Ukrainian anarchist dispels myths surrounding Euromaidan protests, warns of fascist influence

Nieuws, gepost door: VegAnarchist op 18/01/2014 01:07:10

Wanneer: 18/01/2014 - 19:01

Asheville Fm radio, based in western North Carolina, aired a fascinating interview with an anarcho-syndicalist named Denys, from the Autonomous Worker’s Union in Ukraine. In the interview, Denys debunks many of the myths surrounding the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, and explains motives behind the stories and propaganda being circulated around the protests.

Why is the Free Association Agreement with the EU (which would mostly benefit the ultra-rich oligarchs of Ukraine) deliberately being construed as actual integration? Ukrainian leaders backed off from signing it at the last minute. Meanwhile, Russia is trying to pull Ukraine into her Customs Union by offering Kyiv a deal for promised purchases of billions of euro of Ukrainian products, and a 30 percent discount on Russian Natural Gas.

Denys explains that when the protests broke, the political class of Ukraine was taken by surprise. However, the opposition, a coalition leaning towards far-right (with fascist Svoboda being the most visible of them all) quickly regrouped and turned the street into their PR machine. The opposition had massive demonstrations in their plans, as fascist Svobodas leader declared in an interview in March 2013. Evidence emerged of the opposition leaders plans to overthrow the current government with the financial and political support of Germany’s conservative Angela Merkel, the EU leaders from Brussels, and with visible support of the United States, whose envoy, conservative John McCain was the guest star of the Euromaidan.

Two months after they started, Euromaidan protests started to wane, despite being forcefully encouraged by the conservative political elites and governments of Europe and the United States. These protests have been controlled by the politicians who took over the Kyiv City Hall, and in this video, we can see a neo-nazi white pride Christian cross, proudly displayed by the opposition in their “Revolutionary HQs,” the City Hall of Kyiv which they occupied earlier in December.

It’s hard to say who is more desperate – the government or the opposition, but the latter announced they would focus on the upcoming presidential elections, due in 18 months, though it’s not quite clear what candidate they’ll support. Fatherland sided with the ruling Party of Regions of the current president Viktor Yanukovych in backstabbing Vitali Klitschko, most likely to make room either for their man, Arseniy Yatseniuk, or for the leader of Svoboda, Oleh Tyahnybok (or maybe for Tymoshenko for whose release from prison, the West makes huge pressures).

Klitschko, already promoted by the conservative leaders of Europe as their favourite, announced he would run in the March 2015 presidential elections, a month before the Euromaidan.

However, Svoboda’s leader exposed their plans to take over Kyiv in a March 2013 interview which a month later was followed by street protests which failed to call for early elections for the mayor of Kiev, which would have led to the ousting of one of the allies of President Viktor Yanukovich from a powerful post.

7 months later, the opposition used the street protests against the government to gain power in Ukraine. The results have been very fruitful for the Svoboda party. On January 1st, the Svoboda party led a march of over 15,000 nationalists to celebrate the birthday of long dead nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

Klitschko attempted to disassociate Euromaidan from the Bandera march, but this lacks meaning as he has allied with Tyagnybok and demonstrated his willingness to collaborate with the Svoboda party. Many participants in Euromaidan have expressed their disapproval of the Bandera march, yet many of the same people have expressed their desire to not split the protests, meaning they will still willingly collaborate with nazis. This has essentially allowed Svoboda to establish hegemony among Euromaidan attendees as well as the capital.

In this interview, Denys explains what are the real facts and how are they reflected in a labyrinth of deformed mirrors, which one must remove from their way to understand the reality of life in Ukraine, a country where “people are ill because the State is a Ministry, Court, Oligarch, Scoundrel and non-accountable Parliament all at once, with all the same personalities over and over again.”

The transcript of the interview with Denys has been slightly edited from the spoken language into the written one, for more clarity. The edited parts are in brackets. You may also listen to it here.

