The process of the so-called ‘decommunisation’ in Ukraine was introduced during the first years of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and included the slandering and erasing of anything related to the Soviet period and the construction of socialism.
This term was also used by the President of today’s capitalist Russia, Vladimir Putin, in his anti-communist statement prior to the invasion, saying characteristically that “we are ready to show you what genuine decommunisation means for Ukraine”. It is not a coincidence that anti-communism is a common feature of both the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev as well as the leadership of capitalist Russia, at a time when the two sides are waging a bloody war against the people on behalf of their bourgeois classes.Of course, the foundations for the rise of anti-communism were laid even before the victory of the counterrevolution, through the revival of nationalism and its promotion by counterrevolutionary forces inside the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as well as by western imperialists. Initially, they used the lie that Ukraine was giving much more to the Soviet Union that it was taking back and therefore a more ‘autonomous’ course was necessary. Then, they adopted the argument that ‘free market economy’ and ‘decommunisation’ will provide new opportunities for ‘national development’.
Following the restoration of capitalism in the beginning of 1990s, one of the primary concerns of the rising bourgeois class was to erase the enormous achievements that socialist construction brought to the people of Ukraine. At the same time, the state and the capitalists – many of whom were former members of the state apparatus and the CPSU who became rich due to the tsunami of privatisations – began to spread all the lies used in the Second World War by nationalists and Nazi collaborators, like Stepan Bandera’s notorious gangs, especially with regard to the great famine of 1932-33 which they portrayed as a “conscious attempt of the Soviet state to exterminate the people of Ukraine”.
Based on these two narratives and with the full support of Euro-Atlantic imperialism, the attempt to establish the institutional framework of decommunisation in capitalist Ukraine began by the end of the 1990s. This process included the criminalisation and persecution of communist activity. Those who questioned the fabricated anti-communist narrative of Holodomor were immediately facing legal consequences. Of course, it has been proved that the historical truth about the great famine of 1932-33 is completely different from the established anti-soviet propaganda. The actual reasons behind the famine were the systematic and extended sabotages by the large-scale farmers Kulaks who reacted to the collectivisation and the drought that hit Ukraine in 1931-32, combined with the existing administrative weaknesses of the Soviet state.
A milestone in the so-called decommunisation is the legal framework that was established after the 2014 coup (‘Euromaidan’) against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich. Nationalist and fascist forces, like the ‘Right Sector’ and ‘Svoboda Party’, which participated in the new Ukrainian government, pushed for a new legislation in an effort to criminalise communist ideology and prohibit the political activity of the communists. At the same time, the fascist battalions were re-organised, neo-Nazis joined the ranks of the state mechanism and the attacks against Russian-speaking people were increased. All the above took place under the complicity of the U.S and the EU which used Ukraine as a ‘Trojan horse’ against their competitor, Russia.
We remind the active role of some U.S. government officials in the Euromaidan, like the then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and the then U.S Ambassador in Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt, but also the meetings of the late Republican Senator John McCain with leaders of the Ukrainian far-right.
On April 9, 2015, under Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) passed a series of laws on decommunisation, banning the promotion of symbols related to the “communist and national-socialist totalitarian regimes”. By using the unhistorical and reactionary theory of the two extremes, which arbitrarily equates communism with nazism, the Ukrainian government tried to criminalise everything related to the Soviet period. It is characteristic that among the basic provisions of the bill was the designation of the Soviet Union as a “criminal and terrorist regime”.
The major aim was to fill the minds and consciousness of the country’s younger generation with the perception that the Soviet era was ‘totalitarian’ and ‘inhumane’ – that socialism-communism was an ‘evil’ ideology.
The new legislation prohibited the use of communist symbols and means of propaganda. On the contrary, the activity of fascist and neo-Nazi groups (such as the notorious Azov Battalion) continued, expanded and was even assimilated in the state mechanism. In many cases, prominent members of Nazi groups were assigned to positions at the state security forces, including the police and the army.
More specifically, on May 15, 2015, the then President Petro Poroshenko signed a bill which included the following legal provisions:
Law no. 2558 “On Condemning the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes and Prohibiting the Propagation of their Symbols” — That included removal of communist monuments and renaming of public places named after communist-related themes.
Law no. 2538-1 “On the Legal Status and Honoring of the Memory of the Fighters for the Independence of Ukraine in the 20th Century” — elevating several organisations, including the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and pro-Nazi groups, to official status and assures social benefits to their surviving members.
Law no. 2539 “On Remembering the Victory over Nazism in the Second World War, 1939-1945”.
Law no. 2540 “On Access to the Archives of Repressive Bodies of the Communist Totalitarian Regime from 1917–1991”.
In 2016, following the implementation of Law no. 2558, the Ukrainian authorities proceeded to: The renaming of 987 towns/villages and 51,493 streets, as well as the removal of 1,320 monuments decided to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and 1,069 monuments dedicated to other prominent communists, many of which had been vandalised by fascist, pro-Nazi groups.
On July 24, 2015, the Communist Party of Ukraine and all communist organisations were outlawed. Cadres and members of the Communist Party and the Leninist Communist Youth of Ukraine were persecuted while their offices became a target of numerous police raids. In questions submitted by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MEPs in the European Parliament concerning the persecutions against communists in Ukraine, the EU Commission replied that “the partnership agreement between the EU and Ukraine is based on common values, especially the full respect for democratic principles, the rule of law, solid governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Quite an irony, given the fact that at the same time, the EU’s partner had legitimised the systematic attacks and state repression against the Communist Party and its youth wing.
In a joint statement issued on May 11, 2018, numerous Communist and Workers’ Parties denounced the attempts of Ukrainian authorities to annihilate the Communist Party. “These developments in Ukraine are the outrageous escalation of continuous intense attacks and persecution of the Ukrainian communists that started right after the coup d’ etat over the democratically elected government in 2014 that also led to the rise of neo-nazi and ultra-nationalist groups at all levels of the political and social spectrum of the country.”
In October 2018, far-right MP and member of the Radical Party Mosiychuk Igor Vladimirovich, publicly launched life threats against the First Secretary of the Communist Party Petro Symonenko.
On February 2019. the Central Election Commission refused to register Symonenko as a candidate for the March 31st presidential elections. Back then, the Communist Party was pointing out in statement: “This is an illegal and unconstitutional violation in the political rights of millions of our citizens who share our views, profess the principles of socialism – the principles of freedom, equality and fraternity. The goals pursued by the ruling junta prohibiting the Communist Party to nominate its candidate for the presidential elections are obvious. We, the Communists, did not abandon the name of our party, did not abandon the symbols, did not betray our ideology.”
On August 19, 2019, the Administrative Court of Kiev proceeded to the ban of the Communist Party’s newspaper ‘Rabochaya Gazeta’ (Workers’ Newspaper), one of the oldest in Ukraine. The decision was confirmed a few months later, in November 2019, by the Sixth Appeal Administrative Court.
Anti-communism is a tool of manipulation
The major assumption is that 30 years since the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union, the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, who lived together in peace for more than 70 years, are now shedding their blood fighting each other. This is the outcome of the continuous anti-communist and nationalist propaganda that has prevailed in both countries during the last three decades.
The younger generations, who have no experience of the socialist era, are especially vulnerable to anti-communist and anti-soviet indoctrination and that is exactly the major aim of the imperialists: to erase the achievements of socialism from the people’s minds and distort the history of the Soviet Union.
The people of Ukraine and Russia will now be able to understand, more clearly, the disastrous effects of decommunisation as an inherent component of capitalist barbarity.
Nikos Mottas, is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism