Dirty lies about the Swedish Left Party's support of “pro-Russian rebels” in Ukraine

In Sweden a defamatory campaign has been launched in the media about the Left Party and its position in relation to the breakaway republics in Eastern Ukraine. We publish here an article by the Swedish Marxists of Avanti, which answers all these slanders. We believe this article is of interest to an international audience.

The Swedish Left Party has recently been accused of cooperating with and donating money to pro-Russian separatists. This is but the latest step in a campaign of lies about the situation in Ukraine that has been going on daily in the Swedish media. Russia has been painted as the perpetrator, while the government in Kiev is portrayed as the innocent victim, and the EU and US as the good-hearted defenders of the country. The Left Party should stand firm in its defence of the left in Ukraine, and answer this dirty propaganda, but is unfortunately vacillating.

On March 11 it was "exposed" in the paper Aftonbladet that the Swedish Left Party had been cooperating with the Ukrainian left-wing organisation Borotba, and had given them aid through their state-funded development agency.1 In the article Borotba is presented as "pro-Russian separatists", and Jakob Hedenskog from the Swedish Defence Research Agency stated that they are "a pawn in Putin's game for power". He added that "as an active part of the anti-Maidan, they [in practice end up] on the same side as the pro-Russian separatists in Donbass". They also refer to Borotba’s cooperation with the Left Front in Russia, which Aftonbladet says is "controlled by the Kremlin". A closer examination shows that this article is nothing but a mishmash of lies and propaganda.

Although the IMT does not necessarily agree with Borotba or the Left Front in all questions of general analysis or strategy, it is a fundamental duty to defend them against these dirty attacks. These comrades are struggling under difficult circumstances – and despite any differences of opinion there may be, we can and must not bow down to propaganda from the right wing.

Instead of defending Borotba, the Left Party has highlighted that they've stopped all cooperation with Borotba, and that they support the sanctions against Russia. We can only hope that the vacillation on this question is due to a lack of knowledge about the real situation – something we hope this article can help the party to overcome. The Left Party should stand firm and go on a counter-offensive against the propaganda of our enemies.

Who is attacking the left-wing and why?

The claims that Borotba and the Left Front are "pro-Russian separatists" or "agents of Putin" are completely laughable, since we are talking about organisations that have always been consistent in their opposition to Putin. But we have to look at who is making these claims and why? Because of their critical stance against the new government in Ukraine and the Maidan movement, Borotba has attracted the hate of many who were supporting this movement, and on this question some anarchists have ended up in the company of fascists. In this world of black and white, everyone who does not uncritically support the Maidan movement and the new government in Ukraine is automatically seen as being pro-Putin.

The only "proof" presented in the Aftonbladet article, is a "forged accountant's report" that The Left International Forum, VIF, supposedly has tried to hide. The only proof of this, in turn, is that a person who at the time was an accountant is said to have "reacted to the arrangement". Aftonbladet writes: "After pressure from the accountant, 120,000 kronor was paid back to the VIF. - The Swedes were tricked, says Potorskaja." One little detail: Nina Potorskaja, the internal accountant that is being referred to here, never agreed to be interviewed by Aftonbladet.

The Swedish left-wing paper Internationalen has investigated this question, and this deserves to be quoted at length:

"'Recently a man who calls himself a journalist wrote a 'revealing' article about the old controversy regarding how Kiritjuk, Sjapinov and Mantjuk, activists in the organisation who later were to become Borotba, got money from a Swedish fund', writes Nina Potorskaja on her public Facebook page (March 16), and continues:

"The 'journalist' contacted me and started asking strange questions. Clearly he tried to put my words in a finished 'outline' which to me was incomprehensible. I don't know who else he has talked to before me, but I refused to agree to give any comments or be a 'witness' in his article, regarding an unclear international scandal that is five years old. But what do I see despite this? An article shows up where my name is given as a source and where it looks like I've commented."

