On May 2 1933 Hitler Banned the Trade Unions and Sent Thousands of Workers and Trade Unionists to the Concentration Camps
81 years later, on May 2 2014, Trade Union House in Odessa was Burnt to the Ground – Over 100 People Were Murdered by the Fascists and the AWL’s Allies in Ukraine
Hitler proclaimed May 1 1933, as a national holiday. He told the workers:
The next day, Hitler ordered the Sturm Abteilung (SA) to destroy the trade union movement. Their headquarters were occupied, union funds confiscated, the unions were dissolved and their leaders arrested. Many ended their lives in Dachau. 169 different trade unions were put under Nazi control as the Nazis established the Labour Front under Robert Ley as a means of controlling the German working class.
“You will see how untrue and unjust is the statement that the revolution is directed against the German workers.”
On May 2 2014 after an attack by neo-Nazis and fascists of the Right Sector, armed with weapons, on peaceful protestors in Odessa, many retreated to Odessa’s Trade Union Centre.
Dmitry Rogovsky of the Right Sector was clear: “The aim is to completely clear Odessa [of pro-Russians]. They are all paid Russian separatists.”
What happened was covered up from the start. To the Guardian it was merely a question of “violent and chaotic clashes” between pro-Russian separatists and “pro-Ukraine activists” (i.e. not fascists or neo-Nazis). The Guardian’s Howard Amos told how ‘The seizure of the trade union building was the violent culmination of a day of street battles in this Black Sea resort city.’ Amos reversed what happened.
The Police stood by and watched as the fascists set light to the building and then entered by side entrances to finish off those who were still alive. Many of the photos in this blog are extremely disturbing but I have made the decision that it’s better to tell the truth about these fascist barbarities than to obscure it. It is also best to make it clear just who the friends of some on the British left – in particular the AWL, ACR and RS21 – are.
What is happening today is a direct result of the events surrounding the burning alive and murder of ordinary trade unionist and protesters in Odessa in 2014. Yet there are some sections of the Left in Britain, who refuse to see it that way and seriously believe that the real issue is one of Ukrainian self-determination rather than an attempt to suppress ethnic Russian Ukrainians and their national and linguistic rights within a Ukrainian federation. To say nothing of the continuous expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe.
We can expect no better of the pro-imperialist Alliance for Workers Liberty which has a 40 year old record of backing US wars, whether it is in Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel. Despite its concern over ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party the AWL has no problem covering for Ukraine’s neo-Nazi battalions.
What is surprising is that Anti-Capitalist Resistance, the British section of the 4th International under Gilbert Achcar, a Professor at SOAS, London University, has taken a similar position. An article by AWL’s Sacha Ismail Using “anti-imperialism” to avoid siding with Ukraine sides with Achcar in his debate with the SWP’s Alex Callinicos. That fact alone should tell ACR that something has clearly gone wrong with their politics as they end up cheerleading NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine.
Despite the SWP’s wrong characterisation of what is a civil war in Ukraine as ‘inter-imperialist’, Callinicos at least understands that US and NATO expansion is the cause of the war.
The same does not apply to Achcar whose article Contemptuous Denial of Agency in the Name of Geopolitics and/or Peace positively delights in supporting NATO’s war mongering. Not a word about the fascist militias leading Ukrainian resistance.
Despite ACR’s professed commitment to open debate, they first refused to publish a reply by me and then, having been pressurised into allowing my response then deleted all the comments! The Trotskyist left in Britain have problems with debate and discussion It is as if they instinctively know that their formulaic positions don’t stand up to close examination.
Today we have the neo-Nazi Azov battalion integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard, armed and trained by the United States and British military as well as Israel. See Why is Israel arming Ukraine’s neo-Nazi militias?
If you want to understand the background to what is happening in Ukraine I highly recommend John Pilger’s The rise of fascism is again the issue. Written in March 2015 Pilger presciently predicted what is now taking place. He wrote of the attack on the ethnic Russians in the East and he described the absorption of Crimea back into Russia after an overwhelming and free referendum of its people.
If Putin can be provoked into coming to their aid, his pre-ordained “pariah” role in the West will justify the lie that Russia is invading Ukraine.
The Kiev regime turned on the ethnic Russian population in the east with the ferocity of ethnic cleansing. Deploying neo-Nazi militias in the manner of the Waffen-SS, they bombed and laid to siege cities and towns. They used mass starvation as a weapon, cutting off electricity, freezing bank accounts, stopping social security and pensions.
