We present an important work by Comrade Chris Ford on the history of revolutionary Marxism in Ukraine


By Oleg VERNYK, president of the All Ukraine Independent Trade Union “Zahist Pratsi” (“Labor Protection”) and the Ukrainian Socialist League.

The work by our British comrade Christopher Ford, which we present below, dedicated to the history of the “ukapism” phenomenon, is an important contribution to the development of our knowledge of the history of the formation of revolutionary Marxism in Ukraine. The key idea of ​​this work, that Ukraine has its own history of the formation of the Marxist tradition, is very important to us in the current ideological and political confrontation with the various and numerous “pro-Russian leftists” in Ukraine, who have directed all their forces to substantiate the secondary nature of Ukrainian Marxism in relation to the great Russian Marxist tradition. Of course, such “leftists” in Ukraine work consciously or unwittingly in the interests of Russian imperialist capital and cause maximum damage to the cause of the formation of internationalist Ukrainian revolutionary Marxism.

It is very important that we observe that for a long time the anti-Stalinist struggle of the “Left Opposition” in the RCP (B.) And CPSU (B.), led by Trotsky, took a kind of parallel course with the struggle of the Ukrainian communists against the tendencies of the revival of Great-Russian chauvinism in the Bolshevik Party. Even Lenin, in the final years of his life, pointed out the danger not only of the bureaucratic degeneration of the party, but also the danger of strengthening the chauvinistic sentiments of the great-Russian great power in the party, which he rightly associated with Stalin´s faction.

Already in his 1914 work On the Right of Nations to Self-determination, Lenin wrote the following: “A socialist belonging to an oppressive nation, Marx asks about his attitude towards the oppressed nation and immediately reveals the common socialists of the ruling nations (English and Russian) an inconvenience: the lack of understanding of their socialist duties towards the oppressed nations, the chewing of the prejudices adopted from the bourgeoisie of the “great power.” For Lenin, the struggle for socialism was inseparable from the struggle for national independence of all oppressed peoples, and it was to the principles of Lenin’s national policy that numerous Ukrainian communists appealed, who advocated the development of the condition of State of Ukrainian workers. Almost all of them were destroyed during Stalin’s repressions at the same time as Trotsky’s “Left Opposition” activists.

You may be interested in: The third Congress of the Communist International. A school of revolutionary strategy

Khvylevoy, Skripnik, Shumsky, Kotsyubinsky, Primakov, Kurbas… and thousands more prominent Ukrainian communists were killed during Stalin’s repressions. Stalin called them “national communists”, although they were the true internationalists who fought for the ideals of equality of all peoples. Leon Trotsky, who was born and raised in Ukraine, in the last years of his life gave strong support to Ukrainian fighters. In his famous 1939 work “On the Ukrainian Question”, he wrote: “The Fourth International must clearly realize the great importance of the Ukrainian question for the fate not only of Southeast and Eastern Europe, but also of Europe itself. It is a people that has demonstrated its vitality, equal in size to the population of France, occupying an exceptionally rich territory, extremely important, moreover, in strategic terms. The question of the fate of Ukraine arises in full. We need a clear and distinct slogan that responds to the new situation. I think such a slogan can only be today: A Soviet Ukraine of free and independent workers and peasants united! .”

In the second unfinished volume of his outstanding work Stalin, Leon Trotsky also wrote: “As the People’s Commissar of Nationalities, Stalin viewed national problems not from the point of view of the laws of history, to which he paid homage in his work in 1913, but from the point of view of the convenience of administrative management. In doing so, of course, he came into conflict with the needs of the most backward and oppressed nations and provided a counterweight to the bureaucratic imperialism of Greater Russia. It is remarkable that during this purge all oppressed nationalities were guilty of nationalism. Only in Moscow, where the oppressors were concentrated, did Stalin discover no nationalism. Meanwhile, Lenin in 1923, shortly before the second coup, warned the party against Stalin’s bureaucratic tendencies. That the Georgian should become a representative of the trends of Greater Russia? Such paradoxes have occurred more than once in history. The Georgian Dzhugashvili became the bearer of the Great-Russian bureaucratic oppression according to the same laws of history, according to which the Austrian Hitler gave an extreme conclusion to the spirit of the Prussian militaristic caste. “

