The following is a re-print of a Mar. 5th Liberation News article by Steven Argue originally published at Boston Indymedia:
For the Rights of Russians and all Other Oppressed Nationalities in Ukraine!
US & EU Imperialist Hands Off Crimea, Ukraine, Belarus, & Russia!
By Steven Argue
On February 22, 2014, a far right movement overthrew the elected government of Ukraine and seized power in Kiev. They did this with major U.S. and European Union sponsorship. Since taking power that movement has abolished the language rights of Hungarian, Romanian, Tatar, and Russian speaking minorities, banned political parties, announced their intention to ban abortion, given neo-Nazis important positions in the new government, and announced their intention to carry out extreme austerity as demanded by the IMF as a condition for membership in the European Union.
In response, the oppressed Russian speaking minority of Crimea have risen up, forming self-defense militias and seized their local government. Many Ukrainian troops have switched sides, turned their weapons over, and pledged their loyalty to the Crimean government as opposed to the U.S. backed coup government in Kiev. Russian President Vladimir Putin estimates the number of Ukrainian troops who have turned over their weapons at 22,000. In other cases, Ukrainian troops are confined to their bases where they are surrounded by armed soldiers.
The identity of some of the armed soldiers backing the Crimean government is in dispute. It is claimed by the western media, the coup government in Kiev, and the Obama administration that these are Russian soldiers who have removed their patches. Vladimir Putin, however, says that this is untrue and insists they are all Crimean self-defense militia. There is no question that some, if not all of the soldiers, actually are from the self-defense militias. Yet, some reports, including a recorded interview of a soldier who admits he is in the Russian military, do seem to back the claim that Russian troops are on the ground in Crimea.
If Putin is lying, that would not differentiate him from U.S. officials who routinely lie about U.S. military operations and who have been lying about the Ukrainian crisis from the beginning. For instance, Obama and others in his administration claimed repeatedly that U.S. backed protesters who have now overthrown the elected government of Ukraine were peaceful victims of the Ukrainian government and that they were fighting for democracy. Obama even made such claims when widespread photos could be seen of his peaceful victims killing and injuring cops with guns, clubs, Molotov cocktails, and other weapons. And today, with the numerous undemocratic measures adopted by the new coup government, it is obvious that Obama’s men who have seized power in Kiev are opposed to democracy.
Even if Russian troops are involved, the troops standing up for Crimea, whoever they are, are receiving popular support. The soldiers are simply backing a popular anti-fascist uprising that has seized power in Crimea. The reality is that it was the suspension of regional language rights for oppressed nationalities of Ukraine by the chauvinistic coup government in Kiev, and threats of removing citizenship for minorities, that has caused this popular uprising in Crimea. Whether it is a combination of Russian soldiers and self-defense militias, or purely popular self-defense militias, it was Obama’s men in Kiev who won in advance the hearts and minds of the Crimean people to these military operations. This is why these armed units were able to consolidate the Crimean government’s control over the entire region so rapidly and without firing a shot. While the western corporate media focus their accusations against Russia, they miss the real story. What is happening in Crimea can only be understood within a context of Ukraine’s central government. That context is never fairly covered in their reports.
Kiev Coup: Neo-Nazis Get Key Posts
With the U.S. sponsored overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine, the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party has been given seven key posts in the new coup government. Svoboda is a party that celebrates Ukrainian Nazi collaborator and brutal mass murderer Stepan Bandera. It also claims Jewish gangsters control the media and those Jews plan to carry out genocide against Christians. Besides already stripping the Russian nationality of their language rights through the new government, Svoboda’s top leader, Oleg Tyagnibok, is calling for criminal penalties for speaking in the Russian language and stripping all ethnic Russians of their Ukrainian citizenship, forcing them to become non-citizens in their own land.
Within the coup government Svoboda has been given the positions of Prime Minister for Economic Affairs (Oleksandr Sych), Education Minister (Serhiy Kvit), Ecology Minister (Andriy Makhnyk), Agriculture Minister (Ihor Shvaiko), and Prosecutor-General of Ukraine (Oleh Makhnitsky). Not all posts have been given to neo-Nazis. Two other rightwing capitalist parties that have no problem working closely with neo-Nazis, the Fatherland Party and UDAR, have been given the rest of posts in the coup government.
A cofounder of Svoboda, Andriy Parubiy, has been given the portfolio of Secretary of National Security and Defense. Make no mistake, this is a fascist given a position of command in an impending war that the capitalist state of Ukraine and its fascist thugs have begun to wage against the working class, leftists, women, Jews, and national minorities of Ukraine.
Andriy Parubiy gave military command to the riots that have overthrown the elected government of Ukraine. This, however, should not be seen as an amazing military victory. It was a coup d’etate in part because the elected president was overthrown by the force of small imperialist backed armed bands of murderous rioters who had the threat of crippling economic sanctions from the United States and European Union backing them. This forced President Yanukovych to use less force than he needed to for the restoration of order. This also pushed various representatives within the capitalist state to back the coup. Those who did not, not only faced the threat of economic sanctions, which their capitalist backers would hate, they also faced direct violence and threats of violence from the Euromaiden movement itself. Far from being a popular revolution that sprang from the masses of Ukraine, this was an imperialist engineered coup d'etate.
