The recent developments in Ukraine have confused many people who have been pushed into just accepting them as “fatalities”, as events that just fell from the sky, as everyday elements. In short, into leaving the process in the hands precisely of those who triggered them.
Understanding what really happens in Ukraine is not simple, neither for ordinary people nor for left-wing activists. Yet in the middle of the huge stream of biased information we need to find a correct understanding of what is going on. Because the absence of this understanding keeps us not only from determining the correct policy and giving concrete answers to the situation but also simply to avoid, as mere humans, to be turned into pawns by the media.
A lot of myths surrounds the events in Ukraine. In the Western world, all of them are connected to the demonization of Russia, which is displayed nearly as the sole threat to world peace, thus concealing the main predators, the United States and the leading countries of Western Europe. There is no doubt that Russia oppresses Ukraine, but it is a myth that the American and European imperialists are “advocates of Ukraine and democracy.” This, in turn, is the ideological veneer that has been justifying NATO’s expansion and the overall strengthening of imperialist control over Eastern Europe. And these myths also hide the grim truth that Russia itself is today a dependent state, which is being swallowed by Western banks, something that was made very clear by the recent sanctions against Russia.
Meanwhile, in Russia, for obvious reasons, these myths are not widespread, but different myths are in turn popular, trumpeted by pro-Putin media. And it is exactly to the discussion of these myths we want to devote this article because we are forced to confront them every day in Russia.
Myths about Maidan (name of the square in the center of Kiev in which the huge demonstrations and rallies that led to the overthrow of the Yanukovych administration took place and that has become a synonym of this very movement):
Myth #1- The people took to the streets at Maidan to defend “integration with the European Union”
This banal cliché is in contradiction with the very sequence of the Ukrainian events: the cause that led hundreds of thousands to the streets at Maidan was not the refusal of Yanukovych to sign an agreement with the EU, but rather the fierce repression by the Berkut [name of the Ukrainian riot police. It was finally disbanded following the overthrow of Yanukovych – editor’s note] against a very small demonstration led by students in favor of EU integration.
The first mass demonstration took place in response to the “dictatorial laws” imposed by Yanukovych in response to the first relatively big demonstrations. The central issue at Maidan in those days was: could the people remain in the square or would the Berkut scatter the people? The essence of the process was that hundreds of thousands of people went to the Maidan against the dictatorial orders of an oligarchic government, that prostituted itself to whom would pay more, one which was responsible for leading the country to bankruptcy.
It is true that there were many illusions about the EU. But the masses are always impregnated with a lot of illusions; this can’t be used to condemn a movement. People didn’t go to Maidan for the “European integration”; this was not the main demand of the masses. On the contrary, from the moment the government repression hit the Maidan activists, this issue became a very secondary issue (which was noted by many observers and journalists), and at Maidan there were plenty of anti-oligarchic slogans and calls for the sovereignty of Ukraine regarding to all foreign states.
But both the Russian and the Western media – despite the fact that each one did so in defense of their own interests – insist on calling the Maidan as “Euromaidan” trying to build an amalgamation between the revolution and the reactionary imperialist project of the EU.
Myth #2 – The Maidan was organized by the US to overthrow a government that was not submissive to them
The inconsistency of such a claim lies in the fact that the US State Department could indeed, say, buy Ukrainian generals and thus set up a military coup, but couldn’t organize a “people coup”, which would attract hundreds of thousands of direct participants and millions of supporters. The pro-Putin TV networks try to persuade us that the people present at the Maidan on those cold nights under permanent risk of a crackdown by the Berkut had been bought by American “cookies and snacks”. This lying propaganda merely unveils the contempt of the Putin regime for the people as such.
This myth also runs counter to a fact that is obvious, but carefully hidden: the joint attempt by the US, the EU, Putin, Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition to interrupt the revolutionary process on the basis of the February 21 Agreement, which would keep Yanukovych in power until running new elections(within 10 months) in order to bring the revolutionary process back to the “legal” path, that is, back to the quagmire of the institutions of the bourgeois state, which were being questioned by hundreds of thousands in the streets, with chances of developing and deepening more and more.
The essence of this Agreement is impossible to be explained without understanding that the presence of people in the streets was not wanted by anyone: neither by Putin, nor Obama, nor Merkel nor by the Ukrainian politicians, regardless of which foreign currency they wished to sell out themselves to. Obviously, once the Agreement was rejected by the Maidan and Yanukovych was overthrown, the imperialists U.S. and EU were quick to utilize the situation as best as they could, in defense of their interests. But using a given situation and creating it are entirely different things.
