Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

As Ukraine Armed Conflict Begins What Side Will the Pro-Kiev Left Take?

with 10 comments

Reports this morning indicate an accelerating fight in the Ukraine.

Ukraine crisis: Casualties in Sloviansk gun battles

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian armed men have traded gunfire in a battle for control of the eastern town of Sloviansk, the interior minister says.

At least one Ukrainian officer was killed and both sides suffered casualties, Arsen Avakov said.

Pro-Russian forces took over the town on Saturday, prompting Kiev to launch an “anti-terror operation”.

Kiev and Western powers accuse Moscow of inciting the trouble. The Kremlin denies the charge.


Le Monde puts this in the context of a “general offensive”,

Le gouvernement ukrainien, confronté à des insurrections armées prorusses coordonnées dans l’Est, a lancé dimanche 13 avril une opération « antiterroriste »de reconquête à hauts risques.

The Ukrainian government, faced with armed pro-Russian and co-ordinated insurgencies   in the East, has launched a highly risky  “anti-terrorist” operation of reconquest on  Sunday, April the 13th

So how will those who stand ‘for’ the Ukraine react?

Will they ‘choose’ sides and back the “anti-terrorist operation”?

This is the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty position on the Ukraine.

Russia: hands off Ukraine! Keep Russian troops out!

Western governments: cancel Ukraine’s debts!

The labour movement should back Ukraine’s left in its efforts to create “third pole” against both Russian imperialism and the Ukrainian oligarchs.

This is Socialist Resistance’s line,

A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class. Socialists in imperialist countries should see their primary responsibility as establishing links and building support for those groups in Ukrainian and Russian society which are opposing the oligarchs and organising a real movement against them. That is rather different from helping Putin hold on to power by annexing his own imperialist “buffer zone”.

Others are less decided.

This is the Left Unity Party’s view,

Left Unity statement on Ukraine

Left Unity has issued a statement on the situation in Ukraine, saying that there should be “no foreign intervention in Ukraine – whether political, economic or military”.

The acting officers of the new left wing party are calling for “democracy and equality for all the people of Ukraine”, condemning the different forms of nationalism, corruption and neoliberalism, and the drive to war.

Against nationalism, corruption, privatisation and war

The continuing political and economic crisis in Ukraine is taking a dangerous military turn.

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.

But does this also mean ‘backing’ the ‘anti-terrorist’ offensive?

We simply ask.


Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2014 at 11:01 am

10 Responses

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  1. Hoping that it does not spread. Dangerous times. On principle I would have little worry about an Arch-Duke being shot, but WW1 would worry me. The Putinistas see a revolution in eastern Ukraine, maybe even soviets.The evil bourgeois nationalists of Kiev up against a wall., the revival of soviets spreading to Moscow. I mainly see these bourgeois manouvres leading to a great danger of war. At the minimum we will have a spread of militarism as the West and Russia arm themselves to the hilt. Adventures overseas as the two empires encourage trouble in each other’s backyard. Back to the cold war. Initial victims, Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea. Probably after partition Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine, especially the “bourgeois nationalists who speak Ukrainian or any other “patois”.
    Ukraine is an oppressed nation. Alas, with a rightwing leadership. But do we dam it because of that. Then waht about our friends in Hamas or the Grand Mufti.
    So far the Kiev government has acted with restraint in spite of provocation. Young soldiers being humiliated is a recipe for disaster. What talks on Thursday if it does not blow up by then. Imagine telling say Latvians to leave teh “shelter” of NATO then.

    Jim Monaghan

    April 13, 2014 at 11:48 am

  2. So what having chosen a ‘side’ what will you do about this?

    Will backers of Ukraine demand the West helps them?

    Andrew Coates

    April 13, 2014 at 12:14 pm

  3. Why should any British leftist who “chooses” a “side” without doing anything material to support that side be taken seriously by anyone at all?

    Incidentally, does the AWL position equate to “Western governments – pay off Ukraine’s debts to Gazprom!”


    April 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm

  4. Alas, it is not that simple. I support the Crimean Tatars. But like their leadership I think they will have to live with what has happened until internal development in the Russian federation change. I do not see a good outcome. I have a hot headed son. I spend a lot of time preaching caution to him. You may be on the correct side and have justice as well, but if the other side are bigger then maybe discretion is the better part of valour ( Have I that right). I think Ukraine is the oppressed side. But a war, countless deaths etc. Look at the stupid adventure by the Georgian leadership where they lost far more territory than the numbers could justify. A democratic solution would be a constituent assembly and the imperialism but out. Least worst would be talks, a federation, an Austrian solution where Ukraine is forbidden to join NATO, a partial Russian victory.
    Someday Russia will implode, wait for it. Ukrainians should note that the USSR looked like it was here forever.
    At the moment a hot headed response to all this might be glorious but the graveyards are filled with glory hunters. In the meantime people like me will and should support oppressed nations like Tatars, Kurds etc. and hope that one day circumstances will change and they will have a chance.
    Hopefully an archduke in the form of a massacre of some kind will not escalate into a war. Big or small.
    An aside IRA people used to have debates with a bishop who opposed them and it would revolve around what was a just war. “the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (the power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition). and there must be serious prospects of success; and all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; and the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; ”
    Some sense in that. A war that would make things worse, much worse.

