‘The right to resist’: A feminist manifesto from Ukraine

July 13, 2022
No war
Ekaterina Morozova was detained in Moscow on April 8 for protesting the war. Photo: @AvtozakLIVE/twitter via Feminist Anti War Resistance/Facebook

Ukrainian feminists released "The right to resist." A feminist manifesto on July 7 in response to a document entitled Feminist Resistance Against War Manifesto.

Green Left is publishing both manifestos because they reflect the debate within the anti-war movement about how to stop this disastrous war.

The March 14 Feminist Resistance Against War Manifesto was criticised by Indian Marxist feminist Kavita Krishnan for its “pacifism that failed to demonstrate solidarity with all manner of Ukrainian resistance, including armed resistance”.

French Marxist economist and feminist Catherine Samary also criticised it for presenting the war “as a conflict between imperialisms”, arguing that it presented “a political analysis that does not distinguish between aggressive war and legitimate resistance”.

'The right to resist.' A feminist manifesto

The Feminist Initiative Group

We, feminists from Ukraine, call on feminists around the world to stand in solidarity with the resistance movement of the Ukrainian people against the predatory, imperialist war unleashed by the Russian Federation. War narratives often portray women* as victims. However, in reality, women* also play a key role in resistance movements, both at the frontline and on the home front: from Algeria to Vietnam, from Syria to Palestine, from Kurdistan to Ukraine.

The authors of the Feminist Resistance Against War manifesto [See below] deny Ukrainian women* this right to resistance, which constitutes a basic act of self-defense of the oppressed. In contrast, we view feminist solidarity as a political practice which must listen to the voices of those directly affected by imperialist aggression. Feminist solidarity must defend women’s* right to independently determine their needs, political goals and strategies for achieving them.

Ukrainian feminists were struggling against systemic discrimination, patriarchy, racism and capitalist exploitation long before the present moment. We conducted and will continue to conduct this struggle both during war and in peacetime.

However, the Russian invasion is forcing us to focus on the general defense effort of Ukrainian society: the fight for survival, for basic rights and freedoms, for political self-determination. We call for an informed assessment of a specific situation instead of abstract geopolitical analysis which ignores the historical, social and political context. Abstract pacifism which condemns all sides taking part in the war leads to irresponsible solutions in practice. We insist on the essential difference between violence as a means of oppression and as a legitimate means of self-defense.

The Russian aggression undermines the achievements of Ukrainian feminists in the struggle against political and social oppression. In the occupied territories, the Russian army uses mass rape and other forms of gender-based violence as a military strategy. The establishment of the Russian regime in these territories poses the threat of criminalizing LGBTIQ+ people and decriminalising domestic violence. Throughout Ukraine, the problem of domestic violence is becoming more acute. Vast destruction of civilian infrastructure, threats to the environmental, inflation, shortages and population displacement endanger social reproduction.

The war intensifies gendered division of labor, further shifting the work of social reproduction — in especially difficult and precarious conditions — onto women. Rising unemployment and the neoliberal government’s attack on labor rights continue to exacerbate social problems. Fleeing from the war, many women* are forced to leave the country, and find themselves in a vulnerable position due to barriers to housing, social infrastructure, stable income, and medical services (including contraception and abortion). They are also at risk of getting trapped into sex trafficking.

We call on feminists from around the world to support our struggle. We demand:

• the right to self-determination, protection of life and fundamental freedoms and the right to self-defense (including armed) for the Ukrainian people — as well as for other peoples facing imperialist aggression;

• a just peace, based on the self-determination of the Ukrainian people, both in the territories controlled by Ukraine and its temporarily occupied territories, in which the interests of workers, women, LGBTIQ+ people, ethnic minorities and other oppressed and discriminated groups will be taken into account;

• international justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the imperialist wars of the Russian Federation and other countries;

• effective security guarantees for Ukraine and effective mechanisms to prevent further wars, aggression and escalation of conflicts in the region and in the world;

• freedom of movement, protection and social security for all refugees and internally displaced persons irrespective of origin;

• protection and expansion of labor rights, opposition to exploitation and super exploitation and democratization of industrial relations;

• prioritization of the sphere of social reproduction (kindergartens, schools, medical institutions, social support, etc.) in the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war;

cancellation of Ukraine's foreign debt (and that of other countries of the global periphery) for post-war reconstruction and prevention of further austerity policies;

• protection against gender-based violence and guaranteed effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention;

• respect for the rights and empowerment of LGBTIQ+ people, national minorities, people with disabilities and other discriminated groups;

• implementation of the reproductive rights of girls and women, including the universal rights to sex education, medical services, medicine, contraception and abortion;

• guaranteed visibility for and recognition of women’s active role in the anti-imperialist struggle;

• inclusion of women in all social processes and decision-making, both during war and in peacetime, on equal terms with men;

Today, Russian imperialism threatens the existence of Ukrainian society and affects the entire world. Our common fight against it requires shared principles and global support. We call for feminist solidarity and action to protect human lives as well as rights, social justice, freedom and security.

We stand for the right to resist.

If Ukrainian society lays down its arms, there will be no Ukrainian society.

If Russia lays down its arms, the war will end.

July 7, 2022

[Manifesto reprinted from Commons.]


Feminist Resistance Against War Manifesto

Feminists Against War

We profoundly condemn the military invasion led by the Putin regime in Ukraine, which has already left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, and which provokes a sharpening of the confrontation between imperialist blocs at the global level.

We reject the positions issued in recent days that deepen the warmongering spiral. We reject the decisions that involve adding more weapons to the conflict and increasing war budgets. We reject security narratives that reinforce authoritarian logic and militarisation. Not in our name.

We must remember that [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)] is co-responsible for the situation created by its global expansionism and militaristic security narrative. Weapons perpetuate war, perpetuate barbarism and perpetuate suffering. There is no greater security than peace.

With this manifesto we collect the call launched by Russian feminist groups and join the Feminist Resistance Against War! In this way, we recover the feminist thread of history that has participated in struggles against reactionary wars, from the movement led by Rosa Luxemburg in 1914, the Greenham Common anti-nuclear weapons camp of the 1980s or the Women in Black movement against war, to name a few.

We are with the people of Ukraine who want to restore peace in their lives and demand a ceasefire. We are with the mobilised Russian citizens, who, despite the repression and threats of the authoritarian and repressive regime of Putin, demand to stop the military invasion.

That is why we say Feminist Resistance Against War. Behind the NO to War there is no naive position. The only real road to peace is the de-escalation of war.

We demand a bold redirection of the situation to break the militaristic spiral initiated by Russia and supported by NATO. We demand the immediate cancellation of Ukraine’s foreign debt of 125 billion dollars as a concrete measure of support for the Ukrainian people and denounce the reforms and conditionality imposed by the [International Monetary Fund] in recent years.

Learning from the painful experiences of war and conflict in Europe in the last century must mark our commitment and action. War is irreconcilable with the essential values and goals of the feminist movement. We stand for peace, coexistence of peoples and a democratic solution to conflicts.

We are many who say no to war, imperialism, patriarchy, authoritarianism and militarism.

We are the future that will prevail!

March 14, 2022

[Reprinted from Feminists Against War.]

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