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May-03-2014 17:37printcomments

With the Donbass Revolt, But Not With Putin

With a democratic and social alliance against the Kiev regime and NATO

Red Star
northstargallery.com

(Kiev) - The resistance of the eastern population against the reactionary pro-western government in Kiev has to be supported both from a democratic as well as an anti-imperialist point of view.

Why the people should bow to neo-fascist right-wingers, pro-western nationalists as well as anti-Russian capitalists?

It is incorrect to automatically suppose that the revolt would want to restore the rule of Yanukovych and its capitalist clique which are responsible for social misery also in the Donbass region.

Support the Donbass revolt, but not with Putin

With a democratic and social alliance against the Kiev regime and NATO

by Wilhelm Langthaler

External Link: www.borotba.org

Every international conflict also got a regional or local dimension – this is true also for Ukraine. Quickly, too quickly geopolitics moves into the centre of attention. But without understanding and considering the socio-political underpinnings a social revolutionary solution in the interest of the majority cannot be devised.

1. Starting point

The abandonment of the association treaty with the EU last autumn sparked the street protests. This alone bears witness of the social illusions into the EU and western capitalism in general on one hand and the political power of anti-Russian sentiments on the other hand. Both from an economic as well as from a political point of view the treaty, which implied severing the close relations to Russia, would not have served the interests of the popular masses. In return the EU has only to offer austerity along the IMF adjustment programmes as exercised in southern Europe further pushing Ukraine into poverty and periphery.

The intensity of the protests can, however, only explained by taking the social aspects into consideration. The pro-Russian elites commanded a brachial capitalism similar to the Russian one but without its natural riches. Apart from its geo-political orientation the difference to its orange-coloured predecessor is small. A good example is the gas princess Timoshenko herself who made their huge fortunes by dealing with Russia. The people were taking to the streets against the social decay following the crisis of 2008 led by Yanukovych & Co. Even his Russophile clientele has considerably shrunk.

From the very start rightist, nationalist and pro-fascist forces were part of the movement which gradually could build influence and conquer the leadership. Reportedly they enjoyed also the support (including the material one) of anti-Russian big capitalists. The national overwhelmed the social. It displays the strength of Ukrainian nationalism and anti-Russian sentiments.

The left, which initially has been present on the Maidan, has been marginalised and chased away. We do not refer to the CP which is an appendix of the capitalist regime of Putin-Yanukovych, but to independent forces like Borotba, which left the Maidan soon.

2. Western anti-Russian stance

The EU and especially the US have been siding with the Maidan movement and the overthrow. The West is motivated by a general anti-Russian stance and the hope to enlarge its sphere of influence eastwards. Only Germany and its closest allies, which got vested economic interests in Russia, have displayed more caution but without wanting to confront the US.

The nonchalance, by which the decisive role of the ultra-nationalist and rightist forces is being ignored, is revealing. One has just to look at how easy opposition movements against the global order are regularly labelled as “ultra-nationalist” while the Ukrainian right is being handled with great care. This becomes even clearer with regard to the widespread anti-Semitism of the movement which is being overlooked. Not even Zionists seem eager to stage a campaign as they usually would do facing much minor incidents.

3. Russian reactions

Western corporate media and official policy focus on Russian involvement. They suppose as given that the Kremlin has been the driving force behind the events. Doubtlessly the political as well as (potentially) also military support offered by Russia does play an important role. But obviously there is also a popular sentiment, and a mass movement based on it, opposing the rightist nationalist government in Kiev. Without that factor Russian political action would not have been possible – although there is a decisive difference between Crimea and Donbass. The eastern popular movement is based on a democratic and also social momentum which is, however, mixed with Russian nationalism being used by the Kremlin for his own ends. Therefore the independent political articulation by the popular movement is limited.

The Crimea was an easy game for Russia as its armed forces have been present anyway. They just had to declare their rule. They could be sure of the endorsement by the Russian majority as the results of the referendum showed. Defections of ranking Ukrainian officers are evidence of the fact that there was not only the military pressure at play.

