Thursday, December 23, 2004

Why Progressives Must NOT Embrace the Ukrainian "Pro-Democracy" Movement

Stephen Zunes charges "[s]ome elements of the American left" of committing "a grievous error, both morally and strategically, in their failure to enthusiastically support the momentous pro-democracy movement in the Ukraine" ("Why Progressives Must Embrace the Ukrainian Pro-Democracy Movement," Foreign Policy in Focus, December 2004). I don't know what "elements" Zunes has in his mind. Contrary to his charge, too many liberals and leftists, especially in Ohio, embraced Washington's subversion in Ukraine -- or at least its symbolic color orange -- too quickly and unthinkingly.

Were Zunes' argument merely that US leftists must consistently support free and fair elections everywhere, from the United States to Ukraine, it would be a respectable one, though there are many countries -- such as Iraq -- where conditions for free and fair elections do not exist due to foreign occupations, insurgencies, and counter-insurgencies. Zunes goes much further than that, though. He asks us to believe that "although [Viktor] Yushchenko may not be particularly progressive politically or capable of completely cleaning up the system, his election is currently the best hope for establishing a more open and accountable government" (December 2004). Zunes is not unaware of the problem of Washington and its "civil society" fronts' financial, logistical, and diplomatic promotion of Yushchenko; nor is he uninformed of Yushchenko's alliance with Nazis, anti-Semites, and ultra-nationalists:
Both of the most prominent opposition leaders, former prime minister Viktor Yushchenko and multi-millionaire and former deputy prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have maintained political relations for several years with organizations that have expressed and defended fascist and anti-Semitic viewpoints.

Alongside anti-communists, neo-liberals and Christian Democratic parties, Yushchenko’s parliamentary group “Our Ukraine” includes an organisation calling itself the “Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists” (KUN).

The KUN was founded in 1992 as the political exile organization of the “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists—Stepan Bandera fraction.” The followers of Bandera espouse a fascist ideology and a militantly anti-communist, anti-Russian and anti-Polish policy. Bandera’s movement fought in the Second World War—initially on the side of Nazi Germany against the Soviets—and demanded “independence” for the Ukraine in those regions invaded by the German army.

Following the conquest of Ukraine, the Nazis no longer needed the assistance of “Slavic sub-humans.” They rejected independence for Ukraine and began to persecute Ukrainian nationalists. The Bandera faction was forced to oppose the German army, but during and after the war it focused its activities against the Soviet army.

This is the tradition which the KUN represents. Until the end of the 1990s, it maintained a paramilitary organization named Tryzub, which carried out its activities in the name of the “Stepan Bandera Sports Patriotic Association.”

Up until July of this year, Yushchenko’s “Our Ukraine” included a second fascist group, the “All-Ukrainian Party of Liberty” (Svoboda), led by Oleh Tyahnybok. It was originally called the “Ukrainian National Socialist Party” (SNPU), and used a combination of a trident and swastika as its party symbol.

At the start of 2004, in preparation for the presidential election campaign, the party changed its name and symbol. Nevertheless, in July, Tyahnybok publicly praised nationalist Ukrainian partisans in the Second World War who had “cleansed the country of Russians and Jews.”

“There is a need,” he explained, “for Ukraine to be finally returned to Ukrainians” and liberated from the “Muscovite Jewish mafia that runs Ukraine today.” Media outlets close to the government took up this statement to attack the opposition. As a result, Yushchenko banned Tyahnybok and his group from “Our Ukraine.”

The forces aligned with Yulia Tymoshenko also include extreme right-wing organizations, e.g., the “Ukrainian Conservative Republican Party” (UCRP), which was founded in 1992 by the former dissident Stepan Khmara. The group is fanatically anti-communist and calls for the “overthrow of the Russian Empire.”

In the course of public protests against Russia, the UCRP collaborated with the “Ukrainian National Assembly—Self-Defence” (UNA UNSO), led by Andrei Shkil, which likewise belongs to the bloc headed by Tymoshenko.

The Ukrainian National Assembly was created in 1990, and its paramilitary arm (UNA UNSO) in 1991, following the attempted putsch in Moscow. It is reputed to have more than 1,000 fighters, who are alleged to have been active in the first Chechnya war on the side of the Chechens, in the Yugoslavia war on the side of the Croats, and also in Georgia.

