Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Ukrainian Nationalism at the Heart of “Euromaidan.” Alec Luhn.

The Ukrainian Nationalism at the Heart of “Euromaidan.” Alec Luhn. The Nation, January 21, 2014.


Kiev’s two-month-long “Euromaidan” protest turned violent on Sunday as people in masks, outraged over restrictive protest laws hurriedly passed last week, marched on parliament and ran into police cordons that they pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails. Police hurled gas canisters, stun grenades, and a water cannon and rubber bullets at them, setting off a wave of clashes previously unknown at the largely peaceful protest.
Spearheading the clashes with police was Right Sector, a group with ties to far-right parties including the Patriots of Ukraine and Trident, which BBC Ukraine reported is largely comprised of nationalist football fans. In a statement the next day, the group claimed credit for Sunday’s unrest and promised to continue fighting until President Viktor Yanukovich stepped down.
“Two months of unsuccessful tiptoeing about under the leadership of the opposition parties showed many demonstrators they need to follow not those who speak sweetly from the stage, but rather those who offer a real scenario for revolutionary changes in the country. For this reason, the protest masses followed the nationalists,” the statement read.
The surge in violence sparked by Right Sector has revealed how uncritical and undiscerning most of the media has been of the far-right parties and movements that have played a leading role in the “Euromaidan,” the huge protests for closer ties to Europe that flared up in November and have taken over Kiev’s Independence Square (“Maidan Nezalezhnosti”). Protest coverage focused on the call for European integration and the struggle against the Yanukovich regime has largely glossed over the rise in nationalist rhetoric, often chauvinist, that has led to violence not just against police, but also against left-wing activists.
According to Maksim Butkevich of the coordinator of the No Borders Project of the Center for Social Action NGO, which works against discrimination and xenophobia, far-right groups have grown in popularity over the course of Euromaidan.
“I wouldn’t say it’s big, that huge numbers of activists will join far-right groups after this, but they became more acceptable and in a way more mainstream than before for many active citizens,” Butkevich said.
Although the outcome of the protests is still up in the air, if they lead to snap elections, nationalists could win greater political power, Butkevich said, especially Svoboda, the far-right parliamentary party in the coalition of three opposition parties leading the protest. (Right Sector criticizes all three for “pacifism,” including Svoboda.)
It was Svoboda that was responsible for the most iconic image to come out of Euromaidan: On December 8, masked protestors waving blue Svoboda flags and yelling “Hang the Commie!” toppled a 67-year-old statue of Vladimir Lenin in the city center. Svoboda leader Ihor Miroshnychenko, who has faced charges for pulling down a Lenin statue in another city, told journalists his party was responsible.
Svoboda is the most visible party on the square, it has essentially taken over Kiev City Hall as its base of operations, and it has a large influence in the protestors’ security forces.
It also has revived three slogans originating in the Ukrainian nationalist movement of the 1930s that have become the most popular chants at Euromaidan. Almost all speakers on Independence Square—even boxer-turned-opposition-leader Vitaly Klitschko, who has lived mostly in Germany and has a US residence permit—start and end with the slogan, “Glory to Ukraine!,” to which the crowd responds “To heroes glory!” Two other nationalist call-and-response slogans often heard on the square are “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!” and “Ukraine above all!”
Progressive activists have “to fight on two fronts, against a regime that supports harmful police violence … and also against extreme nationalism, which is recognized and legitimate on Maidan,” Nikita Kadan, an artist and activist in Kiev, said via Skype during a discussion of nationalism at a Moscow bookstore in December.
The Euromaidan protests began on November 21 after the government halted the process of signing an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. The EU offered Ukraine what many have framed as a “civilizational choice” between East and West, which have recently been at odds over a traditionalist social agenda—including a controversial law against gay propaganda—implemented under President Vladimir Putin in Russia.
The association agreement would have reduced tariffs but would not have led automatically to visa-free travel or the ability for Ukrainians to work in Europe. (EU politicians and even Senator John McCain have come to Kiev to stump for European integration, and McCain had dinner with Svoboda’s head and the two other leaders of the opposition coalition.) Instead, President Yanukovich, who is from the generally Russian-speaking eastern half of the country, later signed an agreement with Putin that will see Russia buy $15 billion in Ukrainian government bonds and discount the gas it delivers to Ukraine by a third.
