The Left and Maidan: Interview with Ukrainian socialist Denis Pilas

Around 150 people gathered in Kiev recently to attend a conference organised by Ukrainian organisations including the Left Opposition, with support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

The conference, entitled ‘The Left and Maidan’, discussed perspectives for the left in Ukraine. There were visitors from Russia, France, Germany, Poland and Belarus, including left members of the German Bundestag and the Russian Duma.*

Ben Neal spoke to Denis Pilas, one of the organisers of the event.

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BN: Denis, could you tell me about the purpose and aims of the conference?

DP: It was organised for leftists who had participated in the Maidan protests to share their experiences and analysis in order to formulate a clear agenda and vision of a future strategy for the left in Ukraine. And, of course, I saw it as an important tool to promote international solidarity. I was really happy about the participation of independent trade union activists from Dniepropetrovsk and Kryvyi Rih, both older worker leaders [who had taken part in the miners’ strikes in 1989 at the end of the Soviet Union] and young miners, who participated in their local Maidans and continued protests for social causes.

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BN: What do you think were the main results of the conference?

DP: One of main results was consolidation of the left initiatives at Maidan and getting set for future social protests – now against the new government. Also the launch of Assembly for Social Revolution, the first radical left list at Kiev city council elections, on the basis of ‘liquid democracy’ (see video).It was agreed to participate under the umbrella of the party “Socialist Ukraine” .

BN: One of the main topics for discussion, and of particular interest to socialists in the UK, is how the international left should relate to the situation in Ukraine, especially regarding the left in the country. What can you say about this?

DP: The international left should not succumb to any kind of geopolitics or support of ‘lesser-evil’ imperialism. Instead, it should campaign against both the militaristic and adventurous policy of both the US and Russia. It should be a genuine anti-war movement, against a possible civil war in Ukraine as well.

It should oppose the conservative, authoritarian and oligarchic regime of Putin in Russia, and be in solidarity with leftists persecuted by it.

In the case of Ukraine, it must call on working people of Western and Eastern Ukraine to unite in struggle against the oligarchs. It should also protest against the IMF’s demands and include Ukraine in an all-European struggle against austerity.

BN: What should the left demand of Western governments?

DP: The demands from Western governments should be:

  • To lift the Ukrainian debt
  • To introduce visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens,
  • To cancel austerity demands,
  • To introduce effective sanctions against Ukrainian oligarchs and confiscate their property in the West to return it to the people

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BN: What can the international left do to build solidarity with leftists in Ukraine?

DP: It can contribute by building links with Ukrainian trade unions and progressive grassroots movements, and campaigning on common causes. They can visit Ukraine, see it with their own eyes and share their experience with activists back home.

*Andrei Hunko of the Linksparteifraktion in the German Bundestag, and Ilya Ponomarev of the Left Front, who was the only Russian State Duma member to vote against the annexation of Crimea.

Upcoming event

There will be a meeting hosted by rs21 and Socialist Resistance with Russian socialist Maria Chekhonadskikh on “Revolt and Repression in Ukraine and Russia” on Tuesday 29 April, at 7.30pm at the Community Centre, 62 Marchmont St, London, WC1N 1AB.

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