T.O. Weekly 55 – ANTIWAR: Co-optation – No Sanctions – Firefighters Union (UK) – European Union – Refugees

The War in Ukraine: The Biden Co-optation Machine Proceeds at Full Speed


On March 11, U.S. President Joe Biden pushed through a $13.6 billion “aid to Ukraine” budget extension in Congress, with the overwhelming support of both Democrats and Republicans. Nearly half of these funds will be allocated to the U.S. military to allow the rapid deployment of more troops to the region.

There were already more than 70,000 U.S. troops in Europe. Biden has sent a further 6,000 U.S. troops to Poland and Lithuania, while another 7,000 have been sent to Germany to beef up the approximately 35,250 active-duty U.S. military personnel already stationed there. But for Biden this is not enough; he has put thousands more U.S. troops on high alert.

U.S. combat-ready troops in Eastern Europe

Joining the Consensus Behind Biden

The leadership of the AFL-CIO is not about to object to the expanded war budget. On March 9, the AFL-CIO leadership, which historically has been subordinated to the Democratic Party, issued a statement that “supports the justifiable sanctions imposed on Russia.” It stated that it “stands ready to assist the Biden administration in its efforts” and “support a policy that will bring back security, peace and democracy in the region.”

On the “left” of the Democratic Party, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) issued a declaration on February 26, two days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supporting “a diplomatic resolution” and condemning the war escalation “as an illegal act under the United Nations Charter.”

The DSA declaration calls for “the withdrawal of the United States from NATO” – which has earned it the wrath of the conservative media – but it does not make the slightest criticism of the Biden administration, whose name is not even mentioned. It’s a declaration that holds fundamentally to the framework of the UN Charter and diplomacy — an imperialist framework that has provided cover for the US/NATO wars against the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Serbia-Montenegro, and beyond.

As for Senator Bernie Sanders, technically an “independent” but in reality a fellow Democrat (he caucuses with the Democrats and runs in the Democratic Party primaries), on March 9 he flip-flopped and called on the “United States and our allies [to] impose serious sanctions” on Russia. Three weeks earlier he had warned against imposing sanctions against Russia, stating:

“The sanctions against Russia that would be imposed as a consequence of its actions, and Russia’s threatened response to those sanctions, could result in massive economic upheaval – with impacts on energy, banking, food, and the day-to-day needs of ordinary people throughout the entire world. It is likely that Russians will not be the only people suffering from sanctions. They would be felt in Europe. They would be felt here in the United States, and around the world.” [See the article in this issue opposing sanctions.]

How soon Sanders forgets about the worldwide devastation that is bound to result — in fact, is already resulting – from the sanctions. Also, not surprisingly, in his March 9 speech Sanders is totally silent about Biden and the Democratic Party. 

Fund Jobs and Human Needs, Not War!

The “national unity with Biden” co-optation machine already means allocating billions more dollars to imperialist wars in a country where there are 3.7 million children living below the poverty line and 106 million people living in economic insecurity (source: USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity). Working people have been told to tighten our belts “to deal a blow to Putin” as prices of gas and basic commodities go sky-high. We have been told that there is no money for wages and jobs, and that workers should join the consensus behind Biden.

In contrast to this “national unity” fest with the ruling class and the parties in their service, U.S. workers are raising their own demands for improved wages and working conditions, and they are going out on strike to win their demands — as thousands of teachers in Minneapolis are doing at this moment.

Unlike the Democrats and Republicans who gave Biden a standing ovation during his State of the Union speech when he called for “securing our borders” and “funding, NOT defunding the police,” labor and community activists are out in the streets demanding citizenship for all immigrants and opposing police violence.

There also are voices within the labor movement speaking out against lining up behind Biden. Such is the case of the former conveners of U.S. Labor Against the War coalition, when they state: “We condemn U.S. provocations and preparations for war. We condemn the destabilizing policies by which the U.S. has contributed to the crisis, especially the eastward expansion of NATO.”

New York City Councilwoman Kristin Richardson Jordan (D-Harlem) put it best in a statement that was pilloried by the mainstream media when she dared to say:

“The United States and the European Union knew the consequences of provoking Russia with NATO expansion and proceeded anyway because they are not suffering; the Ukrainian and Russian people are suffering. We must oppose all wars in which the poor and working people fight and die for the rich.”

That holds for both Putin and Biden. We must oppose and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As stated by the Fire Brigades Union in the United Kingdom, “We call for an immediate ceasefire and for all Russian armed forces to immediately withdraw from Ukraine. … This war is also a proxy conflict between Russia and NATO prompted by NATO expansion into central and Eastern Europe. We oppose this expansion and any intervention in this conflict by NATO forces.” 

• Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!

• Dismantle NATO!

• No Sanctions Against Russia!

• Neither Putin, Nor Biden, Nor Any of the Warmongers!

• $Billions for Jobs, Education and Healthcare, Not War!

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Fire Brigades Union (UK) Statement on the Invasion and War in Ukraine

Executive Council Statement (8 March 2022)

  1. We oppose and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We call for an immediate ceasefire and for all Russian armed forces to immediately withdraw from Ukraine.
  2. The war in Ukraine is an extremely dangerous development. Implicit in the situation is the risk that it may spread and escalate, drawing other countries into a growing international conflict. The working class has nothing to gain from war and will pay the biggest price, both in Russia and Ukraine.
  3. Despite the terrible situation, we support the building of unity among workers across national boundaries. The workers of Ukraine and Russia have common interests.
  4. We stand in solidarity with those in Russia who have protested against the invasion, despite police repression. We support the building of a mass anti-war movement, including among Russian troops.
  5. We support workers in Ukraine acting independently of the Zelensky regime and building their own organisations and taking independent action. This should include attempts to build dialogue and links with rank-and-file troops in the invading Russian forces.
  6. We condemn any far right or fascist group, on either side of this conflict, seeking to take advantage of the war to build their own organisation and activity by further provoking national and ethnic tensions
  7. We send our solidarity to Ukrainian firefighters and other emergency service workers, delivering humanitarian service in the most appalling conditions. We will seek to build support and send practical solidarity where possible, including through the relevant trade union where appropriate.
  1. This war is also a proxy conflict between Russia and NATO prompted by NATO expansion into central and Eastern Europe. We oppose this expansion and any intervention in this conflict by NATO forces.
  2. We note that economic sanctions will disproportionately hit working people, and will be seen as an aggressive measure by the west and may well strengthen support for Putin.
  3. We have no trust or confidence in the Johnson government on this or any other matter. They have demonstrated for more than two years their utter disregard for human life through the deliberate mishandling of the pandemic, leading to the loss of more than 150,000 lives in the UK.
  4. We note the hypocrisy of those in the UK government criticising the state repression of protest in Russia, whilst the police, crime and sentencing bill will serve to create authoritarian restrictions on protest and democracy in the UK.
  5. We oppose the UK government’s disgraceful restriction on the right of refugees fleeing the war to enter the UK. We call for refugees from this and other conflicts to be welcomed.
  6. In wartime, as in peace time, we defend the democratic right to speak out, discuss, debate and protest. We condemn the attempts by the leader of the Labour Party to shut down such discussion within the Labour Party and to bully and threaten those with different views.
  7. Workers in Ukraine and Russia – and across the world – have common interests. Even in this appalling situation, we stand for workers’ unity and internationalism.

Yours in Unity.

Matt Wrack General Secretary

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In the European Parliament, the Co-optation Machine Is at Work in Support of the U.S. and NATO

An article published in La Tribune des Travailleurs (France)

On March 1, the elected members of the European Parliament were called upon by the president of the European Commission, Von der Leyen, to vote on a resolution “on Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The resolution:

Welcomes the swift adoption of sanctions by the Council;

Calls for the scope of sanctions to be broadened and for the sanctions to be aimed at strategically weakening the Russian economy and industrial base;

Calls, in particular, for the import of the most important Russian export goods, including oil and gas, to be restricted;

Emphasizes the need for Member States to acknowledge and accept that severe sanctions against the Russian Federation will unavoidably entail negative effects on their economic situation;

Insists that all future sanctions must continue to be closely coordinated with transatlantic allies and like-minded international partners in order to maximize their effectiveness;

Calls for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be definitively abandoned and therefore welcomes the decision of the German Government to halt the certification of Nord Stream 2;

Reiterates that NATO is the foundation of collective defense for the Member States who are NATO allies; welcomes the unity between the EU, NATO and other like-minded democratic partners in facing the Russian aggression, but underlines the need to increase its collective deterrence posture, preparedness and resilience; encourages the strengthening of NATO’s enhanced forward presence in the Member States geographically closest to the Russian aggressor and to the conflict; highlights the EU’s mutual assistance and solidarity clauses and calls for common military exercises to be launched;

Stresses that this attack requires the EU and NATO to prepare for all possibilities; welcomes, in that regard, the activation of NATO’s defense plans as well as the activation of the NATO response forces and their partial deployment, in addition to troop deployments from NATO allies including the UK, the US and Canada, in order to strengthen the eastern flank and deter any further Russian aggression; reiterates its call for the Member States to increase defense spending and ensure more effective capabilities and to make full use of the joint defense efforts within the European framework, notably the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defense Fund, in order to strengthen the European pillar within NATO, which will increase the security of NATO countries and Member States alike;

Strongly supports the historic decision to allocate significant additional funding to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons;

Calls for the EU institutions to work towards granting EU candidate status to Ukraine.

