This is a response to a rather random article on a UK left of Labour website, The SKWAWKBOX, run by Steve Walker, entitled “Zelenskiy bans 11 left parties and merges all TV channels into one – but neo-nazi groups still welcomed”. I would have otherwise ignored the text, where the author/s demonstrate such ignorance of the Ukrainian political realities, especially regarding the Ukrainian left, but the similar concern is growing everywhere.
So, the article claims: “Ukrainian president Volodimir Zelenskiy has today broadcast a video message banning eleven left-wing opposition parties, claiming that they are pro-Russian. The move has been criticised as an opportunistic move to remove political opposition, though Zelenskiy has been given a free pass by western media. Opposition Platform – For Life, Sharij’s Party, Nashi, Opposition Bloc, Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, Derzhava, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Socialists, and Volodymyr Saldo’s Bloc are now all outlawed and facing severe repression.”
First. It would have been great if there were left parties in Ukraine. But there is none. The Ukrainian left does not have representation in the Parliament. We are just many groups of activists, scholars, artists, etc. We have been doing our work daily and hourly to improve what could be improved in our not-so-perfect country.
Second. The Opposition Bloc is the remains of the Party of Regions, the party of our, ousted in 2014, president Victor Yanukovych. The party of the wealthiest people of Ukraine, the Forbes-list billionaires. Their orientation is between trumpism and putinism. Their way to the Parliament has been for years built by the Kremlin’s consultants (who first installed the word “Nazi” in circulation in 2004, during Yanukovych / Yushchenko presidential campaign to identify anyone who lives in and to the west from Kyiv in order to divide the country and grab the votes from the east); and then by American political consultant Paul Manafort, paid more than $60 million by Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov between 2010 and 2014. Speaking of Akhmetov, a key figure of the Opposition Bloc, he is a businessman from the criminal 1990s, a little Wikipedia search will tell you more on him. Another representative example is Victor Medvedchuk. One of his possessions lately chased by media is a $200 million yacht. Or Vadim Novinsky, check him out yourself.
They are indeed all pro-Russian and may play with the idea of a restoration of the Soviet Union in some form, but this is neither nostalgic nor ideological. Their only ideology is kleptocracy. If they indeed think of any union with Russia, then they do so only for the sake of restoration of an extractivist fossil-fuel now-capitalist empire. These are Ukrainian Trumps. And just like with Trump in the US, many poor people from the eastern regions, bombarded by the Russian propaganda and the propaganda produced by the OP’s own TV channels (as these ppl until recently owned the significant part of the media infrastructure in Ukraine), vote for these capitalists who control and own all industry in these regions.
Third. Sharij’s Party on the list is a different example: the party is libertarian, and it’s a fake. It isn’t even registered with a real person, Anatoliy Sharij himself, but a guy with the same last name. Ukrainian journalists reveiled that Sharij paid $500 to use the man’s last name for his party name, as a measure to avoid possible legal problems, just in case if it comes to that. Which it did. Sharij is a popular homophobic blogger who was able to create a huge following by dissemination of conspiracy theories and hatred. It is a pure social media phenomenon, run as a social media business, and there is no ideology; not even libertarianism, if you ask me. His product is sensationalism. He would have laughed, probably, if he knew his party was mentioned as “left,” but he would not have denied it either because anything that gives him a mention is already worth it. He leads a luxury life in Europe, he has sponsors of his start-up party-business, and there are different theories on whose puppet he is.
The rest of the parties on the list are similarly awkward creations with similarly awkward histories. The leader of one of such socialist parties, Serhiy Kaplin, used to name Margaret Thatcher as his political idol, for example. And that’s all you need to know about Ukrainian so-called “socialism” in the Parliament. These are the forces that, on the one hand, keep discrediting “socialism” by making it look way too bizarre and phantasmagorical, a total fake (just like the right and liberal groups like to describe it); and on the other hand, they also make it impossible for any truly socialist groups to enter the political scene.
I would like to know more myself about what exactly happened that led to the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine’s decision to suspend the Platform’s activities. A couple of weeks ago it was reported that some politicians were caught on negotiating deals with the invader envisioning the scenario that the Russians take over Kyiv. Will see. But it is certainly not the right / left contestation. And hopefully, what I’ve said above, makes it clear.
Just like in France, Italy, Germany and so on, there are the right groups in Ukraine, which find support primarily from the European right. Unfortunately, this war will certainly amplify and accelerate nationalism, this is what wars do. But please, let it be our problem, and please stay out of it and focus on your own far-right, rather than spreading misinformation, which does not help us here to fight Putin’s fascism. This war became possible only because for two decades Europeans have been legitimizing Putin’s totalitarian regime, shaking hands with him, and making business deals. You did a poor job fighting Russian nationalism, comrades, if I can call you so, and its recent transition to fascism went unnoticed by you. Now it costs us hundreds of lives every day.
Greetings from the cold and wet bomb shelter where I have to spend this evening, unfortunately; because I could have been doing other more important and healthier things, but here we are.
Svitlana Matviyenko is an Assistant Professor of critical media analysis at the School of Communication of Simon Fraser University in Canada. She is a co-author of Cyberwar and Revolution: Digital Subterfuge in Global Capitalism.
The first version of this text appeared at Institute of Network Cultures blog.
Image by Fab Rand.