Tendance Coatesy

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Alec Callinicos and French Communist Party on the Ukraine.

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US State Secretary lays flowers to Ukraine’s heroes from the Heavenly Hundred on March 4 in Kyiv.

Alex Callincios on the Ukraine.

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.

He adds,

“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.

They observe,

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.


14 Responses

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  1. It may not have been a fascist coup in Ukraine, but it was a coup all the same, and who authored it does not take much working out. The protesters in Maidan appeared to be unlike those in Taksim, or the protesters in Tahrir which overthrew Mubarak in Egypt, who were mainly young and vibrant. In the beginning perhaps, but it looked from here they were mainly men in the 30 plus age group, the muscle petty bourgeoisie, and the spokespeople bourgeoise. If anything they resembled the protesters who came out in Egypt in support of General Abdel Fattah al Sisi and in Turkey in support of Erdogan.

    It may sound silly but the appearance of protesting crowds can tell one a lot, I remember when Ceausescu was overthrown, the thing which struck me was the number of men in leather jackets taking part seemed out of place, given they were expensive and often worn by ‘Ceausescu goons. It turned out the ‘revolution’ was a palace coup organised by the Romanian security services. The first of the so called color coded revolutions.

    Mick Hall

    March 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm

  2. Just out,

    “The Estonian Foreign Ministry has confirmed the authenticity of a telephone conversation posted on the Internet between Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton regarding the events in Ukraine, the press service of the Estonian Foreign Ministry reports.

    “It is extremely unfortunate that this wiretapping was conducted. It’s not an accident that this conversation was posted (on the Internet) today,” Paet said. Earlier, he said that the conversation with Ashton took place last week, immediately after the head of the MFA’s return from Ukraine to Estonia.
    “My conversation with Ashton took place last week directly after my visit to Ukraine. At that time, I was in Estonia already,” he said.
    The diplomat refrained from more detailed comments until he “sees the recording”.
    The conversation between Paet and Ashton took place on February 26, after Paet’s visit to Ukraine. During the conversation, Paet told what he had learned at the meetings in Kiev, and expressed concern about the situation, the press service said. Particular interest was inspired by Paet’s words with reference to doctor Olga Bogomolets who had been rendering medical assistance to the victims in the Maidan, about snipers shooting at people in Kiev.
    Kiev snipers hired by new coalition, not Yanukovych – Estonian FM to Ashton
    The snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were allegedly hired by Maidan leaders, according to a leaked phone conversation between the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign affairs minister, which has emerged online.
    “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet said during the conversation.
    “I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh,” Ashton answered.”

    “The call took place after Estonia’s FM Urmas Paet visited Kiev on February 25 at the peak of clashes between the pro-EU protesters and security forces in the Ukrainian capital.
    Paet also recalled his conversation with a doctor who treated those shot by snipers in Kiev. She said that both protesters and police were shot at by the same people.
    “And second, what was quite disturbing, this same Olga [Bogomolets] told as well that all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,” the Estonian FM stressed.
    Ashton reacted to the information by saying: “Well, yeah…that’s, that’s terrible.”
    “So that she then also showed me some photos she said that as a medical doctor she can say that it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened,” Paet said.
    Voice of Russia, RT, TASS


    Andrew Coates

    March 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm

  3. Andrew

    Not heard this before, these shooting always had the fingerprints of a provocation, who benefits is always the question and in this case it was clearly not Yanukovych as pathetic as he is. Unless comrades know the Ukraine well and understand the situation, I would poke this with a very long stick whilst of course opposing any EU and British intervention.

    Mick Hall

    March 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm

  4. It’s interesting, but I’m particularly sceptical of using the Voice of Russia (which brazenly still refers to “Ukraine’s Crimea” and “Ukraine’s President Yanukovitch”) as a source. But then again, I’d be equally sceptical of the Ukrainians.

    The Russia Today US-based presenter who spoke out in her conspiracy-theory-full programme against Russian intervention in Ukraine said that there had been lies and falsehoods in the media ‘from all sides’ on the subject.

    In Germany much has been made of this. Except that the reports are exclusively that ‘RT presenter criticies bias, lies and falsehoods by the *Russian* media’. I despair.

    It’s got so bad I’ve started watching BBC World as a source of news, which seems to have the news values of John Craven’s Newsround of my early childhood, but probably more tabloidy than the still somewhat Reithian early 1980s BBC. (Appropriate that when News 24 started in the mid-1990s a fair few of its presenters were fresh from Children’s BBC).

