The disgrace of the Maidan leftists
By Dave Stockton
One of the most striking features of the events in Ukraine, both before and after the February coup, was the disgraceful response of some groups on the British and international left, including Socialist Resistance (British section of the Fourth International).
First they denied the fundamentally reactionary nature of the Maidan movement. Then, when the far-right and fascist parties seized power and formed a coalition, rather than correct their error they deepened it by downplaying the illegitimacy of the regime and the fascist element within it. Then, to complete the ugly picture, they opposed the inevitable resistance to the far right and its Right Sector squads that broke out in the south and east of Ukraine.
In an ultimate disgrace, they reproduced patent lies from dodgy Ukrainian sources that claimed the victims of the 2 May massacre in Odessa had brought it on themselves, denying that they were murdered by the Right Sector fascists, despite clear contemporaneous reports, photographs and video evidence to the contrary.
That this has happened now is no accident, no “different reading of events”. Through all of this, they play down the role of Nato and the EU in egging on the Kiev regime, and of the US in promoting the fascists’ participation in the government. Instead, they put all their emphasis on the threat of Russian imperialism. Exactly 100 years after the start of the First World War, with a strong wind of reaction blowing and a new period of inter-imperialist rivalry opening, for these “post-Leninists” the main enemy is anywhere but at home.
Maidan left in denial
Socialist Resistance backed the Maidan movement despite its overtly pro-European Union, neoliberal and nationalist leadership. They downplayed the increasingly obvious domination on the Square by extreme right wing forces and their repulsive fascist iconography, such as the Swastika-like “Wolfsangel” and the straight-arm salute.
The Maidan socialists minimised the Right Sector and Svoboda’s role in overthrowing Yanukovych and in imposing the new regime – in exactly the same way as the Western media and the imperialist politicians did. In particular, they tried to ignore the integration of fascist militia into the repressive forces of the new regime, via appointments to key ministries and the formation of a new “National Guard”.
Proven fraudster from 2003 Ilya Budraitskis has now popped up as the main spokesperson of the Fourth International’s Russian section, Vpered. Although he acknowledged the hegemony of fascist stormtroopers in Maidan, he concluded that the movement itself remained progressive, despite the absence of anything but reactionary demands, saying: “the incredibly sickening dissonance between the revolutionary content of the process and its reactionary form represents circumstances demanding not squeamish ethical evaluations, but action aimed at changing such an ugly equation.”1
The “action” he advocated was the building of a “Left Sector” within the Maidan, even though countless reports indicate that the left could not even distribute leaflets in Maidan, let alone Kalashnikovs. In fact, as reality has shown, it was necessary to build a movement not within but against the Maidan – but now this has actually happened, the FI refuses to support it.
In the same way, they downplayed the interference of Western imperialism, indeed its key role in initiating the entire movement. Again this was curious, given the flood of US and EU statesmen and women into Maidan Square. The leaked phone call of the neo-conservative US Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, demanding that Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Fatherland, not Germany’s favourite, Vitali Klitschko, should head the government – with her infamous phrase, “Fuck the EU” – should have alerted socialists. The government that was formed has many ministers from the fascist Svoboda party and handed control of security to key leaders of the neo-Nazi Right Sector.
Nuland herself came to the Maidan to glad-hand nationalists and fascists, and John McCain to hug them. Those who thought this was another Occupy Wall Street or a Tahrir Square might pause to consider why these ladies and gentlemen never appeared there with their kisses and cookies. Indeed, why they did not support genuinely democratic uprisings at all.
Like the western media – and David Cameron, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel – the “Maidan socialists” knew from day one who they thought the main enemy was: Vladimir Putin. For them, the main danger was not fascists in power in Kyiv, but a Russian military invasion of Ukraine. “Putin’s strategy is to gouge out chunks of Ukrainian territory,” wrote Liam Mac Uaid on Socialist Resistance’s website – even though Putin has twice now refused to come to the support of the beleaguered Russophone community in the east and south.2
The secession of Crimea and its application to join Russia apparently justified this fear. Yet, even the journalists sent by the Western media found no evidence of coercion to vote yes and could not maintain that the referendum was unrepresentative of the wishes of the majority of Crimeans. Hardly surprising given that the majority of Crimeans are Russian, Crimea never voted to join Ukraine, and the new Kyiv junta tried to downgrade the status of the Russian language. Putin didn’t exactly have to force people to vote to secede!
However, this has not stopped Mac Uaid claiming it was “a flagrantly ridiculous referendum”3, a trick played by Russia and nothing more. Clearly the right of nations to self-determination – or at least Russian-speaking nations – counts for nothing for this “socialist”.
The referendum then became the pretext for international sanctions and more serious military threats aimed at Russia. For the Kyiv regime, it served as the pretext for a “campaign against terrorism”, in reality a war on the population of southern and eastern Ukraine, in which Kyiv’s forces, backed by their irregular National Guard and Right Sector militias have killed dozens, if not hundreds, of civilians.
The announcement of Nato summer manoeuvres in Ukraine itself, the entry of US and French warships into the Black Sea, plus the declared intention of offering Nato membership to Ukraine just did not show up on these leftists’ antique anti-imperialist radar. All they could see were the 40,000 Russian troops on Russian territory.
All socialists agree that Putin’s regime is repressive, homophobic, even dictatorial. But if, at the same time as stressing this, you totally ignore the offensive character of Nato’s eastward expansion and its blatant political grab for Ukraine by supporting a coup there, the implication is that “our” imperialist powers are impelled by “democratic” motives. Tell that to the Iraqis, and to the defenders of Donetsk and Slaviansk today.
