Saturday, February 22, 2014


I'm not saying this is necessarily the best, but it is something.  The following open letter to the Ukrainian left is worth reading and is from LeftEast.  You should note that it contains several links for more information and background.  I am also posting a piece from the same source written a few days ago.  

What we have seen today in the Ukraine is NOT the self emancipation of the working class.  That may be on the agenda, but it has not happened yet.  What we have seen is a bunch of maneuvering by parties and vanguards largely of the right representing a hodge podge of classes in conflict with each other combined with the meddling and mischief of global capital.  Stay tuned...

A Time to Mourn, a Time to Act: an Open Letter to the Ukrainian Left

Dear Comrades,
We write to express our solidarity with you in these trying times. Your country is burying a hundred or so dead, demonstrators and policemen, and hundreds more wounded are still in its hospitals. The specter of a civil war has not yet left Ukraine. While not the defeated party, most of you cannot partake in the joys of the victors. Euromaidan was hardly the ideal terrain for your struggle. Its contradictions divided you and those who did participate, were outsized by the Right Sector. We don’t say this in reproach: with a few exceptions such as the former Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey, the East European left is everywhere small, and everywhere divided over those strange but powerful social movement that have swept our countries in recent years, expressing the just social anger in ways that have often puzzled us. We’ve been reading your painfully honest self-reflections on the Ukrainian left in the era of the Euromaidan. We admire your honesty and share your frustration.
But now Ukraine is moving to the next, post-revolutionary stage in its history. Though more backroom deals still need to be signed, the Maidan evacuated, regions pacified, and elections held, a transition of power has already begun in your country. We write this in full confidence that better days lie ahead for you.
For history repeats itself—even Ukrainian history with its inimitable dramatic flair. The military confrontation that just took place on the Independence Square and its vicinity repeats in infinitely more violent and bloody form the Orange Revolution, which first expelled Yanukovich from power almost a decade ago. And the lessons of that previous power handover—that Yushchenko/ Timoshchenko were hardly better than Kuchma/ Yanukovich, that “patriotic,” “real Ukrainian” oligarchs stole no less than do the current paymasters of the Party of Regions, that office-holders are much easier to replace than the structural underpinnings of peripheral capitalism—were not lost on most Ukrainians. It was no accident that Ukraine’s left flourished in the years after 2004.
Today’s Second Orange Revolution—the popular mobilization that spectacularly replaces one set political elite with another without challenging the country’s fundamental dependencies—has just succeeded; now it’s time for it to disappoint and fail, to be betrayed, as its front soldiers and sincere supporters will undoubtedly feel. Looking at the kind of politicians it is recycling back to the main stage, it cannot do otherwise; they cannot but be corrupt, they cannot but practice the austerity policies their creditors recommend; they help surrounding themselves with their cronies or handing over ever larger pieces of Ukraine’s economy to local oligarchs, to Western or Russian capital. Just give them time and they’ll discredit themselves. They will of course blame their initial failures on the failures of their predecessors (and will be partly right), but how long can this last? How long can it be before the glaring similarities between the opposition and the authorities, who periodically trade chairs, become self-evident? How long can it be before Svoboda’s mock-socialism of the far right becomes exposed for what it is—a sham? These post-revolutionary conditions are now ripe for you to form a third pole, distinct from today’s Tweedledums and Tweedledees, whose basic similarity will grow more evident by the day.
Your victory, of course, is anything but guaranteed. Today’s heroes from the Right Sector and Tiahnibok’s falcons may try to put into practice their favorite chants “Death to the enemies!” or “Communists on the gallows!”; they will soon be changing their paramilitary fatigues for police uniforms. Take care of yourselves! There will be terrific culture wars, too, as the new masters try to solidify their power: Lenin’s monuments are already falling and Bandera’s will soon rise; new laws await the Russian language. Yet you understand better than anyone else the workings of those mechanisms for getting people to vote against their social and economic interests. Whether you like to think of it this way or not, you are the true Ukrainian patriots now. You are the main force that can cut through the false choices of Europe or Russia, West or East, with which the power-hungry political class is ripping your country apart.
From the pages of LeftEast, we’ve tried to follow your debates on whether the Ukrainian Left missed the opportunity to form a Left Sector of the Euromaidan or whether you were right to stay out of a movement compromised by a strong far-right presence and bound to be co-opted by discredited politicians. We still don’t know whether you missed your turn to act or not, but the last few days have rendered those debates moot.
What we know for sure is that now is your time. You are the only ones who can give meaning to the deaths and wounds of the Euromaidan. Godspeed in this fight!
In solidarity,
LeftEast editorial collective
February 22, 2014

Blood and Soil or Communal Power?

