|First Secretary Petro Symonenko||Second Secretary Igor Alekseyev|
|Founded June 19, 1993 (1993-06-19)|
Dissolved December 16, 2015 (2015-12-16)
Split from Socialist Party of Ukraine
Preceded by Communist Party of Ukraine (Soviet Union)
The Communist Party of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Комуністична партія України, Komunistychna Partiya Ukrayiny, KPU) is a political party founded in 1993 as the successor to the Soviet-era Communist Party of Ukraine, which was banned in 1991. The party is currently banned from taking part in elections in Ukraine; this ban does not prevent individual members of the party from taking part in elections as an independent candidate.
- Soviet legacy
- Views on nationalism
- Popular support and electoral results
- Presidential elections
- Parliamentary elections
- Unlawful activities and banning of the party
- Views of the party's ban legitimacy
- Ministerial appointments
- Splinter parties
Communist parties have a long history in Ukraine but the KPU is not currently represented in the Verkhovna Rada. It was represented in that body from 1994 until the 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election which resulted in national representation for communists in Ukraine ending for the first time since 1918. The party and its immediate CPSU predecessor emerged as the largest political force after each Ukrainian parliamentary election from 1990 until 2002. Until the aftermath of the Orange Revolution in 2004 it was continuously the largest single party in the Ukrainian parliament. Since 1993 the party has been led by Petro Symonenko.
The General Prosecutor of Ukraine and the Security Service of Ukraine have both filed charges against the party. The charges include supporting the annexation of Crimea by Russia and "financing terrorism" (i.e. providing support to separatists in Eastern Ukraine), both acts of treason against the Ukrainian state.
In May 2015 laws that ban communist and Nazi symbols came into effect in Ukraine. Because of these laws the Ukrainian Interior Ministry stripped the party of its right to participate in elections on 24 July 2015 and it stated it was continuing the court actions (that started in July 2014) to end the registration of Ukraine’s communist parties. The party took part in the October 2015 local elections as part of the umbrella party "Left Opposition".
On 16 December 2015, Kiev District Administrative Court validated the claim of the Ministry of Justice in full, banning the activities of the party in Ukraine. The party appealed this ban at the European Court of Human Rights.
The KPU formally considers itself the direct descendant of the Communist Party of Ukraine, a branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), which was founded on 5 July 1918 in Moscow. The original communist party existed until 6 November 1991, when the CPSU and its branch in Ukraine were banned. Between 1991 and 1993, several small communist organizations were created throughout Ukraine. "Without clear legality" communists from all over Ukraine convened on 6 March 1993 for the All-Ukrainian Conference for Communists in an attempt to reestablish the KPU. In reaction the Verkhovna Rada, two months later, legalized the establishment of communist parties. On 19 June 1993, the 1st Congress of the newly founded KPU was convened—officially it was designated as the 29th Congress, to denote it as a direct successor to the Soviet KPU—and it elected Petro Symonenko as First Secretary.
In the 1994 presidential election the KPU supported the candidacy of Oleksandr Moroz from the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU). The relationship between the KPU and SPU was strong throughout the 1990s, with Moroz even speaking to the 22nd KPU Congress (held in 1999). At the 1998 parliamentary elections the KPU won 121 seats, constituting 19.5% of the seats in the Verkhovna Rada. The good result led the KPU to field their own candidate in the 1999 presidential election; they nominated party leader Symonenko. Symonenko received 23.1 percent of the votes in the first round, trailing behind Leonid Kuchma who received 38,0 percent of the votes. In the second round Symonenko received 38,8 percent, losing to Kuchma who received 57,7 percent of the vote.
In 2000 two parties split from the party, the Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed) and the Communist Party of Workers and Peasants.
The Constitutional Court of Ukraine recognized in 2001 that the ban on the Communist Party of Ukraine was in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine.
In February 2014, the party came out in firm opposition to the Euromaidan (pro-Ukrainian EU integration and anti-President Viktor Yanukovych protests) violence and identified the movement as a "coup" to overthrow the elected government and replace it with a pro-NATO regime, and in an open plea from the First Secretary, called for all communist and left-wing movements around the world to condemn the events as such. The party did vote in favour of the impeachment of Yanukovych.
