Boris Kagarlitsky: The ashes of Odessa

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has published several views from the left on developments in Ukraine HERE. For more by Boris Kagarlitsky, click HERE.

By Boris Kagarlitsky, translated for Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal by Renfrey Clarke

May 7, 2014 -- Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2 more people died than over several days of fighting in the Donbass, though in Kramatorsk the same day government forces also excelled themselves, killing 10 unarmed local residents who had tried to block the path of armoured vehicles.

It is obvious to everyone that the catastrophe in Odessa has become a turning point in the history of the civil war that began when Ukraine government forces attacked Slavyansk and other cities that had raised the flag of the Donetsk republic.

Inevitably, the ferocity on both sides will now increase; escalating violence and the splitting of the country are unavoidable. But it is not only in Ukraine that the events of May 2 have represented a watershed for public opinion. This applies no less to Russia as well.

Civil wars are always accompanied by a brutalisation of society, and there is no reason to assert that in Odessa the notorious “pro-Russian activists” and supporters of federalisation were all admirers of Tolstoy and Gandhi. Undoubtedly, there were people who brandished weapons and fired shots during the street clashes between the contending groups; even eyewitnesses from among supporters of the “self-defence of the Euromaidan” acknowledge that there were guns on both sides. The only arguments relate to the question of who fired first.

Quite possibly, the first to pull the trigger was someone from among the “pro-Russian” demonstrators. But what, in essence, does this alter? There were people who fought on the streets, and burned other people to death in the House of Trade Unions. Several hours of “fierce street battles” ended, if we are to believe the reports available on May 5, with four or five dead from both sides (this means that firearms were not used in a really serious way; otherwise, the number killed would have been greater). But according to official figures there were more than 40 bodies on Kulikova Field square [in front of the trade union building – tr.], and by unofficial counts more than a hundred. As the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office was obliged to admit that no weapons were found in the House of Trade Unions.

Revolutions, civil conflicts and mass disturbances are always accompanied by a range of excesses. It was for this reason that in criticising the Ukrainian Maidan, we did not discuss specific acts of violence, but instead, the political content of the movement – its ideology, leaders and motive forces. We noted the people who found the movement to their advantage, and discussed the question of where its program would lead the country. From the very beginning, however, it was obvious that the actions of the “Euromaidan hundreds” clearly exceeded any norms of “acceptable force” recognised in modern society. In recent times we have seen numerous revolts and mass demonstrations in various parts of the world, but prior to the Euromaidan it had not entered anyone’s head to throw Molotov cocktails directly at people. European anarchists have often set fire to armoured police vehicles and have thrown petrol bombs into empty, locked bank and office buildings, wisely abandoned by their staff. But no one has previously tried to set fire to police standing in a cordon, or to premises with people inside. Nothing of the sort occurred even during the “Arab spring”, in Tunisia or Egypt.

Nevertheless, spontaneous violence during street clashes is one thing, while acts of vengeance, permitted and approved by the authorities and justified through propaganda, are something very different. Such phenomena are a distinctive mark of a totalitarian political movement and of its ideology. While a democratic movement condemns such excesses and strives to overcome them, fascism elevates them to the heroic, justifying and even institutionalising them. This is what we saw in Odessa on May 2 and 3.

Compounding the acts of the pogromists was repression by the state. Immediately after the burning of the House of Trade Unions, hundreds of activists of the Odessa anti-Maidan movement were detained, while there has been no word of arrests among the participants in the pogrom. The governor of Odessa province, Vladimir Nemirovsky, spoke of the “lawfulness of the actions by supporters of the Euromaidan”. To describe the Kiev government as fascist on the basis of the events of February or March 2014 was somewhat premature. But with each day that passes, the message becomes clearer: while some people may have been hasty in their characterisations of the bloc of nationalists, right-wing radicals and neoliberals that has seized power in Ukraine, these characterisations are nevertheless being confirmed.

It is quite appalling enough to recall the activists who were burned to death or who died of smoke inhalation in the House of Trade Unions; who were beaten on the ground outside; who were shot after the “cleansing” of the building by exultant supporters of the Kiev regime; or who, after suffering wounds and burns, were arrested by the police. No less appalling, however, has been the reaction by the ideological supporters of the present Ukrainian authorities, the people who have filled the information space with howls of triumph.

If only these were exclusively radical right-wing Ukrainian politicians and official propagandists! But members of the Moscow and Kiev intelligentsia, the kindest of people in their everyday lives, have delightedly posted triumphant reports of mass murder. Then, with the same enthusiasm, they have gone on to publish a wide range of conspiracy theories, contradicting one another with every word but leading invariably to a single conclusion: whoever was to blame for the deaths, it was not the people who personally set the fires and did the killing.

