Archive for the ‘International’ Category
US State Secretary lays flowers to Ukraine’s heroes from the Heavenly Hundred on March 4 in Kyiv.
Russia’s seizure of military control over Crimea has brought Ukraine to the brink of war. This crisis represents the coming together of three distinct conflicts.
First, there is the struggle that has been going on for more than a decade among the corrupt and thuggish bunch of oligarchs who have dominated Ukraine since independence in 1991.
Secondly, there has been a genuine popular movement against the now exiled president, Viktor Yanukovych. This has expressed anger at the corruption of the entire political elite in Ukraine.
Unfortunately, this movement harbours illusions in the European Union (EU). Moreover, thanks to the historic weakness of the left in Ukraine, the far right has played a significant role in the “Euromaidan” occupation in Kiev.
Nevertheless, those who claim Yanukovych’s overthrow was a “fascist coup” are parroting Moscow propaganda. He fell because the section of the oligarchy who had previously backed him withdrew their support.
Third, and now most important, is the inter-imperialist rivalry between Russia and the West over Ukraine. In this conflict, Ukraine matters much more to Russia than it does to the United States or the EU.
A Ukraine that was fully integrated into the EU and Nato would be a step towards Moscow’s worst nightmare of being encircled by the West. President Vladimir Putin went to war with Georgia in 2008 to prevent this nightmare being realised.
“Putin is engaging in an inter-imperialist power play.”
“Socialists in the West must of course oppose any military intervention by the US or NATO in Ukraine. But the crisis reminds us that imperialism can’t be reduced to American domination. It is a system of economic and geopolitical competition among the leading capitalist powers.
Rather than tail any of these powers, we must fight this entire system. This means opposing Russian intervention in Ukraine. Never has the slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism” been more relevant.”
This is a seriously thought-out analysis and, despite all the temptations to contradict the SWP, many of us will agree with comrade Callinicos.
The Stop the War Coalition says some of the same things.
This is highly relevant.
We should also take no lessons from those who have supported intervention in the past in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and who proposed major air strikes in Syria as recently as last August. Nor should we believe concerns about national sovereignty from countries which have launched drone attacks on Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
There are many political differences in Ukraine that can only be resolved politically and by respecting the language and civil rights of all concerned. But the background to this lies far beyond the borders of the Ukraine in terms of conflict between major powers.
The expansion of the EU and Nato eastwards has led to the growth of a neoliberal and militarised agenda in the region.
We disagree with this to the extent that it tilts towards exonerating Putin and other Russian leaders from their own responsibility for the crisis.
But, to those who do not instinctively bristle at the lectures on democracy given by American and European politicians,not to mention the show of U.S. support for Ukraine’s new leadership, Secretary of State John Kerry, we observe.
- Has the US “freedom agenda” achieved stable political liberty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?
- Did the US’s support for the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution”(2004 -5) create a solid democratic foundation for the country?
How have others on the left reacted to the issues the Ukraine face-to-face raises?
James Bloodworth provides a summary of the position of British left groups on Shiraz Socialist.
It would appear that few organised groups (apart from the Communist Party of Britain) hold the idea that the Ukraine has undergone a “fascist coup.”
James manages to find some statements by individuals, such as the flatulent Gorge Galloway, who rave against the “fascist and ultra nationalist coup in Kiev”.
But is this (Left Unity) part of making a “moral equivalence” between unwanted Russian military intervention in Ukraine and economic assistance requested by the Ukrainian government to support its ailing economy”?
Left Unity takes the position that there can only be a political solution to this crisis and that neither foreign military intervention nor foreign political and economic intervention provide the answers to Ukraine’s complex problems.
Whether under the flag of US, NATO, Russia or the European Union, military intervention only ever makes the situation many times worse. So it is in Ukraine. The West’s hypocrisy in condemning Russia for breaking international law is breathtaking: nevertheless, Russian troops hold no solution to the crisis.
A different reading would suggest that this about right. That there is no “political solution” worthy of support that encourages further steps on the neo-liberal road. Plans for drastic austerity in the Ukraine tend to demonstrate Left Unity’s point. It would be said that this is a position which represents the majority of the Left.
