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Ideas. Knowledge art hospitality travel –these are the things that should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible; and, above all, let finance be primarily national.
John Maynard Keynes 1933

The genuine emancipation of the Ukrainian people is inconceivable without a revolution or a series of revolutions in the West which must lead in the end to the creation of the Soviet United States of Europe. An independent Ukraine could and  undoubtedly will join this federation as an equal member. The proletarian revolution in Europe, in turn, would not leave one stone standing of the revolting structure of Stalinist [today Putinist –SV] Bonapartism.
Leon Trotsky 1939.

Stephen Velychenko. Why Ukrainians should prefer a neo liberal capitalist  EU  to Putin’s neo-liberal capitalist Eurasian UnionThe mass of Ukrainians and a majority of Russians and Russian-speakers, with the exception of the Crimea, regard the EU as the only alternative to the neo-soviet Russophile oligarchic order in which they live. They desire integration into EU looking to Poland Slovakia and Hungary as models. Polls taken in early 2014 show that had presidential elections occurred then, no more than 15% would have voted for clearly neo soviet Russophile candidates. 12% supported full integration with Russia. In the most heavily colonized and Russified provinces where most of the population tune-in to Russian rather than Ukrainian media, 24 percent in Luhansk and Odessa, 33 percent in Donetsk, and 41 percent in Crimea, supported political union with Russia1.  Pro-EU  commentators and politicians  also  present the EU an absolute good, alongside almost all US and EU academic specialists on Russia and eastern Europe for whom Ukraine’s EU choice is self evident.  

A section of Ukraine’s 1%, the ruling culturally Russophile  Russian-speaking oligarchs,  also  seek EU integration.  As rulers and owners of an independent country, some of them began developing a territorial “national interest.” Like their counterparts in 19th century Latin America, after 1991 this group  began evolving into a “creole” elite interested in ruling an independent national state separate from the imperial metropole. Such oligarchs already live in the EU and belong to the EU neo-liberal capitalist corporatist elite They keep their money, wives, children and lovers there and give speeches there in Russian about Ukraine. This incipient “national capitalist class”  see membership in the EU as a way secure their local political power and stolen fortunes.  Some even gave a few cents of their stolen fortunes to Ukrainian Diaspora causes hoping to temper condemnation of their government from that quarter. In the new government that seeks EU membership this pro EU  faction of  Ukraine’s national capitalist class (the Poroshenkos and Kolomoiskys) has displaced its  pro-Russian “comprador” section  (the Medvedchuks, Kurchenkos and Kluievs).

Many democratic and anti-Stalinist leftists, as well as some liberals  who also condemn the American-led neo-liberal corporatist offensive to destroy Europe’s post-war social-democratic order, find this Ukrainian affinity for  the EU  incomprehensible. They point to Greece or Portugal or the Occupy Movement, noting  that  selling   public assets  as alienable  resources to the rich, who then sell them back for profit to  citizens, is  incompatible  with  political and economic democratization and, that regulation by democratically elected governments, alongside  ownership of select firms and service organizations, is essential for any just and equable social order.  They point out that adoption of the neoliberal corporate model  does not inexorably lead to high economic standards. Asia and Africa and Latin America they show, send more billions into US and EU banks as interest on loans than they get “development aid.” Corporate neoliberal capitalism, meanwhile, generates huge agribusiness conglomerates  like Monsanto and Cargill that destroy agriculture, displace  family farming,  force migration  into urban slums and create there masses  of unskilled and working poor.2  

Implicitly, if not explicitly, many if not perhaps a majority of leftists think Putin’s Russian bandit- capitalism preferable to American neoliberal capitalism, and, tolerate his neo-imperialist driven objective to maintain at least Russian hegemony over if not full control over Ukraine. Such people seem to  think that the rapacious and destructive greed of big bankers and corporate owners/managers in Russia is somehow preferable to that of their European and American counterparts, even though the former enjoy a degree of independence from governmental regulation that some of the latter can only envy. They see no similarity between Putin and his Eurasianists and George W. Bush and his Neo-cons. They condemn Wolfowitz Cheney and Rumsfield,  but not Dugin or Surkov  or Glazeev.  Accordingly, in no European capital have their been  mass liberal-left  demonstrations against Putin’s  violation of Ukrainian borders.  The world’s  Noam Chomsky’s  have not condemned Putin for  turning  Russia into an autocracy or labeled as imperialism his  expansion west and south.

