Dangerous Liaisons: Ukraine and the Western Slavists

Note from the editorial board of LeftEast: an earlier version was published on the All the Russias’ Blog of NYU’s Jordan Center: http://jordanrussiacenter.org/news/dangerous-liaisons-ukraine-western-slavists/

rossen djagalovWriting in the middle of a crisis is always dangerous. Analysis, predictions, recommendations can be proven dramatically wrong within a matter of days. I write these lines as the main author of an editorial statement of the LeftEast platform, which in addition to causing a serious controversy within our editorial board, proved spectacularly wrong in its optimistic predictions that the aftermath of this Second Orange Revolution—a mass, anti-authoritarian movement that spectacularly replaces of one set of elites with another without at all affecting the oligopolistic nature of Ukraine’s society and economy—will provide a much better terrain for the left than the Euromaidan struggles, which had split and demoralized it.

Within a week of its publication, Russian troops in unmarked uniforms had occupied key positions in the Crimean peninsula, accelerating the pro-Russian secessionist tendencies of Eastern and Southern Ukraine. The news of the invasion came to me on February 28th in the form of a Colta.ru article boldly entitled “The Shadow of a Third World War.”I remember first dismissing it in my head as an impossibility and yet another instance of demshiza hysterics before reading confirmation elsewhere. To be sure, I still don’t think anybody wants a war, much less a Third World War, but once such mechanisms are started, they can acquire logic of their own and no amount of anxiety or protest could be dismissed as hysterics.

Having thus established my own fallibility as an observer, let me move on to other people’s—always a more fun exercise! The middle of a dynamic historical process is hardly an ideal time to draw conclusions, but the ideal time might never arrive so we might as well try. In the discursive battles the Euromaidan sparked, many opinions were offered, including some that will probably come to haunt and embarrass their authors in the future. Western Slavists have been particularly active on the Ukrainian front and have occasionally entered into implicit alliances with some of the conflict’s less savory protagonists. Since this is a group (Western Slavists, that is) to which I bear some relation, they will be the heroes of this piece.

Few have produced as systematic a response to the Ukrainian crisis as Timothy Snyder. A renowned historian of Central Europe, he has written extensively on Ukraine, most recently and famously in Bloodlands: Europe between Stalin and Hitler (2010), which offered a novel account of the dynamic that resulted in the deaths of 14 million civilians on the territory of today’s Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and the Baltic states between 1933 and 1945. Judging by the prolific facebook commentary, the series of articles he published on Euromaidan in the New York Review of Books has been received much less favorably. A stark, moralistic vision runs through his texts. As we learn from “Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine,” two forces are battling it out in Ukraine: the European Union and the Eurasian Union, the former:

“based on the principles of the equality and democracy of member states, the rule of law, or human rights. On the contrary, [the Eurasian Union] is a hierarchical organization, which by its nature seems unlikely to admit any members that are democracies with the rule of law and human rights. Any democracy within the Eurasian Union would pose a threat to Putin’s rule in Russia. Putin wants Ukraine in his Eurasian Union, which means that Ukraine must be authoritarian, which means that the Maidan must be crushed.”

While in the aftermath of the de facto occupation of Crimea, it is much easier to see today’s Russia as the villain of the story, one does not need to be Greek, Irish, or some left-wing anti-austerity militant to be surprised by the glowing characterization of EU’s benevolence. The civilizational thinking underlying these passages is facilitated by Snyder’s confusion of the Eurasianism of Alexander Dugin as the ideology of the Eurasian Customs Union. A Russian Samuel Huntington, but with a more colorful style and  personality, Dugin is far more popular with Western Slavists than in Russia and has little to do with the construction of the Customs Union, which only accidentally happens to have the same name as his rather marginal but spectacular movement. Moreover, to credit “Russia” with proposing “an alternative idea of what European civilization would look like,” as Snyder does in a recent Democracy Now interview, a a vision that rejects “Western” secularism and respect for gay and minority rights, is to mistake the conjunctural conservative turn of Putin’s third term for some larger, world-historical Idea.[1]