In the streets, Svoboda physically attack union workers, feminists, gay rights activists, communists, and other leftists. Since taking power street thugs of the fascist movement have beaten at least one little old lady who was trying to lay flowers at the foot of a Lenin statue, abducted, beaten, and tortured communists, destroyed hundreds of headquarters of the Party of Regions, destroyed the headquarters of the Communist Party, destroyed at least one monument celebrating the USSR’s victory over Nazi Germany, destroyed at least 27 statues of Lenin, attacked two synagogues including a firebombing, and physically attacked Jews.
U.S. imperialist strategy in the region likely includes a desire to maintain the mobilization of Euromaden’s neo-Nazis. This is for three reasons. First is the fact that mobilized anti-union fascist thugs will help them impose IMF austerity and other dictates of U.S. imperialism on the working class of Ukraine. The second is that mobilized neo-Nazis with rabid anti-Russian Chauvinism could help bolster the United State’s aggressive strategies directed against Russia. The third is that the violent anti-communism of these neo-Nazi thugs could be mobilized against the deformed workers state in neighboring Belarus which has maintained a planned socialist in economy even after the break-up of the USSR. The defeat of these neo-Nazi forces is a critical task of the anti-imperialist struggle within the former USSR.
Imperialist Economic Terms Being Forced On Ukraine
While President Viktor Yanukovych was portrayed in the western corporate media as a stooge of Moscow for turning down the economic deal offered by the EU and IMF, the reality was that Russia offered a better deal. President Yanukovych was not opposed in principle to a deal with EU, but the level austerity and other set-backs for Ukraine being demanded by the EU and IMF was more than he could accept. This is why President Yanukovych turned down their proposal. It was when this happened that the imperialist operation that eventually overthrew President Yanukovych was put into action.
While Euromaiden protesters fought for fascism and IMF austerity, ironically, the corporate media of the west portrayed the struggle as one between freedom loving protesters who love the west and a tyrannical Ukrainian government that is under the thumb of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. They covered up the reality that Russia offered a better economic deal with fewer conditions. Capitalism has greatly devastated the economy of Ukraine. To prevent economic collapse, Russia agreed to provide $15 billion in loans to Ukraine as well as discounts on natural gas. This aid and support would have come under conditions far better than what is being demanded by the EU and IMF.
The IMF is a western imperialist tool used to blackmail countries in return for financing. IMF blackmail is being used by the imperialists to recolonize much of the world where financial power is allowing them to dictate economic policy. The IMF was already denying Ukraine needed credit. The reason for this denial is because the IMF is demanding that Ukraine increase the price of its heating fuel by 40%. This sort of price hike will cause the death of many poor people in Ukraine where capitalism has brought drastic decreases in wages and 41% unemployment. One of the reasons why President Viktor Yanukovych was in the crosshairs of the imperialists was because he refused to give in to this economic blackmail. Likewise, the fascist infested coup government has western support today because it promises to carry out the austerity being demanded by its imperialist masters.
The austerity measures that the new Euromaiden government promises to carry out under the EU’s agreement are similar to the devastating attacks carried out by the European Union against the working classes of Europe. As a result of the decline of capitalism and these austerity measures the entire European Union has sunk into a protracted period of mass unemployment and deepening poverty while the gap between rich and poor grows ever higher. Particularly devastated are poorer European countries like Greece that are being bled dry by the richer imperialist countries of the EU like Germany. It is under the same sorts of financial demands that have devastated Greece and caused mass unrest in that country that Ukraine is being asked to join the European Union.
In addition, the EU agreement that the Euromaiden government is set to agree to will prohibit Ukrainian membership in the Russian-led customs union, a trade partnership that is an essential component of the Ukrainian economy. The EU’s demand that Ukraine leave this partnership would devastate the Ukrainian economy and is in part a dagger aimed at the Russian economy for whom trade with Ukraine is also important. Likewise, EU membership will prohibit customs duties on many European goods, which will devastate Ukrainian industry and eliminate many jobs.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian citizens who are part of this unfair trade deal between the imperialist west and subjugated Ukraine will not even be granted free travel in the European Union as the citizens of other EU member countries are allowed. To impose these destructive terms on Ukraine, the elected president turned them down, so the United States and EU engineered a coup d’etate in Ukraine.
Second Imperialist Engineered Coup in a Decade
President Viktor Yanukovych was the elected capitalist president of Ukraine. Normally, the US and west European corporate media and government spokesmen denounce uprisings against “legitimate” capitalist governments. Yet, in Ukraine, there was an imperialist operation going on, so the normal rules did not apply. Viktor Yanukovych was the target of a similar operation when he was overthrown in a US backed coup in 2004. That coup was labeled by its imperialist sponsors as the “Orange Revolution”. Despite Yanukovych winning a sizable majority in the 2004 elections, the imperialists declared the loser of the election, Victor Yushchenko, the winner and pumped large amounts of money into Yushchenko’s supposed “Orange Revolution”.