Denys: You must distinguish between the two Euromaidans. (In) the first one which (took place) on November 21st, middle class people (participated), who mostly wanted the signing of that European Union agreement. However, today (our note – two months later), most of the people who are on the streets are concerned with rather more practical issues, such as police brutality, which was shown on the night of December 1st, and generally they are not happy with the government and the president. So the European integration remains a wider issue, but today it’s kind of the second place.

(As far as) the pro-government protests (are concerned): the people (who participated in them) were taken by the government on busses and (brought) to Kyiv for the weekend. (These) protests were not honest. Many people who work for the government, like teachers, doctors and so on, were told by their bosses that they have to do it. So, it was like mandatory for them. I would not say this (was) a real protest. But (regarding) the people who support the Union with Russia and Belarus and Kazahstan, yes, there is such an opinion and, as a whole, the country is divided more or less 50-50 regarding the integration into the European Union or the Customs Union.

The problem is that the second position is just not very represented in mass media which lean towards the other direction (pro-EU). And generally those people (who support the Customs Union) do not have the habit of protesting. They live in smaller towns and therefore they are not (represented in the media as much as those who live in the capital).

Also (the supporters of the Customs Union) have very stupid political leaders, for instance the main political force, which had organised those protests (in favor of) the Customs Union, (had) as their main point of anti-EU propaganda (the claim) that the European Union will bring about the same-sex marriage, and non traditional things which supposedly would not be welcomed by the Ukraian population. They even invented the term “Euro-sodom,” like (in) Sodom and Gomorrah.

And the other political force which supports the Customs Union is the Communist Party of Ukraine, which for many years has had nothing to do with communism, its political programme and agenda (can be) rather described as conservative, just like a regular social conservative party. If you compared (them) with Marie Le Pen, you would not find much difference between them.”

Asheville Fm radio: Is in their wording and imagery a sort of call back towards the Soviet era and rejoining with other Eastern European countries?

Denys: “Yes, of course they speculate about it, because the bonds between regular people are still very strong. You know many people have relatives (in Russia), (not to mention things) like the common mass-culture. Many people watch the Russian TV channels, so that is much more common in the regular lives of people in central, eastern, and southern regions.

People in the Central and Southern region have many things in common with the Russians, in their lifestyle, and they don’t feel they are the same as the European people.

But at the same time, a large part of the (Ukrainian) population is now currently living abroad, in the European Union, especially in Spain, Italy, Poland and Czech Republic and Portugal. Mostly these are people from Western regions, but not exclusively.

Asheville Fm radio: With the supporters versus the detractors of the EU inclusion, I can see a dividing up according to social norms, as you mentioned, so people who are maybe more social liberal (are) maybe leaning towards the West with its more progressive laws and same sex marriages, and then on the right side you have more conservative, more orthodox leaning – it will be a different orthodox church than the Russian orthodox – I’m sure that, depending on where you are in the country or what industry you’re in, you’re going do more business generally with the East or the West. But would you say that both the positions are basically more towards liberalizing the economy and weakening workers’s rights within Ukraine, or is it sort of a false bind for workers in Ukraine?

Denys: First of all you talked about the prevailing social liberalism among the pro-EU (Ukrainians). I would not really agree with that. There is such an impression because the pro-EU protests are headed by the educated middle class people who do have a (sort) of more social liberal agenda.

But still it’s more like cultural right versus cultural right.

So, for example, regularly, people at the Euromaidan pray publicly like together, all together. Then again, (regarding) the same sex marriages (issue): most people who stand for the EU integration would never accept it.

(Indeed) the social issues regarding the workers’ rights are not on the agenda at all. The working class, as a class, does not take part in these events at all. The workers naturally do take sides, but they are not organized in class-like organisations, in unions, as such they just don’t participate in these events. And they have good reasons for this, because both sides just talk about the cultural, political issues, which don’t have any direct connection to needs of an average worker.

The protesters who support the EU have the utterly false impression about Europe as some paradise where everything is all right, everything is much better than in Ukraine or anywhere else. It’s useless to tell them about the protests within the EU, about the austerity programs. They just don’t listen and they would say, “Ah, so you would better join Russia, wouldn’t you!”

So this false choice is just overwhelming and I think the same could be said about the opposite side. The leftist agenda, the workers’ rights agenda, is just not present at any of these squares (where people protest).