Myth #3 – The revolution was led by fascism
How does an organization (Svoboda), having led a victorious revolutionary process, gets afterwards in the elections an outcome close to the limit of the margin of statistical error (1.8%) seems to be a great mystery. Yet everything returns to its place, if one understands the simple truth: a few dozen of organized fascist militants seeping into the front of the disorganized masses just in front of TV cameras are something quite distinct from the scenario shown by Russian television networks, with “masses led by fascism.” This amalgamation made of the masses and fascism is a very primitive manipulation, but one that is quite typical of pro-Putin TV.
And that mistake, which is so popular between those who claim to be on the left [evaluating a process from the perspective of the actions of the parties (superstructure) and not of the action of the masses (structure)], contradicts the very foundations of Marxism, which understands the revolution as a process which takes place, first and foremost, in the structure. In addition, the movement of the masses is usually spontaneous and one can’t expect of these an accurate political program. Presenting a program, namely, to bring consciousness to the movement so that it does not get lost on false paths, is a task that would be up to the revolutionary party, which is sorely lacking in Ukraine.
Myth #4 – The Maidan was an anti-Communist mobilization
In order to justify this thesis, a series of “arguments” are used:
1-“The Maidan overturned statues of Lenin.” Here, yet again, the action of a few dozen Right Sector members is presented as an action of hundreds of thousands at the Maidan.
2-“At Maidan there were hardly any left-wing activists.” Well, this is an issue for the leftist activists who did not go to the Maidan, and not for the hundreds of thousands that correctly did.
3-“At Maidan they do not like communists.” Alas, with communism, Lenin and red flags people associate Stalinism, with all its load of repression, massive starvation, elimination of the right to self-determination of Ukraine (which was an accomplishment of the October Revolution), bureaucratic cretinism, and shortage of products. They are also associated with the modern heir of Stalinism, the UCP, which is guided by the Kremlin and to the last moment supported Yanukovych. For these “communists”, the Maidan indeed does not nourish any fondness, which is rather fair.
As for the fact that communism, the whole work of Lenin and working-class red flag of the October Revolution have been suffocated by the Stalinist bureaucracy and turned into plaster statues to mask all his stupid politics, this is something that has be patiently explained, and last-minute improvisations here do not help at all. It is true that in the consciousness of the people all of this is mixed in a single block (and the “Anti-maidan left” only makes this worse). But understanding the confusion in consciousness as conscious anticommunism makes no sense at all.
By the way, this myth is spread not only by the Russian media, but also by the Western media, which tries to show the Maidan as the “last nail in the coffin of communism”.
Myth #5 – The Poroshenko government is fascist, or very nearly so
Such a claim has no basis in reality. Fascist or semi-fascist regimes rely on fascist gangs, the structure of the armed forces and the police, liquidation of the institutions of bourgeois democracy and total choking of democratic freedoms.
In Ukraine, the power is concentrated in parliament, which is real and not ornamental as in Russia. The armed forces and organs of repression are in a deep crisis, not to mention half-destroyed.
There constantly happen protest actions in the country: public demonstrations and rallies of mothers against the deployment of their children to the front (some even managing to block the enlistment offices in the streets), protest actions of the troops themselves, actions of the Labour Solidarity Union in Kiev against the central government’s operations in the east and for Ukrainian unity, demonstrations by miners in Kiev, etc. And there are even demonstrations of Fascists against the fact that the government does not acknowledge the veterans of the UPA [the Ukrainian nationalist organization which collaborated with the Nazi army in WWII – editor’s note]. And no Berkut or “Gestapo” cracks down on either the mothers of soldiers or the protesting soldiers themselves, or the labour acts, and no one is sent to prisons or concentration camps.
The Putin regime is neither fascist nor semi-fascist. But even so, in Moscow, not even the right-wing nationalists think about going to break down the doors of the Ministry of Defense, as did the fighters of the nationalist battalion “Aidar” in Kiev protesting government attempts to dissolve them.
