Ukraine’s Donbass is today’s Vietnam

Following are excerpts from an article by Victor Shapinov, a member of the socialist organization Union Borotba (Struggle). It is directed towards Ukrainian youth, especially those living in the western part of the former Soviet republic. The western region is the stronghold of the coalition of neoliberal politicians, oligarchs and fascists who recently seized power in a U.S.-backed coup, and is currently waging a brutal military campaign against the industrial and mainly Russian-speaking southeast.

The article originally appeared on the Ukrainian progressive website and was translated by Workers World contributing editor Greg Butterfield.

By Victor Shapіnov

Today, the romantic image of the rebels of 1968 inspires youth. Young, beautiful, sexy participants of the revolutionary events of those times are placed before us as heroes of the movie “The Dreamers” by Bernardo Bertolucci, which is shown by every progressive youth film club. But those who admire the youth of the sixties, apparently, have thought little about what the youthful red rebels of 1968 would fight against today.

There is no doubt that the trigger for the uprising of 1968 was the global anti-war movement. The monstrous war in Vietnam, where the strongest and most modern army developed by the Western countries unleashed its power on peasant guerrillas of a Third World country, was the catalyst for the student unrest of the time.

Footage of the burning of My Lai, photographs of murdered women and children, and farms burned by napalm, did not leave the younger generation of Western youth indifferent. “Not in my name,” said the students in France, Germany, Britain and the U.S. At mass rallies against the war, draftees burned draft cards, and officers and soldiers returning from Vietnam created a stir with a “Veterans Against War” protest at the White House and by their publicly renouncing military decorations.

Could it be that today’s youth don’t share their sincerity and solidarity — if the videos of neo-Nazis burning the House of Trade Unions in Odessa, photos of civilians shot in Mariupol, and images of Donetsk burning do not cause many of us to have the same reaction as the pictures from Vietnam for the distant 1960s generation?

Really, old people are always grumbling that “youth are not the same,” right?

The war is not thousands of miles away, not in some faraway country. The next war is here. Those being killed are like you — Ukrainians, Russians, Armenians, Jews, Tatars. Perhaps your distant relatives, friends or just familiar people. Although in order to empathize with the death of a person, one does not need to know him or her personally.

Where are the mass student rallies against the war? Which draftees are burning their draft cards?  Where is the blockade of the aviation unit in Mirgorod, which launches warplanes for air strikes on residential areas in the city of Donetsk? Where is the stigma against pilots killing random, innocent people and getting paid 9000 hryvnia ($765) per flight? Even the anti-war protests of Volyn women, who blocked the road yesterday, demanding the return and feeding of the soldiers — their husbands, brothers and sons — only began after the death of military personnel in an ambush. Not because some of them protested against the war in Donbass, which killed other people’s sons and husbands.

Of course, you can find a thousand excuses for why it’s not necessary to keep fighting for Donbass.

You will be called traitors and foreign agents. But the U.S. establishment also condemned American students for marching with the flag of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.

You will be told that the leaders of the People’s Republic of Donetsk profess the wrong political views. But students who protested against the Vietnam War did not always or fully share the views of Comrade Ho Chi Minh. Among them were devout Christians or liberals from wealthy families. They felt they had to do the right thing to stop the killings, the murders, occurring in their name.

There are many excuses — it’s not a great difficulty to come up with them. But how will the current generation of young people look into the eyes of their children, regardless of what the country is called after this war? Will they also despise their parents, as a generation of young Germans of the sixties looked at their parents who dutifully accepted Nazi crimes, eagerly buying into Nazi propaganda and joyfully marching to war against the “savage, inferior eastern trash”?

Do you believe that this crazy nightmare is not happening in your name?