In my opinion, the fundamental work of Leon Trotsky in defense of the slogan of the independence of Soviet Ukraine was his 1939 work Independence of Ukraine and sectarian confusion. In it, Trotsky’s logic on the Ukrainian question was continued and developed. “The advanced workers of the Great Russians must now understand the causes of Ukrainian separatism, its strength, its historical legitimacy, and must declare to the Ukrainian people without any doubt that they are ready to support with all their might the slogan of the independence of Soviet Ukraine in the joint struggle against the autocratic bureaucracy and imperialism.”

Chris Ford’s scientific research is not just a tribute to historical justice and scientific objectivity. Right-wing bourgeois forces in Ukraine have now joined pro-Russian forces in asserting the thesis that Marxism in Ukraine is a totally exaggerated external phenomenon, which has no roots in the history of Ukrainian political thought and was exclusively brought to Ukraine on the bayonets of the Russian Bolsheviks. However, this is not the case and this historical study confirms the thesis that the Ukrainian revolutionary political thought recognized Marxism as its immanent part, as a result of the development of the socialist worldview of the Ukrainian people themselves. The two fully Russian revolutions of 1917 fell in Ukraine on extremely fertile ground, which allows us to speak fairly about the Ukrainian socialist revolution of 1917 as part of the world revolutionary process.

I sincerely wish Comrade Christopher Ford the successful continuation of his scientific work and his scientific research, which is an important component of our common revolutionary struggle in Ukraine and around the world. We invite you to read his introduction to it.

Ukapisme. A Lost Left

Anticolonial Marxism in the Ukrainian Revolution 1917-1925

By Christopher Ford


Presented here for the first time in the French language is an historical account and selection of writings of Ukrainian Marxists whose names and roles have been long been forgotten in the history of the labour movement.

This volume of lost texts seeks to fill a gap in our knowledge and understanding of the revolutionary period.  The subject of this book if one of a lost left, lost not only due to their physical extermination during the mass terror of Stalinist rule and Hitler’s occupation of Ukraine. But due to a long succession of retrogressive approaches to the history of the revolution which have viewed the Ukrainian Marxist tradition pejoratively.

Particularly since the Euromaidan events of 2014 we have seen a surge of interest in Ukraine; but this positive development is coupled with a new retrogression; we have witnessed a revival of a narrative once advanced by the old Russian White movement during the revolution. Its advocates base their interpretation of the Ukrainian question on a set of key principles:

1) “Great Russia, “Little Russia” and “Belarus” are three branches of the one Russian people;

2) Russian language and culture is the common achievement of one, leading Russian people;

3) “Little Russia”, i.e. Ukraine, is an inseparable part of a unitary Russia;

4) The idea of a separate Ukrainian nation is manufactured by foreign powers for the dismemberment and weakening of Russia.

The reburial of the General Denikin in 2005 with full military honours in  Moscow was an apt symbol of this re-connection with the Empire. That Denikin secured Western sponsors for the Russian nationalist cause in 1919 is understandable; that Vladimir Putin can harness the support of the contemporary European far-right is no surprise.   What is significant is the support by sections of the left for such historical retrogression in modern Russia, which make no pretence of a communist camouflage in acting as heir and guardian of the imperialist policies of the Tsars.

Retrogression is also apparent in independent Ukraine. The figures presented in this book such a Volodymyr Vynnychenko are commemorated not as socialists, but as a leading actors in the Ukrainian Revolution which forms a fundamental element in the ideology of the modern Ukrainian state. 