Ovidiu-TichindeleanuThe dead of Kiev’s Maidan are not only Ukraine’s dead; they are the dead of “post-communist” Eastern Europe. It hurts everywhere, but differently. An open wound cannot be closed with words, yet one can shout in solidarity that this may be the other end of the post-communist transition, the so-called bad side of the “successful” EU integration. However, at both ends, the transition itself has been a historical disaster, ruining at different rhythms the dignity, livelihood, lives and futures of millions of people. Ukraine’s current predicament could make this disaster visible for all those who tried hard either to look elsewhere or to legitimize it with the rhetorics of market, development, nation-state and civilization. Or with “success stories” that were immediately abandoned the day they turned sorrow.
Yet the transition has actually succeeded: Eastern Europe has returned to the periphery or semi-periphery of global capitalism. This is the return of dependency and of the race to the bottom. Somebody from the region will always hit bottom, and it will not be Ukraine all the time. And outside the former socialist bloc things do not look any better: 25 years after “the fall of totalitarian communism”, as “the final triumph of Western liberal democracy” was proclaimed, the global state of democracy has radically worsened; structural inequalities, land-grabbing and resource-wars have multiplied, and the survival of the planet itself is nowadays an open question.
In the region, the horrible destruction wrought by the anti-communist, pro-capitalist reforms of transition, no matter whether a “right” or a “left” party in power, has produced invariably in every East European state the underdevelopment of health and education; mass poverty and mass immigration; select oligarchs, as well as a small middle class; and political, intellectual and media apparatuses largely alienated from the population and oriented towards the powers, canons and fashions that be. It has also produced very powerful military and security apparatuses, in both the West and East. And now the bubble has burst, not accidentally in the biggest country on the EU’s borders, apparently not big or powerful enough to avoid being sandwiched between major powers.
Ukraine’s own schisms may be collapsing the country internally, but many of Ukraine’s problems are international. It is only logical that the answer will involve a defense of the state, from different directions, although the actual victims cannot be reduced to the state apparatuses, and arguably have not been represented for a while by the state. The rise of far-right nationalists, against the background of the domination of cynical opportunists and local oligarchs, is an integral counterpart of the dream sold aggressively by the West in the same package with the counter-offer from the Russian East. That dream, which has captured in the past decades most local energies of betterment, has slowly expired throughout the region after the explosion of the crisis in the very centers of global capitalism. In the last three years, popular movements have exploded all throughout Eastern Europe, and all expressed an anti-systemic discontent. However, in spite of probable longer-term community-building effects, all movements failed to produce a common constitutional moment – most likely as a consequence of the historic annihilation of the left after 1989. Many such movements, whether from Ukraine or Romania, have come to be dominated or marred by nationalists and the far right. In the aftermath, autonomous groups have continued to work relatively isolated.  No popular front has emerged. Reacting to the wave of change, the local Eurocentric liberals have turned towards the left en masse, but going only so far as to deny their previous role, and to support issues of anticorruption, human rights, a purer modernization, and maybe Keynesianism. The response from the political systems has invariably been denial, repression, false choices of “lesser evils”, yet more developmentalism, reinforcement of vertical structures, sometime support of local capitalists, even more secretive and quick privatizations, and the shameless use of movements to gain advantages over adversaries in the formal political sphere.
In the intense moments of global transition, social uprisings could move things very quickly, either for the better or for the worst. In times of conflict, there is a dire need for building communicative powers. Unlike Latin America, in Eastern Europe, the traditional mediators of consensus (for better or for worse), religion and nationalism, have traditionally been claimed by forces of the extreme right, thus standing for the opposite of liberation. These same forces have also used the vocabularies of anticolonial struggle and autonomism to reinforce the obedient political imaginary of a fortress under siege, rather than to build the sovereignty of the people.  If the world is indeed transitioning towards another global system, such signs, as seen from the region, are not very encouraging. War, repression and sanctions are solutions only for the current vertical structures, political bodies and for the armed far right, all of which will continue to hurt the people. They all correspond to the common conception of power in modernity: power as domination, as opposed to power in the sense of serving the people. However, the discontents of the population are systemic, and keep on rejecting domination. In the struggle, members of parties and security forces will likely leave these structures if they continue to work against the people. And the EU had better think about the devastating effects of the UN embargo and sanctions on Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) begun in 1991-1992.
In Eastern Europe, nationalism is a readily available way to articulate the local pride and dignity destroyed by post-communist transition, with a repertoire strictly connected to and controlled by state aparatuses, and with lines of flight going always to golden mythical pasts. This kind of nationalism is a way of alienating people from their own contemporary culture and history. As soon as its symbols appear in a crowd of heterogeneous protesters, they have the unmistaken effect of stopping the process of bottom-up building. Instead of making way for a community of aspirations, they call into being a ring of masculinist pretenders. Furthermore, the invisible reference of local nationalist pride remains the West, and its modern project of the Nation-State – that is, internal projections of empire, not accidentally peppered with theological overtones. As long as that reference stays in place, the types of nationalism that emerge will continue to be only a mirror of contemporary Western racism. They will diminish the power of community.
A relational sense of the local, a sense of regional solidarity that counters the pressures from both East and West, and a familiarity with the struggles of other peripheries will offer not only more dignity, but also communicative power and concrete alternatives. Hopefully, the answer of the people will involve a claim for the communal rebuilding of power, rather than a retreat into fortresses.

No comments: