Nachricht | Ukraine Crisis The Russian Left against the War

A new anti-war movement is brewing across the Russian Federation

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Lutz Brangsch,

Protest der Russländischen Sozialistischen Bewegung gegen den Krieg, 24. Februar 2022

Even before Russian troops invaded, left-wing organizations and other anti-war activists in Russia and Ukraine had consistently demanded a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the region. After the attack, the protests continued in many ways. There were peace demonstrations in many Russian cities. Reports circulating on the internet and the more than 1,800 arrests suggest that the protests are reaching an unprecedented scale for Russia.

Lutz Brangsch is a research fellow at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Institute for Critical Social Analysis. 

Although Putin thinks that a majority of Russians back what he is doing, these actions also show that their approval is in no way assured. The country is divided. A survey conducted before the war by the polling firm Levada shows that, although respondents’ relationship with Ukraine has worsened in recent months, 43 percent of them also have a positive view of the neighbouring country. Only 25 percent supported integrating the separatist territories into the Russian Federation.

In particular, younger respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 (33 percent) want to see a solution to the region’s problems undertaken within Ukraine. In a separate analysis, Ilya Matveev and Ilya Budraitskis point to another survey, which says that 40 percent of the respondents reject Russia’s recognition of the separatist regions.

It is important that the rejection of the government’s approach is so broad, because the Russian Left is weak and divided. The same goes for the bourgeois opposition, whose best-known representative in the West is Alexei Navalny. The possibilities for articulating and organizing protest are limited. Facebook, Telegram and, to some extent, YouTube are playing a significant role as channels of communication because they are largely beyond the reach of Russian authorities.

The most resolute statements over the past days have come from the radical-left spectrum. The anarchist and Trotskyist traditions have adopted consistently internationalist positions.

Even after the separatist regions were recognized and the decision was made to deploy troops there, the Left Blocdeclared that there are no good sides in imperialist wars like this one and condemned the misuse of human suffering as a political tool of oligarchies. The Russian Federation, they argue, is the aggressor. They conclude with a call for a program to restore the Donbas, which should be financed by the Russian oligarchs.

The platform Alternative Left emphasizes that only a “nationwide Russian anti-war mobilization” could stop the war. That call ends with the declaration “For an independent Ukraine and a free Russia!” In the same spirit, Autonomous Action is asking people to participate in anti-war actions and sign a petition. That petition demands an end to the war and calls for the establishment of a broad movement within Russia against it. Thus far, over 500,000 people have signed it. Similarly, 5,000 students have signed a letter to the president demanding an end to the war in Ukraine.

Along with protests against the war and demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Ukraine, the Russian Socialist Movement is also attempting to unite the fractured left around the question of peace. It has appealed to the members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) and its allies to form a “left-patriotic” bloc against the politics of supporting the government’s policy, as the party’s leaders and Duma representatives have done, and to get active together with peace advocates. The call raises the question of whether they really want “our sisters and brothers to die in the trenches while the Zyuganovs [CPRF party leader] and Taysayevs [secretary of the party’s central committee and acting chair of a Duma committee] sit in comfortable chairs in the State Duma?”

It is becoming apparent that various left-wing groups in Russia are actively opposing the war and attempting to create a broad anti-war movement.