The 2004 coup d’etate was heavily financed by U.S. imperialism as well. To carry out the coup, hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into the country through groups like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Open Society Institute (OSI), International Republican Institute (IRI), and the Freedom House. Major backers included MoveOn.org sponsor and American multi-billionaire, George Soros.
Part of how the 2004 coup was financed was through pro-imperialist “NGOs” that suddenly popped up everywhere across the country. The fact that Viktor Yanukovych’s government banned similar imperialist financed NGO’s last year should not be seen as an act of repression against the Ukrainian people, but as a basic defense of Ukrainian national sovereignty against the ability of the imperialists to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine. Yet, in Yanukovych’s numerous attempts to negotiate with the Euromaiden rioters, this was one of several supposedly anti-democratic laws that was repealed.
The so-called “Orange Revolution” of 2004 was actually an imperialist backed coup d’etate similar to other color coded imperialist interventions like the “rose revolution” in Georgia and the attempted “green wave” in Iran. The “green wave” in Iran which the west portrayed as being for democracy was led by Mir-Hossein Mousavi who in 1988, as Iranian prime minister, executed many thousands of leftist political prisoners. During his election campaign in 2009, students asked Mousavi, “Where were you in 1988, and how many people did you kill?” Mousavi wouldn’t answer the question. Those massacred political prisoners are buried Khavaran where the Iranian government has used bulldozers to destroy markers that families have left on the graves of their loved ones in an attempt to erase their memory. I raise this point not to delve into the complexities of Iranian politics, but to point out that the spin doctors of US imperialism are quite good at putting lipstick on pigs and parading them as beauty queens. Today, they do the same with the neo-Nazi led uprising and coup government in Ukraine.
The corporate media and U.S. politicians like John McCain and Barack Obama portrayed the murderous rightwing protesters in the streets of Ukraine as helpless victims of government repression. Meanwhile, the U.S. paid armed rioters to show up every day and occasionally kill and injure cops, with most deaths from gunshot wounds. Despite lies told by the western corporate media and the Obama administration, the Euromaiden protesters were not peaceful. During the Euromaiden riots, protesters repeatedly used deadly force against security forces. Police were shot, set on fire with Molotov cocktails, hit with missiles, and beaten with clubs. Rioters killed over a dozen cops, seriously injured many hundreds more, and took 67 cops hostage. Had President Viktor Yanukovych not ordered police to use restraint, police would not have been taken hostage and such large numbers of cops would not have been injured and killed.
Despite the violence carried out by their mercenaries, and restrained acts of self-defense by Ukrainian police, the Obama Administration and the European Union cynically and repeatedly threatened crippling economic sanctions against Ukraine if the violence continued.
It was under the threat of these sanctions that the Eurmaiden movement was allowed to rampage through the streets, attacking feminists, unionists, Jews, and innocent bystanders and shooting security forces with guns and bows and arrows, setting police on fire with Molotov cocktails, and beating cops mercilessly with clubs. It was due in part to this police restraint that fascist protesters, only numbering in the thousands, were able to seize government buildings across Ukraine making a movement that did not represent the majority of Ukrainians appear to be stronger than it really was and eventually allowing it to seize power.
Despite Restraint, President Viktor Yanukovych Wanted
The new far right coup government has issued warrants for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych and a couple other members of his government. The pretext for this is the death of 82 protesters killed while fighting security forces. Instead of persecution, Russia offered President Yanukovych asylum which Putin has called a measure to spare his life. Like in the case of Edward Snowden, an American whistleblower who heroically exposed the spying operations of the U.S. government on the American people, Russia once again becomes a safe haven for someone on the run from the vicious anti-democratic repression of the U.S. imperialist system.
While president, Viktor Yanukovych refused calls from Crimea to call a state of emergency. Instead, Yanukovych said the protesters were fellow Ukrainians and that he would seek a peaceful solution rather than use violence. Yanukovych twice offered amnesty to 243 prisoners arrested in the Euromaiden riots in return for rioters leaving seized buildings, but protesters responded to these attempts at a peaceful solution with renewed violence.
Yanukovych’s wealthy capitalist backers publicly (and probably privately as well) told Yanukovych that they wanted the situation resolved peacefully. For them, the consequences of the potential coup were probably not as bad as crippling U.S. and E.U. sanctions. For the working class, however, there is far more at stake.
Belarus Learns From Ukraine’s Mistakes
In neighboring Belarus, where, unlike Ukraine, capitalism has not been restored after the break-up of the USSR, similar pressures from the capitalist class to conform to imperialist dictates don’t exist. This is because Belarus has no wealthy ruling Belarusian capitalist class to pull the strings and pressure the government to accept imperialist dictates. Belarus, with a planned socialist economy, is out of reach of world capitalist exploitation (except on the question of foreign debt). Because of this socialist economy and extremely poor showing for the imperialist backed candidate in the 2006 elections, Belarus is already under a U.S. and E.U. economic embargo. It is for these reasons Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was able to declare that Belarus could learn lessons from President Viktor Yanukovych’s mistakes during the coup and not repeat them in Belarus.