4. Donbass

On Crimea the support to the Russian military coup essentially remained passive. In contrast in eastern Ukraine an outright popular movement sprang up – which does, however, not exclude Russian intelligence and even military involvement.

Big pro-Russian capital tries to reach a settlement with the new Kiev regime and the pro-western fraction of big capitalists. They do not want secession and would probably accept a compromise including power sharing as well as a reversal of the militantly anti-Russian line. Ukraine as a market and sphere of influence remains important to them.

It has to be taken into account that Russians live among Ukrainians and are completely mixed up. There is no clear line of demarcation as many do use both languages. Russian influence and cultural hegemony reaches far beyond language use. It is not by accident that Yanukovych wielded influence not only among those considering themselves Russians.

A majority of the eastern Ukrainian population seems to prefer a far-reaching autonomy from Kiev including the activist movement. But there are signs and reports indicating that this could change rapidly towards secession.

Much depends on the line being taken by the new Ukrainian government. If they maintain their hard nationalist stance further escalation up to secession is indeed possible. For the time being no substantial compromise offer towards the east has been recorded. Only some attempts to change the tune. Prime minister Yatsenyuk floated the proposal of a referendum on autonomy. But it is the entire Ukrainian population which is supposed to vote on the status of the east. This is ridiculous as the result is already established from the very beginning – as if one would ask the entire Turkish population to vote on Kurdish rights. To the contrary there are the ongoing military attempts to crack down on the Donbass revolt by military means. So from the side of the local population there is no reason to believe in the readiness of the rightist and nationalist Kiev government to at least partially cede to the popular demands.

5. Support the Donbass popular movement

The resistance of the eastern population against the reactionary pro-western government in Kiev has to be supported both from a democratic as well as an anti-imperialist point of view. Why the people should bow to neo-fascist right-wingers, pro-western nationalists as well as anti-Russian capitalists? It is incorrect to automatically suppose that the revolt would want to restore the rule of Yanukovych and its capitalist clique which are responsible for social misery also in the Donbass region.

At the same time one should be aware that the line between the legitimate Russian right to self-determination and Russian imperial claims as well as greater Russian chauvinism is thin, given Moscow’s involvement.

6. Ambiguous Kremlin

We do support the attempts to hinder western and especially NATO’s expansive drive towards Russia’s borders.

By now even Washington has understood that a line too aggressive could eventually backfire helping Russia to expand. Launching the idea of Ukrainian neutrality could be read as an attempt to maintain what has been achieved without further provoking Russia. In this sense Moscow’s political and military action and threat has been effective.

But the Russian policy must be judged within a larger context. Yanukovych is a product of Russian-European capitalist co-operation. His regime reflects Russian authoritarian capitalism being part of the global system. In this sense the Kremlin does bear its share for the protest movement against Yanukovych and offered a fertile soil to Ukrainian nationalism.

In terms of international law Russia’s hint to Kosovo in order to justify the annexation of Crimea is appropriate while western reference to “genocide” remains ridiculous. But it is not only the west to use double standards but also Russia. Why then Chechens are not entitled to the very same right of self-determination? The answer is obvious: It is neither about law nor democracy but all about geo-politics both for the White House as well as for the Kremlin.

7. Russia’s chauvinist tradition

Russia looks back to a secular colonial and imperial past not less anti-democratic than the west’s. Even the Soviet Union – with the short interruption by Lenin’s democratic national policy being a pre-condition for the Russian revolution – did continue this chauvinist tradition. Russian nationalism acquired democratic anti-fascist and anti-imperialist credentials by defeating Nazi Germany (“Great Patriotic War”). Along the ensuing Cold War the Kremlin kept dominant US imperialism in check though also being criticised to follow an imperial momentum as well. Chauvinism has been always of part of Russian nationalism. Putin is drawing on these traditions with the critical difference that today’s Russia is integral part of the world capitalist system while the USSR was not.

