Election statement of IBT (Ukraine)

[In the summer of 2003 we learnt that the group pretending to support us in Ukraine was in fact fraudulent. See the linked article--IBT.]

The following is an English translation of a statement distributed by our Ukranian comrades in the run-up to the national elections on 31 March. The 16 March edition of the e-newswire of the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) featured an article with assessments of several of the largest ostensibly socialist parties that paralleled our own. For example, the article describes the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU) as flirting “with great Russian chauvinism and at the same time with Ukrainian nationalism” and seeking “to express the interests of so-called ‘domestic producers’." It also notes that chunks of the Communist Party’s base fell away when the “CPU faction in parliament voted for an anti-trade union legislation.” The LRCI also observes that the so-called Socialist Party (SPU) “doesn’t positively espouse any pro-working class or trade union policies” which would seem reason enough not to want to vote for it. In fact, as the statement by our Ukrainian comrades outlines, the SPU today is a purely bourgeois formation which can no longer be considered part of the workers’ movement.

The LRCI statement concludes:

“we urge workers to vote for these parties [SPU, CPU, PSPU and Communist Party of Worker and Peasants] and thereby defeat the openly right-wing and pro-fascist forces.”

The LRCI routinely offers political support to reformists not on the basis of program, but rather on their relative popularity. But this sort of “unite against the right” rhetoric is particularly crude, and their call for a vote to the bourgeois SPU a minor scandal. Their support to the CPU et al., on the other hand, is to be expected of an organization whose dominant section regularly supports Tony Blair’s union-bashing Labour Party in Britain.(see "No Vote to Labour" - 1917 No. 24)

IBT (Ukraine) Election Statement

On 31 March Ukraine will hold its third election since independence. The IBT (Ukraine) considers that serious Marxists cannot simply designate this political event a “banal farce” or a show from the repertoire of the “theater of the absurd.” We do not fetishize the significance of elections in the development of a revolutionary workers’ movement, but neither do we accept the arguments of petty-bourgeois dilettantes who make “boycottism” an absolute principle. While at this point we are unable to field candidates, much less decisively influence the outcome of the vote, we nonetheless reject the notion that revolutionaries should remain aloof. As Lenin and Trotsky argued, revolutionaries generally should not boycott parliament until they are able to overthrow it. The tactics of revolutionary Marxists must always be determined on the basis of a concrete assessment of the particular political conjuncture.

Today once again, the working class in capitalist Ukraine has a narrow range of choices, given the absence of a viable vanguard party. The formation of such a party will be the first step in the creation of a revolutionary alternative to bourgeois parliamentarism. Such a party must learn to combine parliamentary activities with other class struggle tactics to advance the fight to free the working class from the fetters of capital.

Marxists have a responsibility to pose solutions to the vital concerns of working people today. The truth is always concrete, and abstract reasoning, however formally correct, is no substitute for addressing practical problems. Ukrainian workers must have answers to the difficulties they currently face. The newspapers and other capitalist media incessantly churn out false answers to the real problems people face in an attempt to create the illusion among working people that they are able to make a choice when there is no choice. Ukrainian workers should not allow the sheer number of openly bourgeois political formations, each with its own anti-labor agenda, to confuse them. Nor should they be fooled by the array of small leftist parties and grouplets (Peasant Party, Popular Solidarity for Social Equity, Communist Party of Ukraine [Renewed], Communist Party of Worker and Peasants, etc.). They must ask whether any of these leftist organizations represent real alternatives for workers? What is their nature?

Lenin and Trotsky distinguished between two types of pro-capitalist parties that seek support from the working class:

  1. Openly capitalist parties. These are parties that may be supported by unions and working people, but are not independent creations of the workers’ movement. Capitalist parties that enjoy support from a large section of the working class can act as an obstacle to the development of independent working class politics. The Democratic Party in the United States is an example of a party of this type.
  2. Bourgeois workers' parties. These are parties created by the working class that are organizationally independent of the bourgeoisie but have a pro-capitalist political program and leadership. Such parties are organizationally, but not politically, independent of the capitalists. Britain’s Labour Party and the other social-democratic and Communist parties of Western Europe are typical examples of bourgeois workers’ parties.