The efforts towards the decolonization of Ukrainian history have faced the danger of replacing past constraints with the new constraints of an alternative, state historical narrative. One where official eulogies of the revolution often ignore or play down the socialism of the pioneers of independent Ukraine.  Many Ukrainian historians since 1991, have viewed the revolution as primarily a national liberation struggle. Identifying with conclusions reached by moderate and conservative participants in the Revolution. This history from above has looked to the conduct of the elite as decisive in the outcome of the revolution, not the worker and peasant masses. 

A new turn in the approach to history took place from 2014, particulary by group who run the Ukrainian Institute for National Remembrance which sought present revolution as a unilinear historical development towards statehood that seeks to sanitize the revolution of socialist content and place conservatives centre stage. The figures of Symon Petlyura, Pavlo Skoropadsky and above all Stepan Bandera, are portrayed as if they alone represent the Ukrainian movement and almost embody the nation itself.  None more so than the wartime era integral nationalists, notably the Bandera led Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, who are presented as heirs to 1917-1921 revolution.  

This retrogressive view was challenged by no less a figure than Volodymyr Vynnychenko, one of the most popular figures of the revolution and leader of the independent Ukrainian State.  Vynnychenko a veteran Social-Democrat and leader of the Foreign Group of the Ukrainian Communist Party, argued the defeat of their “Ukrainian spring” was not only due to military weakness but political disorder, the Bolsheviks had an “intense fear of losing the colony” but also “raised the banner of the most decisive social and economic revolution which was the cry of the Ukrainian worker-peasant masses.”   The question was posed as: “either national or social liberation , or of ‘Ukraine’ or ‘land and factories”. The central body of the revolution, the “Central Rada did not try to combine these two slogans”, believing “the enthusiasm of the national rebirth would be above all other interests.” Vynnychenko saw this as a recurrent problem. The followers of Bandera took an even more dogmatic approach and refused to learn from history:

The Bandero-UHVRist youth, teaching me how to fight for Ukraine, categorically told me that only idiots and traitors raise the question of what Ukraine should be. For them, this question has no weight, only Ukraine.

In contrast Vynnychenko saw the historical tendency of the revolution as the striving of the masses towards universal emancipation,  he emphasised they did not all think the same way, the revolution created a current of “one-sided liberation” (odnobichnoho vyzvolennya) focused on national-statehood – and the “Universal current” that sought a “comprehensive liberation” (vsebichnoho vyzvolennya) both social and national.    The members of the “Universal current” comprised the left-wing Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionaries (Borotbisty) and left-wing Ukrainian Social Democrats (Ukapisty) and opposition elements within the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine.  

This book is the history of one element of that universal current, the Ukapisty, but it is not their history alone. As the revolution unfolded, with the Borotbisty disbanded and incorporated by the KP(b)U, and the opposition Bolsheviks proved unable to make progress, it was the Ukapisty who were in a position to unify the Ukrainian Marxists into a truly independent, Ukrainian Communist Party.  

That the leader of the Federalist Opposition in the KP(b)U – Yuri Lapchynsky joined them in this endeavour is testimony potential of the Ukapisty.  It was these Ukrainian Marxists who sought to realise the emancipatory goals of the revolution, a struggle they had begun within the ranks of the Ukrainian Social-Democracy since the turn of the century. 

Historical Importance of Ukrainian Marxism

The Ukrainian Marxists in the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers Party through its Petrograd committee, organised Ukrainian soldiers in the Izmailovsky and Semenov regiments. At a critical moment they decided the fate of the February Revolution in 1917 in their battle with Tsarist troops. From that point forward this party would play a leading part in the national revolution in Ukraine.

A Marxist, Vynnychenko was first president of the General Secretariat of the Central Rada, the autonomous government of Ukraine, then of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic.  In his history, the Rebirth of a Nation, he wrote it was the Ukrainian Social-Democrats who were best placed to take the lead in the revolution:

And not for the praising of one party, but in the name of historical objectivity and understanding of the whole process of our movement, I must note: the biggest part of  the burden both of that heroic work and all subsequent serious errors, was imposed on the social democratic current.  One can say with confidence, that the leading role in the rebirth of the Ukrainian nation was played by Ukrainian social democracy at that time. 