It is legitimate and to be supported when Russia is stopping the west and thus helps to pave the way towards a more multi-polar world. At the same time it should not be ignored that Russian geo-political ambitions violate the rights of smaller nations and nationalities sometimes by bloody means. By doing so they are pushing them politically into the arms of the west (or also radical Islamism). Rightist Ukrainian nationalism is also – but not only – reaction to secular Russian imperial claims.

Furthermore it is not to be neglected that Putin by cultivating Russian nationalism tries to cover the social wounds being inflicted on Russian society by his extreme capitalism. Democratic and social demands are being libelled as western decadence and thwarting the Russian popular soul. Actually Russia is moving towards a new form of Tsarism.

From a democratic, social revolutionary and in the long run also anti-imperialist perspective it is key to return to a policy which was crucial for Lenin’s revolutionary success: to unconditionally grant freedom to the oppressed nations and nationalities (even if momentarily and temporarily reactionary forces would gain leadership) in order convince the popular masses to ally with the forces of social revolution und build a union on voluntary base. This has nothing to do with Yeltsinism which, in a situation of extreme weakness, tried to sell off Russia to the capitalist predators.

8. Scenarios

The outcome of the contemporary conflict over Ukraine is not given. Even the most extreme variant, the very split of the country, is possible.

If the Kiev regime with its radical rightist component insists on its hard line and the west continues its support, a larger military attack on the Donbass revolt could prompt a bold military reaction by the Kremlin. And there cannot by any doubt that, if Moscow wants to win, it will win. Even the US cannot chance this unless they intervene militarily – something highly improbable. But certainly the US would drive the global spiral of escalation moving closer towards something reminiscent of the Cold War.

But it is also possible that Washington turns in and brings Kiev back to reason. The oligarchs and the orange-coloured decay products would follow suit but would have to get rid of the radical right. This would be a challenge they are not up to and which they do not want to face. Possibly a kind of second coup d’état would be required as Svoboda and the militias of the Right Sector took control of parts of the state apparatus and can draw on the credit of the Maidan movement. Maybe a coalition of the large capitalists of both sides is possible? If western pressure on their allies is strong enough that cannot be excluded. In the last instance the US and Russia, let alone Germany and several other EU countries, have economic and geopolitical interests to limit the confrontation to a certain level – as otherwise it could endanger the entire global system.

9. Autonomy

Also from our point of view a larger military conflict splitting the country is not desirable, as the social conflict would be buried under the clash between rightist Ukrainian and imperial Russian nationalism. Substantial autonomy instead would help the eastern parts of the country to gain democratic rights against the Kiev rulers but would not destroy the bridge to Ukrainian lower classes. Calling for autonomy does not bring the movement into a situation of dependency on Putin’s military machine totally unacceptable for the Ukrainian lower classes.

This could be combined to a status of neutrality in foreign relations allowing more margin of manoeuvre. Close relations to Russia could be re-established on more equal base.

10. People’s government

Strategic aim is to bring down the Kiev regime allied with the west without coalescing with the pro-Russian capitalist elite (system Putin-Yanukovych). Given the acute social crisis it is not impossible to decompose the hegemony of the bloc between the radical rightist nationalists and the big oligarchs. A social revolutionary answer could become plausible as the new regime will soon prove to be unable to address the deep troubles of the country. But popular democratic and social demands can only be moved against the Kiev regime if the social revolutionary forces cannot be taken as an appendix of the Kremlin.

www.antiimperialista.org/donbass

A presentation of Borotba, a Ukrainian popular anti-capitalist force

The new authorities by all possible means try to prevent democratic referendums over the issue of self-governing in South-eastern regions – where protests against new regime are glowing. New rulers of Ukraine try to present these protests as only ‘pro-Russian’ or ‘inspired by the Kremlin’, but the union ‘Borotba’ is effectively fighting for wringing them out of the influence of pro-russian nationalism. We are irreconcilable opponents to the Putin’s regime that our Russian comrades are fighting with. We are against war and any interference into Ukrainian conflict as it may trigger the military confrontation of two imperialisms. Expecting the intensification of the current crisis, we are getting ready to take part in the process of organization of mass protests against anti-social reforms and far-right terror of new authorities. And in this context any international support is rather crucial for us. We are thankful for your attention and solidarity.

