[Marxism] A reminder of why vulgar Marxism is inadequate for understanding Ukraine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu May 15 14:40:48 MDT 2014

NY Times, May 15 2014
Workers Take to Streets to Calm Tense Ukrainian City

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — In what could represent a decisive turning point in 
the Ukrainian conflict and a setback for Russia, thousands of 
steelworkers fanned out Thursday over the city of Mariupol, establishing 
control over the streets and routing the pro-Kremlin militants who 
seized control several weeks ago.

By late Thursday, miners and steelworkers had deployed in at least five 
cities, including the regional capital, Donetsk, though they had not yet 
become the dominant force there that they are in Mariupol, the region’s 
second largest city and the site just last week of bloody confrontations 
between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian militants.

The workers are employees of Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and a 
recent convert to the side of Ukrainian unity, who on Wednesday issued a 
statement rejecting the separatist cause of the self-styled Donetsk 
People’s Republic but endorsing greater local autonomy. His decision to 
throw his weight fully behind the interim government in Kiev could 
inflict a body blow to the separatists, already reeling from Russian 
President Vladimir V. Putin’s withdrawal of full-throated support last week.

Wearing only their protective clothing and hard-hats, the workers said 
they were “outside politics” and just trying to establish order. Faced 
with waves of steelworkers joined by the police, the pro-Russian 
protesters have melted away, as has any sign of the Donetsk People’s 
Republic or its representatives. Backhoes and dump trucks from the 
steelworkers’ factory dismantled all the barricades that had been erected.

Metinvest and DTEK, the two subsidiaries in metals and mining of Mr. 
Akhmetov’s company, System Capital Management, together employ 280,000 
people in eastern Ukraine, forming an important and possibly decisive 
force in the region. They have a history of political activism 
stretching back to miner strikes that helped bring down the Soviet 
Union. In this conflict, they had not previously signaled their 
allegiance to one side or the other.

It was still too early to ascertain whether the separatists would 
regroup to resist the industrial workers, though none were to be found 
in and around Mariupol on Thursday, not even in the public 
administration building they had been occupying.

“We have to bring order to the city,” Aleksei Gorlov, a steelworker, 
said of his motivation for joining one of the unpaid and voluntary 
patrols that were organized at the Ilych Steel works. Groups of six or 
so steel workers accompany two policemen on the patrols. “People 
organize themselves,” he said. “In times of troubles, that is how it works.”

Workers from another mill, Azov Steel, took one side of the city, while 
the Ilych factory took the other. Both groups were trying to convince 
longshoremen to patrol the port, Mr. Gorlov said.

The two steel mills fly Ukrainian flags outside their headquarters, 
though, like so much else in Ukraine, the lines of loyalty were muddled. 
At least a portion of the police in the city had mutinied on Friday, 
leading to a shootout with the Ukrainian national guard, which killed at 
least seven people.

The chief executive of Ilych Steel, Yuri Zinchenko, is leading the 
steelworker patrols in the city. He said the company had remained on the 
sidelines as long as possible, while tacitly supporting unity with 
Ukraine by conveying to workers that a separatist victory would close 
export markets in Europe, devastating the factory and the town.

The Ilych Steel Works, a grimy scene of mid-20th century industrial 
sprawl, is one of Ukraine’s most important factories, producing five 
million tons of slab steel a year. About 50,000 people work in the steel 
industry in Mariupol, a city of 460,000. So far, 18,000 steelworkers 
have signed up for the patrols, Metinvest executives say.

“There’s no family in Mariupol that’s not connected to the steel 
industry,” Mr. Zinchenko said in an interview at his desk, decorated 
with a miniature Ukrainian flag. He said he had negotiated a truce with 
local representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic, but not the 
group’s leaders.

Mr. Akhmetov’s statement spelled out the daunting problems for the 
regional economy, and his assets, should the Donetsk People’s Republic 
win its struggle with the Kiev.

“Nobody in the world will recognize it,” he said in a videotaped 
statement. “The structure of our economy is coal, industry, metallurgy, 
energy, machine works, chemicals and agriculture and all the enterprises 
tied to these sectors. We will come under huge sanctions, we will not 
sell our products, cannot produce. This means the stopping of factories, 
this means unemployment, this means poverty.”

Russia itself exports steel, so has never been a significant market for 
the region’s output.

Residents welcomed the steelworker patrols for bringing an end to chaos 
and insecurity. They said that masked men had robbed four grocery 
stores, a store selling hunting rifles and a jewelry store, and had 
burned down a bank.

The crowds of pro-Russian protesters who had jeered and cursed Ukrainian 
soldiers last week were nowhere to be seen.

The Kiev government was forced to rebut reports that the police chief 
had been found hanging dead in the town. He had indeed been kidnapped by 
gunmen and severely beaten, but he was eventually rescued, the Interior 
Ministry said.

“There are a lot of idiots with guns in my city,” Aleksey Rybinsev, 38, 
a computer programmer who said he welcomed the new patrols, though he 
feared they might yet develop into another informal militia group. “I 
haven’t seen a policeman all day. I didn’t see them, and I didn’t want 
to see them.”

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