The majority of the left’s generally even-handed position contrasts with the hysteria whipped up by intellectuals such as Timothy Synder (Moscow is in thrall to a far-right Eurasian ideology), Anne Applebaum (Russia heads a new conservative International ) and Bernard-Henri Lévy (Putin is playing a Sudetenland over the Ukraine).
It is interesting that comrade Callinicos’ own even-handed stand has received a warm welcome from members of the Novueau Parti anticaptialiste (NPA). (Forum des marxistes révolutionnaires)
Their party has inclined to the opposite error: too great enthusiasm for the new government in Kiev and too much emphasis on the faults of Russia’s leaders in creating the crisis.
The French Communist Party has launched a declaration “Solidarité avec les communistes ukrainiens” against the country’s far-right – which has attacked their members and offices.
The PCF also declares in a formal statement,
For the last three months the Ukraine has been ablaze with a mercilessness struggle for power between oligarchs, all as corrupt and venal as each other, and who have been made wealthy thanks to neo-liberal policies backed as much by the European Union as by Russia.
The European Union, Russia, the USA – via NATO, or directly – have been engaged in outbidding each others, threatening the us of force, or military escalation. The Ukrainian people have been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
The French Communists warn of the danger of “groupes néo-nazis.” But they empathise that the need now is for all for immediate measures to be taken in the Ukraine to ensure that the people of the country take their own destiny in hand.
They call for an end to the “Logic of war” and the cynical “tête-à-tête” between the West and Russia.
It’s hard not to agree.
Bandera: Kiev City Hall.
Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong Mark Ames.
This is very important (Extracts with comments added).
Nearly everyone here in the US tries to frame and reify Ukraine’s dynamic to fit America-centric spats. As such, Ukraine’s problems are little more than a propaganda proxy war where our own political fights are transferred to Ukraine’s and Russia’s context, warping the truth to score domestic spat points.
(Apply with knobs on to the Western European left).
1. The protesters are not “virtuous anti-Putin freedom fighters,” nor are they “Nazis and US puppets”
In fact, the people who are protesting or supporting the protesters are first and foremost sick of their shitty lives in a shitty country they want to make better—a country where their fates are controlled by a tiny handful of nihilistic oligarchs and Kremlin overlords, and their political frontmen. It’s first and foremost a desire to gain some control over their fate. Anger at Kremlin power over Ukraine is not necessarily anti-Russian—although the further west you go in Ukraine, the more this does become about nationalism, and the further east you go—including Crimea and Odessa—the more the politics are a fearful reaction against west-Ukraine nationalism.
I add from Le Monde Diplomatique, November 2013.
Yanukovych may have permanently compromised Ukraine’s European prospects, yet he is not on the point of joining the customs’ union so dear to Putin. “The president and the oligarchs, the Donetsk clan [after a town in eastern Ukraine] are economic nationalists. They don’t want to abandon their sovereignty to the EU or to Russia,” said Taras Kuzio, a Ukrainian expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. “They would like to live in a pre-globalisation country, free of interference from both Moscow and Brussels.” Over the past few months the Family, as those close to the authoritarian Yanukovych are known, has consolidated its hold on the country and is trying to prevent any economic, political or legal power from challenging that hold.
According to Kuzio, the prevarications around Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister imprisoned since 2011 for abuse of power, are the result of “doublethink”. This allows the executive powers in Ukraine to dither between Brussels and Moscow, avoiding core issues that blight the country. In Kiev, the line between national autonomy and isolationism is blurred.
