You need to defend workers and your country

Interview with Ukrainian socialist Vladyslav Starodubtsev
John Reimann & Vladyslav Starodubtsev (Oakland Socialist) 25 October 2023

John Reimann: So, we’re talking with Vladyslav Starodubtsev. Tell us a little bit about your background, who you are.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev:
I’m Ukrainian history student, I’m studying history of Eastern Europe, and for now have no job and located in Kiev. Also, I’m a member of socialist organization, Social Movement, which is working with workers rights, pushing socialist agenda, human rights, social protests. And some

John Reimann: Thank you. Describe a little bit to us the situation in Kiev right now.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Kiev is kind of the more safe than the rest of Ukraine, but like 20 kilometers [fro] Kyiv there is constant constant fight constant shelling and so on. Kiev is safe. But if you go a little bit towards the east it’s where all the fighting is going on at the moment. So they can just move to Kiev in any moment. And then, like, the files, one called everything can, fighting can go here, but for now, it is safe. Apart from this, from time to time, there’s a rocket firing at Kyiv, but mostly like this. Missiles fire only on direct targets. Mostly they’re getting close, like civilians, on hospitals or houses. And their accuracy, if they’re firing on the middle of their targets is near zero, they almost every time getting to some place. But most of these rockets are being shot down by air defense. So yeah, it’s kind of safe.

John Reimann: You will hear in the west one general picture. But do you have any sense militarily? how things are going? Or what what is your view from within Ukraine? I think

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: For now, Ukraine site is winning. And if everything will continue in such space as now, then it probably will be or ceasefire and peace talks or straight up Ukraine wins. But Russia can mobilize and send their, and as a, like, a taking grab and as a nation. And in this situation in this variant and this scenario, everything could go like in any direction and anything to happen. But for now, this ethnic group that for now, attacking Ukraine, is mostly it won’t, Occupy fully Ukraine. It won’t take Kiev, mostly Ukrainian side [win?], but also Russia can mobilize at any moment. And things can change drastically at any moment.

John Reimann: You know, there’s been a lot of reports here about the fighting in and around Mariupol. And they seem to think that one important military goal for Russia is to establish a lat landbridge from Crimea down to Odessa and thereby control the coast, the entire coast region there. What and it’s so what what are your thoughts on that?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: I think it’s possible that Russia could achieve their goals on the south attack around Ukraine, but on the other attack groups, their complete failure was also to like circle in the south of Ukraine, Russian forces need to capture Micolaiev and they have a big problem with this. I think that Mariupol they can capture Mariupol, is a very big possibility. But we will see what will happen in the short time. Will Mariupol hold or not.

John Reimann: I’ve seen two different analyses here. As far as the military perspectives, one says that in over the few coming few weeks, that Russia will be able to move more of its artillery towards the towards the front towards the battle. And that will give it a major advantage. Another analysis says that as time goes on, their supply lines are coming under attack. And therefore what’s at the at battle fronts is, is getting extremely weak, lacking fuel, food and so on. So what’s your view on that?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Both of this analysis is pretty correct. Russia cannot mobilize or move reserves to cities close to the borders or the positions like a for Mariupol, it is no special, like supply problem to send more artillery or more manpower. But like for Kyiv, it is really hard for them. Also, there is a problem of manpower of like, groups that ready to go to Ukraine. Because for now, it’s like there’s a big group of Russian army in Ukraine. But Russia wants to like achieve their strategic goals with this groups. And they have two possible options. Or like have indirect conscription via via sending here made militaries from Syria, mercenaries, or militaries, from People’s Republic’s and second options, option is full blown mobilization of Russia. And without this, I won’t think that Russia will have for a big progress. But doing such decisions will cause problem for Russia itself, because full blown mobilization of Russia will show weaknesses in their propaganda in their various war machine and just decrease live standards, decrease support of the Putin’s government, and shows that military campaigns are failing for Russian citizen and secondary and for sending like Syrians people some People’s Republics it is that way and that Russia now doing but it’s highly ineffective, because these groups are just used like missiles and like people from Donbass that got conscripted by force, and just like immediately sent to the frontlines. There’s no any help. Knowing particulars results that this groups can achieve with that. But it’s the strategy for now for Russia.

