By FLORENCE OPPEN
— PARIS — On Feb. 23, 2023, RESU (European Network of Solidarity with Ukraine) organized a public event in support of the Ukrainian resistance with a clear class character. Among the speakers was comrade Yuri Samoilov, president of the Independent Mining Union of Kryvyi Rih in southeastern Ukraine, which represents more than 2000 workers, mainly metalworkers, and who was the first to take the floor. The first thing Yuri emphasized was the radical difference between living and working in Ukraine today and doing so in any other European country: “I left Ukraine a week ago and since I left I have had three big shocks: first, here they have no air alerts; second, you have light and electricity everywhere; and third, when I participate in such meetings in Europe, I get afraid that it is going to be curfew soon and I have to hurry back home. Today in Ukraine everything is black and white, there are no shades of gray.”
In his speech, the mining leader emphasized the involvement of workers, and especially industrial workers, in the Ukrainian resistance. He comes from one of the country’s workers’ centers, Kryvyi Rih, where 250,000 industrial workers live. Of the 2500 workers of his union, 300 of them were mobilized to the front and are participating today in the resistance to the Russian invasion. While at the front, they remain members of the union that organizes material support and aid to the front.
Yuri explained that the Zelensky government launched attacks on working conditions and labor rights in the midst of the war, but that his union, like many others, mobilized to prevent these attacks from being implemented in practice by the bosses. The effects of the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine have a clear class character. While the working people had to migrate, go to the front, suffer bombings, power cuts, privations and above all risk their lives on the front, many Russian oligarchs, like several Ukrainian oligarchs and foreign companies today in Ukraine continue, live protected outside the country and continue doing business with Russia in the middle of the war.
Finally, in his speech he insisted on the importance of direct material aid to trade unions and workers’ resistance that they have received from the RESU and the International Trade Union Network of Solidarity and Struggles: “We are very grateful for all the help they have given us, you have sent us generators that help us to fight on the fronts in Bakhmut and Soledar, you have sent us sleeping bags that help Ukrainian soldiers to sleep warm. We have members of our union active in two battalions of the Ukrainian army and one of the convoys of material aid was delivered directly by hand to a battalion at the front. For me it is very important that this worker-to-worker aid is direct, and that we deliver things by hand and do not go through intermediaries.”
Also speaking at the event was Vitaliy Dudin, a representative of Sotsіalniy Rukh (Social Movement) from Ukraine, who denounced “Putin’s imperialist aggression” and emphasized “the need for continued economic and military aid to the resistance as well as the importance of canceling Ukraine’s foreign debt.” He also underlined the importance of strengthening class organizations in Ukraine after the victory to recover lost social rights and carry out a “radical social transformation” that would implement “socialist policies.”
Jean-Pierre Pasternak, the speaker representing Ukrainians of France, an organization founded in 1949 by survivors of Nazi concentration camps who came to France and make up a large part of the Ukrainian community in the country, made it very clear that Ukraine cannot accept “any kind of peace with annexations.” The Ukrainian resistance and its allies (the Ukrainian diaspora and the peoples in solidarity with their cause) “must deliver a categorical defeat to Russian imperialism as it also threatens today Moldova, the Baltic Countries, and Poland.”
Comrade Huayra Llanque, of the RESU feminist collective and an ATTAC militant, underlined the importance of making visible the perspective and role of women in the Ukrainian resistance and the feminist manifesto they brought out to make an international call for solidarity. She emphasized that women have faced aggressions and rapes by the invading army but also that they are very active in the resistance and in the defense of their rights, both in their struggle and for the materialization of the right to abortion, which is legal in Ukraine but without medical and material resources during the war. They also lend support to Polish women who have been fighting for reproductive rights in recent years, since many Ukrainian activists are now in Poland.
The event was closed by the interventions of three representatives (Solidaires, FSU and CGT) of the inter-union (“Intersyndical”) formation in France that supports the Ukrainian trade union and of the RSISL (the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle). They explained the various initiatives of material aid and international convoys they have joined. Cybèle David of the Solidaires federation called to continue “to support the trade-union and popular resistance in Ukraine, and also the Belarusian population and those in Russia who oppose the invasion” and to come out to demonstrate in Paris and other cities on Saturday, Feb. 25. They also emphasized the need to organize the working class to fight for their social and political rights both in France and in Ukraine, connecting struggles and developing international solidarity.
The event of the 23rd, however, lacked a clear delimitation of the French imperialist government, and of European and U.S. imperialism through the EU and NATO. There was no criticism of Macron’s real policy in Ukraine, which continues, like that of the other EU governments, to send old armaments to Ukraine in dribs and drabs, while taking advantage of the war to dramatically increase French military spending, reinforce its imperialist army, which represses protests in Africa and other countries, and launch itself into an arms race that benefits the big French industrial groups (Airbus Group, Dassault Aviation, Thales, Nexter, etc.). Nor did the French speakers question the EU plans to “rebuild Ukraine” through heavy loans, and indebtedness that compromises any real economic independence once the war is won and seeks to semi-colonize Ukraine. That is why on each visit to Kiev, the European leaders are accompanied by big businessmen from their countries who are vying for the spoils of reconstruction.
The capitulation to the pro-NATO and bourgeois leadership was openly evident at the march on Saturday, Feb. 25 in Paris, where one of the speakers was Alain Madelin, former minister in the Chirac government and a public figure of pro-NATO neoliberalism, and Bernard Guetta, MEP of LRM, Macron’s party.
It should be noted that the new military budget of Macron’s government for the period 2024-2030 will be 413 billion euros, and will increase by 60% the spending on military intelligence. In total, military spending for the next seven-year period will double compared to the previous one and will bring total military spending to 2.5% of GDP, exceeding the “minimum” of 2% set by NATO. All of this is while millions of workers in France suffer the effects of record inflation, the end of several government aids to face the social crisis and, of course, the brutal attack of Macron’s pension reform. The big justification for the detested reform that has brought millions into the streets (and will probably paralyze the country on March 7) is that, according to the government, the pension system has an annual deficit of between 10 and 12 billion euros.
The pension reform in the midst of war and the arms race lays bare the contradictions and priorities of the Macron government, since the military budget of the French state in 2022 was 41 billion to defend the interests of the big French multinationals in their zones of influence. It is clear that French imperialism has sufficient resources to maintain and even lower the retirement age, raise pensions and wages, and decisively support the Ukrainian resistance. However, French workers can only succeed in meeting the immediate needs of the working class in France, Europe, and Ukraine if they radically question the record profits of their multinationals, the participation in NATO and the role of their military in Africa and the rest of the world, and move forward in building an independent working-class government for and by the workers.
While we continue to build unity of action in favor of material support to the Ukrainian resistance and for the defeat of the Russian invasion, strengthening the working class and popular resistance, we must also defend an independent and working-class wing that sharply differentiates itself from the plans of Biden, Macron, and Scholz. The latter figures do not aim at the political and economic independence of the Ukrainian people. We should instead bring together more and more working-class and popular sectors and develop initiatives of independent mobilization of the French and European workers and direct aid campaigns, as the Intersyndical in France and the RSISL have begun to do.