A wider lesson for the world’s working class, however, is for people to understand the dynamics of how allowing capitalism to continue to exist in the poorer and weaker countries like Ukraine maintains a powerful capitalist class that generally would rather compromise with the blood sucking imperialists of the U.S. and E.U. than defend their country’s national sovereignty from imperialism. It is for this reason that one of the most effective steps a country can take to defend its national sovereignty from the imperialists is to overthrow the capitalist system and the entire capitalist class. Belarus maintains its independence in part by maintaining the planned socialist economy that was won in the October 1917 Russian Revolution under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky.
Coup Government Is Anti-Worker
The fact that it is the intention of Svoboda to wage war on the working class of Ukraine was made clear during the Euromaiden riots themselves. Workers of the Confederation of Free Ukrainian Trade Unions (KSPU), who made the mistake of joining the Euromaiden protests, were viciously attacked and beaten by Svoboda’s neo-Nazis. The call was made by Svoboda from the Euromaiden stage saying, “Communist provocateurs have gathered at the corner of Kreshatik Avenue!” To the fascists, union workers were communists. To fascists, unionists, feminists, anarchists, Trotskyists, anti-fascists, and anti-racists, it doesn’t matter; we are all communists to them. After Svoboda’s announcement, hundreds of fascist thugs descended on the workers, sending many to the hospital.
The fascist thuggery against the workers of the KSPU is a window on the new role the fascists in the Euromaiden government will play, unleashing its fascist thugs and police on the working class in order to impose the austerity demanded by the European Union. The new Euromaiden government has pledged to carry out the austerity demanded by the IMF that will include a 40% increase in the price of heating fuel, freezing wages and retirement payments, and an end to more protective Soviet era labor laws.
These are the requirements that are being required by the European Union for membership. Yet, unlike other European Union members, the citizens of Ukraine will also be banned from free travel within the EU. Like the German Nazi sponsors of Svoboda’s hero, Stepan Bandera, the EU / US sponsors of Svoboda are ready to treat their Slavic brothers as untermenschen (subhumans). It may well take the violence of the masochistic knuckleheads of Svoboda, whipped up in a frenzy of blind hate, to impose these unacceptable terms on the Ukrainian working class.
Coup Government is Anti-Democratic
Besides overthrowing the elected president of Ukraine, the coup’s roving fascists are intimidating elected representatives that they don’t like through violence and threats. Some of their targets have fled, vacating their offices. In many regions the Communist Party of Ukraine and the Party of Regions have been banned. The Party of Regions is a capitalist Party, but it also championed regional language rights for oppressed nationalities. With the coup, Party of Regions MPs in the Ukrainian Parliament were attacked with rocks, some have fled. At least 200 headquarters of the Party of Regions have been destroyed.
Likewise, most Communist Party headquarters have been gutted by fascists with contents burned and buildings fire bombed. Every Communist Party member in Ukraine has received death threats. Many of their homes have been firebombed. For instance, on February 25th, fascist paramilitaries of Svoboda searched Communist Party leader Pyotr Simonenko’s house, searching for evidence of anything, and upon finding nothing, burned down his house using Molotov cocktails.
Rostislav Vasilko, First Secretary of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine described from his hospital bed being kidnapped and tortured by neo-Nazis for 12 hours in Mariinsky Park. The fascists stuck needles under his fingernails, beat him severely, bruised him very badly, broke three ribs, and gave him a second degree concussion with a broken skull. They also threatened to kill his wife and children and send his mother to prison. Where were the security forces in a park for twelve hours? Simple, they offer no protection because it is the fascist thugs who run things now.
Both the Party of Regions and the Communist Party of Ukraine characterized the rightist takeover of the government as a coup. The Party of Regions has collapsed in the face of violence and many oppositional representatives have abandoned their posts. Before the February coup, the Communist Party of Ukraine had 32 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament which it won in the 2012 elections. They are now the last remaining major opposition party. As a result, a bill has been introduced to ban the Communist Party on a national scale (local bans are already in effect).
In addition, the coup government has formed a new Lustration Committee that will prevent anyone who supported the last government from ever taking political office again. This will allow the new fascist infested government to decide, based on political considerations, which candidate can and cannot challenge coup leaders in the electoral arena.
These moves guarantee there will be absolutely no democratic component to the illegitimate elections that have been called for May 25th. The U.S. backed coup was carried out to finish off bourgeois democracy in Ukraine, replacing it instead with bourgeois dictatorship or perhaps even fascism.
The coup parliament has also dismissed several constitutional justices and asked the newly appointed neo-Nazi Prosecutor-General of Ukraine, Oleh Makhnitsky, to bring charges against them.
Coup Government is Anti-Semitic
The neo-Nazi Svoboda Party openly celebrates Nazi collaborator and mass murderer Stepan Bandera. Svoboda also blames Ukraine’s problems on the Jewish-Russian Mafia who they claim have been the ones in charge. It is their position that Jews, who they claim are in control of everything, have a secret plan to carry out genocide against Ukraine’s Christians. It is from such paranoia that the German Nazis could “justify” the mass murder of Jews as an act of “self-defense”.