The protests come amid a resurgence of nationalist sentiment in Ukraine that can be compared to a Europe-wide rise of nationalist parties. Svoboda, which was originally known by the Nazi-esque moniker “Social-National Party of Ukraine” and whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok is infamous for a 2004 speech in which he argued that a “Moscow-Jewish mafia” was ruling Ukraine, entered parliament for the first time in 2012 by winning 10.44 percent of the popular vote. Before this, the party had come to dominate regional parliaments in three provinces in the largely Ukrainian-speaking west of the country. In last year’s elections, Svoboda notably finished second in cosmopolitan, Russian-speaking Kiev.
“In the 2010 and 2012 elections, it became visible that a big part of the youth are moving toward nationalism,” said Georgy Kasyanov, a researcher at the Institute for the Development of Education. He noted that one factor is youth unemployment, which is rising in Ukraine as in the rest of Europe.
Despite its leading role at Euromaidan, Svoboda’s political program is at complete odds with the “European values” for which the protestors at Euromaidan are ostensibly agitating. (Admittedly, some of the party’s populist economic program is in fact relatively progressive.) During its time in parliament, the party was best known for introducing a bill to ban abortions, but in its program, it also promises to abolish gun control, “ban the communist ideology,” criminalize “Ukrainophobia,” ban the adoption of Ukrainian children by foreigners and reinstate a “nationality” graph on passports and birth certificates.
On New Year’s Day, Svoboda led about 15,000 people in a torchlight march in honor of Stepan Bandera, the controversial leader of the wartime Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which fought the Soviets for an independent Ukrainian state but also ethnically cleansed tens of thousands of Polish civilians. (Right Sector also announced its own march that day in honor of Bandera.) Some historians have accused the Ukrainian Insurgent Army of cooperating in the massacres of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during the Nazi occupation, and Tyahnybok even commended the rebels in 2004 for fighting “Russians, Germans, Jewry and other crap.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center put Svoboda at number five on its 2012 list of top anti-semitic slurs, citing Tyahnybok’s “Moscow-Jewish mafia” comment and Miroshnychenko calling Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis a “dirty Jewess.”
How can the slogan “Ukraine above all!” sound on Independence Square alongside the slogan “Ukraine in the EU!”, Ukrainian progressive activist Olga Papash asked in a recent piece on the politics and culture website Korydor. Any ideology has a certain point that integrates dissimilar ideas into a single system, Papash argued.
“I think the attachment point, that shared place of rightist ideology in Ukraine today, that ‘ideal’ that removes the contradiction between different calls to action and messages, is the fear of (dislike of, reluctance toward) entering into any sort of ‘civilized’ relationship with Russia,” Papash wrote.
Even Yury Noyevy, a member of Svoboda’s political council, admitted that the party is only pro-EU because it is anti-Russia.
“The participation of Ukrainian nationalism and Svoboda in the process of EU integration is a means to break our ties with Russia,” Noyevy said.
For now, Svoboda and other far-right movements like Right Sector are focusing on the protest-wide demands for civic freedoms government accountability rather than overtly nationalist agendas. Svoboda enjoys a reputation as a party of action, responsive to citizens’ problems. Noyevy cut an interview with The Nation short to help local residents who came with a complaint that a developer was tearing down a fence without permission.
“There are people who don’t support Svoboda because of some of their slogans, but they know it’s the most active political party and go to them for help,” said Svoboda volunteer Kateryna Kruk. “Only Svoboda is helping against land seizures in Kiev.”
Kruk freely admitted she doesn’t support Svoboda’s nationalist platform and “would be very concerned” if the party won a majority in parliament. Nonetheless, she volunteers for Svoboda because she likes “the idea of a party that is Ukrainian-focused” and thinks it is the most active of the opposition parties.
This kind of reserved support of Svoboda as the party most likely to enact change despite its intolerant rhetoric was echoed by several protestors on Independence Square. Katerina, a doctor who also declined to give her last name for fear of repercussions at work, said although she disagrees with Svoboda’s nationalist program, she supports them “for now” for their strong anti-oligarch stance.
“They’re not afraid to make demands,” she said.
Alexander, who came to Independence Square from a village outside Kiev, said that the nationalists have been essential to the growth of Euromaidan.