After Yanukovych's ouster, several legislators have talked about the possibility of outlawing the KPU due to its alleged cooperation with pro-Russian separatists; on 6 May, the party was outraged when its parliamentary representatives were expelled from the parliamentary session hall. A week later, Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov threatened to ban the KPU for alleged involvement in the ongoing pro-Russian unrest in the east of the country. On 8 July the Ministry of Justice asked Kiev's District Administrative Court to ban the activity of the party "As a result of a large amount of evidence regarding illegal activities and illegal actions on the part of the Communist Party" (according to Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko). The Party of the European Left and the European United Left–Nordic Green Left grouping in the European Parliament condemned the possible ban and declared their solidarity with the KPU. Russia's State Duma denounced the ban too and believed it was "an attempt by the new Kiev authorities to force political and civil forces that do not agree with the path taken by the ultranationalist powers to shut up". The KPU also received solidarity from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) in Britain.
On 1 July 2014 six MPs left the Communist Party faction in parliament, reducing it to 23 members. A vote, supported by 232 MPs, on 22 July 2014 gave the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (the speaker of Ukraine's parliament) the power to dissolve a faction that has lost some of its members compared to the number it had while it was formed during the first parliamentary session after the previous election, pending a signature from President Petro Poroshenko. Later that day Poroshenko signed this bill giving effect to this new parliamentary regulation. The next day speaker (and former Acting President) Turchynov announced the party's impending dissolution and added to MPs "We only have to tolerate this party for another day". The party's faction in parliament was indeed dissolved on 24 July 2014 by Turchynov. The same day it was announced that at the time 308 criminal proceedings against members of the party had been opened. Communists were accused of openly supporting the annexation of Crimea by Russia, supporting the creation of self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic and agitating for annexation of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast to Russia. The party leadership at the time stated its support for Ukrainian territorial integrity and excluded separatist dissenters from its membership.
On 4 September the Kiev District Administrative Court indefinitely postponed the hearing about the ban of the party.
The October 2014 parliamentary election further marginalized the party, as it won no constituency seats and came 1,12% short of reaching the 5% election threshold. Since prior to its independence Ukraine was a constituent republic of the Communist Soviet Union, this meant that for the first time since 1918 Communists were not represented in Ukrainian national politics.
In May 2015 laws that banned communist symbols came into effect in Ukraine, meaning that the party could not use communist symbols or sing the Soviet national hymn or "The Internationale". In a 24 July 2015 decree based on these laws the Ukrainian Interior Ministry stripped the party of its right to participate in elections, and it stated that it was continuing the court actions (which started in July 2014) to end the registration of Ukraine’s communist parties.
The party decided to take part in the October 2015 local elections as part of the umbrella party "Left Opposition". According to the Interior Ministry this was legal as long as the new party did not use communist symbols. Other party members took part in this election as "New State".
On 30 September 2015 the District Administrative Court in Kiev banned two smaller communist parties, the Communist Party of Workers and Peasants and the Communist Party of Ukraine (renewed). However, the Communist Party of Ukraine was not banned because it had filed an appeal against the Justice Ministry’s decree on its activity termination.
Late 2015 19 local party leaders from the party's South and East Ukraine organisations resigned from the central committee to protest against repression of internal dissent they blamed on Symonenko.
On 16 December 2015 the District Administrative Court in Kiev satisfied the claim of the Ministry of Justice and it banned the activities of the Communist Party. This ban was criticised by John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International, who stated that the ban was "the same style of draconian measures used to stifle dissent” as used by the Soviet Union.
On 25 January 2016 the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine upheld the (16 December 2015) ban. The rulings of the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine can not be appealed. Hence, the party appealed its ban at the European Court of Human Rights. The ban itself does not prevent individual members of the party to take part in elections as an independent candidate.
In its statute the Communist party claims that "on voluntary basis it unites citizens of Ukraine who are supporters of the Communist idea". The party considers itself a successor of the Communist Party of Ukraine of the Soviet Union and calls itself a "battle detachment of RKP(b)–VKP(b)–KPSS" The party claims that prohibition of that party in August 1991 was unlawful, which was confirmed by the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine on 27 December 2001. The party sets itself in an opposition to any government and seeks a full restoration of the socialist state in the country without any particular association with any other political parties.
