WADING IN ON ROE

SDUSA’S National Executive Committee unanimously (6-0) passed the following resolution last evening:

SDUSA resoundingly, profoundly, and robustly condemns the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 Dobbs decision to overturn Roe V Wade that destroys women’s reproductive rights in our lifetime.  By taking away the right to privacy for all childbearing-aged women in America and by removing away their right to control their own bodies, their futures and the futures of their families the court has made Americans who might become pregnant – and their partners if they have them – into second-class citizens. By arguing that ths right to privacy does not exist in the U.S. Constitution, the court is also setting up millions of Americans to lose the rights they have had to equality in marriage, sexuality and possibly even education.  Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion leaves the argument open to overturn Griswald, Lawrence, Obergerfeld and even Brown v. Board of Education. Pro-life zealotry may be a motivating factor, but really we are being put on notice that it is time to say goodbye to all those Supreme Court decisions since the 1950s that have made us a fairer, freer and more equal society.

The question of when life begins – whether at conception or after “quickening” (i.e. after the baby starts to kick) or at the point of viability is one for theologians and lay people alike to debate for all time.  And to be sure there are members of the Court who deeply believe that abortion of any kind is murder, but these “pro-life” zealots are not now, nor do they ever take into consideration the lives that these “saved” babies might have or the damage that their mothers might suffer by having to bear unwanted pregnancies.  This ruling and the laws that enshrine this gutting of Roe have no exceptions for victims of rape, or rape-incest, or even if the life of the mother is at stake.  And the immature and frankly silly notion that all problems associated with unwanted pregnancies and birth are solved by “safe harbor” laws and/or the ability to adopt out solves very little.

The foster care systems which exist in our different states are woefully inadequate, and do not begin to take care of the children of all races in their charge, and unfortunately people are not exactly tripping over themselves to adopt black and brown children anywhere in the country.  Even when the system encourages adoption it takes a long time for qualified parents to be united with the children they want to adopt, and too often these children languish in one foster care home after another never going through proper stages of development which would allow them to thrive as they grow up.

By the same token the damage that women who are forced to carry unwanted babies to term is immeasurable – not only for the women but also for other children in the family and for the unwanted children themselves.  The economic consequences of having unwanted children can play out over more that two generations, and the damage done to teenage girls who are victims or rape or rape-incest are immeasurable.  But the people who have championed these laws are not concerned with the quality of life that these ‘saved” babies or their parents or their siblings might have, nor do they care about the cost to society.

The Right Wing of American politics started organizing around the anti-abortion position in 1978 when Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell realized the power that they could amass by doing so.  Up until then abortion was seen as an issue for Catholics and one that could (and would) split the working class and drive conservative Catholics from the Democratic Party.  In 1980 Reagan realized how he could attract Catholics and Evangelicals by taking an anti-abortion stand, even though he had not held that position while he was the governor of California.  And the Bushes (Barbara and George H.W. and Prescott) had all been big supporters of Planned Parenthood.

The Right Wing of American politics started its assault on the rest of us in the late 1970’s and really went into high gear with the Reagan Administration and everyday thereafter.  They want power and they want control over our lives. and they do not want women, or minorities, or non-heterosexuals to have power over our politics, our laws, our courts or our own lives or bodies.  And now that they have control of the US Supreme Court (having stolen at least one seat) they are not done by making abortion illegal and guns of all kinds legal, they’re coming after reproductive rights/freedoms, and all the decisions which stem from the right to privacy.  And not only are they advocating stiff penalties for women who might get abortions they are going after any health professional or anyone who might perform an abortion or council a woman about her choices.  And furthermore they are deputizing individuals to become their armies of vigilantes to sue anyone who tries to get an abortion.  Fortunately, we have states which will provide access to abortion and contraception and help people to choose what’s best for them, but the chaos that will come to pass is unimaginable, and if the Republicans in the House and Senate take over there will be a national federal ban, and then who knows what? Underground abortion railroads?

