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​Fascist violence and the value of human life

Caleb Maupin is a political analyst from New York City and is an activist with the International Action Center and Workers World Party. He has worked against police brutality and mass incarceration.

Published time: May 12, 2014 09:20
People wait to be rescued on upper storeys at the trade union building in Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Yevgeny Volokin)

What exactly is the value of a human life? This is a question that philosophers and sociologists have speculated on and pondered for centuries.

In many countries, civil courts are often forced to ponder this question when awarding compensation to the families of the deceased victims of someone’s mal-intent or negligence, as they assign some specific cash value.

Historical attempts to make restitution for those unjustly deceased have rarely resulted in the creation of peace and stability. Wounds are rarely healed in this manner.

After the abolition of slavery in the United States, and the deaths of millions of Africans in both the journeys across the Middle Passage to the US and during the 500 years of forced labor, an attempt was made to give compensation to freed slaves in the form of an agrarian reform program commonly known as ‘40 Acres and a Mule’. The program was reversed by federal authorities, shortly after being instated.

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust received reparations, as did the Israeli government. The Haitian government was forced to pay reparations to France, to ‘compensate’ the empire for the slave uprising of 1791 which resulted in dead French soldiers, and the liberation of slaves.

In 1977, Mother Jones Magazine exposed the famous ‘Ford Pinto Smoking Gun Memo’. The owners of the Ford Motor Company had discovered that it was cheaper to keep a dangerously defective automobile on the market and pay compensation to those who died as a result than to conduct a consumer recall and save lives. Ford Motor Company kept a dangerous and defective product on the market, knowing people would die, but it could afford the legally-required financial restitution.

In many cities across the US, police officers have been sued for wrongfully killing innocent people, and the family members have been awarded millions of dollars. Despite costing taxpayers millions in compensation, the accused police officers are rarely fired and usually remain patrolling the streets.

Recent events in Ukraine show how politically-charged and logically-confused attempts to financially compensate for wrongful deaths can truly be.

Odessa May 2, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Fascist terrorism in Odessa

The recent horrific events in Odessa have been seen throughout the world. On May 2, the ultra-nationalists aligned with the new US-backed regime in Kiev set a Trade Union House on fire. As those trapped inside attempted to flee the building, some leaping from windows, they were beaten to death by fascists armed with baseball bats.

The police, usually expected to prevent such activities as firebombing and mass murder, stood by and allowed the fascists to carry out this ugly act. When it was all over, 46 people were dead.

While the Western media has used loaded terms to describe the victims, calling them ‘Pro-Russian’, ‘Communists’ and ‘Separatists’, those who died were not involved in an armed battle or physical confrontation at the time they were killed. They were inside a Trade Union House, acting entirely peacefully. This blatant murder, allowed to happen by the passive authorities, cannot be described as anything but a cowardly act of terrorism.

The perpetrators of this ugly attack were the ‘ultra-nationalists’, ‘fascists’ and ‘Right Sector’ forces who have been part of the ‘EuroMaidan’ movement from the very beginning. Their efforts have been obviously aided by billions of dollars from the United States and other Western capitalist powers, and their campaign of violence and terror, which installed the new, unelected government in Kiev, has been cheered by Western media.

The authorities in Odessa have declared they will compensate the victims of the attack with 10,000 hryvnas, the equivalent of US$860.

The ‘anti-terrorism’ soldiers

At nearly the exact moment that it was announced that the families of those killed in the burning of the Trade Union House, restitution was announced for another group of deceased individuals.

Of the troops sent by Kiev to put down uprisings in eastern Ukraine, the so-called Anti-Terrorism operation, 14 have died. They were sent to defend the un-elected austerity government in Kiev from those who rebelled against it. The compensation they are to receive is 1 million hyrnvas, the equivalent of $86,000.

It seems that the forces that currently lead Ukraine, with IMF loans and the support of the United States, believe that the 14 soldiers who died were approximately 100 times more valuable than the innocent victims who died.

How was this calculation reached? How was it determined that the lives of the 48 innocent people (two more died later in a hospital) who were snuffed out in a ruthless act of terrorism were worth only 1 percent of the lives of the 14 soldiers? What is the logic behind the mathematics?

Flowers and candles are placed in memory of people killed in recent street battles outside a trade union building in the Black Sea port of Odessa May 4, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

The 14 Kiev defending troops are receiving a status far above many other soldiers killed in the line of duty.

May 9 is Victory Day in the former Soviet Union, when the people celebrate the defeat of the German fascists who invaded the Soviet Union. Usually this day is marked with celebration.

This year in Ukraine, a number of the celebrations marking the defeat of Hitler and his allies were canceled. The new government does not honor the Ukrainians who stood against Hitler, but rather those who aligned with him, such as Stepan Bandera.

The right-wing Zionist New York City politician Dov Hikind spoke in New York City saying, "And one of the things when I think about the Ukraine, and I’m sure there are a lot of wonderful people there, but let me tell you what my mother used to say, that the Ukrainians who worked with the Nazis were worse than the Nazis. That’s what my mother always told us in our home, in terms of brutality and so on."

Hikind is not an admirable figure, as he himself was once part of the racist terror organization known as the Jewish Defense League, and his speeches are loaded with hatred for Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent.

But when innocent victims are declared to be 100 times less valuable than soldiers, when commemorations to the victory over Nazism are canceled, and people are barricaded into burning buildings and beaten to death as they try to escape, the sentiments he recalled his mother expressing seem realistic.

The Ukrainian Ultra-Right wing did not simply emerge during the EuroMaidan events. It has a long heritage of opposing social progress with arms and violence. When attempts were made to create a more efficient agricultural system in the Soviet Union, many of the wealthy middle-class Ukrainians, called ‘Kulaks’ (Fists), burned their crops and livestock, rather than have them be redistributed to the hungry. Ukrainian Mennonite communities praised Hitler as an ally against the Soviet Union, while on May 9 Kherson governor called Hitler 'liberator'.

The small group of bankers in the United States and London which dominates the world economy has decided that this right-wing fringe element, opposed by so many progressive people in Ukraine's history, should be revived. In the interests of gaining strategic ground against Russia, the Western bankers are cultivating and promoting fascist terror.

Faced with the kind of horrific violence that has unfolded in Odessa, what people, in any part of the world, would not defend themselves?

The fact that John Kerry, Samantha Power, and other voices of US power still dismiss all who resist such horror and brutality as merely stooges of Russia remains deeply tragic.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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