Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Ukraine (part 2)
Maidan as a Revolution Plagued with Counter-Revolution
- Soon Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet Red Army, men who had been sent to invade Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of that country in 1979 joined the movement. Along with them came the shadowy Pravy Sektor – “Right Sector” – organization which is a militant far-right neo-Nazi group and is assumed to be Svoboda on steroid. This further strengthened the militaristic and at the same time right-wing faction of Maidan as a whole. It was members of Svoboda and Right Sector shock troops which became the core and the leadership component of Maidan self-defense activists. The former being potentially and ideologically and the latter in its practice nothing but two armed terrorist militias nicknamed as Maidan “activists”. And this fact turned the character of Maidan as an enclosed fortress of resistance with a militaristic character and helped to prevent the growth of the movement to other social sectors and to other localities of Ukraine at large. Maidan became eventually enclosed and fully barricaded with neo-Nazi militia as its main gatekeepers. On Sunday December 8, 2013, i.e., a week later a very huge mass rally took place at Maidan. And while people where rallying in Maidan a group of Svoboda shook activists toppled the 11-foot high Lenin’s statue in brown granite which stood at the top of Shevchenko’s Boulevard in the Kiev city center since 1946. This act established Svoboda as men of initiative on the street in comparison with liberal-nationalist parties. It was the same Svoboda that showed an initiative on February 22, 2014 and on the floor of Parliament and declared the end of Yanukovych regime.
- It was very sad and depressing to witness that what prevailed the most at Maidan was the historical crisis of working class revolutionary leadership expressed in the form of its total non-existence. Ukraine is a country without left.
- Communist Part of Ukraine turned its back to Maidan. They were absent on this and all subsequent days of Maidan. And by doing that, they helped bourgeois alternatives to fill the leadership gap of the Maidan easily and almost effortlessly. The leadership of the Communist Party must be blamed for the further manipulation of Maidan at the hand of Ukrainian oligarchs, imperialist powers, and their liberal bourgeois and far-right political representatives.
- Several measures were taken on this historic and decisive day – December 1st, 2013 – which gave a contradictory character to this movement and impeded its healthy growth from then onward.
- The initial spontaneous leadership of EuroMaidan was totally replaced. They were totally pushed aside. They were not incorporated in the leadership at all. Not a single one of them at all. Just as a token lip service the new leadership gave an honorary cheer-leadership position to a singer celebrity coming from the initial Maidan movement. Troika immediately declared itself the sole leader of the movement – unelected of course – and they did not allow any other sector of civil society to have any say in the central leadership of the movement.
- Working people of City Hall were thrown out of their building and City Hall was occupied by Svoboda (right-wing ultranationalist). No genuine revolutionary leadership would have ever done such a disgraceful act; and they would have instead tried to encourage the city employees to organize themselves into protest councils and helping representative of this council would eventually be sent to a higher body called something like Maidan Council or Rada Maidan. To understand the severity of this act, imagine a contingent of party of Lenin will go an important factory full of Petrograd industrial workers, throwing every worker out and establishing their own military garrison. This was an act of crime for any revolutionary organization to do. It only requires counter-revolution to commit counter-revolutionary acts. Hence, Svoboda party being a far-right organization occupied the City Hall by force and turned it into an organizing, recruiting headquarter for its followers and most importantly into a dormitory and garrison for its anti-democratic, anti- Yanukovych and anti-Russian shock troop squads. They participated in the self-defense of Maidan but also from the very beginning they turned into political police which excluded all leftwing oriented organizations and individuals from having any active presence in the movement. The same City Hall is still occupied even after the fall of corrupt Yanukovych regime, but this time it has new tenants: Right Sector movement as a gang of right-wing street fighters. Why? Because Right Sector needs a free garrison too.
- All three bourgeois-oligarchic parliamentary opposition parties in their unison took over the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine and turned it into a unified “resistance center”, press center and dormitories. This indirectly excluded the direct presence of trade-unions and working class movements to freely develop and to participate in the movement. Not a single worker, not a single trade-union activist – Ukrainian-speaking or Russian-speaking – and not a single even trade-union bureaucrat was incorporated in the leadership. Workers from all over the country lost their building – a place for organizing themselves and later participating actively in the Maidan politics – to capitalist-bourgeois leadership of the Maidan.
- The Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine which was supposed to be turned into “national resistance center” became literally the place for organizing secret negotiations of the Troika with EU European Parliament bureaucrats, American and German imperialist politicians behind closed doors.
- Maidan stage turned into a platform for Ukrainian speaking nationalism, Ukrainian language became the de facto official language of Maidan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church frequent ceremonies and sermons on the stage, and “Slava Ukraini” became the too frequent call word of the movement. These acts more and more alienated the Russian speaking regions of Ukraine.
