The war and the future of Ukraine and the left movement
The people of Ukraine have been facing hard challenges, yet they have proven their ability to fight for the right to decide on their own fate, and their determination to defend the country and to end the war as soon as possible. The authorities and representatives of market-fundamentalist ideology, together with big business, keep pushing through an economic model focused on benefiting a minority at the expense of the welfare of the absolute majority. In this model, workers are completely subservient to the will of their employers, while social and regulatory functions of the state are abolished for the sake of “business needs”, “competition” and “free market.”
Our country deserves a post-war arrangement, in which decent work, a reliable system of social protection, affordable education, housing, and medicine become a priority. Ukrainians have already seen how essential for surviving can be public enterprises such as the state-owned Ukrzaliznytsia [Ukrainian railroad company-Eds.], and have also felt how painful deregulation of food, housing and fuel prices can be.
A party is needed to implement an alternative vision of Ukraine—democratic, social, and socialist. This party would protect and unite the working class and the unprivileged, those who now lack political representation and suffer from constant abuse. Such a party must protect the absolute majority of the working population from the employers’ dictate.
The ultimate goal of such a political force must be the emancipation of humankind and the radical democratization of economic, political, national, and social life. The party would advocate the transfer of power over the economy from private owners and corporate management to labor collectives and communities. Decision-making and the distribution of economic goods must be in the interest of the entire community, not the capital owners. To do this, the economy must be built on the basis of public rather than private ownership.
With the outbreak of the war, the oligarchs and other major capitalists have fled the state. It was the common people, including organized workers, representing the largest part of the civil society, who stood up to defend the country. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the working class constitutes the core of the Ukrainian resistance to Russian imperialism, our authorities continue to push through legislations aimed at limiting its involvement in decision-making, thus provoking further social conflicts, undermining defense capacities, and attacking the democratic rights of the majority for the protection of the dominant minority. Anti-social decisions are justified by military necessity, although in practice most of the successful war economy cases in the world were based on the principles of the social state and social dialogue.
The war has created new forms of self-organization and grassroots politics. The mobilization of the nation for the liberation war strengthened people’s sense of a common cause and made them realize that it is thanks to ordinary people, not oligarchs or business, that this country exists. The war radically changed social and political life in Ukraine, and we must not allow these new forms of social organization to be destroyed, but, on the contrary, expand them.
A positive sign was the widespread support for the demand to write off Ukraine’s foreign debt, which led to its eventual freezing, and the support of the largest global trade unions and democratic left parties for demands to supply Ukraine with weapons and fight against anti-labor laws.
The time has come for a change in Ukrainian politics. We call for a new, mass party that will represent organized labor, grassroot and democratic movements united around a radical project of transforming society on the basis of comprehensive liberation, public property and democracy.
Until recently, many in the world underestimated Ukraine and overlooked the subjectivity of its people. Now that the country in all its linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity has united for an armed fight for the right to decide on its own destiny through its own forms of self-organization, it is time to explain to our business and political elites that it is not them but the people of labor who constitute the Ukrainian nation that must decide how we build our country.
“Sotsialnyi Rukh” believes that the priorities in the struggle for this have to be:
1. Complete victory and security for Ukraine.
The Russian army must be defeated now, this is a prerequisite for the democratic and social development of both our country and the world.
Preserving independence and democracy will require, first and foremost, the development of its own defense capabilities. On this basis, a new international security system must be built to effectively counter any manifestations of imperialist aggression in the world. Ukraine needs a program to restore industrial production and science-intensive defense and related industries.
2. Socially oriented reconstruction of Ukraine.
Neoliberal forces are trying to impose their vision of post-war Ukraine, a country belonging to big business, not to its people, and having neither social protection nor guarantees. Unlike that, we believe it is necessary to advocate for the reconstruction that emphasizes progressive development of the living standards of the majority of the population, and of our social infrastructure, provision of economic guarantees. Reconstruction must be ecological, social, decentralized and democratic, inclusive and feminist.
In particular, the nationalization of key enterprises under workers and public control is necessary. Besides, we deem crucial and advocate for the implementation of open accounting in all enterprises, regardless of ownership, involvement of workers in their management, creation of separate elected bodies and committees to exercise this right. Corrupt schemes of transferring offshore profits from exports of iron ore, metal, and agricultural products must be taxed. In general, taxation has to be progressive to finance the social sphere and development of the economy. Another step should be introduction of indicative and direct planning for a structured, stable and more complete development of the economy.
Commercial secrets must be abolished. In Ukraine, there can be only one type of secrets, military ones, access to which is regulated by the state, while all other information about the work of enterprises, organizations, and state agencies should be open to all citizens.
No less important is overcoming mobbing and bullying at work, ensuring availability of shelters to victims of domestic violence, combating gendered violence, fighting for safe and stable living conditions for women, trans persons and non-binary persons, ensuring equality in the military and the workplace, stricter accountability for hate crimes, and increasing representation of all social groups in government.
