Ukraine: Neither Brussels nor Moscow! For an independent Workers’ Republic!
A reactionary opposition mobilizes against a reactionary government. For independent working class mobilizations against both factions of Ukraine’s ruling class!
Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 18.12.2013, www.thecommunists.net
1. For several weeks Ukraine has been marked by mobilizations both against and for the country’s accession to the European Union. At the same time, these demonstrations have also been mobilizations both against and for support of the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Behind this conflict lies a struggle between different sections of Ukraine’s ruling class. Ukraine is a semi-colonial country which is split between the dominant imperialist powers to its East and West – the European Union and Russia. The RCIT maintains that class conscious workers and socialists must support neither the pro-EU nor the pro-Russian faction of the capitalist class. The present mobilizations don’t represent an independent organization of workers and youth to advance their interests, but rather the attempt of the right-wing and fascist faction of the bourgeoisie to bring down the equally reactionary Yanukovych government. It is urgent that class conscious workers and socialists advance an independent working class viewpoint and build militant trade unions as well as a Workers’ Party based on a revolutionary program.
2. The recent protest demonstrations began in late November after Ukraine’s government of President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. These demonstrations were instigated by an alliance consisting primarily of three parties: two right wing capitalist parties (the Fatherland Party of Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko as well as the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform [UDAR] led by the professional boxer Vitali Klitschko). In addition, the fascist Svoboda (Freedom) party under the leadership of Oleg Tyagnibok joined this alliance. This opposition coalition has the full support of EU and US imperialism who openly demonstrate this by sending leading representatives like US senators John McCain and Chris Murphy as well as Elmar Brok (chairman of the European Parliament Foreign Policy Committee) to address the protest rallies. This foreign intrusion is the political expression of Western imperialism’s advance in the Ukraine.
3. Russian imperialism is also trying to draw the Ukraine into its sphere of influence. Ukraine is highly dependent on Russia which is by far Kiev’s largest trading partner (accounting for about 22-23% of Ukraine’s imports and exports). Russian monopoly capital is one of the three big foreign investors in Ukraine (alongside Germany and Austria). Russian corporations like Gazprom, Lukoil, TNK BP, RUSAL, and the Alfa Group dominate the oil refining, metallurgy, and aluminum sectors, and also play a leading role in other key industries like gas and telecommunications. Chinese corporations are also increasingly active in making foreign investments in Ukraine’s fertile agricultural sector in addition to others.
4. The Putin regime is pressuring Yanukovych to join the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia as well as the Eurasian Economic Community as a full member. The Eurasian Economic Community is an instrument dominated by Russian imperialism and currently includes the full member states Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan (suspended), as well as Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine as observers. Both EU imperialism and Russian imperialism hope to drag the Ukraine into their respective orbits in order to increase their exploitation of the country and to increase, each its own, geopolitical influence.
5. The current conflict reflects divisions inside the Ukraine capitalist class which is dominated by a handful of oligarchs. The “Donets Clan”, led by the country’s richest billionaire Rinat Achmetov, represents the coal and mining capitalists in the Ukraine’s east, which traditionally has close relations with Russia. President Yanukovych is the representative of the “Donets Clan”. Another clan led by the oligarch Dmitry Firtash is based on corporations in the chemical and gas industry and controls the largest TV group “Inter.” This group also has close connections with the camp of President Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, but gives tactical support for Klitschko’s UDAR as well.
6. These different factions of Ukraine’s ruling class are divided on how they can best raise their profits. They are torn and thus waver between the two imperialist Great Powers on their borders – the EU and Russia. The RCIT sees the campaign of the European Union to have Ukraine’s government sign the Association Agreement as part of its drive to re-colonize the Ukraine. The EU is an imperialist bloc dominated by two great powers, Germany and France. Russia’s pressure to drag the Ukraine into its Customs Union and its Eurasian Economic Community reflects basically the same desire. Moscow also wants to re-colonize the Ukraine.