The most shameful act came when these apologists for Maidan reacted to the 2 May Odessa massacre of over 40 antifascists, who had fled from an attack by Right Sector Nazis and right wing football gangs into the nearby House of Trade Unions. An “eye-witness” article on the dubious Left Opposition’s website, shamefully reproduced without balance by Workers Liberty and shared by Socialist Resistance and International Socialist Network members, opens: “Who bears the guilt for the tragedy in Odessa? For me, the answer is obvious: Russian fascists and the police.”
The article derides the peaceful protesters for autonomy (Western media propaganda and lazy “socialists” alike call them “pro-Russian separatists” but in fact they are “anti-Maidan federalists”) in patently racist terms, showing the full contempt for Russians common today in western Ukraine: “worshippers of Stalin and lovers of the ‘Father Czar’, Russian Nazis and music-hall Cossacks, Russian-Orthodox fanatics and grandmas”.
But even this obviously twisted account can only go so far as to say:
“Who set fire to the House of the Trade Unions is unknown – Molotov cocktails were being thrown by both sides.”4
In other words, throw a lot of mud and confusion, half-truths and lies at an event, then decide it’s “too difficult” to find out what happened. A disgraceful attempt to cover up responsibility for a fascist massacre. Worse, Suhail Ilyas, on the website of a recent breakaway from the SWP called RS21, simply claims that “news sources differ on the sequence of events” and concludes: “Neither side requires their version of events to be true, they simply need to entrench division”.5
Fortunately for genuine anti-fascists, there is a reliable source. We reproduce some of the evidence of what really happened on page 2 of this supplement (Never forget Odessa and Mariupol!).
However, Zakhar Popovych, another proven fraudster from 2003 and now leader of the Ukrainian Left Opposition, tries to blame the victims of the massacre for their own deaths at the hands of the Right Sector fascists – for, in effect, “provoking” them:
“Andrey Brazhevsky, a 27 year old programmer, a member of the ‘Borotba’ organization, was killed in the ‘House of Unions’. He was in a pro-Russian ‘Odesskaya druzhina’ paramilitary unit. Another young man from the ‘antifa’ football fans movement was shot on Sobornaya Square. It appears that left activists became the infantry, the cannon fodder in the war which clearly has nothing to do with the class interests of Ukrainian workers.”6
It seems “the interests of Ukrainian workers” require that workers in southern and eastern Ukraine, deeply alarmed and angered by the armed fascists and football ultras parading through their streets, should remain disorganised and defenceless. Why? So as not to provoke (!) violence.
In fact the reason the Right Sector was able to wreak such murderous havoc was precisely that the Odessa defence units were not numerous or well-armed enough to stop the Nazis. (Note Popovych’s use of the term “paramilitary” to “otherise” someone who jumped from a torched trade union building and was then beaten to death on the ground).
Imagine if this had happened in Britain, if the BNP or English Defence League had murdered antifascists after our side had blocked a provocative “demo for England” through their streets. Would RS21 or SR have denounced both sides because a few anti-Nazis had taken up baseball bats or stolen a few handguns from the useless police? Would they have blamed the anti-Nazis for starting it by blocking the march or pointed to the participation of non-combatants on the fascist demo? If they did, there would be uproar in their ranks – as there should be over this betrayal of workers, socialists and ethnic minorities in Ukraine.
Fraud and the Fourth International
Socialist Resistance rests its case on the evidence of a dubious grouping the FI is linked to in Ukraine: the Left Opposition.
Dubious because a number of their spokespersons have been identified as the perpetrators of a major fraud on the international left in the early 2000s, though at the time these fraudsters were attached to the Committee for a Workers’ International, whose British section is the Socialist Party.7
To repeatedly cite such people as witnesses, whose evidence always seems to come a couple of days after events, to contradict contemporaneous accounts, and to be unsubstantiated by photographic or video evidence is perverse in the extreme. To cite them as evidence of the progressive character of the Maidan movement and the legitimacy of the Kyiv regime, and to discredit and libel as “Russian nationalists” those revolutionary socialists, like Borotba, who are resisting that regime, in our view, marks a serious degeneration for Socialist Resistance and the leadership of the Fourth International, which takes the same line.
Fortunately, individual members and some sections of the FI (notably OKDE-Spartakos, its Greek section, and some individuals in Socialist Resistance) have resisted this shameful political line.
The Left Opposition consistently downplays the right wing nationalist character of the forces in the Kyiv regime, demanding recognition of its “legitimacy” and painting its opponents as Russian separatists, if not agents of Putin.
At a meeting in London on 10 March, LO leader Zakhar Popovych said that he “recognised this Ukrainian government as legitimate and revolutionary. We appeal to all other governments to recognise it as legitimate. But we don’t support it politically.” In particular, “we don’t support its chauvinistic and anti-communist history.”8
Of course, if you recognise the coup regime as “legitimate”, when its parliament has been purged of over a hundred deputies from the east of the country, disenfranchising those regions, and its government includes ministers who elevate the Nazi-ally Stepan Bandera into national hero, and whose supporters deface Soviet war memorials, then it must seem natural to stigmatise its opponents as rebels, agents of a foreign power, etc. In short, they have adopted the narrative of Ukrainian nationalism and western imperialism.
It is time to ask if the Fourth International is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One with its very own 4 August.9
7 This is the most comprehensive account of the fraudsters: http://komepd.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/maidan-and-a-ukranian-story-of-a-lasting-fraud/
It should be noted that Ilya Budraitskis is the current leader of the FI’s Russian section, Vpered, and Zakhar Popovych is the leader of the Ukrainian Left Opposition. Both are fraudsters.
9 4 August 1914 was the day the German SPD voted for war credits, which Lenin recognised as the end of the Socialist International as an instrument for world revolution.