In June/July 1934 Hitler launched the ‘Nacht der langen Messer’ or ‘Night of the Long Knives’. The killing operation was designed to eliminate, amongst others, radical elements in the Sturmabteilung – the brownshirts. These were the street mobs who had imposed the will of the Nazi movement by physical force in the years leading up the seizure of power.
When the movement became a regime, the brownshirts became a liability to the Nazi leadership, especially the ‘leftist’ elements that actually believed the ‘socialist’ rhetoric of the Nazi movement.
On Monday 24th March, on a smaller scale and in different circumstances but in a similar vein, one of the ‘unacceptable faces’ of the Ukrainian coup ended his life at the hands of the regime he had fought so hard to install.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Right Sector man of violence Oleksandr Muzychko are murky to say the least, with multiple conflicting accounts. On March 25th the Interior Ministry were reported as stating that Muzychko had been shot dead after opening fire on the police during a police raid on a cafe.
However, on the same day, Ukrainian MP Oles Doniy claimed on his Facebook page that Muzychko had been assassinated in cold blood – a group of unknown assailants had forced Muzychko to stop his car, pulled him from it and killed him. That same day a Kiev-based news paper quoted police as stating that Muzychko had died from self-inflicted wounds:
This seems extremely unlikely – by all accounts Mr Muzychko had all the traits of someone who derives their sense of purpose from inflicting violence on others rather than on themselves. Apparently he was committed to fighting‘Communists, Jews and Russians for as long as blood flows in my veins’. His personal struggle is now at an end.
Whether the regime assassinated him in cold blood, as per the Doniy account, or in the course of an armed standoff, as per the Interior Ministry – it is clear that they were out to get him. The timing here is important. The regime has secured the support of the ‘international community’, survived the ‘stand-off’ with Russia and the ‘annexation’ of Crimea, and agreed to terms with the IMF.
Going forward, if it is to maintain its current and undeserved respectability with the ‘international community’, and if the Fatherland Party/UDAR – the neo-liberal and pro USA/EU elements in the regime – are to win the May elections, they have to shed the fascist street-gangs.
A failure to do so will make it very difficult for them to appeal to Ukraine as a whole, and will play into the hands of the leftist, anti-coup and pro-Russian elements in the South and East of Ukraine.
Right Sector is no longer useful. It fulfilled its purpose of physically mobilising violent, nationalistic and far-right elements against the previous regime and its security forces. It is now surplus to requirements, and a liability for the neo-liberal cause in Ukraine.
As the March 25th article in Kiev Post states:
In addition to tactical justifications for ditching Right Sector, there is also an entirely internal logic to the move which is derived solely from the ultimate aims of the core conspirators. The dominant neo-liberal elements in the government, the Fatherland Party and UDAR, together with their western sponsors, are committed to the creation of a neo liberal regime that is fully integrated into the international political, economic and military structures of global capitalism.
This requires them to defeat the leftist and pro-Russian elements in the Ukraine, but it also requires them to contain the Galician/Kievan far right, which has no interest in integrating with what it regards as the organs of cosmopolitan Jewish plutocracy.
One can eliminate a liability, but one can also neutralise it. Some of the Right Sector elements can expect harsh treatment, others will be integrated into the new National Guard – a classic post-coup manoeuvre by a political elite to co-opt and control the street warriors that delivered it to power.
Will this plan succeed? Can Right Sector be neutralised by confrontation and co-option – good cop and bad cop?
As an organisation the Right Sector has up to now resisted co-option into the National Guard, pending further ‘negotiations’ with the government. Right Sector members have also ignored calls to disarm. According to their leader, Dmitri Yarosh, 10,000 members have joined since February 2014.
The perceived ‘annexation’ of the Crimea, a perception the ‘international community’ has done its best to reinforce by its strong condemnations and anti-Putin rhetoric, has itself played to the ‘anti-muscovite’ narrative of Ukrainian nationalism and reinforced Right Sector’s appeal.
As the Russophile elements in the East have mobilised in recent weeks, the nationalism of elements in the West has become even more strident – with ‘air cover’ being provided by the US, EU and western media via a constant barrage of anti-Russian rhetoric.
