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