The world has changed. That’s what the rulers of the world tell us. I’m afraid that means it has. The issues of British politics suddenly pale. They are less significant but they are also impacted by the events playing out in Ukraine. We are all immediately shocked, despite the warnings for years and we are all trying to make sense of it. I have seen multiple interpretations of the advancements made by Putin’s forces. On the whole, in the UK the blame is laid at Putin. There are the odd Marxist voices crying “western imperialism” in order to justify Putin’s imperialism but they are not making much headway.
This is such a fast moving issue it’s hard to know the ways in which the world has changed for sure. I’m no expert on global affairs so I have to listen to those who are. One idea is that the west has finally realised that the last three decades weren’t what they thought they were. The end of the Cold War brought a liberal democratic hope for more liberal democracies that could trade with one another in peace. There were signs along the way that Putin wasn’t a subscriber to this but western powers failed to act because they wanted to encourage him.
There are other interpretations and there will be new ones as this unfolds. Social media encourage us to all add our rolling commentary to events. It’s difficult to step back and resist the urge sometimes. It can lead to intense debates about the minutiae of every twist and turn. There are bound to be disagreements and there are bound to be not just multiple views in general, across the political spectrum, but also, within anarchism. We don’t need to have one, settled, united take on everything that happens. What we need is empathy. The views of anarchists on the ground, directly affected is surely what matters most. The solidarity they want and how they want it to be displayed and acted upon is what counts. In that regard it’s been great to see those voices be heard in podcasts and in articles, and multiple ways develop to exercise that solidarity.
As I write this, the news channels are telling me that over 1 million people have fled Ukraine already. It is difficult to know how many people have been killed by Putin’s forces. Through the destruction, the natural process of mutual aid has been flourishing. It will continue to do so. It will continue to help build networks that will outlast this conflict. It crosses borders because such things are merely imagined, and reaches out to a common humanity in all of us. The Russian people protesting the war show immense bravery, as do the people in Ukraine facing the onslaught. The acts of solidarity, whether on the ground or through aid, thousands of kilometres away, provide hope of what humanity can be like.
Close to home, the issues regarding Boris Johnson and what parties he may have attended during times of Covid restrictions have largely disappeared from public view. It will come back once the Metropolitan Police finish their investigation. Putin’s aggression has allowed Johnson to focus on foreign affairs and perhaps escape from the issue completely. It will depend on what the police report says and on top of it the full report by Sue Gray. But it will depend most, as it always has done, on whether Conservative MPs stick with Johnson or not. It is hard to see them ditching him for now. Already, there is a consensus forming that Johnson may be saved by Putin.
Meanwhile, the war impacts the Conservative government in other ways. Their policies on immigration are not just abhorrent to anyone who thinks about them for a few seconds, they are also contradictory. They have never been against immigration per se, they are against certain types of people entering the UK. They now find themselves in a situation where pressure from inside the UK and from other European countries to take in refugees, exposes their double standards. It is, of course, a double standard they use to great effect in sowing division to win votes. There will be splits within the Conservative Party, as they shamelessly debate how many refugees they will allow to receive help from Britain, and what paperwork they will need to have.
Secondly, much has already been made of the links that rich friends of Putin have with the governing party in the UK. The Tories made London, in particular, a friendly place for those people to live and do business. In return they got donations. It’s all very typical of ruling class solidarity. There will now be a readjustment while they are forced to get rid of some donors while trying to not lose face.
The British political issues though, need to be put in context against the backdrop of the suffering of millions, caused by one man. While there are big debates to be had about the ways in which the world is and has changed, I’d like to think we can all agree on at least one thing: fuck Putin.