John Reimann: How would you describe the situation in Donbas. as far as the views of people in the Donbass region, their support for separatism and so on, in 2014, how it developed since then, and the effect of the invasion on the consciousness and the mood there in that region. I know

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Many people from Donetsk Luhansk and this region and mostly I would say that most people didn’t support any separatism, but they supported like some pro-Russian policies. And this groups supported separatist [?] republics, it was a fringe minority, radical minority Oh, for more big group of people who supported some elements of Russian politics, against Maidan revolutions that was going on. I feel that but roots of separatism, they existed there were grassroots organizations that try to separate but there was no like majority support to this. There were some people supported it. Most of them supported some pro-Russian policies but not separated from Ukraine, and some of them supported and made them and this situation was the same in most Ukrainian cities, they were anti Maidan, and Maidan activists that like shot [?] each other and so on. In Donbass, like support from for some proRussian sentiments were little bit more than in other places. There’s a few misconceptions in leftist discourse: First is that so called self identification of the people of Donbass this [unclear], most of the people who lived in Donbass didn’t support separation in any way. But as this as the misconceptions that this is just like, agents that were planted in Donbass, and they promoted all of this. [unclear] Some people really demand it. So this pretty complicated topic. But for now, after everything what was happening in Donbass, like all of this Russian nationalist groups trying to seize the city administration buildings, with the help of Russian army and so on, so on. When time passed by many of these even pro Russian far right groups were reppressed by Putin’s regime, and only the most loyal to Russian government havestayed here. So even these peoples that supported the creation of these so called Republic’s very repressed, killed or jailed by Putin’s regime. So even this grassroots elements were destroyed fully. And for now, the so called Republic’s is more or less totalitarian states where there’s no freedom of any political subjectivity of a pluralism freedom. free discussions, and most people’s just leaving, in way depressive states of this political field of political depressions and political apathy.

John Reimann: There’s been some quite a bit of talk on the left here about the Azov Battalion and the picture is painted, that all the forces fighting against the separatists are really dominated by fascists. What’s your thoughts on that?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Eight years ago, Azov and other nationalistic battalion [this] served like a jumping point for everyone who wanted to defend their country. They’re just organized faster than others. And many people have who had apolitical views, even left wing views, they used Azov as a jumping [off] point, to get to the frontlines and try to defend against Russian aggression. And because of this, Azov Battalion became really influential structure, because it’s one of the first organizations that [did] anything when this so called republics and insurgency started, because Ukrainian army was non existent at this moment, and most of the fighting was done by this nationalistic battalions. So they gained this influence this momentum, and many people jumped to this [unclear] battalions. I say that on the fringe of this organization, are actual Neo Nazis. A big part of them is apolitical, and even some of them eight years ago, were left wing anarchist fighting. But there were Neo Nazi battalions that committed war crimes at that moment. It also took place in the time the military was disorganized. So like Ukraine high command, cannot do anything about this. But pretty soon, these groups were disbanded, and [a highly structured army] is the end right now. this thing couldn’t happen again. Azov for the moment is stationed in Mariupol and from what I heard, from my comrades in even the left, they pretty supportive of Azov. It’s strange to say, but Azov in peacetime, but for now, the defense Mariupol, and they’re just a part of the army and [unclear] that is not different from any other part of the army at the moment. There’s also fighting…. So the people of different views that at the moment defends Mariupol. And yes there is a problem that the far right exists, but Azov has this position of structure in the military that obeys orders from High Command….

