Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Ukraine, Everything You Know May be Wrong.

with 23 comments

Bandera: Kiev City Hall. 

Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong Mark Ames.

This is very important (Extracts with comments added).

Hat-Tip Jim.

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.

(Note But….)

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. 


Written by Andrew Coates

February 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm

23 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. My gut instinct is that Ames has it about right: not underestimating the nationalist/fascist elements in the opposition, but not exaggerating them either. The Morning Star (whose editorial yesterday was republished at Socialist Unity) has been near-hyserical, today reporting “marauding nazi hordes” at unspecified locatations “outside Kiev.”

    Why don’t these people just come out with it: that when push comes to shove, they support Putin?

    The claims (also repeated at Socialist Unity) of anti-Semitic attacks also turn out to be a lot of hooey (see report yesterday in the Jerusalem Post), though Jewish fears are understandable given Ukranian history.

    Thanks for drawing our attention to this very informative article.

    Jim Denham

    February 25, 2014 at 1:35 pm

  2. This is a coup if ever there was one, an elected government driven out of office by’ street thuggery’. If these were Muslims the decents would be quoting the protocols of the elders of Zion and warning us of impemnding doom, but street fascists in the Ukraine are nothing to worry about folks!

    It is quite similar to Egypt, in that the new despots are banning the elected party, arresting it’s members and seriously intimidating anyone who questions it’s authority. The next few months will be one of serious fear spreading, making sure the opposition don’t counter attack.

    I though the imperialists wanted to split Ukraine in2 but they want want the lot and they will use all force necessary to quell he opposition. But will they get away with it?

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    February 25, 2014 at 1:47 pm

  3. BTW,

    I agree that the nature of the opposition, like in Syria, is being over-exaggerated. I am just amused at the endless double standards of the drone supporting left, on full display even when trying to point out some double standards by the genuine left!

    But this is another example and proof beyond any reasonable doubt that the anti imperialist left are correct, the decents are nothing but mouthpieces for imperialism. Nothing more and nothing less.

    Now let us call on the British people to follow the great example of the Ukrainian opposition!

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    February 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm

  4. Incoherence in One Bedroom (above).

    Jim Denham

    February 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

  5. I suspect that the far-right elements will be able to capitalise on their vanguard role in recent events in the longer term when the incoming government starts to unravel and proves to be as corrupt and venal as any preceding one. Then they will be able to step forward as the ‘clean’, as it were, participants in the fall of Yanukovich. They will play the longer game here. It is noteworthy that many Western media reports have downplayed the leading part played by the fascists in recent events.

    As for anti-Semitic actions, there was an arson attack on a shul in Zaporizhia, the next big city down the Dnieper from Kiev, the other day. The Ukrainian far-right, like their parallels in Greece and Hungary, are openly anti-Semitic and don’t bother hide or downplay this side of their politics, like Western European fascists tend to do.

    As for Socialism in One Bedroom’s statement about an elected government being driven out by street thuggery, might not this have been stated about the fall of Ted Heath’s Tory government back in 1974? Yanukovich may well have been fairly elected, but the popular discontent against his corrupt and repressive policies, whatever we feel about the politics of some of the opposition, was surely valid. Left-wingers in Ukraine would surely not have defended his government, they would have protested against it, whilst trying to influence other protesters to take a class-based course of action.

    Dr Paul

    February 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm

  6. Jim, it is a good article isn’t it?

    Not surprised when I just noticed Lois Proyect re-blogged it.


    You can see that Louis has his own Beddy Boy who makes this comment, “You know Marxists are supposed to hate their bosses and their policies, when did you all start to love them.”

    Andrew Coates

    February 25, 2014 at 2:54 pm

  7. Latest news: Oleg Makhnitski, a lawyer in the Svoboda Party, has been appointed the prosecutor general. Ukraine now has its very own Roland Freisler.

    Dr Paul

    February 25, 2014 at 4:43 pm

  8. Louis Proyect is, of course, not part of the drone supporting left. So I would make a very definite distinction between his brand of leftism and the sort on display here!

    I guess the drone supporting left’s consistent support of imperialist interest is the mirror image of idiot anti imperialism. Only, with idiot anti imperialism at least they take a robust opposition to the domestic their oppressors. You are simply cheerleaders.

    Denham is a classic example of decency in action, every whiff of anti Semitism among some Muslim group is highlighted, blown up and provided as proof of the anti imperialists descent into clerical fascism, while in Ukraine the far right fascists are simply ignored, played down and accomodated, all in the name of pro imperialism.

    The evidence is now beyond doubt, decency = imperialist apology. Nothing more and nothing less.

    That is all you have to offer boys.

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    February 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm

  9. What makes the clients of imperialists so dangerous is that there is no real limit to the force they can use to put down the opposition. When the ousted elected government of Ukraine put down the armed revolt they were pilloried at the highest levels of the ruling elite.