A sign of Right Sector’s continuing strength was provided on the night of Thursday 27th March, when 2000 right wing nationalists gathered outside the Ukrainian parliament in a protest against the killing of Muzychko.
Many of them wore masks, helmets and body-armour, even though the Berkut are now nowhere to be seen. They banged on the doors and smashed windows, and have apparently threatened to storm the parliament if their demands are not met. A narrative of ‘revolutionary betrayal’ has already begun to take root on the far-right – talk of ‘defending the revolution’ is in the air.
Can the Ukrainian regime contain the far-right and prevent the counter-radicalisation of the Russophile industrial working class in the East and South? Is the ‘Maidan’ set to rise again? It is interesting to consider how the western media would react to a ‘Maidan II – Defending the National Revolution’. One suspects that Nuland would not be handing out cookies at this performance.
A significant factor in determining the outcome will be the immediate economic prospects. These are relentlessly grim. On Thursday 27th March, the new regime signed an agreement with the IMF that will have critical consequences for the future of the Ukraine.
According to the IMF press release:
‘The mission has reached a staff-level agreement with the authorities of Ukraine on an economic reform program that can be supported by a two-year Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the IMF.
The financial support from the broader international community that the program will unlock amounts to US$27 billion over the next two years. Of this, assistance from the IMF will range between US$14-18 billion, with the precise amount to be determined once all bilateral and multilateral support is accounted for.
The agreement reached with the authorities is subject to approval by IMF Management and the Executive Board. Consideration by the Executive Board is expected in April, following the authorities’ adoption of a strong and comprehensive package of prior actions aiming to stabilize the economy and create conditions for sustained growth’
The press release then goes on to outline in general language the monetary, financial, fiscal and energy reforms that constitute the ‘prior actions’ requisite before consideration by the Executive board in April. The key requirements are the ending of subsidies, reducing the budget deficit and letting the Hyrvnia float.
Regarding the fiscal deficit, the IMF press release states that it needs to be cut from 4.5% of GDP to 2.5% by 2016. This is a massive cut in public expenditure to achieve in just 2 years – especially against a background of negative growth and high inflation.
On Wednesday 26th March the regime announced an incredible 50% hike in the price of domestic gas, effective May 1. Floating the Hyrvnia will lead to a drop in value and consequently a rise in the cost of imports – including gas. Inflation for the coming year is predicted to reach 15% and the economy is predicted to shrink by 3%. (See here and here)
The bill took two readings to pass in the Rada. The Finance ministry claims it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default and that the Ukraine has no choice but to accept the deal.
In these circumstances, the neo-liberals have their work cut out for them. Austerity measures will bite hard, and after an exhausting 4 months of civil unrest the peasants and workers of the Ukraine – North, South, East and West – will bear the brunt of adjusting the Ukrainian economy to the international capitalist order.
Heavy industry and agriculture will suffer the most. The far right, who have no intention of disarming, will claim that the revolution has been betrayed and will assume that they have as much right to armed rebellion on this occasion as the west granted them in February.
Svoboda may come to play a critical role as the main organ co-opting nationalist sentiment into the neo-liberal regime and ring-fencing nationalist discontent. If it fails to achieve this, or throws in its lot with the Right Sector, this may create serious problems for the Fatherland party, UDAR and their sponsors in the ‘international community’.
Meanwhile the anti-regime forces in the East and South will point the finger at the new regime – after all, none of this would have happened with the Russian deal – the deal that precipitated the pro-western coup in the first place. Left wing and anti-nationalist parties could make gains in the East and South, with financial and political backing from Moscow.
It is worth recalling that on February 21st a government of national unity was declared and a reconciliation process agreed between all the major parties – including the Fatherland party, UDAR, Svoboda and the Party of Regions – brokered by the EU. The agreement was scuppered on the streets, driven by the Right Sector-led storming of parliament and the sniper carnage that ensued. The neo-liberals, with the full support of the ‘international community’, exploited these events to seize power.
The full consequences of this act of opportunism still lie ahead. The future looks anything but rosy for the Ukrainian people.
Mr. Lionel Reynolds is an independent analyst based in Australia and publishes the <a href=”http://dispatchesfromempire.com” target=”_blank”>Dispatches from the Empire</a> blog.