Ukraine – advancing towards a just society

In the face of Russia’s brutal aggression, the people of Ukraine are fighting not just for survival, but for our common values of democracy and freedom. Bohdan Ferens, the founder of the Social Democratic Platform, shares the stark reality of life in war’s shadow and emphasizes the need for a progressive movement to counter the challenges faced by his country.

The impact of war on our daily lives is profound and varied, creating deeper challenges with every passing day. The most vulnerable, especially in the occupied eastern and southern regions, bear the brunt of hostilities, with low-income families trapped in the epicentre of conflict. Men are called for duty, leaving women to shoulder the burden of both caring for their families and sustaining their communities.

Amidst this adversity, resilience becomes paramount. Uncertainty looms as the Russian aggression persists, necessitating not only physical but also mental fortitude among the Ukrainian people. The war touches every aspect of life, from the economy to infrastructure, demanding collective strength and unity.

The ongoing full-scale invasion has led to conscription, drawing in professionals from various fields, including builders, drivers, and miners, alongside seasoned soldiers and veterans. These brave souls, our heroes, will return home needing extensive support for rehabilitation, medical treatment and social care, requiring a fundamental shift in our political landscape.

The prevailing mood among the people oscillates with the changing phases of war. With winter approaching, the spectre of intensified attacks on our infrastructure looms large, necessitating increased support from our allies. Every moment passes with our soldiers and civilians enduring the ruthless aggression of the Russian occupiers. Ukrainians sacrifice their lives for the shared ideals of democracy and freedom, yet hope remains for change within Russia, steering away from the path set by Putin.

Ukraine’s primary objective is not merely survival but also a transformation in how the world perceives aggressor states. The aim is to prevent future conflicts by upholding European values and resisting aggression collectively. In this struggle, solidarity movements have played a crucial role, providing military aid that is indispensable in defending our families and preserving our way of life.

However, the urgent need for aid cannot be overstated. The faster our allies respond, the more lives, homes, and infrastructure we can preserve. Social and medical care support is equally vital, underscoring the need for a swift and robust international response.

Reflecting on the history of the Social Democratic Platform, founded a decade ago, its humble beginnings underscore the determination of a few individuals to instigate a genuine social democratic movement in Ukraine. Despite initial challenges and the tarnished image of socialism from the Soviet era, the SD Platform has made significant strides. Through training initiatives, alliances with global progressive parties, and partnerships with organizations like the European Union of Young Socialists, the SD Platform stands as a beacon of hope and change.

The SD Platform collaborates with affiliated organizations such as the Women’s Lobby and Progressive Teachers, uniting diverse voices to defend vulnerable groups’ interests. The focus extends beyond the present moment, with plans to establish a regional consortium for Fair and Inclusive Recovery of Ukraine, involving stakeholders from various sectors. The goal is clear: a fair, inclusive recovery, ensuring wealth is shared among all citizens.

Moreover, the SD Platform recognizes the need for revitalizing trade unions, empowering young voices, and steering away from the prevalent neoliberal approach. A bottom-up transformation, despite the challenges of war, is imperative to truly understand and address the needs of ordinary people.

Bohdan Ferens’ impassioned plea for support, shared at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, resonates as a call to action. It urges the international community to stand with Ukraine, offering not just aid but a collective vision for a just society—a society where democracy, freedom, and social justice prevail, even in the face of adversity.

Dear Party Leaders and Delegates,

It is with profound gratitude that I stand before you today, in a reality vastly different from the turmoil we face back home in Ukraine.

Here, there are no air raid alerts, no thunderous explosions from Russian missiles, and no heart-wrenching news of losses on front lines and in neighborhoods.

The gift of peace is immeasurable, a truth the British people understand well after the ravages of the Second World War.

Ukrainians also want to wake up without bomb explosions.

Yet, to achieve this, we must defeat the Russian war machine and the shadow of Putinism, restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The security situation in Ukraine remains dire. Just days ago, as I escorted my family to my parents’ home in western Ukraine, a Russian missile flew ominously overhead.

The Russians continue to massively shell our cities and towns, launching up to 30-40 drones and missiles of various types daily.

I predict an increase in attacks on critical port  infrastructure and railway communications in the near future.They will try to freeze us again during the winter.

Support, especially in the form of military aid, to counter the Russians on land, in the sky, and at sea is critical. One cannot shield their family or defend their homeland with empty hands.

The aftermath of the Russian war is devastating, leaving our streets populated with young people maimed and traumatized. Each day lived under these conditions takes a toll on our mental well-being. Overcoming these challenges requires decisive action and policy decisions within our country, coupled with the help of our global partners.

Our goal is a fair and inclusive recovery. To achieve this, our country must persist in democratization, infusing policies with purpose and progressive approaches. This includes supporting small and medium-sized businesses, providing meaningful employment for veterans and internally displaced persons, and intensifying our integration into the European community.

Social democracy exists in Ukraine and this is thanks to your support. Many on the front lines battling Russian occupiers are young, progressive activists- like many of you here.

It is our duty to ensure they and their families receive effective rehabilitation, social protection, and inclusion.

We must empower our youth, encouraging their active participation in decision-making processes and harness their initiatives to tackle the unique challenges facing our society.

And we must support those Ukrainian women bearing a heavy burden due to this war – enhancing their access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, and enabling their active involvement in national and local decision-making processes.

I implore you to continue to act in solidarity.

Like Labour’s call to repurpose sanctioned Russian state assets to rebuild destroyed hospitals, schools, universities, and houses.

I understand the challenges are immense, but with progressive politicians and members like those in the Labour Party and dedicated members of trade unions, everything is possible.

To all the British people and party members who have stood with Ukraine, I extend my heartfelt gratitude.

Bohdan Ferens
PhD in political sciences, a public figure, an international observer on central TV channels, a trainer and a moderator. Founder of SD Platform and Progressive Teachers Originally from Khmelnitsky. Graduated from the Khmelnitsky National University (International Relations/International Information) and the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine (Foreign Policy). He defended his dissertation "Transnationalization of the Common Political Space of Ukraine and the EU". He has been coaching with the focus on political education, labour rights and social care since 2008. He combines the experience of the Dutch, German and British coaching schools.

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