At the Euromaiden protests, neo-Nazi flags were ubiquitous, anti-Semitic speeches were given on stage, and reliable reports have been given of copies of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kompf" and the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" being mass distributed for free to protesters.
Since the Euromaiden riots began, in Kiev there were two attacks on Synagogues, including one firebombing with swastikas painted on the synagogue and writing saying, “death to Jews!”. At least three violent anti-Semitic attacks on Jews have occurred including a man who was stabbed multiple times after leaving a synagogue.
On January 27th the annual commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day was canceled in Kiev out of fear of anti-Semitic attacks from the US backed Euromaiden protesters. Three million Ukrainians were murdered by the Nazis during their occupation of Ukraine, including 900,000 Jews. International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the January 27th, 1945 liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, by Soviet troops. It is a day of remembrance for all victims of the Nazi death machine.
Since the coup, military units of neo-Nazi bands have vowed to rid the country of its Russian and Jewish "menace'. With Ukrainian security forces now controlled by neo-Nazis, there is no reason to think there will be the continued protection for Jews that existed under the previous regime. In fact, security forces may be a threat themselves.
The Jewish Agency has extended $150,000 in emergency aid to the Jewish community of Ukraine saying, “The Jews in Ukraine are all very afraid because they don’t know what is going to happen.”
Not all Jews agree, however. Some think that charges of anti-Semitism are exaggerated. A group of Jews that included Israeli trained soldiers (former IDF) even joined the Euromaiden riots. Their commander calls himself “Delta” saying, “I don’t belong [to Svoboda], but I take orders from their team.” He explained that he joined the movement to show that Jews care, but explained that he would be a hero of the Maiden movement if he wasn’t a Jew. In addition, he reports fellow Jews have criticized him for working with Svoboda. “Some asked me if instead of ‘Shalom’ they should now greet me with a ‘Sieg heil.’”
A similar group of 100 anarchists tried to form an autonomous group within the Euromaiden protests. Armed neo-Nazi fascists forced this anarchist organizing meeting to disperse, calling the anarchists “Blacks” and “communists”. There were no communists among them, in fact the communist organizations of Ukraine opposed the Euromaiden riots, but all leftists are “communists” to neo-Nazis. Anarchists were accepted in the Euromaiden riots, but accounts of them, like Delta, were of anarchists under neo-Nazi command.
It is also a historic fact worth noting that Hitler targeted the communists and then the social democrats and anarchists before coming for the Jews.
Kiev Rabbi Azman, apparently not afflicted with Delta’s radical self-hate, was reported in Haaretz on the weekend of the coup saying, "I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city all together and if possible the country too, I don't want to tempt fate, but there are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions."
While the Obama administration has pledged to increase U.S. military aid to Israel from $3 billion to $4 billion, his involvement in the anti-Semitic coup in Ukraine gives lie to his claim that this has anything to do with concern for Jews. Instead, the U.S. backs Israel as force of racist anti-Arab terrorist shock troops in the Middle East to do the bidding of U.S. imperialism.
Coup Government is Misogynistic
Oleksandr Sych, as an MP in the Ukrainian parliament, was one of the neo-Nazis who introduced a bill that would have banned abortion in April 2013. Currently in Ukraine abortion is legal on demand in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. The bill introduced by Svoboda would have outlawed abortion except in rare cases like rape. When a Svoboda representative in parliament was asked what kind of proof a woman would have to show to prove rape, he reflected Svoboda’s deep seated misogyny by answering:
“I do not work in the law enforcement and do not know what a woman can or cannot prove… But first of all, [she] should lead such a lifestyle as to not be exposed to the risk of rape. In particular, [she should not be] drinking alcohol beverages in a questionable company.”
This is pure misogyny. Blaming the victim and infringing on the rights of women to control their bodies and their lives.
Likewise, Adolf Hitler opposed women’s reproductive freedom. The Nazis increased the penalty for abortion when they first came to power in 1933. In 1943, the Nazis took this a step further, making the performance of an abortion on an "Aryan" woman punishable by execution.
Obama claims to be pro-choice. Yet, in the United States he repeatedly renews the Hyde Amendment which bans public funding of abortions for poor women in the United States. Likewise, in Ukraine he backs neo-Nazis who seek to ban abortion.
The subjugation of women has long been a key component of U.S. backed imperialist forces and remains the case today from the Islamists the U.S. supports in Syria to the fascists it supports in Ukraine. This is because the forces willing to align themselves with U.S. subjugation tend to be rabid ultra-religious and anti-socialist types who have deeply engrained anti-woman hatreds.
Coup Government Hates National Minorities
One day after taking power the coup government abolished President Viktor Yanukovych’s 2012 “On State Language Policy” law. This law made Russian, Hungarian, Tatar, and Romanian second languages in the regions where these national minorities comprised 10% or more of the population.
