Parti de Gauche leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Ukraine

Currently the number one issue is to avoid war.
Jean-Luc Melenchon
March 11, 2014
Jean-Luc Melenchon

I think it is useful to specify [my position on developments in Ukraine] in black and white. I’m doing it in broad brushstrokes so that the advanced minds in the newsrooms can understand. I’m doing it in their language, saying what “I support” and what “I condemn”. Please understand me: my comments here are an express warning sign for the Mickey Mouse minds of the media world.

Let’s go: I do not support Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Neither do I support the de facto actual authorities of the Ukraine, nor the kleptocrats of the previous constitutional government. However, contrary to [Green member of the European Parliament] Daniel Cohn-Bendit, I am not in favour of war with Russia! While I think that the Russians have nothing to do outside their bases in the Crimea, I also condemn the attempted encirclement of Russia by NATO which is the cause of their action. I condemn the neo-Nazi anti-semitism of the de facto ministers in power in the Ukraine and support their rapid expulsion from the government.

I say this in accordance with the recommendations of the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on December 13, 2012. And I use the occasion to point out that this resolution, “On the Ukraine”, comes from the social liberals, the right and the Greens, to whom Daniel Cohn –Bendit belongs. It says unambiguously: “Parliament is concerned about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada [Ukaine's parliament]; recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party.”

That’s what Cohn-Bendit personally signed and voted for. Was he supporting Putin on that occasion because Putin also condemned the Ukrainian neo-Nazis? Of course not! Yet that is what he accuses me of having done.

This hasn’t finished. I also condemn the provocations of the de facto government of the Ukraine such as the application for membership of NATO and the withdrawal of Russian as an official language of the Ukraine, spoken moreover by a majority in the Donbas and the Crimea.

I think the United States have nothing to do in this area, and I condemn its belligerent activism.

In short, my camp is that of peace against war. Because war on the old continent involving everybody has again become possible. One way to avoid this is to refuse to play with matches in this tinderbox. Yet this is what the traditional “looks-like-war” gang do in this type of situation. Far from making an assessment of the record of wars they have caused or called for in the last 20 years, they demand more. Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Kosovo — they’ve learned nothing, and want to learn nothing. Their interest is not peace or war: it’s in their fanatical Atlanticist “natural destiny”.

At the same time, what the merchants of the “looks-like-war” articles are selling are not facts. Take the presence of Russian military. According to French general Vincent Desportes it is committing no illegality. On March 2, 2014, he told BFM TV: “Russia is not violating any law, international or otherwise. Under the agreement signed with the Ukraine, the Russian Federation is authorised to have a force of 25,000 men on Ukrainian territory. Now, even with the latest troop movements, Russian forces do not amount to more than 15,000 men in the Crimea, so we are still well short of the total. And the Ukraine is neither part of the European Union or NATO. Therefore, neither the EU nor NATO are inclined or authorised to intervene in Ukraine.”

Distancing oneself from the de facto government of Ukraine is not to do the same with the insurgent movement that overthrew the previous kleptocratic regime. Quite the reverse. For me, this movement is full of twists and turns, which will provide many an opportunity for the forces that may be an alternative. I support the protests and mass insurrection that stood up against the powers-that-be. That the most questionable elements have been leading the process against those in power is simply a fact of struggle common to all revolutionary periods. Perhaps it is going through a bad patch that will pass. Because it seems that Ukrainians of all political colours retain much of their revolutionary energy. Several revolutionary sequences have linked together without that energy dispersing. What should the new authorities do now? Introduce an unpopular policy at the highest level to repay the debt and to meet the country’s financial obligations?

Don’t think that the situation will calm down. The interests involved are too large: English, French, Austrian, German — the main European economies are heavily involved in the Ukraine, and in Russia, in all possible ways. I have also stressed that from now on it is accepted in Europe that an elected president and his government can be driven from power when he is unpopular and when there are corrupt ministers and the people suffer shameful sacrifices while a small minority becomes obscenely rich.

I can attest to the fact that this message has been well received in the field! Indeed, at the demonstration of European railway workers in which I took part in Strasbourg [on February 24], I lost count of those who challenged me with: “Do we have to do like the Ukraine to get heard? This is the first time in my 30 years of political life that I have heard workers refer to a popular uprising taking place beyond our borders. The Ukrainian rebels are to be thanked from the bottom of our hearts!

Back to the Mickey Mouses of the media. Here is my position in a nutshell. The Ukrainian popular uprising was legitimate. It has been taken over by an illegitimate and illegal government in which the extreme right has four ministers. The revolutionary force of the Ukrainians is not exhausted. The next wave will be anti-European, that is to say hostile to the policies that the EU wants to impose there to recover its banking and financial stake.

Currently the number one issue is to avoid war. This means above all to prevent the partition of the country: we should not touch borders in Europe! Neither here nor anywhere. France should be a mediator. Instead, she is tied behind [Germany's Chancellor Angela] Merkel and the United States. France is discrediting herself by aligning with the Atlanticist position against her own interests. The present Ukrainian regime is very provisional. It will discredit the policy of the European Union in the region and set off new revolutionary waves. Much better to be hit by the shockwave of a people’s revolution than by that of war.

Translated by Dick Nichols

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is co-president of France’s Left Party (Parti de Gauche), leader of the Front de Gauche (Left Front, a front with the Communist Party of France) and a member of the European Parliament. This first appeared at his blog,

March 15, 2014