The first and most important definition of Ukraine is that in that country a revolutionary process began the first phase of which reached its pinnacle with the fall of Yanukovich in February 2013.
Great part of the world left grouped in the Castro-Chavist trend rallied in defence of this corrupt administration, accomplices of oligarchy and imperialism, with the alibi that it was all about a coup from the right. They wish to rebut the undisputed fact that a government identified with Russian oppression was defeated by a broad and prolonged people’s mobilisation.
The great argument of Castro-Chavists is the strength of neo-Nazi in the mobilisation and in the new government. Nevertheless, the June elections, after the Maidan rebellion, showed the real weight of these sectors. The main neo-Nazi group, Svoboda (Freedom) receded from the 10.5% achieved in the 2012 sectors to 1.17% of the votes. The Praviy Sector (Sector on the Right), another neo-Nazi group, achieved a mere 0.67%. The truth is that the great popular rebellions that shook Egypt and Tunisia have now reached Europe. They bring forth the tremendous power of the masses in the streets with such moving episodes as the resistance of thousands of people on Maidan Square even when the increasingly authoritarian government sent to repress the demonstrators. These rebellious masses got self-organised overcame the leaders who proposed an agreement with Yanukovich in order to call for elections in December.
An activist seized a microphone, rejected the agreement and said that if Yanukovich did not come, the following morning the crowd would invade the palace and seek him out. Immediately, the president fled. And the masses occupied the public buildings.
Simultaneously, these gigantic mobilisations brought forth the countless confusions caused by the post- European east decline in awareness and, above all, due to the absence of a revolutionary proletarian leadership of the masses that would to run for the post of leaders of the process. This was to become visible in the fragility of their self-organisation, which was soon dissolved, in the absence of the proletariat organised as a class, in the expectations that EU aroused.
The masses in their motion could tumble the government, but could not by themselves build an alternative. That is why it was possible for the Ukrainian bourgeoisie to channel the great rebellion of Maidan towards bourgeois democracy via democratic reaction and elect Poroshenko by 54% of the votes. One of the greatest Ukrainian bourgeois – one of the oligarchs that led the country to the current situation gave in the heroic mass mobilization.
Actually, this has been the second episode of popular rebellion toppling a government in the immediate past. IN 2004, the so-called “orange revolution” prevented Yanukovich from getting into the office by means of a gigantic fraud.
But the mechanics of the revolutionary process is still going on. The decadence of the country and the poverty or the people which have been getting worse and worse since the restoration of capitalism have been the material bases that spawned the “orange revolution” and today’s Maidan.
This will be getting much worse with the IMF plan assumed by the new government. Gas pipelines that carry gas that comes from Russia to Europe and the mines and this increases the price of gas by 50% and electricity by sever reduction of subsidies, and layoffs of 20% of labour force in the state-owned sector. The 50% devaluation of Ukrainian currency has already made all the imported products much more expensive. The Free Trade Agreement with the EU signed now, on the 27th June, will open Ukrainian frontiers and so the decadence and deindustrialization of the country will be accelerated.
The national issue is another engine for the revolutionary process. Ukraine has been an independent country only since 1991. It has been oppressed by czarism and by Stalinism, which accentuated the Great-Russian. It was occupied by Nazism and even now after obtaining formal independence; it is still brutally oppressed by Russia and by European imperialism. Nothing that is progressive will come from Russia, the next-door sub-metropolis, what wished to keep control over most of the country and not to mention the European Union. The Free Trade Agreement with EU, the application of the IMF plan and the privatisation of the gas pipelines are qualitative steps in the direction of re-colonising Ukraine. Ever since these agreements, this country can be regarded a semi-colony of European Union.
The expectations of the Ukrainian people as far as the EU is concerned stand in strong contrast with the reality of the rest of the continent.
Only the Ukrainian proletariat – provided their class awareness is recomposed and provided they can take on a position independent from the various options associated with bourgeois EU bloc and from Putin – will be able to offer a socialist revolutionary alternative to build an independent, free and united Ukraine. And this is expressed in a party, a leadership that will face the struggle to empower the working class.
