The Central and Eastern European Left Rejects "Leftist Westsplaining" on UkraineHistorians in the News
tags: Ukraine, Eastern European History
This was once the fault line between East and West in Europe. Almost 35 years after the momentous change brought about by the fall of the Wall, Germany still feels tied to two regions, two histories. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is viewed and spoken about in a very different way here than it is in the United States.
Central and East European progressives do not view Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “return to the Cold War”—a framing primarily promoted by Russia and some of the US left. “Given that the only combatants on the ground are Russian invaders and Ukrainian defenders, the implication that this is a battle between the U.S. and Russia over influence is ridiculous,” Jan Smoleński and Jan Dutkiewicz wrote in their essay about Western pundits who speak over voices from the East European left.
Commentators who try to draw parallels between alliances now and alliances during the Cold War, wrote Ukrainian historian Taras Bilous, ignore “a fundamental difference between the current conflict and the Cold War. If the West has not changed much politically since the Cold War, the other side of the conflict, Russia, has changed dramatically.”
So, too, has Eastern Europe. The world in which Central and East European activists came of age was post-Communist. Some are organizing in countries that have right wing governments. These activists’ progressive politics belong to 21st-century social change movements.
Bilous is a contributing editor of Commons, a left Ukrainian journal about economy, politics, history and culture. In a city under artillery attack, he wrote “A letter to the Western Left from Kyiv” calling out DSA International Committee’s “shameful statement failing to say a single critical word against Russia.”
“US-centric explanations are outdated,” wrote Volodymyr Artiukh, in an essay for Open Democracy. “I see how the Western left is doing what it [does] best: analysing the American neo-imperialism, the expansion of NATO. It is not enough anymore as it does not explain the world that is emerging from the ruins of Donbas and Kharkiv’s main square. The world is not exhaustively described as shaped by or reacting upon the actions of the US.”
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