by Jeff Mackler
March 10, 2014
The recent Ukrainian Maidan (Independence
Square) mobilizations are a grotesque caricature of the mass protests of
workers and youth in Egypt that led to the demise of the U.S.-backed
dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
At the recent Kiev "mass mobilizations" of 250,000 that drove Ukrainian
President Viktor Yanukovych out of the country to seek refuge in
Russia, the best organized forces were those of the fascist, anti-Semitic,
hyper-nationalist groupings - most prominently, the Svoboda ("Freedom")
Party, which traces its roots to the pro-Nazi Social-National Party of World
These armed, club-wielding, and often Molotov-cocktail bomb-throwing beasts
had been let loose by the rump Fatherland Party "opposition" Ukrainian
And this was accomplished with the complicity,
if not overt support, of U.S. officials, who likely seized on the charge
(now highly suspect) that Yanukovych had employed snipers to attack and
murder 89 demonstrators and wound 100 others on Feb. 20 as the perfect
moment to shift the debate over a European Union vs. Russian "trade
agreement" toward a violent mobilization for Yanukovych's removal.
A now confirmed taped phone call between the Estonian Foreign Minister
Urmas Paet and European Union Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine
Ashton, originally reported by a Russian press agency and then in the
British Guardian and other newspapers, reveals Paet's view that forces among
the Maidan protesters had orchestrated the deadly sniper fire on Feb. 20.
Paet stated in the taped conversation that,
"the same snipers [were] killing people from
both sides… There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind
the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new
The call took place after the Estonian foreign
minister had visited Kiev on Feb. 25, at the height of the Maidan protests.
The Estonian government later denied that Paet,
"was giving an assessment of the
opposition's involvement in the violence."
There is little doubt, however, that U.S.
officials have applied pressure on the Estonians to "reinterpret" the tape.
While the full truth may never be revealed, it is unquestionable that U.S.
imperialism has never rejected using manufactured "smoking guns" to achieve
Need we refer to Saddam Hussein's "weapons of
mass destruction" and the Vietnam-era "Tonkin Bay incident," both of which
were consciously manufactured by the U.S. government to justify the mass
murder of the people of Iraq and Vietnam - in the latter case 4 million
Even today, reports by independent investigators
question U.S. intelligence allegations that Syrian government missiles
carrying deadly sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians.*
* A Jan. 15 McClatchy news report
"A team of security and arms
experts, meeting this week in Washington to discuss the matter, has
concluded that the range of the rocket that delivered sarin in the
largest attack that night was too short for the device to have been
fired from the Syrian government positions where the Obama
administration insists they originated."
In the report, titled "Possible
Implications of Faulty U.S. Technical Intelligence," Richard
Lloyd, a former United Nations weapons inspector, and Theodore Postol, a
professor of science, technology, and national security policy at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argue that the question about the
rocket's range indicates a major weakness in the case for military action
initially pressed by Obama administration officials.
This rump Ukrainian government, convened without the presence of Yanukovych
or his Party of the Regions, cleared the streets of the official police and
military in order to give free rein to the extreme right.
The tiny handful of revolutionary socialists who
were present, intent on trying to present a working-class and socialist
alternative to Ukrainian and Russian capitalism to workers who had
legitimate grievances against government corruption, violence, and the
selling of Ukraine to the highest bidder, included a few Ukrainian members
of the Fourth International.
They and other socialists were run off the
streets, their flyers torn to shreds.
Evidence of the reactionary nature of the new Ukrainian regime appears in a
March 5 on-line British Channel 4 news account:
"The man facing down Putin's aggression as
secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council is
Andriy Parubiy. He oversees national security for the nation, having
previously served as security commandant during the anti-government
protests in Kiev."
Channel 4 identifies Parubiy as a member of
Svoboda and a founder of its pro-Nazi predecessor, the Social National
"overseeing the armed forces alongside
Parubiy as the Deputy Secretary of National Security is Dmytro Yarosh,
the leader of the Right Sector - a group of hardline nationalist
street-fighters, who previously boasted they were ready for armed
struggle to free Ukraine."
Other Svoboda leaders in the top echelons of the
new government include,
Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych
Ecology Minister Andriy Mokhnyk
Agriculture Minister Ihor Shvaika
acting Prosecutor General Oleh
Top U.S. officials
U.S. Republican Party firebrand and former presidential candidate John
McCain had paid a previous visit to the Maidan, sharing the stage with
Svoboda's anti-Semitic leader Oleg Tyahnybok.
McCain tried to rouse the crowd with cries of
"democracy" and promises of "freedom and independence" - American style.