John Reimann: You know, in Syria, when the war was going on there, from my understanding, there was a lot of people that were rebelling against Assad, that were just looking for some force that was armed, that they could fight against Assad with and so a lot of them joined Islamic fundamentalist groups, not necessarily because they were Islamic fundamentalist, but that’s where the arms were. Would you say might be a similar thing with us off?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Yeah, absolutely. But there’s a difference that Azov is a part of Ukrainian army and Ukrainian army is apolitical and it also is highly structured. So it doesn’t give a possibility for autonomous actions or promoting their ideology is just a fighting group. They have a prestige for now for fighting. And this also helps to spread far right propaganda. But they are not the force that like after the war could do anything

John Reimann: Some people here in the West have called for if the fighting ends, and if Russia is expelled, to on a democratic basis to have a referendum in that region as to the status of Donbass. What is your view on that?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: There are two problems with this: The first problem is about the people who left Donbass eight years ago, and many Ukrainians left and people who were killed, and others. [Their] opinions wouldn’t be in this referendum. There were millions of refugees fleeing Donbass when the war started. What to do with them what to do with their homes that they left? They left and how to count them? Second is [in] region, [people lived for] eight years in this totalitarian regime and the [unclear] totalitarian propaganda… Any discussions, any political groups, any political pluralism, and so on, [was not allowed]. So people didn’t have a possibility to hear alternative views, to hear some discussions and so on. And because of this, I don’t think that referendum is a viable solution…. And people didn’t communicate before [with] peoples that were on the other side of barricades. And for this communication, for this pluralism to develop, there needs to be some time. And I think, if such referendum needed to be taken, then it should be after a few years after the liberation of this territory, maybe some UN forces should be developed, and people from the Donbass regions that lived under occupation, should discuss the peoples that returned after the war to live in the region, and so on. And third problem is a political one: It would be clear that Russia can attack any country and force in their territory to have a referendum, it would be not a great thing for the international law to have such a precedent. And is this also needs to be taken into account.

John Reimann: Some Ukrainian people that I’ve interviewed, have commented that over the last 10 to 20 years a lot of the oligarchs there has played up the national question in an attempt to divert attention away from the class question. Do you agree with that assessment?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: All of us will use any means to impose their political and economical goals. I don’t want to play is this too far… positions that all nationalities is something created to divide the working class and so on on this. There are real problems. And their existence, for example, like Ukraine needs to be decolonized and has had this discussion about this, and so on. But yeah, there were a lot less this conflict based on language and nationality, and so on like 10 years ago, and they’re real developed in last time. But it’s not only all over [?] there’s also a geopolitics, like when Russia attacked, there was a reaction, like growth of nationalism in our country. And there’s just a lot of factors that developments on this, everything, and all others. Of course, they’re using it. They’re trying to play their cards in this situation and to make the most of like, what’s going on. Here so for a little bit, not clear, not defined aspects. I slept, I sleep very bad a few last day. So yeah,

John Reimann: No problem. You said you slept badly. Just just for people who are listening to this, please explain why you slept very badly.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Rockets. The streets, like in a every hour, something blows up or something fire, and you hear all of this noise. And it’s very different to sleep in this situation. First, your hearing, one of the rockets can, like pirate your building. And second is just noise. Oh, consistent noise for a war. Sirens.

John Reimann: Thank you for that explanation, too. And and you have my sympathy and solidarity with you. To return to what we were discussing: How would you characterize the issue of workers rights and the class struggle as it was developing up until the time of the invasion?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Ukraine government – right wing neoliberal government that tried to push all the anti labor anti social reforms from the beginning… Even from the beginning [unclear], all of our presidents push this anti social, neoliberal reforms, and Zelensky also tried to attack like basic social service like health care. He was pushing, pushing and pushing now in the times of war, health [neoliberal] reform. It’s cut all the spendings on the medical facilities sounds like councils have suspended privatize everything, optimize everything and so on and so on. And because of this, wages went down, equality of treatments went down. And equality of medical care also. So the same is going on, on the public transport, trains, buses, and so on. Metro. They’re trying to push prices. They trying to privatize the [unclear]. Cut all the spendings from the government. And because of this wages and workers rights in these spheres are also [unclear] a lot. Apart from this, we have really old, labor codes from from Soviet Union from Soviet Ukraine. It was modified a lot. So it’s kind of okay, by modern standards, but there’s this propaganda that it’s Soviet code; it’s not working in this time. And they tried to liberalize i. By liberalize I mean, just destroy any notions of defending workers right in this Code, and push all on neoliberal reforms that you can hire workers on 12 hour day, without any compensation, you can just crawl (?) out for work or from any work from for any reasons not to pay to have like zero hours contract, and so on. So there was a constant push for anti labor and anti social reforms in Ukraine for the past 20 years, and especially in the landscape time.

