The meeting’s success, however, should not just be judged simply by the size of the large and engaged audience. The organisation of the meeting was testimony to the increasing levels of understanding among those in the peace and anti-war movements of the dangers of wider global war that are present around the situation in Ukraine. In addition, of huge importance, was the presence amongst speakers and the audience, of an awareness of the aggressive and irresponsible activity of NATO and other imperialist institutions, like the EU, in seeking to provoke Russia by their constant push Eastward.
The assembly was addressed by four speakers and then the floor was opened for discussion. The opening address came from Jonathan Steele, a Guardian columnist and former Russia correspondent.
While one cannot say that Steele was in any way consistently anti-imperialist and he did not give support to the anti-fascist forces in Ukraine, he did reject British support for the Ukrainian government and its war in southeast Ukraine’s Donbas region. It is important that Steele’s stance be used to open wider debate amongst media professionals in Britain and internationally. Such a debate can be useful in cutting across attempts by Britain’s monopoly capitalists to demonise Russia and its leaders in order to complete the Cold War mission of conquering her markets and dominating the natural resources of the East, not only in Europe but extending into Asia.
It was left to Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, to firmly put responsibility for the volatile and highly dangerous situation coming out of Ukraine at NATO’s door. Kate highlighted the NATO imperialist alliance’s constant and aggressive expansionist policy eastward onto Russia’s borders.
Alex Gordon of the RMT (speaking in a personal capacity) highlighted the importance of Solidarity with Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine, the campaign which he serves on the Steering Committee of. He went on to point to the alliance between neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government and armed forces. Alex located the rise and prominence of neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine alongside those in other parts of Europe. Such developments were exemplified most recently in Vilnius, Lithuania on March 11 and on March 16 in Riga, Latvia, when pro-Nazi forces, who hailed nationalist Hitlerite collaborators as heroes. He emphasised how, all too often, the British and global media failed to highlight the forces of fascism and Nazism that NATO, the EU and the major imperialist powers are aligning themselves with in order that these forces might challenge Russia, her allies and the Russian population in Eastern Europe and Central Europe and the Baltic states.
Alex went on to outline how a situation has arisen in which the ‘western’ powers give solid support to a regime in Ukraine that arose out of a putsch led by supporters of the neo-Nazi organisations like the Right Sector and ‘Svodba’. He explained that these, and broader forces within the Ukrainian regime and society, now seek to re-write the history of the Second World War and the defeat fascism by an alliance between the capitalist democracy and the USSR (as well as progressive forces in the south and far-east of the world). Instead, in today’s Ukraine, government and pseudo-intellectuals blame the USSR, rather than the Nazis, for the carnage of WWII. They look for political inspiration to Stefan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist leader, whose movement collaborated with the Nazi occupation in Ukraine and was responsible for the murder of around 10,000 Jews as well as murder and brutality against other minorities in Ukraine. And yet we are confronted by a wall of silence by our political leaders and the media in Britain.
The meeting was also addressed by Maz Saleem, the daughter of the late Mohammed Saleem, who, at 82, had been murdered in Birmingham during an Islamophobic attack by Ukrainian neo-Nazi thugs. She urged those at the meeting to build the mobilisation around March 21, the UN Anti-Racism Day.
Andrew Murray, the final speaker, spoke on behalf of the Stop the War Coalition, who had organised the meeting. Andrew echoed Alex Gordon on the danger of fascism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe. He highlighted the longstanding strategy of the imperialist powers in their Eastward expansion. In doing so he located the present dangers of war, that are posed by the conflict around and within Ukraine, as being the product of the longer term policy relentless expansionism of Western European and US capitalism, most notably via the institutions of the EU and Nato.
He went on to outline a strategy for building a broad alliance of those who stand against war by building the antiwar movement. In doing so we must mobilise millions of people throughout Britain in the struggle peaceful and progressive development.
The discussion showed a strong depth of fundamental agreement amongst broad forces that we must unite in the struggle for peace. It was in this spirit that the audience dispersed, confident that we can build such a movement in the coming period, standing on the shoulders previous successes, such as the mass mobilisation against war in Iraq.
Here’s a full video of the meeting: