Ukraine can be explained without conspiracy theories

We can bring down a government?

This article on the situation in Ukraine was written on the evening of February 21st. Events have moved even more rapidly than its author Antonio Moscato predicted but it contains useful insights into the dynamics of the protests. It’s been translated from Italian.

It’s difficult to predict how things will develop after the violent clashes in Kiev and many other Ukrainian cities over the last few days following the agreement reached by the government and opposition which allows for new elections and a return to the old constitution.

However, it is possible to refute some distorted interpretations which stop us from grasping the complexity of the situation. We can start with the one which sees the anti government mobilisations only as expressing a desire to be in the European Union. A lot of very different motivations have come together in the demonstrations, among which are anti government protests inspired by a variety of reasons.

Just as wrong is the version favoured by some in the “nostalgic” left, which downplays the scale of the protests and attributes them exclusively to sections of the right. Svoboda (which is supported by 10% of voters) and the neo Nazis of Pravly Sektor are present in some demonstrations and have a certain influence, but they are not the essential component.  They are just as hostile to Europe as to Russia, in which they see the continuation of the Soviet Union, a state about which many Ukrainians have strong reservations. Many Ukrainians continue to interpret the crisis through the perspective of the forced collectivisation of 1929-33, which caused seven million deaths and they see it as a deliberate attempt to commit genocide, while it was actually the distorted and criminal way in which Stalin belatedly dealt with the issue of kulak farmers. He did the same in Russia and other Soviet republics which had large numbers of peasant farmers.  This was the reason, rather than a particular predisposition to fascism, which accounts for a higher level of collaboration with Hitler than in other republics (apart from those in the Baltic). Nostalgia for the anti Soviet, anti-Semitic Ukrainian Liberation Army is a big aspect of the politics for the two far right groups. But they are not the main drivers of the protest, which has accepted the two groups because of their ability to respond effectively to the very fierce attacks by the special police, the Berkut.  The protesters have often demonstrated their own critical abilities, disapproving of interventions which haven’t been jointly agreed, and a certain sense of balance, keeping safe and then freeing many young police officers who easily captured due to the mass scale of the demonstrations, protecting them from attempted lynchings.

It is absurd to suggest (as do some in the conspiracy theory prone, pro-Soviet Latin American left) a version of events which reduces the protests only to the usual manipulation by the CIA and Western powers. It’s absurd because of the size of the protests, which have also happened in some eastern Russian speaking cities, as well as in the west which is more attracted by the link with Europe as well as the usual generic and vacuous appeals to respect human rights (and look at who is making these calls!). Neither the United States nor the European Union have shown themselves in any great hurry to intervene. The measures announced by the extraordinary council of ministers are ridiculously ineffective and aimed to kick the problem into the future. Perhaps they should have thought about not selling armoured cars, tear gas, handcuffs, water cannon and other weapons a lot earlier. And maybe they could have thought about offering aid to counter balance Putin’s consistent levels of support right from the start of the crisis. The dream (and it’s a questionable one from our point of view) of entering  the EU as a full member wasn’t only blocked by Yanukovich, but also by the EU, which isn’t so keen on expanding to include such a large country whose agricultural products would be in competition with those of France and Germany.

That’s why the West is only dealing with the Ukraine on the level of abstract propaganda. It’s been announced that entire Olympic squads will leave Sochi and then we find out that they’ll leave when the competition has ended; there are tear jerking accounts about the nurse who “died” live on TV and they make far too much of the emerging rift between Yanukovich and some big business people, skating over how they became so fabulously rich at the expense of the rest of their fellow citizens. Ukraine’s fifty richest men would be very at home in Europe. But how did they accumulate this wealth, if not by benefitting from their closeness to corrupt political power, built in large measure by recycling members of the old nomenklatura. That’s why their split from the leader is rather vague and seems more than anything intended to allow them to reposition themselves should Yanukovich stand down, given the ineffectiveness of the measures to stop the clashes, which now have their own dynamic.

The outcome of this crisis can have repercussions in the other countries which are still more or less voluntarily in Moscow’s orbit. They are all torn by deep contradictions and are afflicted by an indelible legacy from the Stalinist past. They all are deeply undemocratic, and they mythologise the “democracy suffocated by the Russian Revolution”. None of these countries had democratic traditions and Stalinist rule certainly didn’t encourage them. Chronic instability is held in check only by massive repression. We will see shortly what happens to them.,

Let’s conclude by reflecting on Putin’s strange winter Olympics which took place in subtropical Sochi which were interpreted by many commentators as a test of strength with the unsettled Caucasus. But Sochi is just a stone’s throw from the Crimea, one of the possible breaking points in the Ukrainian crisis. Perhaps the games were also a show of strength and the ability to spend and impress in advance of a new phase of the endemic Ukrainian crisis. The challenge of delivering the games on schedule, despite the worrying messages sent by the December attacks in Volgograd was won. No one in Kiev, or anywhere else, can forget that Putin is the power broker in this area.


