On August 12, the committee "Hands off Ukraine" organized a panel discussion in Vienna. The discussion focused on questions about possibilities and perspectives in the struggle against militarization and NATO involvement, as well as debates on the current situation in Ukraine. With more than 50 guests the event was well attended and an important impulse for further joint activities against imperialism and militarization.
The fact that the event was able to lay a solid foundation for further initiatives and activities was largely due to the well-staffed panel. The representatives of different initiatives and organizations, among them also the editorial collective of the Red Banner, represented partly quite different views (e.g. in the characterization of the war in Ukraine), but were at the same time very anxious to work out the common positions and views and to refer to them positively. This provided a good and solidary framework for the participants to welcome a continuation of activities and discussions on the topic.
„The moderation was done by a representative of the Antiimperialist Front (AIF), who also contributet in small statments to the aniimperialist character of the event.“
Even before the opening of the discussion, Peter Weish, member of the Austrian Society for Protection of Nature, in whose premises the event could take place, addressed a few words to those present. The presentation of the different positions and layers within the framework of the panel discussion then began with an interesting international contribution: an activist from the Ukrainian anti-imperialist organization "Borotba" (Engl.: The Struggle) sent a pre-recorded video message to the event. In it, he spoke about the current situation in the country, the perspectives of anti-imperialist, democratic forces and his organization's assessments of Russian and Ukrainian warfare, which was discussed quite controversially.
Helga Suleiman, from the Styrian Peace Platform, spoke directly at the podium. In her speech, she pointed out that the question of a new peace movement must always be linked to the question of who should make up this peace movement. A neutrally formulated demand for peace, which assumes that "everyone, quite indiscriminately, must stand together," and would thus include, for example, the ruling elites (who are part of the warmongers), was criticized by the speaker in this context as backward. Furthermore, Helga Suleiman proposed to develop a campaign for the abolition of NATO.
Another panelist was Gerhard Mack from the trade union initiative Comintern (Communist Trade Union Initiative - International). He presented a lot of extremely revealing numerical material with which various legends of war propaganda could be refuted by solid arguments. One focus of his contribution was the demand that anti-militarist and anti-imperialist goals should again be emphasized more strongly in the trade union movement, and that trade union forms of struggle must also be used against rearmament and militarization. Concerning imperialist warmongering, Mack went beyond the framework of the Ukraine war and also referred to the fomentation and provocations of the U.S. on the issue of Taiwan.
Anna Mornar, author and journalist of the Red Banner, emphasized that the Ukrainian war is, on the one hand, a contradiction between imperialists (Russia against Western imperialists led by the USA), but mainly a contradiction between the Ukrainian nation and imperialism. According to Mornar, in the struggle against imperialism, the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist forces organized especially in the east and south of the country have an extremely important position.
In doing so, Mornar emphasized that a new peace movement should not pursue a narrow, abstract pacifism, but that positioning against imperialist warmongering should always include support for anti-imperialist and democratic liberation struggles. In conclusion, the speaker emphasized that in the face of current developments, it is urgent to treat the panel discussion not as a one-time thing, but as a starting point for further activities.
The last speaker on the panel was Alfred Almeder. He is a long-time trade unionist and Donbas Solidarity activist. In this capacity he can look back on numerous longer stays and many experiences in Ukraine. He told about the firm will of the people living there not to let their lives be determined by reactionary and imperialist forces, about the reconstruction work they were doing, but also about the military campaigns the Kiev government was conducting against the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. In this way, he gave the guests an extremely interesting, but equally harrowing insight into the daily reality in eastern Ukraine. He combined his remarks with a clear appeal of war opposition and an attitude of solidarity towards many Ukrainians who come to Austria today fleeing from the war.
All these positions, as well as many others, were presented in short statements by the panel speakers and then discussed with the guests at the event. The discussions were held in a lively manner under the sign of unity and contradiction, because of course, in addition to much agreement, there were also controversial views in the audience, which could nevertheless be discussed. After the speeches at the podium, a statement of the Union of Immigrant Workers in Europe (AGEB) followed from the audience, in which the organization positioned itself extremely determinedly against imperialist war and further militarization.
Unfortunately, the situation of warmongering and racism, as it is stirred up by the rulers in Austria and the EU, also called a small group of four trained provocateurs to the scene, who did not want to participate in the common goals of the discussion, but tried to disrupt and prevent the event. However, the discussion could continue after a short interruption and the event took no further notice of the attempted disruption.
Speakers and the audience were very unanimous in their opinion that it was a good event, which was also held at the right time. The attitude that the event should be understood as a starting point, as a beginning for further joint work, received approval from all sides. The events of the time make it clear that there must be stronger and greater resistance to reactionary developments. Imperialism is preparing new wars and is also becoming more and more aggressive in the current phase of its decline and decomposition. That anti-imperialist and anti-militarist activities are an indispensable part of the resistance against this was proven once again by this successful event. The unity and solidarity, which could be established in many points during this evening, makes us in any case very optimistic towards these important concerns!