The Demonstrations on Kiev's Maidan Square - Indications of a Democracy Movement?

Yes, democracy matters more than ever. Democracy. It becomes meaningful, it becomes attainable,  if  and when  people wake up and empower themselves, thus ceasing to be run by others who claim to know better. Democracy movements, genuine ones, oppose those who crave power, who want to monopolize influence, who build their political careers on connections. A democracy movement turns against THOSE WHO LINK UP WITH THE ECONOMICALLY POWERFUL - eager to safeguard the status quo that is so marred by inequality and by the lack of a real say in the res publica(1), as far as the rank-and-file is concerned, ordinary people...

Freedom, somebody said, is inseparable from equality - and not just equality before the law, or the principle that each person has one vote, regardless of whether he is a billionaire or a beggar. Freedom's got to be real freedom or it isn't at all. Its real content is that we are able to take part in the world, in the societal process of deciding how to move on, as a society. And how to tackle the basic problems that humanity is faced with. 

As it is, equality is also meaningless without freedom:  meaningless without that other freedom that exists when you see your idiosyncrasies tolerated, and perhaps not only tolerated by accepted and respected. We do not have to dance to the same tune, we have no need of goose-stepping, we don't, basically, like to march into the future.(2)

I saw people demanding real democracy - in the streets and on the squares of Barcelona, Madrid, Athens, New York, Oakland, Chicago. I know they were welcomed by truncheons  made of hard plastic or rubber, by stern officers in a martial outfit, officers ready to use the weapons they carried ---  tasers, CS gas, even guns, at times. 

When I saw the protesters on Maidan Square, in Kiev, I thought, "They ARE our sisters and brothers - fed up with the make-believe democracy of politicians (and parties) in league with oligarchs - no matter whether these oligarchs or their pols speak Ukrainian or Russian."

To my sursprise, the radio broadcasts I heard at home, and the papers I had a look at, did not scoff at these demonstrators, as they had done when 250,000 people took to the streets in Barcelona.(3) Or when half a million people filled the squares in Madrid, protesting against the government and its anti-people policies that serve the interests of the bankers, the IMF, the ECB, and God knows whom I'm forgetting to mention now.

All over Europe and in the US, the combined force of the media attacked the people in the streets, peaceful people, who demanded change, who had believed, in the US, what Obama had promised when he first ran for president, Yes -  we can bring change. O well, he never said WHAT kind of change; it was an empty promise. But the people who took to the streets meant it; it was real  and they had a lot in mind that they wanted to change: Just think of the destructive course of our consumer society that devastates the planet. Or 40 million hungry people in the US alone, and a lot more in the world. Basic things, that no government tackled successfully or has at least started to do something about, in the last 50 years. In the press, they said about Occupy Wall Street: THESE PEOPLE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY WANT. It was an untruth, and the people who wrote that trash knew it - but they had to lie, to denounce, or they might have lost their damn job.(4)

In Kiev, our sisters and brothers were out in the street, clamouring for the Yanukovich government to step down. What was the reason for that demand? What else did they want? And why, astonishingly, were the media in the US and Western Europe so euphoric, so positive when they reported about the protests?

As I understand it, Yanukovich is a corrupt son-of-a-bitch, in league with oligarchs, relying on a network of cronies who succeed to accumulate wealth. Just like he did. The demonstrators, many of them, apparently supported Yanukovich's predecessor, Ms. Timoshenko, a multimillionaire or billionaire who is in league with oligarchs, who waxed rich, in post-"real"-socialist Ukraine, like these guys and gals all waxed rich: through clever ways of conning people, connections, corruption. 

So what was the point when the CROWDS IN THE STREETS AND ON MAIDAN SQUARE supported the one, in prison because of corruption or a similar crime, while they demanded that the other step down. A president who was, just recently, democratically elected, as all our politicians are elected these days: that is to say,  thanks to relations with the superrich who finance campaigns, thanks to propaganda in the  media, thanks to words and images that help to discredit and smear the opponent, and that spread lies, or that spread the word about the great promises their candidate made. Promises that will never come true, however. Which they don't say - or at best, about the opponent.