More than a million refugees fled across the border into Russia. In the western media, they became unpeople escaping “the violence” caused by the “Russian invasion”. The Nato commander, General Breedlove – whose name and actions might have been inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove – announced that 40,000 Russian troops were “massing”. In the age of forensic satellite evidence, he offered none.
These Russian-speaking and bilingual people of Ukraine – a third of the population – have long sought a federation that reflects the country’s ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are not “separatists” but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland and oppose the power grab in Kiev. Their revolt and establishment of autonomous “states” are a reaction to Kiev’s attacks on them. Little of this has been explained to western audiences.
On May 2, 2014, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by. The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as “another bright day in our national history”. In the American and British media, this was reported as a “murky tragedy” resulting from “clashes” between “nationalists” (neo-Nazis) and “separatists” (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine).
The New York Times buried the story, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington’s new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims – “Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says”. Obama congratulated the junta for its “restraint”.
Below are two excellent articles from the World Socialist Web Site. The first article shows the lengths to which the New York Times and the western media went to cover up the atrocity. The second article What took place in Odessa on May 2? describes in harrowing detail the fascist attack on protesters in Odessa, aided and abetted by the Ukrainian state.
5 May 2014
The criminal character of the US-European Union intervention in Ukraine was tragically exposed for all to see Friday when supporters of the US-installed regime in Kiev, led by neo-Nazi Right Sector thugs, set fire to the Trade Unions House in the Black Sea port of Odessa, killing 38 pro-Russian demonstrators who had taken refuge in the building.
The anti-Kiev regime protesters had retreated into the building after the Ukrainian nationalist mob set fire to their nearby tent encampment. Authorities say 30 people died from smoke inhalation and another eight were killed when they jumped from windows and balconies in an attempt to escape the blaze.
According to eyewitness accounts, those who dropped from the building and survived were surrounded and beaten by Right Sector fascists. Video footage shows bloodied survivors being attacked.
This massacre occurred on the same day that government military forces, including armored personnel vehicles and helicopter gunships, attacked towns in the southeast of the country under the control of pro-Russian opponents of the regime, which was illegally installed last February in a coup led by Right Sector paramilitaries and backed by Washington and the EU.
The Obama administration, along with the governments of Germany, France, Britain and the other European imperialist powers, bears political responsibility for Friday’s atrocity. They have sponsored the Right Sector, as well as the neo-fascist Svoboda party, and seen to it that they were integrated into the new anti-Russian regime in Kiev.
The US media, led by the so-called “newspaper of record,” the New York Times, shares political responsibility, having brazenly promulgated government propaganda and lies since the Ukraine crisis began last November. The Times, in particular, both in nominal “news” stories and in columns by State Department mouthpieces such as Andrew Higgins, C.J. Chivers, Roger Cohen, Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman, has promoted the line that the incipient civil war in Ukraine is the result of Russian aggression, not US-European subversion.
In order to promote this grossly distorted version of events, the Times has gone so far as to publish an article with fabricated “evidence” and doctored photos supposedly proving that the rebellion in southeast Ukraine is the work of Russian military and intelligence forces—a story the newspaper was forced to retract—and dismissed as Russian propaganda, warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic politics of Washington’s ultra-right allies in Kiev. Chivers has also penned on-the-spot reports on the right-wing Maidan protests in Kiev sympathetically painting the ultra-nationalist paramilitaries as honest patriots and obscuring their fascist politics and pedigree.
Thus it is not surprising that the Times responded to the fascist murder of 38 people in Odessa on Friday by burying the story and deliberately obscuring the identity of the perpetrators. The only mention of the torching of the Trade Unions House and murder of 38 people holed up inside occurred in a story on page A7 of the Saturday edition of the newspaper—on the fourth page of the International section.
The reference to the massacre, moreover, was a fleeting mention well down in the article, carefully formulated to avoid attributing blame. The authors, C.J. Chivers (Who else?) and Noah Sneider, wrote:
Violence also erupted Friday in the previously calmer port city of Odessa, on the Black Sea, where dozens of people died in a fire related to clashes that broke out between protesters holding a march for Ukrainian unity and pro-Russian activists.
The Sunday Times published a front-page on-the-spot report by Chivers and Sneider from Slavyansk on the anti-Kiev government insurgents. Despite being unable to produce any evidence of the presence of Russian spies or troops, the authors wrote that “one persistent mystery has been the identity and affiliations of the militiamen.”
