Thursday, January 23, 2014


The Ukraine is now and has long been, in my book, a big mess and a breeding ground for nazi like fascism.  The "protests" we see on TV are not all protests of liberation, as I am sure you know.  A few days ago the media showed us images of cops battling with protesters trying to take over the parliament building in Kyiv.  What they mostly neglected to mention was that the cops (who are no friends of working people), in this instance, were fighting with neo-nazis and other reactionaries.  What are the reactionaries and nazis upset about?  According to one writer at Revolution News:

The “Right Sector”... is guided in these events by the sincere feeling of insult. Yanukovych “stole their culture” and started implementing the fascist program without their participation. If they came to power, they would pass the same bills as those passed by the Party of Regions and the “Communist” Party, only with a racist agenda.

However, it isn't as simple as I or some others make it out to be.

The Autonomous Workers Union of Kyiv make clear to me and others in a letter addressed to European leftists:

We, the members of leftist, trade union and human rights organizations in Ukraine, as well as individual activists, would like to draw your attention to the recent events in our country.

On Thursday, 16th of January 2014 without the discussion and contrary to its own regulations and to the Constitution of Ukraine, the Ukrainian parliament, passed a series of laws directed at limiting freedom of speech and citizens’ right to peaceful protest. One of the approved items is the infamous amendment to the Criminal Code which bans so-called “extremism”. In this amendment “inciting social discord” is defined as “extremism”. It is clear that any kind of drawing attention to social problems, to the blatant inequality that exists in Ukrainian society, can be qualified as “inciting social discord”, therefore the activities of left, trade union and social activists in Ukraine can be criminalized to a large extent.

The Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) plays a particularly shameful part in these events. Not only did the Communist Party’s faction unanimously voted for the repressive bills, but the CPU official website also features materials that condemn the recent protests as being inspired by foreign actors with the aim of destabilizing Ukraine. Spreading such opinion, the CPU in fact fulfills the task of the whitewashing of Yanukovych’s regime.

It is true that open anti-communists do play a significant role on Maidan, but this anti-communism is caused mostly by the arrogant position of the Communist Party itself. It is not the first time the CPU has tried to de-legitimize civil protests and adopted a conservative position. In addition to this, in the country that suffered the catastrophic losses caused by hunger and repressions during the Stalinist regime, the CPU refuses to condemn the actions of the USSR’s leaders or at least apologize for them, which makes socialist ideas less popular in Ukrainian society.

Yanukovych’s regime has demonstrated its readiness for repressions. It is evident today that the CPU will use its international connections in order to justify this regime’s actions. That is why we believe that the left all around the world and especially in the European Union must terminate any relations with the Communist Party of Ukraine and condemn its actions.

We believe that the party that treats popular uprisings with open hatred, the party that speaks out against “inciting social discord”, is not fit to be called communist or leftist and is “communist” in  name only.

We ask you to bring this letter to the attention of the leadership of the parties which are members of your Union.

Confused, me, too.  I just have not paid the required attention to all this that I should.

Consequently, rather than drone on about something I myself need more education about, I will leave you with two different articles.

The first is from Revolution News.  The second from the Nation. 

