Borotba: ‘Socialist chance for South-East Ukraine’

Workers World is sending out this statement by one of the leaders of Union Borotba (Struggle) as a service in order to provide a brief socialist overview of the struggle in southeast Ukraine.

Borotba is an openly Marxist organization, formed in 2011, that has been deeply involved in the struggle in Ukraine. It was driven out of Kiev by the Right Sector after a fascist-led coup overthrew the Viktor Yanukovych government. Borotba has helped to organize resistance to the reactionary forces in Kharkov, Odessa and other cities.

The organization has suffered casualties and one of its members was killed in the Odessa massacre. It has recently moved to go underground after learning of measures by Kiev for a campaign of repression against the organization.

By Victor Shapinov
Union Borotba (Struggle)

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the people’s mayor of Slavyansk, said that the city’s industry will be nationalized.

“So that no one has any illusions, I want to say that the entire industry in the city will be nationalized. We cannot leave the industrial potential of the city in the hands of unscrupulous businessmen,” said the people’s mayor.

The largely spontaneous anti-capitalist orientation of the Antimaidan activists who have created the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics is not surprising. The largest owner-oligarchs were customers, sponsors and the main “beneficiaries” of the Euromaidan [the pro-West demonstrations beginning last November that opposed the government of Viktor Yanukovych, eventually dominated by the ultraright]. Capitalist oligarchs such as Igor Kolomoysky, Dmytro Firtash, Sergei Taruta and, to a lesser extent, Rinat Akhmetov, funded the Euromaidan and promoted it in their media. When the Euromaidan won, those who previously governed the country indirectly through the administration of Yanukovych got direct control, including appointments as the governors of key areas.

Moreover, as it turns out, the oligarchy’s aid not only led to the victory of the ultranationalists and Euromaidan, but they tried to influence the resistance movement to the new government — the so-called Antimaidan.

As Pavel Gubarev, people’s governor of the Donetsk region, stated recently, Rinat Akhmetov paid a number of Antimaidan activists so that they “sat quietly” and “merged” protest. “All the activities of Akhmetov were aimed to drain people’s anger, and it all turned out well in Dnepropetrovsk. Oligarch Kolomoysky did it because there is a bit of pro-Ukrainian sentiment stronger than in the Donbass,” said Gubarev in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. []

The oligarchy has sponsored the development of various neo-Nazi groups and their union under the brand “Right Sector.” Oligarchs indirectly finance them and the acknowledged leader of the Right Sector, Dmitry Jaros, told the media: “We do not mind if they (the oligarchs) fund our army.” Billionaire Igor Kolomoysky has shown special zeal, publicly meeting with Jaros and “headhunting” the militias of the southeast, offering $10,000 for a captured “saboteur.”

Thus, the very logic of the struggle is pushing the activists of the southeast into the camp of anti-capitalism. Participating in the Antimaidan movement in Kharkov and Odessa, I have seen how the popular masses have awakened to slogans indicting the oligarchy.

Sergei Kirichuk, one of the leaders of the Kharkov Antimaidan and coordinator of the socialist movement Borotba, also emphasizes the social agenda of the southeast movement: “People here in the southeast raised demands for their socioeconomic rights. There is a very serious anti-oligarchic, anti-capitalist component to these protests,” says Kirichuk, who now finds himself in exile.

Characterizing the funding of the Antimaidan, Kirichuk says: “The movement in the southeast, in its technical equipment and financial support, cannot be compared with the Maidan. Victoria Nuland said that the U.S. has spent $5 billion to ‘promote democracy’ in Ukraine. And in the east of Ukraine the protest movement shows no strong financial support. At least in the cities where we were active — in Kharkov and Odessa — I have seen no funding from the Russians or the Putin administration. And on the political landscape, we have not seen any people who have helped and financed this movement.”

I can confirm these words of Sergei: In Kharkov, we produced leaflets with our own money, with a total circulation of about 100,000 copies. We gathered small private donations. Ten thousand posters were pasted up to boycott the elections scheduled by the Kiev junta. At the monument to Lenin, there was a box for donations to assist the Defenders of Kharkov and the wounded. The Antimaidan organizers used the small basement office of Borotba. That’s all for the “financing” of Antimaidan. I do not exclude that some crooks collected large amounts using the movement’s name, but activists have not seen any of it.

Gubarev paints the same picture of the Donetsk Antimaidan: “In the militia there are different people. Miners and former officials, advertisers, my companions. … But what they have in common is that they are honest about money. They mortgaged their property, and they took the money and invested it in the movement when we had financial difficulties. They spent their own money.”

This is also a contrast: On one side, ultranationalist militants with great financing and gear, and on the other, workers, students and unemployed activists. When our comrades of Borotba seized Right Sector documents in the Kharkov Regional State Administration, among them were bank cards and checks. They testified that the boy from the village, a student at the Institute of Physical Education, has an amount of $10,000. []

I emphasize again that there were no anti-oligarchic or even social slogans among the Euromaidan. A few leftists who wanted to “be with the people” and foolishly went among the Euromaidan were beaten and expelled in disgrace by the ultras dominant there. These neo-Nazis, once hooked on oligarchic funding, immediately forgot about their demagogic “anti-capitalism.”

This union of oligarchs and Nazis comes as if descended directly from the pages of history books, as does the union of anti-fascist and anti-capitalist slogans by opponents of the Kiev junta.

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, most imperialist elements of finance capital. … Fascism is not a supraclass power and not the power of the petty bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat over financial capital. Fascism is the power of financial capital. It is an organization of terrorist reprisals against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and the intelligentsia. Fascism in foreign policy is chauvinism in its crudest form, cultivating xenophobic hatred against other nations,” according to the classic definition of fascism formulated by Georgi Dimitrov. And what is happening in Ukraine today fully fits this definition.

The owner of Privat, Kolomoysky, is a living symbol of financial capital. The terrorist violence of Kolomoysky’s private armies, hastily hammered together from far-right militants, was seen by all in the media.

It is no accident that the proponents of the Maidan demolished monuments to Lenin while its opponents protect them. In this sense there is a deep class divide. And if you are looking for the seeds of socialism somewhere in Ukraine — it is in the movements in the southeast.

Of course, the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics will not be socialist. It is likely that part of the large and medium-sized businesses will retain their positions. To try to grab them and Russian corporations would be labelled “bad.” But at the “bottom,” the creation of the people’s republics, the experience of the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic mass struggle, has undoubtedly moved not only southeast Ukraine, but also the entire post-Soviet space, to the left.

To those who did not see the progressive and even revolutionary content of events in the southeast, Lenin addressed these words:

“To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses … to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, ‘We are for socialism,’ and another, somewhere else says, ‘We are for imperialism,’ and that will be a social revolution! … Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.

“The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a bourgeois-democratic revolution. It consisted of a series of battles in which all the discontented classes, groups and elements of the population participated. Among these there were masses imbued with the crudest prejudices, with the vaguest and most fantastic aims of struggle; there were small groups which accepted Japanese money, there were speculators and adventurers, etc. …

“The socialist revolution in Europe cannot be anything other than an outburst of mass struggle on the part of all and sundry oppressed and discontented elements. Inevitably, sections of the petty bourgeoisie and of the backward workers will participate in it — without such participation, mass struggle is impossible, without it no revolution is possible — and just as inevitably will they bring into the movement their prejudices, their reactionary fantasies, their weaknesses and errors.” (From “The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up,” July 1916)