Against All the Oligarchs, Capitalists and CIA-Backed “Opposition” –
Build a Trotskyist Workers Party!U.S.-Sponsored Coup d’État in Ukraine
The scenario has become familiar in what U.S. geopoliticians are now calling the “post-Soviet space.” A closely contested election, a disputed result, crowds gathered in the central square of the capital to protest vote fraud. Well-financed opposition coalitions, flashy youth groups and telegenic spokesmen mount a savvy media operation. “Non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) pop out of the ground like mushrooms after a rain. Liberals denounce the incumbents as heavy-handed dictators unable to shed their erstwhile Communist ways. Washington issues insistent calls to overturn the outcome and install its favored candidate in the name of a “free vote” and free markets. The stage is set, the crowds grow menacing…
In September 2000, the scene was played out in Belgrade, Yugoslavia where Slobodan Milosevic was toppled after losing the one-sided Kosovo war with NATO the year before. Vojislav Kostunica was installed as Serbia’s prime minister, put there by the DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia) led by Zoran Djinjic and the youth group Otpor! (“Resistance!”). In November 2003, the film was rerun in Tblisi, Georgia, where the opposition led by Mikhail Saakashvili, a New York-trained lawyer, and the youth group Kmara! (“Enough!”), ran out the government of Edvard Shevardnadze. Then they held the “democratic” election: 96 percent for Saaksashvili. Behind it all: the hand of U.S. imperialism. And now it is Ukraine’s turn…
And tomorrow, Belarus? Romania? Kazakhstan? It depends on Washington’s priorities at the moment. The U.S. invades Iraq, supposedly in search of “weapons of mass destruction,” because it knows full well that Baghdad doesn’t have “WMDs” (otherwise the Pentagon would have hesitated quite a while). In contrast, it tries to strong-arm North Korea with diplomacy rather than threatening invasion, precisely because it isn’t sure if Pyongyang has the bomb or not. Different strokes for different folks. But whether it’s Democrats or Republicans at the helm, whether the target is Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il or Leonid Kuchma, the constant is a drive for world domination, for untrammeled U.S. imperialist hegemony. Their aim is to encircle Russia and keep “Old Europe” in line. No wonder Russian president Vladimir Putin is muttering about a throwback to the Cold War.
On November 23, the second round of voting in Ukraine’s presidential election led to a near-tie that soon became a standoff. The official electoral commission declared Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the candidate favored by outgoing Ukrainian president Kuchma, to be the winner by 49 percent to 46 percent for the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Yet Independence Square was already filled with tens of thousands of the latter’s supporters with their orange banners, flags and other paraphernalia. Speaking from the tribune, Yushchenko, his face ravaged due to an illness reportedly caused by dioxin poisoning, declared himself the winner. The Western media cried “fraud” and announced that an “orange revolution” was in the offing. (In Georgia, they called it the “rose revolution.”)
Miners from the eastern Donbas rallied at the central rail station in Kiev, November 26, in support of the Party of Regions led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. For a revolutionary mobilization of Ukrainian workers independent of all the capitalist clans! (Photo: Stepan Chuyko/AP)
For over two weeks, Yushchenko’s supporters have camped out in the center of Kiev, blockading central government buildings. Normally, U.S. media and government spokesmen denounce actions against “legitimate” capitalist governments, but in Ukraine there is an operation going on, so the usual rules don’t apply. The Ukrainian government made a half-hearted attempt to bring in a few thousand miners from eastern Ukraine to support Yanukovich, but left them hanging around the train station and eventually sent them home. Officials in mostly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine began talking of holding a referendum for regional autonomy. Kuchma flew to Moscow for encouragement from Putin. But as the security forces began to crumble and the heretofore tame Supreme Court declared the election invalid, the Ukrainian president backed down. A rerun of the vote has been ordered for December 26.
In the electoral contest between two bourgeois forces, the American-backed Ukrainian nationalists around Yushchenko vs. the Russian-backed “oligarchs” behind Yanukovich, class-conscious workers and authentic communists must vigorously oppose both the contending forces. All sides are squalid in this sordid dispute over which gang of capitalists shall exploit the Ukrainian proletariat. Both Yushchenko and Yanukovich have called on workers to strike, but on behalf of their own bourgeois parties. While stressing in the West our class opposition to the imperialist power grab, in Ukraine it is no less important to break the working class from its illusions in and political support to the “post-Soviet managers” around Yanukovich, who are blocking any real struggle against the U.S.-bankrolled free marketeers. A Trotskyist party is urgently needed in Ukraine to fight not only against the feuding oligarchs but also against the Stalinist politics of class collaboration that ties the workers to their class enemy.