Russian & Ukrainian Antifa Rallies Held, Nazis Riot in Kyiv

1425623_804577886225449_526572716_nNeo-nazis attacked about 30 antifascists in Kharkov, Ukraine who were commemorating the lives of comrades assassinated in Moscow 5 years ago. Those remembered were Anastasia Baburova – an anarchist and journalist, who was a member of the Autonomous Action, and relentlessly investigated the Neo-nazis – and Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer. Nazis retreated behind police lines for protection, after being beaten back by the antifascist group. Shortly after, police forced two antifascists to write accounts of them beating back the fascists, clearly in favor of the nazis who attacked.
Kharkov: a nazi runs to his police allies for protection from anarchists
Kharkov: a nazi runs to his police allies for protection from antifascists
Kyiv: Neo nazis clash with Berkut police forces at parliament
Meanwhile, in Kyiv, cops clashed with Neo-nazis as they tried to take over the Parliament during a protest against recent legislation. Mainstream media widely reported these clashes, victimizing the Neo-nazis who were holding crusader shields bearing the white pride cross and “Heil Hitler” nazi symbols, as well as the symbol for white supremacist David Lane’s 14 words (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”) Writers for have referred to these riots as an “involuntary ejaculation of fire,” explaining that ”This is the natural act of desperate people who are sick of all politicians and who are not ready to accept the state of emergency. This is not a revolutionary act of the people, this is not parliamentary masturbation – simply an involuntary ejaculation due to long lasting abstinence from sensible and purposeful actions.” Images emerged of nazis beating cops, as can be seen in this video.
Anastasia and Stanislav were investigating the crimes committed by Yuri Budanov, a Russian officer convicted of war crimes in Chechnya. Two members of a neo-Nazi group, who confessed to their murders, were convicted later, though the entire circumstances of the double assasination remain murky. ”Stanislav Markelov was shot dead after attending a press conference at which he had discussed plans to appeal against the early release of a Russian former colonel who was imprisoned for the murder of a Chechen girl. Anastasia Baburova, a journalist from the newspaper Novaya Gazeta who was accompanying Stanislav Markelov, was seriously injured when she tried to stop the killer. She died later that day in hospital, without regaining consciousness.“ 
The International Federation of Journalists documented that over the past 20 years, 300 journalists were killed or have disappeared in Russia.
“To remember means to fight. If you remember, you know what to do” – this was written on a bannerwhich was hanged by activists in Moscow, near Putin’s Krelmlin. Earlier, hundreds of antifascists marched through the streets of Moscow, guarded by riot cops, in remembrance of Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov.

On Sunday in Kyiv, 200 anarchists and antifascists remembered the double assassination, holding portraits of their fallen comrades, candles, and banners reading: “No political terror,” “We are all antifascists,” “Remembering means fighting.” These messages have a tragic echo in Ukraine these days, as the current ruling power of Ukraine, against the country’s Constitution, passed laws banning “extremism,” which is defined against its own meaning, as “inciting social discord.” This means that any dissent has became a crime. As the Autonomous Workers Union in Kyiv points out, “It is clear that any kind of drawing attention to social problems, to the blatant inequality that exists in Ukrainian society, can be qualified as “inciting social discord,” therefore the activities of left, trade union and social activists in Ukraine can be criminalized to a large extent.”
They also spoke out against the strengthening of the police state, which western media is ironically referring to as a “dictatorship” and as “totalitarian.” While this is true, it is also true of western countries who have enforced similar measures criminalizing protests. The difference is that when protests are criminalized in the West, mainstream media don’t call that tyranny, but “democracy.”
Later in the evening supporters of the opposition coalition of Merkel-created UADR, nationalist Fatherland, and neo-nazi Svoboda clashed with the riot police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.
The UADR leader called for early elections in a desperate attempt to fully exploit the fact that the West has made them credible, and directly helped them make use of the protests as a powerful electoral tool.
Fatherland leader Yulia Tymoshenko called for a new constitution, and Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok claimed that they are forced to give protesters a leader, since the crowds demand it. In other words – the opposition claim they are being invited to take power by the crowds they manipulate. While the opposition figures have taken the stage of their manufactured Euromaidan protests, they have done an awful job maintaining support and trust between each others respective parties.
Vitali Klitschko sprayed with a fire extinguisher by nazi protestors while trying to stop clashes with police
Vitali Klitschko sprayed with a fire extinguisher by nazi protestors while trying to stop clashes with police
Tyahnybok also made some awkward claims – he said the government would rob a gun shop and take guns on the streets so they can blame them of being armed. There is no proof to sustain this and it did not happen, but the fact that he mentioned guns should perhaps be kept in mind. Some 100 people were injured during the street clashes, a fifth of them cops.