Internationalen continues:

"Furthermore, Nina Potorskaja claims that when she protested against the publication of this allegedly forged interview that the freelance journalist had written in the Aftonbladet, he threatened to 'expose' her as a 'Kremlin-agent', referring to the fact that she recently had visited the Donetsk republic in eastern Ukraine as a journalist. According to our sources, Nina Potorskaja has now written a letter of protest to several managers at the Aftonbladet after the publication of the article."2

Nina Potorskaja can hardly be said to be pro-Russian, separatist or anything to that effect. She is a member of the Left Opposition – a group that has supported the Maidan movement. We will look at the rest of the unsubstantiated claims in the article, but already here we can see that the only statement in the entire article that is based on anything that comes even remotely close to some kind of proof is a pure fabrication.

The journalist being named is Egor Putilov, who co-authored the Aftonbladet article. It seems to be he that has provided the "information". Also in the Swedish anarcho-syndicalist paper Arbetaren an article by Mr. Putilov was published, where he points to leaders of the Left Front as being controlled by Putin.3 Among others, he names Alexey Sakhnin, who is living in exile in Sweden and has hardly done anything else since he came to Sweden than talk about Putin's repression against the left in Russia.4 A very peculiar kind of agent indeed, but this does not at all trouble Putilov. In an examination of this Arbetaren article carried out by Internationalen, once again they found serious deficiencies, and write:

"This is not the first time that Egor Putilov's article against Sakhnin and the Left Front is being published. It has already been published in Russian two times (18/9 and 31/10). There it quickly became a scandal because of many obvious errors. Several people that had been interviewed came forward and explained that Putilov had forged their quotes. One of the interviewed, the Left Front’s Ilja Ponomarjov, has published her entire mail conversation with Egor Putilov as proof that he is lying."5

That the Aftonbladet has not published an apology and withdrawn their article in full is nothing other than a scandal. Even more surprising and scandalous is that the supposedly left-wing paper Arbetaren offers their pages for this irresponsible and systematic spreading of rumours about the left.

True and false on Ukraine

Tanks surrounded. Photo: Olaf KoensTanks surrounded. Photo: Olaf KoensAs Marxists we are irreconcilably opposed to capitalism in Russia and its defenders, especially the gangster Putin. But that does not mean that we are ready to uncritically accept any and all claims from the ruling class in Sweden and their media or political representatives – because we are just as irreconcilably opposed to them and their rotten capitalism. They are two-faced, and their propaganda is serving their own purposes.

The media reports about Ukraine have entirely been trying to make it look like a conflict between western "democrats" and "pro-Russian separatists" backed by Putin. But in reality it is the Ukrainian government itself that has started a war against its own population, with the support of the US and the EU. After the fall of Yanukovich, the new government, which included far right and even fascist elements, immediately made a deal with the IMF to get emergency loans and avoid a sovereign default. The terms of the deal were harsh austerity: removal of subsidies on the price of gas used for heating, mass sacking of state employees, frozen wages and pensions, a raised age of retirement to 65 years, among other things.

The government's increased cooperation with fascists, their planned austerity, and their provocations and threats against the Russian speaking population, led to a mass movement in eastern Ukraine. For several weeks there were demonstrations against the government – in Charkov, Odessa, Luhansk, Donetsk and in many other places. Following the methods employed by the Maidan movement, there were also take-overs of government buildings which eventually led to mass defections from sections of the police and the security services to the rebelling population.

There were also armed take-overs of government buildings and mass defections from sections of the police and the security services to the rebelling population.

Pro-Russian elements, including probably even Russian agents, participated in this movement and tried to use it for their own purposes. But in the beginning, the dominating elements were ordinary workers and poor who wanted to fight the government attacks. This is shown for example by the protests of the mineworkers.6 There were also those who were not directly pro-Russian, but who had illusions that Russia would come to their help. The referendums and then the announcement of the establishment of the “peoples’ republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk was based on the mistaken illusion that Russia would quickly give them recognition.