U.S.-Orchestrated “People’s Power” Charade
This whole spectacle purporting to show the masses yearning to be free is actually a minutely choreographed coup d’état orchestrated by the U.S. The actors change but the script is the same. In Ukraine, Yushchenko played the role of Kostunica in Yugoslavia and Saakashvili in Georgia, the “respectable” bourgeois opposition. The counterpart in the Ukraine to Serbia’s Djindjic as the pro-Western “radical” is Yulia Timoshenko, who regularly issues ultimatums to Kuchma. The student/youth group Pora! (Time’s Up!) is the equivalent of Otpor! in Belgrade and Kmara! In Tblisi. The resemblance of these pseudo-oppositions is by no means accidental: they all come from the same “cookie cutter.” And behind them all is the hand of U.S. imperialism. In a commentary in the London Guardian (26 November), “Ukraine's Postmodern Coup d’État,” columnist Jonathan Steele noted, “Yushchenko got the US nod, and money flooded in to his supporters.” Steele elaborated:
“Intervening in foreign elections, under the guise of an impartial interest in helping civil society, has become the run-up to the postmodern coup d’état, the CIA-sponsored third world uprising of cold war days adapted to post-Soviet conditions. Instruments of democracy are used selectively to topple unpopular dictators, once a successor candidate or regime has been groomed.
“In Ukraine's case this is playing with fire. Not only is the country geographically and culturally divided - a recipe for partition or even civil war - it is also an important neighbour to Russia. …
“Ukraine has been turned into a geostrategic matter not by Moscow but by the US, which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side.”
The mammoth production resembles a Hollywood spectacular, boasting a cast of hundreds of thousands. While many protesters doubtless feel they are demonstrating for freedom, they are actually pawns in a giant charade. The operation is heavily financed by Washington, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiaries, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), working in tandem with the Open Society Institute (OSI) of international financier and multi-billionaire currency speculator George Soros and the more traditional anti-Communist conduits like Freedom House. The NED was set up in 1983 explicitly to fund counterrevolutionary forces around the world, replacing the clandestine dollar pipeline from the CIA whose “dirty tricks” had brought the U.S. into disrepute. Polish Solidarność and the Nicaraguan contras were some of the first big recipients of this largesse. But it wasn’t just used against Soviet-allied nationalist regimes.
The model for the current operation was the “people’s power” revolt in the Philippines that ousted strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Then, too, you had huge crowds massing in opposition to a decaying authoritarian regime that had become a liability to the U.S. There was a dramatic, made-for-TV confrontation, and moments of farce as Ted Koppel of ABC’s Nightline switched on-screen between Marcos and the “rebel” leaders, reminiscent of Howard Cossell interviewing El Presidente in Woody Allen’s movie Bananas. In the end, the power ended up not with “the people” but in the hands of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel Ramos, with Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, scion of one of the leading landowning families installed as figurehead president. Communists and other radicals, whose popularity had been growing in opposition to Marcos’ brutal rule, were effectively sidelined by the elaborate manipulation – with their popular-front politics they were beholden to bourgeois allies, who then did them in.
This scenario has been repeatedly used by Washington in subsequent years, including in a second “people’s power” revolt in the Philippines in 2001. The movie runs smoothest when the “heavy,” the worn-out dictator, is played by someone who used to be a U.S. protégé and knows to go when his time is up. (Marcos went to Hawaii, Panama’s Noriega was a little slow on the uptake, so he ended up in jail in Miami). The same techniques were used to bring down Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, bundling him off in an unmarked plane to Central Africa. But it doesn’t always work. The U.S. tried a variant in Venezuela in December 2002, after its earlier (April 2002) coup attempt failed. It tried to pass off a management lockout as a workers strike – but that flopped, too, as the mass of poor and working people went into the streets to defend the nationalist government of Hugo Chávez. In the August 2004 Venezuelan referendum, the pro-imperialist opposition was soundly trounced.
In Ukraine, the “people’s power” masquerade was in full swing. In the Guardian (27 November), the Thatcherite conservative John Laughland commented:
“Whether it is Albania in 1997, Serbia in 2000, Georgia last November or Ukraine now, our media regularly peddle the same fairy tale about how youthful demonstrators manage to bring down an authoritarian regime, simply by attending a rock concert in a central square. Two million anti-war demonstrators can stream though the streets of London and be politically ignored, but a few tens of thousands in central Kiev are proclaimed to be ‘the people’…. The demonstrations in favour of Viktor Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in and huge quantities of orange clothing; yet we happily dupe ourselves that they are spontaneous.”
