Neo-Nazis, fascists, and other ultra-nationalists from throughout Europe converged on Lugansk and Donetsk on 1-2 November to act as observers in the “elections” staged by the so-called People’s Republics of Lugansk (LPR) and Donetsk (DPR).
Vlaams Belang and the National-European Communitarian Party (Belgium), Jobbik (Hungary), Forza Italia (Italy), the Rassemblement bleu Marine (France), Attaka (Bulgaria), “Zuerst” (Germany), and “No to Brussels, Yes to Popular Democracy” (Czech Republic) were all represented among the election observers.
So too, from countries closer to Ukraine, were the Russian Communist Party (ultra-nationalist, anti-semitic and Stalinist-nostalgic) and the far-right Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia and Russian Motherland Party.
The Polish neo-Nazi and Hitler admirer Mateusz Piskorksi also acted as an observer. Like many of the other observers, he had performed the same role in the Crimean referendum in March.
These observers all gave the elections a clean bill of health.
This was despite the fact that only parties which accepted the declarations of independence by the LPR and DPR were entitled to stand candidates (i.e. any party supportive of a unified Ukraine was automatically excluded).
And despite the fact that most parties which had wanted to stand candidates in the elections had been barred from doing so by the LPR and DPR Central Electoral Commissions on the basis of alleged deficiencies in their paperwork.
And further despite the fact the LPR and the DPR had no electoral roll, only one in four of the polling stations used in previous elections were open, voters could vote in any polling station they wanted to (i.e. there was nothing to prevent them repeatedly), and armed gunmen were stationed inside and outside the polling stations.
Nor did the fascist election observers find anything remiss in the fact that food parcels were either being given away or sold cheap at the polling stations, or the fact that “social cards” (needed for welfare benefits, pensions and medical services) were being issued to voters at the polling stations.
The elections, actually non-elections, were staged only as part of a propaganda war to try give a veneer of legitimacy to the Russian-backed breakaway “Republics”.
For example, there were no challenges to Donetsk prime minister Zakharchenko’s election-campaign claims that the Donetsk coal reserves could be compared to the oil reserves of the United Arab Emirates, and that Donetsk pensioners would be able to afford to go on safaris in Australia (sic).
Oleg Akimov, named as President of the Lugansk Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), stood “against” Plotnitsky, the incumbent “head” of the LPR.
What the LFTU consists of, and how Akimov came to be its President, is a mystery: until March of this year Akimov was a Lugansk regional councillor for the Party of the Regions with no record of involvement in the trade union movement.
And in last weekend’s election Akimov stood as the (token) candidate of the Lugansk Economic Union — the employers’ federation (akin to a mini-CBI) in Lugansk.
This “trade union leader” did not find it necessary to criticise Plotnitsky for campaigning as the opponent of “Western values” and for his singling out of same-sex marriages and lesbianism for particular opprobium.
Zakharchenko is reported as having won the election in the DPR, and Plotnitsky as having won the election in the LPR. In fact, both incumbents had “won” the elections from the moment the decision was taken to stage them
A week earlier, elections for the Ukrainian parliament (Rada) had taken place. 29 parties contested the 423 seats up for election. (No elections were staged in the 27 constituencies in the Crimea and the LPR and DPR).
These were elections in the traditions of Western democracy: parties representing the interests of the rich and powerful exploited their wealth, their powers of patronage, and their ownership of the media to coast to victory.
The new Ukrainian government will be a coalition of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, the People’s Front, and “Self-Reliance”. All are committed to imposing sweeping economic “reforms” at the expense of the poor and the working class, while leaving the wealth of Ukraine’s oligarchs untouched.
Not by chance, one of President’s Poroshenko’s first announcements after the elections was a series of Tory-style proposals to ‘reform’ the labour market, through increased “flexibility”, casualisation, and scrapping existing protection against dismissals.
Apart from the parties of the coalition government, three other parties passed the 5% hurdle needed to win seats in the Rada.
The Fatherland party, led by another oligarch, scraped past 5%. The far right Radical Party of Oleh Lashko scored 7.5%. And the Opposition Bloc, effectively the representative of the more Russian-oriented sections of the oligarchy, scored 9.5%.
As the Ukrainian-Canadian socialist Marko Bojkun has put it:
“Business profits from exports go up and real income of workers comes down as a result of devaluation of the hryvnia and inflation. Corruption in high state office carries on as before. It goes on in the highest echelons of the armed forces. The children of the rich are sent abroad while working class men and women go to the front.”
“What kind of stake do Ukrainian workers, the unemployed, students, farmers and pensioners hold in that state if they are giving their livelihoods and their lives for a return to the way things were before, albeit without Russian overlordship?”
Neither the LPR and DPR in the east nor the Kiev government in the west represent the interests of the Ukrainian working class. The former seeks to rally support through a bogus “anti-fascism”. The latter seeks to rally support through self-serving appeals to “patriotism”.
Only the genuine socialist forces in Ukraine can rally the working class for a unified struggle against national and social oppression.