Marxist theoretical purists theorize about the possibility of economic autarky; development in countries  isolated from the capitalist world economy via socialist revolution,  a notion that only  isolates themselves,  like Lenin in Zurich,  from any political influence in the real world. They refer to  struggles of this sort in  Venezuela, Bolivia and Colombia, ignoring that  Ukraine’s geographical position  does not allow it the luxury of the autarchy option.  Leaving aside the issue that there is no critical mass that supports a radical socialist alternative, Ukraine can only choose  which great power to ally with and whether it will integrate into the world market via the European or Eurasian Union.

Too many leftists and liberals have identified the most extreme and violent group within  Ukraine’s current  national liberation struggle as representative of the entire movement thereby, knowingly or unknowingly, repeating  a decades old Russian communist trope.  They ignore the role of Ukrainian nationalism as an anti imperialist discourse. Their ignorance of Ukrainian history leads some to condemn Russian imperialism while simultaneously supporting Ukraine’s politically Russophile Communist Party, Russian imperialism’s main agent in Ukraine. In a country where anywhere from 70-80% of all media are in Russian they call for “protection” of the “Russian  speaking minority”3. While vociferously condemning Ukrainian “fascism,” which few seem to distinguish from Nazism, they remain silent about Putin’s neo-imperialism, the Ukrainian national question, and Russian colonialist goon sqauds  analogous to the Algerian French OAS4. They do not ask why Putin’s Kremlin condemns what it calls “Ukrainian Fascism” while simultaneously cultivating ties with various EU extremists who really are fascists5. No English language left site to my knowledge explcitly condemns the extremist fascist organization the "Russian National Unity" movement that is spearheading the  annexation of the  Crimea, for instance. Its symbol is a huge red and white swastika and it propagates the idea  of the purity of Aryan race6. They are not troubled that the Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, previously led a Russian party  banned  as “fascist.” Few of the  leftists that criticize Moscow’s authoritarian domestic clampdowns draw attention to the enormous political and economic pressure it exercises on Ukraine that provoke the radicalization of Ukrainian liberal nationalism. Some of these de facto politically pro-Kremlin leftists must be considered dishonest because they do not openly declare they are funded by the Kremlin.7  

All leftists realistically detail future problems stemming from EU association. Ukrainian leftists  do not consider the Euromaidan  a revolution in so far as its socioeconomic demands have been replaced with the neoliberal capitalist agenda of the new government8. They do not consider the new government progressive or revolutionary in so far as it is anti-imperialist, or, that it arguably represents the national bourgeois revolution that Ukraine never had.  It declares the need for "unpopular decisions" on prices and tariffs and readiness to fulfil all the conditions of the International Monetary Fund. It has appointed oligarchs as provincial governors. It will probably thereby, as the leftists note, generate  disappointment, impoverishment, an unacceptable encroachment of private interests in public administration,  de-industrialization and the proletarization of government employees.  Ukrainian leftists and their critically minded colleagues who see little benefit in EU membership9 and do condemn Russian imperialism, however, offer no viable alternatives.

Some leftists understand the Ukrainian national movement cannot be reduced to “fascism” – which in eastern European usage is normally but erroneously considered synonymous with Nazism. It is true that there are not very intelligent extremists associated with Ukraine’s right  wing party Svoboda who stupidly refused trade union activists access to the Maidan stage and  beat up activists. But its leader has condemned some of his underling’s actions and the party  is unlike other EU right parties. It condemns Russian imperialism, supports the notion of an EU, and was rejected membership in the Alliance of European National Movements. Ukrainian accession to the EU, therefore, is unlikely to benefit the right in the EU. Svoboda may be more extreme than the French National Front or the Freedom Party of Austria, but it is less extreme than Hungary’s Jobbik, the NPD, Golden Dawn, Tricolour Flame, or the BNP. Even if certain members of Svoboda are in the current government, this government is transitional and it will hardly start building a Nazi state.  To call conservatives “radical nationalists” or “extremists” is absurd. While the right-wing Right Sector does have a neo-Nazi fringe – the “White Hammer” and “Social-National Assembly”-- the main group behind it is “Tryzub.” These people are neither neo-Nazi, racist nor anti-Semitic. Their ideology is also conservative.

Ukraine’s Euromaidan national movement and new government, are politically liberal-conservative and have chosen EU membership with its  neo liberal capitalism over  Putin’s Eurasian neo liberal capitalism. But, given the adverse socio-economic consequences of EU neoliberal capitalist policies in every country in which they have been adopted, is this preference justified? Why should Ukrainians, other than they are not Russians, prefer the  EU?