2. About Ukraine’s neo-fascists:
They’re definitely real, they’re a powerful minority in the anti-Yanukovych campaign—I’d say the neo-fascsists from Svoboda and Pravy Sektor are probably the vanguard of the movement, the ones who pushed it harder than anyone. Anyone who ignores the role of the neo-fascists (or ultranationalists, take your pick) is lying or ignorant, just as anyone who claims that Yanukovych answered only to Putin doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The front-center role of Svoboda and the neo-fascists in this revolution as opposed to the Orange Revolution is, I think, due to fact that the more smiley-face/respectable neoliberal politicians can’t rally the same fanatical support they did a decade ago. Eventually, even the co-leader of the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yushchenko, moved from “respectable” pro-EU neoliberalism to rehabilitating western Ukraine’s fascist mass-murderer,Stepan Bandera, which I wrote about in The Nation.
What role the neo-fascists and descendants of Bandera will play in the near-term future is the big question. Their role in the protest’s vanguard is definitely scaring a lot of people in the east of Ukraine and Crimea, and could precipitate a violent split. On the other hand, by far the most likely scenario is that the neo-fascist/ultranationalists in Svoboda will be absorbed into the pro-West coalition and politics, as they’re still a minority in the coalition. Neoliberalism is a big tent that is happy to absorb ultranationalists, democrats, or ousted president Yanukovych.
The power that the neo-fascists already have is bad enough, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of bullshit hype and propaganda about the neo-fascist threat. A perfect example of fascist-hype propaganda was recently published in Ha’aretz, headlined: “Ukrainian rabbi tells Kiev’s Jews to flee city”
The point is this: What’s happening in Ukraine is not a battle between pro-fascists and anti-fascists. There are fascists on both sides; the opposition happens to like fascist costume parties more, but watch this video of Yanukovych’s snipers murdering unarmed protesters and tell me who the real fascists are in this fight…
3. Everything you think you know about Ukraine is wrong.
Everyone looking for a proxy side to support or oppose in the Ukraine political dynamic will be disappointed. Ukraine politics go by their own rules. Today’s neoliberal ultranationalist could be tomorrow’s Kremlin ally, and visa-versa. Just look at what happened to the Orange Revolution—nothing. To wit:
a) One Orange Revolution leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, wound up turning against her partner Viktor Yushchenko and allying with Yanukovych to strip Yushchenko of presidential powers; later, Tymoshenko allied with the Kremlin against Yushchenko; now she’s free from jail and the presumptive leader of the anti-Yanukovych forces.
b) The other Orange leader—the pro-EU, anti-Kremlin Viktor Yushchenko—wound up allying with pro-Kremlin Yanukovych to jail Yulia Tymoshenko.
c) John McCain has been the big driving force for regime change against Yanukovych, but McCain’s 2008 campaign chief’s lobby firm, Davis Manafort, managed Yanukovych’s political campaigns and his lobbying efforts in the US.
d) Anthony Podesta, brother of President Obama’s senior advisor John Podesta, is anotherYanukovych lobbyist; John Podesta was the chief of Obama’s 2008 transition team.
4. Yanukovych was not fighting neoliberalism, the World Bank, or oligarchy — nor was he merely a tool of the Kremlin. (see Le Monde Diplomatique above)
In Ukraine, there is no populist left politics, even though the country’s deepest problem is inequality and oligarchy. Memories of the Soviet Union play a big role in turning people off to populist-left politics there, for understandable reasons.
But the Ukrainians do have a sense of people power that is rare in the world, and it goes back to the first major protests in 2000, through the success of the Orange Revolution. The masses understand their power-in-numbers to overthrow bad governments, but they haven’t forged a populist politics to change their situation and redistribute power by redistributing wealth.
So they wind up switching from one oligarchical faction to another, forming broad popular coalitions that can be easily co-opted by the most politically organized minority factions within—neoliberals, neofascists, or Kremlin tools. All of whom eventually produce more of the same shitty life that leads to the next revolution.
We have already referred to the NPA interview with Zakhar Popovych Ukraine “A mass revolt for democracy”.
It has now been fully translated into English here.
A further example, from the other side, is Socialist Unity’s claims, about “White House and European Union politicians, together with a compliant mass media, have eulogised the organisers of what can only be described accurately as a violent coup d’ etat and have averted their eyes from unappealing facts.”
Yet who can forget the ubiquitous (in the French media) Bernard-Henri Lévy
February the 9th Kiev’s Independence Square.
