[Marxism] The Class Question: Kiev Is Not Ukraine

David Quarter davidquarter at sympatico.ca
Tue Nov 30 03:33:51 MST 2004


From:           	Rick Rozoff


http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/11/29/news/scene.html


International Herald Tribune
New York Times
November 30, 2004


'Kiev is not Ukraine' 
By C.J. Chivers 


-Here the miners describe a political life that orbits
around stability and uncomplicated ideas like working
and getting paid on time. 
When Yanukovich was first their regional governor and
then prime minister, the miners said, their salaries
were paid on time. Their salaries also rose. Given the
history of heavy industry in the former Soviet Union,
the miners regard this as a feat. Stability to them
means incumbent power. 
-For more than a week, as Kiev has been swarmed by
demonstrators, miners in the shafts of Trudovskaya (a
euphonious derivative of the Russian word "labor")
have not missed a minute of work. They have kept
digging, 24 hours a day.
-[Ukraine] is...divided between those comfortable
living in a centralized and disciplined form of
post-Soviet government and a freewheeling,
flower-waving generation that at times has made
opposition demonstrations feel like massive,
cappuccino-charged dance parties.
-[D]own here in the mine, the men offer another and
richly familiar way to frame their nation's political
fight: The battle between Yanukovich and the
opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, they say, is
between those who work and those who play. 
-It is not Kiev that risks being disfranchised, they
say, but the men down in the hole.
Everything about what is happening in Kiev fills them
with disgust, from the street protests to the public
behavior of Yushchenko, whom they see as more stuntman
than statesman. As men who labor amid Soviet
iconography, they reject the word "revolution" as a
way to describe what the opposition has been
attempting. Revolution, they said, crouching in a
circle around their visitor, has to be made by people
with dignity.
-"What would happen in America if John Kerry put his
hand on the Bible and declared himself the president
of the United States?" said Anatoly Demeshchenko, [a]
brigade leader. He let the question hang in the dirty
air and darkness, unanswered.



 
DONETSK, Ukraine Measured vertically, the commute to
the bottom of the Trudovskaya Mine is 640 meters. The
journey is roughly 60 minutes long.

First the men switch on their helmet lights and drop
beyond halfway on an elevator that is little more than
an open box falling through black stillness and chill.
After the elevator they ride a creaking rail car
downhill for 15 minutes, exit and descend on foot
another 15 minutes, walking on planks and muck and
passing through doors that regulate the flow of air
and gas.

At last they lie on their backs and are shot downward
on a steeply sloped conveyor belt that, when switched
to reverse, sends coal the other way. They arrive at a
chest-high chamber whose walls are a shiny black, deep
within a vein of rich Ukrainian coal. They hunch over
and begin to work.

In the seesaw, post-election battle for the presidency
of Ukraine, this sweaty end of the shaft, with its dim
and dank air, amounts to a parallel universe. This is
the territory of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the
nominal winner of the Nov. 21 presidential election
that outside observers said was marred by fraud.
....
The opposition might control Kiev, the capital. But as
Viktor Sorokovoy, a veteran miner put it, "Kiev is not
Ukraine."

Here the miners describe a political life that orbits
around stability and uncomplicated ideas like working
and getting paid on time. 

When Yanukovich was first their regional governor and
then prime minister, the miners said, their salaries
were paid on time. Their salaries also rose. Given the
history of heavy industry in the former Soviet Union,
the miners regard this as a feat. Stability to them
means incumbent power. 

"We are for Yanukovich," said Sergei Pashkov, a work
brigade leader in charge of a shift of 160 men. "That
is the opinion of all of the mine."

As a result, the many divides in Ukrainian politics
could hardly be more stark than the difference between
the daily life of Independence Square, in Kiev, and
the pace in this coal mine.

One tactic used by the opposition to force the prime
minister to acknowledge allegations of fraud
surrounding his victory and stand for another vote has
been a spirited call for a national strike. The men of
the Trudovskaya Mine like to point out that there is
in fact no national strike.

For more than a week, as Kiev has been swarmed by
demonstrators, miners in the shafts of Trudovskaya (a
euphonious derivative of the Russian word "labor")
have not missed a minute of work. They have kept
digging, 24 hours a day.

The extended fight for the presidency, and by
extension the immediate future of Ukraine, is laden
with many meanings. The opposition has tried to frame
its battle as a contest pitting the standard bearers
of democracy against a strongman's election-rigging
crooks. It is much more complicated than that.

This nation of 48 million feels as if it is rocking
back and forth, and not just between two candidates or
even two ideas. It is tugged between the past and the
future, between its internal divisions in east and
west, between historic connections with Russia and
aspirations to be European, between rival political
clans, between the Russian language and the Ukrainian
tongue, and between the Russian Orthodox faith and an
enduring Catholicism. It is also divided between those
comfortable living in a centralized and disciplined
form of post-Soviet government and a freewheeling,
flower-waving generation that at times has made
opposition demonstrations feel like massive,
cappuccino-charged dance parties.

And down here in the mine, the men offer another and
richly familiar way to frame their nation's political
fight: The battle between Yanukovich and the
opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, they say, is
between those who work and those who play. It is a
timeless us-against-them. "Students," Sorokovoy said,
"should go back to school."

These men say their prime minister won the race fairly
and soundly, and those who complain of widespread
fraud - as have Western election monitors and
governments, and opposition demonstrators - are
playing a dirty game. It is not Kiev that risks being
disfranchised, they say, but the men down in the hole.

Everything about what is happening in Kiev fills them
with disgust, from the street protests to the public
behavior of Yushchenko, whom they see as more stuntman
than statesman. As men who labor amid Soviet
iconography, they reject the word "revolution" as a
way to describe what the opposition has been
attempting. Revolution, they said, crouching in a
circle around their visitor, has to be made by people
with dignity.

Last week Yushchenko appeared at an unofficial meeting
of Parliament and administered the oath of office to
himself on national television. No matter how the
political crisis ends, for them this was too much, a
sign that what they thought they knew about their
country was slipping away.

"What would happen in America if John Kerry put his
hand on the Bible and declared himself the president
of the United States?" said Anatoly Demeshchenko,
another brigade leader. He let the question hang in
the dirty air and darkness, unanswered.








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