Ishchenko: For nuance
In “Maidan or anti-Maidan? The Ukraine situation requires more nuance,” sociologist Volodymyr Ishchenko attempts to carve out a progressive socialist position on the Ukraine conflict, one that would “support progressive wings of both Maidan and anti-Maidan, and try to unite them against the Ukrainian ruling class and against all nationalisms and imperialisms on shared demands for social justice.”
A few quotes:
“The anti-Maidans in the east are no more irrational than Maidan protestors who were hoping for the European dream but gained (quite expectedly) a neoliberal government, IMF-required austerity measures and increasing prices. In the eastern Ukrainian protests, “Russia” – with its higher wages and pensions – plays the same role of utopian aspiration as “Europe” played for the Maidan protestors. The economic situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate and the national currency has lost more than 50% of its value in two months, so the protestors in the Donetsk region are talking more about the socio-economic problems the Ukrainian state was not able to solve for 23 years: collapsed enterprises, unemployment and low wages. They demand nationalisation and decent rewards for their labour.
“It will sound paradoxical for those who celebrated grassroots self-organisation in the Maidan, but the anti-Maidan protests in eastern Ukraine are even more grassroots, decentralised, network-type and leaderless at the moment. Neither the Party of Regions nor the Communist Party of Ukraine play the same role of political representation for anti-Maidan as the three former opposition parties did for Maidan. The so called “representative of south-eastern Ukraine”, the former Kharkiv region governor Mykhailo Dobkin, whom Russia was going to invite to the negotiations with the EU and US on an equal basis with the Kiev government, was violently booed by protestors in Lugansk. Equally, they do not trust the oligarchic elite of eastern Ukrainian origin; or the wealthiest person in Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov, who has taken on a peacemaker role; or the new Donetsk governor Serhiy Taruta. And they do not want the discredited and corrupt Yanukovych back.
“The social base of the protest seems to be more plebeian, poorer and less educated than on Maidan; we see more workers and pensioners and not so many intellectuals and higher-educated professionals who would help to formulate clear demands and defend them in the media.
“This is precisely why these protests can be so easily influenced from the outside. It is not difficult to intervene, provoke and manipulate a decentralised revolt of scared people to serve Russian interests.”
Political scientist Andreas Umland‘s response to the piece is also worth sharing:
“Interesting position from Volodymyr Ishchenko. Though, I think, it compares apples with oranges. The practical political weight, social implications and policy impact of Russian imperial nationalism and Ukrainian ethnic nationalism are of different orders. Also, as far as I understood Marxism, bourgeois modernity is clearly preferable to pre-modern autocracy. Equidistance would thus mean imbalance. Individual emancipation can come only come after national emancipation. Civil and political rights precede social rights. A neo-liberal Ukraine, as a candidate for, and later member of, the EU, may not be ideal, but is still preferable to the other viable alternatives. Following an utopian ideal should not lead one to normative relativism. It is not all black and white. But it is also not all grey.”