A history of great defeats
Ukraine is one of the largest and most popular countries in Europe. Its territory is larger than that of all the imperialist powers on the continent, such as Germany, Italy, England, France or Spain. It has very fertile land; it is regarded as the “Breadbasket of Europe” (in 2011, it was the third greatest exporter of corn in the world) and a well-developed industrial park.
In the XVIII century, Ukraine was divided between the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Western Ukraine) and the Russian Empire (Eastern Ukraine). The 1917 revolution spawned the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the eastern part that later on joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, created in 1922. A revolution broke out in the western with a different end: the West Ukrainian People’s Republic that was defeated and incorporated into Poland.
During the short period of the first seven years of the Russian Revolution there was some headway towards the solution of the national problem in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic with important recovery of the language and culture; it was known as “Ukranization”. It was an example for the other part of the country that was, at that time was enslaved by Poland, as well as for all the oppressed peoples on the continent.
However, the Stalinist counterrevolution reversed all this brutally. Forced “Russification” of the country repressed any claim to independence. Together with the national problem there was the violent social commotion. The forced collectivisation of the countryside imposed by Stalinism in the entire Soviet Union met severe resistance among the peasantry of the country, which produced between five million and six million deaths.
The unity of the USSR, which was beginning to become strengthened by the conviction, turned into centrifugal tendency of hatred of Ukrainian masses against Russian oppression.
The 1929 Stalin-Hitler agreement allowed the red army to invade Western Ukraine and to unite the country under Russian boots- When the Nazi armies split away from Stalin and occupy Ukraine, and episode took place, which revealed the total failure of Stalinist policy in the resolution of the Ukrainian national question: there were entire region of Western Ukraine where the Nazis were welcomed as liberators. But the Nazi occupation also spawned strong opposition of the Ukrainian people.
By the end of the II World War, most of Ukraine was reunited under the control of the USSR and once more a bureaucratised workers’ state was established and submitted to Russian bureaucracy.
Independence associated to restoration of capitalism
In 1991, the fall of Stalinist dictatorships in the East of Europe made the call for a referendum for the independence of the country possible and this decided the independence of the country. Ukraine as an independent state in the middle of Europe has been there for not more than 23 years. The national feelings have been exacerbated by the oppression but at the same time, it is a fragile state, unable to prevail against the oppressive powers.
But the long sought independence of the country did not bring the expected improvement. Restoration of capitalism had produced strong economic decadence, with a 60% loss of the GDP between 1991 and 1999. The standard of living of workers was severely affected and such achievements as full employment and high quality public services. People once again met poverty.
Bureaucrats who controlled the country appropriated state enterprises and became the new bourgeoisie. People call them “oligarchs” of the country; they are the new multimillionaires that have become the ruling elite. The features of their exploitation are typical for any other bourgeoisie associated with the brutality of bureaucracies.
This phenomenon does not belong to Ukraine alone but to the entire European east. In Russia, Abramovich, the new bourgeois who appropriated the state company of oil in Russia re-sold it at 13 billion dollars. At present he is the owner of Chelsea, one of the greatest football teams in England.
Akhmetov, the greatest of the Ukrainian oligarchs appropriated the state-owned mines and is the owner of Shaktar, the most important football team in the country. He had very close relations with Yanukovich and now he defends the EU. Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the “orange revolution” against the Russian revolution is one of the richest women in the country and has been imprisoned for gigantic fraud in the negotiations of gas in Russia itself. Yanukovich was jailed for theft and overtly corrupt. His palace with gold faucets was visited by rebellious masses of Maidan.
Ukrainian bourgeoisie is divided into two sectors: one sector that depends mainly on exports to Russia and the other that is oriented towards European Union. Quite often, a sector may oscillate from one side to the other depending on their immediate interests. They all depend on financial international capital.
