Russian analyst Boris Kagarlitsky has published a very interesting piece at LINKS (journal of socialist renewal) on the reality of Eastern Ukraine: The logic of a revolt.
Russia is not interested in annexing parts of Ukraine: it is interested in all Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea was actually imposed to Putin by the Duma and is quite exceptional in everything: most Crimeans feel Russian and not just Russian-speaking Ukrainians, the main naval base of Russia is in Sevastopol, Crimea was annexed to Ukraine against the will of its people by Ukrainian Soviet Premier Leonidas Krushev.
Nothing of this applies to Donbass. Actually, with a fourth of Ukrainian population and even a larger share of the economy, the region is key to Russian influence in Kiev and it has been so for decades now. Annexing it would leave most of Ukraine to the pro-Western Nazis and would serve as pretext for the deployment of NATO forces a few hundred kilometers from Moscow.
But "worse": the people of Donbass are now mobilized and radicalized: from common citizens worried mostly about salaries and other quotidian interests, they have suddenly become a self-organized people willing to fight, not just against the putschist Nazi Junta of Kiev but for their dignity as workers. And that's not a virus Russia wants to annex at all.
Far more important than the similarities between these two movements [Maidan and Donetsk], however, have been the differences. The key distinctions to be drawn are not even ideological, though the comparison between the dominant slogans—fascist in the case of the Maidan, demands for social rights in Donetsk, accompanied in the latter case by the singing of the Internationale—deserves unquestionably to be made. The ideological differences ultimately reflect the fundamentally different social nature and class basis of the two movements. (...)
Until recently political struggle was a privilege of “active society”, consisting of the liberal intelligentsia and of the middle classes of the capital, to whose assistance it was always possible to summon a certain number of impassioned members of marginal groups, above all unemployed young people from western Ukraine. (...) The idea that this mass of silent and apparently apolitical people, preoccupied with their everyday struggle for survival, could play an active and independent part in events did not enter the heads of the liberal intelligentsia or of political elites of any persuasion. Even today, this idea is perceived by such people as an impossibility, a far-fetched nightmare.
And that's the most interesting aspect of the Donbass Revolution, which Kagarlitsky compares later with the Paris Communne of 1871: that the people is unusually in charge and will have nothing of all the oligarchic manipulation that has been the rule in post-Soviet Ukraine and, often, also elsewhere.
While Maidan represents the old clientelar patrician system, with masses rallied by its Fascist leaders against their own objective interests and in support of Ukraine becoming a Western colony, Donetsk is the people at work and that is what makes this revolution so hopeful for us and so scary for the leaders of the Capitalist World, be them Westerner or Russian.
After all the Maidan putsch responded to the impossibility by Yanukovich's government to accept the draconian IMF impositions attached to the EU-Ukraine agreement by Brussels. That would have eroded his voting base and would have been a political suicide.
The main trigger for the revolt, however, was not the pro-Russian sympathies of the local population, or even the declared intention of the Kiev rulers of repealing the law that had given Russian the status of a “regional language”. Discontent had long been building up in the south-east, and the final drop that caused the cup to spill over was the dramatic worsening of the economic crisis that followed the change of government in Kiev. After signing their agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the authorities decreed steep rises in the charges for gas and medicines, and a social explosion became inevitable. In the west of the country and in the capital, growing indignation was restrained for a time through the use of nationalist rhetoric and anti-Russian propaganda. But when applied to the inhabitants of the east, this method had the reverse effect. Trying to douse the fire in the west, the authorities poured oil on the flames in the east.
“I find it hard to believe the change in my compatriots,” the resident of the city of Gorlovka Yegor Voronov wrote on the Ukrainian site Liva. “Only six months ago they were simple common folk who watched television and complained about the bad state of the roads and of the communal services. Now they’re fighters. In several hours by the provincial administration building I didn’t meet a single person who’d come from Russia. The people were from Mariupol, Gorlovka, Dzerzhinsk, Artemovsk, Krasnoarmeysk. Standing next to me were ordinary Donbass residents—the people we travel with every day on the bus, stand next to in the queues, argue with when they leave the door to the stairwell open. They weren’t the Kiev middle class, set apart from the people by their special ‘circumstances’, but everyday workers. And there’s no denying, there are plenty of unemployed in these parts. Here were all the people who for the past month and a half had been ‘begged’ in the private offices and state enterprises to take a cut in their miserable wages. So here’s another conclusion—the more the wages of Donbass residents are cut or squeezed today, the more protestors Kiev will get in the east.”The people who have been protesting against the authorities in Donetsk, Lugansk and many other Ukrainian cities have not had any particular knowledge of politics, or even a clear program of action. The confusion in their slogans, along with their simultaneous use of religious and Soviet or revolutionary symbols, must undoubtedly offend strict connoisseurs of proletarian ideology. The trouble is that the ideologues themselves have been so immeasurably remote from the masses as to be unable and unwilling not only to instil “correct consciousness” in their ranks, but even to help them make sense of current political questions. (...)
