Ukraine: The collapse of “Left” liberalism

We are publishing the translation of an article by Svetlana Tsiberganova, a Borotba activist based in Donetsk. It deals with the reasons for the bankruptcy of part of the Ukrainian left that have capitulated to anti-communist liberal prejudices and Ukrainian nationalism.

Many are surprised at how quickly Ukrainian society has come under the influence of aggressive chauvinistic propaganda and has begun to live according to the principles of Orwellian dystopia: "War – is peace! Freedom – is slavery! Democracy – is the limitation of all rights! Freedom of speech – is silence! The victims burned and killed themselves!"[1].

However, there is really nothing that should be surprising in this.

If we analyse the recent history of the "left-wing movement" in Ukraine, it is clear that these cynical principles are the very essence of Ukrainian nationalism, and can be heard even among those who should not have succumbed to the chauvinist hysteria.

Why did the "left" liberals go to Maidan? Why were Ukrainian nationalists under the flags of the EU – screaming "Muscovites to the knives! Death to the enemies!" – referred to by “left” liberals as being “the people”, while the population of the South-East, singing "Arise, great country!" became "sovky"[2], "cattle" and "Colorado beetles"? Did the “leftists” not notice the anti-communist rhetoric that was heard everywhere at Maidan? Did they not notice the sincere promises to make anti-social reforms immediately after the victory of Maidan – the same counter-reforms being implemented today? And what about the aggression against all those who raised a progressive demands? Or the calls to suppress all dissent? Or the clerics who projected women as the "helper of the man", according to the chivalrous ideals of the late Middle Ages Ukraine? Was it not obvious who these Maidan supporters really were?

For a long time, I was not able to solve this riddle, until I found on my computer a photo from winter at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, where the crowd was wiping their feet on the red flag. Everything became clear.

All of the liberals, who today actively defend the regime of the oligarchs and nationalists, and who for years insulted the left and engaged in the uprooting and destroying of communist symbols, are no different in this respect from the "brown" Ukrainian nationalists. They supported the anti-communist rhetoric, demonising the Soviet past to the extreme. They implemented anti-left education and historical sciences in order to ward the masses and workers away from socialism, thus helping in the growth of the right.

Many times, on every May Day organising committee, I had to defend the main symbol of the international communist and workers' movement – the red flag with the hammer and sickle. There were those who called for its removal, so as not to scare off liberals and nationalists – although they did not mind the red and black flags of anarchists, which 100% of the people of Kiev associated with the red-black flags of the ultra-nationalist Bandera movement.

Marginal "left" sectarians actively fought with "authoritarian Stalinism" (which has not existed for decades), cowardly ignoring the real threat in the coming to power of Ukrainian nationalism, which has demonstrated stunning authoritarianism – the kind which was rarely seen even in the committees of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

The point is that the Ukrainian "anarchists" (I cannot write it without the quotes) and "libertarians" became the vanguard of Ukrainian Nationalism before “it was cool”. That is, long before the "Euromaidan".

It is not surprising that now they do not want to see the thousands of wounded and dead civilians in the South-East of Ukraine. After all, they are afraid to lose the support of European funds – by breaking their habit of not threatening the power structures – by even organising a peaceful anti-war protest in the capital in order to stop the killing of some “savky”. They are scared to stand up to the right, face hysterical criticism from their office, or become outcasts in their native hipster hangouts and be branded as "agents of the FSB", ever since the leaders of the Ukrainian bourgeois regime labelled anti-war protests as Kremlin-financed provocations.

It is much easier to get a grant for a modest round table discussion "about the threat of war." Did you hear? We have a war! Do you want to talk about it to get the money of European sponsors? At this time, every other (if not every) bus of refugees from Lugansk comes under attack from the Ukrainian army and right-wing militants at checkpoints. These are the same volunteer fighters for whom Kiev "libertarians” collect money for weapons and body armor.