John Reimann: And and how has the war affected all of this?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: It streamlines this process. Zelensky’s trying to push this law that basically just destroys old labor code, and creating new for work time. According to this new Code, bosses can can fire any worker, and by any reason at any moment, without compensations, they can have 60 hour working week, and so on. And this is a very horrible precedent that could be continued after the war. So yeah.

John Reimann: What do you advocate for the working class in Ukraine, as a response to on the one hand, attacks on workers, and on the other hand, the invasion from Putin. What do you believe is the correct response?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: It’s really hard to respond to this. It’s time because working class isn’t organized enough to counter all reports, especially in this time, and doesn’t have enough influences in society to push their agenda. We have this big federation of trade unions, with millions of members. But they are so passive that they didn’t even wrote a letter about this. They like, yeah, these reforms are bad, but they didn’t even do statements to say that they’re against it. So we have very passive trade unions, and very weak workers’ culture of workers protest. And without strong trade unions there’s not a lot you can do about this. And also if you’re independent, the trade unions that are trying to push trying to talk about this, they have influence, they can push government and they will be listened to because they have a power. They can organize a strike and so on. But most of the trade unions are just ignored by the government because they’re too passive and also they don’t have any political representatives. Like even like center left parties. There’s no left parties in Ukraine, even like super neoliberal left like in like, Europe is big. There’s no such party, every party is right wing, and none of the parts of vocation for Trade Union wants to be hard to get on board with trade unions to speak with them. They have no even political representation at the slightest. So they, they are passive, they don’t have a voice. And without that, like popular movement workers movement doesn’t have enough power to push government against reforms, and especially in times of war. It is even harder, because it’s worth time. It’s like, if you go on strike you government says your substation because the war effort, and government will be right in this situation because trade unions should before this campaign ends and makes the government to at least consulted them about prompts. But because of our trade unions are so passive. Nobody is dealing with them. Like, whatsoever. I think you could have similar problems with a AFL CIO in the United States. So you can understand this.

John Reimann: You know, some people call it the AFL-CIA (here in the US) because it’s, like the labor wing of the State Department. And domestically, it’s a very similar thing. I believe what we need here is a mass independent workers party. We used to talk about a labor party here. But the unions have declined so much, not just in numbers, but just for instance, most workers that I run into just working in the street, for instance, city workers and so on, or workers in the supermarket – they don’t even know the name of the union that they belong to. Because it’s so distant. They’re so alienated, it’s just not part of their thinking, of their consciousness. And so the result of that is, I think, at this point, if a working class party were to develop here in the United States, I think ultimately, the unions would have to play an important role in it, but I don’t think initially, that it would develop from within the unions, it would develop from forces outside of the union, there might be some union members and caucuses involved, but it would develop mainly outside of the Union, then it would have an impact later within the unions. What’s your thoughts? And do you see something like that in Ukraine?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Yes, I absolutely agree with you. We have a very similar situation. Many of the members of the unions don’t even know anything about their unions. They just pay monthly dues. And we are trying to do something with this situation. We have a trade union link of our social movement. They are working with, organizing independent perfect trade unions. We are working in this like big Confederation of Trade Unions, and trying to separate militant people, militant groups of people that can form a smaller trade union in this big Federation of trade unions, but to be militant to push their demands and to fight for workers rights. And one by one to organize industries to organize companies in that manner and to create firstly, a militant trade unions inside of this passive Federation configurations. And also creating independent trade unions outside of them if this this is possible. But we are mostly about workers party. I think also that was this party would come outside of union – of leftist intellectuals of social activists of people that are familiar with political work, with organizing, with social protests – who have experiences this field and have knowledge. Many of our trade unions are apolitical, and the members are apolitical. And they’re just in this structure, if you like a union activist or someone who runs this basic training, trading, and you’re [likely] to become passive, if you don’t have a strong organization behind you that can help to push this union to do something. So to do anything, of course, we need outside organization to push some members of trade unions like to separate and create a militant group(?) trade union or to create a new trade unions and then to create a workers party.

