Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Extreme Right in Ukraine: Victory brings danger! Red Alert!

from Stephen Morgan in Brussels.

Events are still unfolding with great rapidity in the Ukraine and this is also the case in relation to the role of the extreme right. Following victory over the pro-oligarchic, pro-Russian Imperialist government and the repressive apparatus of the state, the extreme-right now constitutes a threat to all the progressive aspects of the revolution. The wider masses, who made up the majority of the opposition and who have no political sympathies with these toxic elements, now risk loosing control of the political process, which they fought so hard to achieve.

The nationalists and far-right have not only widened their influence, but their arrogance and self-confidence has reached dangerous proportions. Their militarization represents a dire danger. The fact that they played an important role in the fighting means that they have grown in confidence and they have become a virtual law unto themselves over which the general opposition has no control.

Unfortunately, the opposition's cooperation with these elements, born of ignorance and perceived need, has legitimized them and disarmed the masses politically in face of what they really represent. They not only vehemently oppose the (confused) pro-EU aspirations of the larger movement, but they are, in fact, opposed to all the democratic goals of the opposition and will turn against its aims and aspirations, as soon as the situation becomes favourable for them. And that is already happening. They can now do almost anything they want, arrest who they like, beat up who they wish and literally get away with murder, without fear of any accountability.

The groups like the far-right, nationalist, Svoboda party and the neo-nazi Right Sector group represent a particularly pernicious threat to the future health of the revolution. These groups vary in their affiliations, some claiming to find their heritage in the independence groups who fought both the Soviets and the Nazis in the 2nd World War, while others clearly find their inspiration in fascist ideology.

Regardless, they have nothing but contempt for the rest of the opposition and have their own agenda for seizing power. This could develop quickly over the next few days, as they turn their attention away from the state forces and search out minorities, such as the Jews, foreigners, ethnic minorities and gays, as well as left-wing activists and trade unionists, in order to continue their violence and remove anyone who stands in their way. Only one day after the rebellion's victory, the chief rabbi in Kiev has advised all Jews to leave the city immediately! While not wanting to join forces with Yanukovych's statements that the current uprising is a fascist coup, we also have to sound a booming loud warning of the dangerous way things are developing.

So what is the power base of these groups? Ironically, many are originally Russian-speaking but have
rapidly increased their influence among Ukrainian speakers. The reason for this is manifold. The regime of Yanukovych was clearly pro-Russian and made up of many ex-bureaucrats from the Stalinist era and thus had an incorrectly perceived “left” identity. Therefore, some saw a “revolutionary” alternative to them in terms of far-right ideas. This was added to by the ineffectiveness of the official opposition and the fact that the labour movement and the left was weak.

The extreme-right was also able to gain a base because of the type of objective conditions which have always favoured fascism. The economic crisis in the Ukraine created a lumpenized urban group of discontented youth and de-classed elements on the fringes of society and a reservoir of petit-bourgeoisie, who were crushed by the oligarchic capitalists and unable to improve their lot economically.

The fact that the bureaucracy and the oligarchs were intrinsically interlined in their cooperative exploitation of the population added to discontent which, like in Germany in the 30's, made the middle classes and lumpen susceptible to an ideology of “anti-capitalist” fascism. Given that “anti-capitalist socialism” had become confused with and discredited by Stalinism, this gave the extreme-right an extra fillip.

They were able to increase their support among layers in the Western Ukraine, because it is the less industrialized, poorest and the most agricultural region of the country. The farmers (and before then peasants) have always been more susceptible to extreme-right ideas and the specific weight of the working class in society in the West was far less pronounced than in the industrial heartlands of the east. This has given more opportunities for the growth of right-wing ideas.

It is these groups who are also responsible for the toppling of Lenin statues across the west and center of the country. It is rather ironic that after the Russian Revolution, Lenin insisted on the right of self-determination for the Ukraine, including their right to separate from Russia – even though he knew the country would fall into the hands of right-wing nationalist forces who were fighting the Bolsheviks in the civil war!

However, it would be wrong to write-off the Western Ukraine. It has many important cities and an important working class. In Lviv, the city in the West which was the most radical centre of opposition to the Yanukovych regime, the movement which overthrew the local authorities and security forces was led by an individual who describes himself as a trade unionist and social democrat.

The miners and railways workers in the West are also very combatative and were the groups which established the first free, independent unions in the country. We should not forget that the national buildings of the Confederation of Free Trade Union (KVPU) in Kiev was the headquarters of the official opposition throughout the rebellion.

However, this union is a tender plant and has weak roots in the east. It has about 150,000 members, which is very few compared to the others. There is another union which is a break away union from the main federation, which has 1.5 million members called the National Confederation of the Trade-Union Organizations of Ukraine (NKPU). However, the old Stalinist trade union, the FPU, remains the biggest and most influential organization, especially in the east, with 8.5 million members.

Despite the divisions between the east and west, it is only by organizing workers unity in opposition to these anti-working class organizations, with a fighting programme against anti-Semitism, racism, fascism, homophobia and common goals such as job security, increased investment in industry and wages, that the extreme-right can be defeated.

The working class through its organizations, with some 11 million members, is the largest single and best organized force in Ukrainian society and the one with the potential power to wipe out the extreme right groups.

The unions at a local level need to organize workers' units to combat these right-wing groups, probably armed if necessary. Local unions in the east and west should by-pass bureaucrats and twin together geographically to form a national all-Ukraine workers' anti-fascist movement, which cuts across all linguistic and ethnic divisions. 

Fighting anti-fascist groups should be organized not only in the workplaces, but among the youth, in the schools and colleges, in the housing estates, women’s organization and anywhere else where they can explain the danger of the extreme right and organize.

It would be a tragedy, if, after all the sacrifices of the uprising, that the authoritarian regime of Yanukovych is replaced by a dictatorship of the extreme-right. It would mean a setback for the struggle for democracy throughout the region and the world at large.

No Pasarán!
* Defend the revolution!
* No to the extreme-right, no co-operation with fascists and nationalists!
* No to anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia!
* Form fighting grass root organizations everywhere!
* Unity is strength! For workers unity throughout the Ukraine!
* Drive the fascists off the streets!


Albert Dragstedt said...

No Pasaran is inevitably associated with La Pasionaria, who task was to convince the comrades of the CP that they were not to struggle for revolution, but to assist the ever so sly maneuvering of Stalin with the capitalist powers. Albert D.

Stephen Morgan said...

Good point Albert, though I think many people associate with it as a famous anti-fascist slogan without knowing the perfidious role of the CP during the Spanish Civil War.

But thanks because it made me think that it probably should come out, in the sense that those who know its CP connection might be put off by it in the Ukraine.

Stephen Morgan