In Background, Feature Articles, Ukraine

By the Editors of Klassprof, the publication of ‘Zhanartu’, a union of workers in Kazakhstan. Published on March 11, 2015. Translated to English by Greg Butterfield and published on his blog, ‘Red Star Over Donbass’

Unfortunately, among trade unionists there have been some pacifist misconceptions, especially in the analysis of events in Ukraine and Donbass, when making abstract conclusions and calls, at first glance quite correct, about the need for an immediate end to the fratricidal war, disarmament and “pacification,” but at the same time tending to draw an equal sign between both sides of the conflict, without any class understanding of the driving forces of this confrontation.


Image by the editors of Klassprof  publication in Kazakhstan

Image by the editors of Klassprof publication in Kazakhstan

We are well aware that from the beginning in Ukraine there has been a clash of interests of U.S., European and Russian imperialism*, drawn as a confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian workers, fueled by poisonous national-patriotic venom and chauvinist propaganda. Of course, a clear and provocative role was played by the local oligarchs, who for many years actively funded and built the ultra-fascist and paramilitary forces, and had a hand in the Euromaidan.

At the same time, we must constantly repeat that the U.S. and the West ordered and organized the coup d’etat in Ukraine, under the guise of the protest movement and the slogan of integration with the EU, to push everything to the right and empower the extreme right-wing bourgeois groups. Their main goal is to use radical methods to enact the same old neoliberal economic policies of mass privatization, property redistribution, budget cuts in social spending and benefits, under the dictation of the IMF.

This coup was not just a change of clique, but a change of direction in the Ukrainian economy, which, as a result of signing the agreement with the EU and deindustrialization, is losing all the heavy and manufacturing industries, and thus millions of jobs. It was clear from the outset that the junta pursues objectives directed against the interests of Ukrainian workers and the broad social strata of society, when the vast majority of citizens have not only slipped into poverty, but are faced with the danger of starvation.

Kazakhstan Political Map 2000And this policy is carried out by openly terrorist methods, with the active participation of many fascist organizations which have become part of the state apparatus, and which led to bloodshed and the deaths of dozens of residents of Odessa, Mariupol and other cities of southeast Ukraine in May 2014. Mass action by the workers of the industrial regions, primarily the Donbass, was inevitable in this situation. It is the working class of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions which became the class basis and the core of resistance to the punitive operations of the Kiev junta.

The character and nature of resistance in Donbass

It is clear that after more than 20 years of continuous market reforms, workers and residents of Donbass — left to themselves, not organized in actual fighting unions, and without their own political organizations — were ideologically disoriented. Therefore, in the wake of the mass movement in the rebellious regions, a foam rose to the top consisting of conservative and even reactionary elements cloaked as all kinds of monarchists, clergy and Russian nationalists, etc. This is an objective historical process, because the movement involved thousands of people who had not previously participated in political struggle.

But the main thing is that the bulk of the militia, who have voluntarily taken up arms and come from the factories and mines of Donbass, marched and continue to march under the banner of social justice, nationalization of industry, and even the restoration of the USSR. The Soviet Union and its symbols, such as protecting monuments to Lenin and Soviet soldiers killed in the war against fascism, became the outward expression of the irresistible desire of workers for a radical revival of previous social conquests, the rejection of capitalism and the market, and the overthrow of the oligarchs.

This is what was frightened the Kremlin and the Russian bourgeoisie, who are now doing their best to smother this grassroots movement, to thwart its development into an independent political force, to prevent the carrying out of radical social and economic changes on the territories of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LC), and to neutralize independent militia commanders. For these reasons, the republics have been purposefully inundated by Kurginyanami [supporters of Sergei Kurginyan’s faux-leftist “Essence of Time” movement], nationalists and other enforcers. In this sense, the Putin regime plays a frankly reactionary role.

The fears of Russian imperialism are understandable. Residents and workers of Donbass, becoming a self-sufficient and independent force, would be a very tempting example for Russia’s own workers and other residents of the regions neighboring Donbass. At the same time, current and former workers who have taken up arms are a potential revolutionary detonator, even without serious political organization and class-struggle unions. Of course, today the results of their struggle are assigned to a new bourgeois agreement between Novorossiya and the Russian Federation, but under certain circumstances that may change.

In the words of the aforementioned Putin, the miners and tractor drivers — that is, the working class of Donbass — prevented the victory of the punitive operation, bravely repulsed all attacks by the Nazi battalions and Ukrainian army units. In the future, they can also play a role in the expansion of the uprising to other areas of Ukraine.