Kiev answered to this by launching a so-called "anti-terrorist operation" (ATO). But three consecutive waves of the ATO had problems with troops that refused to shoot against unarmed civilians, who encircled them in Kramatorsk, Slovjansk, and other places. Some even defected and joined the side of the opposition. Mutinies and protests were also being spread to other parts of Ukraine where relatives of conscripts and reserve soldiers in some cases physically stopped the troops from being sent to the front.

The government therefore re-instated the national guard and various battalions under the Ministry of the Interior consisting of "patriotic volunteers" from fascist, nationalist and neo-Nazi organisations (Patriots of Ukraine, The Brotherhood, Svoboda, Maidan self-defence, etc.), where many were part of The Right Sector. These Nazis – unscrupulous mad dogs of imperialism – had no second thoughts about carrying out attacks and massacres against the population in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The more the government has based itself on fascists, the more freedoms they have had to grant them, and the further to the right the government has gone. On 2 May 2014, the massacre in Odessa was carried out, where at least 48 people were killed when fascist thugs set the trade union building on fire. We have seen fascist attacks against left-wing organisations all over Ukraine, attacks against the offices of the Communist Party in Kiev and in other cities, attempts to outlaw the Communist Party and discussions about outlawing "communist ideology". There have been raids against the offices of Borotba in many cities that have forced the organisation to go underground, together with a wave of arrests, harsh limitations being placed on social media, and a general assault on democratic rights.

Is Borotba separatist?

Borotba ("The Struggle") is the organisation that the Left Party has supported, and that has now been presented as being a "pawn in Putin's game for power", and "on the same side" as "pro-Russian separatists". But the organisation, founded in May 2011, has on the contrary consistently criticized Putin, Russia and the former government in Ukraine that was close to Russia.7 At the same time they have been critical of the Euro-Maidan movement.

The Euro-Maidan did reflect a genuine discontent with the catastrophic economic situation brought about by the restoration of capitalism, the present crisis of capitalism and the widespread corruption, which explains why no one wanted to defend the Yanukovich regime. For a period the movement also had a mass character.

But in its class composition, political aims and dominating political forces and leadership, the movement was reactionary. Its aim was that Ukraine should become a part of the EU. The opposition bourgeoisie liberal parties dominated the mobilisations, and the shock troops were being provided by the extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi forces. The official ‘Commander of Maidan’ was the notorious Ukrainian far-right MP Andriy Parubiy – the founder of the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly. Already from the beginning, the left-wing was being thrown out and physically stopped from participating in the movement by fascist gangs.

After the fall of Yanukovich, the new government was voted in by a parliament (Rada) that was surrounded and guarded by paramilitary neo-Nazi and fascist bandits. The government was dominated by bourgeoisie pro-western parties, but there were also ministers from the right-wing extremist party Svoboda (who also were given the position of state attorney). They even invited members from the neo-Nazi Right Sector to become part of the government, but the latter refused. Because of their opposition to the government, Borotba members have been forced to go underground or flee into exile. There was even an attempt by fascists to kidnap one of their members in broad daylight.8

But because of their stance against Russian nationalism and the fact that they are socialist, they have also been opposed by the some of the forces playing a role in the movement in Eastern Ukraine. In December 2014, four leading members of Borotba were arrested by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk republic. They were accused of being "Ukrainian agents" and of preparing an anti-Putin revolution in Russia. They were fortunately released after two weeks in captivity, but have been formally forbidden from re-entering the DNR.

One of the arrested was Viktor Shapinov, who is now being pointed to as an "agent of Putin" in the article in Aftonbladet, because he previously worked as a political consultant for Putin's party United Russia. This is another scandalous lie being spread without any evidence whatsoever. The fact that he was arrested is proof that he is clearly not an “agent of Putin”.9

It is also claimed that members of Borotba have fought together with separatists. It is correct that some former members participated in the armed units, one of whom was recently killed in combat. However, they left the organisation when they decided to join the armed struggle. But even if it was true that individual current members of Borotba had participated in armed struggle, this would obviously not automatically make it correct to say that Borotba is a pro-Russian organisation. The resistance has never mainly been about any pro-Russian separatism, as it is commonly claimed. The people of Donbass had to take up arms and defend themselves against the violence from the fascists and Kiev, just as much as the Kurds in Northern Syria had to take up arms and defend themselves against the violence of ISIS.