The walls of the burnt-out House of Trade Unions had not even cooled, and not a single corpse had yet been identified, when we began to be informed that no one from Odessa was among the victims, that all the dead were Russians or from the trans-Dnestr region. A marvellous device for justifying the extermination of human beings! Even the people who shared in this anti-humanist logic should, at a minimum, have reconsidered their view of events when it was revealed that the victims of the pogrom were indeed from Odessa. But has anyone apologised for spreading this lie, or acknowledged that they were misinformed? Or simply published other, more accurate information? No, as soon as one version has exhausted itself, the people responsible have snatched at another. We have learnt that the victims of the pogrom set fire to themselves, that they did not allow themselves to be saved, or that for some reason they hid in the House of Trade Unions deliberately in order to provoke an attack. And much more in the same vein.

Of course, there is no way that bloggers sitting in front of computer screens can be placed in the same category with people who throw petrol bombs at other human beings. But when public approval is given to violence, this becomes a factor stimulating its escalation. The raptures over the Euromaidan created the psychological and political atmosphere in which the Odessa tragedy became possible. The members of the intelligentsia who have defended and justified the murderers have now finished up on the same side with them, enabling new crimes.

The civil war is not only unfolding in Ukraine. Russia too is being drawn into its orbit. So far this has only been in the form of public discussion, and on the level of words. But as events in Ukraine have shown, words are readily transformed into actions. Words can have the effect of removing moral, psychological and cultural inhibitions. The speakers realise the degree of their responsibility only when it is too late, including for themselves.

Comments

Solidarity from Greece to Borot'ba Union

The following message from the Antifascist Co-ordination of Athens-Pireus was received by Borot'ba (Struggle) Union following the attack of the Ukrainian fascist organisations in Odessa.

Solidarity to the people of Ukraine from Athens, Greece

On Friday, May 2nd, supporters of the fascist government in Kiev backed by the neo-Nazi’s of the “Right Sector” burned the building of the syndicates in Odessa, where antigovernment protesters, in their majority left-wing fighters, were located, in their attempt to defend their city against the fascists marching in. Those who tried to escape the flames were beaten to death by the neo-Nazi’s; the latter went on to complete their work by a pogrom in the streets, conducting targeted attacks against specific homes. Final countdown: 46 antifascist protesters killed and dozens of people injured.

We, the Antifascist Coordination for Athens-Piraeus, would like to send our deepest condolences to our comrades from Borotba Union that count one dead and many people injured by the armed neo-Nazi battalion squads.

As an action of solidarity, we will hold a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Athens. It is our belief that labourers’ and the democratic rights of the Ukrainian people can only be protected by a unified internationalist front against the fascist government, the oligarchs and all kinds of “protecting patrons” (US-EU-Russia).

At such hard times, our mind and heart is next to our Ukrainian comrades that fight against the neo-Nazi’s, oligarchy and imperialism for a society free of nationalist hatred and social degradation.

Solidarity is our weapon

Antifascist Coordination for Athens-Piraeus

Police Storm Socialist Party Borotba Office

The following appeared today in the Swedish magazine ETC. and was posted on
the Facebook page of the Socialist Party, Swedish section of the Fourth International.

Borotbas Office stormed

The Ukrainian independent Socialist Party Borotbas Office in Kharkov have stormed by police. It notifies our party via Facebook.

No one should have gotten hurt or arrested, but police have seized political material, including a large part of the Borotbas party flags.

– Probably, they plan a provocation which they intend to use our flags, "said Dmitry Kolesnik from Borotba.

Borotba party is currently hard-pressed for its opposition to the new regimen in Ukraine. Already in February forced the party's members in Kyiv escape from the capital after fascist storm troopers from the Right Sektor stormed their party offices there and taken over it, and put hands on the member lists.

One of the party's members, Andrei Brasjevskij, was also among those killed during the massacre in the trade unions ' House in Odessa on May 2, He managed to get out of the burning building but was beaten to death by fascist mob who was waiting outside.

Per Leander

Those who have been following the comments posted at LINKS around the upheaval in the Ukraine can now begin to draw some conclusions regarding the motivations of those defending the ultra-rightest regime in Kyiv, by using slander against the comrades of Borot'ba.

Statement condemning the fascist murders in Odessa on 2 May

http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2014/05/statement-condemn-the-fascist-pogr...

Statement: condemn the fascist pogrom in Odessa

This is a statement drafted by Workers Power which we invite organisations and individuals to sign. Please circulate it to your members and supporters. To add your name to the statement please reply to this or email contact@workerspower.co.uk

May 3 2014

We unequivocally condemn the fascist pogrom in Odessa, carried out by Right Sector gangs loyal to the regime in Kyiv.

They torched the House of Trade Unions in Odessa, killing scores inside. The Nazi gangs finished off those who jumped from or fled the building, kicking them to death on the street. In the evening they carried out further pogroms against the population.