To further bolster the US State Department line they wrote, in relation to a rebel leader named Yuri, whom they described as “an ordinary eastern Ukrainian of this generation,” that his background as a former Soviet special forces commander in Afghanistan “could make him authentically local and a capable Kremlin proxy.”
Mention of the torching of the Trade Unions House and murder of dozens of pro-Russian protesters in Odessa was once again relegated to the back pages. The article falsely stated that “it was not immediately clear who had started the blaze.”
The cover-up by the Times is consistent with the dishonest treatment provided by the rest of the so-called “mainstream” press in the US—only more crude than most. The Washington Post had a front-page article that featured the deaths in Odessa and acknowledged that the fire was set by supporters of the Kiev regime, but omitted any mention of the Right Sector.
The Wall Street Journal in a news report attributed the fire to “a clash between pro-government and anti-government mobs.” In an editorial published Saturday, the Journal actually implied that Russia was responsible for the mass murder. The editorial stated: “Pro-Ukraine demonstrations in the southeast are large, and the Russians have tried to beat them into silence. Some three dozen people died on Friday during clashes in Odessa.”
In downplaying the mass killing in Odessa and concealing the identity, politics and US connections of the perpetrators, the American media is not simply covering up for the fascists and the regime in Kiev, it is concealing the criminal responsibility of the Obama administration and American imperialism.
Even as Ukrainian military forces were attacking protesters in the east and fascist mobs allied to the government were burning and killing in Odessa, President Barack Obama was giving his unconditional support to the actions of the regime at a joint White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “The Ukrainian government has the right and responsibility to uphold law and order within its territory,” he declared, and went on to praise Kiev for its “remarkable restraint.”
At a meeting Friday of the United Nations Security Council, US Ambassador Samantha Power put the entire blame for the violence on Moscow and called the military crackdown in the east “proportionate and reasonable.”
Nothing of any significance that the US puppet regime in Kiev does is independent of its masters in Washington. That the US is calling the shots in the mass repression of anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine was highlighted by the separate visits to Kiev of Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan and Vice President Joseph Biden, after each of which the regime launched new attacks on the rebels in the east.
The United States has worked closely with the neo-fascist Svoboda party as well as the Right Sector, and signed off on their incorporation into the government it installed in Kiev after the February 22 putsch that overthrew the elected, pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Initially, the head of Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, was offered the post of deputy head of internal security, but he turned it down in order to operate more freely while providing the regime with a pretense of separation from the fascist militia.
Nevertheless, the Kiev government set up a new National Guard, recruited largely from the Right Sector and other ultra-nationalists and fascists, and has thrown it, as well as the Right Sector directly, against pro-Russian oppositionists in the east to supplement the operations of the Ukrainian military.
In an interview last month with the German publication Spiegel Online, Yarosh boasted of state support for his forces, saying, “Our battalions are part of the new territorial defense. We have close contact with the intelligence services and the general staff.”
The handprints of Washington are all over the fascist massacre in Odessa, and the New York Times, along with the rest of the “mainstream” media, is exposed as an accomplice. The cover-up of this crime by the Times is a guarantee that it will whitewash even greater crimes of US imperialism in the days and weeks to come.
New information, eyewitness testimony, photos and videos reveal the extent of the massacre carried out by fascist forces in the Ukrainian city of Odessa on May 2.
The day began when opponents of the Kiev regime assembled in tents in the centre of Odessa to collect signatures in favor of a referendum for a federal system in Ukraine. This peaceful gathering was then attacked by groups of fascist thugs who had been bussed into the city from Kiev and Kharkov. The storming of the tents is shown in this video, [removed by Youtube] which shows hundreds of thugs armed with clubs, shields and pistols marching into the middle of the city and attacking anti-government protesters.
To escape the fascist onslaught, the anti-Kiev activists retreated to the city’s central Trades Union building, a massive stone structure consisting of five storeys. The building was then surrounded by the neo-Nazi mob who proceeded to blockade the doors. Bawling “burn them” the nationalist thugs then set fire to the front of the building with Molotov cocktails. Photos show the fascists preparing Molotov cocktails on the street.
During this entire period, the Ukrainian police watched on and did nothing to restrain the fascists. Instead they arrested 130 of the anti-Kiev protesters and survivors of the massacre. There are no reports of arrests by the police of any of the neo-Nazis who stormed the trade union building.
