Contradictions of the Ruling Class in Ukraine

Published on New Politics, by Sean Larson, Summer 2014 /Vol XV-1 Whole #: 57.

Ukrainian capitalism today is distinguished by the most fortified oligarchy of the post-Soviet states. Politics in Ukraine have been subject to volatile lurches over the last decade, driven by the direct involvement of masses of Ukrainians. Meanwhile, shaping the economic, political, and ideological aspects of society and daily life in Ukraine is a ubiquitous inter-imperialist competition between Russia on the one side and the United States and the European Union on the other. Indeed, the accumulation of capital in this country is constantly conditioned and threatened both by these imperialisms and internal social upheavals. The actions and positions of the ruling class have been and will continue to be staked out upon the terrain delineated by their contradictions.    

The following attempts to sketch the contours of the various sections of the ruling class in Ukraine, with an eye toward their fractures, determinations, and the central role of the oligarchy. In characterizing the different fractions of the Ukrainian ruling class, economic, and not political or ideological, determinations are decisive. The actions of the oligarchs are most productively explained through the prism of pure class interests, economic competition, and the political power blocs that derive therefrom, rather than fidelity to any transcendental ideologies of nationalism or democracy. It is hoped that this sketch of the balance of forces can contribute to further analysis of the often chaotic and confusing developments in the post-Maidan Ukraine of today.

Oligarchy: … //

… Orange Fragments: … //
… The Working Class: … //
… The Imperialist Contradiction: … //
… Recomposition and Restructuring: … //

… Internal Resistance:

The Eastern Ukrainian economy has traditionally bankrolled the poorer West of the country, and the manufacturing and coal mining based there comprise 35 percent of Ukraine’s exports. Association with the EU will lead to tougher production standards, the decline of Ukrainian coal and metallurgy industries, and loss of jobs in the East of Ukraine, whereas Russia has little need for Ukraine’s coal mines. The social inequality already endemic to the oligarchic capitalist system will thus be amplified throughout these regions, regardless of which imperialism wins out. Protest against this inequality, whether targeting the oligarchs or the austerity programs from the West, has struggled to achieve a voice independent of the omnipresent inter-imperialist rivalry. Complete lack of organization makes the discontent of Eastern Ukrainians susceptible to Russian influence and the packaged solution on hand of separatism or federalization, and the discontent has as of yet no independent political expression. At present, the clashes in the East are spiraling Ukraine toward civil war. The very visible presence of fascists on both sides is a symptom of the growing embattlement of the ruling classes at the source of the conflict.

In recent years, many trade unions have been forbidden or had union leaders fired in enterprises belonging to multinational corporations—these are generally more difficult spaces in which to organize. The new trade agreement with the EU would open up Ukraine to a greater role for the multinationals, and thus further weaken the capacity of the working class to organize itself. The relative isolation of Ukrainian unions from practical solidarity with international unions will need to be broken as these multinational firms and their Western political backers begin taking over larger sections of the Ukrainian labor market and determining Ukrainian economic policy. The historically most class-conscious part of the working class and the best positioned politically right now are the miners of the Donbass region. These miners’ unions have already shown small signs of political activity and uneven involvement with the uprisings of the East, and even spoken of a political strike, which has once before (1989) proven to be the key link in the chain that exploded the entire contradictory social formation. Yet the trade unions of the mining industry have had divided allegiances, as Nick Evans points out: “Imperial competition between the U.S. and Europe, and Russia, and splits between the different oligarchic blocs in the Ukraine are reflected in the bureaucracy of the respective sections of the trade union movement.”9

Prospects for a socially just resolution to the crisis are bleak. But the germs of genuine resistance persevere. The elements of the Maidan, drawn from all over the country, that fought for democracy and against the deterioration of their living standards, will soon be just as dissatisfied with the IMF-imposed austerity as they were with Yanukovych. Now, though, they have yet another experience of popular uprising that has played a determining role in politics, even if not carried all the way through due to lack of effective left organizations.

A grassroots anti-imperialism opposed to the ruling classes of both East and West is the precondition for the resolution of the imperialist contradiction on the terms of the working class. Crucial to any future unification strategy will be the linking of anti-austerity protests with anti-imperialism, the expansion of the trade union movement to the informal sector, and the creation of popular democratic institutions and eventually independent political parties. Popular struggle on all of these fronts, and their eventual unification, will be required to melt the ideological cement binding the workers of the West to the nationalists of the ruling class and replace it with a class-conscious counter-hegemonic project. The return of Maidan activists to their hometowns, spread all across the country, has laid the infrastructure of a united cross-regional movement in a way that can lead to grassroots protests exceeding the bounds of the narrow ruling-class political oscillations of the last decade. Today, as murderous imperialisms and the onslaught of Ukrainian capitalism rage on, one thing is clear as the dawn: it is the oligarchs of all stripes who are responsible for the misery of the Ukrainian people, and it is the oligarchs who will need to be targeted by workplace actions and political protests if the people of Ukraine are to begin taking their future into their own hands.

(full long text).

(Sean Larson is a doctoral candidate in German Studies at New York University and a socialist activist).

Related Links:

Other Links:

BRICS’ time to act to counter US’s destabilization efforts, on Intrepid Report, by Ben Tanosborn, July 25, 2014;

European Central Bank hacked, personal data stolen, on Russia Today RT, July 25, 2014;

Mysterious black holes may be exploding into white holes, on Russia Today RT, July 25, 2014;

Spy for a spy: Germany to monitor US, UK agents, on Russia Today RT, July 24, 2014;

1.1 million UK households could be in ‘debt peril’ by 2018, on Russia Today RT, July 24, 2014;

68 percent of Britons ‘tricked’ by small print financial fees – poll, , on Russia Today RT, July 24, 2014;

The Politics of Parenting: How Our Society Criminalizes Poor Mothers of Color, on TruthDig, by Sonali Kolhatkar, July 24, 2014;

ILO: Social protection helps people living with HIV keep their jobs – new report, with 2 videos, on International Labour Organization, June 27, 2014: New ILO study shows that social protection plays a key role in helping people living with HIV to keep their jobs and follow treatment …;

Afghanistan’s Wartime Economy (2001-2014): The Devastating Impacts of IMF-World Bank Reforms, on Global, by Siddieq Noorzoy, July 24, 2014;

Video – Seeds Of Death and Big Agriculture: Monsanto, Dupont, Sygenta, 79.38 min, on Global, by Dr. Gary Null, July 24, 2014… and links to related articles;

… and this:

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