Ukraine: The oligarchic rebellion in the Donbas

Donetsk People's RepublicOriginally published in Polish in Le Monde diplomatique – Edycja polska, in December 2014.

The “Donbas contra” – such a term is particularly appropriate to the oligarchic rebellion in the Donbas because it strongly reminds us of the armed counter-revolutionary movement sponsored by the United States in Nicaragua after the overthrow of the Somoza regime.

The barons of the Party of Regions and the industrial magnates already began to mobilize this “contra” during Maidan. A propaganda campaign on the deadly danger coming from the “Nazis, fascists and Banderaites” of the Maidan was unleashed, supported by the television channels of the Russian regime, hegemonic in this region.

The Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), quite influential there, did not hesitate to copy the Nazi discourse on the Jewish ghettos, speaking of the Maidan – “white on the outside, black on the inside” – by comparing it to the black ghettos of the United States, described as being inhabited by idle parasites.

Let us quote this vile propaganda: “At least in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco the police sometimes make raids on such places and simply kill a few rabid Negroes.” There is nothing surprising in this explosion of racism – the CPU is a colonial party.

The full article is available here:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Ukraine: The oligarchic rebellion in the Donbas

Also in Polish:

We Do Not Need Your ‘Support’!

“One of the most difficult experiences which we, Ukrainian left-wing militants, had in 2014 was the reaction of the Western left to events in our country. For many of them the ideological schema was pretty unambiguous. Presumably it was a matter of a coup d’etat, backed by the West, in the course of which a radical right-wing government or even a “fascist junta” came to power…”


This statement is available here:

We Do Not Need Your ‘Support’! A Statement by Ukrainian Left-Wing Militants About the Activities of German Rote Hilfe (Red Aid), Nihilist, December 16, 2014


Also available in German: Wir brauchen diese »Unterstützung« nicht! Erklärung ukrainischer Linker über das Verhalten der Roten Hilfe, »Nihilist« 16.12.2014

Polish: Nie potrzebujemy waszego „poparcia”: Oświadczenie ukraińskich działaczy lewicowych o działalności „Rote Hilfe”, Nihilist,16 grudnia 2014 r.

and Ukrainian: Нам не потрібна ваша «підтримка», Заява українських лівих щодо діяльності «Роте Хільфе», «Нигилист» 16.12.2014


Le nationalisme révolutionnaire ukrainien en Union soviétique (1986)

La question nationale ukrainienne était et reste toujours un effet historique de la double oppression impérialiste, polonaise et russe, du peuple ukrainien et des luttes nationales Nil Khasevytch (1905-1952), artiste graphique de la clandestinité ukrainienne. Xylographe, le 31 décembre 1949.ukrainiennes contre cette oppression sur les deux fronts. J’ai commencé à étudier cette question en 1984, lors de mon exil politique en France. Parmi les luttes nationales qu’il fallait étudier, l’une des plus importantes était la lutte menée dès 1943, sous l’occupation nazie puis sous le pouvoir soviétique, par un large mouvement insurrectionnel et clandestin nationaliste en Ukraine occidentale. Cette partie de l’Ukraine se trouvait historiquement sous la domination polonaise. Dans le bloc soviétique, l’histoire de ce mouvement était terriblement falsifiée. Il fut dirigé par un courant politique dit « banderiste » (du nom de Stepan Bandera qui, après son emprisonnement en 1941 par les nazis, l’a cessé de diriger et n’a jamais revenu en Ukraine). Initiatelement ce courant se situait sur des positions dites de « nationalisme intégral », d’extrême droite. Lors de son éngagement dans le soulèvement national et social de masse, il a tourné progressivement à gauche et, pendant sa lutte contre le régime stalinien qui a duré jusqu’à 1954, il adopta un programme de construction dans le futur État indépendant d’une « société sans classes », basée sur la « socialisation des principaux moyens de production », l’« economie planifiée » et la « démocratie politique ». Aujourd’hui, nous savons même que le commandant Petro Fedoun-Poltava, l’un des plus importants théoriciens de ce nouveau nationalisme, cette fois-ci authentiquement révolutionnaire, a reconnu explicitement dans une correspondance interne : « En fait, notre programme est un programme du socialisme. »

L’article a paru en 1986.

