How can collective direct action ignite support for an active, popular and working-class based agenda of anti-capitalism, anti-police and anti-fascist intervention against the current bourgeois dynamics of Ukraine’s crisis?
Corporate media rushed in to label the current euro parades in Kiev city centre „a revolution for liberation“. This is actually a highly cynical distortion of reality. But who would expect much else from corporate media, i.e. the combined mouthpiece of the 200 richest persons on our continent? We have almost all somehow arranged to cope with the cynicism of neo-liberal take-over operations. But this time there is more than the customary economy of freedom-fake behind it, there is real danger for lives in it, our lives. As left and emancipatory initiatives active in Ukrainian society and its vast working classes we are actually put on the shooting line by latest power shifts in corporate and state media.
Over the last dozens of years, we were able to exemplify in cities like Seattle, Prague, Genova and Cancun that our will to live better and the power of solidarity can mount an anti-capitalist temporarily liberated zone (TLZ) with marvelous ease. Today’s Kiev is exactly the opposite of what we created around the world against corporate takeovers during the past two decades, i.e. since the Zapatista uprising 1994. To be precise, we speak about a tiny perimeter. That’s where protest is now staged. Not our protest, to be sure. What TV consumers around the continent are fed with day by day, night by night now is televised views on the paved top of a gigantic underground shopping mall. In this small theater of publicity during this year’s Christmas shopping season, pro-capitalist media can actually make believe that their meanest storm-troopers have taken our splendid and vast metropolis of Kiev. Nothing can be further from the truth. But let’s face reality under telegenic all-day-all-night illumination. This perimeter has actually proven sufficient for the aesthetics of televised manufacturing of consent. Our attempts at living and working politically with this manufactured consent have led to a series of violent clashes. The last 72 hours actually brought clarity to most diverse experiments ventured by a multi-talented left spectrum in our town. It’s not that we have lost our teeth or our future bite. But it’s scary, I can tell you. The Hungarian role model of Euro-fascist conformism reigns under the light of TV attention. You cannot believe that real fascistic inspired control can take over protests against police violence? We couldn’t either. But now we have to face it and learn the lesson right. Just try to enter Kiev shopping plaza’s ground zero with anything red on you, venture eg. to deal out a leaflet advocating the mildest notes of liberal trade-union demands, or make a liberal feminist proposal like “European pay for Ukrainian women” you will be confronted by a machist militia under neo-fascist logos, you will be beaten up if you do not shut up, you will be gassed with pepper-spray if you do not shift off out of TV attention immediately (see photos at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.332848430190242.1073741835.331218437019908&type=1&comment_id=1547427¬if_t=comment_mention, and http://borotba.org/napadenie-nacistov-na-levyh.html).
Kiev is the antidote to our movements strategy, instead of a temporarily liberated space we now face, a temporarily fascistoid corporate take-over orgy. Of course this nightmarish Leni-Riefenstahl arrangement in the heart of our town is for the time being purely symbolical. But its buying power in the market place of false dreams during this 6th winter of the Great Capitalist Crisis will definitely change the nature of struggles ahead of us during the forthcoming years.
Never believe the numbers bourgeois media is suggesting you! We have meticulously counted clusters of persons on high-resolution photographs taken at the supposed prime hours of mobilisation at Kiev Majdan. It is highly revealing that the Neo-fascistic-Neo-liberal block of opposition businessmen pushed their own Sunday 2nd December 2013 figures from half a million up to 700.000 as participation actually dropped, while the only partly disintegrating state police apparatus kept a dumb silence. We could at no point in time figure out more than 40.000 people actually attending the highly televised 24-7 meeting at Majdan. Even at what we are presented as prime times of “popular support” you see vast empty spaces on the shopping mall roof square itself. This is by no way a remake of vast mass mobilisation, which characterised eg. the last power shift in the country in 2004. Obviously some ten thousands at prime time is just the size you need for making cameras boast. Consequently, the leading and controlling three bourgeois parties do not invest anything more they have in stuffing their square with willing flesh. All the rest of the apparatus’ purchasing power now goes into sanitizing the square, that means: maximum aggresivity to keep social demand out of the question.
So it’s our job to ask better questions!
Let’s dig into reality for a change and explore the monstrosities of Ukrainian-style triple oppression (race, gender, class) which brought this all about.
Big Capitalism is choking violently out of mere success these weeks. This is what shakes the continent and here are the sponsoring forces that make the party take off so flabbergastingly. If anything smells of imperial over-stretch these days in Ukraine, it is not yet European Union statehood or its related military expansion, it is first and foremost the sickening success story of big international corporate power. Ukrainian economics are a mere outpost of its chokes. Economically, when forced to sell our labour power within the confines of this arguably most corrupt rest of a national state on the continent, we are no more than subjects to a dreary Ukrainian version of Bantustan crony capitalism. Its bargaining power is largely borrowed and its posture of resistance to the latest EU order to stop any bargaining whatsoever mostly symbolical. As in Belorussia, which is playing the tune of structural independence somehow more impressively, the main assets have been sold off already. During the last seasons land grabbing has reached pre-revolutionary levels. Big agro-corporations take care now and manifest their worship of holy private property by chasing poor men’s and women’s cows from grazing ditches in some villages already. As multi-national agro-conglomerates break the 500.000 ha mark in single private holdings of Ukraine’s potentially most fertile soil in the world, they use every agricultural year to ruin this soil as fast they can. Sun-flower and maize (corn) are the only crops allowed to rotate in this crony capital economy of an international making. Their extraction power is devastating. Their immediate export market gain substantial. If you want to ruin the soil of a landscape, get it down on sun-flower mono-culture. If you want to upgrade the human health of the last generation successfully feeding on such soil, replace animal and industrial fats with sunflower oil. Of course purchase power, especially in the running disaster of the Ukrainian countryside is not satisfactorily high enough for such short-cuts. Of the exploit in sunflower oil, average Ukrainian diets get only a minimal share. Agribusiness is set up for export. In the return, it imports vast quantities of palm oil about the worst health hazard in the plant fat sector of world markets. And there you have already got the basic ingredient of a working class diet of Majdan-Ukraine. We get vast surrogates of palm oil in milk and dairy products, white colouring is assured by Titan-dioxide, the stuff most probably your wall has been whitened with. Meat commodities for Ukrainian wage toilers are highly gelatinous industrial masses, all you need to put colour and consistency to … palm oil derivates. Healthy bread being is darkened with low-quality sugar molasses and only vodka can boast of any purity. Neither of these 4 rather prestigious products is always available to the subsistence minimum wage customs of Ukraine’s 20 million wage toilers (half of them in periodical search for illegalised work abroad). After his wage had been withhold for almost a year, a Sumy trolleybus driver died of hunger at his workplace, lately. I happen to know a bunch of very sympathetic Anarchists in his town. Their background is so solidly working class, they could easily pass for collectivist party soldiers in any Western context. In fact, they rarely let a week pass without leafleting the factory gates of a 10.000 worker metal plant giant, their urban chemical production facilities (largely at a standstill) and the hunger-stricken trolleybus depots. For a while we actually marveled why this story of a hunger victim in Ukraine’s current misery did hit the news while so many others don’t. We agreed that fatal hunger in late Capitalism becomes a problem to deal with publicly only when the fleet of local businessmen in their 4-wheel-drive SUV hit on stranded trolleybuses. It is the duty of the state in Capitalism to care for underpaid to encounter their final agony away from such publicly exposed work-places. So, is the Ukrainian state actually dysfunctional for the EU-Hungarian Euro-fascistic model? Are the boasting machos of bourgeois opposition interest right to overthrow it? Will the EU build us a new state repressive machine as they have helped to do so in Hungary?