Obviously, Poroshenko tries to use the war to unite the people around him, put an end to the climate of protests and fortify himself politically. And indeed, the Ukrainian mass media becomes every day more alike the Russian mass media and the amount of protests has decreased greatly after the victory that has been the overthrow of Yanukovych. But the type of a regime is determined by the general and actual correlation of forces. In order to impose a fascist regime in Ukraine, it would be necessary, first and foremost, to put an end to the revolutionary situation that the country is facing. Yet the correlation of forces is such that the Ukrainian government is forced to put up with protests and democratic freedoms and can’t asphyxiate them. Poroshenko tried to use the war to force the people to forget about the other problems. But so far he has not been particularly successful with it.
For all these reasons, the claims about “fascist regime” are far from reality. Ukraine was closer to fascism at that time when Yanukovych attempted to crush the Maidan, by approving a set of draconian laws, compared to which Putin could present himself as a respectable European democrat, if he hadn’t called Yanukovych to “crush the vermin in the square.” These laws should put an end to Maidan and to all the struggles of the Ukrainian workers. And these laws were warmly supported by the pro-Russian “fighters against fascism.” Fortunately, the masses threw these laws in the trash along with their proponent, former President Yanukovych.
Myths about the Ukrainian East
Myth #6 – The people of Donbass rose up
The major dilemma when evaluating the events in the Ukrainian east is answering to the question: is there an actual mobilization of people in the region or, in essence, is everything but a game by Putin?
Although this may take some of the reader’s time, it seems that the best answer to this question was Igor Strelkov himself [the officer of the Russian FSB (ex-KGB) who led the separatist war battalions in the Ukrainian east; he was eventually removed from the field by Putin for being an hindrance to the path of negotiations – note by the editor], whom no one could accuse of wanting to slander the separatist battalions in eastern Ukraine, nor say he is unaware of the events in the region. Let’s see how he characterizes the scale of the “people uprising”:
“I was one who triggered the war in one way or another. If our battalion had not crossed the border, everything would have ended up as in Kharkov or Odessa. There would be a few dozen dead, wounded and arrested. And that would be it. “
“The time had come when each inhabitant of the Donbass able to have a gun could come and receive it directly in their hands … But what did we see? Anything but a mass of volunteers at the doors of our HQs … while I was still in Crimea, I listened to the local activists saying that when the miners arise, they would tear everyone to pieces with their own hands. Maybe this happened there at some point, but so far we have not seen anything like it. Tens or hundreds of people stood up to fight. Tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands followed everything on television, sipping a beer.
“Where are those 27,000 volunteers about whom the reporters spoke of? I have not seen them… In our volunteer battalion there are more and more men well over their 40s, who grew up and have been educated in the Soviet Union, but very few young people. Where are all the boys, young and energetic? It’s a disgrace“(statement to the people of the Donbass, 05/18/2014)
“I am being charged for not having established the order over there (in Donetsk). But I was placed before a clear decision when I was leaving Slaviansk: either quickly build a front against the opponent, or organize a coup d’état. Yet the Donetsk was at that time a perfectly peaceful territory. People bathed in the sun, swam, athletes trained, people drank their coffee in cafes. Donetsk was more like Moscow in the summer. And no one there would understand me…” (interview with Prokhanov, 11/20/2014)
To the question of the journalist: “The militias that Pavel Gubarev put at your disposal are enough,” Strelkov says, “Of course not. Even for a city of one million inhabitants, not to mention the whole republic, the militias are very small. […] The weapons and ammunition are not ready … If they were, we certainly would organize a general draft. Even if ¾ of the people in the age of conscription fled the draft, the quarter that remained would have been enough… Being honest, in three months, volunteers from the Donbass, with its several million inhabitants, and from the mining region, where people are used to heavy and dangerous work, are very few.“
It is hard to imagine a more depressing definition of the “people’s struggle” in the Ukrainian east. And since there is this serious issue with the “people’s upsurge”, a quite logical financial and organizational conclusion was reached: “From this month onwards, the militiamen will be paid a sufficiently large sum by local standards, 5-8 thousand grivnas (from 400 to 700 dollars). We plan to initiate payments starting from July. Maybe this will help those people that so far have hesitated to join to find forces within themselves and then join the troops. That is, we will form a paid, professional army.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyfuHFWZdt8, 07.08.2014).
Even the government-aligned “Russian Gazette” (08.07.2014) reported, relying on the “Republic of the Donbass’s Minister of Defense” Berezin: “The militiamen will become a regular, professional army, in which the military servants will receive a well-deserved decent wage.” As they say, “since they won’t do it for the country, they might do it for money.” Where the funding comes from is not hard to guess, and what interests such professional and well paid army will defend is also easy to see. In other words, behind the picture shown by the pro-Putin TV lurks a much more prosaic reality.
