This member statement is a response to a statement published in Metro DC DSA's February 25th Weekly Update. The weekly update is prepared each week by a team of volunteer members.
By Elizabeth Stanley
I feel that the DSA statement [in the Friday, February 25 Weekly Update] on the Russian invasion of Ukraine was deeply disappointing. Frankly, I found it self-centered and in poor taste. We can do better than this.
I don't disagree that this senseless mess is a result of the usual military-industrial capitalist nationalist power wrangling. However, I can't believe I'm writing this, but it is beyond wrong. In fact, it is outright abusive to imply that we must give violent actors, whether individuals or states, what they want so they won't do something worse. Furthermore, treating an actual active invasion like an opportunity for an "I told you so" is repulsive. People are fleeing their homes and getting killed. At this point, what may have been a predictable outcome doesn't matter that much. We can talk about that failure later. The war is happening today. We must engage with today.
I don't understand how we square the kind of sentiment on display in the statement with DSA positions on BDS, defunding the police, self-determination for all peoples, or even our anti-war values. The most charitable thing I can read into it — and yes, I am genuinely trying — is either a pretty shallow "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" philosophy, or some charred stump of sentimentality for the hopes of the 1917 Revolution. Seeing as the statement also refers to present-day Russia as an "autarchy," that makes the former naive and the latter absurd.
Look: from a totally cutthroat optics perspective, what are we bringing to the world with this statement? How do we think a Ukrainian under bombardment would feel reading this? Do we think they would feel supported? As if we cared more about saving their lives and homes, or as if we cared more about scoring political points? When I read this, the railing against NATO comes through loud and clear, with only a lukewarm side of "this is where we go from here." I don't think "Did you know there are street protests?" is anywhere near good enough. We didn't even muster an explicit call to join the protests, we just pointed out that they were happening.
As a counterexample, I also got an e-mail from an Amnesty International mailing list today. Here is a portion of what they wrote:
What is unfolding right now is terrifying. And as millions are forced to leave their homes, mass displacement will cause a refugee crisis on top of the disaster we are currently witnessing. Amnesty is mobilizing all of our resources to protect human rights and lives in Ukraine, and hold leaders accountable. Right now, our plan of action includes:
They centered Ukrainians and their welfare. We did not. Sure, our missions are not identical, and we are not remotely set up to do anything like their first bullet, but the rest? We can do those things. And right now, that's triage. Letting someone bleed to death from a stab wound because you're "too busy" administering their chemotherapy is not actually kind or helpful.
I think our priorities, in alignment with what I understand our shared values to be, would be something like:
And we will continue to address things like military expansionism *anyway.* Without making it all about us in this moment. To me, today's statement feels about a half-step away from some of those brands on Twitter that used the invasion as a segue into an ad for their products.
I mean, if we're not here to help people, what the hell are we here for?
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