‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine – an eyewitness account

LAST NOVEMBER/December, huge opposition protests took place in Ukraine
against the official results of the country’s second round presidential
elections, forcing new elections on 26 December.

This ‘Orange Revolution’ was
led by Viktor Yuschenko, the pro-Western presidential candidate, against the
November ‘winner’, Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by the Russian

On 11 January the Electoral Commission announced that Yushchenko
won, with 51.99%, against 44.2% for Yanukovych.

Niall Mulholland, (CWI), visited Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, during the
protests and met socialists, opposition activists and trade unionists, from
the east and west.

"The first protests were huge, with up to half-a-million marching in the
centre of Kiev. People were outraged that the second round elections were
rigged in favour of Yanukovych, who rested on the super-rich individuals that
have enormous power – the ‘oligarchs’ – in the industrialised east of the
country, and had open support from Putin. After a decade of disastrous
capitalism, the Kiev protesters were fighting against attacks on democratic
rights, corruption and poverty.

The biggest demonstrations involved many workers, as well as students and
middle-class people. But workers were not there in an organised way – there
are few independent unions in Ukraine.

Miners and other workers were bussed in by Yanukovych to protest against
pro-Yuschenko demonstrators. Very often when they met, however, both sides
found out that they had more in common with each other than with the different
ruling-class factions trying to manipulate them.


Unfortunately, the leadership of the ‘Orange Revolution’ was dominated by
Yushchenko and his main ally, Tymoschenko, who has worked with far-right,
Ukrainian nationalists and fascists. The half-mile long ‘tent city’, set up in
the heart of Kiev, was controlled by people in paramilitary uniforms.

The main opposition student organisation, ‘PORA’, was created with US
funds, and its leadership is right wing. Yet there are many students genuinely
searching for a radical alternative.

Importantly, many protesters vowed that they would return to the streets if
Yuschenko, a right-wing, pro-market politician, does not dramatically raise
their living standards – which, of course, he will not do.

Both Yuschenko and Yanukovych played the ‘national card’. Yushchenko
visited the predominantly Russian-speaking Crimea, in the far south, last
summer, and openly sided with leaders from the Tartar minority. Yanukovich
whipped up Russian nationalism in the east, where local leaders threatened to
hold referendums on ‘autonomous rule’.

These cynical, reactionary policies threatened to split the country into
two and to provoke a civil war. But it was clear from the comments of
activists from the east, west and Crimea that working people resisted this

A new Yuschenko regime will most likely soon come into conflict with
workers and youth in the industrialised east and will also bitterly disappoint
those in the west, who are desperately looking for EU-style living standards.

This gives the workers’ movement a great opportunity to build a powerful
force, but only if it rejects all ruling elite factions, outside capitalist
powers, and reactionary nationalism, and stands on independent, socialist
policies, guaranteeing full rights to minorities."