crisis)


At times, the debate over the Russian invasion of Ukraine reaches the bottom of the rhetorical barrel. Some commentators portray an informed and intelligent discussion as an apology for one side or the other. If you criticise NATO policy over the last two decades, you are a tool of Putin. If you criticise Putin, you accept the many US-led abuses. It is reminiscent of Albert Camus’ observation: when I criticise Franco, I’m called a communist; when I criticise the invasion of Hungary, I’m called a stooge of Western powers.

This simplistic either/or way of looking at the world can only degrade discourse.

Smearing the Left

Some of the debate has been hijacked to score domestic political points; namely, attacking the Left for being ‘soft’ on Putin (and that’s one of the milder accusations).  Lucinda Creighton, writing in the Sunday Business Post (pay-walled) takes this point-scoring to the extreme:

‘How the left manages to excuse the egregiously indefensible [the Russian invasion}, while attributing every bad deed in the world to the US and Nato is mystifying.’

I’m sure that members of the Labour Party and Social Democrats (never mind other progressive parties) will be surprised to learn that they are Putin apologists.  But it gets worse.

‘ . . . last week the Irish People Before Profit party was protesting outside Dail Eireann against Nato.  Mick Barry, one of the party’s TDs, called for Nato to be withdrawn from eastern Europe, rather any united effort to remove Putin and his 100,000 troops from Ukraine . . . ‘

Mick Barry is more than capable of addressing this claim, but the accusation goes to the heart of debased political discourse.  One can listen to Mick’s speech in front of the Dail in a video put up on Twitter, entitled: ‘No to the Putin regime’s invasion of Ukraine!’.  These are his first lines:

‘The first point that I would like to make is that we stand here as ordinary people living in Ireland, as workers and young people, as socialists and anti-war activists, and we want to express our solidarity with the workers, young people and ordinary people of Ukraine.  We stand in solidarity against what you are being put under, and your families and your friends.  The second point I want to make is that with no hesitation, no qualification whatsoever, we completely and absolutely condemn the invasion of Ukraine, the Putin regime and what they have been doing today and over the last while . . . absolutely, completely. 100 percent condemn Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.’

I don’t know how much clearer you can get.  Yet. Creighton wants to twist this into making excuses for Putin and the invasion. 

International Politics and Crazy

What irks many commentators is the idea that we should explore all the contributing factors leading up to the invasion, factors that go back years.  Jonathan Steele, writing in the Irish Times and Guardian, is worth quoting at length. He suggests that to end the crisis we must first understand Putin’s mindset: 

What happened this week is that Putin lost his patience, and his temper . . .To those who say Nato is entitled to invite any state to join, Putin argues that the “open door” policy is conditioned by a second principle, which Nato states have accepted: namely that the enhancement of a state’s security should not be to the detriment of the security of other states (such as Russia). Barack Obama put his signature to the principle at a summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The summit’s declaration includes a wonderfully idealistic ambition: “We recommit ourselves to the vision of a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok”. This echoes Mikhail Gorbachev’s plea, when the cold war division of Europe ended, for Russia and other European states to live together in a “common European home”. We now suffer in the shadow of the thwarting of that dream.

‘For Putin the OSCE statement is proof of the hypocrisy that goes back to earlier US presidents, who showed the dishonesty of Nato’s “open door” policy by rejecting Russia’s repeated feelers about joining the alliance. In his speech this week, the Russian leader said he had asked Bill Clinton about the possibility of membership but was fobbed off with the argument that Russia was too big. In 2000, during his first weeks as president, Putin was asked by David Frost on the BBC if it was possible Russia could join Nato. He replied: “I would not rule such a possibility out, if and when Russia’s views are taken into account as those of an equal partner.”

Steele is right.  We are living in the shadow of missed opportunities and geo-political manoeuvring. There was a window following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in which a new security framework could have been devised encompassing the US, the EU and Russia.  That failure resonates today.  Yet, according to some, we should not attempt to understand the rationale of Russian state policy – a policy that goes back to Tsarist days. Instead, we are required to discuss Russian state policy in terms of Putin’s ‘madness’, ‘insanity’ ‘megalomania’. 

