bans Communist Party
BY JOHN STUDER
AND EMMA JOHNSON
On July 24, Ukrainian Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko signed a decree effectively banning the Communist Party and two smaller groups, the Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed) and the Communist Party of Workers and Peasants.
For the last year the government has been seeking a court ruling banning the CP, so far without success. So Petrenko acted under one of the “decommunization” laws signed by President Petro Poroshenko May 15, which also makes it a crime punishable by fines and prison to distribute communist “propaganda” or in any way deny “the criminal character of the communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991 in Ukraine.”
Poroshenko’s capitalist government accuses the Communist Party and others who oppose its course, including workers protesting lack of pay and attacks on their unions, of being a traitorous “fifth column” in the war with separatists who are backed by Moscow.
“After the passage of the decommunization law, the situation for CP deputies and party members has been tense and more complicated,” Vladymir Konstantinovych, Communist Party of Ukraine deputy to Dnepropetrovsk City Council, told the Militant via Skype July 13. “All the Communist Party’s newspapers in Ukraine have been shut down. Two weeks ago we began our campaign for deputies in the local government. Now the Communist Party has been denied the right to participate. They told us we cannot run.”
In response to the July 24 decree, CP General Secretary Petro Symonenko said the party would run in the Oct. 25 local elections anyway. The party received 13 percent of the vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections.
The drive to push the party out of politics has gone hand in hand with physical attacks on its offices and members. There are dozens of instances of CP national headquarters and regional offices being attacked and individual members brutalized and harassed.
“Since February last year two CP members in Dneprodzerzhynsk have been kidnapped and held, accused of being collaborators with the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk,” Konstantinovych said. “We are trying to reach agreement with other left-wing groups to form new political blocs. We created the Left March, an action front. Along with the Progressive Socialist Party, we established the Left Opposition to participate in politics.”
The Ukrainian CP was formed in 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union. Its political views are similar to those of the CP in Russia, presenting a prettified, nostalgic view of Soviet life under Stalin.
“Without freedom of speech there is no freedom. They attack the Communist Party and they set a precedent to use against others they want to silence,” said Alexei Simvolokov, chair of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine in Dnepropetrovsk, who took part in the exchange with the Militant. “Different left-wing organizations working for social justice have suffered physical attacks and harassment.”
“The situation is very difficult for unionists also,” he said. “We face pressure from the authorities, the bosses and some union people as well,” he said. “After six months the new independent union at the rocket plant here has still not been recognized as a legal union.”
On July 24, the International Trade Union Confederation in a statement protested draft legislation requiring state registration of individuals and community groups. It “would weaken the autonomy of the trade unions and deprive them from protection from external interference, including by the public authorities.”
Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group published an article July 25 opposing the ban on the CP and the decommunization laws. She cited attorney Volodymyr Yavorsky’s opinion that the ban is “manifestly in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights” and demonstrates that “the new government is infringing the rights of opposition political parties.”
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