John Reimann: The established unions, the conservative ones that you’re talking about – are they mainly like descendants of the old Soviet era state run unions?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: : Yeah, absolutely. There’s this Soviet culture of trade unions. You may know that in Soviet Union, trade unions play a role of like, a state bureaucracy. And they controlled production like bosses. And their role was of control not as defined in worker side. So many people associate trade unions with what was in Soviet Union and say, like, “we don’t need trade unions, because we don’t want Soviet Union again, we remember yesterday. I was there, like most active for resistance was to give someone a possibility to go on vacation. And that’s all.”…. And most of the unions at this moment, like 30 years after the collapse of Soviet Union, have the same thing…. We are trying to fight this as much as we can.

John Reimann: How would you say the invasion and the war has affected the class struggle?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Many of the companies are trying to push anti workers proposition. Many of workers have haven’t been paid in the types of work so businesses is working but they didn’t get any wages for this month, or even for previous month. We have some examples of small or middle business in Kyiv that use the war as an argument for not giving wages for February. War started on the 24th of February and they’re saying okay, war started so we won’t give any wages whatsoever because let’s work this extreme situation. Just fired many workers and without paying anything. The same goes even with state workers. Many of medical workers are underpaid or not paid at all at the time. So what also because of administration also because of government don’t want to give too much money to social spending, like to state companies and so on. And it’s really hard to fight against this in terms of work, because anyone is, like my enemy and main thing to be worried about. But also, we are trying to push at least the limited class straggle, where it’s possible. Like collective letters, or just very soft strikes or something that is possible, to demand, the full payment, wages, and so on. And because Ukraine has pretty good, democratic framework, in some cases, we can push these demands, even in wartime, but mostly, it’s very hard.

John Reimann: But hasn’t the war made it more difficult to, to encourage workers to organize as workers against the attacks on the working class.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Yes. I feel that most of the work, like go to have for 30, or 40% of the businesses are closed at the moment because of the war. And many people left without any job, and without any wages. And they just don’t have a work to organize in,… So it also makes a very big confusion, because, like, we can have big businesses work in production or production work in small businesses tougher and so on work in this situation in many cities, and because of this, workers are just fired without any significant compensations without any social care. And this creates a very big social instability and problems that aren’t dealt by the government. Government didn’t do anything about this. And in the places where work continues, they’re pretty much everything’s the same as it was before. So basic trade union doing basic trade unions stuff, and don’t do anything about anything. And in places where there were independent military, militant trade unions, everything is okay. And

John Reimann: Would workers now be inclined to feel like, “yeah, you’re you’re right about that. But right now, we need to focus on fighting the fighting the Russians. And yeah, absolutely. We’ll deal with that other after the war is over”? Is that a broad attitude now?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: It’s like a 50-50. Some workers are actually writing us Social Movement for consultations for help, and they’re trying to organize in like, a limited possible way, but trying to push the demands for just like wages, because you need to have a little bit of stability in this war time. But if it is something less important than wages, then this is absolutely ignored, like conditions of the work or so on. So, some organization and some fighting for workers rights still exist, even in his station of the war, but not much. So the problem about survival like you need wages to just pay for your living. here and when war started, even this basic trade unions, they mostly saved structure and in many places, everything work works as usual.

