Witch-hunt Witch-hunt Witch-hunt


Aleksey Sakhnіn
It’s much easier to attribute mass discontent to intrigues of foreigners than to discuss its real reasons


120 years ago the controversial Adolf Dreyfus case started in France. A Jewish officer was accused of spying for Germany. The process was accompanied by an anti-Semitic pogrom campaign initiated by right-wing circles. In pre-revolutionary Russia, monarchists and nationalists accused socialists of being treacherous "Jews" - sold to the Japanese or German intelligence services. Nazis accused their political opponents that they were sold to the Bolsheviks, "American plutocrats" and, of course, the ‘world Jewry’. During the Stalinist terror, thousands of citizens were labeled as paid agents of all imaginable foreign services. The same tactics were used by McCarthyites in the U.S., and the Putin regime in Russia today has often resorted to similar arguments: “Why does the opposition organize protests? Because they are hired by America, ‘gay Europe’ or "hostile" Georgia”.

Political crisis in Ukraine, which has resulted in a real propaganda war, has followed the same logic in some of the Western media. Linus Valtersson published an article last week, which states that "pro-Russian protests" in Kharkiv and other cities of East Ukraine are organized by activists of the left organization "Borotba" (Struggle).

The sources of this information are a few activists of several groups that actively participated in Kiev protests. A few days ago, one of those activists, Denis Pilash, was beaten in the center of Kiev by his right-wing "comrade" in common struggle for "democratic future". "Look, a living communist" - shouted the rightwing ‘comrade’ while trampling down the pavement his "ally". This episode – not the first in a series of acts of ultra-right violence – is reminiscent of the position that "democratic left" had in the Maidan movement of Kiev. And, unfortunately, such a position cannot be called honourable.

In the Maidan protests, which took place from the end of November, hundreds of thousands of people participated. But their organizing core was a union of three right-wing parties, one of which - "Svoboda" (Freedom) – is a neo-Nazi party. In addition, the radical protest movement formed a paramilitary wing consisting of activists of extremist Nazi sects united in a coalition called "Pravy Sektor" (Right Sector). Under these circumstances, open left agitation among supporters of Maidan could not take place. Public space and access to the stands and microphones were under strict control. Many on the left who tried to intervene were abused by the Nazis, no matter if they supported the Maidan or not. Anti-communist slogans became some of the most popular in the rhetoric of the protest movement and were directed not only agianst the representatives of the official Communist Party, but also against all left-wingers. The latter could only passively join the movement, therefore, sharing the responsibility for the xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments of Maidan leaders and their propaganda clichés.

After the overthrow of Yanukovych regime, the epicenter of the protests quickly moved from the capital to the Russian-speaking south-east of Ukraine, as the new government immediately accused the new protesters of separatism and collaboration with the external enemy. It is much easier to attribute mass discontent to intrigues of foreigners than to discuss its real reasons. However, many facts indicate that the situation is much more complicated than what the new Ukrainian rulers present to their supporters.

There are many real reasons to account for the discontent in the South East. Odious oligarchs were immediately appointed governors of several provinces. Massive wage delays and wage cuts began, as well as rapid price rises. Decisions were taken for multiple tariff rises. It is also well known that in several cases dissidents were beaten by far-right militants. There was a wave of attacks on Lenin monuments, as well as on monuments of revolutionary events or of Red Army soldiers who liberated Ukraine from the Nazis. In Kharkiv the Nazis opened fire and killed two people; they were arrested but soon - released. Deputies from the far-right party "Svoboda" staged a public beating of the director National TV for coverage of events in Russia. There have been several attacks on the premises of left organizations, including the Union "Borotba". And all this took place against the background of rhetoric of social racism, according to which people of the east of the country have been called "cattle" and "padded jackets" (derogative for Russians). Even without Putin, all this was enough to make thousands of people in south- eastern Ukraine to protest.

Of all the organizations involved in the protest movement in the south- east of the country, "Borotba " is indeed one of the most known and influential. But unfortunately for the Kiev authorities – it is quite difficult to accuse them of separatism or of being sympathetic to Putin or Yanukovych. This organization is in close cooperation with the Russian "Left Front" which has become the main target of political repression in Russia. What more, members of "Borotba" have helped many left wing Russians to hide from the persecution of Putin’s regime. They have also been for years consistent critics of Viktor Yanukovych regime and have organized numerous campaigns of social protest. Finally, in December 2013, at the beginning of the acute crisis in Ukraine, "Borotba" has launched a campaign for the unity of the country, which has been torn by fighting oligarchic clans. Today they are harassed by pro-Russian nationalists in Kharkiv and Donetsk for criticizing Vladimir Putin, for their slogans for preserving a unified Ukraine, for publishing their own newspaper in the Ukrainian language.

In such circumstances, the propagandists of the right regime which came to power in Kiev have no arguments other than the old accusations of collaboration with an external enemy. But who cares if it’s just a banal lie? As Joseph Goebbels said, "If you say a lie big enough and then repeat it many times, people will eventually believe it". Unfortunately, this method of the Nazi propagandists still works.

News from Ukraine today hit the headlines of the world's newspapers. Unfortunately, they are often presented in the frames of a primitive propaganda. A typical scheme of supplying information about the events is to ensure that the pro-European supporters of democratic change resist the wiles of Putin regime. But such a presentation of the problem raises many questions from the very beginning. How can they explain that in the ranks of the "progressive forces" the nationalist extremists play a vital role? How can Putin’s regime manipulates the majority population in the most economically developed south- eastern regions of Ukraine, where the Ukrainian government has cut off the Russian TV channels and in the national media censorship prevails? How can they explain that the protesters everywhere raise social demands?

The easiest way is to start a hysterical witch-hunt for ubiquitous paid agents, spies, and members of subversive groups, for the capture of whom the odious Ukrainian oligarchs are willing to pay money. The government, consisted of members of the far-right and rightwing parties, deliberately inflames the situation. In the eastern cities the army, as well as paramilitary nationalist units have arrived and begun to disarm the locals. In these circumstances, the discontent and fear for the future flares up again among the residents of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Mariupol , Lugansk, Odessa and other southeastern cities.

In fact, Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian opponents are ideal partners. They use each other so that to convincingly portray the image of the external enemy and conduct nationalist mobilizations in their own countries, therefore, removing from the agenda of social issues, human rights and other controversial subjects out of sphere of public debates. Furthermore, labeling the opposition as hirelings of foreign intelligence services, they manage to suppress it by force, not bothering to debate with dissenters. Only in Kharkiv (where the situation has not yet flarred up to an armed uprising as in the neighboring Donetsk), the authorities have arrested 66 opposition activists, including journalists . Among them, however, there was not a single citizen of Russia about the role of which the Ukrainian TV talks so much. So what? “The war will pay all scores”.

Aleksey Sakhnіn


Translated by Panayiotis Tselepis

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