    When it comes to conspiracy theories, one doing the rounds is that the new Ukrainian PM is a Scientologist, with stories “quoting” Al Jazeera “quoting” Wikipedia. In any case there is no evidence (as far as I can tell) that the Wikipedia page ever carried the quotes or ‘information’ that such stories give as their source. Not that Wikipedia is a serious source, but there isn’t even evidence of an edit war on his page.
    Expect to hear more about this though from the likes of the Voice of RUssia, Socialist Unity, etc.


    March 5, 2014 at 7:50 pm

  5. Re. BBC World / BBC News Channel: what time are the panda-related stories broadcast?


    March 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm

  6. Oh, and the stories also claim – as the major part of their “evidence” that Yatsenyuk worked for “Scientology- controlled” (etc.) “Aval Bank” from Kiev.

    Except that the Aval Bank is owned by the Austrian (onetime?) co-operative Raiffeisen, Austria’s 3rd largest bank. And not yet known for advising its customers to invest in dianetics courses. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raiffeisen_Zentralbank


    March 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm

  7. Not sure if this passed censorship:

    So, ultra nationalists and Oligarchs, supported by the imperialists, overthrow an elected government, suspend constitutional processes and shoot their own supporters in order to make the elected government look bad!

    What is not to love here for any self respecting drone supporting leftists? It is the classic template! Jim Denham must be raising a drink to them right now!

    And now the imperialists, along with their pro imperialist left apologists, decry Russia for following the precedent set by the imperialists during all the wars the decents have been enthusiastically cheer leading. If the decents are correct to decry Russia now, it is merely of the stopped clock is right twice a day variety, or just apology in another form.

    Just for information:

    On the face of it Callinicos (who decents usually detest) is correct that imperialism is a system and not any single nation. However he fails to look at this in a dialectical way, in that he fails to see that imperialism doesn’t just determine how nations behave but the nations also influence how imperialism manifests itself.

    The simple facts are that the USA and the EU are by far the main imperialist players, when you look at direct foreign investment, overseas assets (military and non military) and size of financial sectors. So it would be utterly ridiculous to say Russia and the EU/USA are just the same. For this reason when I say imperialists I refer to the USA and the EU.

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    March 5, 2014 at 8:58 pm

  8. I agree the mainstream media have lost the plot completely, a channel 4 news anchor who is in the Ukraine has gone completely native. If these people and the politicians they protect were around during the cold war we would all be toast.

    I have to go as a presenter on BBC News 24 who used to work on Blue Peter, is about to show us how to make a ballistic missile out of a Fairy washing up bottle, but first I must ask my mums permission, she was adamant about that and I don’t want to risk loosing my chance to get a blue peter badge like those presented by that stalwart of children’s entertainment Jimmy Savile.

    Mick Hall

    March 6, 2014 at 12:04 am

  9. The MSM has gone totally potty in the last few years. What happened to the oppositional, even confrontational attitude of the BBC after the wheels came off in Iraq? I wasn’t all that long ago.
    Now they swallow the Foreign Office line without the slightest reservation.
    I have to say I agree with Callinicos’s analysis-the Ukrainians have swapped (again) one set of corrupt oligarchs for another.

    Paul J

    March 6, 2014 at 5:14 am

  10. This looks relevant (I missed it as I was at a meeting last night in Stowmarket),

    “In the new Ukrainian government politicians linked to the far-right have taken posts from deputy prime minister to head of defence. We profile the nationalists filling the power vacuum.

    The man facing down Putin’s aggression as secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council is Andriy Parubiy. He oversees national security for the nation having previously served as security commandant during the anti-government protests in Kiev.

    Parubiy was the founder of the Social National Party of Ukraine, a fascist party styled on Hitler’s Nazis, with membership restricted to ethnic Ukrainians.

    The Social National Party would go on to become Svoboda, the far-right nationalist party whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok was one of the three most high profile leaders of the Euromaidan protests – negotiating directly with the Yanukovych regime.

    Overseeing the armed forces alongside Parubiy as the Deputy Secretary of National Security is Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector – a group of hardline nationalist streetfighters, who previously boasted they were ready for armed struggle to free Ukraine.

    Russia has pursued a systematic, targeted policy of subjugation toward Ukraine…So of course we will prepare for a conflict with them
    Dmytro Yarosh, Deputy Secretary of National Security
    Inside Right Sector was an alliance of hardline nationalist groups including Patriot of Ukraine and the paramilitary group UNA-UNSO, who have fought against Russian troops in Chechnya and Moldova. Their members paraded in balaclavas and wore uniforms bearing far-right insignia, including the wolfsangel.

