World Social Forum
As part of this year’s World Social Forum (WSF), held in Tunis on 24-28 March, there was a public discussion entitled “Dialogue for peace and social justice in Ukraine”. Apart from the “Prague Spring 2 Network” which organised the discussion, participants included activists from Kyiv and Donbas, as well as deputies from the European Parliament, including Gabriele Zimmer, and representatives of left parties and social movements from around the world.

Zakhar in Tunis

What made the event unique was that for the first time representatives of the left who had taken an active part in the Maidan protests met around the same table with representatives of the left from Donbas with connections to the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR). It turned out that, despite their different views of the character of Maidan, and on the context of the emergence of the DNR, they were able to identify common problems and objectives, and to reach a broad consensus on the necessary steps to achieving peace in Ukraine and on strategies to overcome the systemic crisis in the country.

The participants emphasised the need to stop the use of the rhetoric of hatred, employed not only by the far-right, but also by so-called “leftists”, the media, and politicians in Europe and Russia. There was discussion of the activities of Boris Kagarlitsky and his site “Rabkor”, which systematically inflame the conflict, poisoning both sides, presenting the oligarchic government of Ukraine as a “fascist junta”, and Ukrainian soldiers as members of punitive expeditions (“karateli”).

The participants recognised the need for a real implementation of the ceasefire agreements, and for opposition to the promotion of war hysteria and the vilification of the “enemy”.

The participants of the round-table “Dialogue for peace and social justice in Ukraine”, including representatives of Ukrainian, Russian and European democratic leftist initiatives, trade unions and social organisations, drew up a joint declaration announcing that the representatives of the democratic left in Ukraine and Russia,

“publicly and unequivocally condemn the inflammation of hatred and war hysteria…” are prepared to “boycott those politicians and public figures who engage  in the ‘rhetoric of hatred’, who contribute to the vilification of ‘enemies’, and who call for, or echo calls for, aggression and a military resolution to the conflict… We should unequivocally oppose the attempts to exclude the citizens of Crimea and Donbas from the social and political life of Ukraine.”

Free Kolchenko 2The united position of the democratic leftists of Ukraine, Russia and Europe upset the plans of the “Red Putinists” led by their ideologue, the Russian “leftist intellectual” Boris Kagarlitsky. Kagarlitsky’s “Red Putinists” wanted to hold their own event on the “Ukrainian question”. The Ukrainian activists who were represented at the WSF were evidently an unpleasant surprise for the “Red Putinists”. As a consequence, Kagarlitsky’s “Ukrainian Round Table” did not go ahead.

Ukrainian democratic leftists believe that,

“…the promotion of military confrontation not only harms civil society and the left in Ukraine, but also in Russia, and damages the internationalist movement in Europe and around the world. A primary task for all leftists is to distance itself from the hatred and the expansionist slogans of the ‘war of liberation’. Boris Kagarlitsky has been one of those who has poured oil on the flames, and has through his activities artificially created and deepened divisions between leftists.”

The position of Kagarlitsky de facto leads to support of the imperialist and far-right forces of the Kremlin. For a large section of the Russian left support for “their own” government, and for the unjust, dirty war is absolutely unacceptable.

The declaration of the Ukrainian delegation of participants at the WSF concludes as follows:

“The practical damage caused by Kagarlitsky’s actions for the left in all parts of the Ukraine and the world is that his interventions have clearly helped the promotion of hatred and the disruption of attempts to smooth the path for the peace process in Ukraine.

“Literally last week on the ‘Rabkor’ site, edited by Kagarlitsky, there were yet more publications idealising one of the sides in the armed conflict (including apologetic reportage about a Russian far-right adventurist with openly monarchist views). Besides this in the editorial articles on the same site the language of hatred is constantly used (Ukrainian soldiers drawn into the armed conflict are referred to without discrimination as members of punitive expeditions, the social protest of the Maidan is branded as ‘fascist’, and the oligarchic government of Ukraine is referred to as a ‘junta’, etc.). The same site, without any critical commentary, also echoes calls for the continuation of military actions and the expansion of the military conflict to Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa and other cities of Ukraine.Free Kolchenko - DNR

“The further escalation of the war (including the open introduction of Russian forces into Donbas) could have catastrophic consequences, and makes the struggle for social rights and the activities of trade unions, workers organisations and the left far harder. In our joint declaration as members of the panel discussion ‘Dialogue for peace and social justice in Ukraine’, as representatives from different regions of Ukraine, we call on international public opinion to condemn and oppose the propaganda of those who are promoting the war from both sides of the conflict, among whom, sadly, we must name Boris Kagarlitsky.”

As part of the opening ceremony of the forum last Tuesday there was a large march in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis. The demonstrators marched under pouring rain from the Bab Saadoun to the Bardo, where on 18 March fighters from the extremist group the Islamic State committed the bloody terrorist attack. “No to terrorism!” shouted tens of thousands of voices in different languages. Ukrainian voices were among them.

Read more (in Russian) in the article, “Kagarlitsky, the war, and political corruption.”

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