What’s Happening In Ukraine Is Not A Fascist Revolution
I’ve seen some rumblings on Tumblr about Ultra-Right wing parties dominating the Ukrainian protests in Kiev. It seems like this is an area that could use some sunlight.
Despite what a well-timed photograph might suggest, the majority of the protesters are not fascists, just like the majority of Occupy protesters were not violent Anarchists. To wit, there have been numerous reports of scuffles between violent and non-violent protesters in Kiev, the latter of which are trying to keep the violence from getting out of control.
What is happening in Kiev is not a Fascist Revolution. The gravamen of the dispute concerns the President’s unilateral decision to reject an economic accord with the EU in favor of stronger ties with Russia:
The protests broke out after President Yanukovych’s government rejected a far-reaching accord with the European Union in November 2013 in favour of stronger ties with Russia. Thousands of people, outraged that a long-standing aspiration for integration with Europe had been ditched overnight, poured into central Kiev for peaceful protests. They have occupied Independence Square, known as Maidan, ever since.
The final straw was a package of laws rushed through the Ukrainian Parliament in January that limited the right to protest, and made slander a criminal offense—a move which potentially makes any negative journalistic coverage of the Ukrainian Government a crime. The protesters (rightly) view the actions of the President as an unconscionable exercise of power that will lead to a less free society, both economically and socially.
In addition to all of this, the current President of the Ukraine has also essentially seized power as a dictator and refused to accept Constitutional reforms that would limit his power. His Government’s response to the protests has been ruthless:
The protesters were losing hope in this protracted struggle where they saw no willingness on the side of President Yanukovych to really compromise. So far, none of their demands have been really met. The president has in fact done the opposite. He tried to install new laws, he put people in jail, his government tortured activists and it has harassed people. The protesters simply do not believe there can be any decent negotiation from the president’s side.
Doctors on the ground have reported that Government forces are not simply controlling crowds, but shooting to kill:
a doctor volunteering to treat protesters, Olga Bogomolets, accused government forces of shooting to kill, saying she had treated 13 people she believed had been targeted by “professional snipers.”
"They were shot directly to their hearts, their brain and to their neck," she said. "They didn’t give any chance to doctors, for us, to save lives."
With all this being said, it is true that a Right-wing ultra-nationalist party known as Svoboda has taken a substantial role in opposition Ukrainian politics, and hence, the protests (alongside a couple smaller parties that have joined in, including a small fringe party known as Right Sector). A good summary can be found here:
Among other things, Svoboda seeks to end all immigration and ensure that all civil service jobs are filled by ethnic Ukrainians. The Nation, a leftist American publication, reported that Svoboda also seeks to ban abortions, abolish gun control, “ban the Communist ideology,” and prohibit the adoption of Ukrainian children by foreigners. In addition, Svoboda reportedly supports nuclear power (in the homeland of Chernobyl) and reinstatement of the death penalty.
Svoboda has representation in the Ukrainian parliament—36 seats in a 450-member legislature. But their politics are actually antithetical to the EU accord whose rejection triggered these protests:
The bitter irony of the current protests in Kiev is that while groups like Svoboda are adamantly opposed to the pro-Russian policies of Yanukovych, they also find the “pro-European,” pro-democracy stance of most other Euromaidan protesters anathema. Yury Noyevy, a member of Svoboda’s political council, even revealed that the party’s pro-EU stance is only temporary, a device to break off from 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.
So like many political revolutions, the politics of the Ukrainian opposition are complicated. But the groups who are more predisposed to violence are getting a disproportionate amount of media coverage. This was true even of the American Revolution, when the majority of American colonists did not even participate in the war. As the old saying goes in journalism, "if it bleeds, it leads."
Does any of this mean the United States get involved? No. The law of unintended consequences is nowhere more prevalent than in the geopolitics of old Soviet republics. Official, materialsupport for the protesters invites another Cold War with Russia. But that doesn’t mean the cause of the protesters isn’t a just one. The fact that Right-wing Extremists see this as an opportunity to seize power doesn’t suddenly make the protests invalid. If anything, it was the looming threat of Fascism from an overbearing government that ignited the protests to begin with. It is absolutely concerning that hardcore Right-wing groups in Ukraine are trying to use the protest as a way to seize Government control and consolidate power. But that doesn’t undermine the legitimate grievances which triggered these protests to begin with.
Update: opposition leaders have signed a deal to end the crisis, which has not sit well with the ultra-Right Wing parties that are supposedly dominating the protests. Demonstrating further that Right-wing Extremists represent a violent, loud minority in Ukraine.