In addition to this geopolitical assignment of Ukraine to “the West,” the other main problem in Snyder’s writings has been his efforts to minimize the role of the far right sections in the Euromaidan. The Svoboda Party and the Right Sector were indisputably minorities within the broader movement. Yet they were Maidan’s most experienced and courageous fighting force in the confrontations with the police (many of them were, after all, soccer fans). Had they been insignificant, they would not have been rewarded with (somewhat embarrassing when it comes to dealing with Western partners) important positions in the state and security apparati. While there is little record of them targeting specifically non-Ukrainians during the Maidan, they have beaten up a growing number of leftists and trade union activists, ransacked offices of leftist organizations such as Kiev’s Borotba, and perpetrated a fair deal of random street violence in Kiev and Western Ukraine. Snyder’s strategy is to represent them as one of the multiple fragments of the Ukrainian nation. Sure, we learn from his account, there were far rightists, but the whole revolution was started by a Muslim Afghan, the journalist Mustafa Nayem, LGBT activists staffed a hotline, feminists ran the make-shift hospital, and Ukraine’s Tatar and Jewish communities were prominently represented. (Incidentally, contradictory quotes from various representatives of Ukrainian Jewry have been extensively used as trump cards by both champions and enemies of the Maidan).

That mosaic approach has been also adopted in a petition by a number of distinguished scholars of Ukraine, both Ukrainian and Western, protesting the exaggerated focus on right-wing radicals in international media reports. Even if expressed with perfect scholarly precision, tortured appeals to:

“Western commentators to show empathy with a nation-state that is very young, unconsolidated and under a serious foreign threat. The fragile situation in which Ukraine’s nation still finds itself and the enormous complications of everyday life in such a transitional society give birth to a whole variety of odd, destructive and contradictory opinions, behaviors and discourses. Support for fundamentalism, ethnocentrism and ultra-nationalism may sometimes have more to do with the permanent confusion and daily anxieties of the people living under such conditions than with their deeper beliefs.”

also serve the practical purpose of providing political cover to the far right and offer poor consolation to the victims of their violence. Although the petition’s signatories claim to be “aware of the problems, dangers and potential of the involvement of certain right-wing extremist groupings in the Ukrainian protest” and “critical of far right activities on the EuroMaidan,” they never suggest the possibility of a break with the far right. If they have indeed been as critical of the far right in the EuroMaidan as they profess, this criticism must have been subtle to the point of invisibility.[2]

The main warning of that petition, however,—about the metonymic substitution of the right sections of the movement for the whole of it and the risk of amplifying official Russian propaganda in the process—is well taken. One can criticize the Maidan movement as a whole—for the naïve Europhilia with which it started, for the now-fulfilled predictions that the forces it will end up bringing to power discredited politicians and policies, and for much else—but to hurl at it wholesale “fascist” labels, as a number of anti-Maidan texts have done, is not only factually wrong but also deeply offensive to the majority of those who joined the movement at no small risk to themselves and who exhibited miracles of self-organization and courage in their confrontation with the police. Thus, any honest coverage of the far right’s role in the Maidan should first contextualize it within the contours of the broader movement. In addition, the only way for anti-fascism to be credible is to be consistent rather than selective. If one condemns the far right aligned with the Euromaidan, one should also go on to condemn many of the far-right pro-Russian activists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and vice versa, of course. The latter are often armed with the same fists and iron pipes and the same intolerance of the Other that has been the hallmark of the pro-Maidan White Hammer. Sometimes, they have even sported similar swastika-like insignia, as has Gubarev, the samozvanets who meteorically rose and fell as Donetsk’s “people’s” governor, who turned out to be a former member of the radical right Russian National Unity.