The KPU was established as "the inheritor of the ideas and traditions of the KPU, as it existed until its banning in August 1991." In general, the party has laid weight on nostalgia for the Soviet Union to gain votes. In contrast to many parts of the former Soviet Union, where leftist conservatives have tried to win votes by promoting local nationalism, the KPU supports a form of Soviet nationalism, considering the establishment of an independent Ukraine as illegal. The party has remained loyal to the legacy of the Soviet Union. In 1998, to celebrate the would-be 80th anniversary of the Soviet Union, the KPU published Historical Thesis, a text which painted a rosy picture of the former state. The Soviet Union is barely criticized, and controversial events such as the Great Purge and Holodomor are not mentioned in the party press. There are some who are favorable to Joseph Stalin's legacy, giving the impression that things "only began to go wrong with [Nikita] Khrushchev's 'adventurism'." Despite all this, when the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) is criticized at all, the favored line is that the party and state lost their belief in key Leninist principles. Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, "is still considered sacrosanct" by the party, and official pronouncements talk of the "Leninist Communist Party of Ukraine" and more precisely, that the KPU continues "speaking in the words of Lenin".
Symonenko has criticized the label of conservative on the KPU, stating that the party is not willing to abandon its own history. He has referred to the dissolution of the Soviet Union as "the tragic events of the recent past". Further, the KPU believes the Soviet Union "was criminally destroyed". The party believes that Ukraine has been living off the legacy of the Soviet Union since its independence. However, certain concessions to the present have been made; at the 2nd KPU Congress it was stated that "it would be utopian to try and revive a socio-economic system of different relations, which existed in different conditions, under different principles and different organizations of production and distribution, different social-class structures of society, a different level of consciousness".
The party adheres and believes in the Marxian concepts of class struggle and historical materialism. Their ongoing belief in historical materialism cements their views that the socialist mode of production will still be the society of the future. It could be said that the party believed stronger than ever in the possibility of a socialist future since the "careerists", symbolized by Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk, were gone.
The KPU believes that, since the West has developed into a post-industrial society, capitalism through globalization was actively "de-modernizing" Ukraine. This was in their favor, since de-modernization would lead to the reestablishment of a dominant proletarian class. As Vasyl Tereshchuk, a former Party theoretician expelled in 2005, noted, "People are surviving on what they accumulated in the years of Soviet power: that is, they are not yet a classic proletariat as they still have much to lose (a flat, a car, a dacha, etc.). But their full proletarianization will come sooner or later." Secondly, the dissolution of the Soviet Union directly led to the reestablishment of class antagonism in society. This antagonism led to the exploitation of the proletariat by "a comprador bourgeoisie [...] behind which stands world imperialism headed by the USA". According to Symonenko, on this basis, there was no chance for a social democratic movement ever to develop in Ukraine. The "softening of class antagonism in the West", which had led to the establishment of social democratic parties, "was only possible because the local working class, as part of the 'golden billion', lived 'as parasites on the labour of the countries of the world periphery' to which Ukraine was rapidly being consigned. Ukraine could not expect any 'lessening of class antagonism, only the reverse." Symonenko appreciates the economical aid and partnership with China, and calls to use Communist Party of China as the example, giving the country back to the working people, and "build our country into a strong country like China".
Views on nationalism
The party, at least in the beginning, is best described as Soviet nationalist (nationalist in the sense that they are nostalgic for the Soviet Union). As Yurii Solomatin, a member of parliament, noted in 2000; "we are Soviet communists; we are Soviet people; we are Soviet patriots". The party continues speaking about the existence of a "Soviet people" and "Soviet homeland", and at the beginning, no concessions were given to local, Ukrainian nationalism. There has been no talk of establishing a national communism unique to Ukraine, and the 1st KPU Congress even criticized the notion of establishing a unique "Ukrainian communism". Instead, the KPU has opted promoting Ukraine as a "bi-cultural state". At the 1st KPU Congress, Symonenko told the delegates that "'the interests, rights and specific traits of one nation above those of other nations and nationalities', and in which 'the Ukrainian language' should not be 'over'-privileged, but left alone to enjoy 'its natural development, purged of the imposed language of the diaspora. The Russian language, as the native language of half the population of Ukraine, [should be given] the status of a state language alongside Ukrainian." Their views on nationalism is highly nostalgic; when the Union of Communist Parties – Communist Party of the Soviet Union (UCP–CPSU), a loose organization of post-Soviet parties was formed, it was met with open arms. However, when the Communist Party of the Russian Federation proposed in 1995, to transform the organization into a modern-day Comintern, the KPU opposed because of their Soviet nationalist views.