- Progressive and left wing organizations should demand the immediate expulsion of neo-Nazis from City Hall and nationalists and far-right from Federation of Trade Unions. City Hall belongs to Kiev working people. Federation of Trade Union building belongs to workers unions. If there trade union building which is located next to the Maidan was not occupied by these alien forces, there mere presence there would have enhanced the character of the movement to shift more to the left than what it turned to be. Every occupation by liberal and far-right bourgeois parties of any building where working people are involved must be fully condemned. Occupation of City Hall and Federation of Trade Union building was not a step forward for the movement. Not in short, not in medium and not in long terms.
- From this moment on Maidan started to have a dual character: a revolutionary movement (of people) and a counter-revolutionary movement of forces of oligarchs and imperialists all united around the immediate task of overthrowing President Yanukovych and achieving the goal of independence from Russia. It is here that Tehran of 1979 – which was a temporary unity between Iranian gigantic democratic revolution and Islamic counter-revolution to overthrow the Shah – started to echo itself in the Kiev. As if Maidan as a movement borrowed its new character from the vocabulary of Iranian Democratic Revolution/Islamic Counter-Revolution of 1979 (the present Islamic Republic of Iran is the republic of victorious counter-revolution over the defeated body of democratic revolution of Iran which was drowned in cold blood right after the fall of the Shah’s regime).
- This political bloc of troika of parliamentary opposition parties did not allow any the creation of an elected representative leadership body – a Rada Maidan – which would represent the whole movement as well as the whole country from east to west and from center to south to take shape in Maidan. Instead their primary tactic was to use the rallying protesters in Maidan as a pressure lever in relation to Ukraine Parliament and as a show of force to the regime, to Russian government and to EU and US diplomats instead of allowing the movement itself to create its own all encompassing self-organization bodies in order to extend the movement, to pave the way for a workers general strike and to extend the movement to stronghold of the working class in eastern regions of the country. Main became primarily a focal point of opposition for Kiev and for the western regions of the country at the exclusion of the east which was left totally out. One can say that Maidan was not talking in the multi-lingual tone of Ukraine. And sadly it became more and more representative of the moods of one half of the country at its very best. In other words it became the voice of Ukrainian-Speaking Ukraine no matter how many Russian-speaking individuals participated in it. It was under the auspices of these three parties at the helm of Maidan that ulra-nationalist and far-right organizations were significantly organized, patronized and became a significant part of the movement. The more movement went forward, the more grounds where occupied by the far-right neo-Nazi groups. Personal ambitions of these nationalist party leaders whose main political preoccupation was grabbing the high offices, the office of president, and the portfolio of prime-ministership and speaker of parliament became the aim of the movement mis-leaders. As if Maidan was an instrument of manipulation immediately in the hands of Troika, under the control of oligarchs, in the hands of Western politicians and diplomats from US ambassador in Kiev, Neo Conservative Victoria Nuland, Senator McCain, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, NATO Enlargement Project strategists, US State Department geo-politicians, to EU parliament eurocrats. As if Maidan was a means for the realization of personal political ends for the US-puppet Arseniy Petrovych Yatsenyuk, German-puppet Vitali Klitschko, parliamentarian fascist Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok, and balaclava helmet or ski mask wearing fascist-cum-political-party-leader Dmytro Yarosh; as if Maidan was the proxy for the transatlantic imperialist countries; as if Maidan was nothing but a fooled foot soldier of one faction of oligarchy and opposition bourgeois capitalists against the pro-government faction of Ukraine of oligarchy and bourgeoisie. Under these mis-leaders, the need to fight the system of oligarchy in the country was turned into a proxy war between pro-Russian oligarchs and Russian imperialist on one side and pro-EU oligarchs and Western imperialism on the other side. In this grand picture, the just protests of rallying people in Maidan, turned into foot soldiers for warring factions of oligarchs and imperialists, became a political pressure means and it fell from the sky right on the lap of Troika for its thirst for governmental offices, and it also became a space for the growth of the neo-Nazi movements. Maidan in the hands of these counter-revolutionaries started to progressively lose its spirit of revolution. But still contrary to the power of all these forces of counter-revolution, from Eurocrats, to foreign embassies, to oligarchs, to pro-imperialist NGO’s fed by American National Endowment for Democracy (NED) with 65 projects in Ukraine, to liberal-nationalist parties and to finally parties of far-right, the massive and gigantic energy of revolution was still strong, present and forward-moving.