These are facts conspicuously missing from pro-Kremlin propaganda, whose own recently constructed version of “struggle against fascism” poses a grave danger to anybody who identifies with anti-fascist politics. Lest we forget, this official Russian “anti-fascism” is carried out by the very same media and some of the same politicians who in the aftermath of last October’s Biruliovo pogrom in Moscow led the anti-immigrant crusade and demanded the construction of deportation camps and other “tough” measures on “illegals” from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Based on the phantasmatic truckloads of armed benderovites headed for Eastern Ukraine, this new “struggle against fascism” aimed at lending moral urgency to Russia’s into Ukraine makes distancing from official Russian propaganda an obligatory preface to any criticism of Ukrainian nationalism. Another consequence of the Russian state’s “anti-fascism” is that—unless a commentator on Ukraine deliberately seeks to discredit herself—she should never support her claims with video clips or news items from Russia Today or other news sources that can be ultimately traced to the political technologists of the Presidential Administration. The latter have generated so many fake news items that whole fact-checking sites have been founded to combat them. At a time when many of the above-mentioned scholars of the far right in Ukraine have suspended their professional duties and critical positions in favor of full-fledged participation in one (usually the pro-Maidan) side, a good sociology and ethnography of the far right’s participation in the Maidan and the anti-Maidan has been sorely lacking and no trustworthy record-keeping of the violence they have perpetrated exists.[3] As a modest proposal, we could start by reducing the prolific use of “fascist” or “Nazi,” first, because these are, technically speaking, phenomena of the period 1920s-1940s rather than some transhistorical ideologies, and second, because the prolific use of those labels unaccompanied by any action evacuates them of any meaning.

In addition to the exposure of the far right, there has been another line of critique of the Euromaidan—as an instance of Western interventionism,—which, while very real and urgent, has on a number of occasions come dangerously close to a defense of Russian foreign policy. Among Western Slavists, this risk is best illustrated by Stephen Cohen, a scholar whose exploration of lost alternatives of Soviet history has been very important to me. Cohen is of course right in his critique of U.S. media’s Cold-War coverage of Russia and Eastern Europe and its obsession with the figure of Putin. Mass media likes heroes and villains. But if the problem is one person, then the obvious solution is its removal. Replacing Putin with someone else, however, would hardly resolve the structural problems of peripheral capitalism Russia is facing. However, Cohen’s extension of this critique to a thorough-going defense of Russia’s right to its own sphere of influence, which of course includes Ukraine, can hardly be appreciated by most of those who happen to be born in that sphere of influence and who have different visions for their society than alignment with Russian foreign policy. Such an account represents the reverse mirror image of Snyder’s, which makes a parallel case for Ukraine’s natural fit with the EU. Too focused on US foreign policy and domestic political debates and too poorly attuned to the actual events in Ukraine, Cohen’s writings discount the fact that imperialism and foreign domination in general are not a monopoly of the US, NATO, EU but can be also practiced by other powers as well, as we are witnessing in Crimea right now. In addition, they are hardly intended for East European audiences and are likely to leave them very unsympathetic. A much more convincing argument against NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe—Cohen’s main concern, which in the interests of full disclosure, I fully share—and one that would speak to East Europeans would be to point out its basically undemocratic nature. Not to idealize referenda, which are so easily manipulated by the framing of the question or the media apparatus, as we see in Crimea right now, but should that expansion be ever put to a vote, it would be rejected by many of the populations offered those “protection services.” All the surveys I have seen about popular opinion of NATO in Bulgaria—the country of which I am a citizen—indicate that a significant majority disapproves of Bulgaria’s membership in the organization, which is why such a referendum has never been held. It is perfectly possible, of course, that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine would make NATO membership a much more popular cause than it has been until now.

Resisting great-power domination and intervention, whether Western or Russian, and fighting the far right, whether Ukrainian nationalist or Russian nationalist, constitute the basis of democratic politics in today’s Ukraine. Not all threats are of course equal in size, difficult distinctions must be made, and priorities ultimately decided upon. Broad coalitions, hence, compromises, are necessary for most victories. Such strategic considerations go beyond the scope of this piece. What it has tried to do is to establish a certain minimum for scholarly decency, namely, that neither of these particular forces in particular–the far right and imperialism, from whichever side–should ever be entertained as a possible ally to be treated with tolerance, understanding, and restraint.

Finally, lest this text be taken as a call for some Weberian objectivity and academic neutrality: the moment is urgent and sides need to be taken. (I, too, have taken sides although “side” may not be the most accurate description of the internally split and marginal Ukrainian left, which has been unable to form a pole independent of the main antagonists of the day.) Mistakes will definitely be made as scholars engage reality; the only way not to make them and remain perfect is not to say or do anything. Especially now, however, in the aftermath of Russia’s de facto occupation of Crimea, the demands for a certain minimum of political hygiene and scholarly honesty are ever greater.

maidan ne proidet putin my s toboi



[1] Such civilizational thinking has come from other sources from which one could have expected better. For an example, see Slawomir Sierakowski’s “Has the West Already Lost Ukraine.” New York Times (Feb. 26, 2014): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/opinion/has-the-west-already-lost-ukraine.html

[2] There have been a number of other petitions, which misrecognize the character of the Maidan movement and its perspectives. For an example, see the following one published in The Guardian of Jan. 3, 2014 and signed by a wide spectrum of European and American intellectuals from Anne Applebaum to Slavoj Žižek: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/03/support-ukrainians-build-fairer-europe.

