The latest constitutional crisis in Ukraine

Ukraine has yet again been plunged into a political crisis as the President attempts to dissolve Parliament. The two camps of capitalist cronies that squared off in the so-called Orange Revolution are back at it for round two. The working class has no interest in supporting either camp, and must build an independent position.

On Monday President Yushchenko dissolved the Ukrainian Rada (the Parliament) and called an early election at the end of May. His opponents, who control the government, have declared that he is acting illegally and are threatening to impeach him. There have been reports of special forces troops arriving in Kiev late at night. This is politics as usual for the Ukrainian elite.

There were some experts who took the "Orange Revolution" seriously because they follow what politicians say and not what they do. But their stupid, gullible illusions were exposed by the public recriminations of Yulia Timoshenko, the so-called "princess" of the orange revolution who managed to become Prime Minister in 2005, and Viktor Yushchenko (see The Timoshenko-Yushchenko honeymoon ends in tears).

The latest crisis is further proof, if proof were needed, that the "Orange Revolution" was always a publicity stunt backed to the hilt by the west in which a coalition of rotten pro-capitalist politicians (grouped round Viktor Yushchenko) had the upper hand against another equally rotten gang of paid hirelings of business groups (grouped round Viktor Yanukovich).

The results of the parliamentary elections of March 2006 weakened Yushchenko, with 14%, underlining the indifference of the population to their hero President, who managed to carry on fighting to be imposed on them from above despite being poisoned. Timoshenko, through her demagogy, was able to strengthen her position, with 22% of the vote. Instead of pursuing ruinous market reform policies she raised pensions and delayed introducing price hikes for utilities simply to fleece people from a stronger position later.

The overall victor in the elections was none other than Viktor Yanukovich, the leader of the Party of Regions which grabbed 32% of the vote. Yushchenko then had to choose from two arch-enemies - one that had wanted to defeat the "Orange" coalition and replace it, the other who wanted to wrestle the leadership of this coalition from him. After months of torturing himself he opted to back Yanukovich, underlining just how little united him with Timoshenko in the first place.

The return of Viktor Yanukovich requires some explanation. In a previous article, Timoshenko and the weakness of the Ukrainian elite, we explained that Yanukovich was becoming an increasingly isolated figure. This was correct. He is not able to inspire or mobilize the masses. On the contrary he is a wily operator who clearly has a talent for buying people onto his team. This explains why his support actually fell, by over 10%, from the Presidential elections at the same time as support for his Presidential opponents fell by even more. Nevertheless because his opponents were even weaker, Yanukovich was able to win the day thanks to the business groups that back him.

This is the essence of Ukrainian politics. The people decide nothing. Everything is decided by which backer can buy up which parliamentary faction and which politicians. Since no individual politician or party has its own independent base of support they all shift their allegiance quickly and irresponsibly between whichever powerbrokers have the upper hand. Timoshenko was voted in as PM unanimously, for example, but this didn't mean she had any lasting support. Yushchenko's faction has seen a string of deputies defect to Yanukovich recently, including Anatolii Kinakh, a former PM himself and the leader of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs that formed part of Yushcenko's "Our Ukraine" coalition. But this doesn't mean that Yanukovich's support is firm either. As Kommersant, the Russian business daily explains (22 March 2007):

"New faces in the 'blue-white' camp (of Yanukovich) arrived just in time. This is because recently the opposition (mainly Timoshenko's party) waged an extremely active campaign to undermine the "anti-crisis" coalition and almost managed to split the Communist party away from it. The communist leaders regularly expressed their sharp disagreement with the actions of the government and even threatened to leave the coalition, adding that snap elections would strengthen their position. The departure of the communists would have deprived Viktor Yanukovich of his majority in the Rada - the coalition of the party of the regions and the socialists would have been left with 217 out of 450 deputies."

Thanks to Kinakh's defection the position of both the communists and Timoshenko's bloc were weakened. Moreover, it means that Yanukovich only needs to get a few more deputies on board and he will have a big enough majority to change the constitution. This was unacceptable for Yushchenko. Thus, although Yushchenko backed Yanukovich to be Prime Minister as opposed to Timoshenko, he is now siding with Timoshenko against Yanukovich.

Ukrainian perspectives

The details of the latest round of back-stabbing and threats have a temporary, personal and secondary character. The underlying social relations in Ukraine haven't really changed at all, not only since the swearing in of Timoshenko's cabinet in February 2005 but also since before the orange revolution even started. Capitalism has failed in Ukraine. The capitalists are absolutely rotten and reactionary. They have not unified themselves according to their common class interests. Instead they carry on thieving and fighting each other. The state is equally rotten, establishing a symbiotic relationship with financial clans. It is the mirror image of the internally divided and socially weak business empires. Only the working class can provide a way out but currently workers face the barrier of trade union leaders who do not want to fight, and the mercenary leaders of political parties who want to fight for the highest bidder.