Yes, the media - the same media that always make propaganda for the pols and that always denounced Occupy Wall Street and the Democracy Ya movement and the protests in Athens, in Rome, in Stuttgart and Berlin - were all FOR THE DEMONSTRATIONS: for the crowd that protested LOUD BUT PEACEFULLY, at first. But they were also saying no negative word about those who threw stones or molotov cocktails... Those who arrived on the square with guns, with steel helmets and gas masks... Those who occupied public buildings.

In the papers I even saw high-ranking politicians rubbing shoulders and shaking hands with demonstrators on Maidan Square. You could also see them on television: Mr. Biden, the US vice president; his special envoy, Victoria Nuland; Ms. Ashton from Britain, representing the EU, to name just a few. That's pretty untypical, not really diplometic etiquette. I never saw Mr. Putin in New York, encouraging the sisters and brothers in Zuccotti park, or Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Kirchner hand in hand with those young gals and guys, walking towards the police, ready to push through the row of cops, to hand bankers on Wall Street a paper with all their demands, things like - let's criminalize property speculation and gentrification and the wave of foreclosures that made so many homeless.  And reign in financial capital! And void the foreign debt of countries like Argentina that have paid in interest already so much more than they ever got in loans.

When the demonstrators in Kiev occupied public buildings, the press, radio and television gleefully reported it over here. They were all for it. I wonder how they would have received a week-long occupation of the New York stock exchange, and of city hall. And perhaps the offices of the New York Times and of Mr. Murdoch's paper, and the studios of his foxy television network to boot.

There is something strange about the enthusiasm in our papers and other media. and about the heartfelt (if they have a heart) SUPPORT of Western politicians for our sisters and brothers in Maidan Square. Seems that it has a lot to do with Western political and economic stakes in the course the Ukraine is going to embark on.

But is there also something wrong with our protesting brothers and sisters? Are they deceived, misguided, manipulated? OR ARE THEY VERY HAPPY WITH THE WAY THEY ARE INSTRUMENTALIZED because it is in line with what they, too, may want?

And if so, what do they want?

Two things stand out, at least from the perspective of an outside observer.
They do not want an elected President whom they regard as pro-Russian.
And they do not want the Russian language to remain a second recognized and official language in Ukraine.

In other words, having gained Ukrainian independence and having made Ukrainian rather than Russian the official language after independence was achieved, they now want those areas that are heavily populated by citizens whose native language is Russian, to bow to their demand that they speak Ukrainian, at least when it is a matter of official business. Thus in a town in the Donbass industrial region, with - say - 80 percent Russian-speaking citizens,  a citizen who is a  native speaker of Russian would have to speak Ukrainian with a cop or person in city hall, even if that person is a native speaker of Russian. This is patently absurd, but you have similar quarrels about the official language that should be used in a given area, in Belgium. Nationalism creates strange effects.

Some other demands seem to play a role as well, like stripping Russian-speaking citizens not born in Ukraine of their citizenship, or awarding citizenship to Ukrainians who live abroad and who have not lived in Ukraine for decades.

In addition to nationalism, there are consumerist dreams of acquiring a better standard of living if Ukraine joins the European Community. Probably, the opposite would be the result. But regardless of this, the question is, What do we really need if the planet is to be protected and if humanity is to survive? A Mercedes-Benz? An American refrigerator? 

Not all the dreams and desires that may drive people on Maidan must be put in question. I'm certain that there are those who have a lot in common with our sisters and brothers in New York who confronted the police not too long ago, ready to "occupy Wall Street."

A DESIRE FOR A MORE GENUINE - PARTICIPATORY - DEMOCRACY is not something that must be ridiculed, regardless of whether it motivates people in America or in Russia or Ukraine to take to the streets. 