But "democracy" was to be granted only after the
looting government of oligarchs had approved the austerity terms that came
with the European Union's (EU) proposed "bailout" package, called the
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland also
participated in the protests - to pass out cookies, no less - in a
well-orchestrated imperial stage-crafting effort to present the United
States as a nation with the most benevolent and generous of intentions.
She had previously boasted about U.S. funding of
the "democratic opposition" to the tune of $5 billion over the past 10
years, not to mention the creation of some 40,000 NGOs to spread the
"democracy" of U.S. imperialism.
Nuland has since become famous for her off-the-cuff "Fuck
the EU" statement,
which has been circulated by bloggers around the world.
A Russian surveillance team caught her
red-handed in denouncing the European Union negotiating team for its deal
with former President Yanukovych. Nuland's Russian-acquired exchange with
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt called for the U.S., rather than
the EU, to determine who would compose the new Ukrainian government.
Yanukovych's agreement with EU top officials
from Germany, France and Poland, his third reversal regarding who would
plunder and subject his country to imperial control, had him appointing top
opposition leaders to major government posts.
Nuland disagreed with key appointments,
indicating that "Yats" was to be the U.S. choice. Indeed, "Yats," or Arseniy
P. Yatsenyuk, is today's Ukrainan Prime Minister. Nuland preferred figures
who had shown themselves to be loyal to Western interests and to IMF-type
If there is a "war" in Ukraine today, it is to determine which of the
imperialist Western powers will have priority "rights" in absorbing this
nation of 46 million people into its orbit to become yet another sub-colony
of imperialism, along with the other nine nations that two decades ago
constituted the former Soviet Union and today are largely incorporated in
Europe's capitalist economy and military alliance, NATO.
With the U.S.-instigated coup, Russian
capitalism has been effectively marginalized as a player in the Ukraine.
Nuland's apology for her poor choice of words was not accompanied by any
apology for U.S. moves to dominate the future neoliberal exploitation of
Ukraine, as opposed to handing over this right to longstanding U.S.
competitors - not to mention to the wannabe imperialist Russian President
Vladimir Putin and his billionaire oligarch regime.
He and his predecessors gave birth to the
Russian oligarchy some 20-plus years ago when the USSR's wealth and
resources were stolen, with U.S. complicity, by the tiny layer of former
Stalinist bureaucrats who now preside over capitalist Russia, today a minor
player in the world imperialist configuration.
Assistant Secretary Nuland directed her ire not against Russia but rather
Germany, France, and Poland - who brokered the deal as to the future
composition of the Ukrainian government and the distribution of that
nation's industrial strength and rich and fertile agricultural resources.
This was an unacceptable arrangement in the eyes
of imperial America.
The irrefutably recorded discussions between Nuland and Pyatt revealed their
choice of United Nations "glue," said Nuland, to cement any Ukraine deal. In
that scenario, the U.S.-handpicked and subservient UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon would be called in to "negotiate" the nation's future, rather than a
more pro-EU assortment of capitalist plunderers.
On March 4, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev in a
further attempt to shoulder aside EU competitors in a deal.
Kerry offered $1 billion in loan guarantees to
the Ukrainian coup-makers and promised to send in a host of U.S. "technical
experts" to help re-align the country's national bank and finance ministry.
In today's game of re-dividing and re-colonizing the world, the Russians are
bit players as compared to the U.S. imperialists and their not-too-happy
lesser competitors in the EU, ever scrambling to maintain their perceived
share of the booty extracted from their former colonies and new ones to be
assimilated across Eastern Europe.
At the level of military power, Russia's less
than a handful of bases outside its borders pales before the 1100 maintained
by the U.S. around the world and another 1000 or so stationed in the U.S.
Today's Russian billionaires are puny compared to
multi-trillionaire U.S. bankers who looted the U.S. Treasury (the
term was "government bailout") to the tune of some $30 trillion.
This was accomplished with the absolute
complicity of the subservient Obama administration, which is little more
than the governmental mask or façade of America's real ruling class.
In the United States, according to Oxfam
International, the wealthiest one percent has captured 95 percent of
post-financial-crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent has
Yanukovych and his government's original intention to resolve its virtual
bankruptcy via the EU austerity plan momentarily gave way to Russian
President Putin's counter-offer of $15 billion in bail-out loans to the
Ukrainian oligarchs - mostly former Stalinist bureaucrats themselves - which
are peanuts in comparison to the $51 billion the Russians spent on the Sochi
The latter, aimed at glorifying Russia's
pretended emergence as a great power (it came in first in the medal total in
Sochi!), was a trifle as compared to what U.S. and Western imperialism had
to offer to buy Ukraine's near bankrupt government and its workers and
The Russians' subsequent offer to reduce the
price of oil and gas by 55 percent to the heavily oil-dependent Ukraine was
nearly instantly countered by EU pledges to substitute Polish coal and other
The coup regime has also agreed to a deal with Chevron Corporation for
large-scale shale-gas fracking operations in western Ukraine. The Yanukovich
government, before its ignominious demise, had previously signed
production-sharing agreements with Shell and Chevron.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration
reports that Ukraine has Europe's fourth largest shale-gas reserves.