Before us is the real working class—crude, muddle-headed and devoid of political correctness. Anyone who dislikes the present ideological and cultural state of the class should go and work with the masses. The good thing is that no-one is stopping people going to this crowd with red flags and socialist leaflets (unlike the case with the Maidan, where the flags were torn up, and left agitators were beaten and thrown off the square).
The future of the Donetsk Republic remains undecided, and this represents a huge historical opportunity of which there was not even a trace during the Maidan demonstrations, whose leaders could not always control the crowd, but kept rigid and effective control of the political agenda. By contrast, the Donetsk Republic formulates its agenda from below, literally on the run, in response to the public mood and the course of events. Strictly speaking this republic is not even a state—rather, it amounts to a coalition of diverse communities, most of them self-organised. In essence, it is the perfect embodiment of the anarchist concept of the revolutionary order. Curiously, the anarchists themselves refuse to have anything to do with it, preferring to repeat the state and patriotic rhetoric of the new Kiev rulers.
It is not hard to work out that the reason why the self-organisation of the Donetsk Republic functions relatively well is because the remnants of the old administrative apparatus carry on with their everyday operations as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening, while all the questions of government are reduced ultimately to the organising of defence. But is this so different from the Paris Commune (not the idealised and romanticised commune, but the one that actually existed)? If the people’s republic in Donetsk survives for much longer, it will inevitably change, and it is far from certain that this will be for the better. But in waging its first battle, the republic has already demonstrated the huge potential of the self-organisation of the masses. (...)
The Donetsk Commune, that's an interesting thought indeed. And reality largely supports this notion. Of course the amalgamation of forces, ideologies and inidvidualities making up the Donetsk self-defense forces are far from sponsoring a communist program... yet, but the nature of their self-organization as people in arms for their rights and dignity undoubtedly points in that direction.
Nothing that Putin's Russia wants in their abode. In this and only this Moscow and Washington/Brussels are in agreement. Yet Moscow's influence in Ukraine has been so dramatically denied by the Maidan pro-IMF Nazis that Putin has no other support right now inside Ukraine and also it would be suicidal in Russia to deny at least moral support to this uprising which no doubt has the widest sympathies in the Eurasian country.
But Putin won't interevene. In fact he's not even sending much needed weapons to Donetsk. Unlike the Western Empire, which is arming the Kiev Junta and providing it with mercenaries, Russia remains active only in the diplomatic sphere. At most it makes military drills near the border but drawing no red lines that may serve as excuse for actual intervention. No, Russia won't help Donetsk. Nobody will.
It is no secret that the rebellious masses of the Ukrainian south-east have been counting on support from Moscow. Unfurling tricolours and shouting slogans about their love for Russia, they have sincerely hoped to draw the fraternal state onto their side. This hope has united people who dream of unification with Russia, others who seek the federalisation of Ukraine, and still others who simply hope that the might of Russia will defend the residents of the region against repression from Kiev. But from the very first, official Moscow has taken an ambiguous position on the events concerned. While clearly supporting a movement aimed against the openly unfriendly government in Kiev, it is least of all prepared to sponsor a popular revolution, even if the outcome would serve to expand the Russian state. The Kremlin functionaries do not relish the thought of receiving as their new subjects masses of rebellious people who are organised, often armed, and who have acquired the habit of active struggle for their rights. This is especially true in the context of a growing socio-economic crisis within Russia itself. Revolutions are sometimes exported, but there are few state officials who would want to import one.
Russia agrees with the liquidation of the People's Republic of Donetsk. It has signed so in the Geneva agreements:
The text of the resulting document indicated clearly that Moscow would not object to the liquidation of the Donetsk republic: “Among the steps for whose implementation we call are the following: all illegal armed organisations must be disarmed; all unlawfully occupied buildings must be returned to their legitimate owners; and all occupied streets, squares and other public places in all cities of Ukraine must be cleared. An amnesty must be put in place for all protesters except those who have committed serious crimes.”
Even more important, though, is the demand for the relinquishing of the occupied buildings and for the removal of the barricades on streets and squares. If this stipulation is fulfilled, it will mean the self-liquidation of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, and the return to their former positions of the administrators appointed by Kiev. This is despite the fact that it was precisely these appointments that provoked the uprising. To rule the south-eastern provinces, Kiev named oligarchs hated by the people, giving these figures political authority in addition to their economic power.
Naturally the People's Republic of Donetsk does not consider a treaty they did not sign binding at all.
It must be said that, more recently, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, has admitted that no deal is possible without taking in account the Donbass rebels as negotiating party. But that was after the Geneva agreement was signed.
For anyone in Donetsk, Lugansk, Odessa, Kharkov (and even Kiev) who has held out hopes that Putin’s Russia will solve all the problems through its solidary intervention, recent events will have been a sobering disappointment. But this disappointment will simply benefit the movement. Not only must the revolution rely on its own strength, but it already has enough strength to be successful. This is especially true since regardless of the position taken by the Kremlin, the sympathy of Russian society remains on the side of the insurgent people of a fraternal country.
Where Russia itself is concerned, the ruling layers are at risk of remaining in the hole they have painstakingly dug for themselves. By surrendering their positions on the Ukrainian question, they are turning against themselves the patriotic moods whose rise they have fostered in every conceivable way over the past few months. (...)