When the revolution began there were three Ukrainian political parties, the Ukrainian Party of Socialist-Federalists, formed from the moderate Ukrainian Progressivist Association, mostly intellectuals with no political or organisational relations with the peasants or workers.  The Ukrainian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries only existed in embryonic groups before it formed in April 1917.   It developed in the course of the revolution organizing itself into the million mass party of the Ukrainian peasantry. Therefore, the only political party, in the strict sense of the word, was the USDRP. As Vynnychenko noted:

It had a considerable past (since 1901, then having the name of the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party; in 1904 and changing it to the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Workers Party). Its program and tactics, originating from the program and tactics of international socialism, were already adapted to Ukrainian conditions. It had its history, traditions, methods and it’s own school. The practice of underground revolutionary party work familiarized its members to good organization, educated them, formed a stable outlook and accustomed them to the political work. The very name of the party, as well as the names of its leading figures, was known among a  wide range of Ukrainian workers. Being not numerous, the party organizations at the same time consisted of an educated, advanced, most active and revolutionary proletarian element.

In Ukraine, current official, state history honours their role as ‘fighters for Ukraine’s independence’, but there is no recognition that they were Marxists.  Yet the reality is that the Ukrainian Marxists made a significant contribution to the struggle not only for national but social emancipation. 

Marxists have played a vital role in the modern Ukrainian movement at each stage of its development since the very beginnings of the Ukrainian national revival in the nineteenth century.  The leading figure of that generation was Mykhailo Drahomanov the outstanding Ukrainian political thinker of the period. Under Drahomanov’s direct influence one of the first socialist parties in Eastern Europe and the first Ukrainian political party – the Ruthenian-Ukrainian Radical Party was founded in Lviv in 1890.   A friend and collaborator of Drahamanov was Mykola Ziber,  Marx’s favourite commentator and the first Marxist theorist and publisher of Marx’s ideas in the Russian Empire.  

The “precursor of Ukrainian Marxism‘, Serhii Podolynsky   was part of the Geneva circle of Ukrainian socialists with Drahamanov and co-editor of the first modern Ukrainian political journal –Hromada [Community]. In 1875 Podolynsky raised the banner of a Ukrainian social-democratic party. He was a prolific writer and energetic organiser. This socialist circle who published Hromada saw tens of thousands of books and propaganda smuggled into Ukraine, the confiscation of one batch, leading to the first anti-socialist trial in Austrian history.  Podolynsky in his memoirs advised the greatest threat to the rulers of Ukraine and key to the success of Ukrainian socialism would be from:

Those who carry Karl Marx in one pocket and in the other father Taras Shevchenko, meaning people who know how to combine the teachings of socialism with the traditions and sympathies evoked by local Ukrainian nationalism, that is, the desire of the Ukrainian people, along with economic emancipation, to achieve political and cultural independence.’ 

This lesson was carried forward by the Ukrainian Marxists who made a major contribution to the ideas and organisation of the Ukrainian movement as whole. In the 1890s the social democratic labour movement spread internationally, almost every nation in Europe had its own social democratic party.  The modern Ukrainian social democratic movement began at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the formation of not one, but two Ukrainian social democratic parties. This is not due to factional division, but the facts of the partition of Ukrainian lands. 

It was two of Ukraine’s foremost historical figures who founded the first Ukrainian social-democratic organisations. Lesya Ukrainka is celebrated as one of Ukraine’s leading writers. In 1896 she created the illegal Ukrainian Social Democratic group, the first in Russian ruled-Ukraine. It emphasised the need for Ukrainian self-organisation and for an autonomous ‘workers and peasants Ukraine’ in a federation. The USD warned of the danger of a ‘cultural divide’ emerging between the Ukrainain peasants and workers, calling for agitation for a ‘workers and peasants union’, in 1901 Ukrainka argued that: ‘Together with socialist, propaganda about [Ukrainian] national concsiousness is now most important among the urban workers so they do not become strangers to their identity and to their brothers, the villlage workers’.  

