As many as 30 (thirty) people turned up to the most recent mass action staged by the so-called ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ (SARU) campaign: a picket of the US embassy in London, backed by the equally misnamed ‘Stop the War Coalition’. (1)
SARU began life masquerading as a campaign against a non-existent ‘fascist junta’ in Kiev. More recently, it has become an explicit apologist and cheerleader for Russian imperialism and the Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’ which the latter has created.
SARU had initially publicised its picket as a protest against “false accusations of ‘Russian aggression’ (inverted commas in original) and media demonisation of Vladimir Putin”, and against supposed US and NATO plans to arm “17 neo-Nazi battalions under the command of (Right Sector leader) Dmitry Yarosh.”
Such idiocies were presumably too much even for some members of SARU. Later publicity therefore posed the picket as one called under the marginally less incoherent slogan “Stop NATO’s War in Ukraine!”
But at the picket itself, speakers just could not help themselves: Ukraine is a fiction! Russian intervention is a myth! Fascism rules in Kiev! The war will continue until victory! (A rather incongruous piece of demagogy for an event backed by the ‘Stop the War Coalition’.)
Thus, according to one speaker: “Russians and Ukrainians are the same nation. Ukraine was artificially created only 20 years ago. One nation was artificially separated. There are no Russian troops, no Russian military forces (in Ukraine).”
Other speakers took up the theme that Putin was no more than a disinterested bystander. As one speaker put it:
“There are no excuses for believing the propaganda that claims the events in Ukraine are the result of Russian aggression. Not one piece of credible evidence has ever been produced to support this.”
According to another speaker: “This has nothing to do with Russian aggression. It has to do with the aggression of the Kiev government against its own population as soon as it came to power.”
Successive speakers explained that the Kiev government was “carrying out a genocidal war against the people of the Donbas”, and that “US imperialism had instigated and funded a coup that had placed neo-Nazis and fascists into the Kiev regime.”
An English folk musician expanded on the same theme: “The people behind the fascist coup in Kiev are the Americans, they want to get into Ukraine, and from there into Russia. The situation will never rest until the Americans give up their objective of taking over Russia.”
Pride of place amongst the speakers belongs to Gerry Downing of ‘Socialist Fight’ and his delirious ‘anti-imperialist’ contribution in which he applauded the seizure of Debaltseve by Russian-separatist forces in breach of the recently concluded Minsk peace deal:
“The Ukrainian army suffered a humiliating defeat. That defeat is a defeat not only for American imperialism and its forces but also for Franco-German imperialism. We should salute that victory and be unequivocal about it.
It was a major victory and sets up the struggle for the next phase. And no doubt there will be a next phase.
We reject completely and totally the notion that Russia and China are imperialist countries. We have no dual defeatist position. We are unequivocally for the defeat of Kiev and European imperialism in this conflict.”
Unfortunately but understandably, an Everton fan who had once been to Ukraine to watch a game of football became so intoxicated by the protest’s politics that he used his contribution to launch into a diatribe against “Trots”.
The SARU chairperson gently admonished him, pointing out the difference between good “Trots” (ones who support Russian imperialism) and bad “Trots” (we who can tell the difference between police-state Stalinism and socialism).
The protest finished with the chant: “Obama, McCain! No more weapons for Ukraine.”
Of course, Obama and McCain have not actually provided Ukraine with any weapons. But such a basic factual inaccuracy can readily be excused on the grounds of poetic licence: “Lavrov, Putin!” neither scans nor rhymes with “Ukraine”.
Apart from apologising for Russian imperialism, SARU has also been busy in recent weeks pretending that there are real trade unions in the so-called Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR).
SARU dismissed as a scam an apparently official LPR document referring to a ban on independent unions: “If unions have been banned in Lugansk, how could a union (by which it meant: the Trade Union Federation of Lugansk) exist and issue statements?” (2)
Other websites responded by publishing articles confirming that the ‘scam’ document was genuine and that while there was not a law specifically banning independent unions, the authorities in the LPR (and the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’) simply refused to register them:
“The document is genuine. I (Mykola Koziuberda, miners’ union leader in the Nikanor Nova pit) have personal experience of the LPR leaders not even wanting to hear anything about a social dialogue with independent unions. They rule out the very possibility of forming such unions in the LPR.
I was told clearly that there is only one official trade union in the LNR: the Trade Union Federation of Lugansk (TUFL), and no others. Therefore, they are not going to register independent trade unions.” (3)
The SARU article had been cut and pasted from the website “The New Cold War”, which subsequently published a correction accepting that the ‘scam’ document was apparently genuine: “The document does seem to be a true record of a dispute. It’s just that some of the claims it makes are wrong, including reference to non-existent laws.” (4)
That correction and the fact that independent unions are not recognised in the LPR has yet to be acknowledged by SARU.