The objectives of the war for the Kiev junta

It was the Kiev junta that unleashed terror against the residents and workers in southeastern Ukraine, launching the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” to prevent the emergence of autonomous regions, and using violence against all who resist the dictatorship. The military defeat of the LC and the DNR would mean imminent massacres, the physical destruction of all active participants in the anti-fascist movement, ethnic cleansing and the establishment of a wild, murderous regime of Nazi battalions. This threat has not yet been overcome, as the war against fascism in Ukraine is not finished.

At the same time, the group now in power in Kiev is in a state of permanent political crisis that could trigger a new coup, with the establishment of an even more right-wing dictatorship, based on the direct rule of the Nazi armed forces. The Ukrainian army, as well as the entire state apparatus, is decaying. Workers are forcibly herded into the endless mobilization, and many refuse to go to the front, knowing that they are being used by the oligarchs for their own purposes to fight against the rebellious residents of Donbass.

And yet at this time, bourgeois pacifist slogans for disarmament, under the guise of anti-war rhetoric, are heard from various kinds of “progressive” figures, heads of “free” trade unions and liberal metropolitan dens. What are they talking about? Should the militias of Donbass voluntarily lay down their arms, thus helping to strengthen the junta in Kiev and spill more blood in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics? Such pacifism benefits only one side and helps the junta cover up its crimes and genocide of the working class and residents of Donbass!

Independent trade unions’ in Lugansk

You should also consider the deliberate provocation which was organized by the so-called “independent trade unions” in the Lugansk region, which was picked up by Boris Kravchenko of the Confederation of Labor of Russia (KTR) and other figures of “free” and pink union associations. It was the refusal to register one of the “independent trade unions” as the primary organization in one of the mines. From this they conclude the anti-working-class character of the People’s Republics and the negative role of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which the existing trade unions of the Lugansk region plan to affiliate with.

In fact, according to our Ukrainian colleagues, the attempted registration was the work of Nicholas Kozyuberda, who is actively involved in the civil war on the side of Kiev. Here is what our comrades from Ukraine say in this regard:

The leadership of the LC [Lugansk] sees Kozyuberda as a representative of trade unionists who take clear pro-war, pro-junta positions. He is not only a promotor of the ATO, but also directs the public organization of veterans of the ATO.

For 20 years, these independent trade unions said they were not involved in politics and were engaged only in the economic struggle, but in reality many of them stood on liberal and nationalist positions that now go askew in the Donbass. I will not justify the leaders of the ‘republics’ in relation to the trade unions, but the cause of the catastrophic situation of the miners and the coal industry lies at the very beginning of market reforms, and the nationalist hysteria that led to confrontation and military conflict only exacerbates these processes.

He says, ‘Bank cards on which our miners received salaries are locked. In the beginning of February, at the front office of the mine, one month’s salary has been paid — for November 2014. And that’s all for now.’ But it is Ukraine that blocked them, and none of the nationalistic trade unionists now raising their voices in defense of workers’ rights have presented a claim to the state which actually blocked the opportunity to get a fair salary!

After these comments, which clarify the nature of a number of “independent” trade unions and the heads of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU), who are actively supporting the junta government and the ATO, everything falls into place. We believe that labor activists in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine should view with great skepticism any statements made by the heads of the CFTUU and co.

Our position

We fully share the position of the World Federation of Trade Unions, expressed in a special resolution of the situation in Donetsk, in which the WFTU supports the people and workers of Donbass and expresses solidarity with them. The affiliation of the Lugansk trade unions and professional associations with the WFTU must be view positively, as a step forward and a good base to expand the influence of the international class trade union center in the former Soviet republics.

A clear anti-imperialist position by the WFTU should encourage workers’ organizations in the Donbass and in Ukraine itself. We will also actively participate in this process by promoting the need for class-struggle trade unions, the ideas of ​​proletarian internationalism, solidarity and political independence of the working-class movement.

In this situation, political independence should be expressed in a break with the trade unions which support the punitive operation (ATO) and assist and justify the anti-social course of the current government of Kiev in favor of the IMF, the local oligarchs and imperialism.

Anti-war propaganda cannot and must not be reduced to pure pacifism, to simple calls for disarmament, but should call for the elimination of the war government, reach out to Ukrainian workers forcibly conscripted into the army, calling on them to rise up in struggle, organize soldiers’ committees and take action to stop military operations, despite their commanders’ orders!

In this case, you will create the opportunity to neutralize the Armed Forces of Ukraine with real, not declarative, pacification – with fraternization and by turning the guns against the real class enemies and warmongers.

* Note by New Cold editors: We consider that the issue of whether the capitalist system in Russia today can simultaneously be considered as “imperialist” is a subject requiring much more analysis and debate than has been the case to date. The subject has taken on a new importance since the launch of the war in eastern Ukraine last year by the new regime that came into power in Kyiv.


EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

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