More recently, reports in the Washington Post and elsewhere highlighted the fact that in a real sense, our country is not a democracy, it is a plutocratic oligarchy, and the masses have the right to vote but little or no real say in the affairs of their country. And, yes, even the right to vote is denied, at times, either by long queues or difficulties to register or the policy of  state governments to disenfranchise some people.


If I see the faces of some, if I see the banners with white power symbols, the 14 ("for teen") abbreviation used by neo-fascists, the 88 (eight-eight, or eitsh eitsh,  Heil Hitler) signs, I AM SADDENED.

No, I don't despise them. I don't feel something approaching hate, a very destructive, and self-destructive impulse.

But I fear that THEY WHO USE THESE SYMBOLS AND CARRY THESE FLAGS are moved by feelings of hate. Hate for the Russians. If I may take the word of one of their leaders at face value, it is even hate for Russians, Jews, liberals and leftists.(5)

Do I grasp why?
I think yes.

Nationalism is an old scourge, it breeds such feelings of the Other as these kids (and their "leaders") express. And racism is a very old, very deep-rooted reality - both in Europe and the U.S.

It has deep-roots, I said. Deep, in that it is not necessarily conscious but often more deeply buried in our minds, our soul than we surmise.
Deep also, in that it is an old, historic reality;  it is passed on, through language, discourse, oral history. Families, friends, schools, text books, the media can contribute their part to it. And it flowers underground or runs on as a subterranean current when it is repressed. If the repression ceases, the foul fountain spouts even more foul water and it does so with great force.

The real or pretended humanism inscribed in the project that turned towards methods of dictatorial discipline and repression of dissent since the days of Lenin, or at least since Stalin, has posed as an antidote to the old nationalism in the years between the two world wars and again, after the second one. It did not succeed to quell it, it only pushed it into some "underground" - some hidden area of deep and bitter resentment in the mind of Ukrainian nationalists. 

That nationalism was alive and "well" in 1917, 1918, and 1919 already, when the old authoritarian and monarchic regimes of Germany and Austria-Hungary collapsed.

The nationalism that existed in Poland, the Baltic countries, Czechoslovakia, Hungaria and the Balkans in the late 19th century and the first decades of the 20th (and obviously also in, Ruthenian Western Ukraine as well as the central Ukrainian heartland) was basically rooted in the same civilization that French or English nationalism were rooted in. There was the Christian anti-judaism, there was the "White" superiority complex and racism of peoples who knew that Europeans has conquered and subjected the rest of the world. 

But in the Balkans and Eastern Europe (or Eastern Central Europe, to be more accurate) SOMETHING ADDED A STRAIN TO THIS NATIONALISM that was due to the long denial of statehood and cultural autonomy in these areas. The repression suffered before 1918 caused a backlash, made bad nationalism - the common scourge of all of Europe - even worse in the newly founded states. And thus, after independence was gained (or at least fought for, as in Western Ukraine), it exacerbated nationalist feelings in populations that, it soon became clear, had not truly emancipated themselves as free people, but that soon succumbed  (with the exception of Czechoslovakia) to new authoritarian regimes. 

The example of Marshall Piludsky who already locked up opponents in concentration camps before the - of course far worse - German Nazis built their death camps, is no exception.(6) The situation in Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Hungary was hardly more positive.(7) But then, Greece under the dictatorship of Mataxas (since 1936); Italy under Mussolini  (who was prime minister since 1922 and dictator from 1925 till 1943), Portugal under Salazar (since 1932); Austria under Dollfuss (also since 1932) provide example outside the Balkans and formerly Czarist regions in Europe, of a stark nationalism coupled with authoritarianism.

I must say that I don't like this heritage, and I look with concern to those places where it is rekindled and revived, as in Hungary, for instance (on a level  that exceeds by far everything we have seen more recently in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Norway or Sweden). 