The English-language section of its web site includes such items as a statement of solidarity with the Chilean ex-dictator General Augusto Pinochet, a report on a congress of the UNA UNSO, at which the organisation signed an agreement for “friendship and cooperation” with representatives of the German neo-Fascist NPD, and a long essay on the ideology and politics of UNA UNSO.

The essay states that Andrei Shkil, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Nationalist, sports the emblem of the Ukrainian division of the Nazi SS Galicia. In the Nationalist, Shkil not only praises the racist ideologists Count Gobineau and Walter Darré, but also the book Mein Kampf and its author (Hitler’s name is not mentioned) for “re-examining these ideas (of Gobineau and Darré) at the highest level.”

It is therefore not surprising that Shkil has used his position as parliamentary delegate to call for the transfer of the bodies of Stepan Bandera and Simon Petlyura. The latter’s troops fought against the Bolsheviks in 1918-19 and killed some 30,000 Jews in pogroms.

In March 2001, Shkil and his organization generated headlines when they fought street battles with the police in the course of protests against President Kuchma. As a result, Shkil was condemned 18 months later to a term of imprisonment. Following the sentencing of Shkil, Yushchenko and other politicians of the opposition condemned the court decision as a political judgment. Speaking in parliament, Tymoshenko called fifteen members of Shkil’s organisation sentenced to prison terms of 2-5 years “the best representatives of the nation.” (Justus Leicht, "Ukraine: Ultra-right Groups Active in Ukrainian Opposition,", December 7, 2004)
But Zunes whitewashes Washington's financial support by saying that it has "flowed primarily through reputable nongovernmental organizations" (December 2004) and downplays fascist members of Yushchenko's coalition on the grounds that fascists are a small minority, "liberal democrats" are the majority, and "democratic socialists" and "Greens" are included in the coalition (December 2004).

Since when have organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the National Republican Institute for International Affairs (NRI) -- which have a record of subverting foreign governments including democratically elected ones such as Venezuela's -- become "reputable" in the eyes of leftists anywhere, though? And if "Greens" and "democratic socialists" in Ukraine really have stooped to an alliance with fascists for electoral expediency (though Zunes fails to identify in his article even one Ukrainian Green or democratic socialist within Yushchenko's coalition), that is evidence that they are incapable of upholding the key Green and democratic socialist values.

As for "liberal democrats" who have predictably joined hands with the far right (probably emulating the US model of politics, especially the GOP side of it!) to support Yushchenko, they are basically economic neoliberals, who do not give a damn about political liberty or economic democracy, and miners and other workers in Ukraine know that:
In his two years as prime minister, Mr Yanukovych is credited with sending state funds to get Donetsk's coal mines working again, and raising wages and pensions, in particular for those who worked underground.

During Mr Yushchenko's premiership, by contrast, power stations often did not pay for the coal they had received, and miners went unpaid for months at a time.

He is blamed for closing mines left, right and centre, though it was also the Yanukovych government's policy to close the worst mines and concentrate subsidies where they would bring the best results.

At Friday's meeting in the main square, speaker after speaker expressed resentment at being treated by the demonstrators in Kiev as if their votes did not count.

At least two accused the orange-clad protesters of leading the country towards civil war.

Donetsk, however, does not give the impression of preparing to fight a war. Ukraine's industrial working class is angry, but not yet aggressive. (Stephen Mulvey/BBC, "Ukraine's Loyal Industrial Heart," December 3, 2004)
Last but not the least, Zunes refuses to consider the fact that foreign governments and NGOs' spending of tens of millions of dollars to support a candidate in Ukraine is neither moral nor legal. In Ukraine (as in most nations, including the United States), election laws prohibit "foreigners, persons without citizenship, foreign corporate bodies" from making campaign contributions (Janis Ikstens, Daniel Smilov, and Marcin Walecki, "Party and Campaign Funding in Eastern Europe: A Study of 18 Member Countries of the ACEEEO," Paper presented at the ACEEEO [Association of Central and Eastern European Election Officials] annual conference "Transparent Election Campaign Financing in the 21st Century" at Brijuni, Croatia, October 13-17, 2001). Even if such donations were legal in Ukraine, leftists should not legitimate the idea that it is OK for richer nations' governments to shape poorer nations' politics through their unlimited spending, especially since poorer nations' governments cannot do the same to richer nations and cross-border interference is practically a one-way street.