On the situation in Ukraine (for the Antifascist meeting in Athens)

Dear comrades,

The union ‘Borotba’ and collective of the Ukrainian web-journal Liva.com.ua greet all the participants of the anti-fascist meeting. Our periphery East-European country witnesses one of the most dramatic moments in its modern history. The Ukrainian lefts face challenges they have never confronted for many years. After some violent and bloody clashes in the centre of Kiev the power in our country was seized by the coalition of ultra-right and neoliberal political forces. The newly established regime immediately started the close cooperation with the richest oligarchs – with those who (along with the representatives of the EU and US) provided the financial aid and international support to Euromaidan. Some of these oligarchs were recently appointed as governors in the key industrial regions (that are the least loyal to new rightwing government) – with the expectation that they would suppress the anger of indignant protesters there.

The rightwing ideology – a kind of synthesis of neoliberal illusions about the nature of ‘decent European capitalism’ and clerical bigotry of Ukrainian nationalism – dominated in Euromaidan from the very beginning and almost everything there was under control of rightwing politicians. They managed to exploit the anger of many impoverished and marginalized Ukrainians dissatisfied with the corrupt bourgeois regime of Yanukovich – the regime that we also have been fighting against for many years. After 20 years period of mass anti-communist propaganda the lefts in Ukraine were ousted into margins of politics while the rights managed to use social populism combined with pro-capitalist and nationalist slogans.

The rightwing ideology – a kind of synthesis of neoliberal illusions about the nature of ‘decent European capitalism’ and clerical bigotry of Ukrainian nationalism – dominated in Euromaidan from the very beginning and almost everything there was under control of rightwing politicians. They managed to exploit the anger of many impoverished and marginalized Ukrainians dissatisfied with the corrupt bourgeois regime of Yanukovich – the regime that we also have been fighting against for many years. After 20 years period of mass anti-communist propaganda the lefts in Ukraine were ousted into margins of politics while the rights managed to use social populism combined with pro-capitalist and nationalist slogans.

And it is not accidental that Euromaidan was greeted and backed by the most reactionary forces and politicians of the EU and US. The new Ukrainian authorities are ready to open Ukrainian markets to their patrons and to impose on society (still suffering from the crisis) the package of neoliberal reforms so that to receive the next IMF loan that should help them to stay in power. The property and capitals of the super-richests remained untouched for new regime but new authorities are ready to overcome the crisis at the expense of imposing social cuts and the rise of prices that will affect the impoverished majority of Ukrainians. So that to divert attention from the issues of own politics, the rightwing authorities skillfully use the issue of Russian intervention in Crimea and ignite nationalist and militarist hysteria inside the country. Unfortunately, a part of our liberal-patriotic ‘left’ willingly buys into this rhetoric. Thus, new authorities try to channel the anger of defrauded people toward different ‘internal’ or ‘external’ enemies.

Meanwhile, the clashes and shooting spree in the centre of Kiev still happen – the rivaling paramilitary units fight with each other for the control over seized buildings or property and continue to unlawfully detain, beat or torture people. Neo-Nazi gangs openly show off their racism, sexism or homophobia. They even do not try to hide their weapons when roaming Kiev streets. Moreover, they have killed some people in Kharkov. The office of ‘Borotba’ in Kiev was looted as well as offices of opportunist Communist Party of Ukraine – neo-Nazis seized their offices and turned them into own ‘bases’. Many monuments to Lenin, to WWII soldiers or October revolution participants were demolished or desecrated (including the grave of workers killed in the uprising in Kiev ‘Arsenal’ and other plants in 1918).

