Workers of Donbass divided by Kremlin-backed violence

April 15, 2014

The Russian state is encouraging, and possibly directly perpetrating, the violence tearing apart working-class communities in eastern Ukraine – violence which seems likely to escalate, after the launch of an armed attack on the separatists today by the Kyiv government. Working-class consciousness is being “eaten away and crushed by nationalism”, D., a radical left activist writes from eastern Ukraine on this site.

Vladimir Putin’s military adventures in Crimea and support for separatists are aimed at destabilising the pro-western government in Kyiv, according to the western media. But that’s not the Kremlin’s only target. Right now, D. says, it is the people of Donetsk and Lugansk – communities that grew up on Read the rest of this entry »

Take sides with people, not with Putin

March 28, 2014

Russia has annexed Crimea. Thousands of Russian troops are gathered near the Ukrainian border. While the two countries’ foreign ministers have met, and tension seems to have eased slightly this week, the threat of war remains.  Opposition to military adventures such as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s should be the ABC of socialism, in my view. And yet some socialists in the UK and Ireland are stringing together contorted arguments for taking Putin’s side. This article examines the issues.

On Crimean sovereignty, “Russia has more right on its side than the West – which is the same thing as saying [...] that Putin and Russia are right”, the Irish socialist journalist Eamonn McCann wrote in the Irish Times last week.

The Crimean population had voted to join Russia, McCann argued, and US president Barack Obama had told them their opinion didn’t count. “If we have to take sides [...] Ireland should side with the Russians.”

McCann doesn’t seem that bothered that the referendum was carried out straight after Russian tanks rolled into Crimea. (I’ve written more about that Read the rest of this entry »

Crimea: a divisive, dangerous assault

March 16, 2014

The Russian military action in Crimea is dividing working people, socialists in Ukraine are warning. The threat of war will exacerbate Ukraine’s economic crisis – which is already driving the new neo-liberal government in Kyiv to attack living standards.

Struggles over social issues could be the starting-point for countering the poisonous effect of pro-Russian separatism on one side and extreme Ukrainian nationalism on the other. But radical socialists in Kyiv and in eastern Ukrainian cities emphasise that, in the immediate future, launching such struggles will not be easy.

Putin’s war 

Putin is absolutely right on one point: the western powers’ protests at the Russian action in Crimea are completely hypocritical. Putin said at his 4 March press conference that, when western leaders told him the action was Read the rest of this entry »

Bob Crow

March 14, 2014

A look back at one aspect of the life of Bob Crow, the RMT union leader who died on 11 March, by NEIL ROTHNIE, a North Sea oil worker and trade union activist.

Bob Crow was head and shoulders above all of the other national trade

Bob Crow. Photo: Jarle Vines / Creative Commons

Bob Crow. Photo: Jarle Vines / Creative Commons

union leaders. That is why, in 2008, I supported the merger of the Oil Industry Liaison Committee (OILC), the independent offshore oil workers’ union of which I was a member, with the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) of which Bob was the general secretary.

I had been a member of the National Union of Seamen (now part of RMT) in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Then I was a founder member of the OILC, when it was set up in the wake of the Piper Alpha disaster [the explosion on board a North Sea oil rig in which 167 workers died] in 1988.

The official trade unions had proved to be worse than useless in organising offshore workers, or even standing up for those sacked and black during the big strikes in 1989 and 1990. A Read the rest of this entry »

Ukrainians, Russians and Europeans against Putin’s war

March 2, 2014

Ukrainians, Russians and Europeans were on the streets today protesting against the Putin regime’s attack on Ukraine. It’s the only shaft of light I can see in a dark sky overshadowed by the danger of war, with 6000 Russian troops reportedly on Ukrainian territory in Crimea, some of them surrounding Ukrainian bases.


In Moscow, anti-war demonstrators were detained in large numbers. Each

Nikolaev march

Demonstration in Nikolaev. Photo: Ukrainska Pravda

time protesters assembled on Manezhnaya square in the city centre, more were arrested. Novaya Gazeta, the liberal opposition paper, reported 265 arrests and counting just after 16.00 Moscow time.

Voices on the Russian radical left were unequivocal. “It is necessary to call a spade a spade: what’s happening in Crimea these days is a classic act of imperialist intervention on the part of the Russian state”, said the Open Left group in a statement published in English here.

“Maidan has opened the sluices of activity of the far-right thugs – and at the same time has spurred to political life great masses of people, who perhaps Read the rest of this entry »

Ukraine 1. Yanukovich’s end is a beginning

February 26, 2014

The movement in Ukraine that brought down the former president, Viktor Yanukovich, at the weekend has not fitted into some stereotypes used by people in western Europe, including socialists and left wingers. Having spent the last few days in Kyiv, I offer the following answers to questions that friends in western Europe frequently ask.

Question: Has there been a right-wing coup?

Gabriel: No, there has not. The new government will include some nasty right-wing people. How nasty they can get, only time will tell. But it’s difficult to imagine that they could take repressive measures more


Maidan, 1 December 2013. Photo: Mac_Ivan / Creative Commons

monstrous than those Yanukovich and co. used in the last few months (sniper fire into crowds, other types of murder, torture of activists, unbridled use of paid thugs, and so on).

In any case, the government’s potentially dangerous right-wing colouring is one thing; the character of the movement that paved the way for it is another. Two important points, to my mind, are (1) this was a mass movement embracing wide swathes of the population; and (2) the strength of right- Read the rest of this entry »

Ukraine 2. A political earthquake for Europe and Russia

February 26, 2014

This is the second part of an article on Ukraine. The first part is here

Q. Where did the impetus for Yanukovich’s removal come from? And what else was the Maidan movement demanding, exactly?

G. Yanukovich was always a corrupt bully. Even so, it was remarkable to see how, over the last couple of months, his awful capacity for cruelty helped to tie together the political threads that led to his removal. Each police attempt to clear Maidan brought thousands of extra people into the square, and intensified the level of resistance, and violence, by demonstrators: on 11 December (when a police attempt to clear the square sparked a counterattack), on 19 January (when Yanukovich’s anti-protest laws reignited Maidan), and again on 18 February.

In Maidan’s politics, democracy – the right to demonstrate without fear of brutal police assault, the right to free speech, and so on – was important. wantedBeyond this, the target perhaps most often identified by protesters was “corruption”. It’s worth thinking about its meaning in post-Soviet states. When their economies began to be merged with world capitalist markets, after the Soviet system collapsed in 1990-91, the transition was far from smooth or comprehensive. Some of them – Ukraine’s neighbour Belarus is the obvious example – have retained many Soviet economic methods (state ownership of most industry; state direction of investment; heavy regulation of markets, prices, cross-border capital transfers, etc). In Ukraine and Russia, most of these methods are no longer used: most but not all industry has been privatised; many but not all prices have been deregulated.

But there are other Soviet-era survivals, particularly in the relationship between the state and the capitalist class. Who owns what, and how business Read the rest of this entry »


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