Events in Ukraine are indeed tragic. The death and destruction in the streets of Kiev are a senseless waste. The Ukrainian people will gain nothing from the violent upheavals of the last four months.
This assessment is in sharp contrast to the picture portrayed by the capitalist media in the US and Europe. With very few exceptions, they portray the events as a struggle to secure democracy for the Ukrainian people, a battle against official abuse and corruption. Of course we’ve heard this before; it is the same chorus that celebrated “heroic” opposition in Libya and now Syria.
One would think that the chaos that followed the overthrow of Gaddafi, the vigilante murders, the wide-spread militia banditry, the oil extortion, and the other expressions of civil breakdown in Libya would temper enthusiasm for more “nation building.”
One would think that frequent pictures of opposition thugs hurling Molotov cocktails and other potentially lethal weapons, of the destruction of public property, and the disruption of services might restrain the zeal of Western journalists and politicians; they certainly never identify with anarchists in their own countries!
One would think that the exposure of one-third of the oppositional leadership triumvirate, Oleg Tyagnibok, head of the fascistic Svoboda Party, would disconcert Western liberals. But they seem comfortable with the party’s antisemitism, anti-abortion stance, “pro-family” conservatism, and xenophobia.
Even with the biased picture one gets from the opposition-fawning media, it should be clear that the street fighters’ democratic credentials are slender. It is equally clear that the “struggle for democracy” masks another agenda.
Standing in the way of a deeper understanding on the part of most observers is the powerful remnants of Cold War thinking. Far too many, especially within the Western left, view the Ukrainian events through the lens of anti-Communist mythology. And the media does its best to reinforce this distorted picture of a contest between those in the Ukraine who hope to be a part of the freedom-loving West and those who want to surrender Ukraine to the Russian Empire. They crudely caricature public officials elected with Western-style bourgeois democracy as puppets of Russia and those violently seeking to overthrow the outcome of Western-style elections as true democrats. They posture an open door to European and US economic, political, and culture hegemony as somehow “liberating.”
This farce only gains traction with those who cannot or will not shed the old Cold War assumptions.
Ironically, a real understanding of the post-Cold War world, including events in Ukraine, comes through returning our thinking to the pre-Cold War paradigm of imperialism. In other words, Lenin’s 1916 pamphlet on Imperialism is a far better guide to today’s world than Cold War Neanderthals writing in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Its clear exposition of the division of the world into spheres of influence, intense rivalries, and even war, illuminates far more than the vacuous theories of globalization, the decline of the nation-state, and the holy mission of imposing “human rights” advocated by neo-Marxists, social democrats, and anarchists.
Thus, the events unfolding in Ukraine are set against a struggle between imperial powers. On one side is the shaky alliance between the US and the European Union (the recent expletive-laced comments by a State Department official demonstrate the tenuousness of the alliance); while on the other side is the Russian Federation. Each is intent upon bringing Ukraine into its own bloc’s sphere of influence; both are engaged in an intense rivalry, with Ukraine’s economy as the prize. The political parties acting out this competition are bourgeois parties hoping to use the rivalry to further their own national and economic vision for Ukraine. Their relations with the respective imperial centers are marriages of opportunity. Elected President Yanukovych on one side and the oppositional gang of three, Klitschko, Yatsenyuk, and Tyagnibok, on the other, hope to accrue advantages from the backing of their imperial sponsors. The Ukrainian people are only an afterthought in this contest.
While drawing Cold War caricatures to choose sides in the conflict is misguided, there should be no question that the oppositional forces to the elected Ukrainian government include extreme right elements bent on establishing an ultra-nationalist, nativist, socially backward regime. Deliberately muting its fascist trappings for the moment, the Svoboda Party nonetheless may well be the political entity in Europe that most closely models itself after the original Nazi Party. The Western media moguls know this, but willfully and shamefully hide if from their followers.
Similarly, Western media intentionally hides the history of US and EU meddling in Ukrainian affairs. The so-called Orange Revolution of 2004-2005 brought down an earlier Yanukovych Presidency with the decisive help of numerous US-sponsored NGOs. As I reported at the time, over $65 million in influence peddling was executed through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and many other liberal-sounding instruments of imperialism. I also recounted how US officials of the Bush administration, Senator Lugar, and Senator McCain, met with a key Ukrainian political leader to undermine the Yanukovych Presidency (McCain seems to take a special interest in Ukraine since his presence is again ubiquitous in Ukrainian affairs).
Five years after the demonstrations in Kiev stoked the Orange Revolution, The Wall Street Journal made a candid admission. In a front page feature, writer Richard Bourdeaux exclaimed that “Rent-a-crowd entrepreneurs find people fast to cheer or jeer for $4 an hour.” This is the face of Ukrainian democracy. “’We’ll do business with any political party. Ideology doesn’t matter to us’ says the 21-year-old web design major at Kiev Polytechnic Institute. ‘It matters less to most students,’ he adds grinning. ‘They have become tired of politicians. They will rally only for money.’” Sixty-five million dollars buys a lot of demonstrators!
Nor does it present a problem for their Western supporters that the opposition’s last round of ruling the Ukraine ended in massive corruption, mismanagement, and unpopularity.
Western Leftists must be reminded of what the battle is over. Ukraine was once an industrial powerhouse with 90% of its enterprises publicly owned. Today all but 12% of those enterprises are in private hands. That fact is not lost on the capitalists in the US and the EU; it shouldn’t be lost on anyone who says that they are opposed to imperialism. All of us who live under governments with designs on Ukraine’s future have a duty to stand against interference in Ukrainian Affairs. They must stand with the interests of the Ukrainian people.
The latest news brings word of the apparent success of the overthrow– the coup– against the elected President of Ukraine. The Western imperialists have won. The Ukrainian people need our solidarity even more than ever.
February 24, 2014