But what of the TUFL, cited by SARU as evidence that ‘real’ trade unions exist in the LPR?
In reality, the TUFL is a throwback to the Stalinist fake ‘trade unions’ which operated as a transmission belt for the state rather than as independent organisations representing the interests of the working class.
President of the TUFL is Oleg Akimov, a Lugansk businessman caught up in a succession of embezzlement, fraud and corruption scandals in recent years, including creaming off money from one of his own companies: “Today’s ‘spokesperson for the interests of working people’ plundered pensioners and the working population of the Lugansk region.” (5)
Akimov was also the director of Sports for All, a public body in receipt of large amounts of public money from the regional council for the purpose of creating new sports grounds. Sports for All took the money – but the sports grounds never appeared. (6)
Akimov was – and is – a creature of Oleksandr Yefremov, the local ‘power behind the throne’ in Lugansk. Elected as an MP in 2006, Akimov was the head of the Party of the Regions faction in the Rada from 2010 to 2014. He then acted as patron of Valeriy Bolotov and Igor Plotnitsky as successive heads of the LPR. (6)
Twice elected to Lugansk Regional Council as a member of Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions, Akimov was also local president of the youth wing of the Party of the Regions. In the spring of 2014 he resigned from the council and backed the separatists. (7)
In the sham elections held in the LPR last November Akimov’s name was on the ballot paper for head of the LPR as the candidate of the Lugansk Economic Union (LEU) – an organisation set up the preceding month by local businesspeople and industrialists to in order to promote their interests. Akimov himself is a member of the LEU. (8)
Akimov also headed the LEU‘s list of 52 candidates for election to the LPR ‘People’s Soviet’. Although Akimov was ‘defeated’ by Plotnitsky in the pretend-elections for the post of head of the LPR, he was ‘elected’ to the ‘People’s Soviet’.
In other words, this supposed trade union leader is a corrupt businessman and small-fry bourgeois politician who participates in sham elections as the candidate of the local employers’ alliance – and who had no involvement in trade unions in any shape or form prior to his ‘election’ as TUFL president.
A conference held in Lugansk on 27th June last year voted unanimously to create the TUFL, and then promptly elected Akimov as TUFL president. (9) Supposedly attended by 60 trade union representatives, it was clearly attended by far fewer people, with no evidence that any of them were more active in a trade union than Akimov himself. (10)
Just three days later the unelected ‘Supreme Soviet’ of the LPR passed a law “On Trade Unions”. A journalist present at the proceedings of the ‘Supreme Soviet’ reported:
“A member of the committee which had prepared the proposal explained that it was based on a return to the experience of the Soviet Union. There was serious discussion about one point, concerning management’s right to dismiss certain specific categories of workers. But in the end this basic law was adopted unanimously.” (11)
A report of a meeting held in January of this year between FTUL leaders such as Akimov and members of the LPR ‘People’s Soviet’, issued by the LPR People’s Soviet press centre, also referred to the role played by Stalinist ‘trade unions’ as a model for ‘trade unions’ in the LPR:
“In the Soviet Union trade unions actively participated even in state institutions. From Soviet times the mentality and the workplace mutual relations of our people have benefited a lot from understanding the usefulness and necessity of such organisations in the country’s enterprises.” (12)
Since its inception the TUFL has repeatedly played the role of being a ‘trade union’ adjunct to the LPR authorities rather than being a force to advance specifically working-class interests.
It has acted – literally – as a recruiting sergeant for the LPR ‘People’s Militia’ (i.e. the LPR’s Russian-backed and Russian-armed military forces):
“Meetings have been held in grassroots trade union organisations and workplace collectives in a number of factories. We have already achieved results. We are speaking of dozens, of hundreds of volunteers who want to serve in the LPR People’s Militia.
We have put in place mechanisms to co-operate with military recruitment offices, and we can help people who want to join up. Anyone wanting to serve in the ranks of the People’s Militia should contact the TUFL at: room 30, 2nd floor, 13 Kotsyubinsky Street, Lugansk.” (13)
The TUFL has faithfully repeated the Kremlin-LPR-DPR propaganda about ‘fascism’ in Ukraine and the ‘genocide’ being committed against the people of the Donbas.