Forty percent of Ukraine’s population speaks Russian in the east of Ukraine. Smaller percentages speak Hungarian and Romanian in the west. Under Yanukovych’s “On State Language Policy” law, 13 regions out of 27 adopted Russian as an official second language and an additional two regions adopted Hungarian and Romanian as second languages. Adopting Polish as second language never happened because Svoboda’s hero, Stepan Bandera, was so thorough in committing mass murder against Ukrainian Polish men, women, and children.
When the law granting language rights was first adopted in parliament, the far right brawled with supporters of the bill. Now getting rid of it was a first priority of the chauvinistic coup government. For neo-Nazi Svoboda leader, Oleg Tyagnibok, this is just the beginning. He recently spoke before supporters in Kiev calling for criminal penalties for speaking in the Russian language. In addition, he called for stripping all ethnic Russians of their Ukrainian citizenship, forcing them to become non-citizens in their own land.
Anti-Fascist Uprising in the East
In response to having their national rights taken away by a coup government that is largely composed of neo-Nazis, people of the Russian nationality in Crimea (eastern Ukraine) have risen up in mass demonstrations across the east, seized the Crimean government, formed armed self-defense militias that have set up road blocks and patrol airports to keep fascist forces from entering from the east, and laid out plans for a vote on Crimean autonomy set for March 30th.
In response to the uprising, the Kiev government dispatched troops to Crimea. Yet, instead of following the orders of the fascist central government, at least some troops have switched sides and turned their weapons over to Crimean self-defense units. Other Ukrainian military posts have been surrounded by Crimean self-defense units and what have been reported in the western corporate press as Russian troops.
Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev has announced on March 3rd that the Ukrainian military forces that were sent into Crimea have surrendered their weapons and that the central government no longer has any military capabilities in Crimea. Adding, “The entire Ukrainian armed forces stationed on the Crimean territory have been blocked.” Continuing, “The self-defense forces have taken control of the landing strips of all the Crimean airports and airfields."
Ukrainian Fascists Threatening Development of Nuclear Weapons.
The fascists in Kiev are incapable of seeing how their hatred of the large Ukrainian minority that speaks Russian had anything to do with this revolt. Svoboda party MP Mikhail Golovko went so far as to threaten the development of nuclear weapons:
"We’ll regain our status as a nuclear power and that’ll change the conversation. Ukraine has all the technological means needed to create a nuclear arsenal – which would take us about three to six months.”
Having created the crisis in the first place, Obama is calling for actions against Russia as well. John Kerry, speaking for the Obama administration, went so far as to say:
“You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century.”
Says a man representing U.S. imperialism who also voted for the U.S. invasion of Iraq! While the welfare of the Crimean people is a pretext for Russia to defend its capitalist interests in Ukraine, at least it was a legitimate pretext. The United States based its pretexts for the invasion of Iraq on complete and total lies; including the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Not only was that pretext a lie, but now with over a million Iraqis dead as a result of that war, it is obvious that Iraq probably needed some weapons of mass destruction to defend itself from the United States.
In retaliation for the alleged Russian invasion of Crimea, the United States and European countries are calling for economic sanctions against Russia.
Besides all of the problems the coup causes for the people of Ukraine, the U.S. engineered coup in Kiev is a dagger aimed at the heart of Russia. At the root of this U.S. hatred of Russia are two major elements. The first is that Russia provides a small, but important counterweight to U.S. imperialist hegemony in the world. The second is the fact that the United States would like to destroy and dismember Russia as part of gaining the penetration of western capitalist investment and exploitation in Russia.
Imperial Crosshairs on Russia
After Yeltsin’s capitalist counterrevolution in 1991, an indigenous capitalist class developed that has been highly protective of its own turf and has not allowed deep penetration by western imperialist capital. Ukraine is a stepping stone towards the western imperialist Mafioso desire to control Russia. This was made clear by one of the leading strategists of U.S. imperial policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his 1997 analysis of the question where he wrote Ukraine is a “strategic pivot”, because “Without Ukraine, Russia can have no pretentions of becoming a Eurasian empire“. Brzezinski saw Ukraine as a stepping stone towards dismembering Russia, calling for, “A loosely confederated Russia — composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic”. Such a dismembered Russia would be open to the penetration of foreign capital and easier for the U.S. to control.
The Russian Counterweight to U.S. / E.U. Imperialist Power
On the one hand Putin is an oppressive capitalist politician. On the other hand, the competing capitalist interests of Russia and the United States have aided the anti-imperialist struggle in Ukraine, Syria, South Ossetia, and Belarus.
In 2008, Russia stood up to U.S. and Israeli backed Georgian aggression against the tiny nation of South Ossetia. Russia intervened on the side of tiny South Ossetia and helped them maintain their independence.
The Ossetian people have a distinct language and nationality that was recognized by the Russian Revolution under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. The October 1917 Russian Revolution legalized the Ossetian language and established an Ossetian Republic. That republic was, however, later crushed by Stalin’s brutal and conservative clique and north Ossetia was dissolved into Russia while South Ossetia was dissolved into the Georgian Republic.
