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On the Events in Ukraine

On February 6 2001, the anti-Kuchma protests organized by the opposition entered a new phase.  In Kiev these protests were most intense and revealing of what has been going on.

The Crisis Escalates

The crisis ignited by the “case of Gongadze” and “the tape scandal” continued to deepen.  The January session of the European Parliament showed that leading capitalist countries did not intend to support the regime of Leonid Kuchma.   In the face of the growing pile of “tape recorded materials” even the chiefs of presidential administration had to admit that certain parts of these tapes corresponded to certain discussions in president’s office.   But having said “A” they will have to say “B.”  If the tapes are authentic then it is also true that Kuchma is guilty of ordering the murder Gongadze and of plundering the property of the country.

Aware of the opposition’s plans to begin a new wave of protests on February 6, the authorities took  measures that only stimulated protests rather than preventing them.  These measures included fencing the central square in Kiev by a six-feet tall boards, allegedly for its “reconstruction”; intimidating Kiev residents by leaflets in which they were told that the “rebels” wanted to destabilize the situation in Kiev and to ask Nato troops to intervene and bomb the capital as it did in Yugoslavia.  The authorities also destroyed the small encampment of protesters in the city’s main avenue by using two hundred thugs waving “anarchist” black flags, who afterwards peacefully boarded the subway train on free passes.
It would seem that the regime, hated by the majority of Ukrainian people, plunged into such a crisis that everybody would rise against it.  But this is not happening.  So far there are no mass protests on the part of workers and peasants.  In fact, those participating in protests belong to the professional political elite.  Why?

As a matter of fact, ordinary toilers smell a rat, because they cannot fail to see that all that the “democratic opposition” wants is to replace the regime of Kuchma with the regime of Yushchenko, so that capitalist reforms would finally “succeed,” as if the restoration of capitalism in the country and the plunder of the majority of its population have not “succeeded.”  This is why workers and peasants look at all this with caution.  And for good reason.

Strange Encounters

The observed duality of the opposition was clearly manifested on February 6, when the column of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) and the All-Ukrainian Council of Workers (VSR) joined the protests in downtown Kiev.  At 3 pm this column, organized at the subway station Kreshchatik, attempted to join the rally.  This triggered a reaction, which may appear strange.  Instead of uniting all anti-Kuchma forces, the leaders of “democratic opposition,” socialists and nationalists alike, gave the fighters from UNO-UNCO, who protected the rally, orders to stop the column of communists.  At the same time the column was attacked from the rear by the paramilitary from the Nazi organization the “Trident of Stepan Bandera.”
The Nazis were beaten off; the cordons of UNO-UNCO were also broken.  But all this looked rather strange.  First, they called on every one to join against Kuchma and now they did not want this unity.  What surprised me the most was that when I convinced one of UNO-UNCO bosses that it’s better to fight Kuchma together, than each other, he agreed and promised to lift the cordon if his superiors give orders.  When we found his superiors they turned out to be Valentina Semenuik, the leader of Kiev City Committee of Socialist Party (who used to be a communist).  She agreed to allow the leader of Ukrainian communists Petr Simonenko speak at the meeting, but refused to lift the UNO-UNCO cordon against the communists and workers.

It was the “democrat” Larisa Skorik, who in her speech expressed the meaning of these actions.  It turns out that some sections of European press present the opposition to Kuchma as the “revenge of the left.”   “We are not the left – screamed Skorik—we are a national-democratic opposition!”  This is why the UNO-UNCO men tried to stop the communist column.  They were afraid that our red flags flying over the anti-Kuchma rally would allow Western media, God forbid, to say that their “revenge of the left” line was now proved.  But if it was not the “left revenge,” then it was the “revenge of the right”!

What is really going on?

In reality, the role of Kuchma’s regime was to complete the economic and political reforms, necessary for restoring capitalist relations in Ukraine, which the first Ukrainian president Kravchuk began. The destructive effects of these reforms we all know too well.

The essence of this transition was to restore the relations of private property.  But Ukraine was the country in which the forces of production were developed and integrated in the framework of a unified national economy.  In such a country, a return to private property inevitably accelerates the process of its concentration.  It took only 5-6 years for Ukraine to achieve the degree of capital concentration, which took centuries in Europe.

At first, privatization checks made everybody small owners of big enterprises.  No wonder that very soon this private property became concentrated in the hands of the few.  In its turn, the concentration of private property on individual industrial enterprises quickly led to the formation of monopolistic cartels.

Lately we have been seeing how small and big forms of private property in industry are replaced not only by monopolistic capital, but also by its state-monopolistic form.  No wonder that the country is ruled by a small group of oligarchs who have concentrated in their hands industrial, financial, and merchant capital.  Since 2000 this group actively appropriates agricultural capital as well.

Leonid Kuchma not only presided over this process, he became the political embodiment of economic oligarchy, all those Volkovs, Linchuks, Sukises, Chervonenkovs, Dergachs, and the likes.  But if he so obediently reformed our economy according to capitalist prescriptions why did he find himself in a conflict with “reform professors” and, above all, his American “instructors”?

The reason for this was the decision of big Ukrainian capital to actively cooperate with the more powerful Russian capital.  This decision was accelerated by the gas crisis in the summer of 2000, when economists coined the new term “not sanctioned gas taking”.

By the fall of 2000, Ukrainian economy and then Ukrainian politics made a serious turn toward Russia.  The President fired the pro-American foreign minister Tarasuik and appointed the pro-Russian Zlenko.  At that moment Americans realized that things were getting serious.  And already in the end of September scandals were launched around the disappearance of Gongadze and the discovery of “tapes.”

