Social democrats, who have historically claimed to champion peace and the working class, are now fervently supporting the devastating war in Ukraine. This shift in stance is reminiscent of the betrayal by socialist organizations during the First World War, when they threw their support behind their governments’ military adventurism and ignored the suffering of ordinary people.
Today, many modern-day social democrats have joined Western governments and their military-industrial complexes in their proxy war against Russia. Some have even gone as far as applauding Yaroslav Hunka, a literal member of the Waffen-SS, when he was presented as a “veteran who fought for Ukrainian independence against Russia during WWII” in the Canadian parliament. Praising Nazis has now become an acceptable part of the discourse against Russia among Western progressives.
In the past, social democrats in Western Europe strongly opposed NATO expansionism and the presence of US military bases. However, today’s progressive and green parties are rolling out the red carpet for foreign soldiers on their soil. Examples include Germany’s foreign minister from the Greens, Annalena Baerbock, who openly admitted that Germany is “fighting a war against Russia,” and former prime minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, who attended the funeral of a well-known neo-Nazi leader in Ukraine. Even in the United States, the progressive left-wing group known as the Squad has fallen under the spell of President Joe Biden’s hawkish policies towards Russia.
Even trade unions, typically seen as the backbone of the anti-war movement, have succumbed to mass Russophobia and warmongering. The British Trade Union Council, for example, has urged the UK government to increase arms deliveries and financial assistance to Ukraine, betraying the Stop the War coalition and the interests of British workers.
Amidst this alarming trend, there are still voices of reason and dissent within the Western left. Figures like Sahra Wagenknecht in Germany, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and Cornel West in the US have consistently opposed military support for Ukraine while also criticizing Russia’s actions. In Latin America, left-wing governments like those of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua have rejected US demands for military assistance to Ukraine and opposed sanctions against Russia.
It is disheartening to see those who claim to stand for workers’ rights and peace engaging in performative activism, imagining themselves as heroes battling against “evil” Russia. Meanwhile, Ukrainian youths are being thrown into the frontlines, fighting and dying for the interests of their country’s elite and the moral posturing of Western virtue signalers. Additionally, the catastrophic environmental damage caused by military adventurism is being ignored.
Instead of empty rhetoric in defense of a corrupt regime, Western progressives should focus on urgent issues like the cost-of-living crisis and climate change. Nationalizing energy companies that have profited from the conflict in Ukraine could help alleviate the rising energy and fuel prices. There was a time when millions would have protested against the presence of foreign troops on European soil, but it seems that more lives will have to be lost before modern-day social democrats realize their mistakes, just as in the aftermath of the First World War.