EU-IMF economic agenda
The original EU offer to Ukraine (the one that Yanukovych temporarily
rejected on Nov. 21) had certainly come with strings attached.
These debilitating conditions were outlined by
Marilyn Vogt-Downey, a revolutionary socialist with a long career as
an analyst of Ukrainian and Russian politics, in a Feb. 27 CounterPunch
article entitled, "An
Imperialist Invasion Without an Imperialist Army: Whither Ukraine?"
Her assessment rings with a truth that has
rarely entered the discussion.
Vogt-Downey suggested that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych might ,
"easily calmed the rebellion in
Independence Square in Ukraine's capital Kiev early on if he had simply
told the crowds the truth about what the Association Agreement with the
European Union would mean to their lives and futures."
She pointed out that the,
"Free Trade section alone - removing tariff
barriers and export duties - would convert Ukraine into one big 'free
trade zone,' where the anti-environment, anti-labor, and pro-business
laws would prevail… It would create the economic devastation of the type
that NAFTA has created in Mexico."
Vogt-Downey said that Yanukovych might then
"gone on to outline what the pending IMF
‘financial aid package' would do to further worsen their lives."
She cited the Feb. 23 New York Times report on
Yanukovych's flight, which summarized what the "EU option" would mean.
"The economy will remain the greatest
problem facing the country," The Times reported, and then went on: "The
International Monetary Fund remains a potential source of financing to
replace the $15 billion that Russia had made available before the
protests. But that comes with an insistence on austerity and economic
changes that will inflict considerable pain."
Marilyn Vogt-Downey continued:
"Considerable pain, indeed!!
The IMF loans will require in Ukraine, as
they do everywhere, that the government undertake broad-scale
privatization of resources and basic public services, cut government
spending on education, health care, pensions, housing, and benefits for
the needy, as well as laws that hinder the accumulation and free
movement of capitalist profits. And that's just for starters.
All this will further lower the wages and
standard of living of the mass of the population of Ukraine, which are
already lower than the European average."
Vogt-Downey pointed out that Ukrainian
acceptance of the Association Agreement with the EU and the IMF aid package
would remove any semblance of independence for the country.
She listed the following points to back up her
"1. It stipulates that Ukraine cannot
accept any financial support from Russia.
"2. It would make impossible any Ukrainian economic planning that
did not follow the guidelines established by the IMF and other
imperialist lending agencies.
"3. Because of the nature of the IMF-imposed economic agenda,
Ukraine would find it very difficult to ever escape the debt cycle.
The IMF mandates, for example that capitalist profits be only
minimally taxed, the government provide generous financial support
and tax breaks for capitalist ventures, public services be
privatized, and restrictions on transfer of capitalist profits
abroad be minimal. As a result, it would be difficult, if not
impossible, for any Ukrainian government to raise funds for basic
institutions people need to live a quality life."
"However," Vogt-Downey continued, "Yanukovych
could not say such things. It is not just that he is not a man of
integrity. The problem is that during his time in power, he - like all
the Ukrainian rulers since Ukraine became independent with the collapse
of the USSR in 1992 - had already been pursuing measures similar to
those the IMF would impose.
These include measures such as privatizing
public resources, cutting public spending, cutting subsidies for major
industries - leading to stagnation, non-payment of wages, and benefit
cuts - and imposing market mechanisms."
And while the standard of living has fallen for
the majority of the population,
"politicians and their cronies have managed
to considerably enrich themselves and acquire vast fortunes from
resources that should belong to the Ukrainian working people."
Russian troops enter
Despite the onerous conditions that it imposed, Yanukovych's deal with the
EU was initially approved by the parliament but quickly unraveled when the
fascist-led and undoubtedly U.S.-instigated protests caused Yanukovych to
flee, in his own words, for his life.
In a matter of hours, Ukraine's rump parliament
changed course, adopted some 21 of the most reactionary and chauvinist laws
imaginable, and effectively agreed to the terms imposed by the Western
The super-nationalist regime now in power even
eliminated the Russian language as one of the country's official languages,
disregarding the fact that half of all Ukrainians speak Russian as their
Putin's response was to send Russian soldiers to the Crimea, a
semi-autonomous region of Ukraine where Russia maintains its Black Sea fleet
via a lease that expires in 2045.