    Imperialism highlighted and denounced every act of force as an act of terror and criminality. But when the new despots use lethal force and ‘all necessary means’ they will be protected by their imperialist backers.

    Never will there have been a more dangerous time to speak out against authority than in Ukraine right now.

    When the dust settles the depots will appear in the clothing of democrats and liberals and will lecture everyone on the merits of these high ideals!

    We should assume that the drone supporting left also support imperialist efforts to destabilise Venezuela and roll back the advances made in South America. Decency, of course, does all it can to play down the achievements of the progressive developments in South America. They follow their imperialist masters in playing up the authoritarian tendencies of the movement.

    Although, when reading the drone supporting left you would be forgiven for thinking that imperialism had any involvement at all. No, instead the decents trawl the internet looking for articles that chime with the imperialist script. All quite laughable.

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    February 25, 2014 at 5:49 pm

  10. Political illiteracy in One bedroom (above).

    Jim Denham

    February 25, 2014 at 7:36 pm

  11. On the far-right in the Ukraine.

    Just published, Le Monde Diplomatique.

    En Ukraine, les ultras du nationalisme.

    Les extrêmes droites gagnent du terrain en Europe, même si nombre d’entre elles cherchent à se parer d’habits neufs (lire « Extrêmes droites mutantes en Europe » et « Le Front national sur un plateau »). De toute évidence, de tels mouvements jouent un rôle en Ukraine. Svoboda ou, plus radical encore, Praviy Sektor espèrent profiter de la révolte populaire contre le système corrompu du président Viktor Ianoukovitch.
    par Emmanuel Dreyfus, mars 2014


    You have to subscribe (which I do) to get the full article.

    Andrew Coates

    February 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm

  12. Also, Svoboda’s links with the Front National:

    “tout le monde connait le rôle de Svoboda dans les révoltes Ukrainiennes de ces dernières semaines pour rapprocher l’Ukraine de l’Europe, avec l’appui de BHL et sa bande, mais personne dans les médias ne relaye le fait que ce parti nationaliste avait conclu un protocole d’accords avec le FN en 2009.”


    Andrew Coates

    February 26, 2014 at 1:42 pm

  13. Svoboda have also got links with the NPD and have visited Germany and met the leadership and their parliamentarians in Saxony. Left Party MPs were hounded upon in the Bundestag last week for daring to point this out.

    To avoid linking to the NPD website (google “Swoboda” and “NPD”) , their publically accessible Facebook page has a report and photos – https://www.facebook.com/npd.de/posts/10151517662984584


    February 26, 2014 at 4:00 pm

  14. More photos here:

    Bottom left is a picture of a Svoboda leader with then NPD leader Holger Apfel, who was recently forced out of the party over accusations of sexual harrassment of young male fascist youths and closet homosexuality. The main thing Apfel’s NPD campaigned for was “Death Penalty for Child Abusers” with a heavy homophobic tone. Apfel’s “resignation” may explain why the NPD have been so quiet over the Edathy case.


    February 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm

  15. NPA reognises a few problems in all this,

    Today, according to the NPA the presence of the far-right has “muddied the waters” for a a “broad popular moblisation” and is the result of the absence of a credible left presence – itself divided over how to relate to said “board popular moblisation”) (Finalement, en l’absence d’alternative de gauche crédible – renforcée par les divisions quant à l’attitude à adopter par rapport à ce mouvement – le poids de l’extrême droite (surtout dans l’ouest et le centre du pays) a encore plus brouillé les cartes d’une mobilisation populaire large…)

    The presence of Svoboda in the government has as a result created a problem in that it risks provoking trouble in the Eastern regions of the country and conflict with Russia (’intégration de Svoboda – dont le nationalisme ethnique vante l’Ukraine «européenne» contre la non-Ukraine «asiatique» russophone – dans le «gouvernement d’union», aggrave dramatiquement les risques d’affrontement dans l’est du pays). ”

    Full statatement http://npa2009.org/content/ukraine-quelle-victoire

    Andrew Coates

    February 26, 2014 at 5:53 pm

  16. “Political illiteracy in One bedroom (above).”

    This is pretty typical of Denham. Statements should be backed up by argument or they are meaningless.

    The far right in Ukraine will be sidelined by the new ‘liberal’, western looking regime, and they will use all force necessary to, not only ‘sideline’ the far right, but also to put down the main opposition. This is a very classic coup. The new ‘liberal’ elite, who came into power by suspending any pretence of democratic and liberal processes, will then lecture everyone on the merits of these lofty ideas, all to maintain their own brand of authoritarianism.

    What is staggering is that anyone who claims to be on the left would not be going out of their way to point out the utter hypocrisy and criminality of the imperialists. Except, the left are going out of their way to highlight this.

    The drone supporting left do what they always do, find a way, by hook or by crook, to represent the imperialist interest as the universal interest of humanity.

