Ukraine on the Eve of the May 25 Presidential Election

20 May

By Dominique Ferré

(reprinted from the May 21-27, 2014, issue of Informations ouvrières [Labor News], the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party of France)

Setting the presidential election in Ukraine on May 25 had the goal of conferring a “democratic” and “European” legitimacy to the new government installed in Kiev.[1] Today, Ukraine is on the brink of war and dislocation. Neither the allegedly “anti-terrorist” military offensive in the east of the country nor the “national reconciliation round-tables” decided one after the other by the top people in power have achieved the desired results.

Obama, Merkel, Hollande, Fabius . . . are all repeatedly issuing statements aimed at giving the May 25 elections a veneer of legitimacy. A U.S. official added the threat of “bleeding Russia” through new sanctions in case the Russian government decided to interfere. For his part, Putin was compelled to say that the May 25 election “was a step in the right direction.”

But what are the stakes of May 25 for workers in Ukraine?

The end of State subsidies to industry

It is clearer and clearer that whatever the result of the election, all the major decisions have already been made. Thus, the agreement reached in late March with the IMF launched a series of murderous announcements.

– May 1: The Kiev government announced a 50% hike in the price of gas.

– May 13: “Pavel Sheremeta, Ukraine’s Minister of Economic Development and Commerce declared that Ukraine was ending State subsidies to industry. . . . Experts explain that Ukraine’s industry should expect catastrophic consequences. . . . ‘During the next six months, the State can no longer subsidize production. We have cut all subsidies to avoid having to end all social programs — though some of these programs will have to be cut anyway.'” (Gazeta.ru)

Such a measure will surely sound the death knell of the metal works and mines. Take the mines, for example. A mineworker explains that, “[W]ithout public funding, the mines would have closed down long ago. He says that this is the fault of mine owners who, ever since the mines were privatized, have never invested money in them. Exports to Russia, which amount to about half of mining production, have slowed down badly. Production is plummeting.” (Le Nouvel Observateur, May 2)

The working class is trying to make itself heard

Despite the terror and rampant war, the working class is trying to express itself on its own ground, from the east to the west of Ukraine.

– On May 5, the mineworkers of the Lviv Mine Works (in the west) downed their tools to protest the non-payment of 90% of their January to March wages.

– On May 11, in Krivoi Rog (in the center of the country), the miners of the iron complex of Evraz Sukhaia Balka marched to demand a wage increase.

– On the morning of May 13, a strike broke out at the Kharkiv fertilizer factory (in the east). Workers set up a picket line in front of the factory entrance demanding the payment of back pay. Wages were several months in arrears.

And in the middle of all this, the Yatseniuk government has just announced the end of all state subsidies to industry!

“Oligarch vampires”

All these developments have led to a process of differentiation in the eastern cities. In Sloviansk, the “self-proclaimed” authorities are demanding “the immediate nationalization of the oligarchs’ properties” . . . while, on the contrary, the draft “People’s Constitution” in Donetsk calls for “recognizing the multiple forms of private, public, and mixed property.” . . .

Worried by the calls raised by workers in some sectors to seize the properties of the “oligarch vampires,” Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest oligarch (who is acting as a broker between the “separatists” and Kiev), announced the creation of so-called “militias,” sending his employees to patrol the cities of the major industrial cities of the east — alongside the Ukrainian police forces — to “restore order.”

– – – – –

Endnote

[1] On May 25, elections will be held throughout Europe to elect deputies to the so-called European Parliament — a body that is nothing but a rubber stamp for the policies decided by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. — Translator’s Note

* * * * * * * * * *

SIDEBAR

Petro Poroshenko, “Oligarch” and Front-Runner in the Presidential Election

After the collapse of the USSR, Petro Poroshenko took his cut in plundering state property. He privatized several confectionery and automotive firms for his own benefit, not to mention a shipyard and a TV channel. . . .

Forbes magazine reports that his net worth is more than US$1.6 billion. In 1998, Poroshenko became a deputy on behalf of the Unified Social Democratic Party of Ukraine, which supported President Kuchma. In 2001, he participated in the founding of the Party of Regions, the party of Victor Yanukovych.

Feeling that the political winds were shifting, Poroshenko put himself at the service of Yushchenko and was re-elected deputy in 2002. He then he funded the “Orange Revolution” in 2004.

Dismissed from the SNBO (Council of Security and Defense) on charges of corruption, he was elected again deputy in 2006 and was appointed as Yushchenko’s foreign affairs minister in 2009, taking a stand in favor of Ukraine joining NATO. Then, in 2012, under Yanukovych, he was appointed Minister of Commerce. . . The United States and the European Union support his candidacy because he appears to be “less corrupt” than the “Gas Princess” (as she is known) Yulia Timoshenko, who is also a presidential candidate.

On May 15, Andryi Parubiy, another presidential candidate, published in The Wall Street Journal a column titled, “Ukraine Needs Immediate U.S. Military Aid; Antitank and Antiaircraft Weaponry are Essential to Deterring Putin’s Aggression.” Back in 1991, Parubiy was a co-founder of the National Social Party of Ukraine (later renamed Svoboda). He later was a deputy for the Batkivshina Party in 2012. Currently he is the president of the National Defense and Security Council (SNBO).

It should be noted that Petro Simonenko, leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), has withdrawn his candidacy. This party — which had been totally part of the institutions for 23 years — was removed summarily from the Rada (parliament) on April 15 after Simonenko, in the name of his party, denounced “the political powers that sent tanks and assault vehicles against its own citizens.” Those words were considered “separatist” and resulted in Bill No. 4896, which “removed the KPU parliamentary group” from the Rada. As he was exiting the TV premises, where he had announced the withdrawal of his candidacy, Simonenko was targeted with Molotov cocktails.

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