It is true that Ukrainian foreign policy does have a more western outlook, but this is a trend that began under President Kuchma. Yanukovich was himself the Prime Minister when Ukraine sent troops to Iraq. Nevertheless this shift in policy has been ratcheted up, with more urgent talk of NATO and EU membership. In fact, there are even reports that the Ukrainian military is considering joining the Czech Republic and Poland in participating in US missile defence plans, which would provide cash for their defence sector and bolster their bid to join NATO. The tendency towards closer integration with the US military is not accidental, as the report on Jane's intelligence review website illustrates:

"During their 4 April 2005 meeting in Washington, the two presidents agreed 'to work together on missile defence, including beginning negotiations on a framework to facilitate such co-operation and closer industry-to-industry collaboration'. These few words may lift US-Ukrainian security co-operation to new heights."
"Missile defence co-operation allows for potential collaboration between Ukrainian space launch and missile capabilities and US missile defence requirements. In addition, a mutually beneficial relationship in this area could boost the geopolitical objectives of both sides. With regards to missile defence, the US hopes to acquire useful ballistic missile hardware, technology and design insight. It is especially interested in technologies that are likely to be attractive to emerging ballistic missile states. Washington also hopes that co-operation with Ukraine will tie Kiev to Western norms of export control. For its part, Ukraine is looking to boost a key aerospace industry and to improve its prospects for joining NATO."

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that the elite in Ukraine is not bothered about the future of Ukraine, but only about their new homes and bank accounts in Europe and America. But any plans to work with the Americans on missile defence could provoke an explosion of anger, which explains why Yushchenko tries to be even-handed in discussing missile defence. But who trusts Yushchenko, or Yanukovich? All of the politicians and businessmen are prepared to sacrifice Ukraine at the altar of their individual interests. In the defence sector America is the highest bidder, while Russia is a rival in winning defence contracts. Bearing in mind that the Americans had secret negotiations with the Czech government for over 4 years before they became public, there are no guarantees that the Americans aren't doing exactly the same with the Ukrainian government.

However, this is not to say that every decision is being made in favour of US imperialism at the expense of Russian imperialism. On the contrary, just as the real reason for the clash between Yushchenko and Timoshenko in 2005 was Timoshenko's opposition to Russian business expanding in Ukraine, so this time round Timoshenko has been moving to defeat Yanukovich in order to close the door to Russian business that he has left open.

This was actually explicitly admitted by Alexander Moroz, the head of the socialists and speaker in the parliament, whose (far from new) revelations reflect his anxiety that if new elections are called he will lose his position. It is no secret that Yanukovich's victory literally belonged to the Ukrainian oligarchs who put him in power, such as Rinat Akhmetov (the owner of System Capital Management - SCM), Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of Leonid Kuchma and head of "Interpipe" and the "Urksib" group. Their interests are tied to Russian capital and currently being backed by the Fund of State Property, which explains the defeat of the Privat business group that backs Timoshenko in the sale of Luganskteplovoz to a Russian company. But the coming sales include much juicier assets, such as Urktelekom and a host of key strategic electricity generating companies. As soon as Yushchenko's interests coincided with the business interests that back Timoshenko he had little alternative but to dissolve the Parliament.

Clearly the working class has no interest in supporting one gang of crooks as opposed to another. What is necessary is an independent class policy and for the Communist Party to break with its bourgeois backers and set to building the communist movement at a rank and file level. It is precisely such a movement of the working class on the trade union front that we can expect in the coming period. The counter-reforms in the government sector, the ongoing privatizations, as well as the further accumulation of anger against all the hypocrisy and childishness on the part of the bourgeois leaders are all preparing the way for an explosion.

The humiliating foreign policy that the government is imposing on the people, throwing away the sovereignty of the country in their relations with Moscow and the West, has the potential to add fuel to the flames. In fact, every aspect of social life in Ukraine is pregnant with the rottenness of capitalism and the need for a change of course.

So far what is holding back the movement of the working class is its lack of organization and consciousness. There is a feeling of inertia and weakness. Workers individually are reluctant to be the first to take up the fight since individually they don't have a chance of winning.

But this will change. The provocative attacks of the government will force workers to fight back. Even workers who remember with bitterness the collapse of the USSR and are disillusioned in the potential of the working class to lead society will agree that the capitalists are so rotten that the workers really can do a better job than them. And when the floodgates burst the inherent instability resulting from a weak capitalist class and the crisis in the state will take on a new dimension.


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