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    February 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm

  17. Wanking In One Bedroom: “Statements should be backed up by argument or they are meaningless”.
    So let’s have one single, solitary example of where I support drone attacks.
    If you can’t produce a quote, then STFU.

    Jim Denham

    February 27, 2014 at 8:09 pm

  18. From a discussion I’ve been having elsewhere.

    Much as I dislike the lot now making up the Kiev government — Svoboda members of the government are Oleksandr Sych, deputy prime minister; Andriy Mokhnyk, ecology minister; Ihor Shvaik, agriculture minister; Oleg Mokhnytsky, general prosecutor; Andriy Parubiy, the commander of the paramilitary Samooborona, or Self Defence, the new head of the national security, has a fascist past, although he’s currently a member of the Fatherland Party — I don’t see anything progressive about Russian machinations in the east of the country. Russian interventions, or pro-Russian manifestations from Eastern Ukrainians, even if in response to genuine fascist provocations or common-or-garden anti-Russian chauvinism, are no answer and merely serve to raise nationalist tensions.

    As the new PM has announced that any Common Market money has very harsh conditions — neo-liberal ‘reforms’, and we know what that means from the Greek experience — the left in Ukraine has a chance to advance an anti-austerity programme. That the fascists have joined the government might eventually be to the advantage of the left, as they might be discredited when the consequences of neo-liberalism come to be felt. Golden Dawn has shown some tactical nous by not joining the Greek government, and are playing the longer game. Against that, one might argue that Jobbik’s joining the Hungarian government hasn’t done it much harm and has given it an effective platform. Anyway, irrespective of fascists’ tactics, for the left in any part of Ukraine to get mixed up in nationalist agitation would be a big mistake.

    Dr Paul

    February 28, 2014 at 11:42 pm

  19. the left in Ukraine has a chance to advance an anti-austerity programme. That the fascists have joined the government might eventually be to the advantage of the left

    Correct, Dr. Paul, but I have to ask, *who* or *where* is this “left in Ukraine”? Is there anything else apart from the local proto-CPSU-CPRF, the Communist Party of Ukraine, whose newspaper is presumably called “Soviet Ukraine” and when I was in Kiev a few years ago, their only (to me) visible presence seemed to be an – unattended – hut with party logo on the outsiside, and a load of dishevelled soviet flags at that Lenin statue close to the Maidan that was demolished a few weeks back.

    I would hope that there is, but I doubt it, at least not on a scale that would make such an organisation or alliance of organisations viable to be able to run a campaign advancing such an anti-austerity programme. Please prove me wrong and unduly pessimistic.


    March 1, 2014 at 12:38 am

  20. There are small left currents in Ukraine that are not affiliated with the old Stalinist parties or off-shoots thereof; I don’t have details to hand just now (I don’t have access to my bookmarks), but I’ve been reading some material by them over the last few months. The left in Ukraine is small and has not had a wonderful time during the EuroMaiden business, being roughed up by fascists on occasion, but it is trying to give some left-wing alternative to the various brands of bourgeois politics on offer, and also trying, in its English-language pages, to counter the commonplace misconceptions and distortions in the Western media about events in Ukraine.

    As for fascists getting involved in events in Ukraine, further to four of the Svoboda types joining the Kiev cabinet, I read yesterday that Zhirinovsky, the Russian fascist, is strutting around the Crimea. That’s just in case anyone here feels that there is something positive about the Russian involvement in the Crimea, that it has some anti-fascist dimension.

    Dr Paul

    March 1, 2014 at 5:26 pm

  21. I’m not sure that the tendency of left groups to find ‘their’ own groups helps in this Paul.

    The material coming out from the Fourth International (the largest of the left non-CP groups with a presence in many countries) has been slanted towards a rather rosy picture of the forces opposed to the previous Ukrainian President.

    Some already mentioned here illustrate this point, ” In Kiev tens of thousands risk their lives to protect the Maiden from police aggression. A participant in the January protests, socialist activist Ilya Budraitskis, argues that the left needs to be a stronger and more visible force in the movement.

    This interview was originally conducted for the German site marx21. It was translated into English by Red Flag (Australia).”

    International Viewpoint, the monthly English-language magazine of the Fourth International,


    Andrew Coates

    March 1, 2014 at 5:43 pm

  22. The ‘Fourth International’ is not the Fourth International,,just one of many fake claimants to the title e.g. International Committee of the Fourth International, in the same way the CPGB (Weekly Worker) is not the Communist Party of Great Britain.

    I keep the Fourth International in a box in my cellar with old football programmes and the remains of my Subbuteo

  23. I think in times like these and places like Ukraine, where nationalism dominates over common sense to such an extent, and the Left has virtually no influence, our main hope must just be that conflict is minimised and potential divisions for the future are reduced. If this means appeasing Russia at this time or dividing Ukraine into less dysfunctional entities, then that might well be for the best.,

    Igor Belanov

    March 1, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: