Ukraine

Mark Jones jones118 at SPAMlineone.net
Fri Apr 27 09:55:50 MDT 2001


I'd like to draw comrades' attention to the situation in Ukraine. The collapse of
the pro-western Ukrainian government led by the neoliberal reformer, Prime Minister
Viktor Yushchenko, has opened a new political space for the forces of the left [see
article below]. This is not only a profound embarrassment for the West. Above all,
this is one more indication  of the resurgence of the left and in particular, the
Communists, throughout the former Soviet Union (and elsewhere in eastern and central
Europe). This resurgence is taking place not only in the Slavic-dominated western
part of the fSU but also in the Central Asian republics (Kirgizia, Kazakhstan,
Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan) and is part of the tectonic geopolitical shift which has
also seen serious setbacks for US imperialism  in the trans-Caucasus (Georgia,
Armenia, Azerbaijan). How should we interpret these events, which together embody a
potentially serious crisis for imperialism?

Former Communist parties have enjoyed a return to popularity in various parts of the
former Warsaw Pact zone, in some places (Poland, Rumania) even reassuming power.
However, the Polish ex-communists are now firmly wedded to Nato and the EU and can
be regarded as at best, minor satraps of German social democracy and at worst, as
CIA-sponsored political fakery. This is definitely not true of the Communist parties
of the fSU, in particular the KPRF and the Communist Party of Ukraine. These parties
are themselves in crisis, riven with nationalism, besieged by western intelligence
and dirty-tricks, and still in the shadow of a corrupt and compromised past; their
moral and political rebirth has still to be accomplished. Nevertheless these
Communist parties, driven by mass desperation and fuelled by the political hopes and
the desire for revenge of an impoverished and humiliated working class, and
inescapably bound up with the historical legacy and behests of revolutionary
Bolshevism, are not at all the prisoners of the West and on the contrary are leading
the way towards the anti-western renewal of society in the fSU. Whether they want to
be or not, they are the inheritors of a tradition they cannot repudiate because the
masses still embrace it. This means that the so-called 'irreversibility' of
capitalist restoration is anything but that. Unless capitalism can produce economic
growth, social stability and the possibility of betterment for the pauperised
peoples of the former Soviet Union, it has no long term hope of survival. But it is
already obvious that there can be no capitalist prosperity; the moment for such
optimism has long gone.

A downturn in the world economy will not only force renewed western introspection
and take the baleful gaze of US imperialism off its ex-Soviet colonies, it will also
undercut the narrow social basis of Russian capitalism and force the political
crisis now engulfing Ukraine into Russia itself. The Putin regime is already
paralysed. It was Putin himself who, seeking a general reconciliation of historical
and class interests (something clearly unattainable, because there can be no
reconciliation between Bolshevism and capitalism, only a victory for one side and
defeat for the other), said that 'no-one can hope for the restoration of the Soviet
Union, but only malicious people can deny the right to be nostalgic about the USSR'.
This might look like neoliberal TINA with a human face, but what it in fact shows is
that Putin, like a majority of ex-Soviet citizens, hungers less for the capitalist
future than for the socialist past; that is where their hearts lie, and it is clear
that their heads will be quick to follow once cold historical logic shows them the
way home. Putin seeks the renewal of Russia on the basis of a thoroughgoing purge of
the bureaucracy and a wholesale embrace of TINA logics and neoliberal prescriptions.
This is not only because Putin is the plaything of the oligarchs. Whatever debt he
has to them, and he obviously does, is programme is for the creation of a
'rational'. European-style capitalism. Since the 'Soviet-system' failed
comprehensively in all spheres of economy, society and welfare, Putin's rejection of
the Soviet way is rational as well as opportunist. There is no road back. But
equally, his chances of successfully imposing a coherent programme of neoliberal
reforms are nil. TINA also is actually no alternative.

It is not just Russia's unfathomable corruption, the criminalisation of state and
the wasting of civil society, which prevent this: it is that the programme of
bourgeois revolution is at least a century and a half out of date. If the last ten
years has proved anything, it has proved that world capitalism cannot create a huge
new industrial society in Russia, it can only use the fSU as a raw material
appendage; there is no space for new competitors.