The day before, the Guardian East Europe correspondent Ian Traynor wrote on the “US Campaign Behind the Turmoil in Kiev,” detailing “a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.” He notes the striking similarities between the youth groups in Yugoslavia, Georgia and Ukraine, saying “the young Belgrade activists are for hire.” In fact, some of the Otpor professional youth organizers from Belgrade were sent by the U.S. to Georgia last year to train Kmara. This year they trained the Ukrainian Pora in seminars in the Baltic states. In Belgrade, Traynor writes, the U.S. officially reported spending $41 on the year-long effort to topple Milosevic starting in October 1999. “In Ukraine, the figure is said to be around $14m.”
The U.S. has focused considerable attention on Ukraine for years, ever since the break-up of the Soviet Union and destruction of the degenerated workers state in 1991-92. The most notable fact about this is that, while George Bush is reaping the harvest, it has been mostly a Democratic Party operation. In 1994, an “American-Ukrainian Advisory Committee” was set up as a “private initiative” in a meeting Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbot. This high-octane “bi-partisan” outfit was chaired by former president Jimmy Carter and included Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter’s national security advisor), Henry Kissinger (Richard Nixon’s national security advisor), Frank Carlucci (Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor, as well as deputy director of the CIA and secretary of defense), “capitalist tool” Malcolm Forbes, Jr. and George Soros (see the Center for Media and Democracy’s Disinfopedia, 27 September).
The Hungarian-born financier Soros, whose latest venture was to spend millions financing the campaign of Democrat John Kerry this year (notably through the “NGO” MoveOn.org ), set up the “Ukrainian Renaissance Foundation” in 1989, before the demise of the Soviet Union. He helped install Kuchma as Ukrainian president in the 1994 election, boasts that he has given “more than US$100 million to support Ukraine,” and “helped it gain access to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.” Yet more than three years ago, Soros was calling on his former protégé Kuchma to “step aside” and make way for his prime minister Yushchenko and former deputy prime minister Timoshenko (Financial Times, 2 March 2001). Another key Democrat who has been pushing for “regime change” in Kiev is Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s former secretary of state and currently chairman of the NDI. Last spring, Albright wrote an article in the New York Times (8 March) with advice on “How to Help Ukraine Vote.” Among her suggestions: “increase support for independent news media and civil society” and setting up “training sites for voter mobilization and monitoring efforts.”
In addition to the Democrats’ NDI, the Republicans’ “IRI also conducts poll watcher training,” according to its web site. Having fine-tuned its election-manipulation techniques in Broward County, Florida, the gang in the White House wants to export its hard-ball techniques worldwide. The presence of Republican Richard Lugar, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as the designated “personal representative” of U.S. president Bush in Kiev during the elections was proof positive that a gigantic operation was underway. Lugar’s announcement that the Ukrainian government allegedly conducted a “corrupted and forceful program of election day abuse” amounted to marching orders to the media and assorted “international observers” to ratchet up their accusations of vote fraud to fever pitch. In addition to NDI and IRI delegations in Kiev for the voting, after assiduously building up an apparatus for several years, the partner parties of U.S. imperialism funded a small army of more than 1,000 European poll watchers. When the official results didn’t match their “exit polls,” this was taken by the media as prima facie evidence of election fraud. In Kiev, that is, but not in Ohio or Florida.
The Ukrainian Pivot: Imperialist Geopolitics and the Working Class
While the Bush gang in Washington, driven by a coalition of pro-Israeli neo-conservatives (“neo-cons”), military contractors and the oil industry, was mesmerized by the monomania of occupying Iraq, the Democratic geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski focused on a series of “pivots” crucial to U.S. imperialist domination of the post-Soviet world, among them Ukraine:
“Ukraine, Azerbaijan, South Korea, Turkey and Iran play the role of critically important geopolitical pivots…
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire….
“However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia….
“For Ukraine, the central issues are the future character of the CIS and freer access to energy sources, which would lessen Ukraine's dependence on Russia.
“Neither the West nor Russia can afford to lose Ukraine to its geostrategic and geoeconomic adversary.”