Transnational corporations through their various “trade agreements” destroy what Marxists term “bourgeois” freedoms in the countries where they were won, often by force of arms and bloodshed. Marx considered these the great achievements of the eighteenth and nineteenth century revolutions: freedom of the press, elected representative assemblies, constitutions, the rule of law, and strong legal trade unions. In Ukraine, which never had a successful bourgeois revolution,  these freedoms were never enacted and enforced.  These freedoms never existed in Stalin’s USSR and, after 1991, despite their formal adaptation in a written constitution, Ukraine’s 1% and their hired politicians ignored them whenever they pleased. Re-establishing closer ties with Putin’s Russia would only re-establish and reinforce the criminalized neo-feudal soviet-style order that Ukrainians rose agаіnst en masse in November 2013. For this reason, even in truncated form, today’s EU member countries  remain as beacons of these freedoms and liberties to people living in a corrupt neo-feudal authoritarian post-soviet republic.

The average Ukrainian, even if such a person is aware of the neo-liberal corporatist destruction of the post-war order in Greece or Ireland or Portugal,  also sees the EU corporate neo-liberal capitalist order as one that still provides better conditions of life than the post-soviet Russian-style robber state-corporatist capitalist order they live under in Ukraine – as their protest has shown. Because between 75-80% of Russian government revenue derives from gas and oil exports, Putin’s government can pay employees, and finance services and pensions. It thus ranks ahead of Ukraine in the Human Development Index. Poland, however, with no finite resources to export, ranks ahead of Russia, while it is doubtful that Russians who do not live in either Moscow or St Petersburg are better off than Ukrainians who live outside Kyiv.10  Since 2000, moreover,  Ukrainian migration to Russia  has been steadily falling while migration westwards as been steadily  increasing11. For Ukrainians EU membership also promises the final end of two centuries of cultural russification and  the  threat Ukrainians will disappear as an ethnos – or be reduced to the level of an “aboriginal people.” A comparison of the evolution during the last 100 years  of the Ukrainian diaspora in North America  with that of the diaspora in Russia adds little weight to any argument in favour of joining Putin’s Eurasian Union. It is also inconceivable that  Ukraine’s political Russophiles, if any remained in the country after EU accession, would try defend their old soviet right there of not having to learn or use under any circumstances Ukrainian, or, to use Russian as administrative language instead of Ukrainian in Ukraine. Russians in Germany or Poland or any other European country make no such absurd claims, let alone feel second rate because they can’t speak to non-Russians in Russian. Nor would Ukrainian in the EU disappear as a living language as Belarusian has in Belarus. It would no more be displaced by English than have Polish or Czech or Dutch.  

While the present government, reflecting the will of the Euromaidan majority, is pro EU, its members still exhibit neo soviet  traits that  are cause for consternation. Ukraine’s richest man Akhmetov declared his support, but, as of yet, his assets have not been investigated and he has posted bail for the  arrested neo soviet anti Ukrainian ex-governor of Kharkiv province Mikhail Dobkin. In the wake of the Crimean referendum journalists began publicly questioning his attitude to anti-Ukrainian goon squads and vigilantes and his attempts to appoint his people to key governmental financial committees. Despite his EU properties and accounts the man appears to be politically pro Russian12. Members of parliament still vote illegally by proxy.  At the time of writing there was no hint of changes in tax regulations to transfer a greater portion of oligarch wealth into state coffers.  No less ominous are the actions of the new governor of Donetsk Sergei Taruta who has followed in the footsteps of the worst African dictators and hired mercenaries. He brought with him to Donetsk 300 armed men from the infamous American mercenary organization Blackwater. Has any western or even eastern European provincial governor hired mercenaries since the 16th century?

None of the Ukrainian independent trade union associations, except the official KVPU, existing since the 1990s under the same head, to give another example, were admitted into the “All-Ukrainian Strike Committee." The head of this official union, Mykhailo Volynets, together with Vitaliy Klychko, and presumably, Arsenyi Iatseniuk, organized phony soviet-style "strikes" in favour of Euromaidan13. Whether Klychko and Iatseniuk publically apologize for this indefensible relapse into Soviet practices and, publically demand the immediate resignation of Volynets and new elections to the KVPU, remains to be seen.

To its credit, the new government has stopped the sale of public assets. It has condoned the arrest of the powerful oligarch Dmytro Firtash. It has placed another oligarch, Kurchenko under investigation and  is searching for Yanukovych junior – who has disappeared.  These acts send the signal that should other Ukrainian oligarch-capitalists carry on in the footsteps of the Lehman Brothers and Kenneth Lay within the EU variant of neoliberal capitalism, they will end up jail. This is something Ukrainians have desired since 2004.