- Instead of putting emphasis on the multinational character of the country, nationalism of Ukrainian-speaking population was encouraged against that of Russian-speaking population of East and South. These mis-leaders deprived Maidan from claiming and acting as the genuine heart beat of the country as a whole. What was proclaimed from the stage day and night and seven days of the week was nationalism of Ukraine’s true Ukrainians at the alienation of non-Ukrainian-speaking pollution of Ukraine at large. In the eyes of the east and south, what was happening was nothing but the voice of the center and the west and therefore they found Maidan to be totally out of touch with the their concerns and their legitimate needs.
- Maidan in its dominant form was a main city square occupation. Occupation of even an area of one centimeter by one centimeter in the public space which is under the hegemony of the bourgeois state has a gigantic potential of growth. One reason is that it directly questions the absolute rule of the ruling class on one spot of their hegemonic space. And it assumes a state of geographic dual power in the country: one side being the whole bourgeois state and the other side being the occupied public space. It is “geopolitics” in its own right. But the truth of occupation is generalized occupation. This generalization means something geographical, social and political. The wall, the barricade that should separate itself and government should become the walls of headquarters of bourgeois power (Presidential office, Cabinet of Ministers, Parliament, etc). Another dimension of generalization is its extension across the country. And most importantly it should aim for a workers general strike as its most important form of generalization. It needed to generalize its leadership in its own occupation council (Rada Maidan, etc). The barricade around the Maidan which has been so admired was a fortress around Maidan to confine Maidan from its own generalization. In the last analysis the barricade was the work of far-right for the purpose of far-right. It gave Maidan an immediately insurrectionary look and feel in order for they themselves to militarize their organizations and by extension to militarize the political space for their own advantage. To strengthen their position, Right Sector attempted also to both initiate the fights with the police and give the fights an insurrectionary character. The more the walls of barricade which turned into a noose around the neck of Maidan went vertically up the more independent movement of students, teachers, workers, poor people and other oppressed layers of the country went down.
- At the end Maidan occupation turned into a space and arena with four major actors constituting the content of the protests in the shape of a pyramid:
- The political leadership in the hand of Troika of bourgeois opposition parties (Batkivshchyna-UDAR-Svoboda) sitting in the Federation of Trade Union building, engaging in their dealing and wheeling with imperialist and oligarchic forces, making sure that open microphone stage is as unavailable as possible from any true alternative opposition, and making all fundamental decisions behind closed doors and delivering the results on the main stage to rallying crowd who had no democratic channels to express their critique to what they were hearing from the top of the stage.
- Insurrectionary armed groups, made of far-right nationalists (Svoboda and Right Sector), established in the City Hall. Some also in the tents on the Khryshchiatik Street and Maidan itself. They acted as the self-defense as well as internal security forces of the Maidan.
- A large number of activists and spontaneous volunteers who were taking care of self-organization of Maidan in terms of its well-being and its subsistence (soup kitchens, medicals, social media, journalism of locals, networks, etc.) The more outspoken of these groups in their totality and in contrast to the first two groups, considered themselves as the “civil society” of Maidan. These were the ones who have lost the leadership of the movement to the first two groups on December 1, 2013 and were mostly engaging themselves in the support and logistical work of the Maidan. There was a lot of self-activity without being able to find any expression in political self-organization and leadership.
- And yet a larger influx of masses of civilians, who braved the freezing cold weather, came to Maidan in the act of solidarity and support and listened to speeches, watched musical performances, and gave a mass cover for the protection of Maidan for many long hours.
- Layers at the top of Maidan pyramid were layers of counter-revolution. Layers at the bottom were for revolution, for independence, for freedom, for justice, and for progress. The more you were going up closer to the vertex of the Maidan pyramid the closer you were to sheer counter-revolution in the camouflage of revolution and the more you were getting to the base of the pyramid the closer you were to the revolutionary base devoid of self-organization and void of self-leadership, and deprived of significant political expression.
- At the end, EuroMaidan started as a movement of petty-bourgeois and some poor and it continues to exist as a primary movement of petty-bourgeois unemployed youth, individual students and lumpen-proletariat. No workers movement got ever involved in it. It was very true that at the rallies and during major events it attracted many people from every walk of life including workers, but it attracted them as mere individuals, helpless, confused, unorganized and yet hopeful. In such a situation neo-Nazi alternatives would have a great appeal especially after the liberal-nationalists proved that they were incapable of providing a meaningful set of gains for working people and poor.