It is up to us Social Democrats to do what we can to work with unions and health-care providers to hold the line, to prevent the worst-case scenarios from coming to pass!

FROM THE SEWERS TO THE COUNCILS

Editor’s Note: Continuing our retrospective on the American “sewer socialism” movement.

By Jason Sibert

Sewer socialism was a municipal movement in early to mid-20th century America that sought to make the lives of big and mid-sized cities better in several ways. Advocates of sewer socialism municipalized natural monopolies like sewers, trash collection, and electrical grids, and they worked to deliver quality public services to the residents of the cities they served – public safety, fire, education, (public) hospitals, and infrastructure. In addition, they also sought to be good stewards of the people’s money and fought corruption, as this set of politicians knew working class and poor people couldn’t afford to have their money wasted. Sewer socialists also, although not always, supported organized labor.

Any 21st century sewer socialism should include pushes for municipal wi-fi, municipal retail brokerage companies, municipally subsidized housing co-ops, maybe municipally subsidized retail co-ops, and an emphasis on quality fire protection, infrastructure, public safety, and education. A modern version of sewer socialism, like its 20th century ancestor, should emphasize that it can use taxpayers’ money wisely, as many taxpayers have modest means.

Modern sewer socialist movements should promote the cause of a powerful labor movement, and it might not take the AFL-CIO form. Sure, sewer socialists can assure trade unions gain work from city contracts, but it must reach portions of the workforce that are not heavily unionized and not well paid. Amy Qin’s piece New York and California Experiment with Giving Workers a Say in Industry Standards gives those who believe in a modernized sewer socialism a guidebook for empowering working people. The story concentrates on service workers, a big part of our economy, and points out that less than three percent of fast-food workers and one percent of nail salon workers are unionized. California, a state with more than half a million fast food employees (more than any state in the county), is considering a bill to address the exploitation in that industry. The Fast-Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FFASRA) would make franchisers liable for labor violations of their franchisees and would also protect workers who speak up. The FFASRA introduces something even more interesting – a workers’ council. The 11-member Fast Food Sector Council, which includes workers, worker advocates, regulators, franchisees and franchisers would be appointed by the state to set sector-wide policy on wages, working hours, and health and safety regulations. The idea is that workers know what violations are occurring, and franchisees know how they’re being squeezed. In addition, the council would let them simultaneously bring their issues to corporate representatives and regulators, who have the power to change profit structures and working conditions.

Since 2018, four states and three localities have instituted workers’ councils in sectors from domestic work to agriculture. In Philadelphia, a domestic workers’ council is facilitating the country’s first portable paid leave system, so workers can accrue time off across multiple employers.  In New York, the Nail Salon Minimum Standards Act would create a workers’ council with business owners, government delegates, and workers in 15 voter seats. It has the power to recommend a statewide pricing model, addressing the race to the bottom that’s pushing salon owners to cut corners and wages. Sector-based councils aren’t new, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal featured them in the National Recovery Administration (NRA). There were problems with the NRA; some employers cheated on the established rules and the whole program was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Features of the NRA were later included in New Deal pro-labor legislation like the minimum wage and the Wagner Act as well as in the regulation of utility industries – airlines, trucking, and busses. Qin points out that such boards would be a boon to industries that are hard to unionize or where there are few unions.

Sewer socialist mayors, aldermen and alderwomen need to work on creating workers’ councils in their respective municipalities. This would make life easier for the urban, suburban, and rural working class. It might also serve as an example for bigger, federal programs down the road and strengthen social democratic tendencies in our country.

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

Pro-Choice At Conception: One Social Democrat’s Story

By Susan Stevens

Up until recently, I’d seen the “abortion debate” as between those who believe, as I do, that human life begins at conception, and those who define the embryo based on their feelings about a particular pregnancy. As I’ve grown increasingly progressive, and seen that the candidates and movements that I’m most aligned with overall are also pro-choice, I’ve moved, first, into the camp of accepting that abortion is like the thorn that comes with every rose — something I just need to shut my mouth about to be able to collaborate with people whom I share so many values with – to, second, understanding that it’s all about reverencing the personal privacy and bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman.

