Sunday, March 29, 2015

SYRIZA's "Red Notebook" on Ukraine, 22/2/2014

The "Red Notebook" is a political and economic analysis website maintained by the "Red-Green network" of SYRIZA. Several of its authors also write in the main party newspaper "Avgi", and its theoretical influences include Trotskyism and Althusserianism (particularly via Poulantzas, probably the most central figure in the political orientation of this group). Some of the top SYRIZA cadre members it features are economists Euclid Tsakalotos (Deputy Min. of Int. Fin. Relations) Yannis Dragasakis (gov. Deputy leader) and John Milios, and intellectuals including Costas Douzinas and Aristeidis Baltas (Min. Ed.). The article that follows was published on the 22nd of February, after the first phase of the Maidan coup. The translation is mine.
On the Ukraine Uprising
Simonida Argyrakou

The Left must understand the needs of poor strata and support their demands. On the other hand, it must also stand against imperialism -- both EU-USA and Russian imperialism.

Contemporary history involves several examples of social uprisings in which, whereas the causes of the problems are clearly of a class nature, their failure to express themselves in Left terms --whether because of the inability of people to complete their demands beyond the political change in personnel or because of the exploitation of popular rage by nationalists-- make some segments of the Left see the whole enterprise negatively.

In Ukraine, there is no doubt that a powerful oligarchy [Yanoukovich] has been living on the people's back for years, and controls the entire the state apparatus. An important segment of today's big capitalists derives from the managers of state corporations and other bureaucrats of the old regime [the Soviet Union] and this makes people feel exploited continuously by the same persons.

Moscow's influence –direct and blatant in the USSR period, more or less covert in the last 25 years– provides fertile ground for the voices demanding the completion of national liberation. Additionally, it contributes to the illusion that the old system's change hasn't yet been completed, and thus keeps hope alive in the idea that everything will change when the country enters the European path. For this reason, the evils that have arisen in the last years are not linked in the eyes of the [Ukrainian] people with neoliberal policies of austerity, but with "remnants of Soviet communism."

Thus, when demonstrations began, the path for the nationalists was open. Of course, not everything could be taken for granted: in order to reach the point when far right parties and organizations called the tune in mobilizations, their members had to work hard and always play a leading role in the demonstrations.

For Ukraine's Left, its work was not easy. Those Left groups that did not show contempt for the uprising and joined it in the streets of Kiev were pushed back by the extreme right. Even if they had not made any errors --for instance, insisting on left-wing banners and other symbols in such an environment-- it is doubtful whether they could have affected the big mass of demonstrators, as they were very few.

Judging from this result, some people in the Left tend to oppose the demonstrators, identifying them with USA and EU interests, or, at best, they are coldly neutral. But they forget two things: first, that when masses move, they obtain experience and self-confidence that they can change what those ruling do not dare to. Those who rebelled against a pro-Russian government will not hesitate tomorrow to do the same against a pro-European government, when it also disappoints them; secondly, that in the case of Ukraine, a country that sees whatever comes from Europe with hope, the stance of the European Left can play an important role.

So on the one hand the Left must understand the needs of the poor strata and to support their demands; on the other, it must stand against imperialism -- both EU-USA and Russian imperialism.

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