[3] As an example of the transformation of academics into uncritical activists, see the following statement by Anton Shekhovtsov, one of the leading scholars of the Ukrainian far right: “I think that everybody who did not decisively support the Euromaidan is a traitor and a piece of trash.” (transl. is mine, R.D.): https://www.facebook.com/anton.shekhovtsov/posts/10201838240573490.

 

 

 
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  • Peter Grudin

    Bravo, Rossen.

  • Stephen Velychenko

    Djagalov quite properly notes: “Not all threats are of course equal in size, difficult distinctions must be made, and priorities ultimately decided upon. Broad coalitions, hence, compromises, are necessary for most victories.” What I would propose be added is consideration of why the mass of Ukrainians and a majority of Russians and Russian-speakers, with the exception of the Crimea, regard the EU as the only alternative to the neo-soviet Russophile oligarchic order in which they live.

    They desire integration into EU looking to Poland Slovakia and Hungary as models. Polls taken in early 2014 show that had presidential elections occurred then, no more than 15% would have voted for clearly neo soviet Russophile candidates. 12% supported full integration with Russia. In the most heavily colonized and Russified provinces where most of the population tune-in to Russian rather than Ukrainian media, 24 percent in Luhansk and Odessa, 33 percent in Donetsk, and 41 percent in Crimea, supported political union with Russia. http://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=eng&cat=reports&id=236&page=1. Pro-EU commentators and politicians also present the EU an absolute good, alongside almost all US and EU academic specialists on Russia and eastern Europe for whom Ukraine’s EU choice is self evident.
    A section of Ukraine’s 1%, the ruling culturally Russophile Russian-speaking oligarchs, also seek EU integration. As rulers and owners of an independent country, some of them began developing a territorial “national interest.” Like their counterparts in 19th century Latin America, after 1991 this group began evolving into a “creole” elite interested in ruling an independent national state separate from the imperial metropole. Such oligarchs already live in the EU and belong to the EU neo-liberal capitalist corporatist elite They keep their money, wives, children and lovers there and give speeches there in Russian about Ukraine. This incipient “national capitalist class” see membership in the EU as a way secure their local political power and stolen fortunes. Some even gave a few cents of their stolen fortunes to Ukrainian Diaspora causes hoping to temper condemnation of their government from that quarter. In the new government that seeks EU membership this pro EU faction of Ukraine’s national capitalist class (the Poroshenkos and Kolomoiskys) has displaced its pro-Russian “comprador” section (the Medvedchuks, Kurchenkos and Kluievs).
    Many democratic and anti-Stalinist leftists, as well as some liberals who also condemn the American-led neo-liberal corporatist offensive to destroy Europe’s post-war social-democratic order, find this Ukrainian affinity for the EU incomprehensible. They point to Greece or Portugal or the Occupy Movement, noting that selling public assets as alienable resources to the rich, who then sell them back for profit to citizens, is incompatible with political and economic democratization and, that regulation by democratically elected governments, alongside ownership of select firms and service organizations, is essential for any just and equable social order. They point out that adoption of the neoliberal corporate model does not inexorably lead to high economic standards. Asia and Africa and Latin America they show, send more billions into US and EU banks as interest on loans than they get “development aid.” Corporate neoliberal capitalism, meanwhile, generates huge agribusiness conglomerates like Monsanto and Cargill that destroy agriculture, displace family farming, force migration into urban slums and create there masses of unskilled and working poor.
    Implicitly, if not explicitly, many if not perhaps a majority of leftists think Putin’s Russian bandit- capitalism preferable to American neoliberal capitalism, and, tolerate his neo-imperialist driven objective to maintain at least Russian hegemony over if not full control over Ukraine. Such people seem to think that the rapacious and destructive greed of big bankers and corporate owners/managers in Russia is somehow preferable to that of their European and American counterparts, even though the former enjoy a degree of independence from governmental regulation that some of the latter can only envy. They see no similarity between Putin and his Eurasianists and George W Bush and his Neo-cons. They condemn Wolfowitz Cheney and Rumsfield, but not Dugin or Surkov or Glazeev. Accordingly, in no European capital have their been mass liberal-left demonstrations against Putin’s violation of Ukrainian borders. The world’s Noam Chomsky’s have not condemned Putin for turning Russia into an autocracy or labeled as imperialism his expansion west and south.