Therefore the political impasse will continue until the logjam is smashed. This will
happen because Russia is being sucked into the vortex created by the imploding
post-capitalist, post-socialist societies on its own periphery, i.e., in the huge
arc which runs from Odessa in Ukraine to Vladivostok in the far east and Baku in the
south. That process of collapse is unstoppable and is pushing Russia into
increasingly overt confrontation with the west. It is this process which is fuelling
the rebirth of Slavic socialism: the confrontation between the West and the masses,
seething with discontent, of the fSU and eastern Europe. Either Putin himself will
smash the logjam, or he will himself be sucked into the vortex. It is clear that his
heart lies with the recreation of former glories. While he repudiates socialism and
looks for market solutions, it is also clear that he does not wish to compromise on
what he sees as fundamental national interests. Since the market and Russian
national interests are contradictory, Putin is paralysed in terms of domestic policy
but enjoys a certain freedom in foreign policy: and whenever he gets the chance,
from Iran to Iraq to N Korea to Cuba and now, to Ukraine, he uses that freedom to
tweak western noses and reassert Russian power. Given that he is still dependent on
US goodwill, his displays of independence lack substance. But the logic of events is
pushing him towards more assertiveness. He wants to stand up to the West, but has no
choice anyway: if he wants to survive politically, he must be prepared to confront
US interests. The same perverse historical logic which in Ukraine has produced an
alliance between corrupt oligarchs and the Ukrainian Communists to overthrow a
pro-Western government, is also at work in Russia. There is no political space left
for pro-western parties or leaders.

The political obituaries of the allegedly 'archaic', 'fossilised' etc Communist
parties have been written many times, recently with an air
of desperation; but despite the best attempts of imperialism, they continue to
exist. Latest polls show that the KPRF enjoys the support of around 40% of the
Russian electorate, almost twice that of President Putin's own 'Unity' party (Unity
is a confabulation with no real social basis and an uncertain destiny). This
widespread popular support is the material basis for the ongoing tactical struggles
of the Left, which is no longer a struggle for mere survival but for something more:
the rebirth of open, revolutionary. socialist, proletarian politics in the space of
the former Soviet Union. This, of course, is the unbearable, worst-case nightmare of
western planners and imperialist policy-makers. This nightmare is nevertheless
coming true.

The period since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, has been characterised by a
relentless struggle between the forces of imperialist ideological, economic, social
and military hegemony, on one hand, and by equally unceasing attempts to keep the
red flag aloft, on the other. This struggle to keep the flame of socialism and
popular emancipation alive has often looked quixotic, painfully forlorn and even
absurd. It has been characterised by a despairing nostalgia for the past and by a
desperate feeling of humiliation and of absolute defeat. Despite the overwhelming
difficulties placed in their way, however, the Communists have never given up hope
and have never renounced their hopes for a revival; and their energy in the face of
seemingly overpowering difficulties has had its roots not only in the great
bitterness born of unmerited defeat (the USSR was betrayed by internal enemies who
opened the gates of the citadel), and not only in a certain characteristic Slavic
stubbornness, but also because throughout the entire period of 'liberation from the
horrors of Communism', the Communists have never ceased to enjoy massive popular
support and have always been the most popular political grouping.

The stubborn faith of the Soviet working class in the ideals of Leninism, in the
hope of a collectivist future, and indeed in the iconic presence of Lenin himself
(the ghost in the post-Soviet machinery), is the real basis for the revival of the
left in general and of the Communists in particular.

It is clear, now, that Russian capitalism has put down particularly shallow roots.
Russian 'democratia' or 'deremocratia', as the popular pun on the Russian word for
democracy has it, meaning 'shitocracy', is universally reviled. Democracy has
coincided with a period of intense, genocidal reaction--worse in its effects even
than Hitler's war on the USSR--but has failed to achieve its principal goal: the
liquidation of Communism, as an idea, as a faith that burns in the hearts of people,
as an ideology of everyday collectivist values, and Marxism-Leninism as powerful
social science, and profound explication of capitalism. The wheels did not fall off
the chariot of history after all: or if they did, the chariot was carefully
reassembled in the dead of night, in the deep forests of Belarus, the Ukraine,
Russia and Moldavia. History=Bolshevism, and Bolshevism is definitely not dead. The
rebirth of Marxism-Leninism is a fateful event in history.

This is a tremendous setback for imperialism, and threatens to have serious
consequences, especially if there is an economic crisis in the West. As it used to
be said in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, 'a human soul is not like a tractor'. Even
if all the tractor factories are destroyed, even if the material civilisation of
socialism has been reduced to rubble, socialism can still triumph.

I was in Astrakhan, the capital of the Volga delta, in 1991 when a mass meeting was
held in the town square, by the statue of Sergei Kirov--who led the Red Army there
after the October Revolution. The meeting consisted of the most ordinary kind of
people: men and women workers in quite drab clothes. There were no Party high-ups,
no bossy apparatchiks; the CPSU had collapsed and the bureaucrats had run away or
gone into business; these were the anonymous rank-and-filers who'd saved Russia
before and who came together now to relaunch Russian Communism, even after Yeltsin
declared it a criminal offence to be a Communist; the inscription on Kirov's statue,
incidentally, reads: 'The Caucasus will be Communist while there is one Communist
left in the Caucasus'. Well, there are plenty of Communists left in the Caucasus.
The West's failure to bury Communism when it had the chance, may have calamitous
significance for world capitalism.

