Tomás Ó Flatharta

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The War in Ukraine – How Should Socialists Respond?

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Two tweets, a ‘Phoenix’ fable and a hatchet to the bud of left solidarity with Ukraine.

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Guest post by Des Derwin

The Phoenix piece (below) from 5th May 2022- re-posted in the ‘Left Links’ Facebook group on 3rd October 2022 – is a case of accusation through association, and association through juxtaposition, seeking to identify Ukrainian activist and academic Nadia Dobrianska with the far right.

In the Facebook group ‘Left Links’ the Phoenix piece was re-posted (3rd October 2022) with the demand for “some kind of explanation why socialists in Dublin would be hosting an event with Nadia Dobrianska who, if not a fascist, would certainly appear to be aligned with them”. There is no evidence provided for these innuendos and claims. There is possibly ground for a case of defamation from Nadia Dobrianska.

The flyer for the public meeting organised by Irish Left With Ukraine  (with additional speakers’ names covered to keep them out of the present controversy).

Two tweets referring to Russian refugees from Nadia Dobrianska were also posted on ‘Left Links’ (29th September). If these tweets are genuine they – or one in particular – are problematic for her and for a speaker at a left public meeting on Ukraine. These will be discussed later but for now it should be noted that they do not offer evidence that she is fascist, or far right or even has an anti-immigrant position in general.

The general political background to a piece on Ukraine in the Phoenix is that the magazine tends, like much ‘left-leaning’ commentary in Ireland on Ukraine, to blame the US and NATO for the invasion and to portray the Zelensky government as oppressive, right wing and particularly objectionable.  

The Phoenix piece is headed “Azov Human Rights”.  Azov is a sea to the South of Ukraine. It is also a signal for the imputation of fascist politics to Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion, extrapolated from the common propaganda claim that the far right Azov paramilitary organisation reflects the viewpoint of the Ukrainian government. The claim usually denies that Azov has been depoliticised and incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard engendering the departure of its leaders to found new independent political organisations. Indeed the claim is exactly repeated later in this Phoenix article where it says: “The Azov Battalion is a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine which has as its core white supremacist and neo-Nazi members and ideology.”

The first sentence in ‘Azov Human Rights’ contains a gratuitous claim that Nadia Dobrianska “has become quite the Irish media darling”. This is another signal to those who object to the mainstream media’s support for Ukrainian defence and who would see it as the same as the usual media bias and misrepresentation in favour of the West on Palestine, Iraq, Julian Assagne, etc.

The Phoenix article begins:

Irish-speaking Nadia Dobrianska works for a human rights organisation in her native Kyiv and has become quite the Irish media darling. Dobrianska works for ZMINA, which ‘aims to promote human rights, the rule of law and the ideas of civil society in Ukraine’ … one of the high profile cases is that of Serhiy Sternenko… “former head of the regional branch of the Right Sector’ [which] has been widely described as neo-fascist [and] has been linked to attacks on journalists, left-wing party members and offices.

A second case of ZMINA support for a rightest is then offered. Note she works for ZMINA. That is, she does some of the work that ZMINA does and would not presumably be involved at all in every case that ZMINA takes up, such as for instance the two cases cited by Phoenix.

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