Most Americans agree that there are certain dire situations in which abortion is the most compassionate option. Most would feel, for example, that a rape victim should not be forced to carry the resultant pregnancy. What many don’t realize is that the only way for her to have speedy access to the needed medical care is for any pregnant girl/woman to have that same immediate access. The least-risky abortions are performed as early as possible, so creating a bunch of legal hoops to jump through, such as, for instance, requiring a police report to be made accusing a man of rape, or hearings to take place, can delay things and lead to much greater health risks — not to mention false accusations being made by some desperate individuals. We must respect the person closest to the situation, by entrusting them with the space and resources they need to get themselves onto a path of living, breathing and thriving.

Abortion is the “moral” coat of paint that the right keeps slapping onto their fences erected to divide the 99% who would otherwise unite around our common economic interests. They hold themselves up as defenders of “the sanctity of human life,” while rejecting lifesaving and life-affirming policies like healthcare, food, and housing as human rights, protections against all forms of discrimination, free childcare and public higher education, student loan forgiveness, and good public transportation. This does not mean that none of the individuals identifying as “pro-life” have compassion for people once they’re born. Having grown up in fundamentalist Christianity, I personally know conservative Christians who practice radical hospitality and sacrificial giving towards single mothers and others who are struggling. While I disagree with their defining as sinful anyone who doesn’t adhere to certain Stone Age SOPs, it’s dishonest and unhelpful to dismiss them as lacking in compassion.

What’s honest and helpful, as social democrats, is for us to uphold policies that are rooted in, and flowing from, a trust in human beings. Access to comprehensive sex education and birth control greatly reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Implementing all the aforementioned lifesaving and life-affirming social and economic policies expand the array of options for people grappling with unplanned pregnancy. Lastly, social democracy is all about a concept I was introduced to by New York Assemblywoman and Congressional candidate Yuh-Line Niou: giving those closest to the pain the access to the tools to effect the change.

I have been out engaging with my neighbors in my State of Kansas, urging them to vote NO on an amendment that Republican legislators have added to our August 2 ballot. If passed, the amendment would remove the right to abortion from our state Constitution and empower legislators to impose restrictions — such as the restrictions that recently forced a ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio to travel to Indiana to terminate the resultant pregnancy (https://www.newsweek.com/shes-10-child-rape-victims-abortion-denial-sparks-outrage-twitter-1721248). If this little girl had not had the means to travel, she would have been forced to bear her rapist’s child — and there are Indiana legislators eager to enact their own restrictions, so she made it just in the nick of time!

The heartening thing is that most of my neighbors here in my working-class community already understand both the need to allow those closest to a painful situation the space and privacy to decide their next steps and the need to entrust these individuals – and not those attempting to rule over them — with the power of choice. Indeed, several powerful pieces of good that may come out of all this craziness is a return to solidarity among the working people and a sense of urgency about voting and being politically engaged. If all these blatant attempts to strip us of our most basic power lead us to fully reclaim them and make them an inseparable part of who we are, then I’ll be glad for whatever it took for us to hear the alarm and wake up!

Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of Social Democrats USA.

GEORGE LUNN: SCHENECTADY’S SEWER SOCIALIST

Editor’s Note: Continuing our retrospective on the American “sewer socialism” movement.

By Jason Sibert

Like urban America in general, Schenectady, a mini-metro area located in upstate New York, possesses a fascinating history. Located just 15 miles southeast of the state capital of Albany, it once attracted immigrants from eastern and southern Europe in the early part of the 20th century. Many came to fill industrial jobs in the booming factory economy. It also attracted African Americans in the Great Migration from the rural south to the industrial urban north. General Electric and American Locomotive Company played a big role in the industrial economy of the day.

