Lesson from World War 1 — No to imperialists on both sides!

Canada is at war with Russia and leftists need to focus on restricting Canada’s further contribution to the horror in Ukraine.

Last Tuesday prime minister Justin Trudeau announced that “Canada will be sending heavy artillery to Ukraine”. The recent federal budget earmarked half a billion dollars for arms to Ukraine (in addition to over $100 million worth of “lethal” weapons announced and delivered since the end of February).

Likely to help with delivering weapons, Ottawa recently announced that 150 more soldiers would be dispatched to Poland. In January Global News reported that Canadian special forces were sent to assist the Ukrainian government. According to the story, Canadian special forces have been training Ukrainian troops since 2020. In total about 1,500 Canadian troops are in Eastern Europe, including some who were part of Operation Unifier training Ukrainian forces.

Canada has spent $900 million training the Ukrainian military since 2015, reported Radio Canada last week. The 2,800-word exposé “Le Canada a formé des éléments d’un régiment ukrainien lié à l’extrême droite” also details many examples of Canadian forces assisting neo-Nazis there. A recent front-page Wall Street Journal article headlined “NATO Training Retooled Ukrainian Army” also focused on the central role played by Canadian military trainers. In 2019 former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dubbed former defence minister Jason Kenney “the godfather of the modern Ukrainian army” due to his role in instigating Operation Unifier after that country’s military collapsed amidst the violence unleashed by the ouster of elected President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

Prior to Russia’s illegal February 24 invasion, the US and UK had spent billions of dollars training and arming the Ukrainian military. The CIA had a secret training program in Ukraine until days before the Russian invasion.

Over the past two months Washington has announced or supplied over $3 billion in weapons and the US is providing significant intelligence to Ukrainian forces fighting. According to Le Figaro reporter Georges Malbrunot, US forces are directing elements of the war on the ground. In addition to large numbers of former Canadian and US troops, the Daily Mail recently reported that British special forces were on the ground in the Ukraine.

While more details on the scope of US/British/Canadian involvement will likely emerge, there is enough in the public record to say confidently that Canada is fighting Russia. At the same time Ottawa has sought to destroy the Russian economy. Canada has adopted an unprecedented sanctions regime against that country and according to Politico, finance minister Chrystia Freeland led the international charge to freeze (seize?) over $300 billion in Russian Central Bank assets. Sanctions are sometimes equated to a medieval siege designed to starve a city or fortress into submission.

The war in Ukraine is primarily an inter imperialist conflict with Ukraine used as proxy. A highly militaristic country with a long imperial history, Russia responded brutally to US/UK/Canadian provocations. NATO expansion and deployments across Eastern Europe, as well as Washington ripping up arms control measures and stationing belligerent weapons systems in former Warsaw Pact nations, and the 2014 North America backed regime change that led to an eight-year war were all designed to ‘poke the bear’.

While warmongers draw analogies between the current situation and the “appeasement” of Hitler in the lead-up to World War II, US and Canadian machinations towards Ukraine and Russia over the past few decades more closely resemble the situation before World War 1 as various European imperial powers played the “Great Game”.

Despite innumerable moves by the Canadian government to escalate tensions, the Canadian left has largely supported Ottawa’s position. Absorbed with denouncing Russia, little attention has been put towards pressing for negotiations to end the fighting or debt relief for Ukraine.

The NDP aggressively supported the Liberals. They’ve backed sending more than half billion dollars in arms, including heavy artillery, to Ukraine and the party has publicly promoted Ukraine joining NATO.

Liberal and left media has largely contributed to the corporate/CBC offensive. The Tyee has published a stream of Russophobic articles while rejecting anything critical of Canadian policy. National Observer is only slightly less bad. Ricochet has all but ignored one of the most important geopolitical conflicts in years while The Breach has been only marginally better. Rabble has published a couple critical articles, but they’ve published as many stories echoing the dominant narrative and the subject line in last week’s email to Rabble subscribers asked, “is Putin committing genocide?” (Even French president Emmanuel Macron publicly scorned US President Joe Biden for that language, which undercuts the possibility of a diplomatic solution and propels escalation. As the invader, Russia is principally responsible for the deaths and destruction, but even if all the Ukrainian government’s claims of killing were true — and they are not — it still doesn’t amount to genocide.)

The editor of Midnight Sun Magazine, Todd Gordon, has promoted the idea that Ukrainian resistance is a national liberation struggle akin to Algeria’s independence movement. On social media the Wilfrid Laurier University professor and author of Imperialist Canada has repeatedly called me a “campist” for discussing Canada’s role in the 2014 coup against Yanukovych. Gordon spends far more time criticizing a tiny fraction of the left that refuses to criticize Russia’s invasion than he does Ottawa.

The pressure to be patriotic during times of war is immense. In the best-known example of leftists succumbing to inter imperialist war fever, most of the Second International abandoned their internationalist rhetoric and supported the slaughter at the start of World War I. In 1915 Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (now CLC) characterized World War I as a “mighty endeavour to secure early and final victory for the cause of freedom and democracy.” Industrial Banner, the leading labour newspaper in southern Ontario, called for crushing “Prussian authoritarianism” under which the “common man suffered most.” It took years of horrible fighting and conscription for most to shift course.

An imperialist Canadian state and ruling class is at war with Russian imperialists and just like during World War 1, the left should side with neither. Internationalist minded Canadians should be working to end the war, not push the fight to the last Ukrainian.

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