There are other signs that the people of eastern Ukraine took no part in this. The population of this part of the country did not participate in the Ukrainian Revolution. Neither have them joined the separatist struggle. Protests of the kind seen at the Maidan did not occur in eastern Ukraine, and the so-called Popular Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk were created by a few hundred people and did not represent the inhabitants of the region at all. In the east there were some important cases of workers’ struggles (Krasnodon, Krivoi Rog), but they were not in any way related to the idea of the People’s Republic of Donetsk. They had an independent nature and, unfortunately, did not continue. Neither have people shown interest in “defending their land against the fascists Ukrainians” and nor are they quick to enlist in the People’s Republic of Donetsk.
Whether we like it or not, the fact is that the population of the Ukrainian East, so close to the temperament of the Russian population, has remained extremely passive and apart from the entire revolutionary process. Of course, with the increase in disasters, the Ukrainian army attacks and such “deserved decent wage,” the stream of recruits in the troops of the People’s Republic of Donetsk could grow. But that does not change the matter of principles regarding the social nature and goals of this war. People in general are leaving the region and those who can’t do so hide in basements. The general desire is that everything ends as quickly as possible. To speak of war in the region as a people’s war does not make even the slightest sense.
Myths about Russia
Myth #7 – Russia gets stronger on the world stage
The Western sanctions and the fall in oil prices, after which the Russian economy halted to a crawl, clearly demonstrates that Russia is nothing but a supplier of raw materials, dependent on Western loans and technologies. This is the direct result of the governments not only of Yeltsin, but also of Putin, during whose government the extraction of oil has nearly doubled, the debt with the Western banks nearly tripled and production started to rely on imported machinery and equipment, before the deterioration of those locally produced.
All the “grandeur of Russia” was best expressed by the chairman of VTB Bank, A. Kostin: “There is no discussion of non-payment on our part of the debt with the Western lenders or that we prepare ourselves to punish the West” (RBK , 01.21.2015). As the saying goes: “No provocation of the treacherous West will force great Russia to stop taking them money!”
The pro-regime media, propagandists of these myths so sweet to the “Russian soul” about the great Russia once again arising, conceal the growing dependence of the country towards the West. These myths are nothing but the spicy seasoning with which Putin serves the country to international capitalists on a platter, carrying out unpopular reforms and commanding aggression against other peoples. The very fact that Putin has lost Ukraine and is fighting to keep something in the region is proof not of the strengthening of Russia, but of the opposite.
Myth #8 – In Ukraine Russia is fighting the U.S., and this is good
The evidence of just how much Russia fights the United States is in the emptying of the New Russia [Novorossiya, name of the separatist part of Ukraine, editor’s note] by Putin [with the retreat or liquidation in the Donbass of the more radical nationalists who hoped to repeat the Crimean scenario on the Ukrainian east, wanted the war to go on until the bitter end and thus made it difficult for the Russian regime to negotiate with imperialism – editor’s note], which so displeased the supporters of the “Russian world” who have so little understanding of the real place occupied by Russia in the world. This whole situation shows clearly that Putin’s confrontation with imperialism is just a question of negotiating privileges. This policy is called “hold on, in order to sell for a higher price.” The population of the Donbass was turned into a bargaining chip in this Putinian game, and the thousands of dead and all the havoc caused in collateral damage.
Myth #9 – Russia plays a role of counterweight to the United States
Actually, the aggressive actions of Putin’s regime against Ukraine and other neighbors just make Russia looks like a “scarecrow”, as well as the US, in the eyes of the peoples of the world. Putin carries out an act of aggression against Ukraine, against our sister nation, with the purpose of maintaining the power and privileges of the Russian elite. He set fire to the war in the Donbass at the service of this goal. We should not be surprised that after all this, not only the Ukrainians turn away from Russia, but also the Belarusians, the Kazakh and other neighboring peoples, who understand quite well that the same might happen to them.
Putin is the great sower of Russophobia. The United States and the European Union, thanks to all this, have the rare opportunity of presenting themselves as “defenders” of the peoples of the region and will not fail to use the fears concerning Russia to place these people under their bloody wings. In fact, this is exactly what we are witnessing right now.
And it is exactly to the discussion of these myths we want to devote this article because we are forced to confront them every day in Russia.