For the time being stagnation is the reality of loyalist movement. As in the Russian authoritarian model around a sector of 40% of society are made believe to be provided for as state servants. The customary exchange of falsehood for this kinship, actually dictating vast social landscapes of conformity and supposedly loyal boredom, is quite clear a deal. The state imitates to do something like paying for the workload it dictates and its servants imitate to be actually doing something to alleviate the worst in some corners of the vast mess and public disarray constantly produced by crony capitalism. The proceedings of this general falsehood and vast waste of living time is, quite curiously, still mainly confined to paperwork with hand-writing. The altar of officialist boredom, the home computer dumped into public service offices, chronically jammed by downloading porn or related offensive crap, is still rare. The senseless scribbling every educator of a kindergarten has to do over close to 20 hours a week might look romantic in the eyes of a computer-nerde risking to take a glace out of his or her dollar-economy bubble. Yet the real effect of all that senseless loyalist scribbling in a synthetic Ukrainian administrative jargon no living person can seriously use in private is as dreadful as any US southern state provinciality can be. Ask Ukrainian school graduates what comes first when they go west, Poland or the Check Republic… or maybe France? The answer will sober you out of any romantics. These kids of a massively dysfunctional patriarchal make-believe business can hardly get a correct sentence out in the countries actual lingua franca from East to West, Russian, but they will snare off with 19th century stylicisms in bookish Ukrainian, dead stuff learned by heart they will never be able to use without earning laughter in a Southern shipyard or even a Western Ukrainian border patrol. Yet sacs full of such stuff is still learned by heart in years of mind-blowing boredom in the Ukrainian nationalist schooling enterprise. It is programmatic that these kids have not the slightest clue on the Paris Commune or women’s UN rights on reproductive health. By now, 22 years after the institutional implosion into Ukrainian nationalist monoculture the system of exclusive make-believe can regenerate itself (it can make believe that you are out if you are not joining in). In the session at the United Nations, the Ukrainian government blushingly retreated its demand to recognise internationally a supposed Russian conspiracy to reduce Ukrainian genes by famine (“khenocid golodomor”) after it became clear that of 191 nations only one would consider voting for the Ukrainian standpoint: the up-to-the-present-day monarchical feudatory of Monaco (comp. The argument and primary sources in archive.org/details/ProletarianMemory_draftForFriends). But in Ukrainian schools the retreat on the international arena has had little consequence. To the opposite, the story is now acquiring the mystic intensity of a para-religious compulsory confession in schools and universities alike. The victims of the initial cultural stagnation behind such mushrooming of myth and its corresponding economic dead-lock of the 90s have now grown up. They strangely enough lately becoming educators themselves, administrators, police commanders. That’s the point in time when Stalin’s state-party careerists turned against themselves in 1937 and parallelly Maoist China went partly nuts in repressing bottom-up empowerment during the Cultural Revolution. Ukrainian nationalism is turning into a two-generation system of power these years and that is where any analogies to revolutionary Russia or China fail: Ukrainian nationalism has no project, no substance, no dream, not even substantial pretentions. For anti-fascists of a Western European setting it might come as quite a surprise that Ukrainian fascists are univocally and with their peculiarly mind-blasting aggressivity in favour of unconditional surrender to any European Union ultimatum. Note that the 2013 protest business was not at all about EU membership. Nobody knows if Brussels’ technocrats will ever risk such a potential imperial overstretch of their para-American ordo-liberal statehood nightmare. All the fuss nowadays is about “association”, one-sided access to markets and state financing priorities in Ukraine. Poland was kept in association status for 13 long years, living through the worst crisis our continent has seen in recent pasts. More than 10% of children grown up in this Polish accession period will have live-long teeth and bone defects because their parents were deprived of the necessary purchase power to feed them with enough milk products. The structural crisis of Poland is far from over, it just changed with EU accession.
However, when Ukrainian bourgeois strategists speak about crisis now, they have a very different dimension in their submissive heads. One business group wants to sell out structural hegemony as fast as possible. The business structure currently still holding state power has invested into a process selling out as rich in corruption assets as possible. There is a contradiction within the ruling classes. Much to the differences of millions of teeth cracking in Poland now due to unhappy childhoods, this latest development dividing actually a ruling class and not the teeth of working class people is giant news. Of course the now oppositional forces will catch up in corruption assets once they are more central to the transaction. That’s actually the main difference, a slight nuance in the time structure of a preferred sell-out. The government wants corruption dividends from the EU now, the oppositional trust wants complete surrender to EU now and corruption assets a little later (when they will be installed in more firm positions to take full advantage of them). No doubt, big capital in its EU venture has learned to co-opt such mafia cartels on national state levels into their expansion brutality. For decades, admittances to Greece have been boosted up with a customary 30% overhead to finance corruption on all levels of the Greek European venture. Slyly, these extra admittances – “to pragmatically allow funds to reach ground at some proportion” – have been adding considerably to Greeks national debt to be served by the people. Of course EU prepares to get Ukraine under structural control in a cheaper way. That’s part of the public relations experiment now enacted with the help of some thousand out-rightly fascist body guards on duty.
But is it really so interesting how emotionally contradictions among their own engage the digestion of the ruling classes? We will only put up a different mode of working and living if we move virtuously and ably among the toiling labour force and its equally exploding desires in late capitalism. We had a bite on 4 basic food-stuffs for working class families. Welcome to encounter the magic fifths which emotionally brought scores of my friends here in working class districts of Kiev through years of utter economic depression. While his under-age sister, now a brilliant Anarchist and feminist activist, was repeatedly raped by new-bread businessmen (no lawyer in current Kiev affairs would like to actually personally risk bringing charges against them for they have developed from casual extortionists and serial rapists to big business shots in the Ukrainian capital, just like the current president of our mess here) in the meantime her younger brother, a fighting spirit as only Russian underclass machoism can breed, was keeping spirits up in a breadless household by giving himself shots of sugar made digestible in tap water. Now, you want to grasp the reality of this narrow insight into the making of Kiev suburb squalor over the last two decades and you rightly ask: where did the two get the money for the sugar from? Their single mother was working shifts in the adjacent armament factory but not being paid her salary for months on end. Actually their upstairs neighbour got them out of the worst (and into the sugar shot dependency). She had a flourishing poppy-straw distillation manufacture going in her flat and urgently needed to have the neighbours downstairs on board, morally ie. First because of the stink you have to endure when your neighbour engages in the do-it-yourself home production of heroine-like opiates. Second, she needed an effective neighbourhood watch system to reduce the number of incidents when police came up, caught her in action and extorted an additional bribery fee from her family enterprise. So it was by no means self-sacrifice when she sponsored a kick of sugar for the chronically pale youngsters downstairs once in a while. Anarchist analysers of the bourgeois world, like my special friend David Graeber (he is really my special friend, I will explain that later), are quite right to point to the resilience of the informal sector to avoid starvation. They see self-organising and grass-root-solidarity replacing the hyper-patriarchal state as caregiver. When we read David’s accounts of Madagascar’s breakdown (Lost People. Bloomington, Indiana: Univ. Press, 2007) in September engineered socially on state socialism in those same years and his assumptions on China today, we are led to see Capital’s primordial accumulation as a spectacular chance. If there ever was one, it is over now. And yet we are not cornered completely. Possibly, there is no way back to late Soviet patriarchy of top-down care and there is no sense to run forward into the ready-made traps of big capital relations and the rat men little fascist entrepreneurs operating to squeeze out sweat profits on their operation margins. Capitalism will ultimately crush under its sweeping successes. Whether we will be living or dead when this happens, vibrantly happy or devastated depends on our collective direct action now. We are everywhere. We will learn how to strike under new conditions. We will care to make Capitalism history by our antagonistic agency, not by joining the ranks of its ultimately devastating successes. The self-destructive contradictions of big Capital might work out in the end, but maybe that will be just too slowly for us to live the sheer joy of THEM giving up.
