Voices from Ukraine
SO, US Secretary of State John Kerry has taken a break from his endlessly patient efforts to persuade the Israelis to be reasonable, and called on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Crimea and negotiate. Senator McCaine has accused President Obama of having a "feckless" foreign policy, and demanded sweeping economic sanctions against Russia, claiming that Putin wants to take back Ukraine to his "empire". By chance, McCaine was addressing the Israel lobby organisation AIPAC, just ahead of another visit by Israeli prime minister Netanyahu who doesn't like boycotts and sanctions, but wants AIPAC and its allies to renew their efforts for new sanctions against Iran."Another part of the left repetitively tried to join the movement, even after they were repetitively kicked out of it. Some of the “euro-enthusiastic” leftists came to Maidan in November with red (instead of blue) flag of the EU, with banners for free healthcare and education, and with feminist slogans. They were brutally attacked by Nazis. Then there was an episode when the far-right attacked the tent of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine near the Maidan. A man on the stage said that there were some “provocateurs” and said that “men know what to do”; as a result, a mob of Nazis has broken ribs of the trade union activists, tore their tent with knives and stolen their property".
In Britain, someone has reminded David Cameron that not only is Gazprom supplying 20 per cent of the country's gas, but laundering money for Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats is an important activity for the City of London. So trying to punish Russia with sanctions might not be such a good idea. Chancellor Merkel, to whom many Ukrainians might look for support, has also had to stop for thought.
So, touch wood, we are not yet leaping into the Ukrainian conflict and the danger of world war.
Instead, all hell has broken out among the comrades of the British Left, with normally unaggressive academics denouncing others as "Banderist" (i.e, supporters of the late Stefan Bandera, Ukrainian fascist), on not even slender evidence. Stop the War leader Lindsey German, who used to subscribe to the idea that the Soviet Union was "state capitalist", perhaps even imperialist, now seems to regard Putin's Russia as worth defending. Socialist Resistance, a remnant of the old International Marxist Group, appears enthusiastic for the Ukrainian "national liberation struggle" and downplays the influence of the far Right (even though Svoboda has obtained key government posts including Defence, they heistate to admit its a fascist party).
Socialist Action, which once came from the same stable, has a pro-Russian poition, consistent perhaps with the alliance.it made with Chetniks and Sir Alfred Sherman during the Bosnian war, and with John Ross's appreciation of the role of British multinationals in Russia and Russian money in London.
Fortunately we can leave the various factions and factious individuals to call each other names and hit each over the head with quotations from past thinkers and revolutionaries, while we see what some actvists in Ukraine have been saying.
Here is a comrade called Denis from a syncicalist group apparently, explaining some of the contradictions and false consciousness at work in the Maidan demonstrations:
"... you should understand that from the very beginning people had a very peculiar understanding of “Europe”. They pictured a very utopian ideal – society without corruption, with high wages, social security, rule of law, honest politicians, smiling faces, clean streets etc. – and called it “EU”. And when one tried to tell them that actual EU has nothing to do with this pretty picture, that people there actually burn EU flags and protest against austerity etc. – they retorted: “So would you better live in Russia then?” So, yes, from the very beginning the protest was driven by the false consciousness of “civilizational choice”, by nationalist ideological patterns which didn’t leave any room for the class agenda. These are the results of the bourgeois cultural hegemony, in Gramscian terms, and this is the main problem we should fight in this country over next years (or even decades).http://avtonomia.net/2014/02/20/maidan-contradictions-interview-ukrainian-revolutionary-syndicalist/
But “Europe” was never actually the main aim of the protesters. Anti-government and anti-Russian sentiments were much stronger, so they naturally overtook the pro-EU rhetoric after the police crackdown of December 1, and now most people hardly even remember what the initial cause of the demonstrations was. Many people agree that the very term Euromaidan is already anachronistic. The far right groups, which initially had to hide their traditional attitude to the “liberal decaying EU” in order to infiltrate the protests, now openly state that they don’t care about the EU and only want a regime change. This sentiment is accepted in the wide circles of the protesters.
When Yanukovych became president in 2010, he started pushing for unpopular neo-liberal steps. The natural gas tariffs were growing; the government launched medical reform which will eventually lead to closure of many medical institutions and to introducing the universal medical insurance instead of the unconditional coverage; they pushed through extremely unpopular pension reform (raising pension age for women) against the will of more than 90% of population; there was an attempt at passing the new Labour Code which would seriously affect workers’ rights; the railway is being corporatized; finally, they passed a new Tax Code which hit small business. But eventually this assault wasn’t very successful, and the government had to back off. The tariffs of natural gas, electricity, heating, water are frozen at a level which is one of the lowest in Europe and ex-USSR; the Labour Code is buried in the parliament; the next stage of the pension reform (introducing compulsory pension saving plans instead of the solidarity system) is halted. They saw they can’t move on with such low levels of support. But still, the welfare of the working classes, as well as the general state of the economy leaves much to be desired, and people have all legitimate reasons to demand better living standards. Sadly, these grievances are dressed in the false consciousness of nationalism.