Aftonbladet also writes that Borotba representatives participated in a conference in Moscow on 11 February, the purpose of which was to create the "People’s Republic of Charkiv" and to "liberate Charkiv from the Kiev junta as soon as possible". But this was a conference for political refugees. It took the stance that the Charkiv region, and the whole of Ukraine, should be freed from the pro-Nazi government, and for the establishment of "people's power" in Charkiv and the whole of Ukraine. This is pointed out as a first step towards liberating Kiev and the rest of Ukraine. It is not separatism that is being put forward, or any wish to become a part of Russia, but resistance against fascism.

Borotba is a socialist organisation and that is why they are being attacked in the media. But to simply accuse them of being socialists does not work for Aftonbladet, and that is why they are grasping at straws to be able to prove that they are pro-Russian.

The Left Front

One of their most important "proofs" against Borotba is their collaboration with the Left Front. The Left Front has, however, also been consistently taking a stance against Putin and the meddling of Russia in Ukraine, including the annexation of the Crimea. Ilja Ponomarjov from the Left Front was, for instance, the only member of the Russian duma (the parliament) that voted against the annexation of Crimea.

As a matter of fact, the Left Front became a big organisation precisely through their participation in the protests against Putin, where they played a prominent role. In connection to this, several of their members were arrested while others were forced to emigrate. Their most well-known leader Sergej Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzjajev, are presently imprisoned and serving the harshest sentences that any opposition politician has received in Russia after the protest movement in 2011-2012, accused by Putin of being "Georgian agents".10

When the author of this article contacts Alexey Sakhnin, member of the Left Front and political refugee in Sweden, he explains that the people Aftonbladet claims are members of the Left Front and "Putin agents", either never have had anything to do with the organisation, or are no longer members.

  • Boris Kagarlitskij is a known Russian socialist, who was a member of the Left Front up until 2006 when he was expelled. The reason was not that he was pro-Putin, but that he and others in the Left Front had different opinions about what was most important in the struggle against the oligarchy.
  • Darja Mitina was expelled from the Left Front in 2014, because of her uncritical stance tyowards the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
  • Konstantin Kostin, who was an advisor of Putin, has never had anything to do with the Left Front. If anything, he sees them as an enemy, just as the Left Front sees him as an enemy.

Recently, a big newspaper in Russia wrote that left-wing activists are planning a coup against the government, and mentioned the Left Front as being involved.11 They have previously been named as the main threat against the government because they are "preparing a revolution". This shows that Putin sees them as an enemy and not as an ally. At the same time, they have also criticized the new right-wing government in Kiev, and were against the Maidan movement. Again, some who were in favour of the Euromaidan try to label them as pro-Putin, because to them anyone who is against Maidan must also be pro-Russian.

"Forged report"

The Left Party is also being accused that their state-funded development agency, The Left International Forum (VIF), is said to have made irregular transfers of money to Borotba. The picture that they paint is that the Left Party has accidentally supported pro-Russian separatists, and then tried to cover it up. In reality, the cooperation between the Left Party and Borotba is well known, and the Left Party has never tried to hide that or their funding of them.

The cooperation was first started with the “Organisation of Marxists”, which in 2011 split into two groups. One section founded Borotba and the other the Left Opposition, the latter going on to support the Maidan movement. The Left Party then continued cooperating with Borotba up until 2012, when it was discontinued. Even if it were true that Borotba is presently a separatist organisation, the headline "The Left Party supports pro-Russian separatists" would still have been a complete lie. The cooperation and the payments stopped one year before the Maidan movement had even started.