The Ukrainian Nationalism at the Heart of ‘Euromaidan’

Kiev protest
Members of the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army rallied in Kiev in December 2013. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)
Kiev’s two-month-long “Euromaidan” protest turned violent on Sunday as people in masks, outraged over restrictive protest laws hurriedly passed last week, marched on parliament and ran into police cordons that they pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails. Police hurled gas canisters, stun grenades, and a water cannon and rubber bullets at them, setting off a wave of clashes previously unknown at the largely peaceful protest.
Spearheading the clashes with police was Right Sector, a group with ties to far-right parties including the Patriots of Ukraine and Trident, which BBC Ukraine reported is largely comprised of nationalist football fans. In a statement the next day, the group claimed credit for Sunday’s unrest and promised to continue fighting until President Viktor Yanukovich stepped down.
“Two months of unsuccessful tiptoeing about under the leadership of the opposition parties showed many demonstrators they need to follow not those who speak sweetly from the stage, but rather those who offer a real scenario for revolutionary changes in the country. For this reason, the protest masses followed the nationalists,” the statement read.
The surge in violence sparked by Right Sector has revealed how uncritical and undiscerning most of the media has been of the far-right parties and movements that have played a leading role in the “Euromaidan,” the huge protests for closer ties to Europe that flared up in November and have taken over Kiev’s Independence Square (“Maidan Nezalezhnosti”). Protest coverage focused on the call for European integration and the struggle against the Yanukovich regime has largely glossed over the rise in nationalist rhetoric, often chauvinist, that has led to violence not just against police, but also against left-wing activists.
According to Maksim Butkevich of the coordinator of the No Borders Project of the Center for Social Action NGO, which works against discrimination and xenophobia, far-right groups have grown in popularity over the course of Euromaidan.
“I wouldn’t say it’s big, that huge numbers of activists will join far-right groups after this, but they became more acceptable and in a way more mainstream than before for many active citizens,” Butkevich said.
Although the outcome of the protests is still up in the air, if they lead to snap elections, nationalists could win greater political power, Butkevich said, especially Svoboda, the far-right parliamentary party in the coalition of three opposition parties leading the protest. (Right Sector criticizes all three for “pacifism,” including Svoboda.)
It was Svoboda that was responsible for the most iconic image to come out of Euromaidan: On December 8, masked protestors waving blue Svoboda flags and yelling “Hang the Commie!” toppled a 67-year-old statue of Vladimir Lenin in the city center. Svoboda leader Ihor Miroshnychenko, who has faced charges for pulling down a Lenin statue in another city, told journalists his party was responsible.
Svoboda is the most visible party on the square, it has essentially taken over Kiev City Hall as its base of operations, and it has a large influence in the protestors’ security forces.
It also has revived three slogans originating in the Ukrainian nationalist movement of the 1930s that have become the most popular chants at Euromaidan. Almost all speakers on Independence Square—even boxer-turned-opposition-leader Vitaly Klitschko, who has lived mostly in Germany and has a US residence permit—start and end with the slogan, “Glory to Ukraine!,” to which the crowd responds “To heroes glory!” Two other nationalist call-and-response slogans often heard on the square are “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!” and “Ukraine above all!”
Progressive activists have “to fight on two fronts, against a regime that supports harmful police violence … and also against extreme nationalism, which is recognized and legitimate on Maidan,” Nikita Kadan, an artist and activist in Kiev, said via Skype during a discussion of nationalism at a Moscow bookstore in December.
The Euromaidan protests began on November 21 after the government halted the process of signing an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. The EU offered Ukraine what many have framed as a “civilizational choice” between East and West, which have recently been at odds over a traditionalist social agenda—including a controversial law against gay propaganda—implemented under President Vladimir Putin in Russia.