After Yeltsin’s capitalist counter-revolution in 1991 there was a rise in counterrevolutionary chauvinistic hatred throughout the former USSR. Many ethnicities faired much worse than they did in the USSR. For instance, genocide was carried out against the Kurds in Armenia. Yet, the South Ossetians took advantage of the situation to rise up and take control of their own territory within what was officially the Georgian Republic. Yet, instead of recognizing the justice of this struggle for national liberation, the capitalist government of Georgia, along with the U.S. government, including Obama, continued to cling to the oppressive borders drawn by Stalin.
Likewise, U.S. support for the genocidal Islamic rebels in Syria is interference in the right of the Syrian and Kurdish people to decide their own future without foreign interference. It is also a crime against humanity where U.S. armed rebels have carried out genocide against Syria’s Christians, Alawites, Shi’ites, and Kurds and numerous crimes against women, atheists, and secular government. This interference includes U.S. economic sanctions, U.S. arms supplied to Islamic rebels, and threats of direct U.S. military attacks on Syria. All three acts of war must be stopped. Russia has played a role in helping Syria defend itself by refusing to adhere to the U.S. imperialist economic blockade against Syria and providing the Syrian government with the weapons it needs to defend itself from imperialist attack.
Belarus is in the imperialist crosshairs because it maintains a socialist planned economy. Russia also maintains trade with Belarus, despite U.S. and E.U. economic sanctions against the country.
An important comparison is how Russia treats Belarus as compared to how the United States treats Cuba. Both Belarus and Cuba maintain socialist economies that benefit the working class, peasants, and students of their countries. Capitalist Russia has not tried to force socialist Belarus to adopt their economic system. In fact, Belarus, right on the border with Russia, enjoys favored trading agreements with Russia. Socialist Cuba, 90 miles from the capitalist United States, on the other hand, has faced an invasion attempt, terrorism, and an economic blockade from the United States for adopting a socialist planned economy. Obama in fact shelters CIA operative and terrorist Luis Posada Carriles who blew up Cubana Airlines Flight 455 with a bomb in 1976, killing all 73 people on board.
Russia, despite being capitalist, does not share the United States’ blood thirsty need to destroy all other economic models that limit the imperialist penetration of capitalist investment.
Is Russia Imperialist?
For some the idea that capitalist Russia is now imperialist stems from the false idea that the USSR was imperialist. Unlike the west, the wealth of the USSR was built up through its socialist planned economy, not through imperialist exploitation. In the Russian Revolution, capitalism was overthrown and the languages of oppressed nationalities, like Ukrainian, were legalized under a system of united socialist republics. A socialist planned economy was established that turned one of the poorest countries in the world into an industrial powerhouse capable of defeating two major imperialist invasions (including the Nazis, who brought mass murder to a level of industrial production never seen before or since). After those invasions, the USSR rebuilt to provide everyone with a job, health care, housing, and education. Unlike western imperialist countries, that wealth was built up through the socialist planned economy, not through an imperialist capitalist system that plundered the world. In fact, the USSR's economy subsidized the poorer republics in the USSR and subsidized poorer allies, like Cuba and North Korea who enjoyed major assistance. This was the opposite of imperialism. Instead, it extended life expectancies and other measures of the standard of living while aiding the world anti-imperialist struggle.
Imperialism through U.S. institutions like the IMF, on the other hand, causes problems like starvation in much of the world.
Since the Yeltsin capitalist counterrevolution, the role of the USSR / Russia changed in the world. It stopped aiding poorer socialist countries and became capitalist. For the vast majority of people in the former USSR, life worsened. The standard of living dropped by every measurable standard. Capitalist Russia has many problems, but up against U.S. imperialist hegemony, Russia is far too weak of a capitalist country to be considered imperialist. Imperialism is a specific development in capitalism related to the domination of other capitalist states through the mechanisms of finance capital and force. To argue that Russia is imperialist it is necessary to show that it is dominating other capitalist states in this way.
Instead, the role of Russia’s foreign finance capital in exploiting the world’s working class is extremely small as compared to the United States and European Union. Claims of Russian imperialist control of Ukraine just don’t hold water. According to 2011 figures, nearly 80% of Ukrainian foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ukraine came from the European Union. The actual number is actually a little bit lower because about 22.2% of that is comes from Cyprus, a location Ukrainian capitalists use for tax avoidance. Still, that leaves about 60% of Ukraine’s FDI coming from the EU. Russia, on the other hand, accounted for only 7.6% of FDI. This is a very low number given the historic ties of former Soviet influence. Much lower than could possibly give credence to claims that the Euromaiden “revolution” liberated Ukraine from Russian imperialist control.
Today, the relatively weak capitalist class that has developed in Russia since the Yeltsin capitalist counterrevolution in 1991 is standing up, in its own national self-interests, against a U.S. engineered and fascist infested coup government in Kiev. That government hates Ukraine’s national minorities and seeks to hurt the entire working class of Ukraine through imposing the austerity and other dictates of the IMF, EU, and USA. It is a deadly threat to the working class of Ukraine and is a dagger aimed by the U.S. imperialists at Russia itself. A victory by relatively weak Russia against U.S. imperialism will be a blow for the world’s working class which suffers under deeply under the terror and exploitation of U.S. / E.U. imperialism. An anti-imperialist victory in Ukraine will also serve to protect the oppressed Russian nationality of Crimea, protect Russia from imperialism, and protect the deformed workers state of Belarus.
