Djagalov: a call for “political hygiene”

18 03 2014

In “Dangerous Liaisons: Ukraine and the Western Slavists,” Rossen Djagalov calls for “a certain minimum of political hygiene and scholarly honesty” among observers of the Ukraine crisis. The article provides an example of the kind of nuanced reflection that navigates the terrain between the perspectives of Snyder and McGovern (see previous post).

A few excerpts:

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“[T]he moment is urgent and sides need to be taken. [. . .] 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.”

The full article can be read here.





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