Certainly, there is no job for us in smoothing them off for a while in strictly determined enclaves. That was how many laborious Social Democrats kept themselves busy around the world during the 20th century. Even for those who are ready to believe their fairy-tales of tameable predators, they do not even get a miserable job for believing that any more. Big Capital has thrown Social Democracy out of their show. For the time being, in front of our eyes they now staff with fascist amateur actors and fascistic security agents wherever the need arises to avoid the public voicing of protest as a social force against the perpetuation of injustice in social crime. In the rationale of Majdan policing, social issues have been finally transformed into a mere discourse of individual and sellable rights, all that puts them together again must be eliminated from the public eyes. And so they strike. Right into our wondering faces.
Come on, let us visit the fascinating landscape of antagonist social forces in current Ukraine which might actually put the current roll-up to a halt and enforce a very different agenda. Left agency is not a beautiful island, it’s developing and changing right here: within its working class, amidst the agonising contradictions of today’s chauvinist advances. Before that, we could engage in the risk to map the current relation of forces as they have developed up to now. We might need some degrees of abstraction for this task, I fear. And the results will be but a proposal to read current affairs in maybe somewhat a counter-direction to mainstream media transactions, including many of those claiming the left spectre of the spectacle European-wide. Our proposal, verified and amended collectively just last night (Friday 6th December 2013) in a working class activists’ meeting during a discussion over 6 hours, lends more from Antonio Gramsci’s prison writings than from David Graebers universalist anthropology but that might be just the reflection of some temporary personal preferences.
The over-production crisis (capitalist production not meeting the real needs which are set to explode under its impact), the spectacular accumulation of profit in a society ridden by qualitative under-nourishment are all of a trans-European and global making. Ukrainian production of richness is marginal just as the face of structural mis- and under-nourishment it brings along with. 60% of purchase power relevant income is now concentrated in the hands of less than 30 super-rich Ukrainian (male and elderly) individuals. They do not even waste most of their time in the country they are robbing so smoothly. Their main worries are in Geneva and London, they have to place their ever-growing assets and their unbecoming children and grand-children heirs in elite education facilities. All this high-class emotional engagement avoids Ukrainian social reality by large. And so do their media outlets. Our crisis is not their crisis. But their coughing and eventual hiring of fascist squads may be our death here on the ground. We mentioned triple oppression by race, gender and class. Let’s square that with the fight for hegemony between the moneyed and the toiling classes experienced in the prison memories by Antonio Gramsci in three fields of battle: the political, the cultural and the economical dimension of global class war. Now we get a third dimensional by considering the three offensives currently under way on Ukrainian soil: 1.state grabbing and the absurd situationism of authoritarian loyalist drill in the apparatus, 2. Big Capital ordering European Union to flirt with risking an imperial overstretch in an unfriendly take-over operation of almost bankrupt Ukrainian statehood, 3. A sweeping high-jackers’ assault swiftly acquiring cultural hegemony with offensive, machist control gangs in the streets using openly fascist and fascistic imagery and language, all this promoted by a breathtakingly positivist corporate media promotion campaign.
Of course, power mechanisms are interrelated. But what strikes our faculties of tense observation in the Ukrainian case is that triple oppression is so utterly compartmentalised for the time being: 1. The authoritarian state holds political power on marketing strategies akin to those developed by great popular racist schemes of lately, 2. European Union engages in sponsoring a liberal-fascistic mount-up (more real in their media and its affiliated consumers than actually on the streets here, let alone in the work-places). But with or without association papers, the European Union already holds economic hegemony over Ukraine and proceeds by 19th century style classism unblended with any promise of Social Democrat checks and balances, 3rdly the fascistic distillate of Ukraine’s patriarchal micro-terror-regimes present actively or passively in every family, every heterosexual couple I know, every employment relation. This small scale triumphalism of patriarchy is now paying out in a vast take-over of cultural hegemony by fascistoid thinking and speaking rules. The strategy of enforcement here owes much to sexist stereotyping and sexist patterns of everyday violence.
We knew that street fascists learn their handicraft in patriarchal family cages and are keen on perpetuating class division in the line of hetero-normative stereotyping. We knew that Big Capital is actually not really keen on investing in other forms of discrimination besides classism in the long run (the subaltern agents have to fund all derivative discrimination on their own means and inspirations). But can we call the current Ukrainian parliamentary dictators operative racists? In the end they are the ones who turned the tide on taking power from their orange colleagues. There was hardly anything they needed to change but they made the brutish talk of Moscow not being Slavonic, Russians being a different, a Tatar race and thus danger to the Ukrainian genetic integrity which was indeed state foundation ideology under orange leadership disappear within weeks out of public library exhibitions, some school curricula and university genuflection rituals. Some, to be precise. They are perfect populist technocrats and know how to stop every clean-up of old state-racist junk at half way. That’s how you keep your old voters continue to hope for your victory and your old opponents in the voting game to compromise with your existing monopoly grip on power.
This is just the ordinary business of opportunism, there is no grand plan of racist restructuring inherent. Every day now, on the streets of Ukraine, people with certain pigmentation (mainly those attributed to the African continent) and a certain accent in pronounciation (mainly those attributed to the Caucasian mountain ridge (the ridge, not the US euphemism)) get outrageous profiling and targeting in stop-an-frisk assaults, easily resulting in racist arrest and the habitual police beating associated with it. This racist background noise in state dealings of everyday Ukraine is hideous and outrageous, but it plays not a major role in state offensives. There is much too little collective awareness and thus too little resistance to stop the row of officially tolerated or played down killings of e.g. African guest students with a clearly racist motivation in Ukrainian cities like Sumy or Khmelnickij. Nevertheless, I would argue that the racist strategy of Ukrainian state leaders has a more widely effective, yet somehow more casual and less dogmatic turn. The argument is experimental. It should by now means detract from the burning urgency of old-style racist beatings and killings going on in Ukraine today on the basis of mere skin pigmentation or pronunciation features.
There is a state offensive to make our Bantustan poverty look more like Belorussia, add a Napoleonistic take-over to it, turn it into a broadly one-man-sponsored show of industriously staged productivity, of which the costs will be added to our public budget burdens. Of course Ukraine can easily be turned into a second Kazakhstan and European Union leaders would have little discomfort with it (as in Kazakhstan) and soon seek out the profitable aspects to it.
