[Marxism] Pretty good article from US Socialist Worker on Ukraine (despite state-cap framework)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Dec 3 03:43:35 MST 2004


Socialist Worker (ISO, US)
Standoff between U.S.-backed and Russian-backed candidates
Ukraine's election crisis

December 3, 2004 | Page 5

MASSIVE PROTESTS have forced the Ukrainian parliament to annul the
results of the November 21 elections, and negotiations for a new vote
were underway as Socialist Worker went to press. LEE SUSTAR looks at the
political issues behind the crisis.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE ELECTION standoff in Ukraine is portrayed in the U.S. media as a
battle between pro-Washington democrats and pro-Moscow authoritarians.
But it's really a scramble for power within a ruling class dominated by
corrupt politicians and their wealthy backers.

It's almost certainly the case that the current government's candidate
for president, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich--who has the
high-profile support of Russian President Vladimir Putin--stole the
election with widespread fraud in the runoff election November 21. But
according to election observers, there were also reports of fraud in the
Western Ukrainian strongholds of Viktor Yushchenko, a former prime
minister who's supported by the U.S. and the European Union (EU).

Yushchenko's supporters captured the attention of the world by
mobilizing 100,000 supporters in the streets of the capital city of Kiev
for more than a week, blockading government buildings and calling for a
general strike while demanding a new election. Yet Yanukovich also had
mass meetings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the economic
powerhouse of the country where the majority of the population is
Russian-speaking.

The election plays on the historic divisions in Ukraine between the
Russified East of the country and the Ukrainian-speaking West, which has
only been under Moscow's rule since 1940, when Stalin's USSR invaded and
took over. But if the candidates have played up such differences, it's
because their real policy differences are minimal.

The notion that that the crisis is simply Russian-speaking Eastern
Ukraine versus West Ukraine is "pure nonsense," Russian author and
activist Boris Kagarlitsky told Socialist Worker. "The key place where
you have most of the resistance to the government is Kiev, which is
Russian-speaking," he said. "In class terms, it is petty bourgeois
protests against the oligarchs of the East--and the oligarchs are
Russian-speaking. You cannot describe this in purely class terms,
unfortunately. Both sides are quite reactionary."

Kagarlitsky compares the mobilization to the "people power" mass
protests in the Philippines in 2001, which forced out one conservative
government--and led to its replacement by another.

Indeed, the crisis reflects the battle within the Ukrainian ruling class
over how to orient to both Russia and the West. For example, Yanukovich,
portrayed by the U.S. as a lackey of Moscow, has sent 1,600 Ukrainian
troops to Iraq and ordered the Ukraine military to ferry NATO troops to
Afghanistan.

And when a Russian steel firm tried to buy out a major Ukrainian one for
$1.2 billion, Yanukovich blocked the deal and arranged for a sale to a
Ukrainian government insider for just $800 million. Yushchenko, by
contrast, sold off four utility companies to Russian-controlled
companies.

If Yanukovich got Putin's backing, it's in part because the Russian
government concluded that the current president, Leonid Kuchma, was
going to help him steal the election--and that it was better to go with
a winner.

In his campaign, Yanukovich made populist appeals by claiming that
western Ukraine is a parasite on the industrial East, which accounts for
an estimated 80 percent of gross domestic product.

Yushchenko, for all his posturing as a democratic hero, is a former
central banker who used his term as prime minister to impose austerity
measures that hit working people hard--in a country where the average
monthly wage was just $80 in 2002.

His top ally is Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the country's wealthiest
oligarchs among the tiny circle of former Communist Party members and
industrial managers who won out in the corrupt privatization of state
industry when Ukraine became independent when the USSR collapsed in
1991. As energy minister in Yushchenko's government, Tymoshenko used
government power to squeeze her rivals until Kuchma forced her out on
corruption charges. Yushchenko himself was pushed out of office in 2001
after trying to discipline the oligarchs with economic and political
reforms.

Today, Yushchenko plays to the sentiments of millions of people fed up
with corruption of Kuchma, who was caught on audio tape in 2000 ordering
the murder of an opposition journalist. But as prime minister,
Yushchenko himself was at the center of Kuchma's operation.

By mobilizing their base and demanding the immediate ouster of
Yanukovich, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have raised the stakes and risked
the situation slipping out of their control. Behind closed doors,
however, they were negotiating a deal for a new election or a
power-sharing deal in which Yushchenko gains the presidency while
Yanukovich remains a power broker for the Eastern Ukraine.

"Everybody will be happy--with the exceptions of those who demonstrated
in the streets," Kagarlitsky said. However, he added, "it will be much
harder to control Ukraine when the new government comes to power. There
is a genuine democratic movement, and it is very much out of control of
the current leadership."

What's at stake for Washington?

WHEN U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that the U.S.
wouldn't recognize the results of Ukraine's election, it was the
capstone of Washington's efforts to get Viktor Yushchenko elected.

Following the model used successfully in Serbia and Georgia and
unsuccessfully in Belarus, much of Yushchenko's operation has been
"funded and organized by the U.S. government, deploying U.S.
consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and
U.S. non-government organizations," Britain's Guardian newspaper noted.

Representatives of the Serbian student movement--who had extensive
training from U.S. government-funded outfits like the National Endowment
for Democracy--set up shop in Kiev during the election campaign.

Business Week explained why the U.S. is interested. "With its vast
swathe of fertile black earth and well-educated population of 49
million, Ukraine is an emerging market worth playing for." As a major
producer of steel and machinery, Ukraine is benefiting enormously from
demand in China. The economy is on track to grow by at least 11 percent
this year--the fastest in Europe--and the stock market is up100 percent.

Nobody should be fooled by the U.S. claims of supporting democracy in
Ukraine. Washington has turned a blind eye to election fraud across the
former USSR--from Russia to the oil-rich Central Asian states.

By trying to help Yushchenko into office, the U.S. aims to pull Ukraine
into Washington's orbit.

Russia meddles in former empire

MOSCOW'S ATTEMPT to influence the outcome of the elections in Ukraine is
an attempt to maintain influence in its former empire.

The Ukrainian capital of Kiev was home to the first "Russian" kingdom in
the Middle Ages, but Ukraine developed a distinct language and culture.
With the rise of Moscow, Ukraine was conquered by the expanding Russian
Empire of the Tsars, with the western region ultimately taken over by
the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Ukrainian struggle for national
self-determination took center stage. The first independent Ukraine was
run by a pro-German monarch--and the Ukrainian peasants swung behind the
Communists in the civil war that followed the revolution. Ukraine later
joined the USSR as a republic equal to Russia--but the dictator Stalin's
counterrevolution of the late 1920s recentralized power in Moscow under
a state capitalist regime.

Stalin's forced collectivization of agriculture caused a famine in
Ukraine in the 1930s that led to the deaths of 6 to 7 million people.
Stalin effectively recast the empire of the Tsars--and following the
Second World War, used his troops to bring Eastern European countries
under Moscow's control. Ukraine provided much of the agricultural
production--and the military-industrial complex--of the USSR in the
post-Stalin era.

The economic and political reforms in the USSR in the late 1980s led
first to revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the collapse of the
USSR itself two years later. Since then, Ukraine, while still closely
linked economically with Russia, has gradually become more integrated
with the West as well--setting the stage for the current conflict.

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