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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 December 2004

Ukraine: Neither Yanukovych or Yuschenko

The working class needs its own alternative

AS THE socialist goes to press, Ukraine's supreme court is expected to rule on the country's disputed presidential election.
Outgoing president Leonid Kuchma has hinted at a re-run ballot as the country's banks face a run on deposits and Yanukovych supporters in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine threaten to split away.
In this earlier abridged article, ROB JONES (Socialist Resistance - CWI - Moscow) outlines the developing political crisis.

THE RESULTS of the second round of voting in Ukraine's presidential election have dragged the country into a deep crisis that threatens to split it into two. If it escalates further, we could see ethnic conflict develop in one of the biggest and most populous countries in Europe.

After an extremely dirty and polarised campaign, the official results announced by the Electoral Commission gave sitting Premier Victor Yanukovych a small 2% lead over his opponent Victor Yuschenko. Yushenko has refused to recognise the results and mobilised his supporters to force Yanukovich to accept defeat.

The elections were undoubtedly fixed. In the pro-Yanukovych east turnouts of over 100% were achieved, an achievement not even managed in Soviet times!

During the first round of the election armed men 'kidnapped' a whole polling station, including the ballot boxes and staff, and kept them for several days.

Eastern Ukraine

Hundreds of thousands of Yuschenko supporters have flooded to Kiev and there are further huge mobilisations throughout western Ukraine. City councils in Lviv and elsewhere have declared that they recognise Yuschenko as Ukrainian President. The Police in Lviv are wearing orange ribbons in solidarity with Yuschenko.

In the eastern Ukraine however, where the vast majority voted for Yanukovych, other demonstrations were being organised. Tens of thousands were on the streets of the centre of the Ukraine's coal mining region, the Donbas, demanding that Yanukovych's victory be recognised.

Thousands of Easterners have been mobilised in buses and trains to come to Kiev to support Yanukovych. By Friday 26 November even the demonstration of Yanukovych supporters outside the railway station was beginning to look as big as that in support of Yuschenko in the city centre.

But some of these demonstrators appeared to have no heart for a fight. The first group of miners to reach Kiev actually joined in the pro-Yuschenko demo, saying that they had been deprived of information in Donetsk - there the TV5 Channel, which is the only pro-Yuschenko programme, has been taken off the air.

Regional leaders in Donetsk, Kharkhov, Odessa, Lugansk and the Crimea have declared they will organise a referendum to form an autonomous region called the South East Ukraine if Yuschenko takes over as President. This would in effect split the Ukraine in two and some of these leaders, particularly in the Crimea, would use this as a means of taking part of the Ukraine into Russia.


At the time of writing the stalemate continues. Behind the scenes negotiations appear to be continuing but over what is unclear.

The Supreme Court has forbidden the publication of the official results until Tuesday, when the complaints of Yuschenko about the vote rigging are due to be heard. The Supreme Rada eventually met on Saturday 27 November and declared it considers the vote invalid.

Yuschenko has said he would accept a re-run of the vote and it appears that the two sides will seek some form of compromise either to share power or to re-run parts of the election.

But in their squabble for power, the two sides have released a genie from the bottle, and they are finding it difficult to get it back in.

The country is now extremely polarised. Unfortunately this is along national lines, between the Ukrainian population in the west and Russian speaking population in the east. The huge Ukrainian working class has found itself without independent representation and left to choose between two pro-market candidates, one of whom is pro-Western and the other pro-Russian.

The Russian elite backs Yanukovych. The US supports Yuschenko and has played a big role in putting together the "Pora" campaign that is at the forefront of the anti-Yanukovyich protests.

The miners and industrial working class are largely located in the Russian-speaking east, where 70% of the country's GNP is generated. Many already hate Yuschenko for what is seen as his attempts to Westernise the Ukraine and for his role as one of the architects of neo-liberal 'reforms' that led to the collapse of whole sections of Ukrainian industry.

Yuschenko has always acted as the conductor of western interests in the Ukraine, both during his period in government as prime minister between 1999-2001 and in the opposition.

Yuschenko also complains loudly about the undemocratic nature of the ruling elite but until recently his Parliamentary fraction included the leadership of the "Social-Nationalist Party of the Ukraine"; the nearest thing there is in the Ukraine to a Nazi Party.

At the same time the huge resources of the state were mobilised behind the current Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych is a representative of that wing of the Ukrainian capitalists which relies on the sale of raw materials and commodities. He took an active part in the battles to sell off state property in the early 1990s and has two prison sentences for violent attacks on his opponents to underline how close he is to the state-mafia gangs that took over the industry after privatisation.

As Yuschenko became a hostage to Western interests, Yanukovych became a hostage to the Russian elite. In the days before the election a big profile visit by Putin to Kiev was aimed at showing just who was boss. Russian capital now controls almost all of Ukrainian industry.

Working class pay

The only force that could prevent this struggle for redistribution of wealth between different imperialist interests is a unified working class, which would struggle for the nationalisation, under democratic workers' control and management, of Ukrainian industry so that the country's wealth could be planned and used for the benefit of working people.

There was no working-class party with a programme capable of offering any viable alternative to vote for. In the first round the two main "left" candidates, Moroz of the so-called Socialist Party and Simonyenko of the misnamed "Communist" party gained 5.8% and 5% of the vote respectively. Moroz long ago took his party to the right and aligned it with western interests. He was feted not only by US Democrats but by Republicans also.

Simonyenko's 'communists' were no better. Rather than fighting for the interests of working people, his party lobbied for the interests of the pro-Russian industrialists.

But the lack of a left party does not mean that there is not a huge potential for genuine left ideas.

Socialists argue that a workers' party should oppose the attempts by the capitalist politicians to play the national card. It should oppose the attempts to draw the country into NATO, the EU and in support of US imperialism's war in Iraq.

It must argue that genuine Ukrainian independence could only be achieved by breaking with imperialism, whether based in Washington, Moscow or Brussels, and with capitalism. Against the Russian capitalists' attempts to form a new Slavic bloc based on Russian imperialist domination, a workers' party would campaign for an equal unity between the working peoples of the region.

It would fight to guarantee the rights of all nationalities in a multinational Ukraine based on the recognition of both Ukrainian and Russian as state languages, with people having the right to converse and communicate in whichever language they choose.

Regions that wish autonomy, such as the Crimea or sections of the West Ukraine, would be allowed self-determination and offered the opportunity to become an equal part of a genuinely democratic socialist federation.

In other words, a genuine workers' party would struggle for an end to the capitalist exploitation of the Ukraine, which has led to the impoverishment of millions, whilst a few have concentrated billions into their own hands.

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In The Socialist 4 December 2004:

Private hands off public services

Pre-budget statement: Workers will pay for economic failure

NHS not safe in Labour's hands

Blair's election strategy threatens democratic rights

No top-up fees

Fighting fund Christmas appeal

International socialist news and analysis

Ukraine: Neither Yanukovych or Yuschenko

Socialist Party councillor elected in Australia

Iraq election crisis

Committee for a Workers' International: Building the forces of socialism worldwide

Which Revolution?

Socialist Party workplace news

UNISON general secretary election: A fighting programme to defend pensions

Save the Jag! Renationalise Jaguar to save jobs

Brighton teaching assistants fight council attacks

DWP needs more experienced staff, not less


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