Can the current president Janukovich assume personalised dictatorial powers if successful in the current struggle? Looking at the authoritarian mind-set and geniflective training of his followers and main opponents the answer is clearly yes. But the grabbing enterprise of common resources under the label Jaukovich can hardly be understood as a one-man-show. It’s foremostly a dynastic enterprise. I whiteness that on a daily basis. The mother of a friend is currently shoved out of work by the machinations of Janukovich the Younger. We do not nourish a potential dictator, he has already got a whole succession, a dynasty swinging in on us. If successful, it can become a giant remake of “accumulation by robbery” bringing a family with a large-scale criminal record (rape, extorsion, probably murder) in the ranks of Ukraine’s happy few big earners, that is people who do not have any records kept on them. The oligarch Timoshenko is in jail not because of her flagrant robbery of common goods, that’s common business practice, but because she aimed at selling her support to the new power structure at too high a price. And as such the Janukovich dynasty’s run for dictatorial supremacy in courts and corporate head-quarters is not too different from ordinary capitalist operations, just that the Janukovich clan is really under-performing in making believe they stuck to any rules like the sanctity of private property above a million or other hallmarks of liberal fellow-preachers. They attack, extort and rob from higher fortunes than generally deemed decent. On taking office the son of current president Janukovich called his business empire a 100 Million Dollar dacha. These months he broke through the 4 billion dollar mark. 40 times richer in much less than 40 months, that’s the level of profits only a war zone can give you nowadays. All the while the monarchical dynasty is robbing on a great scale still, selling the last state forest resources to Turkish land-grabbing trusts, water supplies to British funds. They are keeping 40% of the underfed population busy with loyalist scribbling. Yet, many have the distinct presentiment that this national state is keeping them busy in a task of manufacturing consent that is organisationally wedded to an out-going model of somehow old industry. Financial state break-down and all its spin-off effects on refinancing markets was imminent at the UEFA EURO games in 2012 already. The regime of Janukovich got used to taking in transfer payments to pay the most basic statehood stability obligations such as millions of tiny little sums to keep pensioners on their feet (not to feed them, they have to do that miracle in their toilers’ gardens wedded with misery at every fit of the undergoing climate catastrophe). In a few months most essential internal payment rituals of statehood might actually break down. The need to acquire fresh cash by the governing monarchy has become a running obsession. The Monetary Fund will only pay in in the shadow of the European Union, conditions are akin to Pinochet’s Chicago recipes, in some aspects akin actually to the letter. No wonder, while major government party members were defecting to the liberal-fascistoid power block on the street, with some parts of the police and major proportions of state television effectively changing sides, Janukovich had actually nothing more urgent to do than taking off to China these last days. He and his family’s interests are speculating in very much the same panic mode as Greece oligarchs were selling off Athens’s harbour to Chinese sweat-shop capital and Portuguese oligarchs selling off a major proportion of the country’s still post-fascist electricity monopoly to Chinese profit-hedgers. Well understood, this grabbing business for fresh money has no problem whatsoever to rely on European Union power mechanisms. The dynamics of so-called “Euro-obligations”, a billion dollar business for substantial agents in the Janukovskij regime could well lie at the ultimate heart of Kiev’s current televised liberal-fascistoid mount-up. Large interest groups within the Janukovich party businessmen club has heavily invested in Ukrainian state “Euro-obligations” traded in dollars and due in 2020 with a golden 7% interest to be paid by Ukrainian toiling taxpayers every year to their super-rich tax-evaders in government. Of course not only super-rich, even just rich men in Ukraine do hardly pay any taxes. They do not declare properly. And the miserable income they do declare gets a uniform rate of 17%, whereas their French equals would pay 80% in taxes (if they were any honest themselves in keeping up the state which keeps them up). In net economics they all get the taxes we pay. When they credit to a state on the verge of bankruptcy can publicly foster the hope to make the European Union step up efficiency in extracting interest on these titles in the future titles go up. And every rise of the trading price of these titles is fresh cash in the hands of many of Janukovich’s friends. So they are very bad friends. Only the coming hours will show us how bad indeed.
So what about our theory on the state as an implementation tool for racist social engineering than capital could afford? We see at least an analogy. Being a state cadre is boring. But as the crisis deepens many bourgeois families in Ukraine are reminded of the periods in recent history when a state asset could do more to ensure a privileged position than any ownership of industrial means of production. The proliferation of prestige and security bonus when belonging to the incorporated state apparatus is strangely reminiscent of a peculiar kind of racist privilege. Not by accident the rate of people belonging to the in-group has been engineered to comprise 40%, not more not less. That is about the percentage using Ukrainian language expressions outside of their working loyalties. There is no such thing as a living Ukrainian language. Everything that is alive in it is active Surzhik, a pidgin form of mixing Russian and Ukrainian expressions, further west more and more Polish elements. There are strong Ukrainian elements, they can be wonderful like the ability to speak about people not defining their gender (ljudina). But there is no Ukrainian national language. It is a fiction… a terribly dear fiction to most of the 40 %. If they would not fight for saving Brussels’ boldest imperialism now, they would most likely still be in the fighting trenches to preserve Ukraine from applying a simple European directive: that state administration should be able to address any group above 10% in the language they do actually use to communicate. Now, what about such a group being larger than 60% and obviously not eliminable as the past 22 years of discriminatory state and private crusades have clearly shown? Everyday discrimination by language is twofold in current Ukraine and that’s maybe already a clue to understand the fascistic cultural potential taking over our streets at the moment.
Towards the end of these observations, I will describe some aspects of an anti-police rally two days ago with precious first steps to bring a more massive anti-fascist position back on the streets. The participants are a bit posh, ie. there parents tend to be non-working class, surely not rural working class. That’s not a mortal sin but it’s a deficit to be sure. Within one evening we played two very different role games with astonishingly different ideological premises. In the public, officialist eye of the TV cameras nobody would risk a single Russian word. That’s statehood loyality speech. You want to win at court, get a chance to study, finish a PhD, get on in the army, get a favour from the director of the water enterprise: do not get yourself being caught speaking Russian on the corridor. Who wants to be successful in an officialist, stately sense must comply with Ukrainian new-speak and its truly Orwellian primitivist grammatical habits. Everyone has become accustomed to this doubleplusungood jargon. Who wants to get state security must compromise. Yet, later, in our discussion behind closed doors after the public action the exact opposite happened, I did not hear a single clearly Ukrainian expression. Privately, everything was Russian. We did not descend fully on the ladder of social hierarchy, though. Only next day, I managed to meet one single Girl from a rural background in our Marxist film and discussion evening who positively could not speak at the middle status level, she had to do it all in Ukrainean, even the private and emotional tones and she did it damned well, because her Ukrainian is not a mere simplifying career vehicle but a living necessity. Ukrainian is both, the “state language (derzhavna mova)” as the official wording goes, a stiff instrument to knock out your neighbour in the fight for a place at the governments loyality bench, and a living and ever-changing rural vernacular. After listening into the melody of half a sentence you can most surely get what is being played at the moment, the arrogant statehood game or a rather helpless and truly loveable stranding of rural terms in the petty arrogances of a long-standing Russian urban majority. Class is the main determinant, so Russian is actually the bridge between upper class and lower class Ukrainian. This arrangement of complexly ennieched arrogance however allows a well-known populist short-cut. In the 1930s bourgeois Germany wept tears of compassion that Hitler had, according to his propaganda minister, “neither a bank account, nor a landed estate”, the big shot loved to bow down to underprivileged. He considered it a great model case to be underprivileged, if we are to believe Bert Brecht’s Kriegsfiebel.
Every Ukrainian single-language speaker yet damned to stand in a basement dish-washing can actually find something terribly human and naturalistic in common with the big shot millionaires commanding the countries fate for the last 22 years. Sometimes this language identity business seems so full of Hollywood promises that our keen dish-washer forgets that there is a whole set of deprecated Russian-language clerks barring his way. It’s just like the class difference between Old Greek and New Greek until the 1960s. Rural pulsing Ukrainian and the bookish Ukrainian career small-talk practiced by the newest ruling classes, orange and blue alike, is actually two different languages. It needs a hell of a lot of lies to tie them together in one Nationalism. In Greece it took a Fascist putsch in the 1960s to suppress the intermediators between the two separate versions of a language torn apart by class, the liberal constituency. What will it take for our Schizophrenics in power in Ukraine to buy obedient admiration from the loosers among the loosers of their very own activities?
