Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ukraine's future will be decided in the East

Heating has been cut off to 'hundreds of houses in which live tens of thousands of people' in the Lugansk towns on Sverdlovsk, Krasnodon, Byelovodsk and Lutugino, as a result of accrued communal services debts.

Electricity to sixty apartments, a school, and a psychiatric hospital in the town of Svatovo has been cut off for the same reason.

There are 'sit-ins' taking place in several Lugansk mines, where miners are unhappy about non payment of promised bonuses, and because many of their top managers have been replaced with 'donetski' by Serhiy Tulub, the coal industry minister. Workers at the Sverdlovsk engineering works specialising in mining equipment are also complaining that wages are not being paid. They say this is an attempt to deliberately run down personnel in order to improve prospects at an analagous SCM factory in Druzhkivsk, Donetsk oblast.

The Lugansk oblast council is dominated by PoR. The second largest party there in last year's VR elections were Vitrenko's progressive socialists - and they barely took 5% of the vote.

It is inevitable that in a democracy the popularity of the party in power falls with the passing of time. But in his article originally run in 'Trud' entitled "Battle for the east - where and how will the fate of Ukraine be solved", Aleksey Kuznetsov predicts that two forces - PoR and BYuT will dominate the political landscape of country, and that PoR's long term prospects are not great.

Here are some portions that I have either paraphrased or translated:

PoR are losing the confidence of the electorate even in their native region – Donbass.

The fight for the political future of the Ukraine today is taking place in the densely populated cities and the settlements of the industrial east and southeast. The support by the inhabitants of the East Ukraine for PoR is already on the wane. 'Regiony', have not made the life of their voters better as they promised. Public services charges and the prices in goods continue to grow, but wages have not increased substantially.

Even satisfaction that "we beat the 'orange' parties" is decreasing. 'Regiony' are repeating the mistakes of Nasha Ukraina, who, after coming to power completely forgot about its voters and promises which it had given them. However there has been little open warfare between Yanukovych's more disciplined companions-in-arms, in contrast to NU.

'Regiony' are still afloat, but their demise is just a question of time. The main political themes of the past ten years have been 'Ukraine with Kuchma' followed by "who will emerge victorious - the east or the West?" Today the conflict between the poor and the rich is coming to the fore.

The state should be the regulator in this eternal dispute. A democratic country may be considered to be a ship which sails against the wind, tacking one way, then the other. It maneuvers, turning into the wind first one side, then the another. Countries advance by social zigzags, by tacking. E.g in Great Britain the conservatives and labour parties hold the social equilibrium between capital and hired work force with enviable regularity, transferring authority between one other. [not quite true, but still..]

Ukraine has sailed on the 'oligarchial tack' through the criminal 90's, and is still on this tack. All the parties speak of their concern for the people - the working class, but in reality they protect the interests of their biggest investors, the oligarchs.

All of Ukraine's political parties defend the interests of their oligarchs and have one aim -to create conditions for the fastest enrichment of their investors at the expense of the remaining citizens of Ukraine. The only exception from this rule [according to the author] is BYuT. The battle for the future of Ukraine will be conducted not in the traditional orange regions - in the west and in the center, but in the industrialized east.

The huge human and economic potential of the industrialized east of Ukraine has always played a foremost role in the political set-up of the country. It was from here Kuchma came to replace Kravchuk. And it was from here that Yanukovych came to push out Yushchenko. It is possible that it is from here the future victory of Tymoshenko will be prepared.

Nowhere in Ukraine is the contrast between the rich and the poor more striking . Highly expensive foreign-brand automobiles are seen against the background of empty houses and broken roads, working plants against the background of the neglected housing – this is the typical landscape of eastern Ukraine.

New leaders capable of working with the voters in community associations are required i.e. in trade unions - Ukraine today stands on the threshold of trade-union revolution. The political force which will harness this new wave, will have every chance to succeed in the future battle for the voices of the workers of the East Ukraine. They understand this well already today in BYuT.

VR deputy and colleague of Yuliya T, Mikhail Volynets has for several years successfully worked to construct a network of independent trade unions in Donbass. 'B'yutovtsi' are smart enough not to go to the people with political slogans and under the banner of their party, whose name amongst Donetsk voters until recently generated hatred. So they have gone a different way.

Within a short period Volynets has created new trade-union organizations, not only for miners, but also for oil-industry workers, metallurgists, transport workers and teachers. Their task is not only to fight for the rights of workers, but also to prepare the ground for the next elections.

A time will come when new trade-union leaders, after winning battles with the administrations of different enterprises ,will gain the confidence of workers and form an army of the supporters for Yuliya Tymoshenko.

Attitudes change fast in Ukraine. Who would have thought than an associate of Pavlo Lazarenko, the head of a gas enterprise, a business woman from Dnipropetrovsk, would be supported by majority in the west and in the centre to the Ukraine, after moving ahead of Yushchenko - the idol of Galicians.

One of the most successful trade-union projects of Mikhail Volynets is the independent trade-union association "Oktan", at the Lisichansk oil refinery. Its head is Vladimir Novikov, a former deputy head of a traditional trade union, which existed from the Soviet times.

BYuT ensured the new trade union was well financed, and was supported by first-class lawyers and p.r. people. (Oktan" is registered not only in Ukraine, but also abroad). The leader of Oktan is already known to the entire regional press and to leading internet publications. Novikov has been aided by American specialists, who worked with the Polish trade union "Solidarity".

Oktan today has approximately a thousand members at British- Russian owned TNK-BP plant.

This only one example, only a beginning. Today for "NeoProfSoyuzy" it is important to maintain a high tempo of development and to strengthen their positions. .

Victory in future elections depends on who will be able to find common language with millions of working east of the Ukraine. We already know who has the sympathies of the voters of west and center of Ukraine.

LEvko says PoR have to start delivering tangible improvements in the standard of living soon otherwise some of the speculation above may become reality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It will be decided in the east.

Yes, I agree with that whole-heartedly and yes, people are looking to BYuT with hope but there will be NO clean elections in the east whether they come in Sept. or in 2011. And how do you prepare for that?