Ukraine: No time for gloating

We publish this article by Borotba leader Sergei Kirichuk which deals with the attacks against the Communist Party of Ukraine and calls for broad solidarity with all those suffering repression and right wing attacks.

Red flags with hammers and sickles will be burnt and torn down, regardless of whether they display symbols of the Communist Party or any other left group.

The fact that Petr Simonenko [leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine] has, until recently, refused to withdraw from Ukraine’s presidential elections has greatly perplexed many rank-and-file activists and sympathisers of the Communist Party of Ukraine. For since the very first days of the February coup in Kiev the right-wing CPU has suffered open and brutal persecution by far-right thugs, who enjoy open patronage of the new regime.

Neo-Nazis have occupied and ransacked party offices of the Communist Party in Kiev, and the building of the Central Committee of the CPU was occupied and turned into headquarters of one of the most odious fascist groups in the country. The so-called “warriors of light and good” mocked communist symbols in front of journalists, demonstratively smashed busts of Lenin on the pavement, and burned books and red flags which were snatched from the office. Party banners of the CPU were triumphantly delivered to Maidan Square, where the right-wing thugs have offered passers-by to wipe their shoes on them. The neo-Nazis got hold of the personal data of CPU activists, captured at the CC office, and published it on social networks calling for violence and reprisals against these people, amongst who were pregnant women and mothers of new-born children.

Party offices of the CPU in Rovno, Lutsk and other towns of west Ukraine have suffered the same fate; several Communist Youth members there were kidnapped and were lucky to have survived. In the cities of central Ukraine right-wingers have smashed windows of the CPU offices, and in Kiev, on Gogolevskaya street, an attempt by party supporters to hold an agitational demonstration immediately resulted in them being beaten by “Right Sector” militants who arrived from Maidan Square. When, under pressure from the European Parliament, the neo-Nazis were carefully asked to leave CPU CC premises, they simply burned the building down – much like the countryside home of a family member of Petr Simonenko, which was burned down earlier.

Communist Party MPs in the Rada, who have long been used to a comfortable, measured and quiet life of compromise and collaboration, got their fair share, too. As they approached the Parliament building, they were met with whistles, insults, and bottles and stones thrown at them. Something similar was going on in Parliament itself where, in the lobbies, they were attacked by both “Svoboda” and “Batkivshchyna” MPs as well as “European” journalists. They were often denied the right to speak, and the leaders of the right-wing regime openly stated that a ban of the Communist Party and liquidation of its parliamentary group are tasks of the immediate future. Indeed, the Public Prosecution Service, controlled by “Svoboda”, and the SBU [secret police], headed by a relative of Yarosh [leader of the “Right Sector”], have started working on a legislative ban of the CPU soon thereafter, openly calling for a trial of the “criminal carriers of communist ideology”.

Shockingly, despite this atmosphere of brutal persecution, Petr Simonenko had been firmly refusing to withdraw from the elections, even though this was openly demanded by many of the Party’s activists, who reasonably believed that their leader is thus, for some reason, helping legitimise the May “elections on blood”. When Parliament violently expelled the CPU MPs from the session hall and denied them the right to take part in a closed session of the Rada, several MPs rebelled and called on their colleagues to resign and lay down their mandates and to abstain from participating in the anti-democratic farce that is known as “Ukrainian parliamentarism” these days. However, Simonenko withdrew from the elections only after he was nearly lynched after a live broadcast in Kiev.

With all this in mind, the position of the CPU leadership has caused indignation in the South-East too, where the Party’s main electoral base is traditionally concentrated. They were accused of not being active enough in protesting against the Kiev regime, criticised for cowardly opportunism, and often questioned – why is the party leadership in Parliament, and not where those who voted for them two years ago are waging their struggle? Internal criticism has also gained momentum. Many activists are questioning who ought to be held responsible for what has happened to the Party and to the country, and why the leaders, under whose oversight the CPU has descended from being the most popular and mass party in Ukraine to its current humiliating state, are not being held to account for this and are still remaining in charge unchallenged?

To this just criticism on behalf of the rank-and-file CPU activists much can be added, remembering how the leaders of the Party had completely abandoned its declared ideology and lost all connection with the working class whose interests they were supposed to express; how they cleared the Party of honest, committed, active people who asked “unacceptable” questions, while the leaders themselves have grown rich with property, capital, and government positions, and exchanged these petty gains for the former trust and confidence of the masses.

However, the situation in which the country and the persecuted Ukrainian leftists find themselves today, does not in any way allow us to express petty rejoicing at the misfortunes of the cornered Communist Party. Any trial against the CPU organised by the Nazis and neo-liberals is bound to be a trial against the whole left ideology, which they want to ban and finally push out of Ukraine’s political spectrum altogether. Red flags with hammers and sickles will be burnt and torn down, regardless of whether they display symbols of the Communist Party or any other left group. Offices of other left groups are being ransacked, they too are being searched, and our activists are being beaten up on the streets along with CPU members. Vandalised monuments of left figures – destroyed statues of Marx and Lenin, of the Revolution’s martyrs and fighters against fascism, or the grave of the workers of the “Arsenal” factory who died in battles, defaced by right-wing thugs – these are not Simonenko’s property, but common heritage and common pain of all left-wingers.

It would be short-sighted to not realise that repression aimed at the CPU will have an impact on all left activists, including those who consistently criticised Simonenko and his Party’s non-communist policies. Destruction of the Communist Party will de jure drive the entire left movement underground, where de facto it is already. It will become a precedent for an increased persecution of all those who share anti-fascist and socialist views, and you will not be able to excuse yourself before the court and the pogromists that you have always consistently criticised CPU’s politics.

It is obvious that the country has descended into a regime of a bloody dictatorship of right-wing demagogues, who, for the first time in a hundred years, initiated a civil war against their own people. And now, we need broad solidarity with all those who suffer right-wing repressions – including honest activists of the Communist Party.

So that the year 2014 does not become the new 1933 for us.

Translated for In Defence of Marxism by Timur Dautov