The Left Party reported its cooperation with Borotba among other places in the VIF report "Report from visit to Borotba, the socialist party of Ukraine, 5-7 April 2013", where it is explained that the money has been used, among other things, to pay rent for a party office in Kiev: "The active members describe the office as invaluable in the work of the party. It is a hub and offers both office space but also a bigger meeting room."12

The Aftonbladet also writes that payments have been made to a private bank account, which they claim "according to information" belongs to a woman who was the girlfriend of a leader of Borotba. This is presented as something irregular, but the payments were approved by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and were made before it was forbidden to make payments to personal accounts. The reason that they were not being made to an account belonging to the organisation, was that neither the Organisation of Marxists nor Borotba were ever officially registered as a party or organisation, and therefore did not have such an account.

The account belonged to a secretary of Borotba and the money was transferred to her because she had a foreign currency account. Dmytriy Kovalevich, who is a member of Borotba, has explained to us via email that in some media she is described as the girlfriend of the Borotba leader Viktor Shapinov, and in others as the girlfriend of Sergei Kirichuk, but that she really is neither. She was simply a secretary of the organisation. It is obvious that they have used the label "girlfriend" to make it look like some kind of scandal involving corrupt leaders.

The Left Party writes on its website that:

"Regarding information about irregularities with accountants’ reports, the board of VIF is concerned with finding any such information, but has not seen anything which shows that something like that has happened. External accountants have reviewed the projects of VIF and have not found any irregularities."13

The Left Party has never tried to hide its cooperation with Borotba. It is clear that these claims mainly serve to put pressure on the Left Party to give support to the Kiev friendly policies of the Swedish government, and cancel all cooperation with the left-wing in Ukraine and Russia that is critical of the Euromaidan.

Propaganda about Russia

We read and hear in the media on a daily basis how Russia gives military support to separatists in Ukraine – and that the EU has to stop them. Hardly anywhere is there any mention about the fascists in Ukraine and the attacks carried out by the government against the people. All the bourgeois parties, together with the media have, started musing about the threat from Russia and the need for Sweden to join NATO. The campaign has been intense and sometimes has bordered on the paranoid, especially after the PR stunt carried out by the military this autumn with claims about a Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago.

The Russians, it is claimed, are coming. Not just the Ukraine, but all of Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and – if one is to believe the Swedish military – even Sweden is threatened by a Russian invasion. They talk about a Russian aggression that is supposed to be the reason for the chaotic situation in Ukraine. If the nice western powers do not stop them, we will soon have Russian Special Forces climbing up out of the sea straight into Stockholm.

This account is fully supported by the Social Democratic Löfven government, which has now stated that they will lend 859 million kronor [about 66.5 million pounds sterling or 92 million euros] to the Ukraine government, although they have rejected any plans to join NATO so far. The Social Democratic foreign minister Margot Wallström praised her predecessor Carl Bildt for his engagement in Ukraine and struggle against Russia, during a recent visit to Ukraine. This is the same Carl Bildt who denied the prominent role of the fascists in the Maidan movement, and who called the right-wing extremist party Svoboda "European democrats working for values which are ours".14

The involvement of Russia in Ukraine is no doubt bigger than they themselves admit, but it is at the same time much smaller than what western media and politicians are claiming. Russia is a regional imperialist power, and its actions in Ukraine are decided, just as with any other imperialist power, on the basis of their ambitions to dominate and control markets and regions. Its attempt to portray itself as defender of the Russian speaking population of Ukraine and a leading force of the anti-fascist struggle is only a fig-leaf for this purpose.

If they really wanted to save the population from the onslaught of the Nazis, they would have annexed the people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk when they were first announced, and sent in their military to crush the government in Kiev and the armed fascist militias. But Russia has enough problems of its own, without having to take any responsibility for Ukraine’s economy, which is in a state of crisis. What they want is neighbouring countries to remain within their sphere of influence. Putin does not want to provoke too big of a conflict with the EU either, because they are dependent on trade with it. The sanctions that have been imposed have already hit the country hard.