It is as worrying to see these tendencies resurface in Ukraine, as it is elsewhere. I can only wish all those good luck who today stand up for a different Ukraine, generous rather than narrowminded, free-thinking rather than nationalist, bent on a good understanding between the different linguistic and socio-cultural communities of the country and on achieving good, honest, neighborly relations with both Poland and Russia, Transnistria, Moldavia and Romania -  countries that border on the young Ukrainian Republic. 

It is apparent that the road toward a democracy more worthy of that name than the present one will be a long road. But that is also true of Russia, of the EU,  and the U.S.A.

- Gaby MOORE

Go back to Art in Society # 14, Contents


(1) Res publica (Latin), public things, the public cause, things that are the business of everyone, of the public. The word republic was derived from it, but today's republics have, on the whole, become the affair and playgound of the precious few. 
(2) See for instance: Etienne Balibar, Equaliberty: Political Essays. Durham; London (Duke University Press) 2014.
(3) 250,000 in Barcelona; half a million in Madrid, tens of thousand in many other Spanish cities - that's what alternative news channels reported in 2011. The police "underestimated" the number of participants, as  they usually do. And conservative media downplayed the size of the protest by reporting, at best, the figures given by both sources, the organizers of the protest and the police.
(4) See for instance: 
OWS: These Are Our Demands.
OWS forum: demands; tactics.
OWS forum:  demands.
Demands, as on
Demands, as on
Demands, on Liberty Well website.
See also: “PICKET: Occupy Wall Street protesters post manifesto of 'demands',” in: Washington Post, Oct 3, 2011
(5) "For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly antisemitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital." (John Pilger, "Nato's action plan in Ukraine is right out of Dr Strangelove," in: The Guardian, April 17, 2014)  Click to see online version  Pilger refers to the Svoboda party, a party that was aided financially be the Germans, it seems. It forms part of the government formed after Yanukovich was ousted. According to German public radio WDR, one of the ministers of this government (belonging to the Svoboda party), said recently, "Grab your weapons. Fight the Russian pigs, the Germans and the Jewish swines and others pests". The quote was repeated by a German member of parliament, who made this statement in parliament, "Swoboda has close contacts to the NPD and other nazi parties in Europe. The chairman of this party, Olek Tjahnybok, has stated the following. I am going to quote him now. You need to grasp this, what he has said literally: “Grab your weapons. Fight the Russian pigs, the Germans and the Jewish swines and others pests”. End of quote. I repeat. This man has said “Grab your weapons. Fight the Russian pigs, the Germans and the Jewish swines and others pests”. Attacks on Jews and left-wingers are now common and to all this you say nothing? You talk with these Swoboda people? I think this is a scandal. I have to tell you this clearly." The MP, Gregor Gisy, was attacking the Merkel administration for being on much too friendly terms with theSvoboda party and the government that it forms a part of.
(6) Pilsudski was Chief of State from 1918 to 22, and briefly resorted to the declaration of a "state of emergency" in order to quell unrest in 1922. He then withdrew from politics and returned to power in 1926  thanks to a coup d'état. He ruled Poland as authoritarian "leader" from 1926 practically until his death in 1935.  At the beginning of the 20th century, he had started out as a socialist but, likeMussolini, he became a right-wing "leader" (the Italians used the word duce for leader, and the German Nazis the word fuehrer) who tolerated no opposition. His camps predate the Nazi camps.The ascent of German fascism began only in 1928 when the Nazis got 2.6 per cent of the popular vote in the parliamentary election. Due to the disastrous psychological and material effect that the global economic crisis had on the bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie, the farmers and quite a few workers with a nationalist outlook, support for the party grew quickly. The Nazis got 18.3 per cent of the popular vote in the 1930 national elections (overtaking the Communists) and 37.3 per cent in July 1932 but only 33.1 per cent