Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ukrainian Billionaires organizing local militia's

Billionaires Row: Igor Kolomoisky (R) and Serhiy Taruta Source: Kiev Post
from Stephen Morgan in Brussels .

I wouldn't disagree with a lot of what is said in the previous commentary reprinted from the World Socialist Website, but I don't think it gives a "different balance on events" only some extra information. In fact, if anything, in my opinion, it has a too “imbalanced” approach to the question.

The article confirms what I have stated in previous posts that, "Unfortunately, it seems that it was the billionaire owner of the steelworks who organized these workers' units to disarm the pro-Russian militias and the steelworkers are patrolling the streets under police command. Therefore, it is not an entirely spontaneous workers' movement from below to take control of the situation."
The Kiev Post reported:

On May 16, the Kyiv Post spoke with two police officers and seven steelworkers patrolling in central Mariupol. One of them, Igor Panamaryov, an engineer at Metinvest's Ilyich Iron and Steel plant, said he had signed on to help ensure the safety and the city's residents and protect his family.
"We're a peaceful city, and we're peaceful people," he said. "We want to return [Mariupol] to peace."
In just his second day of patrolling he'd already made a contribution, he explained, locating and returning a stolen car.
In neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region, banking oligarch and Kyiv-appointed regional governor Igor Kolomoisky chose to go a different route, creating his own armed militia to root out separatists and offering bounties of $1,500 for the seizure of guns and $10,000 for “terrorists,” as he described the armed pro-Russia rebels.  
It is certainly true that Imperialism wants to topple the pro-Russian paramilitary groups who have seized power and it has used the oligarchs to promote this. However, a main thrust of the WSW argument is that Imperialism is exaggerating the role of the working class for its own interests. There is probably some truth in this, (although it is an unusual situation to say the least) but the article doesn't see the danger in the situation for the ruling class.
It also states that these events have only taken place in "smaller towns." But the key city in which this began is Mariupol, which has a population of half a million and Makeevka with a population of 380,000, so I'm not sure about the accuracy of some of the reporting in this article.
The other disturbing point for me is that despite correctly exposing the role of the steel oligarchs in this, it says nothing about the pro-Russian paramilitaries and by implication portrays them as progressive forces. Who exactly these people are is difficult to say exactly, but they certainly aren't groups of armed workers who have seized the government buildings and are now being ejected from them. They are shadowy types, who have never revealed their identity and are probably made up of many pro-Russian, ultra-nationalist right-wing groups and some have already been linked to anti-Semitic propaganda. While most people in the East may be favourable to secession, it doesn't mean that these paramilitaries have uncritical popular support.
Reports do suggest that as a result of their seizures of government building crime has suddenly leapt. That is probably true, because once the old state power collapses, criminal types will always take the opportunity to increase their activities. Lawlessness is a negative offshoot of revolutionary crisis and needs a revolutionary party to arm workers militias to stop it. The groups now organized by the oligarchs aren't the same thing, only a caricature of that.
How large they really are is not clear. But I don't think they could have been formed if there wasn't general concern among the working class about the deterioration of law and order. Furthermore, if they had no wider support, why haven't there been mass demonstrations to defend the paramilitaries in the government buildings?
Therefore, I think that, while we wouldn't give our support to the oligarch/police led steelworkers and miners groups, I wouldn't give uncritical support to the paramilitaries either. Surely our role is to support the idea of such workers' militias, but also denounce and expose the oligarchs and call for workers' militias to be independent and directly elected from the workplaces and to have no co-operation with the bosses and give no power over them to the local police.
In my opinion, the World Socialist Website is trying the make this a cut and dried situation, when in fact it is far more complex and still unfolding. As I wrote previously, “Revolutionary consciousness doesn't suddenly leap into revolutionary clarity like a Phoenix from the ashes.” We don't yet have a finished process. So while it is right to expose the role of Imperialism and the oligarchs in this, in my opinion, it would be wrong to rule out the possibility of an independent workers' movement arising out of the current contradictions. My fear is that the black and white, rather “wooden” position of the WSW could blind us to this possibility and distract us from making the necessary transitional demands along the lines of;
* No co-operation with the bosses and oligarchs!
* For democratic workers' control and management of industry and workplaces.
* For the creation of genuine independent workers' militias directly elected from the workplace.
* Arm the workers and put the police under workers' control
* For the creation of popular grass roots committees of the general public, women, youth, workers, soldiers and police to elect city-wide and regional committees to run society.
* An appeal to Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking workers for unity against Imperialism and its puppets and the creation of a federation of democratic workers' states.

This complex situation may well be behind Putin's recent caution over pushing towards a break away by the Eastern Ukraine. With the eyes and ears of his agents on the ground, he may well understand that consciousness can change quickly in a crisis like this, whereby possible session could potentially turn into a workers' revolution in which the workers push aside the likes of the billionaire oligarchs and the police and take direct control over society themselves. This would have huge repercussions inside Russia also and in the West. However, despite all the distortions, it also shows that the germs of the original ideas of the Bolshevik revolution are still alive among workers in the Eastern Ukraine.

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