And even worse, a number of so-called anarchists are openly fighting on the side of the executioners under the command of Nazis, in the battalions "Azov" and "Donbas", publicly boasting about the murder of Ukrainians and about how they are taught by Swedish racists.

If that is not a crime, then why do the posts in personal blogs – revealing the truth about the killing of innocent civilians, women, children and the elderly, killed workers; demanding that the war must be stopped – mean support for Putin and separatism? Indeed, in recent months, no one, none of my “left” liberal friends who brought food for the far-right fighters at Maidan and commemorated the "Heavenly hundred"[3], have given a word or a glance, or even a hint of condemning the actions of the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian right-wing militants, and have not at all sympathised with the victims at the hands of these people. One of the most popular excuses for war crimes: "They are to blame - they have not expelled the Donbas bandits, they provoked the war with their referendum!”. The point is this: how is this "left" different from the average fanatic nationalist? Let's be honest – nothing.

But the vilest part of the sentimental swamp of left liberalism is related to their attitude to the Ukrainian political prisoners and refugees, among whom are many of our comrades. Thousands of illegally (and even mistakenly arrested) people have no support from the liberal “human rights” defenders. The principle of the Maidan activists: "our people – everything; strangers - the law!" People who justify again and again the massacres, kidnappings and beatings, committed again and again by the supporters of the regime, are trying to blame others and their different ideological positions in the struggle against the war. If this is anarchism, then what is the meaning of fascism?

Now I'm home in the Donbas. Every day, and sometimes all night, we have shooting and shelling. Throughout the city are men with guns. But for the moment, I feel more or less calm, for the first time in many months of hard and heavy work; for the first time since the storming of the offices of "Borotba" and the mass arrests of people in Kharkiv, many of whom became my friends; after the attacks on my friends and persecution by police and intelligence services; after the kidnapping attempt on my comrade and boyfriend in broad daylight in the center of the city.

We get solidarity from a large number of people, partisans of peace – often apolitical; from Ukrainians and people from different countries around the world. But to support the opposition to the current regime – this is a too courageous act for the left liberal. None of them commented on the murder of a member of the Communist Party, Vyacheslav Kovshun, by neo-Nazis, probably because he was not the man for them, and a member of the "wrong bourgeois Communist Party", while the Nazis who killed him were “progressive Maidan activists”. No one said a word about the kidnapping of our comrade, a communist from Volnovakha, or the murder of Mariupol journalist Dolgov. And just the same they kept silent on the assassination of the opponents of the right regime in Kharkov, Odessa and in the Donbas.

I had hoped that the “left” would take part in anti-war actions, by supporting the wives and mothers in Western Ukraine, who protest against the forced conscription of their husbands and children. But what can you expect from those who do not have the heart to be called a communist; from those who consider themselves "left", obediently serving the interests of the Nazis and the oligarchs?

Now there is hope for humanity and for the honesty of people. And I know that such honest people are out there.

The events in recent days, the protests of mothers and wives of Ukrainian soldiers, have shown that the Ukrainian workers do not need a glamorous leftist fringe. Ukrainian workers need bold and ideological communists, for whom the word “leftist" has long brought on a contemptuous sneer. Workers need those who are not afraid of the working class, and who are ready to organise and educate; those who do not have to ask, "how do I start a conversation with a worker so that they do not tell me to go away?"; those who see the future in the working class, and not in the propaganda of the oligarchy.

I know these people. Their numbers are growing and they have a future ahead of them. It is these people who will make Ukraine free and socialist.

English translation of КРАХ «ЛЕВОГО» ЛИБЕРАЛИЗМА


[1] Referring to the explanation of Kiev supporters to the Odessa massacre of May 2nd.

[2] Pejorative term for pro-USSR people used by modern day liberals. Literal meaning is “shovel”.

[3] Refers to the protesters that died fighting at Maidan. A “hundred” is a Ukrainian Cossack term for battalion.