in Nov. 1933 when another election had to take place after the Reichstag was dissolved. The rise of the Nazi party was possible thanks to massive support by the Hugenberg controlled press and due to campaign contributions by German banks and industry, including Deutsche Bank, IG Farben (split up later into Bayer, Hoechst, BASF etc.), Krupp, Mercedes, Oetker, Siemens, Thyssen, and so on. Despite the telling loss of support, the president of the republic, Marshall Hindenburg, appointed Hitler prime minister (Reichskanzler) and a cabinet formed by the Nazi party and a small right-wing party was formed and sworn in on Jan.30, 1933. In the last formally free election, the Nazi party obtained  a stunning 43.9 per cent of the popular vote but the election campaign had already been characterized by assassinations and other forms of massive Nazi terror, particularly against Social Democrats and Communists. 
(7) The interwar years on the Balkan were largely characterized by coups, dictatorships, persecution of left-wingers and antisemitism. In Hungary, the Social Democrats and the Communists had succeeded to establish a Hungarian Soviet Republic immediately after the war but Conservative Royalist counter-revolutionaries ("Whites") organized an army in Vienna and then established a counter-government in Szeged, led by István Bethlen, a Transylvanian aristocrat, and Miklós Horthy, the former commander in chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. The White government was supported by Romanian troops in their fight against the Reds.Starting in Western Hungary and spreading throughout the country, a White Terror began, and many Communists and other leftists were tortured and executed without trial. Radical Whites launched pogroms against the Jews, displayed as the cause of all territorial losses of Hungary. Horty's allies, the Romanian army pillaged the country when they withdrew again: livestock, machinery and agricultural products were carried to Romania in hundreds of freight cars. On Nov.16, 1919,  with the consent of Romanian forces, Horthy's army marched into Budapest. The Horthy government  imprisoned thousands of sympathizers of the defeated red government. In March, 1920, the parliament (controlled by the Whites) restored the Hungarian monarchy but postponed electing a king until left resistance (described as civil disorder) had subsided. Instead, Miklos Horthy was elected Regent and was empowered, among other things, to appoint Hungary's Prime Minister, veto legislation, convene or dissolve the parliament, and command the armed forces. He was practically a dictator. Under the Horthy regime, Hungary experienced  a sharp increase of poverty during the Great Depression and the political mood of the country shifted further towards the right. In 1932, Horthy appointed a new Prime Minister, Gyula Gömbös, and subsequently the regime moved towards close cooperation with Nazi Germany. 
Very much like Germany, Hungary and Austria, Bulgaria experienced  anti-monarchic revolutionary tendencies in the wake of WWI but in contrast to these countries, they did not result in the establishment of a republic.Tsar Ferdinand was forced, however, to abdicate in favour of his son (Boris III). Elections in March 1920 gave the Agrarians a large majority and Aleksandar Stamboliyski formed Bulgaria's first peasant government. He faced huge social problems, but succeeded in carrying out many reforms, although opposition from the middle and upper classes, the landlords and officers of the army remained powerful. The coup d'état of June 9, 1923 resulted in Stamboliykski's assassination. An extreme right-wing government under Aleksandar Tsankov took power, backed by the army and VMRO, which waged a White terror against Agrarians and Communists.  In 1926, Tsankov resigned under pressure from the Tsar and a more moderate government under Andrey Lyapchev took office. An amnesty was proclaimed but the Communists remained banned. A popular alliance, including the re-organised Agrarians, won the elections of 1931 under the name "Popular Bloc". In May 1934 another coup took place, removing the Popular Bloc from power and establishing an authoritarian military régime headed by Kimon Georgiev. But in 1935, Tsar Boris managed to remove the military régime from power, establishing a regime that allowed no political parties, and that was under his own strict control. The regime tried to remain neutral when WWII began, but gradually found itself compelled to enter into an alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Romania was a so-called liberal constitutional monarchy after WWI but it saw the rise of various nationalist, anti-semitic parties, particularly Iron Guard, which won about 15% of the votes in the general elections of 1937. From 1938 to 1944, Romania was a dictatorship. The first dictator was King Carol II, who abolished the parliamentary regime and ruled with his camarilla. After initial attempts to remain neutral in WWII, the regime chose to join the Hitler-Mussolini alliance, rather than giving in to a Soviet ultmatum.