    Marxist theoretical purists theorize about the possibility of economic autarky; development in countries isolated from the capitalist world economy via socialist revolution, a notion that only isolates themselves, like Lenin in Zurich, from any political influence in the real world. They refer to struggles of this sort in Venezuela, Bolivia and Colombia, ignoring that Ukraine’s geographical position does not allow it the luxury of the autarchy option. Leaving aside the issue that there is no critical mass that supports a radical socialist alternative, Ukraine can only choose which great power to ally with and whether it will integrate into the world market via the European or Eurasian Union.
    Too many leftists and liberals have identified the most extreme and violent group within Ukraine’s current national liberation struggle as representative of the entire movement thereby, knowingly or unknowingly, repeating a decades old Russian communist trope. They ignore the role of Ukrainian nationalism as an anti imperialist discourse. While vociferously condemning Ukrainian “fascism,” which few seem to distinguish from Nazism, they remain silent about Putin’s neo-imperialism, the Ukrainian national question, and Russian colonialist goon sqauds analogous to the Algerian French OAS http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1394442656. No English language left site to my knowledge explicitly condemns the extremist fascist organization the “Russian National Unity” movement that is spearheading the annexation of the Crimea, for instance. Its symbol is a huge red and white swastika and it propagates the idea of the purity of Aryan race http://www.rusnation.org/. They are not troubled that the Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, previously led a Russian party banned as “fascist.” Few of the leftists that criticize Moscow’s authoritarian domestic clampdowns draw attention to the enormous political and economic pressure it exercises on Ukraine that provoke the radicalization of Ukrainian liberal nationalism. Some of these de facto politically pro-Kremlin leftists must be considered dishonest because they do not openly declare they are funded by the Kremlin. Anton Skhekhovtsov is currently studying these groups (they include Globalresearch.ca, Socialist Party International, Institut de la Democratie et de la Cooperation, Liva Sprava, and possibly, Counterpunch: http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ca/2014/02/what-west-should-know-about-euromaidans.html http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/25203341.html http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ca/2014/02/pro-russian-network-behind-anti.html.)
    All leftists realistically detail future problems stemming from EU association. Ukrainian leftists http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/left-opposition-ukraine-saved/ do not consider the Euromaidan a revolution in so far as its socioeconomic demands have been replaced with the neoliberal capitalist agenda of the new government. They do not consider the new government progressive or revolutionary in so far as it is anti- imperialist, or, that it arguably represents the national bourgeois revolution that Ukraine never had. It declares the need for “unpopular decisions” on prices and tariffs and readiness to fulfill all the conditions of the International Monetary Fund. It has appointed oligarchs as provincial governors. It will probably thereby, as the leftists note, generate disappointment, impoverishment, an unacceptable encroachment of private interests in public administration, de-industrialization and the proletarization of government employees. Ukrainian leftists and their critically minded colleagues who see little benefit in EU membership http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/ukraine-and-the-western-slavists/ and do condemn Russian imperialism, however, offer no viable alternatives.
    Some leftists understand the Ukrainian national movement cannot be reduced to “fascism” – which in eastern European usage is normally but erroneously considered synonymous with Nazism. It is true that there are not very intelligent extremists associated with Ukraine’s right wing party Svoboda who stupidly refused trade union activists access to the Maidan stage and beat up activists. But its leader has condemned some of his underling’s actions and the party is unlike other EU right parties. It condemns Russian imperialism, supports the notion of an EU, and was rejected membership in the Alliance of European National Movements. Ukrainian accession to the EU, therefore, is unlikely to benefit the right in the EU. Svoboda may be more extreme than the French National Front or the Freedom Party of Austria, but it is less extreme than Hungary’s Jobbik, the NPD, Golden Dawn, Tricolour Flame, or the BNP. Even if certain members of Svoboda are in the current government, this government is transitional and it will hardly start building a Nazi state. To call conservatives “radical nationalists” or “extremists” is absurd. While the right-wing Right Sector does have a neo-Nazi fringe – the “White Hammer” and “Social-National Assembly”– the main group behind it is “Tryzub.” These people are neither neo-Nazi, racist nor anti-Semitic. Their ideology is also conservative.