The association agreement would have reduced tariffs but would not have led automatically to visa-free travel or the ability for Ukrainians to work in Europe. (EU politicians and even Senator John McCain have come to Kiev to stump for European integration, and McCain had dinner with Svoboda’s head and the two other leaders of the opposition coalition.) Instead, President Yanukovich, who is from the generally Russian-speaking eastern half of the country, later signed an agreement with Putin that will see Russia buy $15 billion in Ukrainian government bonds and discount the gas it delivers to Ukraine by a third.
The protests come amid a resurgence of nationalist sentiment in Ukraine that can be compared to a Europe-wide rise of nationalist parties. Svoboda, which was originally known by the Nazi-esque moniker “Social-National Party of Ukraine” and whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok is infamous for a 2004 speech in which he argued that a “Moscow-Jewish mafia” was ruling Ukraine, entered parliament for the first time in 2012 by winning 10.44 percent of the popular vote. Before this, the party had come to dominate regional parliaments in three provinces in the largely Ukrainian-speaking west of the country. In last year’s elections, Svoboda notably finished second in cosmopolitan, Russian-speaking Kiev.
“In the 2010 and 2012 elections, it became visible that a big part of the youth are moving toward nationalism,” said Georgy Kasyanov, a researcher at the Institute for the Development of Education. He noted that one factor is youth unemployment, which is rising in Ukraine as in the rest of Europe.
Despite its leading role at Euromaidan, Svoboda’s political program is at complete odds with the “European values” for which the protestors at Euromaidan are ostensibly agitating. (Admittedly, some of the party’s populist economic program is in fact relatively progressive.) During its time in parliament, the party was best known for introducing a bill to ban abortions, but in its program, it also promises to abolish gun control, “ban the communist ideology,” criminalize “Ukrainophobia,” ban the adoption of Ukrainian children by foreigners and reinstate a “nationality” graph on passports and birth certificates.
On New Year’s Day, Svoboda led about 15,000 people in a torchlight march in honor of Stepan Bandera, the controversial leader of the wartime Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which fought the Soviets for an independent Ukrainian state but also ethnically cleansed tens of thousands of Polish civilians. (Right Sector also announced its own march that day in honor of Bandera.) Some historians have accused the Ukrainian Insurgent Army of cooperating in the massacres of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during the Nazi occupation, and Tyahnybok even commended the rebels in 2004 for fighting “Russians, Germans, Jewry and other crap.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center put Svoboda at number five on its 2012 list of top anti-semitic slurs, citing Tyahnybok’s “Moscow-Jewish mafia” comment and Miroshnychenko calling Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis a “dirty Jewess.”
How can the slogan “Ukraine above all!” sound on Independence Square alongside the slogan “Ukraine in the EU!”, Ukrainian progressive activist Olga Papash asked in a recent piece on the politics and culture website Korydor. Any ideology has a certain point that integrates dissimilar ideas into a single system, Papash argued.
“I think the attachment point, that shared place of rightist ideology in Ukraine today, that ‘ideal’ that removes the contradiction between different calls to action and messages, is the fear of (dislike of, reluctance toward) entering into any sort of ‘civilized’ relationship with Russia,” Papash wrote.
Even Yury Noyevy, a member of Svoboda’s political council, admitted that the party is only pro-EU because it is anti-Russia.
“The participation of Ukrainian nationalism and Svoboda in the process of EU integration is a means to break our ties with Russia,” Noyevy said.
For now, Svoboda and other far-right movements like Right Sector are focusing on the protest-wide demands for civic freedoms government accountability rather than overtly nationalist agendas. Svoboda enjoys a reputation as a party of action, responsive to citizens’ problems. Noyevy cut an interview with The Nation short to help local residents who came with a complaint that a developer was tearing down a fence without permission.
“There are people who don’t support Svoboda because of some of their slogans, but they know it’s the most active political party and go to them for help,” said Svoboda volunteer Kateryna Kruk. “Only Svoboda is helping against land seizures in Kiev.”
Kruk freely admitted she doesn’t support Svoboda’s nationalist platform and “would be very concerned” if the party won a majority in parliament. Nonetheless, she volunteers for Svoboda because she likes “the idea of a party that is Ukrainian-focused” and thinks it is the most active of the opposition parties.
This kind of reserved support of Svoboda as the party most likely to enact change despite its intolerant rhetoric was echoed by several protestors on Independence Square. Katerina, a doctor who also declined to give her last name for fear of repercussions at work, said although she disagrees with Svoboda’s nationalist program, she supports them “for now” for their strong anti-oligarch stance.