In the anarcho-syndicalist paper Arbetaren, an article was recently published in the opinion pages where it was claimed that parts of the left-wing in Sweden are pro-Russian or even controlled by Putin. In a follow-up to this article, in response to the criticism against their first article, they do not mince matters. They write that one must support the government of Ukraine, because it is "not as bad" as the regime in Russia and that because it is Russia that is attacking Ukraine and that the left has to stand up against the imperialist aggression of Russia. They write that the left has to be "against the Russian aggression and not against the Ukraine. How do we stand in relation to the current powers that be in Ukraine? They do not have our whole-hearted support. Just as we do not whole-heartedly support the powers that be in Sweden or USA. But we prefer them to the powers that be in Russia, Belarus, or Kazakstan, and definitely to Yanukovich."15

How can it be considered a left-wing position to support a government which bases itself on fascists that they use to attack its own people? And who is carrying out the same kind of austerity policies, ordered by the IMF, as in Greece? Or to support the US regime, that has been at least as involved, although not militarily, as Russia has been in Ukraine? To point to the USA as a country whose powers that be do not "wholeheartedly support" (maybe they support them only half-heartedly?), that has a world record in organising and supporting coup attempts, dictatorships and intervening militarily in countries to control markets and make sure the regimes are puppet allies subordinated to the USA, is a joke in very bad taste indeed. Unfortunately no one is laughing in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other country that the US has attempted to or succeeded in destroying.

As Marxists we are, just like the Left Front and Borotba, against both Russian and US involvement in Ukraine. The fact is that the US and Russia, and also the EU, have been involved in a wrestling match over who is to control and dominate Ukraine, as well as other countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.

The US is the imperialist power that accounts for the main part of the increased aggression. Through NATO they have dragged country after country, which once were a part of Russia’s sphere of influence under the Soviet Union, into their own sphere of influence. They have long tried to increase their influence over Ukraine and played an important role in deciding the outcome of Euromaidan, in much the same way that they contributed to the so-called "Orange Revolution" of 2004. John McCain was giving speeches at mass meetings in Kiev, and the US vice-foreign minister admitted to having spent five billion dollars since Ukraine became independent to get their policies adopted in the country.

The US is the dominating great imperialist power on a world scale, and it can therefore dominate regions a long way from its national borders. Its recent relative weakening, however, has made it possible for regional imperialist powers like Russia to increase their influence at the expense of the US. In this imperialist game, we do not support either side. Neither do we support their direct allies, the openly pro-Russian nationalists, nor the Ukrainian western-friendly and Nazi-based government.

The article continues with stating that, "It is obvious that the Donbass region would never have picked a fight with the rest of the Ukraine if the Kremlin was not behind the play." We beg to differ. We think it is natural that there should be class struggle against austerity and fascist attacks, just as there have been demonstrations against fascist attacks here in Sweden or general strikes against austerity in Greece or Spain. We would have thought this is not even necessarily a Marxist point of view, but a very basic left-wing position: that oppression breeds resistance.

They also write that criticism of the Kiev government is something that would only interest "the western left-wing" with its "luxury problems". This is a scandalous claim to make if we consider all those who have been murdered, kidnapped and maimed by Nazis. Or those who, in the hope of survival, jumped out of the burning trade union building in Odessa, where many were then beaten to death by the same Nazis that had started the fire.

There has been a frenzied campaign against those who oppose the picture being offered by the media. It has gone so far that when a group in Sweden critical of the Euromaidan wanted to put on an exhibition with photographs from this trade union building in Odessa, where Nazis chased demonstrators into a trade union building and set it on fire while others where shooting with pistols against its windows, they found that very few were willing to allow them hold the exhibition. In Helsingborg, the conservative municipal councillor Peter Danielsson decided to refuse a request from the Workers' Educational Association (a big organisation traditionally connected to the Social Democracy in Sweden), who had invited the exhibition to be displayed in the public city library, and this after a man connected to the racist Sweden Democratic magazine Samtiden had contacted him and accused the speaker of being a terrorist and a Russian agent.16

"There are no fascists in Ukraine"

Those who are attacking the left in Ukraine and Russia for being pro-Russian, tend to ignore or even deny the role of fascists in Ukraine, in order to justify their support of the Euromaidan.