  1. “Some 312 out of the 373 MPs registered in the session hall of the Ukrainian parliament have supported the appointment of Svoboda faction member Oleh Makhnitsky as Ukraine’s prosecutor general”

    Interfax Ukraine 24.02.2014

  2. That in itself should be a clue to those who think that Svoboda is a Nazi party: why should the other parties put a Nazi into a key role? In fact Oleh Makhnitsky was co-author of one of key pieces of pro-EU legislation agreed by the parliament last year, a register of breaches of new anti-corruption laws.

  3. There’s no contradiction between being a fascist and being anti-corruption.
    In fact, it’s quite characteristic.

    During the Stavisky affair in 1934, the leader of Action Française called the government a “gang of assassins and robbers”.
    The riots in Paris were regarded by socialists as an attempted fascist coup d’état and led to a right-wing National government.
    Trotsky castigated the United Front of the Left and PCF for calling on the workers to demonstrate at the Place de la Concorde at the same time as the fascists.
    While the overthrow of Daladier’s government didn’t represent the victory of Fascism, it created the conditions for a growing convergence between the parliamentary Right and French fascists.

    The rightists are more central to events in Ukraine than your article implies.
    “Svoboda” is an Observer party to the “Alliance of European National Parties”, which includes Jobbik and the BNP.
    Its leader Oleh Tyahnybok was a signatory to the abortive deal to form a Coaliton, overseen by the French, German and Polish foreign ministers.
    The Right Sector’s street fighters were crucial to overthrowing it.

    These far-right groups have developed quite slick PR skills to appeal to their Western backers.
    While Catherine Ashton visits Kiev and turns a blind eye to them, the EU and USA are sending funds to prop up the new government.
    Svoboda and the Right Sector are the direct desendants of the Bandera movement.

    see this well-researched piece by Max Blumenthal:-

    They have undoubtedly been strengthened by the events of the past few days.
    Up until now there has been no effective working class opposition to these rightists.

  4. I am wary of branding this as fascist. It is a distorted national liberation struggle would be my guess. Not lef by leftists. Socialism was destroyed by Stalinism when he purged the local party. Mind you Lenin did not help when he forced a merger between various parties.
    Many in Ukraine fear that their fate will be similar to Belarus if they do not win.
    Obviously nasties on both sides. Hopefully a civic left culture will eventually emerge.
    I find it awful that as well as collective and family guilt, Stalinism now has heretidary (sic) guilt. And many of them still pray to Moscow. I find it tragic that the Cliffites appear to have a similar approach.
    Many stupid nationalists across Europe and indeed the world thought the enemy of my enemy was my friend. Eg The IRA, Subhas Chandra Bose and a certain General Aung.
    A nuanced article here.

  5. “The Verkhovna Rada has approved Arseniy Yatseniuk as Ukrainian prime minister; a total of 371 MPs out of the 417 registered in the parliament’s session hall voted for this decision on Thursday”.
    (via NRCU Ukrainian Radio 27-02-2014 )

    Amongst the new cabinet members Yatseniuk appointed today are:-

    Andrii Mokhnyk, Deputy chairman of Svoboda (Environment Minister)
    Oleksandr Sych of Svoboda (Deputy Prime Minister)

    A question which is already causing problems is what the new government’s position will be on the 2010 Kharkiv Pact.
    This renewed the Russian lease on its naval facilities in Crimea until 2042, in exchange for discounted natural gas.
    Many members of the new government oppose the Pact.

  6. This article educates the reader on Ukraine, a positive change, as what has been published in the mainstream press has to date been heavily shaped by EU/US or Russian state propaganda.

    I do have a query, was there strikes by workers unionised/non-unionised in support of the demonstrators in Kiev.

      • Thanks for the link. The message was clear from socialist activist Ilya Budraitskis,the left has to get more involved and not abstain, as the nationalists and fascists are and will continue to steer the protest movement, which would be disastorous for the working class if these backward and reactionary forces remain in the driving seat.

        Good luck to activist Ilya Budraitskis and all his brave comrades over in Ukraine.

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