Resistance in Brooklyn, a New York-based anti-imperialist/anti-racist collective and affinity group operating since 1992, has long worked as white comrades under the leadership of the Puerto Rican and Black liberation movements, primarily providing behind-the-scenes solidarity for social change efforts in need of urgent support. We write this rare statement not because we find the current war in Ukraine and Russia to be more important than wars over the past decades, and in some cases still going on, in other parts of the world, but because we find the extensive confusion on the part of the US left—mainly based on Eurocentric and US imperialist notions of global hegemony—to be particularly disturbing.
Given the current polarized positions within the left in the Global North, we would like to clarify that we deplore the Putin government generally and in their military invasion of Ukraine—including their illegal targeting of such civilian infrastructure as power sources and water supplies (just as Ukraine has also targeted civilian facilities in the Donbass region). The recent Russian government-run “plebiscite” in the Donbass region, followed by Russia’s annexation, did not meet longstanding UN standards for self-determination, requiring prior withdrawal of outside military forces. Like the continued US rejection of those standards for its annexed colony of Puerto Rico and Israel’s rejection of them for the occupied territories of Palestine, these illegal acts must all be condemned.
The present Russian government is patriarchal and chauvinistic, targeting Roma and LGBTQ+ communities (including this fall criminalizing any queer-affirming media representation) while promoting right-wing organizations in other countries. Yet such condemnation is inadequate without also addressing similarly oppressive state and non-state actions within Ukraine and the civil and proxy wars ongoing there since at least 2014.
We also condemn the US government’s obstruction of any efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and a peace settlement, in order to pursue its goal of regime change in Russia.
Regrettably, in the case of Ukraine, the Western left has shown itself again to be weak and underdeveloped compared to the rest of the world, and is at a crisis and crossroads. We hope this brief commentary on current world conflicts can suggest somewhat of a reorientation along broad, nonsectarian, anti-white-supremacist lines. This is among the reasons motivating our statement against militarization, Russophobia, NATO, and fascism in general.
No to Militarization, Weaponization of the Region, and Nuclearization of the World
We stand with our many Pan-African and Latin American comrades in noting the great inconsistency of a widespread left response to the war in Ukraine compared to responses to border incursions in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South America, and elsewhere. We reject the lie, spotlighted in a recent book by one of our members, that “White Lives Matter Most”. We are well aware that, with well over five million dead and more than half a dozen countries involved, “World War Three” has already taken place and been noted by prominent historians for many years. The fact that this war took place in Africa around the Congo and not in Europe does not make the fact of it any less significant or true. (In this case, the invaders/occupiers are both neighboring states and Western imperialists, including from the US, all seeking to secure valuable minerals.)
That said, we share concerns that—despite the colonial problems found in the drawing of many modern borders—the wars caused by the direct military invasions against agreed-upon lines of sovereignty are, as a rule, to be opposed. The currently escalating propaganda by President Zelenskyy and a growing chorus of US politicians and corporate media demanding a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine is an absolutely unacceptable call for NATO to directly wage war on Russia.
We are also keenly aware that, while military interventions can be easiest to “see” in an era when many broadcast their latest personal videos 24-7 in real time, there are also many economic, social, political, and cultural incursions that can, over the long term, be just as damaging and pernicious as the military kind. In particular, Western imperialists’ use of sanctions—i.e. economic warfare that violates international law and kills thousands—has now broadened beyond traditional US “enemies” (like Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea) to include Russia. The current conflicts in Central and Eastern Europe have prompted, to a greater extent than is often the case, a call for increased arms and weapons to help one side or the other. We reject the idea that increased arming of the region will help bring justice or lasting peace to the peoples of that region at this time. Finally, we cannot help but be aware that this region is the most nuclear-power-plant-populated and most nuclear-weapons-targeted on the planet. We unequivocally reject the intimations of the use of nuclear weapons, anywhere and for all time.
No to Russophobia and the Politics of Us vs. Them
While we oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we also reject the steep increase in Russophobia in the West, reminding us of the anti-communist frenzy during the Soviet era. For example, UK Members of Parliament Tom Tugendhat and Roger Gale have called for the expulsion of Russian residents; US Congressmember Eric Swalwell (D-CA) originally suggested that all Russian students should be deported; Italy’s Bicocca University canceled a class on the novels of Dostoevsky to avoid controversy.
We believe that demonizing Russia and Russians is wrongheaded, not only because of its inherent bigotry, but also because it obfuscates the nuances of a complex situation. The Good-Guy/Bad-Guy, Us vs. Them narrative erases the real history of the conflict as well as potential pathways to its resolution. That dichotomizing paradigm reinforces unipolar or bipolar geopolitical worldviews in which there can be only one or two dominant superpowers. Since at least World War I, the US has been one of those powers, but its position has been in decline for decades and now there are multiple powers to contend with, including Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. While we oppose all intervention and the denial of people’s sovereignty, we must understand the dynamics of a multipolar world—and continue to resist all forms of US hegemony and imperialism.
No to Continued US-NATO Interventions. End NATO Now.
The Washington Treaty (aka NATO), founded in 1949 by the settler-colonial US in partnership with allied Canadian and Western European colonizing states, was justified as “collective defence … to counter the risk that the Soviet Union would seek to extend its control of Eastern Europe to other parts of the continent”. Though according to their founding treaty they are supposedly “committed to the principles of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law”, in fact most member states were, from the very origins of NATO, waging war on and brutalizing peoples throughout most of Africa and East/Southeast Asia. Since its founding, NATO member states, individually or as NATO proper, have repeatedly contradicted their own stated principles by violently suppressing political dissent within their own borders and through military invasions of and attacks on countries like Korea, the Congo, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, and Panama.