The city suffered through the Great Depression when it lost jobs, like the country in general. Late in the 20th century, the city – like many cities in New York – lost industrial jobs. Schenectady experienced a revitalization in the 21st century, as it became a renewable energy hub with GE establishing a renewable energy center. The population rebounded from 2000 to 2010. Numerous small businesses, retail stores and restaurants have developed on State Street downtown.

In the early 20th century, the city played a role in the movement sometimes called “sewer socialism, “a term that meant an efficient delivery of public services and support for unions on a municipal level. There was also support for social insurance on the state level in the case of workmen’s compensation and on the national level. In addition, sewer socialists fought for the municipalization of functions such as trash collection, sewers, and electrical grids. Schenectady had a socialist mayor, George Lunn, who served in the office twice from 1912 to 1913 and again from 1916 to 1917. Lunn was originally a man of the cloth, graduating from Union Theological Seminary and then pursuing a career in the ministry. Lunn served as a Presbyterian minister in New York City and as a Dutch Reformed minister in Schenectady. He considered himself a Christian Socialist.

As mayor of Schenectady, Lunn was invited to speak in favor of the 1912 Little Falls Textile Strike in a public park but was denied that right by city officials. Refusing to be silenced, Lunn read from the Gettysburg address and was one of four people arrested for “inciting to riot.”  In terms of legislative accomplishments, he moved quickly to reform the city, raising the pay for municipal workers and introducing the novelty of accepting bids for city contracts. He reassessed property, raising the business district’s taxes by $2 million and cutting taxes on workers’ homes by $300,000. Lunn also started free trash collection, free dental care and bought tracts of lands to create the city’s still-existing parks

One interesting historical note: famed journalist Walter Lippman worked for Lunn as his secretary. This chapter of Lippman’s life is covered in Ronald Steel’s biography “Walter Lippman and the American Century.” Lippman started his political life as a Socialist Party member but broke with it due to differences over World War I and his belief that the Lunn administration didn’t go far enough; a curious fact because Lippman was very much a part of the reformist wing of the SP.

Lunn later became a Democrat, attending the Democratic National Conventions in 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, and 1936. Lunn became the Democratic Lt. Governor of New York from 1923 to 1924. In 1925, he was appointed to the New York Public Service Commission where he served until 1942. Lunn passed away in 1948. Bill Buell’s book “George Lunn: the 1912 Socialist Victory in Schenectady” provides a good overview of the socialist mayor’s career. To all interested public servants, Lunn’s mayoral career provides a good template for a modern version of sewer socialism!

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

AGAINST Military Aid To Ukraine: In Defense Of SDUSA’S Ukraine Resolution

“Post-Maidan Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi formation in its armed forces” – Lev Golinkin, Nation correspondent

By Sheldon Ranz and Susan Stevens

In their April 25 article FOR Military Aid to Ukraine: A Dissent From SDUSA’s Ukraine Resolution, our comrades Patty Friend, Jason Sibert and Rick D’Loss address the concerns that some of us have about arming the neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine with the following: “We have no clear count as to how many neo-Nazis are fighting in Ukraine, and no one has determined that anything they may have done (wear Nazi uniforms and SS insignias) are equal to the atrocious acts of the Russians.” Obviously, between one of the world’s global military superpowers and the comparatively puny but numerous fascist paramilitary groups operating inside Ukraine, it’s not much of a contest!

However, we wouldn’t be the first to point out that if it looks like a Nazi and quacks like a Nazi, atrocious acts will follow. In their Salon article Are there really neo-Nazis fighting for Ukraine? Well, yes — but it’s a long story,  Medea Benjamin and Nicholas J. S. Davies wrote: “Violent foreign extremists with links to (the Azov Battalion) have included Brenton Tarrant, who massacred 51 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, and several members of the U.S. Rise Above Movement who were prosecuted for attacking counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. Other Azov veterans have returned to Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the U.K. and other countries.”

