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Shoddy Privatization and the Ukraine Refugee Crisis

Another Medal of Honor for vulture capitalist terrorism, wrought on Eastern Europe by NATO since 1991! Jim “Fergie” Chambers Mar 25, 2022


Everywhere we look across Europe and its settler colonies in the Americas, Oceania, Africa and the Levant, we see unending outcries of aesthetic support for Ukrainian refugees. Whether these are sincere, or whether they are rooted in NATO agenda-pushing, Russophobia and selective, racially-motivated sympathy allowances, is for another discussion, but in this entry, I only mean to comment on an element of what I’ve been observing in the European response to the crisis. Almost all of Western Europe has granted open borders to Ukrainians; many have extended the availability of work permits and schooling vouchers, and many more have created at-home asylum programs, privileges that would, as has been oft-noted in recent weeks, never in a million years be extended to refugees from the Global South. But even given all of this unprecedented red carpeting, the European refugee response in the borderlands is, frankly, pretty fucking inadequate. Most of these people are living through weeks of hell, and the poorest Ukrainians, along with migrants from other countries who had been living in Ukraine, have it much worse.

Tents in the Bucharest train station for those with nowhere to go

The key point of all of this, and why I’ve chosen to spend a moment on it, is that the privatization model for governance continues to show us its total inefficiency. At any refugee center, train station, airport, border crossing, or bus station (I’ve been at all of the above), the lack of any central planning in the capitalist west is apparent. NGOs and Missionaries are pulling the strings, if they decide to show up. High school volunteers, or sometimes college students, are running the show on the ground, in conjunction with a few bored cops, and some helpful firefighters. These younger adults, and many other volunteers, are often doing incredible jobs; I was especially impressed with a formerly abandoned dormitory in Bucharest that local tech students had converted into a livable space again. But they don’t have much to work with, and of course, many aren’t politically educated enough to understand the context of what’s happening geopolitically, outside of “Puck Futler.” I’m currently in the capital of a NATO member state, in the big fucking fancy EU. I’ve been in all the borderlands save ultra right-wing Poland, and in the zones where the southern Black Sea towns are evacuating, i.e., where the heavy shit has gone down. I’ve seen all of the very poorest people in this process left just wondering if they’ll get anywhere, for days on end. Most often, their solution is an extended period of homeless shelter-like conditions. Lots of people spend nights on train station floors or in tents, after they’ve seen war. People are generally traveling with large family groups, a lot of kids, all of their important personal effects. In Iasi, Romania, a tiny airport became the primary air hub for Southern Ukraine, given the closed airspaces in Ukraine and Moldova. Flights were overbooked, people sleeping all over the terminal, the rental car center converted into a tiny playroom. In Moldova, the state didn’t even have the capacity to provide direct transport to Western Europe. Their primary focus was to get people to Romania, where NGO reps waited at the border. The country’s refugee capacity was overwhelmed beyond 500%, and the EU pitched in to the tune of a laughable $20mil. We helped a family of 9 get to Romania, because there was no means of transport to the border, just 80 miles away, for those unable to pay their own way.

A charter bus leaves Moldova for Europe; only those with enough money to pay for a ticket were able to get direct transport from the small country

Here in Bucharest, as I was volunteering at the train station to translate for arriving refugees, an Azerbaijani family of 7 needed a landing spot in the city, because unlike most of those passing through the train station, they had no other destination. Not one person coordinating there was aware of the single largest refugee housing facility inBucharest, the aforementioned converted dormitory, which I had been lucky to have visited that same morning. If I hadn’t, it’s likely they would still be sleeping in a fluorescent-lit room in the station, with 60 other people. Eventually, most of these refugees will get somewhere, but many are destined to provide cheap labor for Europe, especially for dominant Germany and emergent Poland, wondering if and when they can go back to where they had built homes. I recall one man who was a migrant worker in Nikolaev from Central Asia sobbing and saying. Many people have actually begun to quit and turn back, especially when they see what’s waiting in Europe. In germany, one group received federal subsidies to enlist arriving Ukrainians as sex workers in the country’s legalized market. Sex trafficking, out in the open. Plenty of such reports exist in Hungary and elsewhere, even as far as the Occupying Entity known by Europeans as “Israel.” Say what you want about China (or better, don’t), but in a similar scenario, based on what we saw with COVID response, and the Olympic Games, the Chinese government would have had everyone placed in an apartment, upon arrival, with some dank Chinese food, and more-than-adequate healthcare. The difference, of course, is that in China, there is a huge amount of central planning involved in any national effort. In an organized system, when the young translator finds out the a family has no place to go, they would know immediately which supervisor oversees housing placement. In an organized system, private firms wouldn’t be haphazardly providing the bulk of transportation. A stream of government buses would come and go, on schedule. There would be visible sign-ups, categorized by destination.

Near the refugee center in Kishinev, the statues of Lenin, Marx and Engels which once took prominence in the City Center, now are sequestered to a corner near a park; had their models of centralized economics still been the guiding principles of the local economy, much better fates would await those arriving in this exodus

Of course, some of this chaos is deliberate, because it helps generate the desperate conditions which allow European firms to exploit incoming Ukrainian refugees even more excessively. If one has no certain path, no certain home, no certain bread, one is much more apt to accept pitiful wages, undesirable jobs, housing scenarios that Westerners would deem unacceptable, and to compete mercilessly with those around them. A 2019 report from the Polish National Bank found here asserts that 11% of the country’s GDP growth in the previous 5 years could be attributed to the influx of cheap Ukrainian labor. And this was before this crisis. To imagine what life must be like for the refugees coming to Europe and the US from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, those who don’t get any red carpet, is terrifying, and totally the stuff of simmering revolutionary conditions. And of course, I’m only speaking here about the people who do actually make it out of those regions, the ones which NATO members have terrorized for decades even more than they have Ukraine/Donbas; for those who never succeed in getting out of Libya, Honduras, Yemen, etc., outcomes are invariably far worse.


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