Amid the devastation unleashed by Russia’s war, Ukrainian leftists are not just organising to resist the invasion and provide humanitarian aid for those in need. Organisations such as Sotsialnyi Rukh (Social Movement) are also campaigning to ensure the country is not left further dependent on foreign creditors and local oligarchs when the arduous task of reconstruction begins.
To this end, Social Movement has launched a global campaign calling on governments and international creditors to cancel Ukraine’s foreign debt, which currently stands at US$125 billion. It also wants funds obtained from the confiscation of assets belonging to Russian oligarchs to go to Ukraine — and wants Ukrainian oligarchs targeted, too.
Talking to Green Left about the campaign, Social Movement head of council Vitalii Dudin said “unfair and extensive external debt has for a long time been a significant contributing factor to poverty and deteriorating living standards in Ukraine. But since the war in 2014, and especially since the Russian invasion, it has become unbearable".
For example, close to $6.2 billion is designated to servicing this debt in 2022 — about 12% of the state’s budget. Faced with the need to raise spending on its military and the consequences of war, Ukraine’s state can only afford to pay this at the expense of its citizens' most urgent needs.
“Ukraine is fighting the aggression of one of the most militarised states in the world. Russia's military and financial resources are disproportionately larger than the resources of its victim: Ukraine.
“To protect our cities from this devastating aggression, our country needs a huge budget increase for military aims alone, let alone for humanitarian needs or management of infrastructural and logistical disruption and destruction.
“Some avenues for financing are further budget cuts in other areas, voluntary donations or new loans. But none of those measures will bring us sustainable development. The only way to ensure Ukraine’s defence and its economic recovery is full debt relief.”
This demand has already received the backing of several of the country’s trade unions, representing about 5 million workers.
“This is not the time to think about profits, when human life is in grave danger, when the security of Europe, of the whole world is at stake. Everyone who is against war and supports the supremacy of life over profit should support the cancelation of Ukrainian debt.”
Regarding the confiscation of Russian oligarchs’ property abroad, a statement issued by Social Movement on March 6 argued these were “half-measures against the economy of the Russian Federation, its dictatorship and the parasites that constantly enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Russians”.
Dudin explains: “We know that debt cancellation is not enough to make our economy stronger, to bring security to everyone in need, and to rebuild our war-devastated economy. That is why we also need to confiscate the wealth of Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs and channel it into supplying food, healthcare and reconstruction efforts.
“We believe that the Ukrainian oligarchy, too, must pay the price for its exploitation of our natural resources and people, for weakening our state and undermining our sovereignty.”
As to other ways to aid Ukrainians in their struggle, Dudin said: “Firstly, Ukrainian defenders and Ukrainian citizens, including refugees, must be supported. Solidarity will help us overcome today's nightmare.
“Secondly, heavy sanctions against Russia must be supported. This will trigger social unrest and lead to tensions between the working class and Kremlin's oligarchy.
“Thirdly, the truth about the war in Ukraine must be spread far and wide. People are not fighting in the interest of NATO. They have no choice but to fight for their land; to defend it against Russia’s aggression. The cause of this war is not the ‘nationalists in Kyiv’, but the growing capitalist crisis in Russia and Putin's fantasies of dominating the international arena.”