All potentially hegemonic tendencies of the population are still moved by the possibility to be co-opted into legal state guarantees of status, no matter how miserably paid for the moment. Their access to power and state-sponsored loyalty premiums are secured through army, police and political police functions, they assume, and their creditors might assume something similar. If you are among these 40% at the moment you can well count on providing for your children, even cousins of 3rd degree among the many futile and badly-paid loyalists’ jobs at offer from the state racket. If, on the contrary, you are out, you will stay out. Go, work illegally in the cellars of an Italian sweat-shop hotel for German tourists. Toil the fields in Portugal for their early strawberries, but get every knock of capitalists’ crisis directly on your shaven head. Take a demonstration against a toxic waste dump near the town of Bar in western Ukraine some years ago. The then governmentally promoted race in town (Marx and Engels used race as a more general expression of social group characteristic, it would not have occurred to them to get it down on skin pigmentation altogether). The benefiteers, then trained in loyality for Kuchma, did not risk to send one single participant out of their clan structures to the venue, if not for policing and filming tasks strictly defined by the state bosses of the region. The only brave who got out on the street to protest poisoning their children and grand-children were the ones who are out of consideration for official jobs and thrown on the informal struggle for survival, anyway.
We have a cute little intermediary object of study. Between the two Majdan mobilisations of 2004 and 2013 there was a small-scale Majdan hastily named “tax Majdan”, because e the Janukovich government cleaning it up and the corporate press covering it rather listlessly successfully wanted to avoid by all costs that besides their tax reform enterprise, the adjacent pension and labour law liberalisations would become a matter of public concern. In that phase of the ascent of the Janukovich clan to complex political and economic power, they were still able to make concession, weakening the neo-liberal impact of all three processes selectively to claim the conversion off the central square. At that time it was possible for leftist orators to take the stage for some minutes. I clearly remember the emotional outbursts of small informal traders under an ice-cold pouring rain over the highly media-ushered appearance of Klichko (now one of three patriarchs in the liberal-fascistoid alliance). They were not upset for the awful freeing rain. “That’s our daily bread,” they boasted dropping, ”we know how to take that”, they told me joking. “We know how to dress to work outside all year round.” They have to move with their goods to wherever the police choose to let them buy temporary tolerance at a lower price than the average. What they were raging at was at the stage machination to put Klichko up as their front man, while they perfectly well knew how Klichko had laid claim on central territories of the city to drive out smaller traders than he is finding comfortable to deal with.
Now, only two winters later, the scene has completely changed. The stage machinations of the little trial-Majdan are now fully established. Everything else is just crushed by organised fascistoid security.
A division in the Janukovich fraction over the maintaining of a high trading value of Euro-obligations has provoked much of the current show-off. Different oligarch fractions are showing off their troops in the streets. That’s nothing new in Ukrainian politics. What is definitely new ist that these troops are co-ordinated enough to keep the entire spectrum of communication bits under their direct control and out of any challenge to the current repressive order by class, race and gender.
Janukovich’s business club, the “blue” party of regions has actually mounted the main fascistic force controlling speech and demeanour on the protest square now. This operation was started to divide the right-wing populist basis for the 2004 orange assault to state power. What was divided successfully from the point of view of numerical blue party rule for the last presidential and parliamentary elections is now reunited on the square under European Union benediction with double force. In spite of many prognosis the fascistic slurs and aggressions of the “Svoboda” entrepreneurs have found followers far beyond their homeland, Ukraine’s poorest three Oblasts Lvov, Ternopol, Ivano-Frankovsk. New regional centres of a fascist election break-through have emerged in unexpected regions like eg. Poltava.
All this is awful indeed to work with, it means hospitalisation and severe injury for many of our comrades out in the streets. The inherent threat is reproducing itself uncontrollably in our minds and dreams, it limits our movements in public space, our crucial ability to address working class communities and their material needs in time.
But this is not the central difficulty for popular left organising. We could have excellent organising results even with such a level of fascistic terror haunting the streets between our appointments with working class environments. The problem is that potential left activists are pushed to the edges of their psychological and motivational integrity by the commonly abusive and super-exploitative working relations themselves. To be put into the domestic Ukrainian working class force does not only mean to acquire valuable skills of large-scale co-operation, intimate knowledge of the codes of resistance and underground sabotage, the difficult language of keeping up class war hot just below the level of formal strikes, all the combined experience akin to Eastern European labour conflicts for decades already. Be made a worker in Ukraine today means to be made a privatised worker. It is perfectly commonplace and nothing special for a worker to actually economically know that she or he works for the sole purpose of enriching her or his boss, often in the most hilariously personalised way, on net 7 hours every day shift. So, it’s up to you what you do with the rest of your time. You can work the nominal 8 hour day shift and your actual pay will be ridiculously minimal, the effect of just the last hour, you are allowed to work for your subsistence. You can push up the hours of work you are permitted to fatigue yourself on the means of production. This will invariably conjure up larger aspirations for sucking out advantage for the benefit of the controlling class at the workplace. Some, especially in Kiev’s speculatively mushrooming building trade, manage to how out seasonal wages higher than “the fruit of the last hour daily” (thus economically forcing others to work longer for less). As in EU Poland, young Ukrainian wage toilers, including those nick-naming themselves “office plankton” has come down to being disposable for 72 hours a week just to be allowed the basic means of subsistence in a metropolitan setting. After 14 years in Ukraine I still imagine, I could one day meet a comrade of my age who has actually the prospect of getting a regularly retirement (a living retirement scheme keeping up with a living wage). I still have not found that individual. One winter, I asked widely in southern Spanish hippie communes and it was just the opposite picture. There you could hardly find someone who had NOT the retirement arrangements laid out for getting in effect in a quarter of a century. The all-European picture is little short of grotesque. Those who waste their health and years working long hours, eating hastily and poorly aliment, through their bosses oligarchs, the London and Geneva-based hedge funds with no guarantee in return. To secure public acceptance in the West, these funds acquire pension titles, among others those bought by their parents for this Western stratum of fulminantly aging golden kids on the rocks around Gibraltar. Will any step towards conceding integration in European Union power sharing arrangements between national oligarchs be able to change anything in this exploitative relation projecting its intensification in 25 years to come? Very unlikely.
So if you do not want to serve the renteer population of Western Europe directly by joining the illegal service economy of labour in Portugal or Italy you are bound to work in the Bantustan version of international capitalism reigning Ukraine for the time being. Remarkably the associating draft to be signed maybe as early as forthcoming spring by Ukraine’s government (with little importance who will staff the monster then) includes no substantial easing of the repressive visa regime installed by the European Union to keep the illegalised migrant workforce from non-EU-Eastern Europe as an effective check on Western wages as well. No easing of visa restrictions for Ukrainians for any Ukrainians now getting their head clubbed under pathetic European Union flags.
My friend S. gets 80 Euros a months for a full-time teaching engagement with his entire nominal vacations days regularly cancelled by the whims of his coarsely nationalist and chauvinist school principal. Just note that this is still a government structure (though the principal feels confident to privatise its assets to his personal benefit soon). S. in the meantime serves unpaid extra-hours to the already private business ambitions of his supervisor. Just before the start of the summer holidays, the principal let drop a line that 5 teacher are to be fired anyway, thus setting the tone for an offer to S. to cancel a good part of his holiday plan for a funding scheme by a private foundation. In the end, S. worked this summer without pay to promote the personal stakes and profits of his principal with a private foundation. The profiteers of this piracy were careful not even to mention my friend’s name in the acknowledgements on their website at the end of the summer so raucously devoted to “developing and promoting Ukrainian ingenuity”.
