In two previous articles, (Uprisings and Revolutions 1 and 2) the results of research into previous revolutionary transformations, listed five major stages of struggle in overthrowing a ruling political elite and five further stages needed to accomplish a post-capitalist form of society. It was suggested in these articles that whilst these stages did not unfold in a set linear pattern, nevertheless they were useful in deciding two things. The first decision being understanding at what stage any ongoing uprising or rebellion has reached and what still needs to be accomplished. The second decision being how to more accurately characterise the situation at the stage it has reached.
The rapidly developing situation in the Ukraine presents us with an up-to-date opportunity to test the usefulness of that historical analysis. So here is a brief over-view of the events in Ukraine (and Crimea) as they relate to the stages identified in the previously-noted research on the general historical pattern of uprisings and revolutions.
Stage 1. Sufficient widespread anger/dissatisfaction among significant sections of the population, manifested in rolling strikes, widespread civil disobedience, public and private propaganda questioning the legitimacy of the system.
Most of these sub-elements of stage 1 were reached in the Ukraine between February and April. The initial protests at the Maidan demonstrated anger and dissatisfaction primarily within Kiev. Pressure was placed upon the government and the protests escalated into armed combat. The government disintegrated, the President fled and an interim pro-European government formed with increasing right-sector activist support. This neo-fascist development itself created further anger and dissatisfaction and Stage 2 was therefore reached quickly – particularly in the Crimea.
Stage 2. The potential for collective action against the causes of dissatisfaction facilitated by close proximity, good communications and existing or new organisations capable of orchestrating these actions.
So Stage 2 type collective action promoted by the dissatisfaction with Kiev took off with incredible speed in the Crimea and was therefore swiftly followed by stage 3.
In the rest of Ukraine stage 2 dissatisfaction and action continued for a much longer, but still in a remarkably quick period, before it moved toward stage 3.
Stage 3. The actual development of collective action organised against the cause of dissatisfaction together with the establishment of co-ordinating centres for co-operative organisation and action.
The co-ordinating centres in Crimea quickly campaigned for a referendum which then gained widespread support. This campaign was followed within a short period by stage 4 in Crimea.
In the rest of Ukraine, particularly in the East, a series of occupations by anti-Kiev citizens of city halls and other public buildings, during April 2014. In these places also the idea of a referendum was circulating and so stage 4 was commencing there also.
Stage 4. The dissatisfaction against specific issues needs to be expanded and permeate sections of the ruling stratum. A platform of demands or unifying slogan needs to arise or be created which focuses this discontent and rebellion.
In Crimea, the referendum campaign for separation from the rest of the Ukraine and association with Russia became the central unifying slogan and platform which evolved further and projected Crimea into a stage 5.
However, in the rest of Ukraine stage 4 was extended and during this period talk of similar referendums circulated widely. During this period the Kiev interim government unsuccessfully tried to prevent such Crimea style referenda developments from taking place. However, within a few weeks the east of Ukraine also approached stage 5.
Stage 5. Sufficient armed/military strength needs to go over to the side of the oppressed and/or the oppressing groups military forces become sufficiently weakened or neutralised to allow the rebellion to take on the oppressors and demolish their positions and organisations of power.
At this stage, many of the Ukraine armed forces in Crimea stayed neutral and others eventually joined the movement for separation as did many officials of the regional state of Crimea. The referendum was successful and Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and applied to be accepted by Russia. This request was quickly ratified by Russia. By this ratification, the rebellion in Crimea was then over – at least for the time being. The pre-existing general socio-economic situation returned, but now under the wing of the Russian Federation.
However, elsewhere in Ukraine the anti-Maidan rebellion was still unfolding and maturing. Many Ukraine soldiers sent to re-capture public buildings in the east refused to follow orders and fraternised with local defence committees. Stage five had been progressively entered by many cities and towns in the east and north of Ukraine. In late April, the interim Kiev government admitted its forces had been neutralised and it was too weak to enforce its will on the regions in rebellion. In these distant parts of Ukraine stage 6 was entered.
Stage 6. The armed and unarmed workers need to produce/choose their own co-ordinating organisations and spokespersons who see themselves as facilitators of the self-activity of the working people rather than a new elite leadership.
