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15 October, 2012  ▪  Andriy Kovalskiy

“I serve the Soviet Union”

The scale of the communists’ election campaign suggests the source of its financing could be the Kremlin, rather than dues paid by retired party members.

The term “communists” can only be applied to the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) symbolically, as the party has recently used slogans alien to leftist discourse and which seem to merely play on the nostalgia some voters may have for their Soviet youth (for cheap sausages, propaganda of red historical path mythology, establishment of interstate community in the territory of the former USSR, etc.). But the 2012 communist campaign and propaganda clearly retain the pro-Russian line, envisioning  official status for "the language everyone understands", a return to life under Moscow’s authority, and so on. According to some well-informed sources, this is due to the source of the large-scale financing behind the CPU campaign. The party representatives have always openly despised national identity, supporting the idea of giving Russia the status of a second official language and cooperating with pro-Russian chauvinist organizations, including Rodina and Russian Bloc, in implementing anti-state projects. Speakers for the CPU, specifically Yevheniy Tsarkov, Spiridon Kilinkarov and Kateryna Samoilyk, have repeatedly showed their Ukrainophobia. This contradicts the pure communist idea, but it is natural from the point of view of classical Russian Bolshevism.

THE PARTY OF THEIR YOUTH

The current communists are openly cynical. CPU leaders practically propose a return to the USSR in order to resolve social problems, while they themselves are living well at the expense of “moribund capitalism”. CPU Head Petro Symonenko has written in his tax declaration that he and his wife own five apartments in Kyiv, but he forgot to mention his luxurious home on a 1.37-hectare plot near Kyiv, where he has recently been living. Spiridon Kilinkarov, another famous communist, also lives far from poverty. According to The Ukrainian Week sources, the cost of his home in Stukalova Balka near Luhansk could not be covered with the hefty deputy's salary he has received for all the years of Ukraine’s independence. In spite of revenues stated in the tax declaration of Deputy Speaker Adam Martyniuk, he also must know very little of poverty. After several investigative journalism pieces about his real wealth, Martyniuk got the nickname – “Comrade Koreyko”, the thief-millionaire from the famous novel by Ilf and Petrov's The Golden Calf. The CPU also has its own multimillionaires, including Ihor Kaletnik, the head of the State Customs Service. He obtained this post due to the close and effective cooperation his party has with the Party of Regions in parliament.

Consequently, Ukrainian communists have nothing in common with anything either Ukrainian or communist, but this is of little importance for the “homo sovieticus” who dreams of resurrecting Soviet life. The CPU or rather the team of its current political engineers seems to have thoroughly studied recent opinion polls. The latest polls show that the number of those longing for the Soviet era (mostly disappointed Party of Regions voters) has considerably increased. For instance, according to data by the Rating research center, about 46% of Ukrainians would prefer the USSR had not collapsed. In fact it is easy to manipulate those 36% of citizens who have seen nothing but their native region. In order to have the illusion of the USSR they easily accept both the elite real-estate of the CPU leaders and expensive cars of the faction’s deputies, as well as communists’ devoted support for the oligarchic Party of Regions in parliament as a matter of course. After the Anti-Crisis Alliance (2006-2007) Petro Symonenko no longer even hides that his political force's main task is to protect state capital, meaning the capital of Ukrainian oligarchs. Those in the party who object to this course (a mix of “communism ideals” and the “moribund capitalism”) have long been eliminated, in particular Leonid Hrach, former leader of the Crimean communists.

Voters are offered other ideologies, of course. “We’ll give the country back to the people”, numerous communist billboards say in Russian, while the CPU has been ruling the country together with oligarchs from the Party of Regions for two-and-a-half years already. It is like some parallel reality — the CPU’s actions essentially differ from promises it made during the election campaign. For example, consider one of this year’s slogans on a luxury tax. “A luxury tax is fair, it will provide free medicine, free education for Ukrainian children and a decent life for our old parents,” the Russian-language communist advert says. Now we know that the CPU deputies have worked out their own draft law on a “fair luxury tax” and have already registered it in the Verkhovna Rada. This bill calls a tax on apartments with a total area of 250 m² and more and houses with a total area of over 450 m² is a “fair” tax. According to The Ukrainian Week calculations, such a tax would not provide funds for “free medicine and education”, or a “decent life of old people” even in two rural regional districts.

NO STRANGERS ALLOWED

After the publication of the CPU party list, the media have started talking of a drastic change in the party's human resources policy. The upper part of the list includes young and enthusiastic local organization heads instead of “party retirees”. But the first 13 numbers on the list are still filled with current MPs and the head of the State Customs Service, Ihor Kalietnik. It is worth noting that even well-known communists, in particular Adam Martyniuk and Spiridon Kilinkarov, have decided not to risk running in first-past-the-post districts, which would increase the party’s representation in parliament. Some of the candidates from the upper part of the list obviously fail to meet the criteria of the communist “moral code”. For instance, Yevhen Marmazov is closely linked via his son to both the party in power and big business. Kalietnik (a possible sponsor of the CPU) is a representative of the current authorities, from whom the party claims to want to retake the country to give it back to the people.

