Socialist Groups Unite to Support Ukraine

Open Labour Member, Panny Antoniou, updates us on what socialist groups across Europe are doing to support Ukraine. 

When Russia first invaded, I think the overwhelming emotion I – along with most others – felt was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. What could I do against the tide of Russian forces and what difference could any individual make to the thousands of lives which would be damaged by Putin’s aggression?

Thankfully, my friend Hunter who was my predecessor as YES Bureau Member had the answer – don’t doomscroll, do something! He immediately created a group chat with the representatives of socialist youth organisations across Europe to pressure our governments into implementing SWIFT sanctions on Russian banks. This was achieved within the first 48 hours thanks to fantastic work by JUSOS in Germany as well as groups elsewhere in Europe.

We then had the issue that many countries were not letting refugees in and not providing those that they were letting in with adequate support. Our UK based sister organisation SDLP Youth then immediately started the #OpenTheUK campaign aimed at getting the Conservative Government to change their refugee policy – both towards Ukrainians and towards the others fleeing conflicts and persecution from other parts of the world. This was a highly effective approach and we were delighted that the government finally changed its approach this week to allow a more compassionate response for refugees.

However, the team – which now consisted of over 40 organisations in over 20 European countries – was not done yet. We were able to disseminate a number of Russian language videos from Ukrainian socialist youth activists created by our sister organisation SD Platform – activists whose lives were turned upside down by the invasion and whose resilience, bravery, and integrity has been an example to us all. We were also able to raise over €7,000 to support refugees and the building of a new orphanage in Poland which we were able to fundraise in just a few days with small donations from our members. We are also working on creating a rapid rebuttal unit to counter Russian disinformation both online and on the ground, providing high quality fact checking and flooding the online environment with good information. This is of vital importance with the Russian war machine benefitting immensely from the lies they tell and from the fog of war. We are also providing regular shipments of non lethal aid such as body armour, medical equipment, and medicine.

We will not stop until we have done everything in our power to assist the people of Ukraine and grind Putin’s war machine to a halt. It has been a pleasure and honour to work with so many fantastic activists from across Europe on this response but the most heartening response has been within the UK – where we traditionally sit back and let the rest of Europe deal with refugee crises, so many socialists from across the UK have stepped up to the plate with knowledge and resources. It was especially heartening to see Ben McGowan who is running for Chair of Labour Students involved with assisting us, it’s great to see someone who wants to lead the new Labour Students embracing internationalism alongside our sister
organisations across Europe.

If there’s one thing which I hope comes out of this humanitarian disaster, it’s that those international connections remain and that together with our Ukrainian comrades in SD Platform, we are able to build a bold, inclusive, and prosperous future together. But first, we have more work to do. It is only through this collaboration and through this shared endeavour that we can help the people of Ukraine and provide some hope for so many whose lives have been destroyed.

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