EU membership for Ukraine would arguably make the introduction of a Keynesian Social Democratic order there more likely than  if it belonged to Putin’s Eurasian Union.  The excesses of the neoliberal corporate order have now led some US and EU leaders to realize that it has to be restricted. Such people realise that aiming to produce the greatest amount of goods at the lowest price will ultimately turn the entire planet into a desert.  World Bank executives fired Joseph Stiglitz for his opposition to neo liberal capitalist policies, while  IMF board members fired Dominique Strauss-Kahn as chairman on the basis of a phony sex-scandal for trying to introduce  regulations and  controls on capital and corporations. Nonetheless, U.S. and Britain, have now nationalized major financial institutions, reversing the privatization trend of the last two decades. French President Sarkozy proclaimed, "Laissez-faire is finished." There are, in short, reformists within the ruling class calling for renewed government regulation, protection of citizens from foreign monopolies,  and equalization and redistribution through more taxation on capital flows and the 1%14. Argentina unilaterally reduced its debt in 2003 and channeled its money into domestic development not foreign bankers’ pockets.  In Venezuela and other Latin American countries, neoliberalism has been reversed as a result of mass political mobilization.

Against this background, it should be remembered that Tymoshenko in her time promised policies to regulate capital flows and Ukraine’s 1%.  Should Ukraine’s new government follow her lead they would have the support of EU reformists for regulation, re-natinalization and, most important, a write-off of all debt – something EU bankers did for Poland.  Ukrainian leaders are also likely to follow Polish advice -- in particular keep the national currency and severely restrict inflow of foreign speculative capital. All of which would bring  living standards public services and infrastructure up to Polish, if not western European levels. Should this not happen, if their new government, Brussells, the IMF the World Bank, the WTO and Washington,  blindly  impose neoliberal capitalist policies rather  enacting  legislation to regulate and control Ukraine’s 1%,  they will turn Ukraine into another Ireland or Greece. Under such conditions it is not inconceivable that a new Euromaidan by Ukrainians in the EU joining a renewed Occupy movement would shake the EU to its foundations.

Thanks to massive Russian capital inflows in Britain and France especially,  influential persons there support Putin and argue Ukraine should remain under Kremlin control. The question here is whether their influence will override those on the pro Ukrainian side who see Putin’s obsession with “protecting” fellow nationals, in view of the sizable Russian immigrant minority  in  EU countries, as  too chillingly similar to Hitler’s obsession with “protecting”  his fellow nationals in 1937-39.

For the moment, Ukraine’s new government must deal with one key problem: Putin’s neo-imperialism and his fifth-column. Unlike De Gaulle, who supported Algerian independence and ultimately refused to support the pro-imperial colonist-organized OAS, Putin has chosen to support the political Russian extremist-colonist minority in Ukraine. Putin might indeed invade and spark international war. This will please some on the left as it might presage a socialist reovlution,  but not necessarily the Ukrainians who will have to live through the horrors. A Ukrainian national state ruled for the historical moment by a national capitalist bourgeois class, with the realistic prospect of membership in a Keynesian rather than a neo liberal EU, is  the only realistic alternative.   

Stephen Velychenko is a Research Fellow at the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of “Painting Imperialism and Nationalism Red: the Ukrainian Marxist critique of Russian communist rule in Ukraine 1918-1923” (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming)




  1. See: http://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=eng&;cat=reports&id=236&page=1
  2. There is a huge literature on this subject. For example see: David Harvey, Will Hutton, Michael Hudson, William Greider, John Pilger, Gregg Palast, and Naomi Klein. See also Peter Phillips and Brady Osborne, "Financial Core of the Transnational Corporate Class" (2013), "The Great European Fire Sale" (Transnational Institute, 2013); Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers, "The Death of 'Social Europe'," Counterpunch (2011); Michael Hudson, "Why Iceland and Latvia Won’t (and Can’t) Pay for the Kleptocrats’ Ripoffs," Counterpunch (2009) and the web site Spectrezine.org.
  3. See: http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/
  4. http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1394442656
  5. See: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141067/mitchell-a-orenstein/putins-western-allies
  6. http://www.rusnation.org/
  7. Anton Skhekhovtsov is currently studying these groups (they include Globalresearch.ca, Socialist Party International, Institut de la Democratie et de la Cooperation, Liva Sprava, and possibly, Counterpunch: http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ca/2014/02/what-west-should-know-about-euromaidans.html http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/25203341.html http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ca/2014/02/pro-russian-network-behind-anti.html.)
  8. See: http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/left-opposition-ukraine-saved/
  9. http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/ukraine-and-the-western-slavists/
  10. http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/world-health-review/ukraine-vs-russiaot.  http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/UKR.pdf  http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/alcohol-consumption-vs-deaths  Russia’s recent slightly improved birth rates  reflect   a high birth rate of its Muslim population and annual Asian immigration.
  11. http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/docs/migration_profiles/Ukraine.pdf
  12. See: http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2014/03/26/7020375/
  13. http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/
  14. http://www.sagepub.com/cleggstrategy/Kotz%20D%20M.pdf