John Reimann: Some people describe to me a broad feeling, especially amongst the youth, to join the army or like what you call it, like the National Guard to fight against the invasion. Do you agree that that is a strong mood there? Do you agree that that mood exists? Number one. And number two, what is your view on youth and workers, focusing right now on like, joining the army and so on, to fight against the invasion?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Firstly, oh, like most of the people tried to get in the army. I tried on the first days of the war to get into the army. But I was [told]. “you don’t have any experience go away.” because there was like, four hours of waiting to get to the place when you can sign up to the army, because so many people want to join to defend their country. In the same boat, trade unions, workers… which is in a trade union, they just like 20 People go to join the army right away. And there were a strong mood of patriotism, of will to defend your country, amongst the workers amongst the youth amongst everyone.

John Reimann: So you’re saying, despite all your criticisms, that you tried to join the army anyway?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Yeah. You need to defend workers rights. And also you need to defend your country. This [what] you need to do at this moment. We won’t stop to criticize the [unclear] government for its anti social reforms, its anti labor reforms and policies, but we will do everything to help to defend this country. Because it’s also a very big it’s a main problem at the moment. And we need to fight on the frontlines against social reforms, but against Russian invasion, and we in Social Movements are supporting every initiative of Zalensky if it helping the war effort and helping to defend our country. But we are against every initiative that even in the war times trying to social destabilize our country by pushing anti social and anti workers reforms. We think that these reforms, are sabotaging the war effort, because if the workers and the people know that they can be fired any moment, that their factories are closed, this destabilizes society and sabotages his defense efforts, because people are just in more chaotic state, less defined, less defendant in social aspect. And this is very dangerous situation. And we are trying to fight against Russia, but against this anti social anti workers reforms too.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Prior to the war, was there a right to strike and full union rights and so on in Russia?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: I would say that there is no such thing as independent unions in Russia, there was some attempts, but it was poorly organized and didn’t go too far. In Russia, you have the right to strike. But you don’t have structures and political organizations to use this. So they also have this federation of unions, but it’s so politically pro Putin that they just won’t do anything against [the] government…. And because of this, Russia has a strong grip on the trade unions and the workers. Strikes still possibility, but it’s mostly like very chaotic strike and any organized strikes impossible.

John Reimann: Does your group have any or have they had any contacts within Russia trying to make a link between Ukrainian and Russian workers, either prior to the invasion or now

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: We’re constantly contacting Russian socialists. They’re trying to organize worker, workers plus in Russia, but because of authoritarianism, police, state and so on, so it’s a lot harder than in Ukraine. And it’s nearly impossible. And they before the war, try to do more like short term problems, like how to save their organization in your way of repression, rather than push this workers agenda or organizing working class, because in that climate of police, state police repressions, it’s very hard for them to do.

John Reimann: You know the classic socialists view that soldiers or workers in uniform. Is there any possibility of making any contact through the Russian soldiers that are in Ukraine?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Most, many of Russian soldiers are deserting. And morale is very low. But I don’t think that they can be agitated to do anything. They deserting because of poor organization of Russian army of lack of motivation, of forcible mobilization, so on, and there’s a few problems about educating them: First that you have no way to contact Russian army or Russian soldiers directly. You don’t have any possibility to just show them the propaganda and so on. And it’s highly ineffective because the morale already is low and if some of them help us, they are deserting. And if they don’t, is mostly because they have, they have no stability. So our possibilities to change something in this way are very low.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: There are some battalions that just don’t do any orders, but not because they’re against the orders or against the government. [It’s] because they are fearful of what could [happen] if they will attack the other position, and they just don’t want to die for no reason in another country.