In recent years their commitment to Soviet nationalism has been partially replaced with a vaguer East Slavic nationalism. Wishing not to reestablish a union with Russia "'as a protectorate of the Russian bourgeoisie", "the Ukrainian Communists have rediscovered the natural link from Soviet to East Slavic or Eurasian nationalism in the supposed common 'economic civilization' and proclivity for collective labour of all the East Slavic peoples." As noted in the party journal Communist, the "'Soviet man [...] did not emerge from nothing before him stood the courageous Slavic-Rusich, the labour-loving Ukrainian peasant, the self-sacrificing Cossack." At the 4th KPU Congress, the party finally conceded that Ukraine would not join any particular union as long as it weakened the country's sovereignty.
Because of these views, Symonenko has been referred to as an Ukrainophobe. Symonenko made controversy in 2007 when he accused the Ukrainian nationalist figure Roman Shukhevych of collaborationism with the Nazi Germany, for which the Pechersk District Court of Kiev city declared Symonenko's statement as false and obligated Symonenko publicly to disprove the "myth", and pay all court fees. These views are commonplace amongst Western Historians, linking Shukhevych to the Nachtigall Battalion.
Popular support and electoral results
The electorate of the party is very loyal to them.
In 1994, the party was part of the Coalition of Left Parties that supported the Socialist Party candidate Oleksandr Moroz.
In the 2014 Ukrainian presidential election Symonenko initially again ran as a candidate of his party, but he withdrew from the race on 16 May. The Central Election Commission was unable to remove from the ballot his name because he withdrew from the race after the deadline of 1 May 2014. Hence, in the election he still received 1.51% of the vote.
At the parliamentary elections on 29 March 1998, the party gained 24.65% of the vote and 123 seats, becoming the largest party in Parliament.
The first ten members on the party list were: Petro Symonenko (MP), Omelian Parubok (MP), Anatoliy Nalyvaiko (tunneler of the Karl Marks Mine (Yenakieve)), Borys Oliynyk (MP), Valeria Zaklunna-Myronenko (actress of the Lesya Ukrainka Theater (Kiev)), Adam Martynyuk (the 2nd secretary of the Central Committee of CPU), Anatoliy Draholyuntsev (mechanic-electrician at Luhanskteplovoz), Vasyl Sirenko (Koretsky Institute of State and Law (NANU), unaffiliated), Borys Molchanov (tool craftsman at Dniproshyna), Anatoliy Strohov (pensioner).
At the parliamentary elections on 30 March 2002, the party won 19.98% of the popular vote and 66 out of 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada. The first ten members on the party list were: Petro Symonenko (MP), Omelian Parubok (MP), Ivan Herasymov (Head of the Veterans of Ukraine Organization, unaffiliated), Borys Oliynyk (MP), Valeria Zaklunna-Myronenko (MP), Adam Martynyuk (MP), Stanislav Hurenko (MP), Oleksandr Tkachenko (MP), Anatoliy Nalyvaiko (MP), Oleh Blokhin (MP, unaffiliated).
Since then the party lost much support, particularly after the Orange Revolution. In the 2006 parliamentary election the party won 3.66% and 21 seats. The first ten members on the party list were: Petro Symonenko (MP), Adam Martynyuk (MP), Ivan Herasymov (MP), Kateryna Samoilyk (MP), Omelian Parubok (MP), Valeria Zaklunna-Myronenko (MP), Oleksandr Holub (MP), Valentyn Matvyeyev (MP), Oleksandr Tkachenko (MP), Petro Tsybenko (MP).
In the parliamentary elections on 30 September 2007, the party won 5.39% of the popular vote and 27 out of 450 seats. The first ten members on the party list were: Petro Symonenko (MP), Yevhen Volynets (tunneler of the Vasily Chapayev Mine (Shakhtarsk)), Maryna Perestenko (Head of the Mars farm (Simferopol Raion)), Ivan Herasymov (MP), Yuriy Haidayev (Minister of Healthcare, unaffiliated), Adam Martynyuk (1st deputy Chairman of parliament), Valeriy Bevz (Deputy Minister of Emergencies), Oleksandr Tkachenko (MP), Oleksandr Holub (MP), Ihor Aleksyeyev (MP).
The party participated in the 2010 presidential election as part of the Election bloc of left and central left political forces.
In the 2010 local elections the party scored between 5% and 12% of the votes in all Ukrainian Oblasts except in Western Ukraine and Kiev Oblast where they almost had no voters.