The USD was critical of the RSDRP when it was founded as being Russian ‘state centralist’ both in programme, composition and name, calling instead for autonomous national parties working in union.   

Whilst in Galicia it was Yulian Bachynsky author of Ukraina irredenta in 1895, who pioneered the concept of a unified, independent Ukrainian state. Along with a group of Galician socialists in Lviv, he founded the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party (USDP) in 1897.   The USDP was part of the federal All-Austrian Social-Democratic Workers Party [Gesamtpartei], through which it played a full part in the Second International. They founded the first Ukrainian social-democratic paper, the fortnightly Robitnyk.  

There was extensive cooperation between the Ukrainian social-democrats in the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. A multitude of pamphlets, leaflets and newspapers were printed in Galicia and smuggled across the border.  This cooperation with the USDP in Galicia accelerated the evolution of the activists of the RUP to revolutionary social democracy. The Party rapidly aligned itself with the Second International.  

The joint activities of Ukrainian Social-Democracy made a significant contribution in the struggle to unify Ukraine and brought the Ukrainian question to prominence in European politics.   Ukrainian Social Democrats held seats in the parliaments of both Empires, in the Tsarist Duma and the Reichsrat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In the period before the 1917 Revolution, the Ukrainian Marxists more than any other tendency, were responsible for the most consistent and widespread political publishing in Ukrainian. The USDRP published over twenty newspaper and periodical titles.

They republished in Ukrainian many works of the leaders of the socialist movement, among them Bebel, Lafargue, Liebnecht and Kautsky.  Their propaganda had an influence far beyond their own ranks. In the Spring of 1902 the Tsarist authorities blamed their ‘revolutionary propaganda…printed in Galicia in Ukrainian’, as the cause of the mass agrarian strikes in Poltava, Kharkiv, Kherson and Katerynoslav provinces.  Viewed by the Ukrainian Marxists as the ‘beginning of the Ukrainian revolution’ their literature acted as spark for these spontaneous rebellions. 

The work of Ukrainian Social-Democracy was historically significant in seeking to move the Ukrainian movement beyond solely cultural concerns of russification, to see the anti-colonial struggle as simultaneously a social question.  Mykola Porsh, founding theorist of the USDRP in his book On the Autonomy of Ukraine, was notable in setting out a comprehensive critique of the exploitation of Ukraine. It became a handbook of the Ukrainian movement.

The Ukrainian Marxists were active at an international level, particularly in the work of the Second International. The USDP and the USDRP submitted regular joint reports to the congresses of the Second International.  In the period between the founding of the International in Paris in 1889 and the last Congress before the war in Basel in 1912, the Ukrainian Social-Democrats participated in the various International Socialist Congresses.   When the war broke out the Foreign Group of the USDRP, led by Yurkevych supported the International Socialist Conference in Holland in 1916, and the anti-war socialist conferences at the Zimmerwald in 1915, Kienthal in 1916.     

They were prominent in the debates of the Second International, Lev Yurkevych, Volodymyr Levinsky, Yulian Bachynsky were amongst those involved in clashes with such figures as Otto Bauer, Georgi Plekhanov, and Vladimir Lenin over the national question.   They were prominent in the controversies over the Czech and Polish questions which gripped the Second International before 1914. 

The views of the Ukrainian Marxists on the national question brought them into sharp conflict with centralist tendencies within both the Russian and Austrian Social-Democracy.  That the Ukrainian Social-Democrats existed as an autonomous section of the federal Austrian Social-Democratic Workers Party was viewed by them, and other non-Russian Marxists as a model for a united party in the Russian Empire.

