For those in power, some anti-war protests are good, and some are bad. For the Tories the good included the stand taken by Russian news editor Marina Ovsyannikova. She courageously disrupted the Channel One news programme holding a sign that read, “No war, stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here.” The broadcast quickly cut out as she shouted, “No to War.”
Tory cabinet minister Nadine Dorries described Ovsyannikova as “brave”. That’s not the general government line on such protests. It certainly wasn’t in 1988 when a group of lesbians disrupted the BBC 6pm news in a protest over the homophobic Section 28 law. The mainstream thought it was wonderful that the newsreader had sat on one of the protesters. And on the same day that Ovsyannikova spoke out, protesters in London occupied the empty mansion linked to a Russian oligarch and declared that it would now belong to Ukrainian refugees.
They certainly weren’t described as “brave” by the Tories. They were condemned as squatters, arrested and had riot cops called on them. Nor will the Tories rally round Julian Assange who is facing extradition to the US for his part in his exposing imperialist war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Ovsyannikova made her protest the Supreme Court ruled Assange could not appeal against a decision to extradite him.
Now it is up to home secretary Priti Patel to decide if he will be delivered to the vengeance of US warmongers. Ministers are even finding new areas to purge of dissent, with a campaign against supposedly pro‑Putin university lecturers. Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi warned anyone defined as on Vladimir Putin’s side would be cracked down on “hard”. The examples cited of unacceptable views included a Leicester University academic who had criticised “ludicrous disinformation on both sides”.
Such double standards are embedded in the great outrage of a government that pretends to like Russian anti-war rebellion while it rams through parliament a police bill that will outlaw many effective protests. It’s part of the wider hypocrisy that champions resistance to imperialism in Ukraine but demonises it when its in Palestine or Yemen.
And that reflects a hypocrisy that says invasion is a war crime when it’s done by Russia, but is a campaign of freedom and liberation when it’s done by the West in the Middle East. Understanding the Tories’ stinking hypocrisy should not lead to lining up behind Putin. It means standing with Ovsyannikova—who was jailed after her protest—and those who confront Western imperialism as well.
Ovsyannikova left a prerecorded message—“Only we have the power to stop all this. Go to the protests.” That’s the way forward East and West.
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