The resolution was adopted with 637 in favor, 26 abstentions and 13 against. No French elected representative voted against. (Four from the far right abstained)

The European group called “The Left” split into three chunks: 20 voted in favor (including the representatives from La France Insoumise [LFI, or France Unbowed headed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon] from France and Syriza from Greece), 10 abstained and 7 voted against (two from the Portuguese Communist Party, two from Die Linke from Germany, two from Change from Ireland and one from Anticapitalistas from the Spanish State.

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Why Workers Should Oppose Sanctions Against Russia

The United States and the European Union have decreed economic sanctions against Russia, sanctions that have been supported by the majority of “left” leaders in Europe on the grounds that the sanctions will weaken Putin’s authoritarian regime and its social base: the oligarchs. The top trade union leaders also have lined up behind the Biden administration and NATO in the name of the “fight for democracy.”

Should workers in Europe and around the world support these sanctions against Russia?

What are the consequences of these sanctions in Russia? The Russian oligarchs lament the loss of several billion dollars since the war began. In addition, some of their properties in Europe have been seized. For example, the French Minister of Finance, Bruno Le Maire, made a big deal of the seizure on the Côte d’Azur of a yacht worth $180 million belonging to Igor Setchin, head of the oil company Rosneft. These fortunes, built up on the basis of the looting of State property after the fall of the Soviet Union, are obviously scandalous.

But what is the loss of a yacht or a few billion dollars for an oligarch, compared to the suffering that sanctions inflict on the workers and people of Russia? Since the sanctions came into effect, the ruble has lost half its value. In a country where a significant portion of everyday consumer goods are imported, this means a collapse in purchasing power for workers. On the Russian Telegram Channel “People Against War,” a journalist from Volgodonsk (southern Russia) writes: “In the stores, the prices of children’s food are increasing brutally; not by a few rubles, not by 10% or 20% – but by 100%.

The departure from Russia of many Western corporations threatens to bring down entire sectors of industry. Renault, owner of the Avtovaz car manufacturing group, has threatened to shut down its plants in Togliatti (southern Russia) and Izhevsk (Ural). Tens of thousands of workers have already been placed on short-time work schedules as of March 5: they will receive only two-thirds of their meager salary.

What about workers around the world? They will suffer the consequences of the sanctions: “The rise in prices will be felt throughout the world, particularly by low-income households,” says the IMF. In France, a new surge in fuel and food prices has begun. In many countries of the Maghreb and the Middle East, which are more than 50% dependent on Russian and Ukrainian wheat imports, the threat of famine looms.

The workers of the world therefore have no interest in supporting these sanctions. They must demand that their unions and political organizations take a clear and unequivocal stand against the sanctions. — D.F.

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Open the Doors to All Refugees, Wherever They Come From!

After the Afghans, the Kurds, the Eritreans, the Syrians… it is now the Ukrainians that the wars fueled by U.S. imperialism are throwing on the roads of exile. More than 2 million refugees are said to have fled Ukraine to escape the Russian bombings.

Many have reached the Polish border by train or car. The eastern border of the European Union has witnessed shameful scenes. Hundreds of African students — many of whom study in Kiev — were parked separately and then turned away from the very “democratic” European Union. “They turn us away because we are Black,” one of them told France 24 (March 1).

 For the EU there appear to be “good” refugees with white skin and bad “migrants” from countries that NATO has bombed? We would run out of space here to quote the anthology of racist declarations made by “respectable” personalities and the media.

Thus, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, David Sakvarelidzé, declared: “It is quite hard for me to see European people with blue eyes and blond hair killed every day by Putin’s missiles” (BBC). Jean-Louis Bourlanges, a member of the French presidential majority, welcomed the arrival of “high quality immigration” (Europe 1, February 25). The mayor of Calais (LR) had her picture taken with a family of Ukrainian refugees. She is the one who multiplies the decrees forbidding humanitarian associations from distributing food to refugees!

Driven out of Ukraine – as well as Africa and the Middle East – these women, men and children are the least of the worries of the “big powers of this world.” For these refugees to be welcomed with dignity would require the necessary funds — which no capitalist government has the intention of spending. On the other hand, for the workers’ movement, the only position consistent with workers’ internationalism is to demand the dignified and unconditional welcoming of all refugees, whether they come from Ukraine or somewhere else. — J.A.

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