    Jim Monaghan

    April 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

  5. Oh my goodness, what a clusterf*ck.
    2 ugly imperialist ambitions colliding, gross oligarchs getting even MORE power, neo-fascists, each side (rightly) accusing the other of meddling, IMF wrecking crews taking over the economy, hypocrisy running riot…

    I don’t have a side, but it’s pretty clear the demostrators overthrew a democratically elected government and replaced it with a clique of oligarchs, fascists and western placemen. That was a spectacularly stupid move, motivated by US State department pique at Putin’s Syrian policy. In those terms, I lean somewhat towards the Russian position, but I’m in no way an admirer of Putin or Russian revanchism.

    I would much prefer everybody backed down

    Paul J

    April 13, 2014 at 7:31 pm

  6. Ukraine is the victim of Russian imperialism, and has the right to defend itself, including by taking police/military action against pro-Russian provocateurs. Whether, tactically, it would be a good idea to do so is a different matter. On balance, I’d be against such action, but that doesn’t change the essential principle.

    Jim Denham

    April 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

  7. By their friends, as they say…


    It would seem that at least some of the Maidanophiles have completely taken leave of their senses.


    April 14, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    • Le Monde is really really pro-Maidon and obsessionally anti-Russian.

      To the extent that the centrist journalist (one of the best known in France) Jean-François Kahn, also a well-known anti-Communist, wrote this at the end of March,

      En finir avec le manichéisme infantile, par Jean-François Kahn

      “La sphère médiatique, au sens le plus large, fait preuve, à propos des événements d’Ukraine, de Crimée et de Russie, d’un tel binarisme, d’un tel simplisme, d’un tel infantilisme, que l’on assiste à une autre aberration : le retournement pro-Poutine d’une bonne partie de l’opinion. Cela fait des années que l’on perçoit cette déplorable évolution : une approche de plus en plus bichromique, bicolore et, incidemment, néoconservatrice, des grandes questions internationales, un partage du monde entre des gentils qui ne peuvent se conduire que de façon séraphique et des méchants qui ne constituent qu’un ramassis de Belzébuth : un manichéisme de plus en plus puéril qui n’est pas étranger à la redoutable désaffection du public envers ce qui devrait constituer le coeur et l’âme de la démocratie : les médias.”


      Andrew Coates

      April 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm

  8. The situation in Ukraine is getting critical. The worst problem is that in the absence of a unifying political force, the rival parallel nationalist agitation — Russian and Ukrainian — is leading to a situation in the mixed areas of the country in which citizens will be forced to sign up to a nationality and allegiance — Russian, with Russia; Ukrainian, with Ukraine. This has been implicit since the break-up of the Soviet Union turned administrative borders into national ones and where one nation-state has become many, each with its own directions, policies, etc, but has only recently in Ukraine become an actual danger.

    Our Maidanistas on the left have overlooked the way in which hard-line Ukrainian nationalist sentiments have grown and have been given a great push by the presence of the hard-right in the overthrow of Yanukovich’s government: the hard-right provided the muscle that finally forced him to flee. These guys have been steadily infiltrating into the Ukrainian police and armed forces, and it will be these sort of people who will be deployed if the Kiev government goes in hard against the Donbas occupiers. (During the Maidan protests, government offices were occupied by these guys throughout Western Ukraine and in parts of Central Ukraine, apparently meeting with no resistance: one can thus assume sort of arrangement between the hard-right protesters and the local authorities.)

    Our Putinistas on the left, on the other hand, have tended to downplay the degree of Russian nationalist agitation. Whilst some of the protesters are genuinely anti-fascist, and by no means is all the Russian propaganda about Ukrainian fascism bogus or exaggerated, there is plenty of evidence of Russian ultras, every bit as nasty as the Ukrainian ones, on the prowl.

    In the absence of unifying politics, the rival parallel nationalist agitation can only heighten the tensions, each ratcheting up the other. With nothing to counter this, just as in Yugoslavia, where there was no credible all-Yugoslav political force, it will be extremely hard for this rising tension to be dissipated, and if things start getting nasty then we’ll almost certainly see the sort of internecine killing that we saw in Yugoslavia occur in the mixed areas of Ukraine. Raising the slogan of self-determination, so beloved by the Leninist left, actually plays into this nationalist fervour.

    Left-wingers in both Ukraine and Russia have a massive task facing them: to oppose the nationalist fervour on both sides, to show the common interests between the mass of Ukrainians and Russians against the oligarchs and austerity merchants and the nationalist agitators. For our part, we must eschew any of the ‘poor little Ukraine’ propaganda on the one side and ‘anti-fascist Russia’ propaganda on the other.

    Dr Paul

    April 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    • I absolutely agree with your analysis Paul.

      This is why I will not ‘take sides’.

      Andrew Coates

      April 15, 2014 at 11:57 am

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