[Marxism] Eastern Ukraine: beyond the fragments | People and Nature

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu May 22 06:44:26 MDT 2014

How could you not be confused by a call for strike action made this week 
by … the richest man in Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov! He has called on 
workers at the metals plants and mines that he owns in Donetsk to stop 
work in protest at the so-called “People’s Republic” set up there.

Akhmetov was one of the key backers of the overthrown president Viktor 
Yanukovich. Since Yanukovich was defeated in February, Akhmetov has 
constantly been accused of supporting armed separatism in eastern 
Ukraine – and indeed the proto-fascist leader of the Donetsk 
separatists, Pavel Gubaryov, claimed the movement was financed by 
Akhmetov. But now Akhmetov has publicly stated his support for the Kyiv 

In the second of two pro-Kyiv videos posted on Youtube, Akhmetov on 
Monday called on his own employees to strike against separatism. This 
followed the organisation of self-defence units by steelworkers at an 
Akhmetov-owned plant in Mariupol, the port city in Donetsk region. The 
units, formed last month with no apparent support from the steelworks 
management, were last week brought on to the streets with the managers’ 
active participation (according to this article in the New York Times).

Weird as it may sound to readers in many countries … workers are being 
mobilised by their bosses. Such alliances are a long and dishonourable 
post-Soviet tradition.

In the 1990s, miners and other industrial workers were for the first 
time developing independent unions that had been illegal and impossible 
to organise in Soviet times. At the same time, local bosses and would-be 
owners were battling for control of cash flows and assets with “the 
centre” (i.e. ministries in Moscow or, from 1991 in Ukraine, Kyiv). Both 
Russia and Ukraine suffered an epidemic of non-payment of wages by 
bankrupt enterprises. Plant managers would typically urge workers e.g. 
to block roads or railroads, or even kidnap visiting officials, to put 
pressure on “the centre”. The workers often needed little persuading.


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