Stop the War March 6th Protest poster. Stop the War March 6th Protest poster. Source: Stop The War website

The constant talk of war and search for a victory is taking us closer to a nuclear war or accidents, we need to refocus on peace says Kevin Ovenden

The news that a Russian advance led to a fire breaking out outside the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia, home to six reactors, in the early hours of Friday morning brought home the growing dangers from this war.

The International Atomic Energy Authority says there has not been a radioactive leak, and Ukrainian firefighters extinguished the blaze.

But Ukraine is of course home to the Chernobyl nuclear power station whose breakdown caused the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986. That was still during the Cold War.

The second worst was in 2011 – long after the collapse of the Soviet Union and with the world meant to be enjoying a peace dividend.

Today’s Zaporizhzhia incident with a fire near the facility caused by shelling is a frightening reminder of the huge risks from nuclear fission power.

Who knew that a nuclear plant might be struck during a war? Well, the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements did and have been saying so for decades.

We are now told by the US government that firing ordnance at or near a nuclear reactor is “an act of nuclear terrorism”. They did not say this in 1981 when Israel’s forces bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq just before it became operational.

Israel argued that nuclear power can be an element in developing the capacity for nuclear weapons. That’s true. But the answer is not bombing other countries or seizing others’ power stations. It is scrapping dangerous nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The 40+ protests taking place this weekend across Britain have added an urgent demand for denuclearisation.

Now would be a good time to get your union branch or organization to affiliate to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as well as to Stop the War. And to make these arguments in the environmental movement where a mistaken strand of thought is pressing for nuclear power as a supposedly green alternative to fossil fuels.


It’s not only over nuclear weapons that there is staggering hypocrisy growing out of this horrible war. This is Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg today:

“We have seen the use of cluster bombs and we have seen reports of use of other types of weapons which would be in violation of international law.”

They are indeed a violation of international law. And they were when US and Nato forces used them. But there is no mention of that. Nor is there much mention of peace from all sorts of politicians and governments.

In fact, just over a week into this war and we have less talk of achieving peace and more about some victory. With it is a deeply worrying rise in national-chauvinism and xenophobia that blames all Russians for the actions of their government.

The usually fluffy broadcaster Jeremy Vine this week just blurted out on British television that anyone wearing “Putin’s uniform probably deserves to be killed”.

It took Bill – an elderly caller to the show – to point out that young men conscripted either directly or by economic hardship and sent to fight a war that they may not agree with and do not understand do not deserve to be killed.

All this inflames the crisis and lays the basis for a wider war. So does the authoritarian clampdown on dissent.

An audience member on Question Time last night asked what the panel thought of the argument that Nato’s expansion after the Cold War was a factor in bringing us to this crisis.

As audience members started to applaud, presenter Fiona Bruce, as if she were conducting an orchestra, swept her arms for people to stop and immediately moved on to another question. The questioner was wearing a blue and yellow wristband in solidarity with the people in Ukraine.

Things like this and the slippage from talk of sanctioning the Russian elite to “devastating the Russian economy” are dangerous.

Some are saying that banning Russian chess players, artists and individuals is no different from what the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign calls for.

That’s not true. It is also hypocritical of those who oppose the BDS campaign. Its guidelines rule out targeting individuals. As for sanctions as a whole, this is a good piece explaining why calls for “total economic and financial war on Russia”, as called for by the French minister for the economy, will hit ordinary people and not the rich. They may well backfire and lead towards greater war. In this piece, James Meadway explains that beneath neutral and obfuscating talk of “targeting the central bank of Russia” lies the kind of mechanisms that were used during the eurozone crisis against Greece.

It is a reminder that in this world of inter-imperialist rivalry the dominance of the US in the financial system is also a weapon against its rivals. This doesn’t take us away from conflict but towards new ones.

Russia does not have the same financial clout. But it has considerable military power, at least in its own region.

Instead of this deployment of one form of power to be met by another, we need to press for immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops.

You don’t encourage ordinary people in Russia to force their government to pull back by threatening to starve them. As for the oligarchs, we are now told it is possible to seize their wealth. Yes. So why stop at just the Russian ones?

Meanwhile, over 7,000 Russian scientists have signed a statement, using their full names, against the war and demanding immediate withdrawal of Russian forces.

After the shock, the German government’s decision massively to increase arms spending dissent and opposition appears to be growing there.

The former head of the largest union in Germany, Ver.di, and now Green MP Frank Bsirske has come out against the rearmament and against squeezing working people to pay for it.

He says he is particularly struck by the new militarism that accompanies this decision. The military historian Sönke Neitzel complains about “structural pacifism” in Germany and advocates a “revival of military virtues”.

This kind of talk of military virtues and European values is becoming more widespread. We know where it leads.

None of this is of help to ordinary people in Ukraine, especially those who have been fighting in their own country against national chauvinism and macho militarism which far-right forces draw on.

What can help is the anti-war movement based on internationalist values and opposing all the imperialist powers.

That looks set to take a step forward this weekend.

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Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden is a progressive journalist who has followed politics and social movements for 25 years. He is a leading activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, led five successful aid convoys to break the siege on Gaza, and was aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship when Israeli commandoes boarded it killing 10 people in May 2010. He is author of Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth.

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