Swedish fascist with a Ukrainian volunteer batallion, making an arrest. Photo: LivaSwedish fascist with a Ukrainian volunteer batallion, making an arrest. Photo: liva.com.uaIn the previously named article in Arbetaren, they attempted to write down the strength of the fascists in Ukraine.17 They write that Donbass associations have started popping up in Sweden, who "are arguing for separatist organisations who are not acknowledged anywhere, [for] the so-called people's republics in Donetsk and Luhansk, whose leaders are barred from the civilized world, and in Stockholm and Malmö they are spreading made-up lies about Ukrainian fascism and anti-fascist 'rebels' in public meetings where the smell of Russian money is so strong that one has to hold one's nose." (our emphasis)

Regarding the Right Sector they write that they got "a meagre two percent in the Ukrainian elections in 2014." Others have pointed to the fact that the right-wing extremist Svoboda also got bad results. This ignores the fact that the established parties have moved further to the right. It also ignores the fact that the decline of Svoboda was largely replaced by the successes of the Radical Party, who now have 22 members of parliament, and many openly Nazi members. They made an alliance with parts of the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly, from where many members where elected on the lists of the Radical Party in Kiev. Many members of the Aidar battalion, which has been accused by Amnesty International of war crimes such as kidnappings, extortions and possible executions, are also on the lists of the Radical Party.18

Furthermore, other Nazis could get in by running independent candidatures in single-candidate constituencies, like the Right Sector's two foremost members Dmytro Yarosh and Borislav Bereza. In other cases Nazis were on the lists of established parties. On the lists of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, the party of the president, was, among others, Andriy Denisenko, who is a leading member of the Right Sector.19 And on the lists of the Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, People's Front, was Tetyana Chornovil, former member of the violent fascist organisation UNA-UNSO and Ihor Lapin from the mentioned Aidar battalion.

Nazis were placed in important positions. The notorious Nazi Mosiychuk from the Radical Party has for example been chosen as the chairman of a parliamentary committee responsible for upholding law and order. But the fascists’ strength does not lie in their popularity with the people or a strong position in parliament, and they definitely are not in a position to take control of the state. Their strength is outside parliament and in the fact that the government of Ukraine is dependent on them in the war against eastern Ukraine.20 They therefore get support from the state and the ruling class, who give them a leading role in the war, while the state does not maintain any direct control over them and therefore in part fear them. These “volunteer” battalions, composed of thousands of armed men, mean the legalisation and incorporation into the state apparatus of gangs of fascist thugs who are acting with impunity and taking the law into their own hands.

It is highly ironic, or rather scandalous, that there are Swedish left-wing activists who shut their eyes to the big Nazi presence in the Ukraine, when a number of Swedish Nazis are participating in the battles. Even though the media generally are quiet about this, there have been several reports about Swedish Nazis who have travelled to Ukraine. The evening paper Expressen has interviewed many of them, among them Mikael Skillt who has a background in the Nazi organisations Swedish Resistance Movement and the Party of the Swedes.21

The Swedish Security Service has admitted that close to 30 people from the Swedish extreme right-wing travelled to Ukraine to participate in the uprising on the Maidan square or directly in the armed conflict against "Russia" – i.e. the people's republics and the civilian population in the east. A spokesperson for the government, Mona Sahlin, has also admitted this. It is absolutely clear that Nazis are playing a very prominent role in the Ukraine.

Answer the lies!

The Left Party should go on a counter-offensive. For a start, this should be done by organising a campaign of meetings all over Sweden, where eye-witnesses from the left in Ukraine are invited, and a socialist answer is given. Of course, they should attack the Russian government and refute the laughable accusations of being in bed with Putin, but even more so they should attack the government in Kiev, expose the Swedish Nazis who have gone to Ukraine and stand up for and defend the left who are being attacked by both the Nazis and the separatists, as well as the bourgeois media – and even parts of the autonomous "left". The first duty of socialist and Left activists in Sweden is to oppose and attack the imperialist ambitions of our “own” ruling class.

Instead, Jonas Sjöstedt, leader of the Left Party, wrote on his blog that the EU’s sanctions against Russia are necessary "as long as the aggression does not stop" and that "we're happy to see Putin's oil magnates, arms dealers and bankers get as harsh sanctions as possible". But what about the capitalists of Ukraine? Or the capitalists in Germany, USA or Sweden for that matter? Do they have "good" interests as opposed to the Russians? To support the sanctions is a big mistake. The Left Party should not stand on the side of the western powers. On the contrary, they should expose the imperialist interests on both sides, and offer support to the trade unions and the left in Ukraine which are being decimated.

There is no real threat from Russia against the Swedish people. But there is a threat against the Russian left-wing activists who are living in exile. If Sakhnin, for example, were a Putin agent sent here to spread Russian propaganda, it would put a question mark on his entire asylum seeking process and threaten his possibility of staying in Sweden.

At the same time our comrades are being murdered or persecuted in Ukraine, simply because they are struggling against right-wing policies and fascism. That is why it is our revolutionary internationalist duty to counter the lies that are being spread about left-wing activists in Ukraine and Russia. The biggest threat against people in Sweden is not Putin, but the Swedish Nazis who are traveling to Ukraine and who will be back with great combat experience and heightened war morale.

We have already seen what that has led to with the recent increase in fascist attacks during the last year in Sweden. Andreas Carlsson was one of the leading figures in the Party of the Swedes, and is wanted for attempted murder after the knife assault in Malmö that attracted much attention last 8 March, and which was followed by a 10,000 strong demonstration the following week after. Carlsson was one of the first Swedes who left for Ukraine where he participated in the demonstrations.

But according to the head of the Swedish Security Service, Anders Thornberg, these Swedish Nazis pose no threat. Instead they claim that the autonomous left is "the biggest threat against democracy". This despite the fact that Nazis in Sweden have carried out 14 murders during the last 15 years, while the autonomous left has not carried out any at all. It is clear that the right-wing, the police, the media, and even the Social Democratic government are shutting their eyes to the violence of the Nazis in Sweden and in other countries. They are clearly focused only on the violence of certain countries and certain groups, and defend violence when it suits them.

Even if the movement in south-eastern Ukraine has increasingly been dominated by reactionary elements, the development is not unambiguous. The hate of the people towards the oligarchs has increased after they came out so decisively against the people's republics. Not all the fighting units are pro-Russian. And in western Ukraine the discontent is growing towards a government that is attacking democratic rights, carrying out cuts and privatisations, while at the same they are sending soldiers to die without proper equipment. Big demonstrations have been held in several regions in western Ukraine. Since January 20, only 62 percent of those drafted to join the war have shown up. When this assumes the character of open revolt also in western Ukraine, the current defenders of the government will have a hard time accusing them that they are also pro-Russian.

The only solution is to unite the workers and peasants in the east and west against the oligarchs and the government, against Russia and the western imperialists. To make this unity a lasting one, it has to be a struggle for the demands that were brought forward in the beginnings of the movement in Eastern Ukraine. It cannot stop at democratic demands, which would only be a return to the status quo that was there before the Euromaidan, but of necessity has to go further to be able to mobilise the working class. It has to be a struggle to expropriate the oligarchs and place all companies, mines and banks under the democratic control of the working class – a struggle for socialism.

  • Don't let the lies stand unanswered! Expose the right-wing and the media!
  • Defend the Borotba and the Left Front!
  • Oppose US, NATO and EU-imperialism! Oppose Swedish imperialism!
  • No support for Russia or Putin!
  • For an internationalist, united struggle against the violence and attacks of the capitalists everywhere!

Notes