–The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (Basic Books, 1997)
Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute following the Ukrainian elections, Brzezinski remarked that “if Ukrainian democracy prevails” (i.e., if Yushchenko emerges as the victor), “Russia has no choice but to go to the West,” but that if Putin’s man Yanukovich comes out on top, Russia’s “imperial ambitions are awakened” (Moscow News, 1 December). “The stakes are of truly historic proportions,” he added. Some Western pundits (along with some misguided leftists) inveigh against “Russian imperialism,” as the imperialist Cold Warriors used to denounce “Soviet imperialism.” But the capitalist Russian Federation which resulted from the destruction of the Soviet Union, a bureaucratically degenerated workers state, is not (or at least, not yet) an imperialist power, not withstanding the imperial ambitions of Putin and his predecessor Boris Yeltsin (for example, in their dirty war against Chechnya).
The Ukrainian election has been seen as a showdown in a proxy conflict between ex-Soviet Russia and the United States that would shape world events. The Ukrainian forces in contention are caricatured as pro-Washington “democrats” vs. pro-Moscow “oligarchs.” Imperialist liberals piously intone that it’s all about “democracy,” supposedly having nothing to do with an “East-West conflict,” but this is just eyewash. In reality, both Kuchma/Yanukovich and Yushchenko/Timoshenko have sought to balance between Russia and the U.S., and both represent the narrow layer of capitalist profiteers who have grown obscenely wealthy by feeding off the remains of the Soviet degenerated workers state. The working people of Ukraine paid the price, as their average incomes plummeted to about $50 a month while industries were sold off for a song.
Ukrainian president Kuchma was the head of the group of “oligarchs” originating in the industrial center of Dniepropapetrovsk (where he formerly headed a missile plant), who with U.S. backing threw out former Soviet bureaucrat Leonid Kravchuk in the 1994 elections and proceeded to privatize (in their own interests) the giant economic powerhouses of central and eastern Ukraine. Yanukovich was a former electrician and mechanical engineer who became governor of Donetsk oblast in the heart of the eastern coal mining region (the Donbas). Viktor Yushchenko was a former Soviet banking official while Yulia Timoshenko was brought to Kiev on Kuchma’s coattails. While she now poses as a firebrand mass agitator, her hair done in Ukrainian peasant style, Timoshenko is a multi-billionaire who set up the United Energy System. Matthew Brzezinski (Zbigniew’s son), who was a Wall Street Journal reporter in Moscow, devotes a chapter to Timoshenko, “The Eleven Billion Dollar Woman,” in his book Casino Moscow : A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalism's Wildest Frontier (Free Press, 2001).
Yushchenko was named prime minister by Kuchma on the basis of his “success” as head of Ukraine’s national bank in carrying out the introduction of the hryvnia as Ukraine’s convertible currency. Yet this led to huge increases in prices (bread up 300 percent, electricity up 600 percent, public transportation up 900 percent), leading to a fall of real wages by more than 75 percent since 1991, according to IMF statistics. Deregulation of the grain market led to a drastic fall agricultural production (Michel Chossudovsky, “IMF Sponsored ‘Democracy’ in the Ukraine,” www.globalresearch.ca, 28 November). Upon becoming head of government, Yushchenko proceeded to carry out a drastic IMF-ordered retrenchment policy that led to the shutdown of many factories and at least 35 of Ukraine’s mines. The World Bank called for closing half the mines, calling the coal mining region “a lost cause” (Christian Science Monitor, 15 May 2002). These plans led to Yushchenko being sacked in a parliamentary vote of no confidence fueled by workers’ anger and discontent among the managers of the “Donetsk clan” led by Rinat Achmetov, one of the richest men in Ukraine.
As for the No. 2 of the opposition, Kiev correspondent James Meek asks in an article on “The Millionaire Revolutionary” (Guardian, 26 November): “But who is Tymoshenko? Is she the dedicated champion of free-market values, Ukrainian independence and European liberal ideals she and her supporters would claim her to be? Or is she a darker, more compromised figure, whose own record might tarnish an opposition victory?” Meek notes that, “the vast personal enrichment of Tymoshenko when so many ordinary Ukrainians were going poor and hungry made her unpopular in the late 1990s.” In early 2001 she was jailed for a month on corruption charges. So here are the paladins of “democracy” that are posing as leaders of the “people”: the man responsible for the immiseration of millions of Ukrainian workers and a woman who grew filthy rich by looting the wealth created by collectivized industry! A good part of the reason why roughly half of the Ukraine voted for Yanukovich is that in recent years the coal industry has been booming, the eastern cities have been resuscitated and workers there have a vivid memory of the misery associated with Yushchenko’s earlier period in office.
