by TSS Platform
Introductory Notes to the Second Meeting of the Permanent Assembly Against the War (read here the outcomes of the meeting).
On March 20th we held a big assembly against the war and for a transnational politics of peace, participated by around 150 people, from several countries and with a strong presence from Central and Eastern Europe. We decided to start a “Permanent Assembly against the War”, to continue organizing against this war of aggression. The starting point is the belief that, especially now, there is the need to come together transnationally. To build together our own autonomous transnational politics of peace.
The impression shared by many after the assembly was that this space is what was missing and what is most needed to overcome the national fragmentation of our movements, to cross the fronts of the war and to think together at the complications we are confronted with. Our previous assembly showed also that this is not easy, that there are tensions that we need to face, if we don’t want to end up divided by this war even more than we were before.
From March 20th things have developed. New horrors of the war have come up, accompanied by the unbearable spectacle of those who contest or try to prove whether the massacres are true or not. This level of discussion is obsessed with responsibilities, but it has nothing to say nor to support those who are resisting or fleeing the war, neither for prospects of peace. It is unbearable to see that there are still those who are not unconditionally condemning the Russian aggression and are not unconditionally on the side of those who are under shelling, those who are fleeing the war and are defending themselves.
At the same time there are no simple answers to many questions. We need to address the pressing issues the anti-war movement is facing. We want to mention some of these questions to open our discussion.
To begin with: a part of those who are against the war says that the responsibility is not just Putin’s, but it is equally NATO’s fault, that there are two imperialisms confronting themselves. This position has been denounced by many, especially from Ukraine, as untimely, ambiguous, and even dangerous, in that it is not clear enough in condemning Putin’s aggression. And this reading seems to suggest that the true and real actors of warfare and politics are once again Westerners. In this, people in Ukraine, those who are fighting or those who are fleeing, come up as simply pawns in the hands of foreign powers, as well as many others living in Central and Eastern Europe have been considered so many times. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, as TSS Platform we released a statement denouncing Russia’s attack and the many responsibilities that led to this outcome, the hypocrisies of those who now condemn Russia but have played with tensions in Eastern Europe for years. But this does not mean that we indulge in a position that at best risks to be neutral and at worst borders a neocolonial attitude.
These accounts of the “two imperialisms” confronting themselves have also another problem: the war seems to be played out only as an international game, a clash between states and global powers. But we know that this war has also an internal side against those who are oppressed in Russia and prosecuted because they oppose the war. Putin’s authoritarian regime that is now killing, raping, torturing in Ukraine, is the regime that millions of Russians must suffer daily. For this reason, it is so crucial to find links and connections with those who are fighting against the war and Putin’s regime in Russia. We think among others of the important initiatives of the feminist anti-war movement.
The second issue we must confront is this: it makes a hell of a difference to be under shelling or not. For those of us who are lucky enough to be safe in their homes the war is more an abstract horror than to others who are on the ground. It is true, the effects of this war go well beyond Ukraine, starting from the neighboring countries; the economic effects will hit mainly poor people, migrants, workers and women; the EU and its States’ propaganda according to which they are doing their best for reaching peace seems to deliver them an absolute legitimacy on every decision they are making, also on other issues; the welcoming of Ukrainian refugees by the EU is sending a message to all other migrants that are oppressed by racism that says: you do not deserve to live a decent life. The US, who claim to be on the side of Ukrainians, has declared to be ready to welcome only 100.000 people fleeing the war. All this is true, and it is important to enlarge our perspective, understand how to act in our own contexts and give visibility to the problems that otherwise are invisible. And yet, all this is not the same as being under shelling. We cannot run the risk to underestimate this difference. And so, one important question is: what can we do so not to turn this difference into a rift that makes it impossible to be on the same side with those who are under shelling, resisting or fleeing the war? How can we cope with this?
And more: does this difference between those who are and those who aren’t under shelling mean that the only thing left to those of us who are safe is to side with our own governments and push for more weapons, more sanctions? Is this really the only thing the horror of this war forces us to do? Is this what we should engage into, saying ok well send the weapons there so they will defend themselves…isn’t this also a way of washing one’s own hands and delivering anyhow the responsibility of fighting to others?
On this issue of sending weapons to Ukraine, we need also to be honest enough and say that European governments and the US are sending weapons anyhow and are now tightening the economic sanctions regardless of our support. They do not ask for our opinion on this, let alone for our permission. We also know that being against weapons as such is consistent with a radical refusal of war. At the same time, it is also clear that resistance in Ukraine cannot but be armed resistance. And it is also clear that from many sides the interest is more in the continuation of war than in its ending.
We thus ask: does such a discussion among us on whether to support or not the sending of weapons help us in answering the question of what we can do as grassroots movements, feminist collectives, unions, migrant collectives? Can this help us to develop a collective transnational initiative? We don’t think so.
How to do it, though, remains a wide-open question and it does not simply concern what we do locally and practically, what solidarity initiatives we are taking part into. The question is what we can do together, how we frame our own autonomous perspective and create the possibility to speak up together to stop the massacre in Ukraine and, at the same time, develop a capacity to oppose the domination of violence over our lives.
We are seeing initiatives of different sort. Many of us are involved in them. There is an international workers’ convoy organized by grass root trade unions. Port workers in Sweden are going to block gas transportations from Russia. There are sabotages against war machine in Belarus. Feminists in Russia are organizing continuous actions. Migrants and anti-racist movements are starting to organise both to support refugees from Ukraine and to face the hierarchies that the EU racist policies are enacting. It is important we try to find bridges between these initiatives, the anti-war movement cannot be organized according to sectors, we need to build connections and make these connections lasting.
We see in Ukraine self-organized resistance, pushing at the same time for the ratification of the Istanbul convention so that male violence against women does not go unpunished. We see groups there, that while struggling to defend themselves, are also denouncing the new labor regulation that has been introduced to prolong labor times and prevent strikes. There are claims and demands by those who are resisting that recognize that also in a war of aggression, those who are assaulted are not all the same, there are fronts within the fronts of war and there is the need to attack different causes of exploitation and oppression.
Are those of us who are not on the front willing to learn something from this, or are we going to keep organizing in our own specific sector of intervention? Shouldn’t this war shake for everyone the very basis of political activism? How do we turn this into a drive to build a collective force on a transnational level and not into a desperate sense of impotence and isolation? These are the questions that should be at the center of the Permanent assembly against the war.
On the level of the initiative, different interventions in the previous assembly pointed out the possibility of making the next 1st of May a day against the war and for a transnational politics of peace. On this we need to be clear: we can’t invent the 1st of May, which will happen anyway all over the world. But we can offer a reference point for all those who are looking for a new political meaning for this traditional day of workers’ struggle. What we can do is to stop treating this war as an international, Ukrainian or Eastern issue. We can link the condemnation to Russian invasion, the call for an immediate ending of killings and destruction with broader demands that can compose the framework for a transnational politics of peace against racism and nationalism, against patriarchy, against exploitation, on the side of those who are resisting and those who are fleeing this war of aggression.