Asheville Fm radio: That must be a rather a frustrating position. All right, I guess, as an anarchist, it might open all sorts of possibilities and questions, (when they say) “Well, you must be pro-Russia if you’re against this”, (could you say) “Well, actually there’s another way.” Do you find that opens up a lot of conversations for you?

Denys: “No. The people are very hyped-up, they are very nervous. Today and maybe all the other days of last weeks, you could be in real physical danger, if you start saying something like this because you’d be immediately considered a provocateur from the ruling party. Actually, there were a couple of such incidents at the Euromaidan, when people from different leftist groups were trying to do exactly what you’re saying, and some of them were beaten quite harshly, others were just pushed out. (This is) because regular people do show some interest sometimes, but the other problem is that the whole situation in the rank and file in the euromaidan, the security and the local managers (organisers of the protests), who do stuff, they are heavily infiltrated by the far right groups that actually have their own things to say to the left. And they have the trust of the normal, the political people, so if some new Nazi whom we know says, “Oh my god, look, these are communists, these are like provocateurs, I think they just support Yanukovych,” nobody would listen to you anymore. You’d be like pushed away.

This is the mass hysteria in which I do not think it is possible to do much agitation, although I think during the next year we’ll have much more possibilities, because given the awful state of Ukraine’s state finances, I think during the next couple of months, the protests could be transformed into something (closer to a) more of a social economical agenda.”

Asheville Fm radio: Let’s hope so.

Can you talk a bit more about the Ukrainian political system, and what the spectrum looks like? What kind of parties should our listeners know about to get a basic understanding about the dynamics, and what the stances are on the Ukraine joining the EU or the Custom’s Union?

Denys: “The Ukrainian parliamentary politics basically consists of two large (political) parties – these two parties have pretty identical social, political and economical agendas. They both can be described as centrist-right populists. One party is the Party of Region, which is the ruling party, president Yanukovych is their chief, and the government consists of the Party of Regions’ members. The opposition consists of a bloc of three parliamentary opposition parties, which are basically the same, the only difference is that they speak Ukrainian. (These opposition parties) have their electoral base in the Central and Western Ukraine, while the Party of Regions (people rather) speak Russian, and they speculate on these cultural differences, since their voters live in the South and in the East. These are the parties which gather perhaps 60 percent of all votes. Also there is the “Communist” party of Ukraine, which I already told you about. And one of this so-called National Democratic Opposition is the Svoboda (party), which is translated as “freedom”, but actually is a far-right party, identical to the other far-right populists from the European countries actually. Most of the political parties which I described do support the integration into the European Union, including most of the businessmen who support the Party of Regions (the ruling paty of president Yanukovych).

Actually, during this year, there emerged an opposition, based on pro-Russian conservative grounds, inside the Party of Regions, but it was very severely suppressed. The would-be leader of that opposition, a member of the parliament, was expelled from the Parliament, on grounds that he rigged the elections in his constituency.

Up until the end of November everything said that Ukraine would sign that Association Agreement (with the EU) because everybody is interested in it.

Then things changed rapidly, as far as can be understood, when the president and the prime-minister looked at the figures and they just realized that they can’t do it because the trade was with Russia and because (of the situation of) the State’s finances – we don’t have money and the budget is just empty and we can’t afford the losses which would be brought about by that association Agreement. Obviously nobody read that agreement at all (until at that moment), because (until the moment they backed off), the prime-minister and the president were the main euro-optimists in the country.

Overnight then they became the main euro-skeptics.”

Asheville Fm radio: Was the International Monetary Fund’s restructuring plan a part of getting into the European Union, or was that a separate thing that suddenly came up about the same time for the Yanukovych’s party?

Denys: “These are two separate things, which are united by the fact that the Ukrainian government badly needs money. So they’ve decided to press the European Union in order for them to help Ukraine negotiate for better conditions of (getting) a credit fund from the IMF.

This is because the IMF demands (the same measures) as they usually do for many countries. (They impose) very harsh conditions, such as rising the gas price for the population, and the devaluation of the national currency. And the government refused to do that that over the past years, and it would be certainly political suicide for any politician who would try to do that now, when there is one year left before the presidential elections.”