- Now the interim government in Kiev is primarily a political balance and compromise between Batkivshchyna tie-wearing politicians and balaclava-helmet-wearing ultra-right-wing militias who have the defense forces, intelligence and security forces along with Maidan arena and some occupied buildings under their control. Svoboda Party and Right Sector in spirit and in force are acting as a deadly Damocles sword hanging over the head of the acting Prime Minister (Arseniy Yatsenyuk) and acting President and acting Speaker of Parliament (Oleksandr Turchyno). They are the gold bullion guarantee for this interim government to perform not in the spirit of Maidan revolutionary fervor but as the soul and bulwark of counter-revolution in Ukraine.
- Regardless of all of these short-comings, left and especially revolutionary working class groups and organizations in general and Ukrainian left in particular could not turn their back to this movement like the way that Communist Party did. They had to participate in the movement and help it to develop its own independent leadership organs, connect with the working class and other oppressed people of the country as a whole.
The Second Moment of Revolution: Crimea
- With Nationalists and ultra-nationalists coming to power in Kiev, Maidan lost it major thrust. And the moment of Maidan found its continuation not in Independence Square anymore but in the moments defined in Crimea and later in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.
- Crimea had a heavy hand of Russia in it as Maidan had the heavy hand of Western imperialists operating within it. Regardless of the fact that March 16 referendum took place in the active presence of armed Russian soldiers, still Crimea had a genuine demand at hand which could not be categorically dismissed. No revolutionary organization could ignore or condemn the demand for self-rule under a unified democratic Ukrainian republic. Russia hijacked that cause and it solved it in a very undemocratic manner. Crimea was not the pure land of Russian-speaking population. The original owners of that peninsulawere Muslim Tatars which are a minority group there. But there are also Ukrainian-speaking population living there. A fair referendum can legitimately only decide on the common denominator of all these three ethnic groups. The universal demand common to all members of the population was autonomy, was federative solution within an existing whole which is Ukraine itself. The fact that Russian speaking population constitutes the majority of the peninsula population, a particular solution favorable to Russian speaking population – secession from Ukraine and annexation into Russian Federation – is totally undemocratic. The only way that such a particular decision could be decided upon was to have three separate referendums one for each ethnic group. And only when each and all of the ethnic groups in their majority wished to join Russia, secession from Ukraine and annexation into Russian Federation could have found a true legitimacy. And even then, the result of referendum or plebiscite needs to be reflected i.e., incorporated in the constitution of Ukraine as a whole. It also means that the act of referendum or plebiscite is to be considered as an integral part of self-organization and self activity of peninsula as well as a pointed demand on the central government in Kiev. It is important to note after Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine, Tatar residents of Crimea staged demonstrations protesting against such secession and annexation decision. Tatars boycotted the referendum. Right after referendum Mejlis which is the executive representative body of Crimean Tatars rejected the outcome of the referendum. Tatar leaders have even threatened to call for the invocation of their own independence referendum on the issue. For the essence of a referendum to be just is to strive for the public good of all ethnic groups and should avoid causing harm to other ethnic populations therefore the right for autonomy within federal Ukraine satisfies that fundamental criterion.
- And since this did not happen, one ethnic group – the Russian Speaking population – imposed its particular national aspirations on other minorities on the peninsula. The referendum of majority who happen to be Russian-speaking initiated the process of national oppression of other ethnic groups. Russian Federation in its ratification of secession and in its annexation of Crimea gave an international dimension to national oppression of Tatars of Ukrainian-speaking minorities in Crimea. And hence true independence was violated; and therefore true democracy was trampled upon.
- For Kremlin, annexation of Crimea was a defensive measure on the geopolitical map to counter US/EU/NATO strategic designs. Without the pro-NATO inclinations of Troika at Maidan and without their responsibility in alienating people of Crimea with their purely Ukrainian nationalism – or national chauvinism – Russia would not have been easily capable of manipulations that it carried out in Crimea. So mis-leaders of Maidan – the “pure” Ukrainian pawns of oligarchs and Ukrainian-speaking puppets of US/EU imperialists – are also responsible for the course of events that happened in Crimea.
- Crimean movement towards autonomy – regardless of the final outcome – raised the necessity for a national autonomy and the necessity for a federative state in Ukraine. It therefore became the second moment of Ukrainian revolution as a whole and it also set the stage for the emergence of the third moment of Ukraine movement which started at Maidan back on November 21, 2013.