The insistence of the Ukrainian Marxists that they maintain a Social Democratic organization of Ukrainian workers was to ensure their continued existence, and as a result their ability to play a central role in the Ukrainian Revolution.    

What might have been

The experience of Ukrainian Marxists in during revolution brings into question what a long-accepted explanation for the fate of the Russian Revolution has been: the primary role of external factors in its degeneration and rise of Stalinism. Coupled with this assessment is the contention that unfavourable circumstances imposed on the Bolsheviks a restriction on the options available to them.

Yet on reading the history of this Lost Left, can we really agree that this fully explains the fate of the revolution? Even if one accepted the view that the one-party state in Russia arose from lack of Bolshevik allies, this cannot explain events in Ukraine. Here the Ukrainian Marxists and pro-soviet parties did seek alliances, and when they did revolt, they were in part pushed and in part pulled by a situation created by the Russian Communists themselves. A multi-party democracy based on soviets was denied the opportunity to exist in Ukraine. 

For Lenin, success of the Bolshevik project was predicated on extending the revolution westward. The entire approach of socialism-from-above in Ukraine contributed to undermining the very perspective on which the October Revolution was based.

In the summer of 1919 Bolshevik rule in Ukraine disintegrated, resulting in the occupation of large areas of by the Russian Volunteer Army. The appalling policies and practices of the western backed ‘Emergency Government’ of General Denikin with its pogroms; repression and chauvinism are rarely recognized. They provide an indictment of the Russian liberals who headed its Political Centre.  

What is striking about this key juncture is that despite despair with the regime of Khristian Rakovsky, who had been imposed by Moscow to head Soviet Ukraine, there was not a collapse in support for the pro-soviet parties. The Borotbisty witnessed a surge in support, and the left-wing of the USDRP the Nezalezhnyky now launched the Ukrainian Communist Party – the Ukapisty.  Without these forces, the red partisans in Ukraine, the Red Army could not have repulsed Denikin’s offensive into central Russia.  In addition, more Ukrainians fought in the Red Army to defeat the Polish invasion of 1920, than in the army of Petlyura allied to Pilsudski. 

In 1920 exhausted pro-soviet forces defeated the Russian Volunteer Army and the Polish invasion. The resulting Riga peace treaty re-partitioned Ukraine: five million Ukrainians remained under Polish rule. Ivan Maistrenko, then a member of the UKP, concluded that the “struggle for a sovereign Ukrainian SSR was decided in the negative not by the internal development of Ukrainian political life but by the external pressure of administrative organization.”   But the failure to establish a fully independent Ukraine is neither the end of the history of the UKP nor would it provide an adequate assessment of the Ukrainian Revolution.

The dialectics of the revolution resulted in what Bojcun describes as “less than the Ukrainian socialists wanted to win. Yet it was more than the Russian socialists had been willing to concede.”  Prior to 1917 there existed only ‘southern Russia’. The revolution had swept away the old social order and forged the Ukrainian SSR, a “clearly defined national, economic and cultural organism”. 

The Ukrainian Marxists sought to come to terms with the problems of the revolution, Vynnychenko who led the Foreign Group of the Ukrainian Communist Party, published Revolution in Danger as one such attempt which provoked an international debate with Georgi Lukacs.   From the very beginning of its creation the UKP strived to be admitted into the Comintern as an independent Ukrainian section, on the same terms which were given to other sections of the Comintern (Irish, French, German, Polish, etc.), which represented parties in individual countries.  They attended the Second Congress of the Comintern along with Vynnychenko, but their application was refused on the basis that Ukraine was already represented by the KP(b)U, as part of the Russian Party.

The UKP continued their struggle in Soviet Ukraine as an open opposition party.  They criticised the policies of the Russian Communists – the New Economic Policies and retreat in direction of capitalism. They opposed the growing authoritarianism of the state and argued for workers self-government.  Velychenko in his study of the UKP is in error to claim that had the Ukrainian Marxists come to power they would have likely established a party dictatorship and used terror against their subjects.  Has they come to power it would have been with others and would have prevented the Stalinist terror.   