Moreover, the opposition is a diverse conglomeration, including not only Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party and Timoshenko’s Fatherland party, but also a number of smaller groups. Oleksandr Moroz, leader of the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU), who received about 6 percent of the vote in the first round of the elections on October, endorsed Yushchenko on the second round. Yushchenko’s parliamentary bloc also includes the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN), the inheritors of the mantle of the anti-Communist Ukrainian fascist Stepan Bandera, whose bands initially fought alongside the German invaders in World War II, and after the end of the war went back into the swamps to wage guerrilla war with clandestine U.S. aid against the victorious Red Army. Various other ultra-rightist groups are or have been allied with Our Ukraine, including the All-Ukrainian Party of Liberty, until its leader was quoted in the press praising the WWII Ukrainian partisans for “cleans[ing] the country of Russians and Jews,” whereupon Yushchenko dropped the group (“Ukraine: ultra-right groups active in Ukrainian opposition,” World Socialist Web Site, 7 December).
In fact, the opposition coalition is shot through with anti-Semitism. Reporters going through the crowds of demonstrators outside the Ukrainian parliament (Rada) have encountered members of the UNA (Ukrainian National Assembly), which is not only fascist in its ideology, it has Nazi shock troops (their symbol is a stylized swastika) organized in UNSO who have attacked leftists. Moreover, the SPU newspaper, Silski Visti, with one of the largest circulations in the country, last year printed a grotesquely anti-Semitic article peddling the absurd claim that “400,000” Jews joined the Nazi SS during the German invasion of the Ukraine. SPU leader said he personally thought the article was “incorrect,” but the editor of the “socialist” paper, Vasily Gruzin, said he believed “the figure of 400,000 Jews taking part in the German invasion of the Ukraine is not far from the truth.” Gruzin added, “I personally have nothing against common Jews, but rather against a small group of Jewish oligarchs who control Ukraine both economically and politically. I believe the point of Zionism today is Jewish control of the world, and we see this process at work in Ukraine today” JTA, 19 September). This anti-Semitic filth is coming not from fascists but from the “socialist” voice of the “democratic” opposition in Ukraine!
At bottom, there are few real policy differences between the contending bourgeois forces in Ukraine. Kuchma and Yanukovich have sought to satisfy Washington’s demands, going so far as to send a contingent of Ukrainian troops to Iraq. (Now that the Iraqi occupation has become an increasingly bloody and risky affair, both candidates have said they will pull Ukrainian troops out.) Kuchma joined the GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) military alliance cobbled together by the U.S. as a counter to Russia, which was inaugurated at the 50th anniversary celebrations of NATO in Washington in April 1999 at the outset of NATO’s war on Yugoslavia. Yanukovich has vowed to uphold the Kuchma/Yushchenko/Timoshenko privatizations and has carried out IMF/World Bank economic policies. Yet this was not enough for U.S. imperialism, which wants to install a team of even more unconditional supporters in Kiev. Rather than looking to the bourgeois politicians representing the various clans of “oligarchs,” and who are competing for U.S. favor while hoping to stay on good terms with Russia, Ukrainian workers need to build a revolutionary workers party that oppose all the capitalist factions with sharp class struggle.
For a Trotskyist Party in Ukraine!
The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) represents certain sectors of the former Stalinist nomenklatura who want to falsely pose as defenders of the workers. While running a candidate in the first round of the presidential election (Petro Simonenko, who received about 5 percent of the vote), the KPU formally called for no support to either candidate in the second round – although this was widely understood as freeing up its supporters to vote for Yanukovich. During the January 2001 anti-government mobilizations, when the SPU of Moroz formed a Ukrainian nationalist coalition, “Ukraine Without Kuchma,” with Yushchenko supporters including the UNA/UNSO fascists, the Russian chauvinist KPU set up a competing coalition, “Ukraine without Kuchma and Yushchenko” together with Russian fascistic elements.
The KPU’s strength (it has about 20 percent of the Rada deputies) is concentrated in the Russian-speaking eastern industrial and mining region. The proposal by regional legislators in the East and Southeast of a referendum on autonomy, which is denounced by Yushchenko & Co. as a threat of secession, is based on this linguistic division. The eastern half of the country is largely Russian-speaking and even in Kiev, Russian is reportedly the language of business and government, whereas the western regions are predominantly Ukrainian-speaking (with enclaves of Polish and Romanian speakers). Leninists, of course, defend full rights for all languages spoken by the population. But in reality there is no popular push to split the country. The talk of autonomy is an attempt to divert opposition to Yushchenko into a bourgeois framework, and due above all to the absence of a revolutionary class opposition to the capitalist politicians.