Meanwhile, extraordinary elections are nearing: disappointed or duped people will have to make a choice just between well-known bourgeois politicians – corrupt super-riches. At the same time, new authorities by all possible means try to prevent democratic referendums over the issue of self-governing in South-eastern regions – where protests against new regime are glowing. New rulers of Ukraine try to present these protests as only ‘pro-Russian’ or ‘inspired by the Kremlin’, but the union ‘Borotba’ is effectively fighting for wringing them out of the influence of pro-russian nationalism. We are irreconcilable opponents to the Putin’s regime that our Russian comrades are fighting with. We are against war and any interference into Ukrainian conflict as it may trigger the military confrontation of two imperialisms.

Expecting the intensification of the current crisis, we are getting ready to take part in the process of organization of mass protests against anti-social reforms and far-right terror of new authorities. And in this context any international support is rather crucial for us. We are thankful for your attention and solidarity. And especially we would like to thank our comrades from Southern and Eastern Europe that witness the rise of ultra-right influence against the background of crisis caused by neoliberal policy of the EU.

The new government of Ukraine is the most rightwing government of all that have ever been in Europe since the end of WWII. And this is not only Ukrainian phenomena but also an alarm call for all European lefts. Taking into account that EU authorities actively helped Ukrainian rightwingers to come to power, we understand that it will be a rather difficult task for us to win a victory over them without responsive international actions of the lefts in different countries.

The recent protests in Ukraine (November-February 2013-14) have resulted in establishing of the rightwing political regime, namely the coalition of ultra-right and neoliberal forces. Paramilitary squads of the ultra-right groups now control the capital of the country using the tactics of pogroms and violence against dissenters. They openly demand to vest them with the power of police and state security service officially or give them full control over the law enforcement services.

However, the events are unfolding in Ukraine rather quickly, therefore, demanding a constant correction of the analysis. Some offices of the left organizations were looted. Activists of left organizations and trade-unions have undergone violent assaults. The parliament of Ukraine (in fact controlled by the vice-speaker from the far-right ‘Svoboda’ party) has taken upon itself the power in the country. It appointed another member of ‘Svoboda’ party as a general prosecutor and released without court decision all the neo-Nazi militants that were convicted for crimes including murders.

Many rightwing politicians (from ‘Svoboda’ and other rightwing parties) were promoted to the positions of ministers. In particular, they will control education. Nazis started a campaign of mass destroying of Soviet monuments: to the October Revolution of 1917 and WWII fighters.

In fact we can speak that it is the most rightwing government in the history of post-WWII Europe and the most pro-Nazi in its ideology regime that was imposed in Ukraine. And this thesis is not a kind of exaggeration – the real consequences of the recent events in Ukraine we’ll be able to assess properly in the course of time because we still have not enough full information needed.

Nevertheless, the mass protests in Ukraine were the result of the deep social-economic crisis – a consequence of neoliberal economic policy that was being implemented in Ukraine under the pressure of international banks and other financial structures.

At first sight it could seem a kind of paradox, but the crisis that was triggered by the rightwing neoliberal policy has led to the uncontrolled rise of the far-right influence in result. The thing is that the crisis developed under condition of almost total dominance of the far-right ideology that didn’t allowed building in Ukraine a somewhat strong left force. In fact, the rightwingers have occupied the same niche that the lefts couldn’t occupy. It was the absence of the left alternative that served as a main pre-condition of providing the sweeping rise of the far-right groups that have taken over a kind of monopoly over social protests of Ukrainians.

The lefts – ranging from social-democrats to the groups of new-left – were driven to the margins of political and social life. It became possible due to the establishing of the right-liberal consensus that dominates in social consciousness since the collapse of the USSR. The intellectuals tolerated ultra-rights backing them politically and providing the process of de-marginalisation of far-right groups for Ukrainians. Meanwhile, mass-media demonized and stigmatized left ideology simultaneously transmitting to social consciousness a historic mythology of the far-right forces – namely those ones that collaborated with German Nazis in WWII and are responsible for ethnic cleansing of Polish population in western Ukraine. It was this kind of propaganda that has mostly designed the views of the active part in Maidan movement including significant part of the ‘crisis victims’ – of some of the ‘lumpenized’ layers of society.

