[Marxism] Ukraine 1. Yanukovich’s end is a beginning | People and Nature

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 26 19:33:14 MST 2014


Q. Some people in the western left focus on the right wing and fascists; 
others seem to ignore them completely. Why?

A. This is more about the western left, and the stereotypes it is so 
often satisfied with, than about what is going on in Ukraine.

People who see the world in terms of a geopolitical battle between the 
USA and NATO on one side, and Russia, among others, on the other side, 
look at Ukraine as a chess piece in this conflict. To them, what is most 
important is not the development of social and labour movements – in 
Ukraine, Russia or anywhere else – but which side Ukraine takes in this 
battle (the west vs Russia). They can not get their heads round the idea 
of middle class or working class Ukrainians seeing positives in Europe, 
as opposed to Russia. The answer, they are convinced, must be that 
Maidan can not be a mass movement in which right wing populists and 
fascists have gained influence, and therefore it must be a movement 
inspired by the right, supported materially and ideologically by the USA.

An especially crude version of this view is here. (“In an attempt to pry 
Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance 
has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists”, etc.) Some of 
these presumptions were reflected, too, in Seumas Milne’s article in the 
Guardian here.

On the other side are social democratic supporters of the European 
ideal, whatever that means to them. They believe that their job is to 
help bring Ukraine into the European capitalist fold. This meant turning 
a blind eye to, or playing down, the right wing and fascists’ violence, 
and emphasising that Maidan is pro-European and therefore inherently 
progressive. Variants of such views are effectively challenged by 
Volodymyr Ishchenko of the journal Spil’ne here and here.

There is a great deal of history running through these arguments. I was 
depressed to see, on Maidan, flags and symbols of the wartime Ukrainian 
Resistance Army (UPA), some of whose leaders collaborated with the 
Nazis, and some of whose detachments participated in ethnic cleansing 
against Jews, Poles and Russians. That symbolism sticks in my gullet; 
perhaps it’s my Jewish family background. (I felt even sicker in 2010, 
when the former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, pinned a medal 
on the grandson of UPA leader Stepan Bandera, saying, in effect, “screw 
any discussion of history among Ukrainians, let’s appeal to the crudest 
nationalist sentiments”.)

Socialists need to get a historical handle on Ukrainian nationalism. But 
in order to do so, in my view, we need first to filter out the heavy 
legacy of Soviet ideology, which still corrodes the 21st century labour 
movement. That ideology cast the tyrannical Stalinist dictatorship, 
which in 1932-33 presided over a famine that killed millions of 
Ukrainians, as “socialist”, and all Ukrainian nationalists – whether or 
not they had any connection with UPA or sympathy for its wartime 
dealings with the Nazis – as “fascists”. All this is behind some of the 

When Yanukovich said he was overthrown by a “fascist coup”, he might 
even have believed it. In terms of analysis, surely we can do better.


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