People of Maidan, brothers and sisters in Europe! I also want to tell you how many of us, from Paris to Berlin and elsewhere in Europe, have heard your message. I know that you feel alone. I know that you have the feeling of being abandoned by a Europe that, in turning its back on you, is turning its back on its very substance. That is true. But it is also true that you have friends in the societies of Europe. And even here in Kiev, in European diplomatic posts, you have discreet allies who share your spirit and are working in your favor. They are your hope; but you are theirs. If they give up on you, you lose; but if you lose, they lose as well. They know that. We all know it. Millions of us have understood that our own fate is being played out here, in Independence Square, which you have renamed Europe Square.
It is my firm intention, upon my return to France, to proclaim it loud and clear: no visas for the goons who, like Louis XIV when he had “Ultima Ratio Regis” engraved on his cannons, are threatening to storm Maidan; a freezing of their assets in every bank in the European Union as well as in the tax havens whose doors we now know how to break down. There is a whole range of sanctions that the democracies can apply, and we must not let anyone forget it. The president of my country will soon meet with the president of the United States. Who knows? Perhaps Mr. Hollande will be able to convince Mr. Obama to join once more in an initiative to save this kidnapped piece of Europe.
People of Maidan–one last word. I leave you with a heavy heart because I know that in the coming days anything can happen, even, alas, the worst. In the long history of people affirming their sovereign rights by occupying the squares and places of their cities, we remember the Place de la Bastille in Paris or Wenceslas Square in Prague, and even the Agora in Athens. At the same time we cannot help but remember that other model, the anti-model: Tiananmen Square and the rebellion that was drowned in blood! But know, too, that as I leave you I am filled with immense admiration for the courage, the self-control, the wisdom, and the restraint that you have exemplified for the world. Your weapon is your self-control. Your strength is the calm determination, unmarred by pathos, shown by everyone from Lisa, who runs the canteen that feeds Maidan, Vitali Klitschko, the former boxer who one day may be the president of the new Ukraine–all of whom have told me that nothing will stop the ethos of Maidan.
Your strength also lies in the spirit of responsibility–I was going to say, of discipline–with which you maintain your barricades and, behind those barricades, take care of the part of the city that you have liberated. For a single word covers both the tending of cities and the quality of civilizations. Civilized–in my language as in that of the fresco artists who, in the tenth century, painted the praying Virgin, hands raised in a sign of peace, in your Saint Sophia cathedral–describes both the lover of civitas and the carrier of civilization. And, yes, your strength is that great civilization of which you are a part, despite that piece of Europe’s tragic and criminal history that haunts you, just as it does all the peoples of the continent. Before Russia existed, Ukraine and Kiev flowered. There is in every citizen of Maidan more history and culture than in the braggart of Sochi, the would-be Tarzan who is more like a Popeye, a paper tiger and a real enemy of Saint Sophia and her wisdom. It is for that reason that you will win. It is for that reason that, sooner or later, you will overcome master Putin and his valet, Yanukovych.
I welcome you to Europe.
(From here. Also reproduced in the Wall Street Journal).
Compare and contrast with Mark Ames.
‘Right-Sector’ in Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine is too serious to make facile judgements.
Apart from condemning state and all brutality what can we offer?
The left in Europe cannot honestly say that they have an answer.
The ingrained tendency to play fantasy Premier league political football in these conditions has so far not been much in evidence.
True the Nouveau Parti anticaptialiste has published an interview titled, describing the crisis as ”Une révolte de masse d’Ukrainiens pour la démocratie»
But the information in the NPA piece belies the headline.
Zakhar Popovych represents a small group, Left Opposition. It has published a Manifesto,
“Our hope is that the protest movement, spurred to action by social injustice, might ultimately eradicate the root causes of this injustice. We believe that the cause of most social problems is the oligarchy that formed as a result of unbridled capitalism and corruption. It is important to limit the egotistic interests of our oligarchs, instead of relying on the help of Russia or the IMF, with the consequent national dependence. We believe that it is harmful to add our voices to the demands for Euro-integration; instead, we need to clearly delineate the changes necessary to support the interests of ordinary citizens, especially hired labourers. On several occasions, we cite the progressive experiences of a few European states that have taken similar measures.”
