Mar 3, 2014
After these articles were written, on March 2 the Ukrainian crisis escalated when Russian troops took control of the Crimean Peninsula, which has historical and military ties to Russia. The article, “The Risk of Partition, and What It Would Mean,” explains the underlying situation and its enormous dangers.
All the following articles are translated from issue 2378 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
The thousands of demonstrators, who have revolted in Kiev and have paid the price in blood, have forced Yanukovych to flee and to fall from power. We can only rejoice in the fall of this corrupt president, capable of shooting down his own people.
But is the Ukrainian population now on the road to democracy? If the population wants to end the reign of the crooks who have been in power since the country became independent, it can’t count on those political forces that are mobilized right now.
Ten years ago the population overthrew the Yanukovych government in what was called “the Orange Revolution.” The population placed its hopes in the opposition parties and was sorely disappointed, to the point that Yanukovych returned to power!
To topple a dictator is one thing, but now the opposing forces face each other. Only the political forces that are organized and know what they want can weigh on this situation. People who want to fight without thinking about the direction they want to take are doomed to serve the maneuvers of others.
And in Ukraine, it is obvious that the politicians who fight for power don’t represent the interests of the ordinary people. One group pushes for close ties with the European Union, while the others emphasize nationalism. But, whether they are pro-European or pro-Russian, all of them will govern in the interests of the richest people who dominate the economy, the famous oligarchs who have made their fortunes by monopolizing the old state businesses or sponging off of them, by taking advantage of their connections to the government.
Tymoshenko or Klitschko, the two most famous opposition leaders, will only perpetuate the reign of the oligarchs. Klitschko, known for his boxing talents, is a rich businessman, son-in-law of a Ukrainian ex-president known for cruelty and corruption.
When Yulia Tymoshenko headed the main opposition party, the Western journalists presented her as “the incarnation of the democratic dream!” Far from it. She was born and raised among the highest levels of the bureaucracy, to the point that she was nicknamed the “princess of gas.” Crowned the richest woman in Ukraine, she has already twice been Prime Minister. And she governed like her predecessors, displaying a level of greed just as extreme as Yanukovych.
While the population has nothing to hope for from these people, the Western governments and Putin are counting on them to quickly stabilize the situation. Despite their differences and their rivalries, the great powers are in a hurry to end the mobilization of the population and replace the Yanukovych government with a new one.
But the situation could escape their control. The extreme right has reinforced its position during these three months of mobilization. Armed groups of the extreme right held Maidan, the central square in Kiev, for weeks. Some of these openly invoke Nazism, rest on nationalism, and organize against Russian-language speakers, Jews, the Roma, and minorities in general.
They are now taking advantage of the power vacuum to take over police stations and town halls and declare themselves the defenders of order. They set one part of the population against the other based on their language or their religion. And, at the risk of dividing Ukraine, they could lead the population to a bloody impasse. The speed that Yugoslavia divided and plunged into the appalling cycle of ethnic cleansing shows what could happen. Once this process is launched by the demagogues, it’s very difficult to stop.
The future is not written, but it will belong to the political forces that are organized. The population and the workers are faced with the possibility of the return to power of people whose politics resemble those of Yanukovych as much as one drop of water resembles another, and with the menace of the nationalist and extreme right forces. In this situation, the population and the workers have no other choice but to organize, to gather themselves together and to impose their own policy. The fall of Yanukovych, like that of Ben Ali in Tunisia or of Mubarak in Egypt, shows that when a population is determined to oppose a corrupt government, it has the means to do so. If the workers are determined and organized, they have the power to put forth their own demands against the oligarchs and the great powers and to impose them on the political life of the country.