Among the groups in the former Soviet Union which claim to be revolutionary are the supporters of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) led by Peter Taaffe and his Socialist Party in Britain. The CWI published an article by Rob Jones of its Socialist Resistance group in Moscow, under the title “Ukraine: Neither Yanukovich nor Yushenko” (28 November). The CWI claims to support neither of the bourgeois candidates, and criticizes Yushchenko’s pretense of supporting democracy and defending Ukrainian national interests as head of the “Ukraine without Kuchma” movement in 2001. Yet it fails to mention that the CWI took part in that pro-U.S. imperialist “movement.” The article notes:
“The lack of any focal point in the election put some left activists and the so called left political technologists (spin doctors) in a dilemma. Unfortunately a number saw this as an opportunity to earn money by working for one of the two warring camps. This only heightened the scepticism that many workers have at so called ‘lefts’ who offer empty phrases when times are relatively stable but, when the action picks up, flock to where the money is best.”
The CWI should know, for its own Ukrainian supporters organized an elaborate scam pretending to set up Ukrainian sections of ten or more international groupings, including the League for the International (see our article on “A Band of Political Imposters and Swindlers in Ukraine,” The Internationalist No. 17, October-November 2003). Although it was the leadership of the CWI’s Ukrainian group which organized this bizarre fraud, with the participation of a leading member of its Moscow group, the Taaffeites shamefully have said almost nothing about this publicly and gave its Moscow member a mere temporary suspension. Oleg Vernik, the former CWI Ukrainian leader, was reportedly sighted decked out in orange in an opposition event.
The CWI’s article on the election suggests “an independent workers’ candidate opposed to the competing elite cliques.” But while talking about “nationalisation under workers’ control and management of Ukrainian industry” and “a workers’ party with a socialist policy,” this amounts to a call for a slightly more left-wing social-democratic party along the lines of the “old” Labour Party in Britain. It certainly does not call for preparation of socialist revolution. Rather, its program consists overwhelmingly of (bourgeois) democratic demands, appealing to the Yushchenko camp’s Ukrainian nationalist base with calls for “special schools and cultural programmes … to redress the balance after years of the Stalinist suppression of Ukrainian language and culture,” for “a genuinely democratic people’s assembly” (rather than soviet bodies of revolutionary workers democracy), and so on. Not a word about Trotsky or Trotskyism in the very homeland of the Bolshevik leader, although the CWI falsely claims to be Trotskyist.
With its opportunist politics, the CWI is inevitably drawn into tailing after every “mass movement,” throwing in a few “critical” remarks as a fig leaf to cover up their capitulation to anti-proletarian and outright reactionary forces. The Taaffeites’ actions in Ukraine today are of a piece with their stance at the key turning point in the destruction of the Soviet Union, in August 1991, when Militant (the CWI’s British progenitor) joined the bulk of the pseudo-Trotskyist imposters in hailing Yeltsin’s pro-imperialist countercoup (which was orchestrated directly from the vacation home of U.S. president George Bush I) as representing “people’s power reducing the threat of dictatorship to a poorly scripted farce”! Genuine Trotskyists, rather than swallowing the “people’s power” lies of the bourgeois media, called for Soviet workers to smash Yeltstin/Bush counterrevolution, and to sweep away the treacherous Stalinist bureaucrats who by conciliating imperialism had prepared the way for counterrevolution and blocked the revolutionary moblization necessary to defeat the capitalist restorationists.
In fact, the real answer to decades of Stalinist perversion of Bolshevism and betrayal of the revolution is a fight to build an authentic Trotskyist party, not just a workers party with a vaguely “socialist” (read, social-democratic) program. A Trotskyist nucleus fighting to build such a party would emphasize the need for a broadscale mobilization of the working class to oppose both capitalist cliques and to fight with workers action the layoffs and further privatizations that are in store, whichever bourgeois candidate is declared winner in the third round of voting. Rather than adopting the framework of Ukrainian nationalism, or that of Russian chauvinism, it would fight on an internationalist basis to extend revolutionary struggle against capitalist rule to the neighboring Russian mining and industrial areas and to all the former Soviet lands, and further westward into the imperialist centers. It would call for proletarian strike action against the imperialist war on Iraq and Ukraine’s participation in the colonial occupation. In raising this program, the League for the Fourth International continues to fight to bring the legacy of Lenin and Trotsky to the homeland of the October Revolution. n
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