by Ashley Smith at Truthout.

Leftists in Ukraine are simultaneously resisting Russian imperialism and the domestic imposition of neoliberalism.

On the anniversary of Russia’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian left faces a dual challenge — resisting Russian military attacks while also fighting against their own government’s imposition of neoliberalism and austerity. Meanwhile, the global left remains deeply divided in its approach to the war and its relation to Ukrainian leftists’ appeals for international solidarity.

Alona Liasheva is a sociologist, researcher of urban political economy, and works at The Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. She is a co-editor of Commons: Journal for Social Criticism and member of Ukrainian democratic socialist group Sotsialnyi Rukh (The Social Movement).

In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Ashley Smith speaks with Liasheva about the nature of the war, the conditions faced by her country’s working-class majority, the popular and military resistance and the Ukrainian left’s strategy in wartime and for reconstruction.

Ashley Smith: Russia has launched waves of missile attacks on Ukraine. What impact has that had on people’s lives? How has it impacted popular consciousness? What effect has it had on people’s determination to resist the invasion?

Alona Liasheva: Russia started launching this latest round of missile attacks on October 10. They were supposed to weaken the Ukrainian army, but it didn’t work. Here in Lviv, they seemed to hit everything but the military buildings. While civilian buildings lost their electricity and suffered blackouts, the military buildings were up and running either with regular electricity or generators.

So, the victims of these missiles were civilians and civilian infrastructure. Many lost heat in the middle of winter and had to endure extremely cold conditions in their houses and apartments.

The attacks knocked power out at hospitals, turning off refrigerators that keep the COVID vaccines cold. We couldn’t get vaccines for a while as a result. All sorts of people and organizations mobilized to get us new vaccines, get generators to key places, and get the electricity back on.

I think Russia hoped to break the will of the Ukrainian people. But the opposite has happened. In surveys, popular support for the military resistance to Russia has remained steadfast.

Many on the Western left persist in calling the war a proxy one between the U.S./NATO and Russia. They also call for an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated settlement to end the war. What are the problems with these positions?

Really this is an easy question. Just listen to what Putin just said in his state of the union address. He declared that his goal is to conquer Ukraine and subsume it into the Russian Federation. At the same time as he was speaking, the Russian Army was attacking and killing civilians.

So, both Putin’s rhetoric and his military’s action demonstrate that Russia does not recognize Ukraine as an independent nation, let alone a negotiating partner. He is certainly not interested in a just peace. With his regime dedicated to our national eradication, we have no choice but to defend ourselves.

Unfortunately, it’s that simple. Most everyone understands this in Ukraine. In sociological surveys, I’ve asked people what they think of a ceasefire and negotiations. Almost without exception, they say that Russia cannot be trusted in any talks.

That is especially true of people who have lived in the occupied areas of Ukraine. They describe living under a regime which they did not choose, which did not represent them, and which violently rejected their right to think of themselves as Ukrainians.

That regime imposed terrible economic conditions, discriminated against women and LGBTQ people, and abducted children and sent them back to Russia. That’s why Ukrainians would not accept Zelensky saying, “we’re not going to fight anymore, we’re going to agree to a ceasefire, and negotiate away occupied territories.”

All of this has changed my own view about diplomacy, which I had advocated over the last eight years. I supported the Minsk agreements as a way to freeze if not resolve the conflict.

Putin shattered my illusions, violating the agreement and launching this invasion. Negotiating with him at this point would be the height of naivete. It would be shooting ourselves in the foot.

I know that the left tends to look for a nefarious U.S. plot behind everything. Of course, I think it’s important to analyze every conflict to understand all the players, the dynamics, and who’s culpable.

In the case of Ukraine, it’s far simpler than many on the left think. Ukraine was attacked by an imperialist army, and as a result we are in a struggle to defend our lives and our very right to exist as a sovereign nation.

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