It has denounced the Kiev government for “committing genocide against its own people.” (13) It has issued an appeal to more than 200 international organisations for “an end to the genocide of the people of the Donbas.” (14)
It has condemned “this genocide, when Ukrainian forces deliberately shell and kill the civilian population.” (15) And it has described the state of Ukraine (sometimes referred to as “the territory called Ukraine”) as “a country which has resurrected nationalism in its worst form: Nazism.” (16)
By contrast, when 32 miners were killed in a pit disaster in the neighbouring DPR earlier this month, the TUFL managed to muster some words of sympathy for bereaved families but not a word of condemnation for the employers and authorities who bore the blame for the deaths. (17)
The TUFL has likewise been unable to muster a single criticism of the sham LPR/DPR referendum of last May and the sham LPR/DPR elections of last November. On the contrary it has defended such charades:
“The establishment of Christianity in Rus’ was accompanied by no small sacrifices and hardships. The same is happening now, as our young republic establishes itself. Twice – on 11th May and 2nd November – we have confirmed that we believe in a new life and are ready for everything to create it with our own hands.” (18)
As the heir of Soviet fake trade unionism, the TUFL is, of course, committed to partnership with the LPR authorities.
In January of this year Plotnitsky and Akimov signed a document committing the TUFL to “co-operation in the sphere of social partnership” and to participation in a “tri-partite commission (i.e. TUFL, government, employers) to regulate social and labour relations.” (19)
(The creation of the tri-partite structure helps explain the LPR’s refusal to recognise real trade unions: the protocol’ signed by Plotnitsky and Akimov gives the TUFL a ‘monopoly’ over the (supposed) representation of workers.
The other, more basic, reason why the LPR refuses to recognise independent trade unions is its thoroughly and inherently undemocratic nature.)
Such a tri-partite commission cannot yet function in the LPR, due to the absence of a fully-fledged employers’ federation. (The LEU does not quite fit the bill.) The TUFL is therefore committed to working with the LPR government to help create such a federation!
Following his meeting with Plotnitsky, Akimov explained:
“The problem is that there is no Employers’ Association in the LPR. We have therefore set up a working group to renew the work of such an organisation. Representatives of all government ministries are involved in the working group.
I am sure that by March there will be an Employers’ Association, and it will be an active organisation which will fully participate in social dialogue.” (20)
Exploiting its pretence of being a trade union, the TUFL has also sought to promote the politics of the LPR in the international trade union movement. It has done so with some success in the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).
The WFTU functioned during the Cold War largely as a Stalinist front organisation, bringing together Stalinist fake unions and western unions led by Stalinist fellow-travellers. After the collapse of Stalinism and its yellow ‘trade unions’, the WFTU continued to provide a home for state-run ‘unions’ (e.g. North Korea, Syria, Iran, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Baathist Iraq). (21)
Hardly surprisingly, therefore, the WFTU has welcomed the TUFL with open arms.
In mid-February an official TUFL delegation attended the 12th WFTU world congress, held in Katmandu (Nepal). A TUFL official now sits on the central committee of the state employees industrial sector of the WFTU. (22)
The TUFL will also be represented at a WFTU-initiated conference being held in Brussels in June. The conference has been convened to demand an end to EU and US sanctions against Russia. (23)
WFTU statements on Ukraine have loyally reflected the LPR-DPR-Kremlin line:
“The WFTU expresses its disgust at the barbarism and crimes committed by the neo-fascists in Ukraine. A significant share of the responsibility for the crimes committed in Ukraine lies with the USA, NATO and the EU – who support the government of neo-fascist forces.” (24)
And according to a statement issued by the state employees industrial sector of the WFTU:
“The activating of the presence of the forces of the CIA, FBI(!) and NATO in Ukraine is directed at supporting the reactionary Ukrainian government and the Right Sector fascist organisation.” (25)
The links which the TUFL has established with (and within) the WFTU have nothing to do with international workers solidarity. They are simply part of the TUFL’s propaganda war to try to legitimise the creation of the LPR.
Thus, the TUFL hailed its influence on motions adopted by the WFTU world congress as “a great diplomatic victory” for Lugansk:
“Today we received the final text of the resolutions adopted by the 12th world congress of trade unions, in which all points proposed by the TUFL were included. This is a great diplomatic victory by the entire people of the Lugansk region. We broke the information blockade. And we gave truth the chance to defeat double standards.” (26)
Even more explicit was Akimov’s statement on the significance of the TUFL having been invited to that congress:
“The TUFL leader (Akimov) also pointed out that the invitation to the trade unions of the LPR to attend the international congress (of the WFTU) testifies to the fact that the trade unions of Europe have given de facto recognition to the Lugansk People’s Republic.” (27)
SARU’s ‘anti-fascism’ is a sham. And so too is the TUFL’s ‘trade unionism’. Real trade unions in Britain and Europe should boycott both of them. Instead, we should be building links with the real anti-fascists in Ukraine and the real trade unions in the LPR and DPR.
1) Courtesy of the Russian RT television channel, a video of the entire sorry event is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vwG0ZoNHao
10) See photos of the meeting at: http://cxid.info/v-luganske-sozdana-federaciya-profsouzov-lnr-foto-vide…