Message-ID: <>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 10:08:29 -0400
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
From: Charles Brown <CharlesB@CNCL.CI.DETROIT.MI.US>
Subject: Ukraine coming to its senses ?

Ukraine top communist pledges socialism after poll

By Pavel Polityuk, Reuters, 18 October 1999, 09:54 a.m. Eastern

PERVOMAISK, Ukraine, Oct 18 (Reuters)—Ukraine's communist leader Petro Symonenko, a major rival to President Leonid Kuchma seeking re-election on October 31, has a dream—to restore socialism with a dictatorship of the proletariat.

A diligent pupil of his revered teacher, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, Symonenko told a rally of his supporters at the weekend that he also sought to redistribute capital earned under what he called the criminal current regime.

After years of timid reforms and widespread poverty under President Leonid Kuchma, his platform has drawn enough supporters to make him a serious contender in the presidential election.

Around 1,500 residents of Pervomaisk, a depressed chemical industry town of 60,000 people 420 km (260 miles) east of Kiev, gathered to listen to Symonenko in a run-down culture centre.

“Why is the present dictatorship of bandits better than the upcoming dictatorship of the proletariat?” asked Symonenko, dressed in a modest dark-blue suit with a red-flag badge on a lapel. He was rewarded with rapturous applause.

Symonenko has been reluctant to be accompanied by the mass media on trips to Ukraine's “red belt” regions in the east and south. But he appears to enjoy wide support among people in depressed towns like this one.

“He is one of us. He should become our president, because he knows our hardships and will help us survive,” said Tatyana Ivanovna, a 65-year-old pensioner, who held a poster reading “Symonenko is Our President.”

The 47-year-old former Communist Party functionary is now neck-and-neck in presidential opinion polls with outspoken ultra-leftist Natalya Vitrenko, both slightly trailing Kuchma.

Calm and soft-spoken, his voice sometimes trembling with emotion, Symonenko's style contrasts with Vitrenko's fiery and thunderous speeches and Kuchma's unemotional rhetoric.


Clearly playing on people's nostalgia for “stable Soviet times,” Symonenko promised his largely elderly audience he would stop privatisation and punish many of those who got rich overnight in the impoverished nation of 50 million.

People in this town say they remember cheap sausage and safe streets under Soviet Communist rule. All five of the town's factories are now standing idle, salaries are unpaid and crime has exploded.

“We have a criminal regime with avaricious clans,” Symonenko said. “Our main problem is that we are no longer living in the great Soviet country.”

Symonenko draws laughs by proposing sending the country's government into a depressed town like Pervomaisk, making them work and then not paying their meagre salaries for up to seven months.

He dissociates his party from repression carried out by communists in Soviet times. “We should take the best (from Lenin's teaching) and move forward,” he said.

In towns like this one it is not hard to find the sort of woeful sentiment that has built support behind leftist protest candidates like Symonenko and Vitrenko.

“My family of four is forced to live on a pension of 60 hryvnias ($13) a month because my son and my daughter-in-law are unemployed,” said Angelina Vasylyevna, a 67-year-old former school teacher. “You should look into the eyes of my little grandson when he asks me to buy some food,” she said, weeping.

“I decided for myself. I will vote for Symonenko,” said Tatyana, 37, a waitress in a cafe empty of customers. “After years of idle talks of reforms, I do not fear a communist comeback.”