But that's precisely what Zunes advocates:
American progressives need to be emphasizing that this is how regime change ought to take place: not by foreign conquest but by the subjugated peoples themselves; not by bombs and bullets but by the far-greater power of nonviolence. We should be pleased that the Bush administration is actually embracing, albeit for suspect reasons, an authentic, grassroots democratic movement against an authoritarian regime. Instead of questioning U.S. support for Ukrainian democrats, progressives must seize this opportunity to emphasize the need for the United States to champion nonviolent democratic movements everywhere and to end U.S. backing for autocratic regimes and occupation armies that suppress such movements. (December 2004)
On the contrary, we shouldn't embrace Washington's regime change, period, be it done through war or money, whether the object of Washington's support uses violent or non-violent methods. That's a matter of principle, which applies to all cases, not just Ukraine.


Anonymous said...

Viktor Yanukovych's Appeal to Voters of Ukraine, 23 December 2004

"Today our country and our people are at the threshold of a crucial choice and a crucial decision in the history of our state" - with these words Viktor Yanukovych appealed to voters of Ukraine. However, he did it not only as a presidential candidate but also as a parishioner of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

"Loved in God, brothers and sisters!

Today our country and our people are at the threshold of a crucial choice and a crucial decision in the history of our state. This is not a choice between two candidates but the choice of a path - where, which direction will Ukraine take. One of these paths, offered by "foreign volunteers," could be quite fatal for our state and bring a lot of sorrow to people of Saint Kyivan Rus'.

Only the conscious participation of all people, all Orthodox people can now stop a threat of a new enslavement of the state, including the most dreadful threat - spiritual enslavement. The methods of stupefying people (odurmanivannia) used by my opponents are typical for any totalitarian sects, and they give no doubt in the goals of "orange polittechnologists." This is a clear threat not only to Orthodox people, but also to people of good will who respect and preserve their spiritual traditions and cultural heritage.

We know from the history that the Great Kyivan Prince Volodymyr rejected a proposition of Western missioners to baptize Rus' according to the Roman rite. All the Christian world was aware of the lechery and hollow spirituality (bezdukhovnost') that dominated medieval Europe at that time. Today orange missioners spread that kind of medieval age among us on the indigenous Orthodox land.

The propaganda of the same-sex marriage, pornography and Satanist cults in a form of musical shows - these are the idols of the non-spiritual (bezdukhovnost')! Feofan the Anchorite warned about this: "God punished and will punish you by the West!" We have to build our relationships with the West not on false but on true values.

I am ready and obliged to oppose Evil in the name of Good, as I have the Blessing of the Saint Church for my deeds. And Blessing for a believer is higher than Lent and Prayers.
But only together can weoppose evil. Every man of good will, be it an Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim or Israelite, must do whatever it takes to stop this orange madness.

I often hear reproaches about the sins of my youth. What happened, happened. I have deeply and sincerely repented. I am sure that God absolved my past sins through the Sacrament of Confession and then allowed me the Eucharist of Saint Christ's Mysteries.

Dear Orthodox co-citizens!

It will be too high of a price to pay, if we do not oppose evil and the people's victory is stolen again at the election. All people of good will must be together to hold out. Today a duty of every Orthodox man is to participate in the election and convince your relatives, friends and acquaintances in doing so. Thus, I ask you about your saint prayers and active support on December 26 to reach the Triumph of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

Save us all, God!

Viktor Yanukovych

Yoshie said...

The BBC article that I already cited has another interesting piece of information: "Like several other people I have met in Donetsk, she [a young woman working as a hotel receptionist] recalled a comment attributed here to an opposition leader, who allegedly threatened to ring part of eastern Ukraine with barbed wire and set it on fire" (Stephen Mulvey/BBC, "Ukraine's Loyal Industrial Heart," December 3, 2004,

It is symbolically appropriate that Yanukovych and Yushchenko have the same first name: Viktor.

Leftists abroad have no reason to support either candidate in Ukraine.

US leftists should, in addition, criticize Washington's "regime change" in Ukraine as well as everywhere else.

I'll leave it up to Russian leftists to criticize Moscow in detail, in the spirit of efficient division of labor.