Facebook is giving Azov a get-out-of jail-free card after having banned it in 2016: “For the time being, we are making a narrow exception for praise of the Azov regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine national guard,” a spokesperson from Facebook’s parent company, Meta, told Business Insider. “But we are continuing to ban all hate speech, hate symbolism, praise of violence, generic praise, support, or representation of the Azov regiment, and any other content that violates our community standards,” it added. The reversal of policy will be an immense headache for Facebook moderators, the Intercept, a US-based website, said. “While Facebook users may now praise any future battlefield action by Azov soldiers against Russia, the new policy notes that ‘any praise of violence’ committed by the group is still forbidden; it’s unclear what sort of nonviolent warfare the company anticipates,” the Intercept wrote.

Do we have no choice but to wriggle in a contorted limbo between the rock of Putin’s totalitarian imperialism, and the hard place of white supremacists’ totalitarian genocide? Is feeding one monster truly the only way to subdue the other, such that we can only hope against hope to maintain the upper hand and neuter Azov once they’ve outlived their usefulness? And seriously, when have such forces ever allowed themselves to be cast aside once others have deemed them no longer useful? To fully grasp the grip the far right paramilitary has on today’s Ukraine, we need to do a deep dive into its current President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and ascertain his responsibility for all that as his country’s chief lobbyist for military aid.

Volodymyr Zelensky started out as a TV actor, starring in a comedy called “Servant of the People”, which became an international sensation on Netflix. When he threw his hat into the ring for the presidency, his appeal was that he was different than the usual politician: young, fresh-faced, honest and funny. He promised liberal reforms and an end to corruption.  He won the 2019 election going away, with 73% of the vote. Ukraine was proud of the fact that it had just elected its first Jewish president.  But outside of Ukraine, few knew what he told the Ukrainian news agency RBC-Ukraine when he was still a candidate: “There are indisputable heroes. Stepan Bandera is a hero for a certain part of Ukrainians, and this is a normal and cool thing. He was one of those who defended the freedom of Ukraine.” In fact, during the Holocaust, Stepan Bandera led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, whose soldiers murdered tens of thousands of Jews and Poles, including women and children, while fighting alongside the Nazis against the Soviet Red Army. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army rounded up more than 33,000 Jews to be executed by the Nazis in a span of just two days over an open pit at Babi Yar.

Expressions of admiration for Bandera had increased since Ukraine’s Maidan Uprising of 2014, which toppled the regime of Viktor Yanukovych and triggered its first armed conflict with Russia, which led to the rise of the Azov Battalion and the other far-right paramilitary units (Svoboda, Right Sector, C14 are among the most well-known)  now dominating Ukraine’s National Guard. Zelensky allows memorials and street renamings honoring Bandera and his ilk – the butchers of his own people –   to occur unimpeded. Every year, a torchlight parade paying tribute to Bandera takes place on the streets of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, with no interference from its Jewish president. Calling out Zelensky by name, Eduard Dolinsky, Director General of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, declared on April 10: “Our government encourages nationalistic groups. Our government encourages glorification of Nazi collaborators, mass murderers and murderers of Jews. Literally, there are hundreds of monuments, streets named after killers of Jews.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFOuk3EEUSY)

Accompanying this ongoing ‘cultural Nazification’ of Ukraine has been a decline in civil liberties and due process. In February, 2021, the National Security and Defense Council, at Zelensky’s initiative, banned three TV channels — NewsOne, Channel 112, and ZIK, owned by Ukrainian lawmaker Taras Kozak — for being pro-Kremlin. Then, Kozak himself was also charged with treason for Kremlin ties. Later that May, Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the opposition For Life party was accused of treason. No evidence was made public, although the press made much of the fact that Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter (Medvedchuk fled the country). Ukraine’s National Bureau of Investigation afterward accused former president, Petro Poroshenko, of corruption, treason, supporting “terrorist organizations” and being pro-Kremlin; the accusations are thus far unsupported.

