The month of March 1871 French society was rocked by two astonishing events; first the crushing of the French army at the hands of the Prussians, which resulted in the fall of the regime of Napoleon II and consequently the armed uprising of the laborious classes of Paris against a French political elite that had failed them, and a German invading elite that would oppress them.
Fast forward to February 2014 Ukraine, more specifically Kiev was the epicentre of what appeared to be a repeat of the Orange pro-western, pro-Europe, pro-NATO revolution. Things didn’t go according to plan after this, and within a matter of weeks the “revolution” was hijacked by neo-Nazi, fascistic elements which had been it’s brute force and backbone since its onset. In response to this, several towns (notoriously Donetsk) declared themselves autonomous communes or people’s republics, not to be ruled by the pro-Russian oligarchy that had failed them or by the hollow promises of the pro-Western elites with their fascist tendencies.
Unfortunately media coverage for the most part is oblivious or willingly hides this aspect and paints the Ukrainian conflict in an antiquated mini Cold-War proxy war scenario between the evil Russians and the Free World, A.K.A. the West.
But these popular revolutions are the most interesting development within the Ukrainian conflict and they are the true un-manipulated essence of the Maidan revolt. Very quickly a popular revolt against austerity measures, the over-concentration of wealth and power, economic inequality and social injustice was turned into a pro-Western revolt, to serve the interests of a European Union that were searching for a diversion from the quagmire of austerity.
The main reason why the western media outlets have made no mention of these uprising is obvious: it’s because of the labouring masses of Donetsk. Throughout eastern Ukraine, people are fighting the same fight as are millions of unemployed, battered and toiled western workers. They wouldn’t want to give them ideas, now would they…
Within the first weeks of the “pro-Russian” uprisings, as the main media outlets like to label them, the citizens of the newly founded Communes took immediate action to bring under their management the main industries that were now within their jurisdiction. On the other hand the newly elected government in Kiev with the sanction of the Ukrainian oligarchs of which the tycoon Rinat Akhmetov — a billionaire that made his fortune through the exploitation of the miners of the Donbass — called on the “occupying” miners to put an end to their illegal “strike” and self-determination or suffer the consequences.
During that time, neo-Nazi elements of the Ukrainian nationalistic extreme right started their campaign of intimidation and consolidation of power, targeting organized labor and ‘communists,’ taking control of several important portfolios within the newly established Kiev government. The culminating point of this vast campaign of terror was the infamous burning of the trade union house of Odessa that resulted in the death of 23 people. The Ukrainian fascist community was in ebullition, celebrating the deaths of the “Russian terrorists.” The international community – the West – was silent.
For the past few months, the Ukrainian government has been on the offensive against its own people, declaring an all out war on the people’s republics that have sprung-up throughout the east of Ukraine. With diplomatic and tactical support from the West, the region has been carpet-bombed resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent civilians.
In another context, lets say the Balkans in the 1990s, this would have pushed the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union to condemn and take action either on the ground or through economical sanctions against the Kiev regime for their violation of human rights and their blatant disrespect of the people of eastern Ukraine’s right to self-determination. Then again, self-determination is only acceptable when it serves the purposes of neo-liberalism and the will of the free-markets.
Through this context though the idea of self-determination has been put to test and is being shaped little by little, self-determination becomes more than just a right tied to a people through an ethnic or cultural link. It mutates and becomes an undeniable right for every human being to be able to control the means of production of their well-being, thus making the industry revolve around the will of the people instead of the bestial urge of profit.
Many parallels have been drawn since the dawn of the Ukrainian conflict with the horrors of WWII and some with the one-hundredth anniversary of the WWI. In reality the conflict that is in motion before us isn’t between great powers, it is a conflict that stems from uncontrolled, unbridled capitalism that generates poverty, conflict and chaos. It is a struggle to tame the flow of capital, to domesticate and subdue, rendering it a fertilizer for the whole of humanity.
And this is exactly the point Piketty misses within his most recent work Capital in the 21st century. Unfortunately we have gotten to a point of no return, where inequality is too great to be tamed with a globalized tax on financial transactions, as long as neo-liberalism prevails many more Ukraines are on the horizon.
PS: This article is dedicated to all of the Ukrainians that have lost their lives in the fight against fascism and that have fought to have a dignified life.
A luta continua.