    Ukraine’s Euromaidan national movement and new government, are politically liberal-conservative and have chosen EU membership with its neo liberal capitalism over Putin’s Eurasian neo liberal capitalism. But, given the adverse socio-economic consequences of EU neoliberal capitalist policies in every country in which they have been adopted, is this preference justified? Why should Ukrainians, other than they are not Russians, prefer the EU ?
    Transnational corporations through their various “trade agreements” destroy what Marxists term “bourgeois” freedoms in the countries where they were won, often by force of arms and bloodshed. Marx considered these the great achievements of the eighteenth and nineteenth century revolutions: freedom of the press, elected representative assemblies, constitutions, the rule of law, and strong legal trade unions. In Ukraine, which never had a successful bourgeois revolution, these freedoms were never enacted and enforced. These freedoms never existed in Stalin’s USSR and, after 1991, despite their formal adaptation in a written constitution, Ukraine’s 1% and their hired politicians ignored them whenever they pleased. Re-establishing closer ties with Putin’s Russia would only re-establish and reinforce the criminalized neo-feudal soviet-style order that Ukrainians rose agаіnst en masse in November 2013. For this reason, even in truncated form, today’s EU member countries remain as beacons of these freedoms and liberties to people living in a corrupt neo-feudal authoritarian post-soviet republic.
    The average Ukrainian, even if such a person is aware of the neo-liberal corporatist destruction of the post-war order in Greece or Ireland or Portugal, also sees the EU corporate neo-liberal capitalist order as one that still provides better conditions of life than the post-soviet Russian-style robber state-corporatist capitalist order they live under in Ukraine – as their protest has shown. Because between 75-80% of Russian government revenue derives from gas and oil exports, Putin’s government can pay employees, and finance services and pensions. It thus ranks ahead of Ukraine in the Human Development Index. Poland, however, with no finite resources to export, ranks ahead of Russia, while it is doubtful that Russians who do not live in either Moscow or St Petersburg are better off than Ukrainians who live outside Kyiv. (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/world-health-review/ukraine-vs-russiaot. http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/UKR.pdf http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/alcohol-consumption-vs-deaths. Russia’s recent slightly improved birth rates reflect a high birth rate of its Muslim population and annual Asian immigration) Since 2000, moreover, Ukrainian migration to Russia has been steadily falling while migration westwards as been steadily increasing. http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/docs/migration_profiles/Ukraine.pdf
    For Ukrainians EU membership also promises the final end of two centuries of cultural russification and the threat Ukrainians will disappear as an ethnos – or be reduced to the level of an “aboriginal people.” A comparison of the evolution during the last 100 years of the Ukrainian diaspora in North America with that of the diaspora in Russia adds little weight to any argument in favour of joining Putin’s Eurasian Union. It is also inconceivable that Ukraine’s political Russophiles, if any remained in the country after EU accession, would try defend their old soviet right there of not having to learn or use under any circumstances Ukrainian, or, to use Russian as administrative language INSTEAD of Ukrainian in Ukraine. Russians in Germany or Poland or any other European country make no such absurd claims , let alone feel second rate because they can’t speak to non- Russians in Russian. Nor would Ukrainian in the EU disappear as a living language as Belarusian has in Belarus. It would no more be displaced by English than have Polish or Czech or Dutch.
    While the present government, reflecting the will of the Euromaidan majority, is pro EU, its members still exhibit neo soviet traits that are cause for consternation. Ukraine’s richest man Akhmetov declared his support, but, as of yet, his assets have not been investigated and he has posted bail for the arrested neo soviet anti Ukrainian ex- governor of Kharkiv province Mikhail Dobkin. In the wake of the Crimean referendum journalists began publicly questioning his attitude to anti -Ukrainian goon squads and vigilantes and his attempts to appoint his people to key governmental financial committees. Members of parliament still vote illegally by proxy. At the time of writing there was no hint of changes in tax regulations to transfer a greater portion of oligarch wealth into state coffers. No less ominous are the actions of the new governor of Donetsk Sergei Taruta who has followed in the footsteps of the worst African dictators and hired mercenaries. He brought with him to Donetsk 300 armed men from the infamous American mercenary organization Blackwater. Has any western or even eastern European provincial governor hired mercenaries since the 16th century?