One video [removed by Youtube] shows some of the reactions of the thugs surrounding the building. One man, wearing a yellow-blue armband and identified as an activist in the Maidan demonstrations in February, is seen shooting at people trying to escape from the windows.
Four minutes into the video, one man calls for more Molotov bombs to be tossed into the building: “Throw them, throw them!” A few seconds later a grenade explodes at the front of the building.
As the flames spread on the second floor, people began to jump from the windows. On the ground, the ultra-nationalists shout: “Jump! Glory to the Ukraine!”
Shots aimed at those inside the burning building came from behind police lines, indicating that the police supported the fascists. The police also did nothing to prevent the mob from blocking the path of fire engines attempting to reach the fire. This delay doubtless cost extra lives.
Initially the media reported that the total of around 40 victims of the masssacre died directly as a result of the blaze—from smoke inhalation, or from injuries sustained when they jumped from windows.
The media have maintained a total silence on gruesome photos taken inside the building after the fire that indicate that several victims were murdered and did not die from the fire—suggesting that the fascists were able to enter the building and systematically execute those inside. One photo shows a pregnant woman bent backwards over a desk with a wire wound around her neck. She had evidently been strangled.
These reports expose the attempts of Western officials and media to cover for the reactionary far-right regime in Kiev and blame the massacre on the pro-Russian forces that were its victims. The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, who has longstanding links to neo-conservative US think tanks, posted on Twitter on the same day of the massacre, noting: “Horrible with at least 38 dead in Odessa. Seems to have started with pro-Russian attempt to get control of buildings…..”
The aim of the provocation in Odessa on May 2, followed in the past days by the latest Ukrainian military offensive in Mariupol, is to intimidate all opposition to the putsch regime in Kiev, which has pledged to implement the program of drastic austerity dictated by the IMF and EU. To this end the governments of Washington and Berlin are prepared to collaborate with the reactionary filth responsible for the atrocity of May 2 and even risk military conflict with Russia.
Naturally the Guardian, (2.5.14). which was so exercised about ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party, got in on the act as it did its best to whitewash the neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine in an article Ukraine clashes: dozens dead after Odessa building fire
Five years have passed since the deadly clashes in Odessa, Ukraine, but there is still no sense of justice. The constantly-delayed probe has only led to one conviction, while the courts have been harassed by far-right activists.
More than 1,000 people came on Thursday to Kulykove Pole in Odessa to lay flowers in memory of the victims of the fierce and chaotic clashes that rocked the city in 2014. The tragic events left 48 people dead. Most of them perished inside the Trade Unions House, which was set on fire during the standoff between pro-coup activists and their opponents.
The death toll, as well as the images of charred bodies lying on the stairs of the burnt-out building, shook the nation. Yet, as of today, only one person has been convicted in relation to the clashes, Deputy Interior Minister Sergey Yarovoy said. So what exactly happened in Odessa that day and who is responsible for the bloodshed?
From street battles to deadly inferno
Located on the Black Sea coast, Odessa was mostly known as a quiet, peaceful town, a popular tourist hub since Soviet times, with a nice climate and vibrant culture. The spring of 2014 divided its history into two parts. The tragedy unfolded on the heels of the Euromaidan protests and bloody coup in Kiev which inflamed tensions across the country. The tense atmosphere in the city reached a boiling point on May 2, when scores of football fans flocked there to watch a game.
Joined by Maidan Self-Defense (a pro-coup group) and far-right group Right Sector, they decided to hold a massive ‘unity of Ukraine’ rally downtown. They were met there by local anti-coup and pro-federalization activists. The standoff quickly escalated into brutal street fights. Six people were gunned down.
The anti-coup activists retreated, taking refuge inside a large five-story building known as the Trade Unions House. They were chased down by the pro-unity and coup supporters. Some of them were filmed hurling Molotov cocktails at the building and firing at the windows. Others cheered on as the fire rapidly spread.
The first floor was soon engulfed in flames, forcing people to seek refuge on the rooftop. Those less fortunate hid from the fire on narrow drip cups, while some jumped to the ground. People in the crowd outside reacted in different ways. Some tried to save people from the raging inferno, but others in the pro-unity camp attacked those who had just barely made it out alive.
5 years and no justice
As bereaved Ukrainians were laying wreaths at the steps of the building and carrying placards with photos of the dead on Thursday, many felt that the authorities have let the victims down.