By now even the president’s administration has realized that the tapes are real, but their main problem is that they also realize that Major Mel’nichenko served only as a cover for real “tape recorders.”  You see it’s very simple.  If you use a tape recorder inside the room you can record only the voice of the person sitting in this room, but not the voice of his interlocutor on the other side of the telephone line.  Yet on these tapes we hear both.  It means that the presidential telephone line was bugged.  Since 1994 the security of this line was provided in part by American specialists in protection from electronic surveillance.

National-Democratic Opposition

The bourgeois opposition to Kuchma and the oligarchs behind him began to coalesce in the wake of the “tapes” scandal, which simply demonstrated publicly what every one already knew, i.e. that the country was ruled and abused by big capital.  (When monopolies and state monopolies replace economic competition political democracy dies).  The nature of this opposition is clear from its desire to defend small business and small proprietors.  It reflects the protest of a small bourgeois against the omnipotence of big bourgeoisie.  This is why we find in its ranks those political parties of the right that represent the interests of small owners.  The dissatisfaction of small bourgeoisie was used in order to launch an anti-Kuchma campaign in the interests of the United States and their Western allies.  They would like to replace Kuchma with Yushchenko, who is openly pro-American and whose wife Katrusia is a US citizen and a “former” CIA agent.

Once orders were given, all those who helped Kuchma in the second round of the 1999 presidential elections made an opposition to him and began talking about his “criminal regime,” as if this regime were not just as much criminal before 1999.  Didn’t journalist disappear and were not newspapers closed back then?

Let us imagine that the opposition wins, Kuchma goes, and in his place comes a very “democratic” president Yushchenko.  What will change?  Nothing.  Because capitalism will be “developed” further and new oligarchs will replace the old ones, only more pro-American.  The same law of capitalist accumulation will work for the bourgeoisie, the law of impoverishment for workers and peasants.  Only the conflicts with Russian capital will intensify and a new “Balkan crisis,” farther to the east, will be provoked through a “national Crimean Tartar autonomy” in the Crimea.

This is why the majority of workers and peasants smell a rat in the doings of the “democratic opposition,” despite their hatred of Kuchma.  We observe a deepening political crisis “at the top,” but “at the bottom” workers and peasants are cautiously watching it, even though every one understands that this crisis cannot be resolved without their active involvement.  They are searching for the right way to get involved.  It is in their interest to choose the way chosen by communists.

The Standpoint of Communists

The contradictions of the “democratic opposition” are obvious to communists.  It is inevitable that, on the one hand, small bourgeoisie hates the big one, the “oligarchs,” because the latter constantly destroy small capital and concentrate private property. On the other hand, small bourgeoisie hates the proletarian layers of workers and peasants by whose labor it enriches itself.  When small bourgeoisie rises against the rule of big capital it always looks behind to make sure that industrial and agricultural workers, who cannot claim any private property, would not rise as well and would not sweep away small bourgeoisie together with the big one to finish off capitalism altogether.  This is why at the first signs of this danger “from behind” small bourgeoisie wants to make peace with big bourgeoisie at any cost.

In view of this duality, the tactics of communists is to strike as deep as possible at the root of evil: it is necessary to sweep away the hated regime of Kuchma.  But the president-common criminal is also a verdict to the very institute of presidential power.  Communists demand the abolition of this institute in Ukraine.  Yet even this is not enough to stop the abuses of capital.  For this we have to abolish the power of capital as such.   And we have to do this not by going back to smaller forms of private property which would inevitably lead to a new concentration of capital, of which the “democratic opposition” dreams, but by moving in the direction of even bigger concentration of property, though not in the hands of oligarchs, but those of society.   Communists demand to end the rule of capital and to return to a socialist path of development.

We need to have a clear and thorough understanding of these tasks and the specificity of the present situation.  Any lack of clarity, any attempt to find a solution to this crisis outside the struggle for socialism can lead only to obvious and very dangerous “patriotic” delusions, like thinking that “if Kuchma is for close ties with Russia we’d better not to struggle against him,” or “if we fight Kuchma too strongly Yushschenko can come to power.”

On the contrary, Yushchenko can win only if this crisis remains limited to infighting between the cliques on the top, to a struggle behind the scene.  But when the working class enters the arena of struggle it will throw away not only Kuchma and Yushchenko, but also the new masters of factories and plants who have been sucking its blood.

When our peasantry enters this arena it will put the end to the repartition of land and the destruction of collective farms, all of which allow oligarchs to grab the land.

Our main task is exactly this: to show clearly workers and peasants what their real interests are and give them clear slogans rather than tailing the “democratic opposition.”  We have to rise together with broad masses of toilers in order to solve three consecutive tasks:

“Ukraine without Kuchma!”
“Ukraine without Presidents!’’
“Ukraine without Capitalists!”

Long Live Socialist Ukraine!

Vasily Tereshchuk,
Deputy Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Council of Workers (VSR)

Note by Editors:

The author is a deputy of Ukrainian Parlaiment and one of the leaders of the All-Ukrainian Council of Workers led by a radical wing of the Communist Party of Ukraine. This group is perhaps the strongest and best organized formation of militant workers and communists we have now in CIS, Russia including. Last week they came under attacks by Nazis in Kiev and Western Ukraine. They publish a weekly "Rabochii klass"with the running print of 25,000 copies, which sell like hotcakes. The web edition is at http://rabclass.faithweb.com/

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