All the while consumer prices are heading solidly for the Western European level. This is being felt in largely imported foodstuff with some products net exceeding western price levels. Clothing for meeting the obligatorily conformist dress-code inherited from Brezhinevian stagnation and patriarchal housing arrangements is taking the rest out of the meagre funds disposable by working class folks. Thus sparing anything for financing living space is mainly out of the question. You have to adjust with whatever family situation you are born with. All this is very parallel to Polish conservative dynamics in the working classes. The fact that Warsaw’s streets have twice the rate of cars compared to Berlin indicates that many ambitious young professionals pull everything together to buy a car and thus create a kind intermediary space with less direct patriarchal control over the details of what they are saying and how they are moving. They dream of fleeing the stress of minute-by-minute control at the hands of experienced conservatists who have learnt to handle their space and emotions from birth onwards. With a western European socialisation and the usual level of access to personal space in its middle classes you can hardly imagine the strain put on Eastern European youth by the nominal interdiction to e.g. drink in public, in more conservative regions even to kiss in public, the almost universal threat of immediate assault by whoever feels entitled to it on any manifestation of homoerotic feelings. When people come together in this nightmare of home-grown reactionism, often they have more urgent needs to respond to than outright political ones.
Maybe the historic chance of Ukrainian pubic space during those last 20 years was the fact that unlike Hungary, Poland, Belorussia or Russia, Ukrainian state strategist could not devise a unilateral state-serving church. There are at least 3 pretenders to this roll: Moscow orthodox patriarchy, Kiev orthodox patriarchy and in the West of the country Greek-catholic power and business structures. When the Polish Pope died, people who did not put out their electric lights in mourning soon found themselves threatened by telephone. Interestingly, this loyalty exercise was derived from a war-time ritual to check all-out loyalty during areal raid alarm. Not much of such universalist rituals of mass-subjugation could be described for Ukrainian settings. When on Sunday, 2nd December all sorts of participants and spectators poured out of the meeting point metro station for protesting police violence there was a carefully orchestrated shouting order to make the overall public repeat fascistic and fascist ritual confessions and hate cries. During the ensuing hundreds of hours of protest activity, there has not been the slightest shift or change in the wording. It actually follows minutely the direct translations from German Nazi jargon by ideologues of SS Galishchina and the comparable collaborating military units UPA which functioned as an SS-like auxiliary to German occupation in the war against Soviet Russia. One man or quite often one woman cry in an audibly selected and trained voice “Ukraine” and the mass is to answer with the Ukrainian equivalent of “Heil! (slava)”. The it goes “the heroes” and they get their “Heil!” as well. The following cry clarifies who is to be held a hero: “UPA!”. There is one single variation when the leading voice cries “Death!” the mass is to answer: “vraga (to the enemies)”. The mind-blowing uniformity of the wording and the melodic boredom of repeating it immediately struck me as very much akin to church liturgy. Maybe through the detour of idiotically repeating a formally regional Galician flimsiness, hailing a glorious Nazi past and future, the Ukrainian mainstream has now finally got its (surrogate) state religion. If Janukovich won, the social engineers in his service would actually be damn stupid not to use this discovery for their very own corporate aims. And, indeed, already the slightly irrelevant and factually utterly pragmatic alliance of Blue and communist party apparatchiks to conserve, for the time being, historic leftist street names and Soviet monuments has visibly worn out these last weeks. No matter which policeman you now ask around the already vandalised statue of Lenin near Majdan, they will tell you that they have distinct order not to protect it from further attacks. Sanitizing the inner city of any traces of possible dissent, preparing for the Hungarian model of neo-liberal and boastingly anti-communist authoritarianism is an ambition already unifying both state power and its TV challengers.
A rather special phenomena to the Kiev scenario played out these days are the occupied big administrative buildings in the centre of the town. Whereas occupy Oakland bit its teeth out to get hold of a single convergence space under a roof, and never got anything at any price of repressive response, already two major public buildings, one of the Town’s most prestigious administration towers and the statist trade-unions’ palace have been taken over without much more than knocking out some minor windows. Soon afterwards, a direct transmission was established from the central rallying stage to a giant tennis-court size horizontal screen in front of the occupied trade union building. Aesthetically, the personal show of a bunch of profile-neurotics monopolising the microphone thus turned into something mediatised into a monstrosity, reminiscent of a U2 concert 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
I did not like the idea of writing this little overview until left forces succeeded in regaining at least some degree of independent activity on the streets lately. We had to learn that trade union activists and feminists by groups of three or more are systematically beaten up if unwilling to retreat until hospitalisation. It comes with little surprise that left, anti-capitalist gatherings of 100 and more have for the time being in two interesting cases been able to evade fascistic aggression at all, though such aggression had been promised.
The manly postures and hectic strikes of fascist “security” patrols are actually built on excessive traits of personal cowardice. Once they lose the prospect to win, they are quickly discouraged. Sentimental fascism, licking its wounds after a lost battle, can be a nuisance for decades, it can infest a following generation, but it cannot beat up violent support. Every fascist offensive has to be broken. Every step of fascists into public space has to be met with well-aimed counter-strikes. This law of movement has dramatically lost traction during the past weeks. Any day earlier, we can re-establish it can save the live and health of comrades in the future.
The first March of a leftist tendency succeeded on Wednesday, 4th December. There was an agreement made by various organising figures not to allow nationalist slogans. They agreed, the main issue of the march was to be protesting police violence. This might be an effective mobilisation tool for the moment, however, it is not really sufficient if our communicative analysis stops just there at this point in time. The Violence protested against was used against nationalist pro-EU rioters. I personally love rioters when they know about the inherent contradictions between their subjective and objective function in an on-going battle with police. I do not like rioting out of semi-racist hatred. Actually, I have had hilarious ideas from the heads of rioters in Genova 2001. It was a well-placed lie to call them altogether police-placed provocateurs. Some were. Some were definitely not. I searched and interviewed as well as I could, I never found such semi-racist hatred among left rioters as the current Kiev far-right injects publicly to dope its youngsters up for battle… a genuinely senseless battle for immediate upper-class profits on Euro-obligations.
Of course, I am for throwing sand into the machine of state repression. These days actually seem a good moment for it. Yet, we should also pay attention on who is likely to rip the short-term benefit of the sand’s action in the statist gear-box. And for the realisation of what operations will they use this short-term benefit? In a triple oppression situation such as the Ukrainian left has been caught in, one-topic opposition can easily lead to undesirable alignments as we will see. More than half of the 100 activists taking part came from the environment of the only left football hooligans active in Ukraine, Kiev’s Arsenalcy. Other activists were mobilised by an anti-capitalist coalition calling itself now “popular alarm-clock (narodny narbat)”. They are trying to set up a coalition under the label “popular block (narodny blok)”. A special problem for left collective action are fanatics of a so-called “Avtonomna Opera, AO”. Fortunately, in Kiev there are only “three and a half” of them detectable but in Lvov the organisation is a mass problem. These former fascistic “svoboda” followers have developed animosities with their party and assumed an autonomous, “anarchist” image. There are reported to be heavy fights between the party “svoboda” structures and AO. However, AO is intentionally kept out of left information networks for there is reason to believe they might “zlivat’ (forward information to their former party colleagues)”
On the march on Thursday, December 4th, a strange dynamic ensued. To the first isolated cry of “Ukraine” by a rather irresponsible hool called “Psyh” actually half of the march answered immediately with “Heil!”, though this was definitely agreed not to allow to happen by all involved in the preparation of the march. Fatally, this was not the end of the outbreak. Some kind of overall conformity of drill enabled to continue and wish “Heil” to “the heroes” as well. The whole liturgy ritual of the fascistic mobilisation cries was gone through 3 tiresome times. At this point many participants who did not fall in with the crying acutely felt they were maybe not in the right place to be at that moment. That is what they told later. In the moment itself they were as defenceless as Camus felt to “La Peste”.
