May 4 — Imagine a gathering of diverse activists in a medium-sized U.S. city, representing low-wage workers, communities mobilizing against police brutality and radical organizations. It might be an Occupy Wall Street encampment, a civil rights rally or anti-war conference. You may have attended such events yourself.
Now imagine this gathering was attacked by a thousand members of the Ku Klux Klan, dispatched with government approval. Consider that the Klan members, armed with gasoline bombs, baseball bats and firearms, chased the unarmed activists into a union hall and set fire to the building.
Suppose dozens of activists died in the fire, while others were shot dead or beaten to death while trying to escape the inferno. What if police then arrested survivors and the media blamed them for the blaze, while the bigots responsible were allowed to escape?
How would the workers’ and progressive movements respond to such an atrocity?
This is the horrific scenario that played out in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2.
Neo-Nazi gangs bused in from western Ukraine marched through the city, posing as sports fans going to a soccer match. They attacked local anti-fascist activists who tried to block them outside a shopping center.
The fascists set fire to the protest encampment set up by opponents of the U.S.-backed coup, forcing their unarmed opponents to retreat. Workers at the nearby House of Trade Unions opened their doors to shelter the activists.
Then the neo-Nazis attacked the trade union building, setting it ablaze. Paramilitary goons fired guns into windows, killing and wounding those attempting to escape. Some activists leaped from high windows and survived, only to be beaten to death on the ground.
In all, 46 anti-fascists were killed, most during the murderous attack on the trade union building. They included men and women, youths and seniors, activists and workers.
Photographs taken the following morning inside the trade union building show bodies charred beyond recognition, some having been shot, others suffocated or burned to death while half-hanging out of windows.
Some of the survivors were arrested. The killers were allowed to leave, to be used again another day.
On May 4, more than 1,000 courageous Odessans protested outside police headquarters and forced the authorities to release arrested anti-fascist protesters, including survivors of the attack on the trade union building. As they were released, the people chanted, “Heroes!”
Washington’s guilty silence
From the government of Russia to the European Left parliamentary group, angry messages of protest against the massacre and condolences for the people of Odessa poured in. But in Washington, there was silence — though President Obama did find time to praise Kiev’s attack on cities in the rebellious Donetsk region to “restore order.” So far, 13 unarmed activists and civilians in Slavyansk and 10 more in Kramatorsk have been killed in this latest offensive, falsely labeled “anti-terrorist.”
The corporate media have tied themselves in knots to avoid reporting the truth about Odessa. For example, a May 2 Reuters news agency report on the massacre never mentioned that those who died in the blaze were opponents of the Kiev regime, and only quoted pro-regime figures who blamed “Russian agents” for the violence.
Now, following lockstep with the latest fiction from Kiev, the media are trying to cast doubt on who set fire to the trade union building, or are even openly blaming the victims, despite ample video and photographic evidence of the fascist attack — much of it recorded and uploaded to the Internet by the fascists themselves!
Why are the media going to such lengths to cover up the truth?
Because the Kiev junta and its masters in Washington are responsible for the massacre.
The attack in Odessa was choreographed by Kiev. Police were deliberately withdrawn from the area of the fascist rampage to guard the Odessa headquarters of the Interior Ministry, headed by far rightist Arsen Avakov.
It also took place simultaneously with the fierce military assault on the city of Slavyansk.
Government leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties were deeply involved in the planning and execution of the illegal February coup against the elected government. They have pushed their agents in the Ukrainian government to unleash neo-Nazi terror against the people of southeast Ukraine resisting the coup regime.
The U.S. has carried out a provocative military buildup in Eastern Europe and a propaganda war against Russia, blaming it for the anti-fascist rebellion sweeping southeast Ukraine.
Without even questioning its own support for the illegal Kiev junta, the U.S. has promised lavish loans, encouraged a multibillion-dollar IMF aid package and provided international political cover for Kiev.
Further, it was revealed by the German newspaper Bild am Sontag on May 4 that U.S. FBI and CIA agents are stationed in Kiev to “advise” the coup regime on its fight against the anti-fascist movement in the southeast.
This fits a long pattern of U.S. imperialist collaboration with fascist murderers to achieve its ends, from Indonesia to Chile to the former Yugoslavia.
‘Remember and fight’
Alex Albu, local coordinator of the leftist Union Borotba (Struggle), an elected member of the Odessa Regional Council, and candidate for mayor, was badly beaten while escaping the fire. Another Borotba member was shot in the stomach but survived.
Among those killed was Andrew Brazhevsky, a young Borotba member. His comrades report that Brazhevsky tried to escape the inferno by jumping from a high floor of the trade union building. He survived the fall, but was beaten to death by neo-Nazis waiting below to attack survivors.
“Andrew was a staunch communist, who devoted a lot of time to self-education, read the Marxist classics and modern leftist authors,” his comrades recalled. “The Odessa left remembers that this modest, intelligent guy tried not to miss a single political action, and has always been at the forefront.
“When the neo-Nazi forces came to power in Ukraine, Andrew enrolled in Odessa militias to defend their city from the Nazis. Unfortunately, that day the superiority of the forces was not on the side of the defenders of Odessa.
“Andrew, your death will not remain unavenged. Neo-Nazis are not masters in our cities, in our streets. We promise to remember you and fight.”
The criminal attack on Odessa by the fascist gangs has the potential to galvanize the people of southeast Ukraine to fight back with even more determination to destroy the fascist junta and push back U.S. imperialism’s drive to war against Russia.
It is the responsibility of workers and all progressive forces in the U.S. to tell the truth about what happened in Odessa, and to stop the imperialists from carrying out further war crimes against the people of Odessa, Ukraine and Russia.