“Without nationalists, there wouldn’t be any protest,” Alexander said, declining to provide his last name.
Ivan Kozar, a Cossack from Khmelnitsky who came with his brethren to provide security on Independence Square, said Svoboda “is the one political party that has a well-formed concept.”
“Sure there are those who say, ‘Beat Moskali!’” he said, referencing the derogatory term for Muscovites sometimes heard on the square, “but they are few in number.”
Nonetheless, some left-wing parties, including the Marxist party Borotba, don’t support the protests because they worry about the growing power the demonstrations have given to Svoboda. Their concern alludes to a darker side to patriotic hymns and sayings.
The fact that nationalist slogans “became mainstream of course points to the danger of providing greater legitimacy to groups promoting positions that yesterday were really marginal, and this danger is still in place,” Butkevich of No Borders said.
But rhetoric can quickly escalate into action, and already protestors with apparent nationalist sentiments have taken part in a spate of attacks on left-wing activists on Independence Square. On November 27, activists with signs reading “Freedom, Equality, Sisterhood,” “Europe is sex education,” “Europe is equality” and “Organize trade union instead of praying for Europe” said they were assaulted by “far-right thugs” calling themselves “organizers of the protest,” who tore the banners. On November 28, several men with covered faces pepper-sprayed a group of feminists and tore a banner reading “Europe means paternity leaves.”
On December 4, labor organizer Denis Levin and his two brothers were beaten by a small crowd shouting “Glory to Ukraine” and “Death to Enemies” after a nationalist writer on the stage pointed them out as “provocateurs” with red flags, Levin told The Nation. Shortly before and after the attack, Miroshnychenko, a member of Svoboda’s political council, came by the tent where the brothers were agitating for the Confederation of Free Labor Unions, Levin added. The nose of one brother was broken, and Denis suffered from the irritative gas used against the trio.
Men wearing armbands with the wolfsangel nationalist symbol also started the violent clashes on nearby Bankova Street on December 1 that led to riot police counter-attacking and beating journalists, photos from the incident show, although it’s not clear in whose interests they were acting.
“People are not thinking about how an association with the EU will actually affect us, they’re still finding simple answers for complicated questions. They are blaming the Moskali for everything,” Levin said.
“The main mistake of Maidan is that the parties came, and social questions were replaced by nationalist ones,” he added. “Maidan didn’t grow into Occupy [Wall Street], it became reactive.”
However, Noyevy denied Svoboda activists had beaten the Levin brothers.
“I know this situation, unfortunately Svoboda wasn’t involved in this action,” he said. “Thank god everything turned out okay. Those provocateurs are mainly extremists, they have an extremist liberal ideology and are using the funding of western organizations.”
“Anyone who says he’s a communist is a provocateur,” he added. “We will be against any left-wing party.”
Former Svoboda member Ivan Ponomarenko, an architect from Kiev, said the party is ineffective politically and will not be able to enact its measures, as its leadership is only “pretending” to be extreme nationalists for their own political and economic gain.
“They are playing at Klu Klux Klan,” Ponomarenko said.
But political analyst Kost Bondarenko, commenting on Svoboda’s recent torch-lit march in Radio Free Europe/Radio Svoboda’s Russian service, said that as the dominant far-right political party, Svoboda could benefit politically from any continuation of radical actions at Euromaidan.
“Any radicalization on the right, and Maidan is right-wing in its essence and ideology, will lead to a growth in the ratings … of this political force,” Bondarenko said. “On the other hand, such a turn of events is desirable to the authorities, I think, since Viktor Yanukovich understands that he will win if Oleh Tyahnybok makes it to a second round” in the presidential election in 2015.
For his part, a bright-eyed Noyevy promised to implement a radical nationalist platform.
“Svoboda is going to be the biggest winner among the opposition parties in increasing its level of support after Euromaidan,” he added. “Right now the majority of people on Maidan demand more radical actions, and I don’t see how other parties will enact these wishes.”