In a very spooky side development with some longer preparation, the anarcho-feminist activist Mira (antifascist action) was personally threatened with physical assault by one of the initiators of that March if she took part. A letter citing the signature of two groups ind “independent anarchists” claimed bluntly that Feminism is “by its nature” a bourgeois movement and its “anti-revolutionary” nature should not interfere with the clean anti-capitalism of the march. During the day leading up to the march, this threat was widely circulated on public media which curiously resulted in no declaration of solidarity with Mira, nor a reinvitation. In the end, Mira walked on the other side of the street alongside the March keeping the conditions of the threat to the letter. A day later, after a second March with more integrative practices and larger woman participation a motion was proposed to declare solidarity with non-bourgeois activists and full support and joint defense of their integrity and participation in future activities. Interestingly, a very long discussion ensued on this motion with some young man declaring “no man can be demanded to support feminism”. Finally, the meeting supported a bourgeois-style call not to tolerate “sexist discrimination” within the movement. Yet, the mentioning of the word feminism could not reach consensus and its inclusion in the agreement was postponed for two days later. Dropping it did not reach a consensus either, though the veto was very thin (3 with Mira herself leaving soon after so much offensive talk, ie. 2 remaining).
The second march/performance a day later effectively picketing a rather deserted-looking ministry of the Interior building was slightly less large with slightly under 100 participants. The bulk of participants were mobilised by the syndicalist student union “Direct Action, prejama dija(PD)”. This union also motivated a group of artists, some from the “Grupa R.E.P.” (in a larger context “HUDRADA”) to do some artwork for the picketing. In its outset the picketing was like a belated PD-labelled remake of protests against police violence which had marked the 4 days before on the square. According to the political experience and branding of PD actions were both more inventive and notably more posh (classy) than the mainstream media action dominating all channels. The principal message was quite identical, the activists made clear they could express the same distaste for police violence as the mainstream only in a more sophisticated and less brutally populist manner. Curiously enough, all public speech was strictly Ukrainian and all personal talk alongside strictly Russian. In public speech mainly members of a Trotskyist group, “leva oposicija, (Left opposition)” opened a second front and criticised the fascist-led repression of trade-union activists. A very positive phenomenon was the visible empowerment of women in the action. Practically the whole rhythms and percussion group was staffed by women. A feminist author and activist publicly addressed the violence against woman activists and the elimination of their issues from the visibility of the central square.
In a sly move, some had brought red flowers to mock-congratulate the state security forces on their anniversary that day. This was probably the first time that someone showed publicly the colour red in an action related to the majdan conflict over the last weeks. The flowers were quickly disposed of at the door of the Interior Ministry. A large TV camera presence and their artificial illumination of the scene of action made the impression that the happening was the result of a much-calculated deal of organisers focussing their ambition on effective media communication. There was visibly hardly any communication effect on any passer-by because the street selected for the action was a very quiet one at the appointed time. I noted quite aggressive photographing of all faces present by a photographer who refused to procure a business cards substantiating his claim that he worked for the magazine “Art Ukraina”.
Interestingly, in around a dozen speeches held at this picket (including mine) nobody said a critical word on the European Union stance or on capitalist agency in general. Though participants would later - behind closed doors - much easier agree on anti-capitalism than on feminism or even anti-fascist or anti-nationalist basic standards, and though there were hardly any random listeners who could interact negatively, everybody practically accepted the agenda-setting by the triple oppressors (state, capital, fascists) united in hailing the capitalist model.
Though the agreement to steer clear from nationalist slogans was firmer among organisers on Friday than among organisers for the march the day before, the inondation of the city centre by nationalist symbols would not pass this picket without leaving a mark. Notably the artist group brought two Ukrainian national flags which were quickly excused by organisers because the “artists have rendered them neutral with critical writing on them”. However, the critical writing was not at all critical of Nationalisms, only of the police action against Nationalists. It was actually perfectly possible to carry those flags over to the highly vigilanti-ridden chauvinist protest places with considerably better and more telegenic illumination. A third Ukrainian flag was brought in by a perfectly equipped mainstream protester who looked like actually coming along by chance. He later stuck to the protesters retreating in haste and with attention focussed on the announced fascist attack on the picket. Half an hour of listening to our talking and the shared hasty retreat out of public space could not shake the belief of him and the woman giving him company that “whoever is against them must be with us”.
I asked an artist who had drawn a ice skate blade in blood whether he could consider to change the graphics to avoid reproducing the colours and graphics of UPA, the SS-like fascist military formation ritually hailed by many Ukrainian chauvinists. I said it would be some progress if he did the red-black divide in a diagonal form so it was clear he was alluding to the anarcho-syndicalist flag and not publicising a fascist SS-type formation (though 9 out of 10 get that confused on a regular basis anyway). He said quite sneakily that as an artist he would not even dream of submitting himself to such a censorship. I just wanted to check how far this goes. I said would he keep out of his publicly displayed graphics at least the traditionally Buddhist use of the sun symbol, an inverted version of the later Nazi swastika, which is being used by Nazis as an excuse to show their symbol in public. In a mode very common among young ambitious he let me repeat the simple yes-or-no-question three times and then said bluntly that he were “not a Buddhist”. Obviously, he felt that he was definitely going too far in answering with yes while keeping the general tone of the crowd. Nonetheless, he would by no means give in, I do not know, loose an argument count or something else precious to his sentiment of manhood, he would never say “no” to that.
To my surprise, after a half-running flight on back-roads to a closed room, the organisers kept up a very good tradition of PD-initiated actions and started an open, moderated discussion of all participants in the action wanting to discuss. There is always a fine line between welcoming and excluding and as in previous years, this time again it was made clear in the course of discussion that “the union” (PD) had no need to make the forum that large and that it was an option to continue with members only making others feeling distinctly unwelcome. This element was used when the veto was kept up against dropping feminism out of the common statement on solidarity in the movement. (“Among union members I see no voice to veto, that means we could continue to proceed” which was correct after a series of machinations to the discussion). Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to submit this forum to an over-critical analysis as it is clearly the best approximation of horizontal non-representative and gender-inclusive discussion the left in Ukraine can actually produce at this given time in its development. I clearly saw that the feminist challenge to their complacency (a woman had been threatened off a joint march in pure anti-feminist terms and no man had taken sides in support of her) was giving some unusual amount of trouble for certain male protagonists who were provoked to some truly hilarious stylistic acrobatics in search of some rational-sounding reasoning for their anti-feminist fears.