John Reimann: One last question. You know, there’s been a lot of discussion here on the left, about the NATO countries, US included, giving arms to Ukraine. And a lot of people on the left, not including me, but a lot of people on the left think that they have to denounce that. What is your view? And what is the general view in Ukraine, about Ukraine receiving arms from the NATO countries at this time.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: All of the left flank of Ukraine is supporting delivering of any arms, or any return aid to Ukraine, and also general population, also supporters that demand, because it’s something that helps us fight for our freedom or independence, or for just a well being and subjectivity of Ukrainian people. And if we are an organization, a social movement, tried to push this demand to other left wing parties and left in organizations. We had a discussion with four left wing party in Sweden, and left red green Alliance in Denmark. And they support the demands for selling weapons to Ukraine, also organized a few international conferences, visit left parties in Europe trying to push this demand. And we are actively working against all of this [opposition]. So the pacifistic tendencies in the left moments just deny the right to resist of Ukrainian people. They’re saying, for some reason, “Ukrainians shouldn’t get weapons”. They’re just denying this basic rights for self defense. And they’re justifying some, like absolute silly (?) arguments that have no sense if you understand how the world works, like “inter imperialist conflicts, blah, blah, blah”, and so on, and so on. And this mostly used to hide ignorance and colonial thinking of some on the left.

John Reimann: Just just to make it clear what my view is that anybody that says that the NATO countries should not give arms to Ukraine, what they’re really saying is the Ukraine should just lie down and surrender.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev : Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. There are a lot of leftists that say something like this, that you Ukraine should go on and compromise with Russia. So like, give them Donbass give them Crimea, give them some other territories, and fighting will be stopped and there will be peace. These people, firstly, they don’t understand how, like, general work of international law. And like, the danger of this precedent, and they just don’t understand if you if you lay down weapons and surrender, that won’t be anything good to you, I think.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: It’s like the same if you go and save workers like, yeah, compromise your boss, to dismantle your union. And this is the same argument and I just don’t get how some left wingers are just saying something like this. I was on a conference with Podemos. And they were very proud of their decision to be only party that was against sending arms to Ukraine. And they portrayed this as great benefits of social splits (?) and agitate as a party. I was shocked to hear some some things in the slides from parliamentary left wing party. This just was a bit shocking for me.

John Reimann: In my opinion, if that were to happen to just surrender it would not be just Donbas and Crimea. Putin would install a puppet government. So actually, Russia would take over all of Ukraine. Either through a direct immediate control or through a puppet government. And in that sense, it’s not that different from what, for instance, Israel is doing in the West.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: Yeah. I agree. I am in love with this comparison to Israel and Palestine, because the situation is really similar. And by pointing to this, you can point to ignorance of some some groups on the left that are talking about this. It’s mostly like they have very pro-Putin, pro Russian sympathies that they wanted to hide for some reason.

John Reimann: Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza, in my opinion, are corrupt right wing governments. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with completely opposing Israel’s racist and expansionist policies. And those two governments, from what I know, are even worse than the Zelensky government. But what does that have to do with opposing is Israel’s expansionist and racist policies? Nothing. As far as the left, I think that the socialist movement here is in a great crisis. That is a whole conversation in and of itself. But really, what it is, the majority of it has really lost touch with the working class at home. And if you’re not in touch with the working class at home, how can you expect to be in touch with the working class in Ukraine or anywhere else? That’s the real basis for them. They just don’t see the working class as its own independent force. And they really actually don’t have much interest in relating to working classes. It’s what I call the left ghetto.

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: I absolutely agree with this. And I feel it’s a great possibility to split the left wing movement to that part that pushes this dramatic anti workers anti self determination policies, from the real left wing movements. And I think, with this horrific event, we also have a good possibility to understand who is your friend and who is your enemy. And, yeah, I think the left should capitalize on this situation and just outright split from people like this supporting Russia or trying to downplay their aggression, because supporting Russia is not only problem with Russia is problem with Zelensky analysis of the situation, not only in Russia, but in the world as a whole in their home country everywhere. If you for some reason, trying to downplay Russian aggression, then you have something very wrong in the basis of your analysis. As a whole as just as electing fourth. You file Vince’s, I think like this really great possibility to understand who’s who

John Reimann: I agree. Well, on that note, do you have any last words?

Vladyslav Starodubtsev: I’m very grateful for your interview. It was pleasant to speak about Ukraine problems, even to see that kind of interest from American left from global left, and so on. And I would want to meet another time, speak about anything you want, if you’re interested. And I just glad for your support and solidarity and I hope more won’t support, imperialist or anti war responses. thank you very much.


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