“My husband and brother died. Both were burned right here,” a sobbing woman said, pointing at the refurbished Trade Unions Building.
“How is it even possible that, in a civilized country, people were burned alive at a city center just like that?” said another.
Many wonder why the case has taken the investigators so long, given the amount of publicly available footage of the clashes.
The UN seems to have similar thoughts. Five years have passed since the tragedy, but “no meaningful progress” has been made in the investigation and in bringing the perpetrators to justice, the organization’s mission in Ukraine noted in March.
Court proceedings have stalled and are repeatedly delayed. As a result, some defendants have spent years in custody or under house arrest. Others, like the local police chief, accused of inaction during the clashes, fled the country.
The investigation was also accused of bias against pro-federalization activists. Out of more than two dozen defendants, only one was pro-unity. There were multiple reports of far-right groups pressuring the court to release the man. Two hearings were called off “due to the court’s failure to select a jury panel and disruption of the proceedings by ‘pro-unity’ supporters,” a UN report said.
In another incident, far-right activists clashed with police outside the court building in Odessa, injuring 35 officers.
Nationalists were outraged that two anti-Maidan activists were acquitted for their role in the May 2 clashes. Both were quickly arrested again, this time charged with “conspiracy to undermine the territorial integrity” of Ukraine, and remain in custody to this day.
The authorities could not prove the men were guilty, but did not dare let them walk free either, because “the radicals would come and start an intimidation campaign,” Kiev-based political analyst Mikhail Pogrebinsky told RT.
I submitted the following comment to an article by Sacha Ismail’s article on the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty website Using “anti-imperialism” to avoid siding with Ukraine. It doesn’t seem to have appeared. It seems that like Anti-
Communist Capitalist Resistance, they are afraid to debate their politics. I can’t imagine why!!
We are not going to agree on the nature of the war in Ukraine which is essentially a civil war between the Ukrainian state and its neo-Nazi militias and its Russian speaking citizens in the Donbas and elsewhere to after the US funded fascist coup in 2014 found themselves under attack by the Azov Battalion and other fascists. The Ukrainian state found that up to 95% of its army didn’t want to take part in the attacks on ethnic Russian Ukrainians and that was why the fascists were armed and co-opted to the fight.
It is interesting that nowhere in the above article does AWL’s Sacha Ismael even mention the neo-Nazis at the heart of the Ukrainian state. For a group that was so hot on ‘left antisemitism’ I am bemused that you are so unconcerned by the genuine article. It is as if ‘antisemitism’ was always a pretext for your pro-imperialist politics of support for Zionism and the Israeli state.
It is the same with the Afghan ‘resistance’ against the Soviet Union, which was resistance to the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan, a liberal regime which emancipated women but then came under attack from feudal reactionaries in the Mojahideen. The Soviet intervention in support of this regime was clearly not imperialist unlike the US support for the Islamic fundamentalists. In latter years the AWL, taking its league from British and US imperialism was second to none in attacking Islamic fundamentalism but at the time was quite happy to support anyone that the CIA supported.
So I was amused at Sacha Ismael’s formulation regarding this:
‘Any hesitation or qualifications to positive socialist support for the Afghan “resistance” concerned its extreme-right politics and sectarian characteristics, rooted in various ethnic-religious minorities in Afghanistan and murderously opposed to other minorities. Neither of those kind of problems is anywhere near decisive in Ukraine.’
Really? So the Azov and Adair Battalions don’t exist do they? Fascists haven’t been absorbed into the Ukrainian state itself as armed military formations? The Right Sector didn’t burn out the Trade Union centre in Odessa in 2014 and murder probably over 100 protestors and trade unionists?
Who do you think occupied and ‘defended’ the city of Mariupol if not the Azov Battalion? who carried out the massacre at Bucha if not the Safari Battalion of the National Police, heavily populated by the fascists.
The fact is that in its determination to support Western imperialism the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty is prepared even to cover for outright neo-Nazis. When I challenged Pete Radcliffe on this at a recent Not the Andrew Marr Show where he was debating Chris Williamson, he was noticeably reticent about Ukraine’s neo-Nazi formations. I can’t think why!
Yes it is a shame that the AWL was proscribed by Keir Starmer recently. Blatant sectarianism given that there is no disagreement between you on international issues and imperialism.
See also Global Research Eight Years Ago: US-NATO Installed a Neo-Nazi Government in Ukraine and my own article in March 2014 Ukraine – the Hypocrisy of the West