Rally for Peace in Ukraine

I wish to outline briefly the participation by left wing groups in a rally organised by the Ukrainian community on Sunday 6 March 2022 in King George Square in Brisbane (Meanjin). There were three or four left wing groups present and I received three pamphlets. My hope is this small contribution will improve dialogue needed for understanding and campaigns to build the peace movement. I have been accused of sectarianism in writing about past events surrounding AHIMSA (Peace) house. My aim in giving this account is to prevent future exploitation of workers, organisers and activists by individuals and groups.

Firstly a few words about Ukrainian community organisation
The #StandWithUkraine rally on on Sunday 6 March 2022 was well attended (between 500-700 people) mainly by Ukrainian-Australians, together with Poles, Russians and people of other nationalities. One man demonstrating with the Bolivian flag was, he said, the first Bolivian to come to live in Queensland. The rally was organised by the Ukrainian community leaders including Nick Dmyterko, the President of the board of 4EB, the local ethnic broadcaster in Brisbane.

Their fb notice said “The Ukrainian Community of Queensland and friends will hold a peaceful rally in Brisbane on the 6th March to show their support for the people of Ukraine, currently under attack and invasion by Russia. Brisbane’s Australian-Ukrainian community will #StandWithUkraine alongside other’s around the world to help keep the world’s focus on Russia’s aggression and incursion of Ukraine.

I could see very little evidence of mainstream media interest in the event. There is a segment on 4EB that deals with this. It is good to see 4EB cover this issue as, in the past, that station has refused to participate in community action around other national liberation struggles against imperialism (Palestine and Chile to name two). Why are the Palestinians who throw rocks at Israeli bulldozers knocking down their homes … why are they terrorists yet Ukrainians throwing Molotov Cocktails at Russian tanks are heroes?

Both the Ukrainian and Australian national (Advanced Australia Fair) anthems were sung, people wore national dress and waved Ukrainian and Australian flags. The patriotic Ukrainian anthem translated says:

The glory and freedom of Ukraine has not yet perished
Luck will still smile on us brother-Ukrainians.
Our enemies will die, as the dew does in the sunshine,
and we, too, brothers, we’ll live happily in our land.

This is hardly a recipe for peace. Nor is Advance Australia Fair with its jingoistic lyrics and exclusion of first nations people.

A Polish speaker highlighted the ready acceptance of refugees by Poland but failed to mention Polish rejection of Syrian refugees fleeing from war in their country. Even though they too were victims of Russian bombing.

Peter, Mitch, Brian (a strange moment when he held the banner of the Communist Manifesto)), Mike, Annette, Ian

There was no march proposed so there were no police present.

The sound system was quite poor and could not be heard beyond the immediate area around the speakers and many people just stood and talked because they could neither see nor hear the speakers. There were three priests in full dress present covering the major religious practice in the region. I may have missed it but did not hear any acknowledgement that we were meeting on stolen land. There were no aboriginal elders present to give a Welcome to Country. However at least two of the speakers made an acknowledgement of country.

Stop the War rally 6 Mar 2022 Brisbane (Meanjin)

Left wing participation in ‘Stop the War’ in Ukraine

Participation by the Left was very small. The largest socialist group in Brisbane was notably absent from the rally. However a few people handed out leaflets. One was by a group advocating ‘citizens assemblies’, this is an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion whose main concern is climate change. Their claim was there will not be peace until 50% of the people deciding how to address the various problems in our society are women. There was no mention in the flyer (or the link to XR) that a number of women leaders have taken their countries to war (Thatcher in the Falklands; Indira Ghandi in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971) not to mention US secretary of state, Madeline Albright, support for the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and Golda Meir in the Yom Kippur war against the Palestinians in 1973. and Julia Gillard committed to a surge in the war in Afghanistan).

 The issues this flyer listed as being crucial were: “corruption, climate emergency habitat loss, military spending, and food security”.

