natural feelings

In this war situation, the hatred of Ukrainians towards Russians seems quite natural, justified and inevitable. But what worries me most is why so few Russians seem to hate the Russian imperial regime and its disgusting imperial history, as well as the current Russian ruling class and its henchmen, who wave Russian flags and wear “Z” symbols on their cars. After all, these people are dancing on the bones of the Russian-speaking children of Mariupol.

That said, perhaps the polarization of Russian society is quietly increasing. Perhaps, as the Russian elite and its minions consolidate their power, resistance to Putin’s brutality grows.

As Russian police detain anyone who shows the slightest hint of a public anti-war stance, the number of socio-economic protests is growing in Russia. Even under a new wave of repression and the establishment of a military dictatorship, there are strikes in the country’s auto industry, courier strikes and other acts of civil disobedience. And initiatives that consistently and radically oppose war still work.

Perhaps the “Russian people” should be seen as the community that associates itself with the imperialist state and supports the criminal regime. But the “Russian working class”, on the other hand – aware of its own condition, interests and goals – deserves our respect, our support and our solidarity. It deserves our support insofar as it can become a class acting for itself – Russian workers finding the strength and dignity to turn against the regime of oligarchs and secret police. After all, only then can Ukrainian workers move from destroying Russian forces to eliminating Ukrainian oligarchs from power and establishing true social and democratic justice.

A different path?

For better or for worse, Ukrainians and Russians have close cultural roots. A key difference today, however, is that Ukrainians have chosen to fight against imperialism instead of complacently belonging to it.

But Russia can also choose this path. Most Russians belong to the working class and young people also experience oppression from the Russian imperial authorities, but certainly not to the extent of Ukrainians.

Of course, these people are largely coerced by state propaganda, but the level of support for the war among the working class is far below that of the Russian petty-bourgeois “middle class”. The chance to build a world order without imperialism lies, in part, in mobilizing the Russian working class against Russian imperialism.

A step on this path must involve abandoning the dehumanization of Russians. Ukrainian authorities, including the Office of the President, stress the need to treat prisoners humanely and to investigate reports of violations of their rights. Yet there are an incredible number of posts on social media that in various ways suggest the inferiority of Russians, whether in ‘genetic’ or ‘cultural’ terms. The main mouthpiece of Ukrainian state propaganda, United News, which is followed by half of the country’s journalists, constantly calls Russians “orcs”. If we don’t want to go the way of Russia, we have to reject that kind of language.

No matter how much we hate our enemies and no matter what crimes they commit, they remain human and will be held accountable for all their actions. We want criminals to be punished, but we don’t want to dehumanize an entire nation.

This article has been translated and adapted from Social movementa Ukrainian political organization.