Ukraine & I
I’ve had a long distance relationship, so to speak, with Ukraine for a long time. Ever since I went to Trent University back in 1997.
The blue & yellow flag of Ukraine.
One of my closest friends there, at university, was from Lviv, in the west of Ukraine, and I’ve also been fortunate to know several other Ukrainians over the years, both at Trent and elsewhere.
My close university friend, from Lviv, was also a central member of the Trent Socialists that I was involved in at the time, and, in many ways, he was our chief theoretician. I personally thank him for introducing me to, first, the writings of Leon Trotsky, and, later, Rosa Luxembourg.
It was also through his encouragement that I set about to truly study Marxist thought, spending hours in the university’s various libraries reading through the collected works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Kautsky, and others, including the philosophical work of Ilyenkov, the writings of Vygotsky and some of Bukharin’s early works.
And while I later studied the works of Lukacs, Gramsci, Pannekoek and others, which have greatly influenced my theoretical positions, I do credit my friend and his influence for providing me with a solid theoretical foundation.
My friend was also, at the time, strongly associated, if I recall correctly, with the Socialist Party of Ukraine, then under the leadership of Oleksandr Moroz, which was essentially the successor of the Ukrainian Communist Party, and it was through this that I learned also somewhat about the politics of Ukraine. I also learned some rudimentary Russian (I decided that was a more useful language, in terms of a lingua franca, than Ukrainian itself), which would be invaluable for me later.
And so, I’ve always had a soft spot for Ukraine – it’s like a cousin who I think of dearly, even though far away.
Which has made the last few months, and, particularly, the last week and days all the more worrying for me.
Democratic Uprising or Right Wing Coup?
There are a lot of narratives coming out of Ukraine right now, in the Western media reporting from there.
Some render the situation incredibly simplistic, although in places capturing partial truths.
It’s a clash between pro-EU and pro-Russian factions; it’s a clash between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians; it’s Western influence versus Russian influence (although in the Western media it’s reported as ‘the West’s concern for the situation and support for democracy in the face of Russian interference’…); it’s the western half of Ukraine versus the eastern half; it’s democracy against dictatorship; it’s a popular uprising against discredited politicians; it’s good versus bad.
Naturally, the truth is far more complicated – far more so than I can hope to capture here.
My own feeling is that it started off as a legitimate expression of protest.
Just as people in southern Europe have chafed against austerity and interference from a dominant neighbour (Greece versus Germany), so people were chafing against the economic situation in general and the influence of Russia. And I do think there are/were legitimate grievances there, and also regarding official corruption and the ineffectiveness of the Government to deal with these.
However, I also think these protests were very quickly hijacked by right-wing forces, including the far-right, and Western interests (particularly the USA).
The US has been developing regime change through stealth, through the training, funding and organising of opposition groups in various countries, and has been relatively successful in the process, as seen in the various velvet ‘colour’ revolutions in various countries.
There’s plenty of evidence here that the US has been aiding and abetting the ‘revolutionaries’ in Ukraine, including undermining the EU’s efforts (who’ve been supporting Klitschko’s UDAR party).
The Rise of Neo-Fascism
What’s particularly disturbing to me in Ukraine is that the oppositionists which have come to the fore have been the the far-right, both in the form of the Svoboda (Свобода = Freedom) Party and the Pravii Sektor (Пра́вий се́ктор = Right Sector) militant group. Both of these groups are very much on the far, even ultra, right.
Svoboda members in Kiev celebrating Ukrainian WWII Nazi collaborators (portrait of Stepan Bandera, Ukrainian WWII fascist leader, at front).
The Svoboda, for example, is officially partnered with the fascist British National Party, to use a more familiar Western group, while the Pravii Sektor is pretty much a modern version of the Freikorps.
There have been instances of these right-wing groups assaulting and suppressing leftist groups, with many leftists in the west of Ukraine being forced underground – the toppling of Lenin statues further cementing the anti-Russian and anti-left orientations of these groups, while they’ve been quite open in displaying fascist symbols and slogans affiliated with the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators of WWII.
Toppled Lenin statue in Ukraine, with far-right symbols (Nazi SS and circle cross of White supremacism) in Ukraine.
Not every popular uprising is ‘good’ and the conditions in Ukraine, combined with the loss of legitimacy of the left as a result of the Stalinist nightmare, has left open a vacuum that has been filled by neo-fascist groups there.
And while there was/is mass disillusionment with the Government there, it’s not clear that the ‘revolution’ there has been anything more than a fascist insurrection from western Ukrainian forces, aided and abetted by the West; indeed, the prominence of fascists in the ‘EuroMaidan’ in many ways prevented a unified ‘all-Ukrainian’ revolution.
No side is ‘right’
Neither the West and its fascist proxies or Russia and its proxies are to be supported here.
Both are in the wrong – the West for its active support and assistance in this fascist insurrection and Russia for its cynical maneovers in Crimea and elsewhere.
At best one could argue that Russia is acting purely defensively and legitimately in support of the democratically elected Government, now in exile, against a fascist coup d’etat, however even that is questionable – although arguable all the same.
Events on the ground are rapidly changing – I’ll hope to give a clearer analysis when I can.