Why we’re here for Russian dissidents

March 20, 2023

From the March-April 2023 issue of News & Letters

Editor’s note: On Jan. 21 we wanted to express solidarity with Russian dissidents who expressed their opposition to Putin’s war right within Russia itself. We gathered in Oakland, Calif., and handed out leaflets and engaged people coming to a farmer’s market. Below we print what some of the participants said about why they were there.

Photo: News & Letters

We are here today to be in solidarity with political prisoners in Russia and all around the world. I didn’t know that Jan. 19 was a day of solidarity with all dissidents in Russia who had been against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of them have lost their lives fighting against that terrorist regime. Russians who are in prison because they raised their voice against the invasion deserve utmost solidarity and admiration for their incredible courage.

With the rise of the right-wing movement in this country we don’t know how long we’ll have a right to protest. Putin is a beacon for fascist movements around the world and he must be brought down, he must be defeated in Ukraine. That’s the first step. That’s why I am here today.



I am a Ukrainian Jew and a proud Leftist. I am here because I feel the Left has to speak out more on Ukraine. I want to be able to get back to Ukraine, but I also want to show how our struggle is tied with other peoples’ struggles, with the people in Burma, for example, Iran, Syria, East Turkestan, Russian opposition, and many others.

The situation of the Muslims in India reminds me, as a Jew, of the Holocaust: same tactics, same tropes. I want to be here to show solidarity. No one is free until we are all free.



I am here today to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people who have been a beacon to the world to not give up on democracy, not just in a formal sense, but as a whole people: Jews, Russians as well as Ukrainians. They oppose the devolving into fascism that is happening all over the world, which responds with hatred of the “other” as they have no hope to offer the youth.

The world needs a return to the idea of humanism that begins with one’s actual life activity. Ukrainians are telling the world that we don’t have to live under fascism and the interminable totalitarian twist that Russia has given the fascist movements in the world.

I have solidarity with all movements against fascism, movements that need to be grounded in a new philosophy of freedom. Most of the world, and especially the Left, has avoided focusing on that so far.

—Ron Kelch


On Feb. 26, hundreds gathered in San Francisco to commemorate the anniversary of Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and Ukrainians’ incredibly brave resistance. One participant commented: “For me it was a tremendously uplifting experience of solidarity especially with the turnouts from the Iranians, Belarusians, Chinese, Buryats, and Russian dissidents. I met so many interesting and thoughtful people, I felt like I was with the best of humanity for a day.” Photo: Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters

I am with Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign. I am here for this 19-year-old young woman whose picture I’m carrying, Olesya Krivtsova, facing 10 years for “terrorism” for speaking up against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

We see a worldwide drive towards fascism. For example, Steve Bannon was collaborating with Brazil’s ex-president Bolsonaro to try to overturn the election in Brazil. A part of the drive towards fascism is seen in the increased oppression and the increase in political prisoners all around the world: Burma, Iran, Russia, Israel, and also in the U.S.

We need a renewed socialist movement as part of a new workers’ movement to fight back against fascism, for workers’ interests, workers’ rights and for socialism. The issue of political prisoners is directly involved in international working-class solidarity.

—John Reimann

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