In the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election the party won 13.18% of the national votes, and no constituencies (it had competed in 220 of the 225 constituencies), and thus 32 seats. The party did win about one and a half million more votes compared with the results of the previous election. Independent candidate Oksana Kaletnyk joined the Communist parliamentary faction on 12 December 2012. Importance of Oksana Kaletnyk joining Communists was due to parliamentary regulations on obtaining its own parliamentary factions which required to have at least one deputy who came to parliament by winning a constituency. Oleh Tyahnybok tried to challenge the creation of Communist faction, but on 30 January 2013 the Higher Administrative Court of Ukraine declined his petition. Kaletnyk left the faction (at her own request) on 29 May 2014. The first ten members on the party list were: Petro Symonenko (MP), Petro Tsybenko (MP), Iryna Spirina (Head of Psychiatric Department (Dnipropetrovsk Medical Academy)), Spiridon Kilinkarov (MP), Oleksandr Prysyazhnyuk (unemployed), Ihor Aleksyeyev (MP), Ihor Kalyetnik (Head of the State Customs Service of Ukraine), Adam Martynyuk (1st deputy Chairman of parliament), Valentyn Matvyeyev (MP), Yevhen Marmazov (MP).
The first ten members on the party list for the 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election are: Petro Symonenko (MP), Adam Martynyuk (MP), Kateryna Samoylyk (senior), Vasyl Sirenko (Koretsky Institute of State and Law, non-partisan), Petro Tsybenko (MP), Ihor Aleksyeyev (MP), Serhiy Hordiyenko (MP), Yevhen Marmazov (MP), Spiridon Kilinkarov (MP), Serhiy Khrapov (unemployed).
Unlawful activities and banning of the party
On 28 November 2006 the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Law of Ukraine "About 1932-1933 Holodomor in Ukraine". The first article of the document indicates "Holodomor is a genocide against the Ukrainian people". The second article states that public denial of the crime is recognized as desecration of the memory of millions of victims, disparaging of Ukrainian people and is unlawful. On 13 January 2010 the Kiev Appellate Court reviewed criminal case on the fact of committing a genocide (crime against humanity) and agree with the conclusions of the investigation that leadership of Bolshevik regime – Joseph Stalin and others – had purposely created such living conditions designed to physically eliminate a part of Ukrainian national group. The court found guilty Stalin and others in directly committing the crime. Less than four months after the event, on 5 May 2010 the Communist Party of Ukraine branch office in Zaporizhia Oblast established in Zaporizhia a monument of Stalin and triumphantly opened it involving press and the public. Such unprecedented decision led to the fact that during the opening of the monument from the heat fainted three people and one woman died. During those tragic events that accompanied the opening of the monument, representatives of the Communist party were hindering journalist activity and accompanying it with a foul language.
No later than since 2006, the Communist Party of Ukraine office in Donetsk on regular basis provided material and logistical assistance to the separatist organization Donetsk Republic (banned in 2007) which with assistance of the Communist Party of Ukraine in tents of the Communist Party of Ukraine was spreading printed information materials of separatist orientation in authorship of the ideologist of Donetsk Internationalism Dmitriy Kornilov as well as by collecting signatures for "independence of Donbass" agitated for violation of territorial integrity of Ukraine through seceding several oblasts of Ukraine from Ukraine and uniting them into one quasi state formation based on Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson "republics". Even after the Donetsk Republic party was banned for separatism on 6 November 2007 by the Donetsk district administrative court on the suit of the Chief Justice Administration of Donetsk Oblast based on materials of the Security Service of Ukraine, the Donetsk branch of Communists did not cease to assists separatists with its tents and printing capabilities periodically conducting joint campaigns with them.
Views of the party's ban legitimacy
According to a Kiev Polytechnic professor who published an article in Guardian stating that after the February 2014 Ukrainian coup, the party came into conflict with the Ukrainian government due to prominent displays of support for ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych during the Euromaidan protests, alleged involvement with the separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine, as well as the party's pro-Russian government agenda. The party did however vote in favour of the impeachment of Yanukovych. Two days after the Ukrainian parliament changed its regulations regarding the required size of parliamentary groups, the KPU faction was dissolved on 24 July 2014.
According to political scientist Tadeusz A. Olszański in the War in Donbass the party "effectively supports the separatist rebellion".