Contending Oligarchs and Their Imperialist Masters Feed the Rise of Neo-Nazism
– Magnus Tegleb –
Anti-government protests in Kiev, Ukraine, January 23, 2014. (Xinhua)
Recent events in Ukraine have evoked misleading comments from the Harper dictatorship, their U.S. masters, and the European Union (EU) along the lines that the main problem is that the Ukraine is turning further away from “democratic Europe” and more toward “autocratic Russia.” The catalyzing event for the current turmoil is that at the end of November, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych rejected a pending trade agreement with the EU, calling for closer ties with Russia. The EU treaty would have allowed European monopolies to grab Ukraine’s crucial energy markets. German monopolies already supply Ukraine with natural gas via pipelines through Poland and Hungary and will open up Slovakian pipelines by next year, which would break Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas. Instead of signing with the EU, Yanukovych went to Moscow on December 17 and signed several agreements with Russian President Vladimir Putin that will reduce by a third the cost of Russian gas sold to Ukraine. Russia has also agreed to lend $15 billion to Ukraine on easy terms.
While Yanukovych is the elected president, real power in Ukraine is held by about a dozen businessmen or “oligarchs” with a combined wealth amounting to a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product. The oligarchs, who got rich by grabbing and privatizing former government assets after the so-called “fall of communism,” have until recently mainly supported President Yanukovych. Rinat Akhmetov, who became the country’s wealthiest man by acquiring state assets in the steel, coal and power sectors, helped finance Yanukovych’s 2010 presidential campaign but his Ukraine television channel is now giving airtime to opposition leaders. A newspaper owned by Ukraine’s second richest man, steel pipe billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, has set up an office for foreign journalists who are anti-Yanukovych.
While Akhmetov, Pinchuk, and some other oligarchs see any turning away from trade deals with the EU as a potential huge financial loss to themselves and their empires, other capitalists see themselves as being further enriched by tightening Ukraine’s connections with Russia. Titanium king Dmytry Firtash has close ties with Russia. Exports of Ukrainian titanium dioxide to Russia in January-June 2013 totalled about 13,000 tonnes, 19.5 per cent of the total shipments to foreign markets). Another rising group challenging the ruling oligarchs, which has connections with Russia, is closely connected to President Yanukovych’s son, Oleksandr. It includes 27-year old “gas king” Sergey Kurchenko, who also owns a large media group.
The oligarchs and their backers in Europe and Russia are playing out their economic battle by trying to mobilize popular support for their own interests. This has resulted in large street demonstrations, the passing of new laws by the government, and attacks by foreign politicians and monopoly media. These are framed in pro-democracy slogans but are really being put forward in the interests of the pro-EU or pro-Russia monopolies on both sides. The foreign clamour equating the pro-EU forces with democracy has become so ridiculous that phony human rights organizations such as the U.S. State Department-funded Human Rights Watch are attacking the Ukraine government for passing laws that criminalize dissent. This despite the fact that the same laws have been in place in the U.S., Canada, and other so-called western democracies for years, for example, laws against “illegal” rallies, occupation of buildings, wearing masks and erecting tents!
The EU, led by Germany, and with the tacit approval of the U.S., are gathering anti-Yanukovych protestors around heavyweight boxer Vladimir Klitschko and his Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) party, painting him as a leader of “pro-democracy” forces. Klitschko lives in Germany and the German Christian Democrat Union party openly admits that it “assigned” Klitschko the task of establishing a right-wing party in the Ukraine in order to create a permanent pro-EU majority in Kiev. During an event in Brussels, German member of parliament Elmar Brok revealed his country’s interest in Ukraine, stating that Ukraine has “great economic possibilities,” with “a well-educated population” and with “good agricultural prerequisites.” The interconnected history of Ukraine and Germany appears to be repeating itself.
But it is not just Klitschko and the UDAR who make up the leadership of the pro-EU forces in Ukraine. More accurately it is an unholy alliance of conservative, fascist and revanchist groups who are coalescing around former Nazi collaborators, specifically, the long-dead Stephan Bandera. Bandera led the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which joined forces with the Nazis during the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Numerous Bandera monuments have been erected in the last twenty years, particularly in west Ukraine, including in Lviv, site of one of the largest anti-Jewish pogroms. Following the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, another supposed democratic victory orchestrated and much applauded by the imperialists, incoming President Viktor Yushchenko officially declared Bandera and fellow Nazi Roman Shukhevych to be “heroes of the Ukraine.” It is no surprise that prominent in promoting the pro-EU movement as well as general chaos is the neo-Nazi party Svoboda, which has now captured fifty seats in the Ukrainian Parliament and been the main instigator of street violence in the recent street rallies.
None of this bodes well for the people of Ukraine. The collapse of the Ukraine and other regimes in eastern Europe with all their capitalist reforms showed that capitalism has no other stage of development. Ukraine and all the other countries undertaking the construction of capitalism under the pretext of a “free market economy,” are mired in anarchy and economic chaos, which is reflected in their politics. Tying Ukraine to one imperialist power or the other is a “solution” that may benefit a handful of monopoly capitalists but it will take the future of the people further toward a dead end.
The rise of neo-Nazism also has very sinister implications for the people’s future. During the Second World War, it is estimated that the Nazis and their collaborators slaughtered over four million people in Ukraine; Svoboda and the Bandera cultists are direct descendants of these mass murderers.
The only path forward for the people of Ukraine is to fight to build an independent sovereign Ukraine which is run by the people in the interests of the people, which exercises control over its own economy and builds relations with other countries on the basis of mutual benefit.
1. Akhmetov’s London home is estimated to be worth $225 million.