Putin's useful idiots. Pacifism in the service of Russian imperialism

There is also a declarative pacifist and anti-war movement in Poland, which in recent times indirectly plays on the same team as Putin. It is definitely politically weaker and less numerous than in the West, but it is functioning and at times even organizing demonstrations.

It would seem that pacifism should not serve war and favor the aggressors. However, the attitude of some circles that are declaratively anti-war and skeptical towards NATO shows that the pacifist cliche may be more or less consciously used by criminals.

Leftists stars blame NATO

"The narrative of the western left about Ukraine comes dangerously close to what Putin and his allies say" - these are not the words of a right-wing person, but the editor of the left-wing journal "Kontakt", Stanisław Krawczyk, who begins his text "Anti-imperialism of idiots " with this. If a man associated with the left makes such a thesis, it can be assumed that there is more than one grain of truth in it.

Indeed, the declarations of many politicians and thinkers associated with the Western Left regarding the Russian attack on Ukraine may surprise. Usually eager to criticize US imperialism and demand a world without wars, they are now not so much keeping quiet about Russian crimes as they’re indirectly justifying Vladimir Putin. Sometimes their actions seem to suggest they support Russia.

The anarcho-syndicalist and declaratively anti-war philosopher Noam Chomsky pointed out that the Russian president has repeatedly expressed concerns about his country's security due to an alleged NATO intervention. Greek socialist economist Janis Warufakis said that we must do everything we can to stop NATO from escalating the conflict. American leftist writer Naomi Klein shares on Twitter entries suggesting that Russian aggression is the result of "NATO's expansion in the East."

The congresswoman from the Democratic Party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the left-wing of the party, associated also with a socialist Bernie Sanders, was one of the few who voted against the confiscation of property of Russian oligarchs and the transfer of money to help Ukraine. It is not without significance that this American politician comes from the Democratic Socialists of America, which claims that the responsibility for the war lies with American imperialism and NATO. In this context, it may also be interesting that it is famous for publicly demanding taxation of the richest citizens of the United States, but it makes an exception for the Russians. So both its pacifism and its socio-economic views are very inconsistent.

Although the vast majority of congressmen supported the bill, apart from the Democrat, seven were against, including several pro-Russian congressmen from the Republican Party.
Democrat left wing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders (right) during a demonstration against layoffs in Amazon. Photo Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images
Because the Right in many places in the world is not free from such rhetoric. For example, the Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán used it recently, but in his case it was aimed at masking cynicism and the fact that Hungary does not want to sever its strong economic ties with Russia. This in no way excuses him, but his motives are far from pacifist.

Some right-wingers who are critical of the West, seem to be under the illusion that Russia is a kind of "enemy of my enemy", and therefore a friend. Meanwhile, many left-wing pacifists are bending over backwards to combine their pacifism with justifying Russia's actions. At the same time they are convinced that their anti-war beliefs are coherent and consistent. They want to be ethically flawless, and they stand knee-deep in a moral swamp.

Sitting on a barricade

Of course, the point is not to completely reject pacifism or to proclaim ex cathedra that there are no moral reasons behind the arguments of critics of US policy in the Middle East. It is desirable that there are as few wars and their casualties as possible in the world. However, it is one thing to appeal for peace in the world at a time of relative peace, and quite another to voice opposition to war while addressing the side which was attacked or its allies when the war has already been launched. Such pacifism is de facto ineptly disguised violence and the cosying up to an external aggressor. In fact, it does not even deserve the name of pacifism. However, not everyone understands this.

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There is also a declaratively pacifist and anti-war movement in Poland, which in recent time indirectly plays on the same team as Putin. It is definitely politically weaker and less numerous than in the West, but it is functioning and at times even organizing demonstrations.

One of them took place in Warsaw over Easter. Since the beginning of the war, many demonstrations against the war in Ukraine have been organized in the capital city, they did not raise any doubts as to the intentions, yet in this case it was different. Because when you look at the slogans raised there, as well as at the characters connected to this circle and their social media feed, you can conclude that their goal was to facilitate Putin's task.

This may shock you, the more so as we are talking about people living in Poland, and not in the distant United States, and therefore directly threatened by a potential military attack by Russia.

In addition to the otherwise legitimate postulates to end the war, the banners were full of rather peculiar slogans about ending the militarization of Poland, ending the arms race, and opposing NATO.

In a similar vein the left-wing pro-Russian website wrote in the article "Polish-Russian war under the red flag", where, for allegedly pacifist reasons, warned against "further escalation of the conflict (by implication through the West and Poland - ed.), galloping arms race, the militarization of everyday life and the transfer of larger parts of GDP to the military." The author sees an alternative to militarization caused by the Russian threat in "building an international anti-war movement". Not primarily in Russia, which started the war, but all over the world.

One does not need to be a geopolitician and a military specialist to understand that in the current situation, the implementation of these demands would involve exposing Poles and Ukrainians to death under the Russian boot or, at best, total dependence on the Kremlin’s dictatorship.