Meanwhile, CPU leaders have put in place some motivation in their tactics to fight for parliament seats. The second half of the upper part of the list is occupied by representatives from regional organization. The tactics clearly say that anyone who wants to be an MP should work to increase of the number of votes for the party. There are three representatives from Luhansk Region among the first twenty numbers on the list. The Communist Party seems to be willing to use the long-standing views Luhansk Region inhabitants have of people from Donetsk. The former have minimal representation among the elites of the Party of Regions. All other communists were sent to first-past-the-post districts to fight for seats in parliament. Yevhen Tsarkov will run in Odesa Region, Oleksiy Baburin – in Zaporizhia Region, Kateryna Samoylyk – in Kherson Region and so on. According to data at The Ukrainian Week, many of them were not pleased with this tactic, but none of them have spoken about it in public. All the communists must be keeping in mind the fate of the “eliminated” communist dissident, Leonid Hrach.

According to The Ukrainian Week sources, the Communist Party is spending as much on the campaign as the Party of Regions. Petro Symonenko must have found generous sponsors. The CPU's own internal sources include Kalietnik as well as the brothers Ihor and Hryhoriy Surkis, former sponsors of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united), who are often seen with Adam Martyniuk and Russian businessman Kostiantyn Hryhoryshyn in the VIP box at FC Dynamo Kyiv games. Still, according to some, they are merely cover for a “credit line” opened by the Kremlin to involve Ukraine in Moscow's neo-empirical projects, including the Eurasian Union.

ON THE PARTY RUINS

According to the last polls by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), 10% of Ukrainians ready to vote at the 2012 elections plan to support the Communist Party. Thus many experts suggest the party could overcome its “falling dynamics” for the first time over the last twenty years and strengthen its position in parliament.

The growth of the CPU's rating is a result of the 2010 election reform which increased the vote threshold to 5%, which is inaccessible for other political forces playing on nostalgia for the USSR. The communists also profit from internal crises in the Socialist Party and Natalia Vitrenko's Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU). Over the last 10 years, the socialists’ electoral assets have ranged from 0.6 to 1.8mn voters. 6.87% (1.78mn) of voters supported them in 2002; 5.69% (1.44mn) – in 2006; and 2.86% (0.67mn) in 2007. Meanwhile, the CPU's own ratings have been growing. The core socialists’ electorate was at least 700,000, which was the party’s election result after the strange power union of “leftists and oligarchs” in 2006-2007. Now the CPU has secured almost all of those voters. The “initiated” have known the Socialist Party as the most pragmatic and technological of all the leftist forces. The majority of socialist MPs have long deliberately exploited the relevant ideas without any personal belief in them. Furthermore, this was why most once leftist regional organizations easily switched to the Anti-Crime Choice and later to Yuriy Lutsenko's Self-Defense in 2007, despite the fact that the latter force had established a bloc with Our Ukraine, which was far from the left. Currently, the Socialist Party has neither the financial nor organizational resources for a full-scale campaign and thus no chance of getting into parliament.

The communists have also profited from the elimination of less promising “seemingly leftist” forces, like Natalia Vitrenko’s Progressive Socialist Party, from the political process. In 2002, Vitrenko had 3.22% (0.84mn) of supporters, in 2006 – 2.93% (0.744mn), in 2007 – 1.32% (0.31mn). This year the CPU might take most of the 1.32% of votes Vitrenko’s party enjoyed at the last election. The PSPU has already called the 2012 elections “a coup for the pro-Western criminal oligarchy” and has decided that “an election boycott is a legal form of the people’s fight with the criminal, oligarchic, pro-Western and pro-NATO regime”.

The reincarnation of the Communist Party is another lesson for those who hampered the 1990 trial over condemning the communist ideology for crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, the issue has become marginal even for national democratic forces. The communist ideology then seemed to be favoured by the elderly soon to pass away. But today the results of the light-mindedness of 1990 are obvious, as those voting for the Communist Party are much younger now. Neo-communist organizations have been established (in particular Antifa), while many people, apparently not of retirement age, take part in May First Communist Party demonstrations. There is now a new generation with no vaccination against red totalitarianism. They do not know anything about the Holodomor, repression, villagers with no passports, collective farms (kolkhoz) workdays, criminal responsibility for being late to work, residency registration, scarcity food and quality clothing, queues, no opportunity to go abroad... That is why the Communist Party can cynically exploit people’s misfortunes of Soviet times, saying “The people were robbed… punished with imprisonment at the time of our grand-fathers”. But a new generation has totally different associations, not remembering that the “grand-fathers” mentioned in the slogan were put in jail not only for taking “socialist property”, but also for taking several ears of wheat from the kolkhoz field, or simply for criticizing the Soviet Communist Party. Ukraine would probably not have seen such a cynical red campaign, if it had passed through a decommunisation period, like denazification in post-war Germany.

Nevertheless, talks of the communists’ return in 2012 are rather exaggerated. 225 people’s deputies will be elected based on party lists. In the most optimistic scenario (10-11%), the CPU might count on 24-26 seats at most. Not more than two or three comparatively strong figures (like Kateryna Samoylyk or Alla Aleksandrovska) might get to the Verkhovna Rada in first-past-the-post districts. In most constituencies where a CPU candidate could have a chance to win (the so called red belt), he would not be able to compete with “elder comrades” from the Party of Regions who have too little room in East and South Ukraine anyway. Thus the CPU is unlikely to have many more than its current 25 seats.

In fact the Communist Party is more dangerous for the Party of Regions, than for the opposition. According to The Ukrainian Week sources from the party in power, its regional headquarters have already informed the centre of their worries about CPU activities. Consequently, the communist leaders and the party’s Ukrainian sponsors are likely to get orders “to dampen enthusiasm” before the elections.


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