By the end of April 2014 stage 6 was either fully or partially operational in many cities and towns in the east of Ukraine. Self-defence groups and committees had been formed and elected spokespersons and erected barricades, taking over town halls, administrative buildings and police stations. At least one group had even stormed a TV station and demanded their views be expressed over the air waves. Unlike Crimea, there has as yet been no referendums in these regions of Ukraine and therefore there was no quick resolution to the rapidly developing situation. (For a succinct appraisal of the economic situation and motives at work in the Ukraine see; http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23449)
Referendums for separation are detested by ruling elites, because this can lead to fragmentation and reduction of their tax base. It therefore reduces their potential incomes and privileges. Small countries can only support small and less remunerated bureaucracies, politicians and military elites. The officials of small countries do not carry very much prestige on the world scene, thus frustrating the career ambitions of political and military elites. The regime in Kiev and its supporters in the US and Europe would prefer unleashing a civil-war rather than grant a referendum which took parts of Ukraine away from its sphere of exploitation.
Indeed, because this demand is being frustrated by circumstances and the Kiev government, stage 6 is now becoming transformed into a civil war. The unleashing of right-sector and extreme nationalist forces along with military loyal to Kiev, upon local pro-referendum committees and building occupations, practically guarantees this outcome. The attacks upon these pro-referendum groups (and the resulting deaths) who wish not to be ruled by the Kiev government and its policy of economically co-habiting with Europe, announced the onset of a civil war between the Kiev government and all those who are opposed to this outcome. I would love to be wrong in this but as yet there is no obvious way to go beyond stage 6 to stages 7, 8, 9 and 10, (see below) and to a worker-led positive resolution to the underlying economic problems facing working people in the Ukraine.
The historic lack of a strong, non-sectarian anti-capitalist movement, means that in Ukraine – as elsewhere – uprisings and rebellions have little chance of becoming quickly transformed into anti-capitalist revolutions. Instead working people and the oppressed will have to go through many reversals and exit many cul-de-sacs whilst experience and knowledge are accumulated to such an extent that a post-capitalist worker-led social experiment becomes a sought after outcome to any uprising or rebellion. The current few non-sectarian anti-capitalists and revolutionary-humanists have a responsibility in evaluating past failures in that regard and in articulating this creative possibility within the current struggles.
In the meantime, workers will need to defend themselves from the coming attacks by neo-fascists and their paymasters among the neo-liberal capitalists in Kiev and the west. Many neo-Stalinist anti-Kiev activists and their supporters are already making desperate appeals for Russian forces to enter Ukraine to defend them from their own (?) national government and the right-sector. Since many of the anti-Kiev citizens of Ukraine are weaker in numbers and in armaments and since many are also Russian speakers it is perhaps only a matter of time, after many atrocities, before Russian forces are sent in to defend them from certain death. Thus escalating the tensions further. [See Ukraine Implodes!‘]
There are likely to be many such critical events (uprisings, rebellions etc.,) as the systemic economic, financial, social, environmental and moral crisis of the capitalist mode of production continues its downward spiral. Weak links in the global chain of capitalist economic relations will undoubtedly continue to appear. Ukraine is just the latest. Many may not even get beyond stage 3 (as with Egypt, Tunisia, Libya etc.), let alone as far as stage 6 as it has in some parts of Ukraine, before it becomes possible and necessary by a combination of circumstances and creative visions, to go beyond stage 6 and on to;
Stage 7. The existing capitalist state (its armed bodies of men, its bureaucracy, its power structures etc.) need to be captured, dismantled, demolished completely and existing elite political forms of organisation dissolved. To be replaced by workers and citizen self-armed communes.
Stage 8. The new socio-economic system would need to be economically sustainable and organisationally maintainable from within the ranks of the producers themselves.
Stage 9. Decisions on production and the amount and type of surplus-production need to remain with the producers organised in their local, regional and international collectives. Armed defence of the new system would need to be by the workers and communities themselves.
Stage 10. Any necessary planning and co-ordination of production and exchange should be based upon a negotiated community across model, rather than a centralised top-down model. Delegates to planning bodies would need to be elected for their ability and be revocable.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2014.)