The situation in the former degenerated/deformed workers’ states like Ukraine makes it difficult to determine the exact nature of many parties, as Stalinism obliterated all independent working class political life. For example, the official state unions were never independent of the ruling bureaucracy. Revolutionaries must determine the nature of the various parties that have sprung up in order to develop correct electoral tactics toward them. As outlined below, the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) was created by layers of former CPSU bureaucrats who failed to find a place in the ranks of the new ruling class. Emerging in 1993, after the counterrevolution of 1991, the CPU, like a lot of other ex-Stalinist parties in the former degenerated and deformed workers’ states, while organizationally independent of the bourgeoisie, nonetheless acted as an obstacle to the pursuit of the class interests of the proletariat. The CPU’s connection to the proletariat, which is rather different than that of western bourgeois workers’ parties, results from the predominance of working-class CPSU members and former low-level bureaucrats. The CPU and the other bourgeois workers’ formations in Ukraine are moving in the direction of becoming outright bourgeois parties—some indications of this are sketched below. But the process is not complete and the Rubicon has not yet been crossed, although it is drawing close, as is evident from the following:

  • While the CPU supposedly opposes the privatization of land, it has completely capitulated on the issue. The situation is a bit cloudier in relation to the privatization of state enterprises, which the CPU claims to be “generally against” while at the same time it advocates a “multi-sector” economy and tends to support privatizations that favor “honest entrepreneurs” [red directors].
  • There are still large numbers of workers in the party.
  • The All-Ukrainian Union of the Workers (AUUW) remains an organic element of the CPU, although it is in an advanced state of disintegration.

On this basis we conclude that the CPU, like the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine and Communist Party of Worker and Peasants, remains a bourgeois workers’ party. This does not oblige revolutionaries to give such formations critical support at election time. The key issue at the moment is the privatization of the land and state enterprises. None of the big “left” parties are even pretending to put up any serious resistance on this issue, all of them have passively adapted themselves to privatization as to every other aspect of capitalist restoration. Let’s consider them in more detail:

The Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), launched in 1993, is the largest political party in Ukraine, and seeks to establish itself as the hegemonic left-wing party. The CPU has the largest fraction in the Ukrainian parliament, an extensive network of local and regional party organizations, mass support among veteran and officer organizations, and financial support from its connections with significant sectors of capital, particularly in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. In addition, top CPU bureaucrats have close links to the new layer of businessmen in the agrarian-industrial complex—former officials of the collective and cooperative farms (“red directors” and “red chairs”) who are now in the vanguard of Ukraine’s nascent landowning class. The CPU’s social base is constituted of lower and middle level CPSU bureaucrats who came up empty-handed when the means of production were privatized. The CPU’s base is overwhelmingly composed of pensioners, a fact that has its own logic and constitutes an almost insurmountable obstacle to gaining the trust as well as electoral and organizational support of youth. The organization is dominated by Russian-speakers and is clearly politically oriented toward Moscow. This has made it difficult for the CPU to establish strong connections with workers in western and central Ukraine.

The record of the CPU’s parliamentary deputies reveals the fundamentally anti-proletarian and anti-socialist character of this party. The following are a few examples:

a) approving Ukraine’s new bourgeois constitution in 1996;

b) shamefully capitulating during the debate on the legislation privatizing land and state-owned enterprises, as well as other legislation accelerating the pace of capitalist restoration in Ukraine;

c) capitulating during the rightist anti-constitutional coup in 1999; and

d) voting for openly anti-labor trade union legislation in 2000.

The inclusion of odious political figures like General-Prosecutor Potebenko and General Gerasimov in the CPU’s election list makes clear the CPU’s appetite to become the main “left” prop for the bourgeois regime. As increasing numbers of workers come to understand the CPU’s true nature and its role, illusions are evaporating.

In the last year the All-Ukrainian Workers Union (AUWU), a CPU satellite, has practically collapsed. As the bourgeois degeneration of the CPU proceeds, it no longer has any use for the sort of phony worker activism engaged in by the AUWU between 1994 and 1998. Similarly, the CPU’s platonic support to Alexander Stoyan’s semi-official Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FTU), provides an index of its distance from the real trade-union movement. The toleration of open fascists, both Russian and Ukrainian, within the Kiev branch of the Komsomol, the CPU’s youth group, provides further evidence of the progress of the organization’s terminal political degeneration.

The Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU), which split to the left from the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU) in 1996, was initially received with enthusiasm by a significant number of workers because it called for a decisive break with the counterrevolutionary heritage of Stalinism. The PSPU’s recent alliance with some of the new independent unions might appear to be a step forward. Yet this move has been combined with steps toward imposing an authoritarian leadership structure and a range of great-power chauvinistic deviations that makes it clear that this party is incapable of playing any role as a vanguard for Ukrainian workers.

The PSPU’s economic program is eclectic and contains a variety of revisionist approaches to reforming capitalism. The PSPU’s classless, pan-Slavic appeals for joining Ukraine, Russia and Byelorussia on a bourgeois basis is sharply at variance with the Ukrainian nationalist and patriotic rhetoric contained in the common pre-election documents it put out with the Education Party of Ukraine. The direction of the PSPU’s movement is clearly rightward. It appears to be seeking a niche as the representative of financial interests who would like to see Ukraine take a different path to the one prescribed by the IMF and World Bank. It is obvious that the PSPU has no positive role to play in the future of the Ukrainian working class.

The Communist Party of Workers and Peasants (CPWP) represents an extremely complex and ambiguous combination of financial and industrial groupings from eastern Ukraine with layers of traditional left-Stalinist activists. This symbiosis is difficult to categorize. On the one hand, sectors of capitalists in eastern Ukraine welcome the CPWP as a tool to split the CPU’s electoral base. On the other hand, it is clear that the CPWP was formed by local leftist elements within the CPU who opposed their party’s continuing bureaucratic degeneration and its deepening integration into Ukraine’s bourgeois establishment. Using modern public relations techniques, the CPWP combines pseudo-radical political postures with old-time Soviet patriotism. This has allowed the CPWP to project an image as a radical leftist alternative to the more staid traditional “left” organizations—a potentially dangerous illusion, particularly in eastern and central Ukraine.

The Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU), having immersed itself in the “Ukraine without Kuchma” lash-up alongside the right-wing bourgeois opposition and the ultra-rightists of the UNA-UNSO etc., having removed from its program any political residue of socialist rhetoric and having openly declaring its desire to join the “Socialist International” headed by Blair and Schröder, cannot be considered to be part of the workers’ movement. The SPU is quite consciously participating as the “left” wing of the SPU-“Our Ukraine” list, which is backed by the U.S. imperialists in these elections. The transformation of this party follows the evolution of the middle-level CPSU bureaucrats who constituted the SPU’s original base when it was founded in 1991, into the political representatives of that section of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie most closely aligned with Western transnational corporations.

The SPU is not a bourgeois workers’ party but simply a bourgeois formation. Its socialist label is only retained to fool workers—but working people should not be confused.

Electoral activity is an important field of activity for revolutionaries, but voting is an essentially passive act. Lenin, in polemicizing against ultra-left boycotters in the Bolshevik party, underlined this fact and pointed out that a big strike was a hundred times more important to a worker than his or her vote. Participation in mass struggle has a far more important impact on changing workers’ consciousness than entering the voting booth to cast a ballot.

While in principle Marxists are prepared to call for a vote to candidates of the workers’ movement who stand on less than a revolutionary program, a precondition for considering any kind of electoral support to a candidate is that they present a serious challenge to the interests of the bourgeoisie on at least some issue. In Ukraine today, the most burning issue is the necessity to resist privatization of the land and enterprises. In this election, no declared candidates have any intention of seeking to fight for the interests of working people on this, or any other, issue. Instead the various “communists” and “left socialists” are careerists primarily motivated by a desire for personal advancement through securing parliamentary sinecures, who use leftist rhetoric chiefly to disguise their intention to act as agents of the capitalist parasites they pretend to oppose. None of these parties are worthy of any support, however critical, from class-conscious workers.

We say:

No support to bourgeois or reformist formations!
For a real fight to advance workers’ interests!
For nationalization of the land and the enterprises!
For construction of a revolutionary vanguard party of the proletariat!
For the rebirth of the Fourth International!
For world proletarian socialist revolution!

Published: March 2002