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Vol. 80/No. 1      January 4, 2016


Ukraine ban on Communist Party blow to workers’ rights


A district court in Kiev ruled Dec. 16 that a government edict banning the Communist Party of Ukraine is legal and should be enforced. The court rejected the party’s challenge to a July 23 order by the Justice Ministry prohibiting it from running candidates in elections. The new ruling goes further, outlawing any activity by the party.

The CP backed the regime of Viktor Yanukovych, which was overthrown in February 2014 by popular mobilizations seeking Ukraine’s independence from Moscow’s boot. Since then the party has faced physical and legal assaults on its members, offices, newspapers and its right to exist. These attacks are a threat to the working class and labor movement in Ukraine and the political rights of all working people there.

Facing pressure from Washington, the European Union and International Monetary Fund, the capitalist government in Kiev consolidated under billionaire Petro Poroshenko has conducted a relentless drive against workers and farmers aimed at weakening the labor movement and ramping up employers’ profitability. At the same time, Ukraine continues to face aggression from Moscow and pro-Moscow forces occupying areas in the east of the country and Crimea.

The July 23 Justice Ministry order, which also banned two parties that split from the CP from participating in elections, was based on a set of “decommunization” laws passed by the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, in May. The laws make it illegal to display communist or Nazi symbols, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison; ban parties from using the word communist in their names; and make it a crime to distribute communist propaganda or to deny “the criminal character of the communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991 in Ukraine.”

The Justice Ministry charged that the CP “carries out actions aimed at changing the constitutional order through violent means” and conducts “propaganda of war, violence and incitement to inter-ethnic enmity” as well as makes systematic “calls to create armed formations.”

“They’ve accused the Communist Party of so many things that I think it’s a little like Shakespeare ‘thou dost protest too much,’” said Halya Coynash, a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, by phone Dec. 19. She said the government has not made public any evidence of violent acts by the party.

Working people in Ukraine played a key role in the overthrow of Yanukovych. The Communist Party echoed Moscow’s slander that the Maidan mobilizations were the work of “fascists” and agents of Washington.

The CP’s candidate for president received 39 percent of the vote in 1999. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the party received 13 percent of the vote. Petro Symonenko, the CP candidate for president, withdrew from the 2014 presidential campaign after receiving threats of physical violence and the interim government’s announcement it planned to file criminal charges against him.

The party was widely discredited because of its opposition to the Maidan movement and its political connections to separatist groups in the eastern part of the country.

Poroshenko, who won the 2014 elections, has taken advantage of that isolation to push for its destruction, encouraging rightist attacks. It has also attempted to smear coal miners and others as “fifth columnists” for fighting attacks on jobs, wages and social benefits.

The European Commission for Democracy Through Law, better know as the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, made up of representatives of 47 European governments, issued an opinion Dec. 18 criticizing the criminal penalties in the decommunization laws as “disproportionate” and overly severe. At the same time, the commission said Kiev has the right to “ban or even criminalise the use of certain symbols of and propaganda for totalitarian regimes.”

“The banning of the Communist Party in Ukraine sets a very dangerous precedent,” said Amnesty International spokesperson John Dalhuisen in a Dec. 17 statement. “Expressing your opinion without fear of prosecution, particularly if that opinion is contrary to the views held by those in positions of power, was one of the principles behind the Euro Maidan protests. Snuffing out the Communist Party flies in the face of these ideals.”  
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