L’article est accessible ici:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Le nationalisme révolutionnaire ukrainien en Union soviétique (1986)

Je propose aux lecteurs de voir une introduction et une actualisation en anglais :

Российский империализм

Russian Imperialism, in Russian. Thanks to the Praxis Research and Educational Center, an independent, voluntary collective, founded in 1998 by scholars and activists of social movements grouped around the Victor Serge Public Library in Moscow.

ilustrСпасибо Научно-просветительскому центру «Праксис»общественной организации, созданной группой ученых и активистов социальных и гражданских движений в 1998 г. на базе Общественной библиотеки имени Виктора Сержа.

We cannot understand the present crisis in Ukraine if we do not understand that Russia is still and always an imperialist power.

Нынешний украинский кризис невозможно понять, если не признать, что Россия по-прежнему является империалистической державой.

Доступный здесь: Збигнев Марцин Ковалевский, Российский империализм

Also in English, French, Greek, Italian and Polish.


An update (2015) to “Ukraine: Revolutionary Nationalism and the Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution (1985)”

Vasyl Kuk

Vasyl Kuk

When the article, Ukraine: Revolutionary Nationalism and the Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution, was written thirty years ago, the Soviet archives were closed for researchers. Many things were still unknown. Today, post-Soviet archives are largely open and we have access to massive evidence that confirms completely the appreciation of the ideological and programmatic evolution of the Ukrainian nationalist insurgency and underground presented in my article. But the article inevitably suffered from serious lacunae. In this update, I try to fill the most important of them.

The update is available here:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, An update (2015) to “Ukraine: Revolutionary Nationalism and the Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution (1985)

Ukraine: Revolutionary nationalism and the anti-bureaucratic revolution (1985)

Petro Fedun-Poltava

Petro Fedun-Poltava

Today we publish the second article written in 1985, from the series on the wartime and postwar nationalist insurgency and armed underground in Ukraine.

This article is available here:


Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Ukraine: Revolutionary nationalism and the anti-bureaucratic revolution (1985)


It is to be followed by an update.

Jaruzelski launches anti-Ukrainian campaign (1985)

Ethnic cleansing, Poland 1947

Ethnic cleansing, Poland 1947

The Ukrainian national question was always and still is a historical effect of a double, Polish and Russian, imperialist oppression of Ukrainian people and of Ukrainian national struggles against this oppression on both fronts. I began to study this question in 1984, living in political exile in France.

On one side, my goal was to understand causes and history of the dramatic Polish-Ukrainian conflict in the past and its present consequences. The conflict reached its horrible climax in 1943-44, when in western (former Polish) Ukraine guerrillas of both sides mutually massacred civilian populations, and in 1944-47, when the Polish Stalinist regime made a total ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians living inside the new postwar frontiers of Poland. In 1984, General Jaruzelski’s regime launched in the medias a new chauvinist anti-Ukrainian campaign exploiting the legacy of this terrible conflict.

On the other side, I understood  that the deepening crisis of the Soviet system was, at the same time, a crisis of the Russian bureaucratic imperialism announcing a break-up of the Soviet Union along national lines. It was possible and even quite probable that, for the first time since the epoch of the Cossack statehood, Ukraine would become soon an independent state. A new independentist dissidence was growing there quickly and vigorously. For those democratic forces in Poland that continued  to fight the bureaucratic rule after the smashing of Solidarność, the rise of Ukrainian aspirations to national independence was a significant signal.

Among Ukrainian national struggles that needed to be studied, one of the most important was the struggle waged since 1943, first under the Nazi occupation, and later under the Soviet rule, by a large nationalist insurgency and armed underground in western Ukraine. In Poland and in the Soviet Union the history of this movement was submitted to an extremely severe ideological control and incredibly distorted by the bureaucratic powers. In the Soviet Bloc the first scholarly book (even if “politically correct”) on its history was published in 1973 in Poland by two military historians, Antoni B. Szcześniak and Wiesław Z. Szota. It was a historiographical event, but the book was immediately retired from bookstores and libraries and the (nearly) whole print run was destroyed on the order of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Ukrainian wartime and postwar nationalist movement was led by an initially far-right, “integrally nationalist” political current, the so-called Banderaites, or followers of Stepan Bandera (in reality, after his imprisonment by the Nazis in 1941, he neither recovered leadership nor returned to Ukraine). The crucial point, totally obscured by the Soviet and Polish literature on the subject, was that, when this current engaged in a mass national and social insurgency, it turned progressively to the left. In the course of its struggle against the Stalinist regime it adopted a program of building in the future independent state a “classless society” based on the “socialization of the main means of production”, “planned economy” and “political democracy”. One of mains theoreticians of this new, this time genuinely revolutionary nationalism, commander Petro Fedun “Poltava”, explicitly recognized in an internal correspondence: “Our program is, in fact, a program of socialism.”