Russia’s recent invasion accelerated the erosion of freedoms already underway,  Zelensky invoked emergency powers under martial law to ban 11 opposition parties – all to his left – who he claimed, without proof, were pro-invasion. The largest one is the aforementioned For Life party, which has 44 seats in the Parliament; For Life’s current leader Yuriy Boyko, had demanded that Russia “stop the aggression against Ukraine,” but the party has been accused of being pro-Kremlin anyway. Another banned party is the Socialist Party of Ukraine, a kindred group to Social Democrats USA. In addition, all of the country’s remaining TV stations have been shut down except for the government’s.in order to prevent “Russian misinformation.”: And the situation promises to worsen: Zelensky stated that once the invasion is over and Russia leaves, there will be, just like in Israel,  “representatives of the Armed Forces or the National Guard in cinemas, supermarkets, and people with weapons.”(Ha’Aretz, April 5)

So why has Ukraine’s government, headed by a Jewish president no less, been making common cause with a wide array of tattooed neo-Nazi and other assorted fascist paramilitary punks? If one were to follow journalists’ Woodward and Bernstein’s sage advice and follow the money, the trail would lead straight to…Ihor Kolomoisky.  Ihor (pronounced Igor) Kolomoisky is a billionaire who made his money on the energy market and is a dual Ukrainian-Israeli citizen (Billionaire Ukrainian Oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky Under Investigation by FBI).His TV network produced Zelensky’s “Servant of the People” and he bankrolled both Zelensky”s run for the presidency…and the Azov Battalion. He uses other fascist militias such as the Aidar Battalion and the Dnipro Squad as his own private bodyguards.(Reuters, March 20, 2015). Kolomoisky was ideally positioned to broker the infamous 2018 arms deal that featured Israeli Tavor rifles being sold to the Azov Battalion, a deal uncovered in Ha’Aretz by Israel human rights attorrney Eitay Mack. 

While the far right did poorly in Ukraine’s last general elections, Zelensky promotes them regardless because Kolomoisky is literally invested in them. When the offices of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee were vandalized in 2019 by a branch of the Azov Battalion, the Zelensky government did nothing about it, but was quick to invite an Azov representative to a round-table discussion on veterans issues. In October 2021, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Honcharuk attended a veterans benefit concert organized by the far right C14 movement and featuring an anti-Semitic metal band. In December 2021, Zelensky awarded Right Sector commander Dmytro Kotsyubaylo the “Hero of Ukraine” commendation.  And just a few months ago, he awarded the same commendation to Azov commander Denis Prokopenko.

In sum, Volodymyr Zelensky and Ihor Kolomoisky are sociopaths with low ethnic self-esteem bent on transforming Ukraine into an increasingly right-wing authoritarian regime where hate crimes would be the order of the day. That is exactly why Putin’s invasion serves their interests – getting Ukraine on a war footing accelerates this transformation. Forget about billions of dollars in military aid – just sending a book of matches to a country with this kind of leadership should raise eyebrows. And since the invasion began, it has never been clear into whose hands US military aid has fallen – the official armed forces (army, navy, air force) or the National Guard, which consists of the most retrograde elements of Ukraine, including the far-right paramilitary groups? (What happens to weapons sent to Ukraine? The U.S. doesn’t really know) Given US history in conflicts of choice, we can only assume the worst.

For all the reasons stated above, then, US military aid to Ukraine is wrong. What is perverse is that there used to be some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – and Bernie Sanders – who understood that and articulated that. Now, just a few weeks ago, they suddenly turned around and joined with all the other Democrats to unanimously support a $40 billion military aid package to Ukraine without explaining why. Do they really think this posture of party unity will help them stave off defeat in the upcoming midterm elections? No matter. The real labor movement is not playing these games in Congress, but organizing in the shops and on the picket lines, both here and abroad, and they have some fine ideas on the matter of Ukraine.