The dismantling of the USSR in 1991 both ended the definitional reason for NATO’s existence and also melted away most restraints on their innate belligerence, turning NATO ever more brazen, with increasing military attacks on or invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. The eastward expansion of NATO membership started in the 1950s with the inclusion of Greece and Turkey, and since 1999, 14 more countries in the region have been enlisted in what amounts to a US-led war party to maintain control over the capitalist world economy. The grounds for NATO’s existence were patently false in 1949 and a deliberate provocation to the rest of the world, even before the disappearance of the USSR. Far from a risk to the rest of Europe, the USSR was responding to the threat posed by US military occupation in Western Europe, which still exists in the form of military bases, US troops and nuclear warheads, and the retention of Nazis and fascists (who largely continue to enjoy NATO governments’ support to this day) in some European governments. Given its actual goal of upholding and expanding imperialist capitalist dictatorship and destruction of internal leftist anti-capitalist forces, NATO must be dissolved for the sake of worldwide justice and peace.
No to Fascism and to Far-Right Attacks on Oppressed Groups Anywhere and Everywhere
Western corporate media mock Russia’s claim of widespread neo-Nazi and fascist influence in Ukraine. In truth, far-right and extreme racist forces have been steadily expanding their organizing and memberships—even if not their electoral presence—in several former Soviet republics (Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Russia itself), in Eastern European countries like Poland and Hungary, and indeed worldwide, including in the US. Far-right governments have been elected through fearmongering in Brazil, India, and the Philippines. Even mainstream US sources admit that in Ukraine, “[f]ar-right groups … target perceived internal threats and ‘impure’ elements of society—including Roma, LGBT+ people, and religious and linguistic minorities—that do not align with their exclusive ‘traditional’ vision of Ukrainian identity”.
The openly neo-Nazi and white supremacist “Azov Battalion” was fully incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard after the 2014 NATO-backed coup. They have been responsible for ongoing human rights abuses, including torture, against the Russian ethnic population of the Donbas. Ukraine itself “has emerged as a new hub for the far right across the world”. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, often characterized since the invasion as a great hero, has not only cooperated with the neo-Nazis in his midst, he has “entrusted them with a front line role in his country’s war against pro-Russian and Russian forces”. We equally condemn these 14,000+ killings in Donbas post-2014, mainly of civilians—rarely mentioned by corporate media—and the horrific toll of the Russian invasion on civilians due to deliberately targeting civilian structures.
We call for unrelenting opposition to fascist, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist organizing, mobilizing, and integration into governments and armed forces worldwide.
No to the Continued War on the Earth and the Continued Plunder of Our Planet’s Future
We oppose the US’s use of sanctions against Russian oil as the latest “crisis excuse” for increased drilling and fracking to produce more gasoline. We also oppose the drive to find new sources around the world to “make up” for the lack of Russian oil. Dependency on oil amidst the climate crisis is at the heart of many conflicts throughout the world right now, just as the competition for oil has caused 50 years of unchecked wars. As capitalist oligarchs on all sides vie for economic primacy based on the plunder and control of natural resources, we reject the idea that any “side” is entitled to profit off the commons, such as land, and resources for future generations.
The growing international movement to stop dependency on fossil fuels has made capitalists more desperate in their push to maintain markets while they still can. The US drive to continue its global military presence and reassert economic dominance is in part based on and exerted through its dependency on oil. Our opposition to the current war, therefore, must be based on our belief in the principles of self-determination, but also on opposition to the leading role of the US in the production of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Our anti-militarism must include opposing the Pentagon’s and any “crisis” increase in military spending, as we understand that the Pentagon itself contributes more toxic emissions than most entire governments or corporations on Earth.
We can generate hope for the future by building people-to-people solidarity and mutual aid. There are many past successes: some quite simple but effective, reformist but highly constructive, like rationing fuel and carpooling, supporting family farms for locally grown fresh produce. Other measures are more militant and radical, complex, and revolutionary, including delinking our movements from cyclical same-old/same-old neoliberal frameworks toward a more truly planetary, Global South-oriented internationalism. The current interrelated series of crises we face call for us to resist this war, the wars in Yemen, in Palestine, everywhere. We are called upon to resist the disastrous greenhouse gas levels and the many other forms of blind unchecked corporate greed and violent competition. We are called on to mobilize against fascism and right-wing populism that seeks to devalue our fully diverse humanity. An anti-war, anti-imperialist, and anti-fascist resistance must be built, centered not in Europe or the US, but in all of us.
*First published on 29 April 2022 at https://www.facebook.com/ResistanceinBrooklyn/ (last accessed 9 March 2023). This version published here with permission from Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro (SUNY New Paltz). Many thanks from Antipode’s Editorial Collective to Salvatore and everyone at Resistance in Brooklyn.
 Source: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_67656.htm (last accessed 9 March 2023).
 Source: https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-report/2020/new-eurasian-far-right-rising (last accessed 9 March 2023).
 Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/1/who-are-the-azov-regiment (last accessed 9 March 2023).
 Source: https://thegrayzone.com/2022/03/04/nazis-ukrainian-war-russia/ (last accessed 9 March 2023).