3. Social democratization.
Democratization of all levels of life, eliminating the influence of money and big business on politics, increasing the representation and importance of trade unions, national minorities and communities in power and their full involvement in decision-making. Owners of capital and persons funded by them cannot be people’s deputies or hold positions in public and municipal services.
War makes it necessary to limit certain rights and freedoms in order to protect independence and democracy. However, we must demand that such restrictions are clearly justified, so that they will not be used for the abuse of power where there is no military necessity.
Representatives of local communities, in particular of territorial defense units, must be directly involved in providing security and law and order, while their activity must be democratically and transparently regulated in the public interest.
Social democratization also means protection of labor rights according to the best standards existing in European countries, limitation of a working day length, and adoption of the law on labor inspection.
We need to transform the migration policies to easen access to residence and prevent undignified treatment of foreigners.
Affordable energy-efficient and social housing, protection of tenants’ rights, rent control, developing urban infrastructure, and greening cities are a must. Expanding self-governance in cities, introducing elements of direct democracy, development of public transport and limiting usage of the private one are other essential steps to take.
Besides, the development of student self-government is crucial. Students should be involved in the decision-making process at universities and other places of study, and develop a network of independent student unions.
Equally important is preservation and development of the Ukrainian healthcare system. Reforms based on competition and market principles rather than on accessibility and quality of services have to end. Funding has to be increased along with modernization and guaranteeing stable and decent wages for employees of the sphere. Access to medicines should be free, commercialization of medicine has to stop.
4. Identity and inclusiveness.
The new Ukrainian identity, which is being born before our eyes, is multi-ethnic and multicultural, because most Ukrainians, who now defend our country, are at least bilingual. The multilingualism and diversity of Ukrainian national culture must be preserved and developed, focusing on the Ukrainian language becoming a universal means of exchange and production of knowledge in all areas of public life, culture, science, and technology. The entire cultural heritage of humankind should not only become available in Ukrainian, but Ukrainian should also be used to produce advanced works of literature and art, scientific and technical knowledge of a global level.
It is necessary to ensure the development of Ukrainian culture and language in all their diversity, socially oriented Ukrainianization, based on decent and competent public funding of education, publishing, popularization of science, festivals, cultural projects, cinema, etc.
The influence of the Ukrainian language should be nurtured in all fields of knowledge, to prevent it from being supplanted by the world’s more widely used international languages. Fortunately, Ukrainian is not only the language of our history, but also the language of modern science, technology, production and defense. The national revival of Ukraine is impossible without the comprehensive development of all spheres of social life, including those of high-tech production, engineering, and fundamental research.
Certainly, involvement of national minorities in politics and guaranteeing their cultural rights, development and protection of cultures with fewer speakers have to be a part of the national revival. Struggle for liberation and the policy of rootedness is for all ethnicities of Ukraine, which includes involving their communities in the representative bodies with real political influence, proportional funding of cultural institutions and language development with a considerable compensation for the lack of a nation-state.
5. International solidarity against imperialism and climate catastrophe.
Although Ukraine is the largest country on the European continent, it is thrown to the periphery of regional politics. Having no influence on decision-making, it is reduced to a marketplace for European states.
The growing contradictions between the centers of capital accumulation in the world capitalist system will not stop even after the complete destruction of Russian imperialist power. The left in Europe and around the world turned out to be helpless and disoriented when the Russian aggression in Ukraine occured. Unless the international socialist movement realizes mistakes it has made and builds a new, truly internationalist cooperation and coordination, we simply have no chance of preventing the growth of inter-imperialist struggle in the future.
The climate catastrophe unfolding before our eyes demands urgent action. Humanity must mobilize resources for the immediate and complete rejection of hydrocarbon fuel. The complete rejection of Russian oil and natural gas must be accompanied by the development of renewable energy sources, but also of nuclear energy, without which mankind cannot make it for now. All transport must be converted to electric traction as fast as possible with emphasis placed on the development of public and cable transport, rather than of private and battery-powered one. It is necessary to widely implement electric heating systems, such as heat pumps. The use of wood should be reduced and measures to protect forests taken.
In general, necessary steps include radical revision of the relationship between human and nature, environmental regulation of enterprises, a resolute departure from the principles of unlimited development to environmentally-oriented sustainable one, significant funding for measures to improve the condition of the environment and combat climate catastrophe.
6. A world free for creativity and knowledge.
Access to knowledge must be free and available to everyone. Everyone must have the best possible conditions for learning and pursuing their own creative and research interests. The system of privatizing intellectual property rights should be completely abolished and replaced by a system of public authorship, public recognition and remuneration of creators rather than businessmen appropriating other people’s works. Quality mass education with both traditional and online methods and smaller class sizes should be developed. Higher education should be free for all. Private schooling should be banned and instead investment in public education has to be motivated. Increased funding, expansion of research and development, especially in technical and defense industries go without saying.
Let’s protect the victory of the people of Ukraine from its privatization by oligarchs!
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Mark Steele; modified by Tempest.
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Sotsialnyi Rukh/ Social Movement (Ukraine) is a party of the socialist Left.