In Italy, airport workers in Pisa stopped arms shipments going to Ukraine that were falsely labeled as humanitarian aid(https://www.leftvoice.org/italian-airport-workers-stop-arms-shipment-to-ukraine-under-guise-of-humanitarian-aid/)  There have been other reports of workers in Belarus going on strike to halt Russian logistics (https://www.leftvoice.org/greek-railroad-workers-block-delivery-of-u-s-tanks-to-ukraine/) In Greece, railroad workers blocked a shipment of American tanks to Ukraine for more than two weeks. It was also in Greece that President Zelensky appealed to the Greek Parliament for military aid. It started out well but then he brought along some surprise guests to speak – soldiers from the Azov Battalion. That’s when he lost his audience (https://www.euractiv.com/section/europe-s-east/news/zelenskyy-speech-at-greek-parliament-overshadowed-by-azov-video/). Yanis Varoufakis of the left opposition party Syriza tweeted: “President Zelenski just abused the Greek Parliament’s invitation by sharing its platform with members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, thus undermining the Ukrainian people’s heroic resistance to Putin’s criminal invasion. We stand with Ukraine, not with the (sic) Azov neo-Nazi Battalion”

Contrary to what most people realize, we in the US are not safe from the Ukrainian paramilitaries. As our government’s military support for Zelensky has grown, American supporters for Azov have come crawling out of the woodwork. In April, they staged rallies in lower Manhattan in the new Congressional District 10 as well as opposite the nearby Russian Consulate:

One would hope that the 17 Democratic hopefuls vying for that open Congressional seat (including Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who just yesterday received the endorsement of the Working Families Party) are paying close attention.

David Van Deusen, President of the Vermont AFL-CIO, offers a compelling alternative to current US policy toward Ukraine in his March 24 CounterPunch piece Concerning the War in Ukraine: No Love For Putin; No Guns For Nazis. Van Deusen points out that Putin is wrong to call Ukraine a Nazi country when only a small minority of the people voted for fascists; yet the US and NATO are also wrong to act like Ukraine is free from a concerning Nazi problem when the government has been arming fascist paramilitary groups for quite some time. He maps out a policy towards protecting Ukraine and the world from Putin’s imperialism while simultaneously protecting Ukraine and the world from Nazi domination: “The U.S. and NATO must demand that the Ukrainian government immediately sever all formal ties with and forcibly dismantle Azov.  They must also pledge to withhold weapons from any and all Nazi or fascist groups active within their borders.  The Ukrainian government must further agree to take steps that would allow for the verification that such conditions are being met.  While this effort would inevitably be resisted by the Zelenskyy administration (as they will claim they need those far right forces on the front lines), their reliance on Western arms does not allow them the latitude to resist such demands with vigor should such conditions be imposed.”

Van Deusen continues, “The West must also provide massive humanitarian aid and free passage for non-fascist refugees seeking to escape the conflict, and for the cancellation of all IMF and World Bank debts (and austerity requirements associated with them) in order to not exasperate the conditions under which fascism can thrive.  The U.S. and NATO can also assist in defusing global tensions by publicly stating a commitment to not expand NATO any further into former Soviet territories (historically NATO has its own imperialist interests that have destabilized international relations).  Further, as circumstances arise, Organized Labor should look to provide material and political support for those leftist armed formations taking shape as part of the resistance (and moral support to those Russians who continue to protest the war).  Doing so shall help restore a favorable balance of power internally in the post war period. And recognizing that Russia is a nuclear power, under no circumstances should the U.S. and NATO seek to impose a no-fly zone.  Such an act would amount to the start of an air war with Russia thereby risking World War III.” A salient point, Brother Van Deusen, which is why opposition to a no-fly zone was a key part of SDUSA’s Ukraine resolution in the first place!

More to the point, subsequent events have confirmed the wisdom of not taking a stance in favor of military aid to Ukraine, even if one were unaware of the totality of its vile history, especially toward minorities. David Van Deusen offers a serious idea that should be looked at by any of the up-and-coming newly-elected Congressional progressives and, first and foremost, be promoted as a social democratic idea!

Sheldon Ranz is Director of Special Projects for Social Democrats USA and the editor of Socialist Currents.

Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of Social Democrats USA.