And here it gets worse again.  Creighton writes:

‘The truth is there is no such thing as Nato expansionism.  It is a fiction.  To claim its existence is to impose the imperialistic ambitions of Vladimir Putin on a voluntary alliance of democratic sovereign states.’

Oh.  Now we’re supposed to reject simple geographical and chronological facts.  Nato was established in 1949 with 12 members.  Three more joined in the 1950s.  But since 1955, with the exception of Spain, there was no expansion of Nato membership.  However, starting in 1999 we have seen a near doubling of membership – almost all to the east.  Prior to 1999, only one NATO country bordered Russia – Norway (and that only a slip of land below the Arctic, hardly a tactical concern).  Now there are five.  Were Ukraine to join, it would have the longest NATO border with Russia.

This is not a fiction.  But to state this is to invite the charge that we are rationalising Putin’s ‘imperialistic ambitions’

A Dangerous World

So where should progressives situate themselves in this debate?  Where we should always be:  supporting human rights, peace and the rule of international law, democracy and cooperation.  This leads us to utterly condemn the invasion of Ukraine and to support the strongest economic and political sanctions against the Putin regime, even to the point of the EU providing arms to the Ukrainian forces. While this may not be palatable to many (understandably), Russia will not come to the negotiating table with a view to a cease-fire and ultimate withdrawal unless Ukrainian forces can thwart the Russian military’s strategic goals.  Ireland’s role in this is to provide humanitarian and non-lethal aid to Ukraine, open our borders to refugees and give assistance to those countries bordering Ukraine who are taking in refugees, especially Poland.

But as Peter Beinart rightly puts it, because we reject Putin’s lies doesn’t mean we have to buy into the half-truths of others (and vice-versa, I might add).    This becomes important given that more and more voices are being raised in favour of Ireland joining Nato or at least evolving a closer relationship.   Beinart states:

‘Saying the US stands with Ukraine because America is committed to democracy and the “rules-based international order” is at best a half-truth. The US helps dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates commit war crimes in Yemen, employs economic sanctions that deny people from Iran to Venezuela to Syria life-saving medicines, rips up international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, and threatens the international criminal court if it investigates the US or Israel.’

And this is a highly abridged list.

It is a dangerous world.  While joining Nato is a legitimate position to debate, it is wholly wrong.  The US and Nato are destabilising forces in international affairs.  So is Russia.  China has so far refrained from overt military expansion (though the militarisation of the South China Seas and the threats to the people of Taiwan suggest a worrying trajectory), but their record on human rights is dismal. 

Progressives must be tribunes for people – for the Uyghurs, the Palestinians, the Rohingyas, African Americans, and so many more.  We must oppose the war machines in Yemen and the military build-ups throughout the world. We must support trade unionists and civil society activists in their struggles against oppression. We must campaign for a Europe free from weapons of mass destruction and the extension of the International Court of Justice to all countries. 

Most of all, we must argue for a new European security framework.  Ireland can help lead this debate as a ‘neutral’ country.  If, on the other side of this conflict, we return to the status quo, we only leave Russian political culture open to nationalist and militaristic influences, even after Putin.  We return to the situation that got us here today. 

Aligning with this super-power or that cannot help advance this agenda; aligning with one or other destabiliser of the international order only compromises a better mission.  That we will, depending on the issue, end up making the same arguments and engaging in temporary, tactical relationships is inevitable in a complex and dangerous world. Yesterday, Russia opposed the illegal Iraq invasion; today, the US opposes the illegal Ukraine invasion.  What should mark Ireland out is that we are consistently and, in principle, supportive of an international rule of law – something that the current regimes in US and Russia are not.    

So, neither Moscow or Washington, neither this super-power nor that; for a new European security framework from the Atlantic to the Urals and beyond – one that transcends NATO and Russian militarism. 

And the challenge today is to use all the tools at our disposal to end the invasion, to bring about a cease-fire and a withdrawal of the Russian military from Ukraine.

End the war, establish peace and implement the principle that one country cannot enhance their security at the expense of another country – something that both NATO and Russian militarism have violated.

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