And conservative and liberal European politicians have also contributed to such a grievous result – they recognized ultra-right ‘Svoboda’ party as a legitimate member of the so-called ‘pro-democracy’ opposition to Yanukovich’s regime. Thus, they turned a blind eye to the xenophobic, homophobic and chauvinist program of this party as well as on the pogroms and violent actions of its activists.

Moreover, a group of super-rich Ukrainians has also contributed in organizing Maidan. Those were in particular some oligarchs that were dissatisfied with the dominance of Yanukovich clan and feared the rise of his influence that could threaten their economic interests.

This group of oligarchs participated in sponsorship of the ultra-right groups and provided technical and material equipment for their actions.

Under such circumstances the Rights succeeded in exploiting and monopolizing the protest against oligarchic regime of Yanukovich. From its very beginning they controlled and organized protest actions in Kiev, therefore, attributing to them rightwing ideology and nationalist sentiments. Nazi symbols were openly shown off in Maidan while Nazi slogans were heard quite often there. ‘Pro-democracy’ part of this movement couldn’t confront such a total domination of the Rights that succeeded in taking a leading role in Maidan. The real force was on their side. Well-trained squads of neo-Nazis that were given out military ammunition have served as the storm-troopers. Despite the fact that the protest started under ‘pro-European’ slogans, the ultra-rights initially didn’t hide their hostility to the ‘European’ values and publicly denied them in their speeches and articles.

The fact that many European observers preferred either to ignore the domination of far-rights in Maidan or to diminish their influence has only aggravated the whole situation. In fact such a position was being perceived as a pardon legitimizing any kind of far-right actions.

Thus, as overall results we have got the disastrous rise of street violence in Kiev, infighting of armed groups and killing of people – both supporters and opponents to Maidan. That has led to the collapse of Yanukovich’s regime. However, as we had warned, it was our ultra-rights that have essentially benefited from it. De facto they became the ruling power in most parts of the country because they established conditions when no one social-political force can really confront them there.

As a consequence we witness the change of just elites in power but the interests of the whole ruling class remained untouched. Therefore, the changes haven’t led to real democratic reforms in the interests of the majority of people. The situation is deepening now and the oncoming collapse of the Ukrainian economics is looming. We witness the fast devalue of Ukrainian currency that threatens with impoverishment of millions people in Ukraine. The new regime has no funds enough to guarantee the providing of the basic public spending. Thus, it negotiates with IMF. EU and US so that to receive new loans that would be given under condition of total dismantling of the remnants of social benefit system and rise of the prices for public utilities, electricity and gas. Moreover, the EU demands from Ukraine to open its internal market and that may lead to the total undermining of the home production that cannot survive without some protectionist measures.

This trend when being coupled with violent confrontation in eastern Ukraine may lead to the dismantling of the state basis and complete economic and political collapse in the country that in its turn may lead then to the outburst of the ultra-Right terror. Such a prospect seems to be quite real in Ukraine and it can happen even in the nearest future. We think that new regime will use ultra-right paramilitary squads for suppressing of the social protests and individual dissenters among ordinary citizens.

Under such circumstances the only alternative is an immediate and active building of the mass left and antifascist movement, namely the creation of a subject that may become a base for opposition to the rightwing regime and possible to organize people that are angry and dissatisfied with antisocial neoliberal policy.

Moreover, the rightwing ‘revolution’ in Ukraine is also an alarm clock for all European pro-democracy anti-fascist forces. This trend actually reveals quite openly that in times of economic crisis – the uncontrolled rise of the far-right clears the way to a seizing of the political power. And such a prospect is even more dangerous when we try to underestimate it.

Andrew Manchuk

Anti-imperialist Camp

www.antiimperialista.org

camp@antiimperialista.org




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