    In 1989 he joined the moderate nationalist group People’s Movement of Ukraine but from there went on to join the right wing Trizub organisation in 1994 and has been its leader since 2005, preaching and preparing for a Ukrainian “national revolution”.

    He told Time magazine in a recent interview: “Russia has pursued a systematic, targeted policy of subjugation toward Ukraine…So of course we will prepare for a conflict with them”.

    Filling the power vacuum
    The new Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych is a member of the far-right Svoboda party, which the World Jewish Congress called on the EU to consider banning last year along with Greece’s Golden Dawn.

    The party, which has long called for a “national revolution” in Ukraine, has endured a long march from relative obscurity in the early 90s. Their declaration that Ukraine is controlled by a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” has raised fears for the safety of the country’s Jewish population.

    Svoboda now controls the ecology and agricultural ministry with Andriy Mokhnyk, the deputy head of Svoboda, running ecology and Ihor Shvaika as agriculture minister.

    Associate professor at Lund University Pers Anders Rudling, an expert on Ukrainian extremists, told Channel 4 News that there are other ministers who are also closely in the orbit of Svoboda.

    “Two weeks ago I could never have predicted this. A neo-fascist party like Svoboda getting the deputy prime minister position is news in its own right.

    “There are seven ministers with links to the extreme right now. It began with Svoboda getting 10 per cent of the vote in the last election, it is certainly a concern in the long run.”

    Mr Rudling warned that Europe should pay greater attention to the politics of the new regime, while warning that this in no way endorsed the actions of Russia.

    “It doesn’t help Ukraine to be selective and ignore this problem. Russia is using this to legitimise their unjustified aggression, I am not backing up that aggression by speaking about the rise of Svoboda.”

    Read: far-right extremists at core of ‘democracy’ protest
    The most important office seized by Svoboda is that of deputy prime minister, now occupied by Oleksandr Sych, whose position on abortion rights and comments about rape provoked an international outcry.

    He has been criticised for declaring: “Women should lead the kind of lifestyle to avoid the risk of rape, including one from drinking alcohol and being in controversial company”.

    Svoboda member Oleh Makhnitsky is now acting prosecutor general.

    The initial actions of the interim government have included forcing making Ukrainian the only official language of the nation and making moves to remove a law which forbids “excusing the crimes of fascism”.

    The anti-Russian far-right in Ukraine strongly associate themselves with the legacy of Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. In 2010 Viktor Yushchenko made Bandera a “hero of Ukraine”, despite charges of Nazi collaboration and ethnic cleansing by the controversial figure.

    It doesn’t help Ukraine to be selective and ignore this problem
    Pers Anders Rudling, extremism expert
    The massive gains by Svoboda come ahead of the European elections that are expected to see Hungary’s Jobbik and the French National Front make large advances.

    However, Svoboda have been given the cold shoulder by their former European comrades with Jobbik calling for autonomy for the Hungarian minority regions in Ukraine and the BNP’s Nick Griffin backing Putin.

    Smaller far-right groups from Scandanavia have confirmed they have been travelling to the region to offer support and learn from the “national revolution”.


    Andrew Coates

    March 6, 2014 at 11:18 am

  11. “On the face of it Callinicos (who decents usually detest) is correct that imperialism is a system and not any single nation.”

    However he fails to look at this in a dialectical way..”

    There’s always a “however”……

    Andrew Coates

    March 6, 2014 at 11:25 am

  12. The Guardian debunked the conspiracy theory mentioned above. Good overview here http://socialistresistance.org/3371/bob-crow-calls-for-new-working-class-party

    Jim Monaghan

    March 12, 2014 at 12:45 pm

  13. The Tatars were probably a majority in Crimea as recently as WW2. Successful ethnic cleansing. A hated and discriminated minority. Now they want them to move again. A bit like the Palestinians http://en.ria.ru/world/20140319/188544777/Crimean-Tatars-Will-Have-to-Vacate-Land–Official.html

    Jim Monaghan

    March 28, 2014 at 4:10 pm

  14. The article on RIA Novosti (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIA_Novosti) says that the Tatars’ land rights were not settled before by the Ukranian government.

    That some ended up as squatters.

    It says that they as part of the regularisation of their situation some, who have squatted on land, may have to relocate to new land allocated to them.

    It does not mention in any manner a new wave of ethnic cleansing.

    Indeed, as a medium linked to the Russian side, it underlines their equal place in the region.

    Andrew Coates

    March 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm

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