In Ukraine, Peace is Not Enough

Agon Hamza

November 2, 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine revived a series of problems which were lurking beneath the surface of the Left. Although it is nearly impossible to talk about the left as a whole, there are nevertheless some invariants which determine the state of the Left today made visible by the situation in Ukraine.

The left is going through a night of the living dead. It is predominantly comprised of forces which have no political efficiency in fighting to remain alive in the ‘scene’, and at the same time, it pretends to have an understanding of the political reality. This holds true for both political groups and intellectuals. This comes, in part, as a result of a necessary moment of the Western bourgeois expansion. In fact, it is quite an interesting sign - or symptom - of the place the left is in almost any given country today - it is composed of a strong middle class. This composition of the left makes it possible to explain quite a few of its characteristics, including its anti-Americanism, which in a large part is the constitutive element of the left today.

It is peculiar, or so it seems to me, that the anti-American sentiment has grown in the contemporary left in direct proportion to how western the Left itself has become. This middle class, which is leftist, has started to hate its own roots, so to speak, and the anti-American sentiment gets so prevalent, only because it proves that they are not so middle class as it seems. But this is not new. The leftist middle class usually, or as a rule, hate the middle class that it itself is, as if this exaggerated hate would purge it from its own social basis. In a way, the anti-Americans are negatively identified with America. It is because they know that this sentiment is constitutive of their identity that they turn to Putin, who, until now, they barely knew or understood.

What is truly interesting, I think, is to notice that none of the defences of Putin are wholehearted: it is always done from afar, from a certain safe distance. It seems that none of these defenders seem to know what they are doing, they only know that Russia is not America. The left has also supported Assad of Syria, Miloševićof Serbia, insofar as these dictatorial individuals are anti-Americans. But, what is of crucial importance is that the anti-American position comes from an easy position, usually from a safe distance, which is all too easy to take. Many examples come to mind here, both in the political and the intellectual scene. The moment one takes the position of anti-Americanism, as the premise of intellectual, political or/and cultural labour, one loses the sight of the conceptual roots of Americanism, that is to say, one loses the ability to distinguish another “Americanism”, such as Putinism, Erdoganism, and so on.

One of the most hypocritical positions regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the usual left-liberal litany of “terror only breads more terror”, “peace is crucial, the rest can be solved afterwards”, “violence cannot be fought with violence.” The question is: who wants peace? I cannot think of one occupying force which doesn’t want peace – Israel, Russia, Serbia, even the Nazi Germany, they all sincerely want(ed) peace. But, in Ukraine, peace is not an option, as one great philosopher recently declared. Ukrainians do not want peace, they want liberation. Putin, as an invader, wants peace. All the calls for pacifism, or the positions which call for “peace at any cost” are not only depoliticising the cause(s), but ultimately, they are siding with the oppressing forces, be it in the case of the frontal war (like in Ukraine, or in the previous century in the Balkans), or in the other forms of class struggles in the field of economy, politics, culture, etc.

This said, there is always something problematic about returning to the ‘past’ in order to explain our present. One has to only think about the classic way of describing an ongoing difficult situation: one often hears (especially liberals) describing certain situations as “complex.” Russia invaded Ukraine and, according to pundits and peaceniks, we must take into account the “complexity” of the situation in that part of the world, which dates back many decades, if not centuries. I think this is an ideological cover up, which maintains that beyond every situation, there is a hidden element or a deeper meaning, which must be unveiled in order for us to understand current event