Workers defend Ukraine
in face of fraudulent vote
Respond to thug attacks by secessionist minority
Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine
|May 11 march in Krivyi Rih by miners demanding higher wages. Miners’ union has also joined demonstrations in support of Ukraine sovereignty and organized self-defense units.
BY JOHN STUDER
Miners and other workers across eastern Ukraine continue to mobilize in defense of the country’s sovereignty in face of ongoing interference by the Russian government, highlighted May 11 by a fraudulent “people’s referendum” calling for secession from Ukraine.
The May 11 vote was organized by small groups of heavily armed paramilitary units. These forces have seized Ukrainian government, military and police facilities in roughly a dozen cities in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces and employed kidnappings, beatings and murder to intimidate working people.
“The activities of trade union organizations have become considerably hampered because of intimidation and physical violence against trade union activists,” Mikhailo Volynets, president of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine, said May 8.
Even in areas under pro-secessionist groups’ control, there were very few voting stations. Armed groups were stationed near ballot boxes where one could vote on the question: “Do you support the act of self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic?” In Krasnoarmeisk New York Times reporter Andrew Kramer said a poster calling for rejection of the “European Jewish choice” was hung near the ballot box.
Ukrainian government officials and reporters like Kramer say that some 25 to 30 percent of people voted and that supporters of secession showed up with piles of photocopies of “yes” ballots. The commandos, who claimed to have counted the entire vote by nightfall, said the turnout was almost 100 percent for secession.
Meanwhile, demonstrations of thousands in favor of Ukrainian sovereignty have taken place in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Odessa and other eastern and southern cities in past weeks. A recent Pew opinion poll reported that 70 percent in eastern Ukraine favor keeping the country united while 18 percent favor secession.
To maintain an atmosphere of terror, armed thugs have assaulted and threatened unionists and other supporters of Ukrainian sovereignty. An armed squad appeared at the entrance to a coal mine in Makiivka and demanded workers take down their Ukrainian flag, threatening to throw explosives down the mine shaft. The miners sent out their self-defense unit and drove them off.
Olexander Vovk, a leader of the Independent Trade Union of Miners at the “Russia” mine in Novogrodivka, was kidnapped and tortured May 4. He was taken to a detention and torture section at the Donetsk Administration Building, where he met miners and others being held and beaten. Some have “disappeared.”
The Russian government propaganda machine has pumped out fantastic slanders against pro-Ukraine demonstrators as fascist. “What is happening at the moment is not simply marches praising Nazi criminals,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said May 7 about Ukraine, “this is the manifestation of fascism alive.” The last time Moscow’s efforts to smear working-class fighters as “fascists” hit this level was during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, when toilers there rose up and overthrew the Soviet-backed government of Matyas Rakosi — widely known as the “Stalin of Hungary” — fighting for a political revolution, workers’ councils and a return to the revolutionary policies of Lenin.
Miners demand ‘double our wages’
The miners union at the EVRAZ iron ore mine in the eastern city of Krivyi Rih has launched a fight to double the miners’ wages. The union joined protests in support of the overthrow of Moscow-backed former President Viktor Yanukovych and formed self-defense units to protect workers and government buildings.
A union leaflet points to the effect on workers’ wages of skyrocketing inflation while the profits of the company bosses in Russia have doubled over the year before. “We marched through the streets of Krivyi Rih and to mine owners’ offices shouting our wage demands,” Alexandr Bondar, a union leader at the mine, told the Militant by email May 12.
Self-proclaimed leaders of the “People’s Republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk announced they were calling for the Russian government to send troops to help them. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded cautiously. In an announcement the week before, he urged secessionist forces to put off their referendum and seek negotiations with Kiev. After they went ahead with the vote anyway and announced they had won, the Russian government said it “respects” the referendum and “welcomes all possible efforts to start negotiations between Kiev and separatist regions,” the Wall Street Journal reported May 12.
Putin’s government faces opposition to military intervention in Ukraine among Russian capitalists, concerned about capitalist stability and profits, and working people, who face their own struggles against attacks on their living standards and rights and are adverse to war. Russia’s international sales last year were smaller than the Netherlands and heavily dependent on exports of oil and gas, whose prices on the world market are falling.
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