I discovered it with enormous astonishment. I discovered also that in the past, at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, the political evolution of this nationalist current was very closely followed by a group of Ukrainian diasporan Marxists. They even engaged a political discussion with the leadership of the nationalist underground in Ukraine. Through this group, Western Marxists like Ernest Mandel, Pierre Frank, Livio Maitan, George Breitman and Hal Draper learned about it and some of them commented it publicly.

All of this was the subject of my first writings on the Ukrainian question (signed in general with the pseudonym Arthur Wilkins). They will be reproduced here consecutively, in English, French and Spanish.

The first of the series is available here:

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Jaruzelski launches anti-Ukrainian campaign (1985)

George Breitman: The National Question and Political Revolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe (1979)

George Breitman

George Breitman

The American Marxist George Breitman (1916-1986) was a founding member (1937) and later a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, from where he was expelled in 1984. He wrote a formidable book, The Last Year of Malcolm X, and authored other fundamental writings on the racial oppression and Black nationalism in the United States. I read this book when I was in my twenties and it marked me for life.

For me, Breitman is one of those very few socialists in the imperialist countries who understood well the national oppression, the nationalism of the oppressed nations, and the revolutionary dimensions or potentialities of the struggles for national independence. He firmly supported such struggles as “a main point, and  under certain conditions the main point”, of the socialist program for the revolution in the Soviet Ukraine, in other republics of the Soviet Union and in the whole Soviet Bloc. In 1979 he made a strong statement on this issue in a discussion bulletin of the SWP, as a contribution to an internal debate inside the Fourth International.

In April 1985, I began to write on the Ukrainian national question and the political evolution of the wartime and postwar nationalist underground in Western Ukraine under the Nazi and Stalinist rule. It was exactly one year before Breitman’s death. He warmly welcomed my initiative, approach and viewpoint inspired by his book on Malcolm X, and encouraged me to go ahead.

George Breitman, The National Question and Political Revolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe (1979)

Rebelia oligarchiczna w Donbasie

The Oligarchic Rebellion in the Donbas – in Polish

Published in the December 2014 issue of the Polish monthly, Le Monde diplomatique – Edycja polska

Motorola unit fighter

Separatysta – Gennadiy Dubovoy, CC BY 3.0

A resume

The region of Donbas is the stronghold of monopoly bourgeoisie, called oligarchy. The Donbas big capitals are the most concentrated, powerful and predatory, best organized and united ones in Ukraine.  Between the forties and the eighties of the 20th century  the Donbas was the Ukrainian region most affected by the long-term, intensive and planned policy of Russification waged in the Soviet Union by the Russian bureaucratic imperialism. The political goal of this policy was to form an image of the region as the Russophone stronghold in Ukraine.

With the establishment of the Yanukovych regime, the Donbas monopoly capital took over the central political power in Ukraine. The fall of this regime, overthrown by the masses in the Kiev Maidan, was at the same time the fall of the the central political power of the Donbas monopoly capital. The separatist armed rebellion in the Donbas was a panic reaction of regional oligarchy against the loss of central political power and an attempt to save the oligarchic power at least in the region, with the support of Russian imperialism.

The author believes that, for class reasons, no program of national defense advanced by the Ukrainian bourgeois government and based on an illusory support from Western imperialist powers will succeed. To achieve the national independence and unity, Ukraine needs a completely different program that “would count more on a mass movement, on an action of the whole people, than on a regular army”. (This is a quotation from a book published in 1863 by Maurycy Mochnacki, a revolutionary militant for the independence of Poland.)

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Rebelia oligarchiczna w Donbasie

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