The collapse of the pro-US government in Ukraine is not just one more indecipherable
epsiode in the confusing politics of eastern Europe. It marks the end of a decade of
US-led grand strategy towards the fSU as a whole, for the fragmentation of the fSU
was the core of that strategy, and this has now failed spectacularly. The
reconsolidation of a single political and economic space in the fSU is an event of
great historical significance; it means that the the resolution of the ongoing
crisis cannot now be on western terms. A new era of great uncertainty has begun, and
the Communist parties of the fSU have now got room to manoeuvre and opportunities to
take power. They will certainly not be slow to use these opportunities, not least in
Russia itself.


Mark Jones

------------------------------------------------

Here is Reuters on yesterday's ouster of the pre-western government of Ukraine, a
government of quislings which has overseen the genocidal plunder and destruction of
Ukraine, but a government which, according to Reuters, is highly popular with the
people of Ukraine...
--------------------------------------------------
Ukraine parliament dumps PM, protest swells
By Michael Steen

KIEV, April 26 (Reuters) - Ukraine's parliament voted overwhelmingly on
Thursday to oust Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko in a move likely to hobble
the country's faltering reform programme and escalate its political crisis.

The decision outraged thousands of Yushchenko supporters who swarmed through
Kiev towards parliament in the biggest demonstration yet of months of
political turmoil and protests against President Leonid Kuchma.

Kuchma, who has repeatedly criticised the government and failed to back his
prime minister publicly, said this week the government's breakup would not be
in Ukraine's best interests.

"Shame, shame. Kuchma out, Kuchma out," the crowd roared outside parliament.
Police estimated some 15,000 people had joined the protest. Inside,
Yushchenko vowed to fight on.

"I am not leaving politics. I am leaving so I can return," he said as his
supporters yelled "Yushchenko, Yushchenko!."

It is unclear who might succeed Yushchenko. Deputies said the divisions in
parliament meant only a complete unknown could be nominated to replace him.

The crowd cheered as Yushchenko emerged from parliament, flanked by his
colleagues and wiping tears from his eyes.

"I said this government would be for the people and for all the citizens of
Ukraine. Thank you to all those who supported me and my government for the
past one and a half years," he said.

A coffin daubed with the names of the parties which opposed Yushchenko was
lain at the steps of parliament. Opposition deputies called for Kuchma's
impeachment.

Around 3,000 protesters marched to Kuchma's residence nearby, confronted by
lines of police. Armoured riot police stood quietly by in adjoining streets.

"The police are with the people, the filth are with Kuchma," the crowd,
carrying national flags, chanted.

The vote, sponsored by the Communist Party and backed by large sections of
parliament, sealed Yushchenko's fate although it was unclear whether the rest
of the cabinet would be dismissed or retained in a caretaker capacity.

Kuchma has now to sign a decree relieving his cabinet chief of his post but
it is unclear when that will take place.

Deputies voted in two stages to oust the premier. In the final stage, the
450-seat parliament voted 263 to 69 to dismiss Yushchenko, a former central
banker appointed in December 1999. In a preliminary vote earlier in the day,
deputies had voted 262 to 86 against the prime minister.

Yushchenko's belt-tightening reforms and measures to clean up Ukraine's murky
economy had angered many deputies and run up against entrenched business
interests across the former Soviet state of 49 million people.

WEST LOSES ITS BRIGHTEST HOPE

Western investors and the International Monetary Fund are expected to be
alarmed by the demise of Yushchenko, whom they regard as the former Soviet
state's best hope for reform.

Polls showed Yushchenko was Ukraine's most popular politician with a
reputation for honesty in a country notorious for corruption.

"He raised our pensions and is a decent man who works for the people," Maria
Pitrivna, a pensioner on the march, said.

Communist Party leaders have dismissed suggestions Yushchenko could be
replaced by Serhiy Tyhypko, head of the Labour Ukraine party and a
progressive former economy minister who is well regarded by Western investors
and the IMF.

Yushchenko has said he would not accept a caretaker post if dismissed, and
analysts say serious candidates, such as Tyhypko, would want to wait for
parliamentary elections in early 2002 to win power with a credible mandate.

Western diplomats in Kiev have said the possible collapse of such a
pro-Western government is a sign that Ukraine may be drifting back into the
orbit of giant eastern neighbour Russia.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Tony Roddam in Kiev)






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