I remember very well the indignation and the protests of the left when the US invaded Iraq (I spent a night in jail for throwing a bottle of red paint at a US warship). There were no excuses or contorted gymnastic rhetoric justifying what the US was doing by the mere fact that Saddam Hussein was a dictator. We simply watched the number of civilian casualties grow and became infuriated. The feeling of many leftists today is quite different with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After two weeks of silence, Moviment Graffitti has finally decided to issue a statement on the war which Russia is perpetuating against Ukraine.
For the first time ever in its history, Moviment Graffitti is explicitly showing a great sense of indifference to the victims of war and their position is very similar to many other left-wing groups in Europe. The PR is written in a way which nowhere does it mention explicitly direct support and solidarity with Ukrainians. On the contrary, the only direct message for support is directed at Russians “because they live under a dictator”. No explicit mention of Ukrainians who have to experience being the victims of Putin’s war and having to be targeted by his weapons. No mention that right now the victim is the one who has to live under the fear of getting bombed and killed.
The kids at Moviment Graffitti seem to have accepted the idea that there is some rationale behind Putin’s actions. After spending two weeks discussing this rationale they finally agreed to issue a statement condemning the war, showing solidarity with Russians, but not with Ukrainians. But that’s not all. The most offensive part of the PR is that instead of focusing on Ukraine exclusively, Moviment Graffitti stated that it is against all wars explicitly denying the Ukrainians the right to be exclusively given attention at this point in time in history.
What an outstanding disappointment to treat Ukrainians in this manner as if they are not fit to make decisions of their own on security and political alliances. Moviment Graffitti seems to believe that this war has been provoked by NATO and therefore doesn’t require the attention that other wars deserve. Protest so far in front of the Russian embassy have been organsied by the NGO Repubblika while a peace march has been proposed by the Nationalist Party. Robert Abela, the Prime Minister, even ignored the appeals of the Nationalist Party Leader to organsie a national protest for peace. I’m rather gobsmacked that at this stage of history it is the centre-right in Malta that has mostly positioned itself against Russian aggression.
Moviment Graffitti became more relevant when it shed away its infantile anti-imperialist US rhetoric and focused on environmental and local issues. Today, Moviment Graffitti seems to be making a return to the outdated ideas of the past by harking against US imperialism as if this was the 1970s and we’re in Latin America. So much has changed since then, but apparently not the ideas of many. By taking this vacuous rhetorical position, Moviment Graffitti is invoking the typical whataboutism that political parties invoke when they are accused of corruption or environmental damage. “Don’t you remember what the other side did?”. It’s as if these kids would act the same as the political peers they protest against had they been in power.
In reality, these mistakes and distorted illusions about excusing Putin’s actions by the complexity of history are not new in history. Hitler too was appeased to a great extent by both communists and liberals alike until, by the time he invaded Poland, everyone realised that had there been no limits, Hitler would not have stopped. It’s very simple really when you think about it. Putin is asking his neighbors to hold a gun against them but doesn’t want them to carry a gun to protect themselves. Therefore, the logic of Russian propaganda is textbook gaslighting of an abuser: I’m abusing you because you provoked me and not because I took the determined and willful decision to abuse you. The Eastern Europeans joining NATO know this very well and don’t need Moviment Graffitti to lecture them about US imperialism – they know very well that had they not joined NATO, Putin would have most probably attacked them too. That’s why sovereign people in Eastern Europe are democratically and willfully choosing to join NATO – no one is forcing them to.