7. The Ukraine itself is a capitalist semi-colony which is oppressed and exploited by both Western and Eastern imperialist powers. In the Ukraine – like in the rest of the former USSR – the aborted political revolution against the tyrannical Stalinist bureaucracy in 1989-91 led to the victory of the capitalist counter-revolution and the destruction of the planned economy and its social achievements. As a result, mass impoverishment and unemployment spread. According to the IMF, real wages in 1998 had fallen by more than 75% in relation to their 1991 level. Life expectancy declined by four years during this period. The destruction of the productive forces caused by the restoration of capitalism has been so devastating that Ukraine’s output measured by its Gross Domestic Product today is still 35% below its level of 1989! The Great Recession of the capitalist world economy in 2008/09 – which launched an historic world-wide revolutionary period in the wake of the continuing decline of capitalism – had a massive impact on Ukraine’s manufacturing. Industrial production first dropped by 5.2% (2008) and subsequently collapsed a further, staggering 21.9% (2009). Today, official unemployment figures stand at 8.5%.
8. In addition to the increasing domination of Ukraine’s industry by foreign corporations, the country’s banking sector is also characterized by a strong presence of imperialist capital. The share of foreign capital in the Ukraine’s banks amounts to 41.8% (2012), of which the three biggest foreign investors are Austrian, French, and Russian banks. Ukraine is also increasingly indebted to imperialist financial capital. In recent years, the country’s gross foreign debt has grown massively and, at the end of the first half of 2013, totaled $134.4 billion, the equivalent of 75.7% of its Gross Domestic Product. All this further emphasizes that Ukraine is an industrialized but impoverished capitalist semi-colony dominated by Western and Eastern imperialist powers.
9. For these reasons, the RCIT opposes Ukraine’s joining either the European Union or Russia’s empire. We are aware that such a refusal by Ukraine to join both of the imperialist camps can only be a first step on the road to achieving true national independence. Such authentic independence is only possible if the working class in the Ukraine abolishes capitalism and builds an independent Workers’ Republic as part of a socialist federation of Europe and Asia. However, as a first step, we support those workers organizations in the Ukraine which oppose integration into both the EU and Russia’s empire.
10. As we have explained above, the recent mobilizations of demonstrators in favor of signing the Association Agreement with the European Union has absolutely no progressive character whatsoever. Of course, there are a number of people among the protestors who authentically hate the government and the misery in which they are forced to live. In spite of the non-progressive character of the demonstrations, we equally oppose the brutal police tactics against the protestors. But both the reactionary agenda of the protests (attempting to lead the Ukraine into the imperialist EU) and their thoroughly reactionary leadership (the Fatherland Party, UDAR, and the Svoboda-Nazis) make it clear that this is not an authentic popular democratic movement which could or should be supported by communists. Neither would it be legitimate for us communists to give any support to the pro-government mobilizations, or to the counter-demand to lead the Ukraine into the de facto Russian empire (Customs Union and Eurasian Economic Community). We do not exclude, in advance, the possibility that a massive crackdown of the movement by the Yanukovych regime might change the character of the demonstrations and transforms them into legitimate democratic resistance. But this is not presently the case.
11. Bolshevik-Communists condemn the so-called “Communist Party of Ukraine” (KPU). This party supports capitalism and was part of the part of first Azarov Government in 2010-2012 (together with the bourgeois Bloc Lytvyn and the Party of Regions). Today the leadership around Petro Symonenko supports the government and demands Ukraine’s entry into the Russia-dominated Customs Union. So while UDAR and the Fatherland Party are instruments of EU imperialism, the KPU is a tool of Russian imperialism.
12. The RCIT maintains that the working class must adopt an independent position in this conflict, and refuse to side with either camp of the greedy oligarchs and their parties, whether those in the government or in the opposition. Workers’ must equally refuse to side with the EU or Russian imperialism and reject Ukraine’s joining one of the two sides in what amounts to a conflict between two different imperialist camps. The only way forward is for workers to bring together their defense of their living conditions, their democratic rights, and the country’s independence by struggling for a workers’ government and a socialist revolution in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe. This can be only be achieved by an organized struggle of the working class, led by a revolutionary party in the tradition of Lenin and Trotsky. Under the present circumstances, where the working class lacks any meaningful mass organizations, it is essential to build strong and militant trade union and mass organizations of working men, women, and youth. Most important, is the creation of an independent workers’ party based on a revolutionary program.
13. From the very start, creating such a revolutionary workers party must be done in conjunction with the efforts to establish a new World Party of Socialist Revolution. In our opinion, such a new party will be the Fifth Workers’ International. The RCIT calls revolutionaries in the Ukraine to unite in a Bolshevik organization based on an internationalist and communist program. We look forward to discussing these issues and collaborating with revolutionaries in the Ukraine, in order to advance the formation of such a revolutionary organization.
International Secretariat of the RCIT