The capitalist government of Russia has many problems, and needs to be overthrown in a proletarian revolution that brings back the socialist planned economy and brings workers democracy. Yet, Russia's support for the sovereignty of South Ossetia, Ukraine, Crimea and Syria from the religious fanatics, genocidal maniacs, and extreme nationalists sponsored by the imperialist governments of the U.S. and E.U. are relatively minor actions by a weak capitalist country (Russia), against the real imperialist powers of the United States and European Union. In these situations, Leninist-Trotskyists side with the weaker countries against the imperialists, as Lenin pointed out:
‘If tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be “just”, and “defensive” wars irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory ‘Great’ Powers.’
(Socialism and War, July 1915)
Russia, as an oppressed nation responding to imperialist attacks on their nation in Crimea, deserves the support of Leninist-Trotskyists. As opposed to the position of some leftists in the region who are calling for the defeat of both sides, Leninist-Trotskyists call for victory to Russia and Crimea against any attacks from the chauvinistic central government. Likewise, we support the thousands of Ukrainian troops who have refused orders and turned their weapons over to pro-Crimean forces, calling on all other Ukrainian forces to similarly resist.
The Ukrainian central government’s call-up of reserves and their recruitment of soldiers in the central square are ominous signs that they will not accept the actions that have been taken for the self-defense of the Russian nationality in Crimea. While war is certainly still a threat, without Russia’s support, the fate of Russians in Crimea may well have been heading the direction of the fate of Serbs and Bosnians under the U.S. backed Tudjman regime in Croatia. Tudjman’s government, like the U.S. backed government in Kiev, was heavily inspired by the Nazis. Upon coming to power, Croatia’s President Tudjman raised the Ustasha flag of Nazi occupation, a flag that represented the mass murder of Serbs, Gypsies, Jews, and others. With U.S. backing, Tudjman proceeded to carry out mass murder against Croatia’s Serbs and Bosnians. This was a major component of what caused an all sided blood-letting in the former Yugoslavia, “ethnic cleansing”, the destruction of Yugoslavia, and the destruction of Yugoslavia’s planned socialist economy. The imperialists got what they wanted. Fortunately, unlike the Serbs and Bosnians in Croatia, the Russians in Ukraine have a powerful ally in Russia to defend them.
Unfortunately, the imperialist imposed government in Kiev and its imperialist backers could escalate the fight and cause a war in Crimea. It is the duty of all anti-imperialists to oppose the coup government, USA, and EU in that war and call for their military defeat.
While Russian troops and self-defense militias of oppressed nationalities, workers, Jews, banned parties, leftists, and all who oppose the rightwing coup constitute a needed line of self-defense and self-preservation in Ukraine, it will ultimately take a socialist revolution to put an end to imperialist interventions. A fundamental problem in Ukraine is the inability of bourgeois representatives to stand up to the threats of U.S. and E.U. imperialism. Under capitalism, it is the wealthy capitalists who have the power. Ukrainian capitalists can more easily be bullied by these big imperialist powers than the working class because the working class has so much more to lose from EU and US demands of IMF austerity. Under capitalism, unemployment in Ukraine is 41%. Under a socialist planned economy everyone in Ukraine had a job. Socialism, with workers democracy (i.e. minus repressive Stalinist rule,) is the road forward for Ukraine. To achieve this will take reforging a Leninist-Trotskyist Party within the heartland of the Russian Revolution.
Likewise, it is essential to oppose all U.S. and E.U. actions against Russia, Crimea, Belarus, and the Ukrainian working class. This includes opposition to IMF austerity in Ukraine, opposition to proposed economic sanctions against Russia, opposition to current U.S. and E.U. economic sanctions against Belarus, opposition to U.S. military aid to the Ukrainian fascist infested coup government, and opposition to any direct U.S. or E.U. military intervention on behalf of the Ukrainian coup government.
For many of us in the imperialist centers, the kind of imperialist intervention being carried out by Obama and his predecessors everywhere, including Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, Libya, Honduras, Belarus, and Cuba is unacceptable. Yet, this imperialist system of exploitation and violence never changes, no matter who is president and no matter how much we protest. That is because we are up against an entire system, not just a set of bad policies. The United States is imperialist because it is the wealthy who own the capitalist state and the capitalist economy. To gain maximum return on investment, they always fight for the subjugation and maximum exploitation of the world on their behalf. The only way to end U.S. imperialism is by liquidating the capitalist class and organizing a planned socialist economy in the United States, changes that we will only be able to achieve through proletarian revolution. The revolutionary party must be built today to fight for reforms today and be prepared for the revolutionary opportunities of the future.
-Steven Argue of the Revolutionary Tendency
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Also from this author, see:
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