It is in periods of war those genuinely opposed to conflict must resist the pressure to fall in line with the warmongers

John McInally

Photo: Steve Eason

The devastating impact of Russia’s war on the ordinary people of Ukraine is rightly causing outrage and brings home the unjustified nature of the invasion. However, unlike previous wars in which the West destroyed cities and entire countries, as in Belgrade, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, it is receiving round the clock media coverage.

The media give the impression that the war came from a clear blue sky with no cause other than the “evil” of Russia or the “insanity” of Putin.  Any voices attempting to explain why the conflict arose are silenced. Absolute adherence to the West’s version of events is demanded, even the merest hint that NATO bears any responsibility for the war or that is an inter-imperialist competition for markets, resources, hegemony and prestige is shut down.

Stop The War is subject to a propaganda assault of vicious proportions. We socialists who opposed Putin from the start, unlike the Tories who have been bankrolled by oligarch loot and past western leaders like Blair, are now referred to as his “apologists”.

A propaganda offensive has the media and politicians vying with one another to whip up reckless demands for escalation. Nicola Sturgeon, regarded by many liberals as a sure voice of reason, said that the only thing nuclear weapons were deterring was the West giving all the help Ukraine needs, presumably meaning NATO “boots on the ground”.  Such rhetoric may, in certain circumstances, result in a serious tactical miscalculation provoking a major escalation.

Liz Truss and Keir Starmer have both said that the “British people” will put up with privation resulting from rising inflation, enormous hikes in fuel and heating costs and so on to defend Western values and democracy. But they will not suffer – it will be the poorest sections of the population who will suffer most, as will all workers and sections of the middle class too. The media cynically plays on people’s legitimate contempt for Russian oligarchs and their lack of sympathy at them being targeted but the situation will be the same there too. It will be Russian workers who will pay the real price of sanctions.

The imposition of sanctions will convince many Russians that the West is determined to economically destroy their country. Putin may have miscalculated the strength of Ukrainian resistance and the West is also miscalculating the response of ordinary Russians to this economic warfare.

This war is often described as an inter-imperialist conflict, but it is more complex than a straight conflict between the Western and Russian ruling elites. A senior American politician described Nord 11 – the major fuel pipeline between Russia and Germany now under sanctions – as a hunk of useless metal lying at the bottom of the sea. When a settlement is reached in this conflict many sanctions, especially on the oligarchs, will be quietly dropped but it is unlikely Nord 11 will be revived. This would be a major win for the US who will seek to replace Russia’s role as energy supplier to much of Europe at a far higher cost, which European workers will be expected to pay. Sanctions work both ways but Russia has not cut off gas and oil supplies to Europe. If it did the impact would be catastrophic for European industry and the working class.

In the British parliament Boris Johnson refused Labour’s demand for a windfall tax on the big oil companies who have “more money than they know what to do with” saying it would only further increase prices. Labour leader Starmer had an open goal – why not nationalise them? But of course, it’s not in his political make-up to make such a demand. There is a direct connection between sanctions and the further impoverishment of working people in Britain and the West – appeals from Tories, or Labour politicians will not stop working people reacting against this attack on their living standards, or through their trade unions demanding the public ownership of the major utilities to be run for people not profit.

Demands for a no-fly zone are being made by opportunist Tories and other politicians. They do so in the full knowledge NATO is set against this course of action. Their posturing is largely performative but in the febrile atmosphere of war, miscalculations arising from such talk is dangerous.

No fly-zones are not a peaceful method of stopping conflict, they are an act of war. No-fly zones are imposed by strong military powers and a favourite weapon of the US and NATO which have led to war and regime change, in fact they are a prelude to all-out war. But Russia is not Iraq or Libya, a no fly-zone would be a declaration of war.

It is in periods of war those genuinely opposed to conflict must resist the pressure to fall in line with the warmongers, that means both in Russia and the West. We have a special duty to resist the warmongers in our own country, continue to patiently explain the real cause behind this conflict, argue in our unions and social movements for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian forces and an end to NATO expansion.

John McInally is the Former Vice-President PCS (Public & Commercial Services Union).

15 Mar 2022 by John McInally

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