Last Saturday, December 14, US Senator and former GOP presidential candidate John McCain arrived in Kiev to meet with Ukrainian opposition leaders. The meeting comes during a tumultuous period for Ukrainian politics as hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered over the past weeks to express blatant discontent with current President Viktor Yanukovych and his administration. Yanukovych recently made the decision to strike a number of economic deals with Russia effectively crowding out European engagement on several planes; this has been received as a sign Yanukovych is moving towards Putin’s political ambitions for the former Soviet states. The recent deal combined with numerous charges of corruption which span the past few years prompted opposition leaders in parliament to try and force Yanukovych out of office with a vote of ‘no confidence’. Although the vote failed to bring down Yanukovych’s administration it severely damaged the political capital thereof and unleashed the flood gate of protests which now fill the streets of Kiev.
The protests caught the immediate attention of the world with the visit of John McCain (and his subsequent blame of Obama) as well as the broader Left with the toppling of Lenin’s monument of protesters in Kiev.
Both instances can perhaps lend understanding to the political contradictions at work in the Ukraine.
The current political struggle in the Ukraine can be characterized as a struggle, foremost, between imperialist centers; a contradiction of decisive inter-imperialist rivalry. Arguably the most aggressive imperialist conglomerate being the EU is locked in a grudge match of softpower with geo-political rival, Russia. Both of whom wish to extend political dominance in part for the immediate benefit of an industrialized Ukraine and to counter-pose the desire of the other. Yanukovych’s move to fall under the Russian wing immediately found backlash from the pro-European factions of parliament and sublimated anti-Russian sentiments in the Ukraine especially in the western half of the country. McCain’s visit now begins to invoke sentiments of the NATO alliance against Russian imperialism despite the remarkably ambiguous tone coming from the White House.
Moreover, the toppling of Lenin’s monument narrates several features of this inter-imperialist rivalry, particularly among the pro-EU forces. First, we see a starkly anti-Communist and anti-Russian character exuded by the quickly growing fascist Svoboda Party formerly known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine. The All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, led by Neo-Nazis, gave up their swastikas in the mid 2000’s for suits, ties, and a “soft” ultra-nationalist platform that has exploded in popularity over the past couple months. Among their immediate demands include the resignation of Yanukovych, the dismissal of his administration, and a host of fascist political points designed to combat what their leader Oleh Tyahnybok has called the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia”. Interestingly, ‘Svoboda’ translates to ‘freedom’ reflecting the conception that Ukrainian self-determination lies within the depths of fierce nationalism and anti everything that might be considered Russian (a point which some have hideously attributed to Stalin and the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s). More interesting is how Svoboda and other nationalist factions have reconciled their ideology under the banner of pan-European solidarity; the belief that the Ukraine is decidedly European and a closer relationship with Europe will strengthen the Ukraine as a nation.
And perhaps that is the strength of this emerging European imperialist order; first with the carrot of soft power and ‘mutual cooperation’ followed by the stick of sanctions and in the case of former colonial possessions, brute force. Of course the terminology behind ’emerging’ is uncharacteristic of the broader European imperialist and colonialist historicity. Although the interests of the European imperialists took the back seat to a US-led NATO during the Cold War, the end thereof has meant a resurgence of formally European interests. However, the European monopolists have been able to repackage their conquests under the political guise of ‘democratization’ and the economic interests of the young national bourgeoisie especially in Eastern Europe. The ‘softening’ of tactics has meant this diluted European imperialism has been able to slip through the cultural cracks constructed during the previous era.
To this end it appears that eventually the EU will win if the course of developments remains unchanged. Forces within the US, Europe, and more recently the UN are putting tremendous pressure on Yanukovych and his administration to err on the side of their pro-West detractors. While Russia will exercise its heavy economic gravity to sway the Ukraine little can be done to change the opinion of many Ukrainians who find Russia synonymous with foreign domination.
While the people of the Ukraine should rightfully seek their self-determination the European imperialist center cannot offer anything other than subjugation. This is not to bend towards metaphysics in the realm of national liberation and internationalism. In the specific context of global monopoly capital the correct resolution to inter-imperialist rivalry is more complicated than ‘anything-but-Europe’; or conversely, ‘anything-but-Russia’. Therefore the question in regard to inter-imperialist rivalry becomes not discerning principal to secondary contradictions but rather the aspects thereof. It is scientifically and generally impossible to form a solid political line on the political contradiction within the Ukraine without first investigating the social realities of the nation. This is the method by which knowledge can become a system of action tempered by anti-imperialist practice; this is the method Communists must adopt in relation to the current situation.
Until then the world will watch and wait for the resolution of this deepening contradiction.