The second group was Solidarity, very active in the refugee movement. And their headline was “Russia out, no NATO escalation“. They said that “many people pinned their hopes of stopping the war on sanctions on Russia. But sanctions are a weapon of war in their own right. And their effect will be to punish ordinary Russians for Putin’s actions“. And they also quote ‘the great Polish, German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg‘, who they say ‘warned more than a century ago that we face a choice between “socialism and barbarism”. Barbarism is now hailing down on the people of Ukraine, fight back and join the socialists.‘ Yet Solidarity’s theoreticians (David Glanz and Tony Cliff) does not recognise Cuba as a socialist country that has fought Yankee imperialism for over 70 years. I wonder how they came to that conclusion? Who gave meaning to the slogan Socialismo o muerte! if it was not the Cuban people?

The next one was the Independent and Peaceful Australia network (IPAN). Their leaflet said ‘we stand in solidarity with all people calling for peace in Ukraine’. IPAN wants a ceasefire, Russian troop withdrawal, and negotiations.

The pamphlet says IPAN want a United Nations peacekeeping force to be formed, to supervise the ceasefire. And they give the background to the current situation in the Ukraine. Starting with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. IPAN say that ‘none of the history justifies the current invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, which must be withdrawn so negotiations can take place for a future of Ukraine which includes peace and security for all the people of Ukraine, including those in the Donbass region.’

One of the major contributing factors in the crisis is the refusal of the United States and its allies to accept the notion of a neutral Ukraine.

We did see some members of the Greens but none of the leadership was there and they did not hand out any material. However members I spoke with were clearly concerned about the crisis in the Ukraine and the possible flow-on effects.

The pictures below show the leaflets handed out. There was an article on the back of the solidarity leaflet and that was an article written by the Socialist Tendency in Russia. The headline read “Russian socialist: Putin ramps up repression, but there’s less patriotic frenzy“.

So Socialist Tendency were protesters who had been jailed in Moscow and other cities in Russia, protesting against the war. They say the task of the Russian socialists is “to resist as long as possible in the imperialist rear, in the center of Russia, for as long as it is possible. Freedom to the people’s death to the Empire”.

I think people on the Left need to take greater interest and participate more fully in local meetings and rallies such as this. For example, the elected leadership of the Greens should participate, play an active role and make public statements in support of the local Ukrainian community.

It will be interesting to see if the Peace and Refugee rally on Palm Sunday garners more engagement by the Left in organising opposition to this unjust war.

Our leader preached to rank and file workers on May Day in 1978 saying that the street marches against the Bjelke-Petersen government were led by some of the ‘most ruthless marxist-leninists in the western world’ . By this stage over 1,000 people had been arrested as a result of the government’s ban on democratic rights.

Years later, this same person with a corrupt architect, under the eyes of former comrades, managed to steal over a million dollars from the community centre, AHIMSA house, funded by an old meatworker, Ross Taylor, whom our leader let die in a hell-hole, aged care facility over 100 kilometres away from his comrades and friends. This trusted person, lauded by many to have led the big march for civil liberties in 1967, did not visit his old comrade once nor did he offer financial despite having renovated his home with funds embezzled from AHIMSA which, ironically means Peace.

During the rally a group of friends holding a banner that read ‘Workers of all countries Unite’ were approached by the former leader of the anti-war movement in Brisbane. I was told at the rally that this former leader would agree with one of the placards which read PUTIN = LENIN + STALIN = War criminals. This individual claims to have fought Russian tanks in Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring in 1968. Czech leader Dubček used civilian-based defense; there were sporadic acts of violence and several protest suicides. It took 8 months for the Kremlin to subdue the population. There were waves of migration. For the media that tells us the events in Ukraine are extraordinary, think again.

The political position of this person placed in positions of trust and that of the placard carrier is doubly ironic because as long ago as 1913 Vladimir Lenin argued in his own party for the right of Ukraine to secede from Russia plus, in a sense, he gave his life for the right of self-determination of nations in the Soviet union’s struggle against imperialism. This put Lenin’s views at odds with Stalin then and with Putin now. For the peace movement I think we should be careful what we wish for especially given that young men from the West are flooding to fight against Putin’s well trained army. We should discourage people from making the same mistakes our leadership made in the 1960s. Those mistakes are made even more troubling when 40 years later they embezzled the life long earnings of a worker and failed to recognise any wrongdoing. Worse still, they make no gesture of atonement to that worker or his comrades and friends.

So here it is, a gallery of left-wing leaflet handed out at the rally.

Ian Curr
8 Mar 2022

Workers at a May Day march in Brisbane

Workers of all countries unite!

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