Poroshenko, the recently elected president is part of the same oligarchy. He is the owner of the greatest chocolate factory, of several companies producing and selling cars and of a TV channel. For many years, he used to be the chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine and agent of the privatisation of the state-owned producer of iron that was worth a billion dollars and was sold for 80 million. He was Yanukovich’s Minister of Trade and Economy, but as soon as he detected the crisis, he abandoned the ship and joined the Maidan movement.
This new ruling class commands the country ever since the restoration of capitalism but they have had no success at stabilising a bourgeois democracy. The result was a rebellion known as “orange revolution” because of the colour of the opposing candidate, Victor Yuschchenko in the elections. The rebellion was victorious and led to the first removal of the first removal of Yanukovich and it catapulted Yushchenko and his deputy, Yulia Tymoshenko.
This new government was soon eroded and sank in the economic crisis and corruption. Yanukovich won once again in the 2010 elections and was once again toppled during the revolutionary mobilisation of Maidan last year.
It is now Poroshenko’s turn, another member of oligarchy and it is his turn to try and impose the toughest plan of austerity ever put into practice in that country.
The pressure of the Russian sub-metropolis
The Russia that emerged from the capitalist restoration suffered a brusque drop in global relationship between the states. The USSR got to be the second largest economy, behind the USA alone. Today’s Russia has a GDP lower than in Brazil.
Even with the bureaucratic state, which stultified growth of the country, Russian people had full employment and their health service and education were free and of good quality. Today, poverty and unemployment are part of Russian reality, the same as in other capitalist countries.
Russia is a new sub-metropolis, relocated on the world market, essentially as supplier of energy (particularly gas and oil). In the same manners as China is the “factory of the world” India produces software and products of informatics, Brazil exports minerals and farming products and Russia exports energy. It still has a gigantic army and an important nuclear arsenal. They have military bases abroad that act in defence of their interests as the defence of Assad in Syria and Yanukovich in Ukraine, or Governments as in Ossetia and Armenia in the Caucasus and Tajikistan in Central Asia.
It used to be a superpower that used to share power all over the world with American imperialism. It did not turn into a new imperialist country as many sectors of the left believe it did; it has become a sub-metropolis of imperialism.
Such sub-metropolis as Brazil or India depends on imperialism and, on the other hand, they exert oppression over other, more fragile countries. Russia is a special case precisely because it stems out of restoration of capital in the superpower Soviet Union. That is to say: the level from which they are falling is much higher than any other sub-metropolis.
They exert much greater pressure on the neighbouring countries that other sub-metropolis can do. The oppression is even greater over other Eastern countries, particularly over those that were part of the former Soviet Union and those neighbouring with Ukraine. Russia is their senior partner, absorbing 30% of their exports. Pipelines pass through Ukraine carrying Russian gas to Europe as well as all the gas used in Ukraine.
At present, Putin is pressing the new Ukrainian administration to pay more for the gas. He threatens with suspension of supplies and this would have extremely serious consequences because it would affect heating homes in extremely cold regions.
The current capitalist Russian pressures on Ukraine come on top of the secular oppression of the tsarist and Stalinist Russia.
The impasse over Ukrainian East
As we can read in the IWL-FI Statement on Ukraine, anger against the Kiev government and their IMF plan is being detoured by counterrevolutionary leaders in the Ukrainian East. The separatist movement of Donetzk and Lugansk imposed a questionable referendum and declared the independence of these regions.
The possibility of a struggle of the Ukrainian proletariat against the Kiev administration is being aborted by pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders in East of Ukraine who are boosting separatist armed militias.
The Kiev administration reacted with a military offensive – including air raids against their own people – that has already caused hundreds of deaths. We are against the offensive of Kiev that brings the re-colonisation of the country by European imperialism. We are against the military actions of separatist militias.
We reject both bourgeois political blocks that oppress Ukraine. We are against the block surrounding the Poroshenko administration that has full support from European and from American imperialisms. We are against the bourgeois block of Putin and his political agents in Ukrainian East.