Thomas Jefferson: “The Ground of Liberty Is to be Gained by Inches.”

“The Ground of Liberty Is to be Gained by Inches”: Thomas Jefferson to the Rev. Charles Clay, January 27, 1790. Founders Online.


Dear Sir
I had hoped that during my stay here I could have had the pleasure of seeing you in Bedford, but I find it will be too short for that. Besides views of business in that county I had wished again to visit that greatest of our curiosities the Natural bridge, and did not know but you might have the same desire.—I do not know yet how I am to be disposed of, whether kept at New York or sent back to Europe. If the former, one of my happinesses would be the possibility of seeing you there; for I understand you are a candidate for the representation of your district in Congress. I cannot be with you to give you my vote; nor do I know who are to be the Competitors: but I am sure I shall be contented with such a representative as you will make, because I know that you are too honest a patriot not to wish to see our country prosper by any means, tho’ they be not exactly those you would have preferred; and that you are too well informed a politician, too good a judge of men, not to know, that the ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, that we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good. Wishing you every prosperity in this & all your other undertakings (for I am sure, from my knowlege of you they will always be just) I am with sincere esteem & respect Dear Sir your friend & servt,
Th Jefferson

Obama Is a Post-Colonial Ideologue. By Dinesh D’Souza.

How Obama Thinks. By Dinesh D’Souza. Forbes, September 9, 2010.

2016: Obama’s America. Trailer 1. By Dinesh D’Souza. Video. ObamaWinAmericaLoses, August 9, 2012. YouTube.


I know a great deal about anticolonialism, because I am a native of Mumbai, India. I am part of the first Indian generation to be born after my country’s independence from the British. Anticolonialism was the rallying cry of Third World politics for much of the second half of the 20th century. To most Americans, however, anticolonialism is an unfamiliar idea, so let me explain it.

Anticolonialism is the doctrine that rich countries of the West got rich by invading, occupying and looting poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America. As one of Obama’s acknowledged intellectual influences, Frantz Fanon, wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, “The well-being and progress of Europe have been built up with the sweat and the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians and the yellow races.”

Anticolonialists hold that even when countries secure political independence they remain economically dependent on their former captors. This dependence is called neocolonialism, a term defined by the African statesman Kwame Nkrumah (1909–72) in his book Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, writes that poor countries may be nominally free, but they continue to be manipulated from abroad by powerful corporate and plutocratic elites. These forces of neocolonialism oppress not only Third World people but also citizens in their own countries. Obviously the solution is to resist and overthrow the oppressors. This was the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. and many in his generation, including many of my own relatives in India.

Obama Sr. was an economist, and in 1965 he published an important article in the East Africa Journal called “Problems Facing Our Socialism.” Obama Sr. wasn’t a doctrinaire socialist; rather, he saw state appropriation of wealth as a necessary means to achieve the anticolonial objective of taking resources away from the foreign looters and restoring them to the people of Africa. For Obama Sr. this was an issue of national autonomy. “Is it the African who owns this country? If he does, then why should he not control the economic means of growth in this country?”

As he put it, “We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now.” The senior Obama proposed that the state confiscate private land and raise taxes with no upper limit. In fact, he insisted that “theoretically there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.”
Remarkably, President Obama, who knows his father’s history very well, has never mentioned his father’s article. Even more remarkably, there has been virtually no reporting on a document that seems directly relevant to what the junior Obama is doing in the White House.
While the senior Obama called for Africa to free itself from the neocolonial influence of Europe and specifically Britain, he knew when he came to America in 1959 that the global balance of power was shifting. Even then, he recognized what has become a new tenet of anticolonialist ideology: Today’s neocolonial leader is not Europe but America. As the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said–who was one of Obama’s teachers at Columbia University–wrote in Culture and Imperialism, “The United States has replaced the earlier great empires and is the dominant outside force.”
From the anticolonial perspective, American imperialism is on a rampage. For a while, U.S. power was checked by the Soviet Union, but since the end of the Cold War, America has been the sole superpower. Moreover, 9/11 provided the occasion for America to invade and occupy two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and also to seek political and economic domination in the same way the French and the British empires once did. So in the anticolonial view, America is now the rogue elephant that subjugates and tramples the people of the world.
It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States. That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America’s military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father’s position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America’s power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe’s resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.
For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West. And here is where our anticolonial understanding of Obama really takes off, because it provides a vital key to explaining not only his major policy actions but also the little details that no other theory can adequately account for.

Democrats’ Latest Plan of Attack Against the Tea Party.

Democrats’ Latest Plan of Attack Against the Tea Party. Video. The Kelly File. Fox News, January 24, 2014. YouTube.

Chuck-U Schumer Speech Signals Democrats Will Run Against Me . . . Again. By Rush Limbaugh., January 24, 2014.

Chuck Schumer: Voice of the little man, courtier of plutocrats. By Timothy P. Carney. Washington Examiner, January 26, 2014.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says Tea Party elites hijacked grassroots movement. By Mark Weiner. Syracuse Post-Standard, January 23, 2014.

Remarks by Senator Charles Schumer. Video. Center for American Progress Action Fund, January 23, 2014. Also at with text. Text also at Scribd. Excerpts at The Huffington Post.