Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

“Learning at the Teachers” – Anthony McIntyre Reports on a Meeting about Ukraine in Dublin

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Anthony McIntyre 🏴‍☠️ I was just about to leave a premises on North Strand Road last Monday night to make my way to a public discussion in the Teachers’ Club when I heard news that dismayed me. 

Immediately, I felt the words of Bertold Brecht throb in my head.

Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.

A friend told me that just a few hundred yards from where we sat, a rally was taking place on East Wall against migrants. It later prompted the satirical headline from Waterford Whispers,Woman Proud That First Time She’s Ever Protested Was Against Refugees

According to the Sunday Times the protest was “seized upon by some of Ireland’s most vocal right-wing activists.” They are as opposed to helping people in need of accommodation as the people I was going to listen to are in favour of welcoming them. The event in the Teachers’ Club was organised by Irish Left With Ukraine – “a campaign of anarchists, socialists and trade unionists united in support of the left in Ukraine.” During the course of the evening I would gladly hear calls for people to maintain an open door policy towards refugees. 

I arrived slightly late, having stopped along the way to assist a foreign woman attending to an inebriated Irish man who had collapsed on his bottles of beer and was bleeding from a head wound. The meeting was already under way, chaired by Nóirín Greene, former executive member of the ICTU. On the panel of speakers were David Joyce, ICTU International Officer; Seamus Dooley from the NUJ and guest speaker Yulia Yurchenko, a left wing Ukrainian activist.

The last time I had gone to an ICTU event in support of the defence of Ukraine against Russian aggression was outside the Russian embassy a month after the supreme international crime was launched against the Ukrainians by the regime of the right wing capitalist gangster, Vladimar Putin. I later joyously learned of some idiotic comments that we were all siding with Nazis. It is like being called a sinner by a religious whackjob, entertaining but never enlightening. 

The inability of people to think seriously, I am well used to. I was left nonplussed by the screamers. What is disappointing is that people on the Left are loyal to what Seamus Dooley accurately described as a Russia that no longer exists. I think what they are wedded to is the authoritarianism that went with the Russia of old both pre and post USSR. In this they find common cause with the far right who seem to identify with the Russian state because they think it will suppress women, ban gay rights and jail anybody opposed to Russia being an official Christian nation – along with anything else those with fascist tendencies take umbrage at. 

It would be uplifting to see more people at these events particularly when Russia is waging terrifying war on the civilian infrastructure of the invaded country. The venue had a bigger capacity than the numbers that turned up. That did not negatively impact on the quality of the discussion. 

Seamus Dooley lambasted Moscow for its treatment of journalists in the country, claiming that it was frightened of cooperation between Russian journalists and their international colleagues. Truth was an important weapon against the invaders and they were determined to suffocate it. He also said he had no loyalty to the political leadership in Ukraine but had a strong sense of fidelity to the people of Ukraine. This was a point earlier made by David Joyce when he pointed out that trade unions were being suppressed by the neo-liberal government of Zelensky which was in some sense using the war to regulate the relationship between Capital and Labour to the advantage of the former and the detriment of the latter.

The main speaker was Yulia Yurchenko, a Senior Lecturer in Political Economy in the University of Greenwich and author of the book Ukraine and the Empire of Capital: From Marketisation to Armed Conflict. Her family still lives in the besieged country and she has travelled there throughout the war to visit them and see the situation on the ground. She argued that Russia waged a war of imperialistic genocidal aggression. While it might have sounded too close to hyperbole for my ear the fact that Putin has stated his intention to eradicate Ukraine as a nation and subsume it within Russia, while at the same time likening himself to Peter The Great landgrabber does at least provide her with grounds for making the charges that she does. Coupled with John Mearsheimer’s seriously weak efforts to portray Putin in much softer focus, Yurchenko is not swimming against the tide. 

She appealed for people not to scream vitriol at NATO in response to the West sending arms to a beleaguered Ukraine, citing Lenin who said that when in a pickle take help from anywhere you can. Not being particularly enamoured to screamers or tub thumpers of any hue, I nevertheless remain suspicious of NATO, seeing in it the cutting edge of Western neoliberalism as encapsulated in the words of Thomas Meaney:

Nato went from being a primarily defensive organisation to a brazenly offensive one – from being a geopolitically conservative custodian of the status-quo to an agent of change in eastern Europe.

Nevertheless, it would be foolish not to see the wisdom in the Bulgarian proverb that you are permitted, in time of great danger, to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge. And until that bridge is safely walked the realpolitik maxim of Thucydides holds good, the strong do what they will, the weak do what they must.

Once it is accepted that Russia has no right to wage aggressive war and that Ukraine has a right to wage defensive war, the NATO role becomes the lesser of evils.  

Echoing David Joyce earlier in the evening Yulia Yurchenko lashed out at how Ukranian neoliberalism was using the war as cover to reinforce marketisation and privitisation. 

All the sentiments echoed during the course of the evening resonated with me. I left the event feeling that in the face of invasion, evasion by the Tankie Left is morally and strategically bankrupt. Supporting tanks only when they are used against workers in Budapest, Prague or Beijing seriously blurs the gap between the camp ideologies of the Left and those of the Right. 

Left Tankies and Right Wankies, Leftoids and Rightoids – not a lot to choose between.

Source : https://www.thepensivequill.com/2022/11/learning-at-teachers.html?fbclid=IwAR1a-Y93fEuGD-S0J4h8WGPznwmbbZCzNR6Y5lWecpi5vh5OaqFN91DRAiw

A report of this meeting is here, which also allows readers to listen to audio recording – https://tomasoflatharta.com/2022/11/24/irish-left-with-ukraine-solidarity-meeting-with-ukrainian-socialist-yuliya-yurchenko-podcast-of-the-meeting/

See also : https://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2022/11/28/on-ukraine-3/

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