We unreservedly condemn this fascist terror, which is the direct consequence of the illegal Kyiv government’s attempt to impose its authority by force on the whole of southern and eastern Ukraine.

We condemn without equivocation all the attempts of this government of oligarchs and fascists ­ which has integrated the Right Sector fascist militias into their ‘forces of order’ – to spread their rule to areas that have justly resisted their illegitimate authority.

We declare our complete solidarity with the population resisting the offensive of the Kyiv regime and support their legitimate demands for autonomy.

We send our condolences to the family and friends of the martyrs in Odessa including to the comrades of the Ukrainian organisation Borotba who have consistently resisted the fascist advance into southeastern Ukraine and to the family of their comrade Andrey Brazhevsky, killed yesterday at the House
of Trade Unions.

We condemn the governments and politicians of the USA and EU states who have supported the coup and actually embraced the fascist leaders.

We likewise condemn the western imperialist media who continue to slander the resistance and cover for the crimes committed by the regime in Kyiv.

We appeal to the labour, socialist, anti-war and antifascist movements of the world to denounce the pogrom in Odessa, to condemn the offensive against the East and South, and to mobilise action in solidarity with the antifascist resistance in Ukraine.

Russian text

Czech text

Signed

League for the Fifth International
Workers Power (Britain)
Arbeiter*innen Standpunkt
Arbeitermacht
Arbetarmakt
Liga Socialista
Revolution – Austria
Levá Perspektiva have signed this statement with the following amendments:
- We condemn ALL imperialist powers (USA, EU, Russia) interfere into events in Ukraine.
- We support undistorted referendum in South and East Ukraine about their future – for right of inhabitants to choose from unitary Ukraine with decentralisation of political competencies, federal Ukraine, autonomy or independence from Ukraine
Read the Czech translation here
The Bolshevik Study Circles of South Africa
Gulnara Aitova, Alternativy, Russia (pc)

Mohammad Amirani

Brad Atkinson, London

Richard Bateman, Vienna

Jay Blackwood

Peter Braet, Belgium

Andrew Cooper, Lambeth

Gioia Coppola, Left Unity Greenwich & Lewisham branch

Brian Edouard Curdy, La Gauche – La Sinistra – Di Alternative, Switzerland

Paul Brennan

David Broder, UCU, (pc)

Gerard Dinnen, Ireland

Ella Downing

Gerry Downing, Socialist Fight

Zari Esparam

Craig Farlow, Unite and IWW (pc)

Lisa Farrell, National Tertiary Education Union, Melbourne (pc)

Peter Flack, NUT, Leicester Social Forum, (pc)

Nick Foster, Left Unity, Bristol (pc)

Mark France, Unite and Left Unity Worcestershire (pc)

Alicia Fernández Gómez, Teacher, Asturias, Spain

Doug Enaa Greene, Communist writer, USAHamid Ghorbani

Matt Hale, Sheffield Left Unity Coordinator (pc)

Shahla Heydari

Danny Jennings, ISN (pc)

T W Jones, Left Unity (pc)

Said Ke, Stockholm

Mhairi McAlpine, Blogger at: Second Council House of Virgo

Sandy McBurney, Left Unity Glasgow (pc)

Chris McCabe, Cambridge

Jim Padmore, Left Unity Leeds (pc)

Harry Paterson, Nottinghamshire Left Unity (pc), Author of Look Back in Anger: the Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 Years on

Pia Nyberg

Moira Hendrie Rafferty

Michelle Reeves, NTEU, Australia (pc)

Zhaleh Sahand, USA

Tito Tafa, New Zealand

Mike Tippett

Peter Tobin, Democracy & Class Struggle (pc)

Adrian Waters

Roger Welch, ISN, Portsmouth (pc)

Craig Wroe

Borot'ba Forced Underground

In response to the repression against the left by the fascist supporters of the American puppet Kyiv regime, the Borotba socialist party has been forced under ground. The following appeal to their supporters is from their website.

Ukraine: Junta launches repressions against Borotba activists Statement of the union ‘Borotba’ (Struggle)

The Kiev junta has launched repressions against our comrades throughout Ukraine. In Kiev, there was a search of the flat of Borotba activist Andrew Manchuk. In Kharkov, the Borotba office was seized. In Odessa, local Borotba leader and mayoral candidate Alexey Albu, a survivor of the May 2 massacre, is under threat of arrest. Now none of our comrades can feel safe. Many of them have left their cities or have gone underground.

The central headquarters of ‘Borotba’ calls on all activists and sympathizers to go underground if it is possible and not to appear at your residence, change your phone numbers and take other precautions.

All regional offices of Borotba must discuss methods of secret work.

The junta is getting more cruel but it’s not because of strength, but - out of weakness. The time of victory is not far.

For e-mail communication, use front@borotba.org

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