But Polish "pacifists" do not stop there. Political scientist and anti-war activist Filip Ilkowski, known for organizing demonstrations against the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, spoke at the aforementioned demonstration, and on his Facebook profile, he expressed a belief that not only the militarism of the defender is bad, but also imposing sanctions on Russia because it strikes ordinary citizens.

How then does the Polish "pacifist" imagine stopping Putin's criminal practices, since both shooting at the aggressor and imposing sanctions on him are unacceptable? Aside from vague appeals for world peace and building an international anti-war movement - both of which Putin couldn’t care less about- pacifists fail to answer the question. And it is not even known for sure if they critically think about these issues.
2016. During the NATO summit in Warsaw, members of the Stop War Initiative organized a protest under the slogan: "Money for the hungry, not for tanks". Photo PAP / Bartłomiej Zborowski
And even if they try to find answers to these questions, it is hard to take them seriously. Because what do they think must be done now to avoid further casualties? It is simple - do not provoke Putin, do not send troops to Ukraine, withdraw from expansion and disarm. In one of his social media posts, Ilkowski makes no secret that he believes that President Andrzej Duda's signing of the act on increasing the army spending to 3% of GDP, is a harmful decision. In the same comment, he naively believes that it is possible to demilitarize all powers, and this is what is supposed to be an alternative to spending more public money on defense. A beautiful vision, but I'm afraid Putin would debate this.

The most used tool of this false pacifism is symmetry. In this view, Russia bears some part of the blame for causing the attack, but Poland and NATO are equally guilty because they convinced Ukraine to fight and expanded its area of influence into Eastern Europe. Proponents of this theory cannot admit that Ukraine is not Iraq, and so the only responsible for the crimes in Bucza, Irpin or the shooting at Kyiv rests with the Russian aggressors.

Pacifists cannot talk about the criminal actions in Ukraine without mentioning NATO's interventions in Yugoslavia or the US wars in the Middle East.

We don’t want to defend ourselves

It is not known whether or not Russia is financing some anti-war movements in the West. Nevertheless, it would be hard to believe that all those who preach such nonsense are paid off. It is rather the result of a pacifist dead end and the inability to look at reality more broadly than just in by eternally blaming NATO.

Can such thinking gain a following in our country? Fortunately, this is unlikely. Apart from political oddities like Janusz Korwin-Mikke, the vast majority of the political class agree as to who is to blame for the crimes in Ukraine, and that Poland cannot stand idly in the face of this attack. Even even though a decade ago, liberals from the Gazeta Wyborcza milieu fought against Russophobia and wanted to build a friendship with Russia, and today they’re trying to ascribe the sympathy for Putin to the right-wingers. Even among the left, such an attitude is currently in minority, as evidenced by numerous statements by prominent figures and comments in the most left-wing periodicals, for example in the magazine "Kontakt". Here you can see a clear difference from the left-wing "comrades" of the Western.

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Due to our contemporary and historical relations with Russia, forced subordination during the Polish People's Republic, and the real threat of extending the front to Polish territory, Polish society also expresses strong anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian attitudes. And not only now, but for many years.

It is not without reason that the Anti-War Easter Protest, which in fact was subserviently supportive of Russia, attracted only a few dozen people - and this took place in the capital.

Unfortunately, such rhetoric may be gaining ground in Western Europe and elsewhere in the world. Especially in countries that were not affected by the yoke of Russian sovietism. It must also be admitted openly that from the point of view of an inhabitant of Amsterdam or Paris, it may be ideologically more attractive than open support for war and Russian crimes, which is sometimes done by Putin's agents and Russian trolls.

In Poland, the small-scale pro-Russian party Zmiana, which a few years ago reported to the prosecutor's office a case of insulting Putin, will never go beyond its niche, but their ideological brethren in the West may have a broader range of power.

Michael Martens, a columnist for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, recently wrote that West German pacifism had surrendered in the face of evil. It was a reaction to the following words of Konstantin Wecker a German song writer, pacifist and a supporter of the dismantling of nuclear weapons in Europe: "when our brothers come with bombs and weapons, we want to hug them, we do not want to defend ourselves." According to website, Martens saw the song as very cynical in the face of an ongoing war, and that it was "one of many examples of West German pacifism, which unconditionally surrendered in the face of evil."

The more so that in Germany it was not a one-off situation. Wecker was one of the many signatories of a letter from the representatives of science, media, and culture to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in which they demanded "a suspension of arms deliveries to Ukraine and an end to further military resistance".

Unfortunately, another example of such an attitude is the words of Pope Francis, who has been flirting with the Western left, and who citing pacifism, stated that we are all guilty of what is currently happening in Ukraine and that the war is the result of "NATO’s barking at Russia's door".

It's time to realize that false pacifism can also serve imperialists and criminals, in which form it is very dangerous and should be resisted. The more so because - as the German journalist I mentioned rightly pointed out - if Hitler was not beaten by pacifist marches, Putin will not be defeated with hugs.

– Bartosz Oszczepalski
–Translated by Sally Jastrzębska

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Main photo: Flashmob in Rome against the war in Ukraine organized by the community of Sant'Egidio. Photo Remo Casilli / Avalon / PAP
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