But the representative of the group, interviewed by the NPA, admits that the far-right and nationalists have effectively corned them. He underlines the presence of the neo-Nazis. Hard-right groups are leading the battles. Nobody else gives much evidence of a left presence in the protests.
An autonomist site (Timothy Eastman) carries this information,
Sascha: There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.
Mira: The two biggest groups are Svoboda and Pravy Sektor (Right Sector). The defense forces aren’t 100% Pravy but a large percentage is.
S: Svoboda is more legal as a group, but they also have an illegal militant faction. Pravy Sektor is more illegal, but they want to usurp Svoboda.
M: There’s a lot of infighting between Pravy and Svoboda. They worked together during the violence but now everything is calm so there’s time to focus on each other. Pravy and Svoboda both take donations and they have lots of money. Recently Pravy has all these new uniforms, military fatigues.
One of the worst things is that Pravy has this official structure. They are coordinated. You need passes to go certain places. They have the power to give or not give people permission to be active. We’re trying to be active but we have to avoid Nazis, and I’m not going to ask a Nazi for permission!
S: A group of 100 anarchists tried to arrange their own self-defense group, different Anarchist groups came together for a meeting on the Maidan. While they were meeting a group of Nazis came in a larger group, they had axes and baseball bats and sticks, helmets, they said it was their territory. They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists. There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult. The Anarchists weren’t expecting this and they left. People with other political views can’t stay in certain places, they aren’t tolerated.
S: Nazi groups are also trying to mimic leftists, to try to ingratiate themselves. They use anarchist vocabulary, words like “autonomous.” One group of the ugliest Nazis is now doing this by calling themselves “Autonomous Resistance.” They’ve had lots of success with this tactic.
They attract some Anarchists who think they’re changing the Nazis, but really the Nazis are changing them.” They’re becoming more nationalistic, they have more more anti-feminist views, etc. Now is when Anarchists need to speak out and be louder.
Two symbols that could be found at EuroMaidan. The Celtic Cross (l) is a common symbol representing white supremacy. The Wolfsangel(r) was a symbol used by several divisions of the SS during World War II and now represents Neo-Nazism.
S: There’s a whole spectrum of Nationalists represented. They divide themselves into groups with their own symbols. They want support so they don’t use Nazi or fascist symbols so much. They use symbols that are recognizable to other fascistic people, but look innocuous to anyone else. For example there is a special eagle symbol. It’s drawn a certain way, it doesn’t look like anything unless you know the meaning.
No one has any idea how this could turn out, what form a new government could take. The fascist groups don’t have common aims, they know what they’re opposed to, and that they’re opposed to each other, but they don’t all want the same things. If Pravy has positions in a new government that would be really dangerous but that isn’t possible, they aren’t powerful enough.
M: People have these chants: “Glory Ukraine,” “Glory to Heroes,” “Death to Enemies.” But who are these heroes, who are these enemies? I don’t think they have any idea. “Ukraine Above All” is one, just like they used to chant in Germany.
Perhaps the last word should go to Zakhar Popovych,
“ Malheureusement le scénario le plus probable est la mise en place d’un régime de droite, autoritaire et nationaliste.”
Unfortunately the most probable scenario is that a right-wing nationalist and authoritarian regime will be placed in power.
Updates: This article claims to refute evidence that there is a fascist component (it describes this as ‘fringe’) in the Ukrainian movement. KYIV’S EUROMAIDAN IS A LIBERATIONIST AND NOT EXTREMIST MASS ACTION OF CIVIC DISOBEDIENCE.
No doubt there are many political forces in play in the Ukrainian movements. It would have been more convincing if it did not make such an exaggerated claim about the “liberation” goals of the protest, and addressed the actual nature of a key political force (and party), Svoboda.
On this see l’Humanité “Ukraine: le parti Svoboda est fasciste”.