After almost 2 hours of very interesting discussion with almost balanced female-male participation (a very rare achievement in Ukraine) a “very important” PD organiser, whom I have cited before, took stage to announce that a student occupation of university premises was imminent. As the fascist party “Svoboda” has a strong branch in the student coordination committee it was received with mixed feelings that this committee had been asked to lend their support to the occupation by PD. The defense lines against their instrumentalisation of the action for party aims were divergent. Some proposed to declare the action “apolitical”. The “important figure” himself said that “there is no such thing as an apolitical action” but, he insisted, there should be no parties and their trade union should not put our any sign either. It should be a pure student activity. This exclusivity was not meant for outside participants. Organisers had slyly provided for a valuable pretext to outsiders to enter the building on the planned day of occupation. Nevertheless it does make a difference to be caught by security forces occupying premises when you have student status than when you are caught on premises in illegal activity as an alien. Many participants in the discussion could not believe that the fascist party should miraculously adhere to the good example of PD not to put out any identifiable sign. “The occupation will not be busy with signs but busy with administering its occupied territory” the “important figure” announced. In the following a tough exchange of personal attacks developed between the front man of “Left Opposition” and the PD “important figure”. It is highly interesting to watch how tough exchanges get when there is a factual battle over leadership… especially in an organisation like PD advocating horizontal conversation without personalised leadership attitudes. It is obviously cheap polemics to criticise PD for recurring to the same authoritarian manners in practice others even brag of in theory. As PD is one of the few larger groups trying otherwise the central question for me is how we can encourage them to keep on trying, though pragmatics and personal ambition often swing the balance into quite a different direction. Interestingly enough, the Ukrainian scene has not yet followed the later trend in German left group dynamics where women operating with strongly machist communication techniques get and hold very strong informal positions amounting to monopolies. Though especially PD and the left discussion circles (Il’enkov school) at the Polytechnic University of Kiev (KPI) have helped women to develop strong stances and the assertiveness to voice them, nobody of them yet holds out for longer than a short period of time because men are very fluent in cutting them short. Interrupting the flow of speech with an aggressive and dominant voice is absolutely common by men against woman speaking in Eastern European discussions and often woman to say they prefer to ignore the fact when asked about it. According to statistical data, I compiled by listening and noting length of oral contribution and forceful interruption by stronger voices, the aggression in dialogue by men on women is extraordinarily high and results in completely asymmetrical speaking patterns. However comparatively the combined discrimination of an outsider group in a discussion (different geographical location/different organisational structure) can still outdo by some degrees the general level of gender discrimination.
I was positively surprised when the discussion started to evolve the technique to note results on paper. We thus made first steps to formulate a common statement on co-operation and non-cooperation in the forthcoming struggle which can serve as a basis for assessment and quality control when operating in the perimeter of a chauvinist mainstream. When does a compromise become a concession? Where is the risk of being instrumentalised for nationalist propaganda too high to engage in close action? All these factors are commonly decided behind closed doors according to single group or party opportunism. Such uncoordinated procedures can lead to a rush for the quickest sell-out possible, i.e. those organisations who strike the quickest and most superficial deals with chauvinist mainstream forces get the highest publicity and organisational advantage. When every organisation, in spite of its level of political reflection, feels inclined to storm ahead for embracing the mainstream there will be only losers in the rat race: the least virile organisations will take the beautiful looser position and declare that public action is now out of the question except for sectarian promotion. Those who stormed into “strategical” alliances with real enemies in the class, gender and police struggles ahead are drawn off from possible synergies with collectives much closer to their aims by hold and stand-still-agreements in crucial areas of struggle.
An interesting dynamic can be observed in the case when fascist “security” beat up the trade-union stand the day before. Only a month before, the Ukrainian of “free” trade unions, closely vetted to bourgeois politics, used the arena of a conference pompously sponsored by Rosa-Luxemburg-foundation to declare together with Russian counterparts and smaller Left groups they will try to agitate the nationalist leaning of their workshop constituencies in both countries to agitate for “Democratic Socialism”. In his final remarks, the former orange and thoroughly bourgeois trade union careerist Mykhailo Volynets (currently Head of the “Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine”) menaced his new smaller partners that he “could do such opening deals with left groups, we see what comes out of it – we can also do the same with extreme right groups!”. The three activists bashed up on Thursday were actually coming from the smaller agreement partner borotba.org and working under the label of the trade union confederation of Volynets. After the aggression and the hospitalisation of the three comrades Volynets would not issue as much as a clarification let alone a declaration of solidarity for those working in the name of his organisation under the new agreement. This shows that bourgeois politicians change over to far-right localities faster than their fascist storm-troopers can actually punch. Before the gas attack, the knives and fists hit their soft targets on Thursday, the leader of the stand’s affiliation, Volynets, had already practically changed sides joining in with the aggressor. This compares sourly to their reaction when the fascist party structures of “svoboda” called for all-Ukrainian strike action as soon as Saturday. Only the morning after Sunday’s violent clashes between squats with fascist signs, others unidentified and police, Volynets assembled his branch leaders to take the decision for national general strike. The reasoning for calling the national General Strike was the beating up of 6 protesters in the violent clashes of the previous day. There is nothing to say against that by itself. If for every group of African brothers and sisters beaten up by police in Ukraine because of racist profiling the trade unions under Volynets will call successful national general strikes, this will indeed be the end of wage labour in this country. Unfortunately Volynets is not even prepared to take symbolic action when his own members are beat up by right-wingers. The issue at stake is the demand of unconditional surrender of the national state to European Commission conditions, without negotiation of terms and protective mechanisms. For this aim Volynets is prepared to take out the entire workforce… just that the menacing gesture of his Monday resolution is far away from real power relations at the workplaces. The wildly publicised “general strike” for the salvation of the trading value of Ukrainian Euro-obligations had no mobilising effect on workers, except for demonstrative action in some of “Svoboda”’s strongest constituencies where top public officials took “unpaid holidays because “ they had “actually no right to strike”. Never heard of such a posh, upper class version of a national General Strike. Our poor, tormented Ukraine has done it again. We are simply unique! This is the proof for our national mission to be unparalleled in the history of industrial societies.
But It would be interesting what reasoning was prevalent in shop-floors when this highly mediatised call failed so utterly. Passivity is just the matter all fatal state stability is built with. This one was completely new for me: Maybe not every passivity is obligatorily a mindless one.
As left comrades, we are ahead of a joint militant investigation and learning process. We are well advised to proceed rapidly to regain access to public space and general visibility. We can do that keeping the personal risk at a reasonable level only by effectively mobilising critical masses of left activists. The smaller our mobilisations are, the faster we have to move and orient ourselves in a terrain temporarily taken over by or declared enemy on the far right. Chauvinist corruption has made large parts of the Ukrainian left more or less passive collaborators of the current far-right turn-over. Chauvinist corruption is curable but the short-term critical masses we need now have to make publicly visible statements without such elements. It is terribly difficult to articulate opposition to triple oppression (from state, capital and fascist machos) in a generally understandable way motivating working class people to take action with us. But everything less than opposition to these three fronts advancing on us now is short-lived and insufficient. We should grasp the unique occasion that after 20 years of fostering and financing “open society talk” big capital is practically closing its liberal soap-opera on Ukrainian soil. As it has become so inconvenient for bourgeois liberal arguments to move about and find consideration in the increasingly fascistically sanitised space of mainstream TV protests, we can welcome the wage workers advocating them to join our action and consider some militant and working-class based modifications. After a fascistic micro-putsch as we witnessed on the Kiev Majdan over the last weeks, the streets are still largely open space, an argument remains an argument in the mind of any worker, labour remains a commodity, the European Commission remains the strongest enemy of any social alternative on the continent and the Janukovich police regime a situative nightmare menacing to grow in the wake of the public shift to the right. No reason to reduce or stop public political activity, we just have to develop the discipline to strike with more precision and impact. No reason to flee from Ukrainian territory yet, no reason to avoid travelling here, but strong arguments to actively prepare clandestine structures now and train operative solidarity in action. A lot of old proceeding habits in political organising on the left have now to be thrown over-board. Other faculties present but underdeveloped in left collectives can suddendly be promoted and developed instead: reliability, long-term planning and the careful development of strategical bases for unforeseeable turns of events, accountable and transparent structures of inter-collective decision making, IMMEDIATE realisation of emancipatory aims such as actively empowering women and working class agents in our circles. Now, more than ever it would be fatal to postpone all that for “after the revolution”. The revolution happened yesterday and the days before, it was a right cultural revolution and we will have a hell of a lot of work to win back the terrain lost under its on-going avalanche.