Some myths in the Bulgarian public consciousness about the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Stoyo Tetevenski, Dversia.net, 25.02.2022
For two days there has been war in Europe. This war has a clear aggressor, and his name is Putin. However, among the thousands of Facebook posts expressing people’s outrage, fears, anger and empathy, there is something else: a myth-making operation that will define the terms of the post-war order. The possibility of war has been ridiculed by some, encouraged by others, and filled others with panicked fear. Now that it is a fact, the field has been cleared for the defenders of American imperialism to say not only how we are allowed to condemn the war, but also what we should believe is happening.
Myth 1: If you oppose NATO, you support Putin.
Yesterday, at the peace protest against the war in Ukraine, I photographed and uploaded to Facebook a poster with the message “Neither Putin nor NATO will die in war. Ordinary people pay the price!” Euro-Atlanticists jumped on it in the same way they have jumped on any criticism of NATO in recent days. It doesn’t matter if you’re against the war, it matters if you’re against Russia.
I can’t think of a better time to open a conversation about how the international security system has been undermined and destroyed by the US and NATO. Since the end of the Cold War, the US state and its allies have repeatedly waged illegal wars in violation of international law that have destroyed entire regions. The Iraq war is the clearest example – in violation of international law, George Bush and Tony Blair have ruined a country under false pretences. But many rightly remember the Clinton administration’s bombing of Yugoslavia.
Because, to the ordinary man, war is war, no matter who drops the bombs. That is the purpose of fighting war. War is inherently anti-human; it destroys the bonds of a society and drives it to beg. What better time than now to remind ourselves that the horror of war must be avoided at all costs?
Myth 2: If discussion of prices excludes discussion of values, we are lost.
Or, in other words: in wartime, geopolitics trumps bread politics.
The harassment of the Ukrainian people by the Russian army requires our unreserved solidarity. It is time to move from symbolism to material aid. Sanctions, refugee corridors, humanitarian aid – the horrors of war burn in the collective memory of the Bulgarian people, and they must stand in solidarity with other nations in need.
However, this does not exclude the fact that some of us will not be able to pay our bills next month. If someone expresses such concern because oil has skyrocketed, then he becomes a national traitor. One of the mechanisms of imperialist wars is to create the illusion that, in wartime, class conflict must be overlooked, silenced and replaced by nationalism.
In wartime, the need for solidarity becomes obvious. In solidarity with Ukraine, there must be room for class solidarity with those who will also suffer from the economic consequences of the war. Historical experience also speaks in this direction – in 1944, the progressive income tax in the US peaked at 94%. It is cynical, against the backdrop of huge inequality in Bulgaria, generated by the unequal distribution of property and the infinitely low flat tax, to expect everyone to grit their teeth, arguing that war defuses the power of accumulated class conflict, because it is war and we must stand together. I spit on such solidarity, in which those who bear the costs of war are mainly the poor.
Myth 3: Refugees are welcome.
“I appeal to all Bulgarians in Ukraine and all Ukrainian citizens who wish to seek asylum in Bulgaria – we are open.” (Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov)
This position of the Bulgarian state deserves admiration. The most humane thing we can do in times of war is to open our homes to the wounded and vulnerable, because their homes have been destroyed and they have nowhere to go.
Yet there remains a bitter taste in these words, spoken by a president whose entire 2016 election campaign was based on anti-refugee rhetoric. Fortress Europe continues to let Middle Eastern refugees die outside its walls. Just a few months ago, the media publicised another tragedy that took place very close to Ukraine’s borders. Where is our solidarity with refugees from other countries?
Kiril Petkov did not dare to reveal the racist motivation behind Bulgarian and European refugee policy. He told the press that refugees from Ukraine are not like the refugees “we are used to”, who have “an unclear past, whether they are terrorists or not”. Ukrainians were highly educated and programmers. Europeans.
I think the racism and Islamophobia of the Bulgarian state and the European refugee system should be denounced because, as we see, they are the motivation for determining which asylum seekers “deserve” a humanitarian response and which are left to die.
Myth 4: Russia wants a new USSR.
The ideological basis for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is based on the anti-Sovietism and Russian nationalism of Tsarist times. However, part of Bulgarian society saw the war as another opportunity to revive anti-communism, drawing strength from unsubstantiated claims that Putin is a communist. The revival of Cold War rhetoric is welcome for the unfortunate right, which is losing ground in Bulgaria to growing far-right parties and groups. Russophobia and anti-communism are coupled with allusions to Hitler’s Germany of 1939 through the paradigm of totalitarianism. Euro-Atlanticists see in the war Putin’s project for a new Soviet Union, an emanation of the Orientalist notion of the threat of barbarians from the East coming to impose their anti-modern mores on a wretched Europe. The notions of Russian mentality and communism intertwine to describe the monster looming over Bulgaria. Harsh measures have been taken to eradicate this communist menace. The first objective – the removal of the Soviet Army Monument.
In fact, Putin had nothing to do with communism. He is a champion of neoliberal capitalism. The war in Ukraine is another expression of imperialism. Putin is taking over the territory of another country under the banner of fanatical nationalism. Our opposition to the war in Ukraine should also be opposition to any other war. Because what we do not want the world to allow in Ukraine, we have already allowed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Palestine. The fight against war is also a fight for those peoples who continue to make countless sacrifices every day. Even if they are not in the news.
War will not happen.
In 1991, Jean Baudrillard published the book “The Gulf War did not take place”. It certainly doesn’t deny the real invasion of Iraq in 1991, but it shows us how the media is covering something that isn’t happening – covering a war when in fact there is a massacre of one over the other. Thus fabricating a reality that does not exist. Instead of letting the warmongers and the defenders of American imperialism project their simulacrum on television, we must firmly oppose military violence in all its dimensions. If we allow the ideology of war to become the core value of the country, then nothing but war awaits us.
Photo: Stoyo Tetevenski’s poster “Neither Putin nor NATO will die in war. Ordinary people pay the price!” at the first protest against the Russian invasion in Ukraine in Sofia (source: Stoyo Tetevenski)