Whilst allowing the UKP to formally exist, in practice, it was constantly persecuted until its liquidation in 1925. The various Ukrainian Communists succeeded in securing the policy of korenizatsiia (indigenization) a program of ‘positive action’. Whilst this gain was fragile, Ukrainization heralded an unprecedented national renaissance in the 1920s.

Prominent Ukrainian Marxists energetically carried forward Ukrainization viewed as a “weapon of cultural revolution in Ukraine”.  It was part of an intense conflict to shape the USSR. As such Ukrainization was not only the engine of efforts to assert autonomy and liquidate the vestiges of colonialism but a manifestation of opposition to ascendant Stalinism.   It brought “the Ukrainian people to the threshold of nationhood by the end of the decade”.  But the dynamics of Stalinist centralism and its inherent partner Russian chauvinism destroyed the last vestiges of equality between the republics. The Ukrainian communists and intelligentsia were annihilated.

The reader of this volume cannot but be moved by what is an historical tragedy and provoked by the questions that it poses to long accepted explanations of the fate of the revolution.

The leadership of the Russian Communists were invariably dominated by the erroneous belief that the October Revolution demonstrated once and for all the path that every subsequent revolution must follow.  They operated on the mistaken assumption that their model in some sense repre¬sented the prototype for soci¬alist transformation.  They held to the utterly unfounded conviction that others had to have a communist party based on their model and under their authority. It was a model that was rejected by virtually all of classical Marxism and by the majority of social-democrats in the Russian Empire.  The consequence was a thoroughly sectarian attitude to the Ukrainian Revolution and to other parties who were eventually destroyed. Socialism was re-defined as rule by the “party” rather than rule by the working class.

The contrast between the revolutionary cooperation of the socialists of the empire in 1905 and experience of 1917-1921 is stark.  From the 1870s when Ukrainian social democracy had emerged to 1917, socialism in Ukraine had grown from a few intellectuals to nationwide dimensions. If the Ukrainian Revolution had developed organically unimpeded by other forces it would have inevitably seen the Ukrainian People Republic under the leadership of the radicals of the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries and Ukrainian Social-Democracy.  If the Russian centralism of the Lenin government and sectarian character of the Bolsheviks had not prevented constructive participation in the Ukrainian Revolution, they would have enhanced this process and reinforced the formation of the Ukrainian republic. The division between peasantry and the urban working class could have been transcended.   The pioneering Jewish National Autonomy established by Jewish socialist parties in the UNR would have continued to develop and Ukraine’s Jewish community may have been spared the tragedy which was to follow. 

The question of what might have been opens up many possibilities, Ukrainian socialism was not absorbed and marginalized by Ukrainian nationalism, it was destroyed by external forces.  This fate was shared by Jewish, Polish and other sections of Russian socialism.  The Bolsheviks’ endeavour to found their own Communist Party of Ukraine was a manoeuvre, a sub-unit of the Russian Communist Party. The KP(b)U far from representing a culmination of previous developments within the socialist movement in Ukraine was instead an artificial creation.

The objective effect of the formation of the KP(b)U and a one party-state model imposed on Ukraine was the destruction of the entire previous socialist tradition of which the UKP was part.  We may recall a neglected speech in Zurich in 1914 where Lenin had said:

What Ireland was for England, Ukraine has become for Russia: exploited in the extreme, and getting nothing in return. Thus, the interests of the world proletariat in general and the Russian proletariat in particular require that the Ukraine regains its independence. How well Lenin should have remembered Marx’s statement that “the English Republic under Cromwell met shipwreck in Ireland. This shall not happen twice!” It did, in Russia’s Ireland. 

You can obtain the book at: https://www.ibidem.eu/en/ukapisme-une-gauche-perdue-9783838208992.html