Asheville Fm radio: From what I understand the IMF demands a 40 percent increase of the price of natural gas in a country that is quite cold, right?

Denys: Yeah.

Asheville Fm radio: That seems like political suicide. I can see that for sure.

Denys: “The main political force in the far right scene in Ukraine today is undeniably the Svoboda party, if I would have to seek some comparison I would compare them to other eastern european far-right parties such as Hungarian Jobbik party (more on Jobbik: documetary, news report, and article) which I think American listeners may be aware of. There was a huge scandal when they got lots of votes a couple of years ago in Hungary. Svoboda (is) pretty much the same thing, it’s a political party which has its own project of a so-called “national constitution” (which would bring about) many awful things, such as the death penalty for the so-called “anti-Ukrainian activities,” without further comment. Basically anything contrary to that parties spirit could be considered “anti-Ukrainian.”

Today in the Euromaidan they are calling for a political strike, but actually what most people just don’t realize is that, in the Svoboda’s project of (a new) Constitution, the political strike is a criminal offense.”

Asheville Fm radio: It’s a state of exception for them, I’m sure.

Denys: “Yeah. The paradox is that they’ve become extremely popular among the educated liberal middle class in urban areas, especially in Kyiv. So today Kyiv votes for Svoboda, as the Western regions of Ukraine do, because they just say, “Well, I don’t know what is their program like. I did not read anything (about it), but they look so harsh, they are such cool guys, and I’m sure that at least they would break the necks of those corrupt people who are now in the party (holding) power.”

This is, of course, very much reminiscent of the historical situations in other countries in 21st century.

I don’t want to sound too much in panic, but there are some similar traits, because regular bourgeois people from the middle class just don’t see anything wrong with it. And, to some extent, they are right, because, if the far-right wins over the country, these people would not feel any major difficulties (in their life). The main difficulties would be directed towards the far left, towards all the left parties and movements, and towards the ethnic minorities and racial minorities.

But normal people would not feel anything for some time (at least), and that’s the problem.

Also another interesting fact about (the Svoboda) party: they (went through) a rebranding, and now (they) call (themselves) “freedom”. This is a generic word for the European right, but up until 2005 or 2004, they called themselves the Socialist Nationalist Party of Ukraine.” (our note: Actually the current Svoboda leader said at one point that every Ukrainian must become a Socialist-Nationalist.)

Asheville Fm radio: Do you have anything to say about the Ukraine National Assembly party?

Denys: “They’re not very influential now. They used to be a very powerful far-right party (back) in the `90s, when they really had their own para-military soldiers, and even a semi-army, and their fighters (participated in) the war in Chechnya, and in other Caucasus wars and in Transnistria, and, yeah, they were very scary. But today they are just mostly a club for the nazis who don’t like Svoboda.

Asheville Fm radio: I came across the website of Dimitrov Kutchinsky, that guy is crazy. There are also references to national-anarchism.

Denys: “Are you familiar with that concept at all?”

Asheville Fm radio: Yeah there are some idiots claiming to be that in the United States. In San Francisco, and New York and Chicago. Are they much of a thing in the Ukraine?

Denys: “Yes, actually yes. Because unfortunately this is a very popular trend – to mix with the leftist things, like (in adopting an) anticapitalism (narrative). The anarchist (position) is very trendy, cool and gives you some points immediately, but people mix it with national things, which also look very trendy and cool with the youth, mainly with teenagers who just don’t see any problem in trying to combine these things. And it’s especially funny in Ukraine because we have a very big myth about Makhno.

Today he’s an integral part of the national myth, he’s considered a nationalist, actually, because, well, he fought the Bolsheviks, therefore he must be for Ukraine, for independent Ukraine, and for the rule of the nation and so on. Obviously this is total bullshit, but this mythology is very popular and it adds to the popularity of that left-right synthesis, the third position actually, like Terza Posizione, (which is) the Italian fascist

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Tags: Ukraine Euromaidan human rights

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