“They’re not afraid to make demands,” she said.
Alexander, who came to Independence Square from a village outside Kiev, said that the nationalists have been essential to the growth of Euromaidan.
“Without nationalists, there wouldn’t be any protest,” Alexander said, declining to provide his last name.
Ivan Kozar, a Cossack from Khmelnitsky who came with his brethren to provide security on Independence Square, said Svoboda “is the one political party that has a well-formed concept.”
“Sure there are those who say, ‘Beat Moskali!’” he said, referencing the derogatory term for Muscovites sometimes heard on the square, “but they are few in number.”
Nonetheless, some left-wing parties, including the Marxist party Borotba, don’t support the protests because they worry about the growing power the demonstrations have given to Svoboda. Their concern alludes to a darker side to patriotic hymns and sayings.
The fact that nationalist slogans “became mainstream of course points to the danger of providing greater legitimacy to groups promoting positions that yesterday were really marginal, and this danger is still in place,” Butkevich of No Borders said.
But rhetoric can quickly escalate into action, and already protestors with apparent nationalist sentiments have taken part in a spate of attacks on left-wing activists on Independence Square. On November 27, activists with signs reading “Freedom, Equality, Sisterhood,” “Europe is sex education,” “Europe is equality” and “Organize trade union instead of praying for Europe” said they were assaulted by “far-right thugs” calling themselves “organizers of the protest,” who tore the banners. On November 28, several men with covered faces pepper-sprayed a group of feminists and tore a banner reading “Europe means paternity leaves.”
On December 4, labor organizer Denis Levin and his two brothers were beaten by a small crowd shouting “Glory to Ukraine” and “Death to Enemies” after a nationalist writer on the stage pointed them out as “provocateurs” with red flags, Levin told The Nation. Shortly before and after the attack, Miroshnychenko, a member of Svoboda’s political council, came by the tent where the brothers were agitating for the Confederation of Free Labor Unions, Levin added. The nose of one brother was broken, and Denis suffered from the irritative gas used against the trio.
Men wearing armbands with the wolfsangel nationalist symbol also started the violent clashes on nearby Bankova Street on December 1 that led to riot police counter-attacking and beating journalists, photos from the incident show, although it’s not clear in whose interests they were acting.
“People are not thinking about how an association with the EU will actually affect us, they’re still finding simple answers for complicated questions. They are blaming the Moskali for everything,” Levin said.
“The main mistake of Maidan is that the parties came, and social questions were replaced by nationalist ones,” he added. “Maidan didn’t grow into Occupy [Wall Street], it became reactive.”
However, Noyevy denied Svoboda activists had beaten the Levin brothers.
“I know this situation, unfortunately Svoboda wasn’t involved in this action,” he said. “Thank god everything turned out okay. Those provocateurs are mainly extremists, they have an extremist liberal ideology and are using the funding of western organizations.”
“Anyone who says he’s a communist is a provocateur,” he added. “We will be against any left-wing party.”
Former Svoboda member Ivan Ponomarenko, an architect from Kiev, said the party is ineffective politically and will not be able to enact its measures, as its leadership is only “pretending” to be extreme nationalists for their own political and economic gain.
“They are playing at Klu Klux Klan,” Ponomarenko said.
But political analyst Kost Bondarenko, commenting on Svoboda’s recent torch-lit march in Radio Free Europe/Radio Svoboda’s Russian service, said that as the dominant far-right political party, Svoboda could benefit politically from any continuation of radical actions at Euromaidan.
“Any radicalization on the right, and Maidan is right-wing in its essence and ideology, will lead to a growth in the ratings … of this political force,” Bondarenko said. “On the other hand, such a turn of events is desirable to the authorities, I think, since Viktor Yanukovich understands that he will win if Oleh Tyahnybok makes it to a second round” in the presidential election in 2015.
For his part, a bright-eyed Noyevy promised to implement a radical nationalist platform.
“Svoboda is going to be the biggest winner among the opposition parties in increasing its level of support after Euromaidan,” he added. “Right now the majority of people on Maidan demand more radical actions, and I don’t see how other parties will enact these wishes.”

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