The Third Moment of Revolution: Eastern and Southern Regions of Ukraine
- Considering the principles and criterions used in the discussion of Crimea, what is happening now in the eastern and southern part of the country is progressive in nature and although it is going through the filter of US/EU-versus-Russia-geopolitics, the movement is addressing an important and yet unresolved issue in the Ukrainian state. The mere fact that population is Russian-speaking would not automatically give Russia chance and authority to meddle so easily in the affairs of people there. This is not a phony movement and it is not stage-managed by Russia either. [nihilist.li collective does not agree with this statement. we see Eastern separatist movement as pro-Russian and chauvinistic, its ideology can be compared with their Right Sector. There is some progressive workers movement in Eastern Ukraine, but it doesn’t have anything in common with separatists] The ground, the sufficient cause of the movement is in the east and south of Ukraine itself. It reflects the aspirations of people of those regions who have risen to affirm their sovereign rights. The more they can achieve in terms of democratic rights including rights of self-government at the autonomous level, the more it will contribute in creating a more democratic Ukraine in its totality. Hence these events in the east and south are really act three of the whole revolutionary drama. A drama which liberal nationalists, ultra-nationalists, Ukraine interim government, oligarchs, capitalists, imperialists (US, EU, Russia) are trying hard to stir in the direction of their own blind interests.
- The unity of total independence and total integration for the purpose of total public good is the unrealized essence of all-Ukraine movements. For Ukraine to become free, this ideality is to become an actuality.
- Ukraine’s new interim coalition government of liberal-nationalists and neo-fascists which came to power on February 22nd, 2014 on the shoulder of Maidan is neither democratic, nor they were ever fully accepted at Maidan, and are totally rejected among majority of people in the eastern and southern regions, and therefore not representative of a spirit of national unity in a divided country. It would not be correct to consider the coming to power of the new government as an act of putsch against Yanukovych. In the demands of people of Maidan, the question of overthrow of Yanukovych’s government ranked the highest in the list and it truly was in the public domain of the mind of Maindan since December 1, 2013; they consistently raised the demand of toppling Yanukovych in their rallies and marches for many months. So the events of February 22nd logical consequence of those deep demands. So it should not be characterized as a coup against the ruling government. The new interim government came to power on the shoulder of massive protesters of Maidan. The old regime melted away, the incompetent, corrupt Yanukovych who was elected in a bourgeois presidential election, found its power suddenly evaporated due to massive persistence and determined efforts of people for four freezing cold months. Calling the overthrow of the old regime an act of coup has two negative implications among others. It is very true that Svoboda played a proactive role in the overthrow. But that does not show the illegitimacy of the move. It rathershows the lack of initiative on the part of the liberal nationalist faction of coalition. Calling the event a coup, on one hand gives credit to the old regime and it puts Yanukovych on the same par as Dr. Muhammad Mosaddeq of Iran of 1953, Salvador Allende of Chile of 1973, and Muhammad Morsi of Egypt of 2013. On the other hand it also gives huge credit to US and EU puppet mis-leaders of Maidan for being able to act boldly in the course of a regime change. By no means events of February 22nd was a coup against the old regime but by all means it truly was a coup against Maidan itself. It prevented Maidan to overthrow the regime in a revolutionary way and instead created a counter-revolutionary interim regime from the get go to attack people of Main themselves. Their first acts where acts of offense against democratic rights of Russian speaking people and preparing to outlaw the Communist Party – which is supposedly the only significant reformist party with influence among working class – and paving the way for IMF-recommended austerity, elimination of welfare state, and further privatization of state businesses. The interim government, being the executive power of oligarchs as a whole, it has already proved that it is not able to bring about a total independence and a total integration for the purpose of public good. This government is becoming a pawn in the hands of US and European imperialists. It is trying to act as the implementer of neo-liberal economic policies of IMF and military designs of NATO.
- The Kremlin’s unjust intervention in Crimea will also strengthen the far-right in Kiev and in the western regions of the country (in the same way that Saddam’s initiation of the Iran–Iraq War which began on September 22nd, 1980 helped significantly to strengthen the position of Islamic [counter-] revolutionary guards (aka, Iranian Right Sector plus Iranian Svoboda combined) against Iranian revolution.
- The present coalition government of bourgeois-liberals with parliamentary tie-wearing and street balaclava-wearing fascists and with bourgeois-liberals in a commanding position can give way to a coalition government of fascists with bourgeois liberals as secondary partners. That too can change into a pure government of ultra-nationalists with bourgeois-liberals on the streets or behind the prison bars. Right Sector has already besieged the new parliament once demanding the resignation of the Interior Minister for the killing one of their hated leaders. Although the interim government is marked by sheer impotence for good, mis-leaders of Maidan have a powerful propensity for evil.
- The mass movements in Ukraine of 2013-2014, will find through its own bitter experience that it needs to have another historic moment: the moment of creating united democratic and federative Ukraine. To achieve that goal it also needs to force yesterday mis-leaders of Maidan and today counter-revolutionary leaders of interim government of Kiev to flee to “Western” Rostov-On-Don: Washington, Brussels or Berlin…