The corporate media initially sounded the
alarm, along with the new Ukrainian regime's proclaiming that Russia has
issued a "declaration of war."
But the real war in Ukraine is over. U.S. imperialism and its subservient EU
allies have won, at least for the time being - that is, until the Ukrainian
working masses absorb the lessons of imperialist exploitation and organize
independently of their capitalist oppressors everywhere, in the West and in
Indeed, the terribly poor Ukrainian people have
already tasted the effects of Western "aid."
Eighty percent of all Foreign Direct Investment
in that country has been from the West, with little or no tangible results
for the Ukrainian people and billions in profits, as always, for the
corporate investors and financial speculators.
Clearly, Putin is alarmed at the prospect of having a slavishly pro-EU and
American regime established on Russia's border. The Western powers are
salivating at the possibility of establishing oil-drilling rights on
Russia's Arctic frontier, and perhaps eventually in Russia itself.
But his momentary display of "power" by sending
in some 16,000 soldiers to the Crimea, according to the new Ukrainian
regime, is his version of imperial stagecraft, more akin to his Olympic
victory than a military threat to Ukraine.
Not a single shot has been fired to date. Putin
is fully capable of compromising with Western imperialism in a deal that
would require him to withdraw the troops in the not too distant future.
Indeed, as of March 4, Putin was already in
negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry.
In truth, the future of the people of the Crimea
will be determined by their own independent and revolutionary mobilization
as opposed to reliance on any capitalist power, West or East.
Putin had no problem voting for the UN's "humanitarian" resolution that
paved the way for
the NATO/U.S. devastation of Libya and its
subsequent sequestration of Libyan oil. We hear no Russian objections to the
recent U.S. declaration to send an army of 5000 U.S. troops to Libya, with
that nation now reduced to warring and out-of-control fundamentalist
After a few rhetorical threats,
the Obama administration made clear
that it had no intention of going to war with Russia - a largely defanged
and pathetic world power, although one with a nuclear arsenal.
The worst that the Obama administration could
threaten were possible economic sanctions or staging a boycott of the
upcoming G-8 conference in Sochi.
Legacy of Great
Whatever threat Russia poses to the people of the Ukraine reflects its
legacy of plunder and repression, beginning with the pre-1917 Tsarist era.
This was interrupted with magnificent results
immediately following the 1917 Russian Revolution, which guaranteed not only
the right of self-determination to all of Russia's former colonies but the
right to independence and succession.
The leadership of Lenin and Trotsky during this
historic period brought enlightenment, solidarity, and equality between the
Russian and Ukrainian peoples. But this was abruptly ended with the coming
to power of Stalin and his counter-revolutionary bureaucratic regime.
Since that time, the Ukrainian people have once again been subjected to the
brutal tyranny of Great Russian chauvinism, including after the break-up of
the former USSR. The very same Stalinist core of largely Soviet-era
bureaucrats-cum-oligarchs that dominated the Ukraine then still prevails
today. They have continued the Stalinist policy of subjugating the Ukraine,
today in the name of capitalism and aimed at the enrichment of the few at
the expense of the many.
This is central to understanding the receptivity
to pro-Western propaganda of Ukrainians who have suffered greatly under both
the grotesque caricature of socialism that Stalinism always represented and
the present capitalism brought in by these same bureaucrats.
The absence of a mass revolutionary socialist alternative in Ukraine, as
well as in the Middle East and worldwide, weighs heavily on the world's
working masses, who have
proved capable of rising up in the tens of
millions time and again against the most powerful of tyrants and dictators,
only to suffer setbacks and defeats because an authoritative, deeply rooted,
and revolutionary mass party of all the oppressed and exploited has yet to
This is the critical task for
revolutionary-minded activists everywhere.
Vogt-Downey pointed out in CounterPunch that,
"what is unfolding right now in Ukraine is
not a revolution but imperialist consolidation of the capitalist
counterrevolution by imperialist finance capital and the army of
international capitalist investors who seek unfettered opportunities to
milk every ounce of profit they can from the Ukrainian working class and
the resources in their territory."
For the moment, U.S. imperialism, the central
player in a crisis-ridden world economy in decay, has undoubtedly scored a
significant victory in the Ukraine, again at the expense of the working
Opposition to U.S. imperialism in all its
manifestations must be a top priority of any successful antiwar movement.
Ukraine demonstrates in bold relief that oppression and exploitation can be
achieved in more ways than overt military intervention:
privatized death squads and drone
warfare around the globe
surveillance of the world's people and
the corporate media's manufacture - Orwellian style - of
a pseudo-democracy in America that
masks mass murder, racism
plunder everywhere are also in today's
The imperial beast takes many forms, all aimed
at advancing, by any means necessary, the interests of the ruling-class