We extend this position to the military scope and we refuse to support the Bonapartist offensive of Kiev, just as we grant no military support to the activity of the pro-Russian separatist militias. We defend the unity of Ukraine and its independence in relation to the EU as well as in relation to Russia.
We are for Ukrainian working class and toiling masses defeating both bourgeois and oppressive options by means of their own mobilisation and self-organised struggle. The Eastern proletariat – as they have already tried – must defeat the action of the pro-Russian separatists. And the Ukrainian proletariat as a whole must stop the Kiev army.
The proposed ceasefire and peace plans of the Poroshenko government leave no room for true peace prospects. Poroshenko starts from an offensive position of strength relying on Putin’s passivity. Satisfied with the annexation of Crimea and in quest of resuming the agreement with imperialism, Russian administration negotiates with Kiev and does not guarantee support for the armed struggle of separatist militias who are getting weaker and weaker.
In the Ukrainian East neo-Nazi groups – such as the Vostok Battalion and the Oplot, operate the same as in Maidan and they refer to this region by its old tsarist denomination: “Neo Russia”. Unlike what the Castro-Chavist trends assert, there is a considerable weight of these neo-Nazi sectors in the East.
Firstly, because Putin has active support from these countless neo-Nazi groups in Russia that are directly involved in the armed struggle on the Ukrainian East. Putin does not lead a fascist administration but authoritarian Bonapartist one. But it is supported by countless neo-fascist groups. An example is “Union of Euro Asiatic Youth”, an organisation of extreme right, pro-Putin, founded by the Russian neo-fascist, Aleksandr Dugin.
Putin can rely on the support from European extreme right, as that of Marine Le Pen, Leader of the (French) National Front, who said, “He is aware that we defend shared values”. The leader of the Austrian extreme right, Party of Freedom, (EPÖ), Heinz Christian Strache, identified Putin as “Pure democrat, with an authoritarian style.”
The movement hinging round Maidan spawned great mass mobilisations. This is no happening in the Ukrainian East, where the confrontations involve essentially the separatist militias on one side and the Kiev army on the other.
Perhaps this reality can be explained by the situation of the masses in the East. There are no great mobilisations because – at least so far – no great inclination of the workers to risk their lives for the cause of the cause of separatism. This may be so because they are against the Kiev government, but they mistrust these pro-Russian leaderships. They may be for independence but not annexation to Russia which is what the separatist militias defend.
So far, this is the fact: these separatist leaders have failed at spawning great mobilisations. The other fact is that they have recoiled from their bases and they lost Harkov, Odessa and Mariupol and are cantered in Donetzk and Lugansk.
East Ukrainian proletariat is the greatest and most concentrated in the country. They have an enormous tradition of heroic struggles. Their vanguard used to be the miners of Donbass, who reached their pinnacle during the processes of struggle against Gorbachov and the entire CPSU apparatus from 1989 to 1991. Later on they lost their might and organisation and their leaders were co-opted by the new oligarchs.
In spite of the import of the Russian language and the attraction of the standard of living in Russia (in spite of the whole crisis, it is still much higher than in Ukraine) we cannot mechanically regard this proletariat as a basis of support for the separatist movement. It should be enough to remember that in 1991, voted for independence from Russia with 90% of the votes.
Budding support of workers for an alternative contrary to the separatists and favourable to a joint struggle of the entire Ukrainian proletariat: as in Krivoy Rog, Krasnodon and Chernograd.
The revolutionary process in Ukraine has just begun. It will have ups and downs. It will become manifest as the IMF plans are put into practice and the oligarch Poroshenko administration suffers the unavoidable erosion.
It is in those still fragile points that the new alternative, a third camp, must be built hinging round the proletariat independent from the two bourgeois blocks: the pro EU administration and the one pro Russia one – as well as from any of the sectors of the bourgeois oligarchy. It is necessary to aim at strategic perspective for the socialist revolution with workers in power, the only alternative to achieve a free, independent and united Ukraine.
If this is to be attained, it will be necessary to unite the revolutionary vanguard in a socialist party to rescue the Bolshevik tradition of responding to the national question.