Yugoslavia was a "liberal" monarchy formed in 1922. It was haunted by conflictual Croatian and Serb nationalism. On Jan. 6, 1929 King Alexander I suspended the constitution, banned national political parties, and assumed executive power,  hoping to curb separatist tendencies and mitigate nationalist passions. Many politicians were jailed or kept under police surveillance. Communist ideas were banned.The effect of Alexander's dictatorship was to further alienate the non-Serbs from the idea of unity He imposed a new constitution and relinquished his dictatorship in 1931. In 1934, the king was assassinated in Marseille during an official visit to France. The killer was a member of a Macedonian organization that cooperated with the Ustaše, a Croatian fascist revolutionary organization. Five years later, in 1939, the Croatian fascist leader Vladko Macek and his party succeed to achieve the creation of the Banovina of Croatia (theoretically, an autonomous region within Yugoslavia). This was possible thanks to support from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The agreement specified that Croatia was to remain part of Yugoslavia, but it was hurriedly hollowed out as Croatia built an independent political identity and established  international relations. Prince Paul submitted to further fascist pressure and signed the Tripartite Pact in Vienna on March 25,  1941, hoping to still keep Yugoslavia out of the war. But this was at the expense of popular support for Paul's regency. Senior military officers were also opposed to the treaty and launched a coup d'état when the king returned from Vienna. Army General Dušan Simovic seized power, arrested the Vienna delegation, exiled Paul, and ended the regency, giving 17-year-old King Peter full powers. In response, Hitler Germany  attacked Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, postponing the planned attack on the Soviet Union until June because Yugoslav resistance proved heavier than expected. 
Like Poland,Ukraine experienced a short moderately left rule by Socialdemocrats or Social Revolutionaries at the end of WWI. These leaders were nationalists in disagreement with Kerensky who objected to Ukrainian independence, but they were even more strongly opposed to the Bolsheviks in Ukraine and in Russia, and thus also to the young Soviet Union. A coup in April, 1918 established  Pavlo Skoropadsky, a rightist, as the strongman. He cooperated with the Germans against the reds and was forced to emigrate to Germany in Dec. 1918 when the German army withdrew. Throughout 1919, Ukraine experienced chaos as the armies of the Ukrainian Republic, the Bolsheviks, the Whites, the foreign powers of the Entente, and Poland, as well as anarchist forces led by Nestor Makhno tried to prevail. On April 21, 1920, Polish Marshal Pilsudski signed a military alliance with Ukrainian leader Symon Petliura to conduct joint operations against Soviet Russia. The attack on the Soviet Union led to a Soviet counteroffensive, but the Red Army was finally beaten back. The Treaty of Riga expanded Poland's territory eastwards but Poland sacrificed the interest of nationalist Ukrainians. Ukraine forfeited its short-lived independence and became a republic within the Soviet Union.

Young men belonging to the Fascist "Right Sector" in Ukraine. The cross within the circle is the White Power symbol. 
Photo: (c) Grossman.

Young fascists of the Svoboda party. Photo: (c) Grossman.
"Video Found Video Showing Arseniy Yatsenyuk Nazi Salute Is False.  Svoboda Party Leader-Tyahnybok Not False"

"This picture above has not been doctored, is an intentional Nazi salute and the question still remains:  Why is the U.S.A. supporting neo nazis?  Our mission on this website is to try to always bring the truth and if we are wrong or find misleading information, we will correct it.
-David Ben Moshe"      See website