Ukraine Anti-Fascist Solidarity Campaign in Minsk

A Russian comrade of the IMT, Artem Kirpichenok, delivered a speech to the recent conference on “Co-operation and Solidarity of the Post-Soviet Left in Conditions of Ethnic and National Conflict” held in Minsk, highlighting the solidarity campaign which the IMT has been involved in promoting.

Comrades,

The current situation in Ukraine, which is engulfed in civil war and has become a victim of the intervention of Western and Russian imperialism, requires immediate action on behalf of the world communist and workers’ movement.

Armed gangs of far-right thugs, football fans and generally fascist elements from within the public have been regularly attacking communist and trade union activists since the very beginning of the so-called Euromaidan. Now that the Yanukovich regime has fallen, these terrorist acts are carried out with the open support of the new authorities of Ukraine, which represent a clique of oligarchs, neo-liberals and nationalists.

This fact alone would be sufficient to start a campaign of international solidarity with the persecuted Ukrainian comrades, but events have taken on an even more dramatic turn. Supported by Russia, a protest movement emerged in the South-East, aimed against the new Kiev authorities and demanding federalisation of the country. While we cannot deny the role played by Russian forces and agents in organising these protests, it is obvious that the roots of the movement lie in mass rejection of the new liberal-nationalist regime by the people of Ukraine’s South-East. This was illustrated by the fact that thousands in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions took part in the referendum on the question of federalisation and functioning of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, even after the Putin regime officially refused to recognise these states.

The Kiev government of Turchinov, and later of Poroshenko, had a chance to reach a compromise with the people of the South-East. However, under pressure of its allies – nationalists, Western imperialism and neo-fascist gangs – the Kiev regime chose to go down the path of suppressing opposition with force. Mercenaries of the Ukrainian oligarchs have carried out a bloody massacre of the dissenters in Odessa, Kharkov, and Mariupol. Ukraine’s army began the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation in the Donbass, identical to Yeltsin’s Chechen adventure.

Today, only communist internationalist forces can offer a way out of the present situation in Ukraine. The government of the oligarch Poroshenko will keep stepping up the tempo of the punitive operation in the East in order to distract attention of the people from the policy of “shock therapy” and take the multi-million properties of the oligarchs in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. We should not foster any illusions in the leadership of the People’s Republics, where power was taken by representatives of the petit bourgeoisie and the Russian far-right, who initially hoped that Putin, and later on Akhmetov, would offer them protection. As soon as both Putin and Akhmetov abandoned them, alone in the face of the punitive machine of the Ukrainian state, these people were left bewildered, but did not express a readiness to turn towards the proletariat and carry out nationalisation of the property of the oligarchs.

The only advantage of the People’s Republics compared to the Kiev regime is that workers’ and trade union organisations can openly operate on their territory. It is also not ruled out that the leaders of Donetsk will realise the necessity of waging a new, revolutionary war which requires social reforms and mobilisation of the toiling masses.

The International Marxist Tendency, which I represent at this conference, has experience of leading international solidarity campaigns. In 2002 our organisation initiated the “Hands off Venezuela!” campaign, and its experience may be useful in organising international co-operation over Ukraine.

I will just remind you that the campaign was a response to the coup organised by a group of reactionary officers, who, supported by the US, decided to overthrow the government of Hugo Chavez. At the same time, directors of Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA started a lock-out and sabotaged the industry in order to paralyse the country. Media corporations mobilised the small and middle bourgeoisie in anti-Chavista demonstrations.

In response to this, the IMT issued an appeal, calling for defence of the Bolivarian Revolution and spreading of objective information both in the press as well as within the labour and trade union movement. This call was supported by British trade unions. Public meetings, film screenings, discussions in trade union organisations, speeches in Parliament and delegations to Venezuela were organised as part of the “Hands off Venezuela!” campaign.

Today, the “Hands off Venezuela!” campaign is active in 30 countries and helps mobilise workers and youth in support of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Now, our organisation has started organising events under the slogan of Solidarity with the Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine. The biggest event as part of this campaign so far was held in London this week. Over 150 people were in attendance, and it was addressed by Socialist Appeal editor Alan Woods, Andrew Murray from the Communist Party of Britain, Lindsey German from Counterfire, Richard Brenner, as well as Sergei Kirichuk from Ukraine and Boris Kagarlitsky from Russia, and both over Skype.

As the outcome of the meeting, a resolution was adopted, demanding that Western governments cease support of the far-right regime in Kiev, drop the plans of NATO expansion to the East, for an investigation of the Odessa massacre, where 42 people were murdered in the trade union house, and an end to attacks on left-wing organisations. Support for the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine was declared.

This event was not the first or the last meeting of this kind. Demonstrations against fascism in Ukraine have taken place in Italy. Plans are being made to hold a demonstration of solidarity with Ukrainian anti-fascists in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, in the very near future.

Thus, the first steps of the campaign of solidarity with Ukraine’s communists have already been taken. But this is only the beginning. What we need is a mass campaign which will involve communist, workers’ and trade union organisations in different countries of the world. The tasks of such a campaign can include educating workers about the situation in Ukraine, breaking the information blockade of corporate mass media, supplying aid to the political prisoners currently held in jails of the Kiev regime, assisting the revival of communist and workers’ organisations in Ukraine, and organising international pressure on Kiev with the aim of ending persecution of communists and investigating the murders committed by the far-right militants.

Solidarity events should be as flexible as possible and meet the perpetually changing situation in the country. Two months ago Putin’s annexation of the Crimea created the danger of war between Russia and Ukraine, which put the anti-war campaign on the agenda. In April, a protest was held in Leningrad against the possible war between Russia and Ukraine, which was attended by some of those present at this conference. Today, anti-war demands are again at the forefront because of the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation in Donetsk.

The target audience of the campaign should be organised workers, students and youth. Additionally, special attention should be paid to Ukrainian workers in Europe and Russia and Ukrainian students. With their help, we can break the informational blockade of the Poroshenko regime and let the truth about what is happening in the county reach Ukrainian workers.