“Humanitarian” propaganda in the service of war

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Faced with the barbarity of war, the bourgeoisie has always used cynical lies to conceal the murderous responsibility of its own system. The war in Ukraine has not escaped the torrent of propaganda and the shameless instrumentalisation of the suffering it has generated. Not a day goes by without the mass exodus and distress of Ukrainian families fleeing the bombings being shown on all the television channels and front pages of all the newspapers, which are usually so discreet about the misfortunes that capitalism inflicts on humanity. The media have displayed endless images of traumatised Ukrainian children and victims of war.

Humanitarian mystification is a weapon of war

This propagandistic exploitation of the legitimate shock provoked by the atrocious images of bombardments, murder, and mass exile, the war in Ukraine has allowed the bourgeoisie of the democratic countries to recuperate a spontaneous surge of sympathy and compassion to orchestrate a gigantic “humanitarian” campaign around the “citizens’ initiatives” towards the Ukrainian refugees (and even around the ferocious repression of the Russian demonstrators and opponents of the war). They are making use of the distress and despair of the victims of the biggest exodus of populations since the end of the Second World War. Everywhere, “humanitarian corridors” and “citizens' networks” are being organised to help Ukrainian refugees, in order to justify the supply of an immense arsenal of death-dealing weapons intended to “defend a martyred people” from the “Russian ogre”. Even in small villages, collections, donations and all sorts of “initiatives” or performances in solidarity with Ukrainian refugees are organised and encouraged by the authorities.

Behind the tributes to the martyrdom of the “Ukrainian people”, there is the sordid exploitation of real impulses of generosity, exploited by states, all of them warmongers, who don't care about the tragic fate of a population held hostage between Russia's bombing and the forced “general mobilisation” of the Zelensky government. In the eyes of the bourgeoisie, the “Ukrainian people” serve above all as cannon fodder in a “patriotic struggle” against the invasion. The same cynicism explains why the Western bourgeoisie has cast a modest veil over the massacres perpetrated by the Ukrainian government, since 2014, in the Russian-speaking regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, where nearly 14,000 people have been killed in 8 years.

The so-called humanism of European states is a huge lie and a pure mystification. The effort to receive and help refugees is, for the most part, due to the initiative of the populations and in no way due to the states. It is undeniable that, since the outbreak of the war and from the very beginning of the exodus of families, there has been an enormous spontaneous surge of solidarity. There has been a profoundly human effort to bring relief, assistance and help, by offering shelter and providing meals to those suddenly plunged into distress and despair.

But this elementary solidarity is not enough. It is not the product of a collective mobilisation of proletarians on their class terrain. It comes from a sum of individual initiatives that the bourgeoisie never fails to recuperate, to exploit and to instrumentalise for its own benefit. Moreover, these reactions were immediately diverted onto the terrain of bourgeois propaganda to justify the war, to peddle the deadly poison of nationalism and to recreate a climate of Sacred Unity against “the infamous Russian invader”.

The democratic powers of Western Europe had no choice but to open their borders to Ukrainian refugees, unless they were to forcibly block hundreds of thousands of them inside the Ukrainian border. Then their entire anti-Russian war propaganda would collapse. Indeed, if they declare themselves ready to welcome the Ukrainians, it is to ideologically justify a war mobilisation and especially arms deliveries to Ukraine against “Putin's war crimes” and thus to defend their own national imperialist interests.

At the same time, these campaigns serve to conceal the fact that the responsibility for this dramatic situation lies with all states, with the logic of competition and imperialist rivalries that derive from the capitalist system itself. It is this system which has generated the multiple war zones, the impoverishment and mass exodus of populations, the mounting chaos and barbarism.

The odious cynicism of a class of scavengers

All the scavenger states are now shedding crocodile tears over the Ukrainian refugees they claim to welcome with open arms in the name of the so-called “right of asylum”. These fine promises to welcome refugees are nothing but smoke and mirrors. Everywhere, Western European states have introduced reception quotas for migrants fleeing misery, chaos and war. These barefoot refugees are not like the majority of Ukrainians, blond, blue-eyed Europeans; they are most often not Christians, but Muslims. They are sorted like cattle between “economic refugees”, who are totally undesirable, and “war refugees” or “political refugees”. We should therefore sort out the “good” and “bad” refugees...

All this with the blank check of the European Union and its major democracies. Such a selection process, such a difference in treatment is totally abject. In France, for example, less than two years ago, the Macron government sent its cops to forcibly dislodge migrant families who had set up their tents in the Place de la République in Paris; the cops beat up these undesirables and lacerated their tents with knives. Only recently, when Iraqi refugees were knocking on Europe’s door, used as leverage by the Belarusian state, they were smashed against the barbed wire of the Polish border by the armed robocops of the European Union. The “big democracies” were much less welcoming then, despite the very visible suffering of people dying of cold and hunger.

What is the reality behind the variable geometry of this false compassion, this so-called solidarity of states? The bourgeoisie has taken care in most of the “host” countries to create a “special status” for Ukrainians, totally distinct from that of other refugees, in order to create opposition and divisions among the population and the working class. In Belgium, for example, the government decided to give Ukrainians a status quite distinct from other war refugees. While the latter usually first have to undergo a severe screening and control in order to receive a possible authorisation to work in the “host” country, Ukrainian nationals are granted such authorisation straight away and also receive a much higher subsidy than others. Even the amount of their allowance is higher than the minimum wage of “local” employees... This filthy manoeuvre in the service of imperialist propaganda allows the government to create not only antagonism between Ukrainians and other refugees but also to create an additional factor of division, a climate of competition, within the working class[1].

A highly qualified minority of Ukrainian refugees will, to the delight of the bourgeoisie, be integrated into the economy of certain countries, such as Germany, where there is a significant shortage of this type of labour. For the others, the vast majority, their massive influx will pose major problems for the European bourgeoisie, which is incapable of absorbing them. Sooner or later, in the coming period, the vast majority of them will be exposed to the nauseating breath of populist ideology, serving as scapegoats for the social and economic problems that the entire bourgeoisie will then have an interest in highlighting.

Above all, workers must at all costs refuse to be lured by the siren songs of these humanitarian campaigns. They must avoid their ideological traps by categorically rejecting any unity with their exploiters in the face of war. But at the same time, they must fight to defend their own class interests in the face of intensified crisis and war attacks. Only through the international development of this struggle, beyond the borders and conflicts set up by the ruling class, will they be able to fully express their class solidarity with the refugees and all the victims of the growing barbarity of capitalism, offering them a very different perspective: a society liberated from the law of profit and the deadly dynamics of this system.

Wim, 03.04.2022

[1] Some countries, however, have been more “welcoming” than others. The British bourgeoisie in particular still erected all kinds of bureaucratic barriers to Ukrainian refugees entering the country. In another article, we will analyse the differences between the British bourgeoisie and its “friends” on the continent regarding the war in Ukraine.



Ideological campaigns