Another part of the left repetitively tried to join the movement, even after they were repetitively kicked out of it. Some of the “euro-enthusiastic” leftists came to Maidan in November with red (instead of blue) flag of the EU, with banners for free healthcare and education, and with feminist slogans. They were brutally attacked by Nazis. Then there was an episode when the far-right attacked the tent of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine near the Maidan. A man on the stage said that there were some “provocateurs” and said that “men know what to do”; as a result, a mob of Nazis has broken ribs of the trade union activists, tore their tent with knives and stolen their property. The victims hadn’t been doing anything “leftist” per se, but they were members of the left movement, known to their political adversaries, and that was enough.
(ht Gabriel Levy)
And here is a Marxist group called Borotba
Our country will face soon a sharp economic crisis – the one that is close to full economic collapse, hyperinflation and mass impoverishment. Under such circumstances the ruling class will put a stake on paramilitary Nazi-units while appointing as a kind of necessary scape-goats ‘moskali’ (derogatory name for Russians) and ‘titushki’ (derogatory name for pro-government supporters). Thus, the ‘patriots’ will unleash a war against all of them. That’s why the anti-fascists struggle should be the primary task for today.
Recently the new government was presented in Ukraine. Its head, the prime-minister A. Yatzenuk has labelled it as “kamikaze government”. It will last only until elections planned on May 25th. It would just accept the predatory conditions of IMF loan and will immediately fall down as a victim of the following economic collapse. This is a good reason why the key figures of the liberal-nationalist opposition don’t enter this government. However, as we predicted, this “kamikaze” government is, nevertheless, under full control of the coalition of ultra-liberals and neo-Nazis. The positions of Vice-Premier and a minister were given out to the members “Svoboda” party - Sych and Mochnyk. Moreover, S. Kvit, an open nazi and former officer of nazi organization “Trizub of Stepan Bandera” has got the Ministry for Public Education. While being the head of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy he was righteously met with hatred by all progressive students. The position of a deputy head of the Council for National Security and Defense was offered to the leader of the ultranationalist ‘Right Sector’ A. Yarosh.
The regime of putschists has revealed its authoritarian and semi-fascist character. Some bills about banning of the Communists party activity were recently proposed in Parliament.
And most likely, such “banning” would be a legal cover for illegal activities of neonazi gangs aimed to murder communists and unleash pogroms. The “acting” President of Ukraine A. Turchynov convoked journalists and ordered them how to comment the current events ‘correctly’. The disloyal to the new power journalists receive threat from neonazi gangs.
Armed militants of the Right Sector and other Nazi gangs have rushed into south-eastern regions of Ukraine. They are going to violently seize power there, contrary to the will of the people’s majority.
Some provocations also take place in Crimea. We witness the mobilisation of Tartar nationalists and islamist radicals. At the same time some Russian-nationalist organizations prepare to declare Crimea joining with Russia. Some unknown persons have seized Crimean Parliament. We are convinced that most of the Crimeans are reasonable enough and can effectively organize resistance to the incoming fascists and at the same time will not buy into provocations and will not let to turn the Crimean peninsula into a zone of ethnic violence.
Thus, in the context of mass mobilization the activists of ‘Borotba’ union and Centre of Anti-fascist Resistance put forward the following slogans:
- Not to defend the surrendered power but rather to build up people's self-organization.
- Not to ignite ethnic and language conflicts but rather to defend values of internationalism and peoples’ friendship.
- The only solution to the crisis created by oligarchs, officials and politicians is creating a socialist society.
Today our comrades all over the Ukraine use tactics of underground ways of carrying on agitation: draw graffities, spread out leaflets, etc. We will certainly send everybody willing to help us everything what is necessary for carrying on agitation.
Join the Struggle!
To get a live explanation of the sisuation in Ukraine, if you are in London next week, there's a meeting at the House of Commons:
Revolution or Reaction?
Crisis in Ukraine
‘Eyewitness Report by Ukrainian Socialist
COMMONS: Journal of Social Criticism
MONDAY 10th MARCH
6:00 PM Committee Room 12,
House of Commons
Via main St Stephens entrance,