LOS ANGELES — “Workers worldwide should support the people of Ukraine in their struggle,” Vanessa Balenko, a participant in the Maidan movement in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, told some 30 people at a Militant Labor Forum here July 26. The protest movement — which centered on the Maidan, or square, in Kiev — led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February. “A year ago it seemed impossible that such a movement could take place.” Above, demonstration last March in Kharkiv defending Ukrainian sovereignty.
“The combat that is taking place today is not a war between Ukraine and Russia, or between eastern and western Ukraine,” Balenko said. “It is Russian government interference in Ukraine to prevent the people of our country from deciding our own destiny.”
“Workers from Kiev to Kharkiv, Chernobyl to Kryvyi Rih, were eager to talk with us about the conditions they face and fights they are waging,” said John Studer, who was part of a recent Militant reporting trip to Ukraine. “Working people in Ukraine face both violent provocations from separatists and bosses’ attacks on wages and working conditions.”
Ukraine miners have the second highest mortality rate in the world, Balenko told the meeting.
“When we talked with working people in Ukraine about what workers in the U.S. face, their eyes opened wide,” said Studer. “Many agreed that we face the same kinds of attacks, the same need to organize effective resistance, the same interest in learning the history of working-class struggles, the same need to find a road to independent working-class political action.”
After the meeting, Olga Dzubenko, one of four Ukrainians there, said she liked how the forum put Ukraine in the context of what workers face around the world and how to advance the struggles of working people in the U.S.
The next day Studer spoke at a lively brunch forum in San Francisco of more than 30 people, including participants in recent battles against cop brutality.