    None of the Ukrainian independent trade union associations, except the official KVPU, existing since the 1990s under the same head, to give another example, were admitted into the “All-Ukrainian Strike Committee.” The head of this official union, Mykhailo Volynets, together with Vitaliy Klychko, and presumably, Arsenyi Iatseniuk, organized phony soviet-style “strikes” in favour of Euromaidan. http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/. Whether Klychko and Iatseniuk publically apologize for this indefensible relapse into Soviet practices and, publically demand the immediate resignation of Volynets and new elections to the KVPU, remains to be seen
    To its credit, the new government has stopped the sale of public assets. It has condoned the arrest of the powerful oligarch Dmytro Firtash. It has placed another oligarch, Kurchenko under investigation and is searching for Ianukovych junior – who has disappeared. These acts send the signal that should other Ukrainian oligarch-capitalists carry on in the footsteps of the Lehman Brothers and Kenneth Lay within the EU variant of neoliberal capitalism, they will end up jail. This is something Ukrainians have desired since 2004.
    EU membership for Ukraine would arguably make the introduction of a Keynesian Social Democratic order there more likely than if it belonged to Putin’s Eurasian Union. The excesses of the neoliberal corporate order have now led some US and EU leaders to realize that it has to be restricted. World Bank executives fired Joseph Stiglitz for his opposition to neo liberal capitalist policies, while IMF board members fired Dominique Strauss-Kahn as chairman on the basis of a phony sex-scandal for trying to introduce regulations and controls on capital and corporations. Nonetheless, U.S. and Britain, have now nationalized major financial institutions, reversing the privatization trend of the last two decades. French President Sarkozy proclaimed, “Laissez-faire is finished.” There are, in short, reformists within the ruling class calling for renewed government regulation, protection of citizens from foreign monopolies, and equalization and redistribution through more taxation on capital flows and the 1%. http://www.sagepub.com/cleggstrategy/Kotz%20D%20M.pdf. In Venezuela and other Latin American countries, neoliberalism has been reversed as a result of mass political mobilization.
    Against this background, it should be remembered that Tymoshenko in her time promised policies to regulate capital flows and Ukraine’s 1%. Should Ukraine’s new government follow her lead they would have the support of EU reformists for regulation, re- natinalization and, most important, a write-off of all debt – something EU bankers did for Poland. Ukrainian leaders are also likely to follow Polish advice — in particular keep the national currency. All of which would bring living standards public services and infrastructure up to Polish, if not western European levels. Should this not happen, if their new government, Brussells, the IMF the World Bank, the WTO and Washington, blindly impose neoliberal capitalist policies rather enacting legislation to regulate and control Ukraine’s 1%, it is possible to imagine a new Euromaidan by Ukrainians in the EU joining a renewed Occupy movement that would shake the EU to its foundations.
    Thanks to massive Russian capital inflows in Britain and France especially, influential persons there support Putin and argue Ukraine should remain under Kremlin control. The question here is whether their influence will override those on the pro Ukrainian side who see Putin’s obsession with “protecting” fellow nationals, in view of the sizable Russian immigrant minority in EU countries, as too chillingly similar to Hitler’s obsession with “protecting” his fellow nationals in 1937-39.
    For the moment, Ukraine’s new government must deal with one key problem: Putin’s neo-imperialism and his fifth-column. Unlike De Gaulle, who supported Algerian independence and ultimately refused to support the pro-imperial settler-organized OAS, Putin has chosen to support the political Russian extremist minority in Ukraine. Putin might indeed invade and spark international war. This will please some on the left as it might presage a socialist reovlution, but not necessarily the Ukrainians who will have to live through the horrors. A Ukrainian national state ruled for the historical moment by a national capitalist bourgeois class, with the realistic prospect of membership in a Keynesian rather than a neo liberal EU, is the only realistic alternative.