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4/1/16

Ukraine: Fear and loathing in Ukraine: a very “European” protest - by Denys Gorbach and Oles Petik

Discussing the far right in Ukraine is an uneasy, or should we say an all too easy, task for international commentators. Every manifestation of nationalist feelings, incident of hate speech, street violence, or usage of politically marked symbols is immediately advertised as further proof of the horrors of “the Kiev coup regime, with its racist and fascistic programmes” (the quote is, incidentally, taken from one of the readers’ comments at oDR) or explained away in the all-too-understanding manner of Maidan sympathisers opposing Russian imperialism.

In view of the impossibility to maintain a sober analytical perspective, many observers abstain from reporting and commenting on Ukrainian issues altogether. Indeed, the hysterical polemics between Putin’s fans and Maidan’s true believers is one reason why events of major significance in Ukraine are underreported or plainly ignored in serious western media. Contradictory facts are usually framed with regard to the military conflict and diplomatic talks, in which “Ukraine” (or the “Kyiv regime”) is perceived as a monolithic entity — be it a young democracy courageously fighting off the “hybrid war” or a “fascist neoliberal puppet of Washington masters”.

Yet the events, which are too often glossed over in this manner, can actually say something important about what’s going on inside the country.


Two weeks ago, a mass protest took place in Yagotyn, a small town outside of Kyiv. Local residents, cheered on by activists from various far right groups, protested against the construction of a new temporary accommodation centre for refugees.

A week later, Lviv became the arena of intense public confrontation over an Equality Festival scheduled for 19-20 March. The church, the far right, the city council, the police, and passive yet hostile general public joined forces to prevent the event from taking place — they were outraged with the LGBT+ component of the festival’s program.

Far from being “another day in fascist Ukraine” or “one more vicious provocation of Russian secret services and lying media”, these events actually reveal a new trend that is developing today in Ukrainian society: as people learn how to come together for genuine and spontaneous mass protests, the far right is learning how to infuse these actions with their specific agenda and to lead them.

Is there a way to prevail over populism in this conflict? The answer appears to lie on the surface: the socially progressive cause is doomed to fail unless it is accompanied by the “social cause” — the struggle against austerity and falling standards of life. Unless Ukrainian liberals seriously take on the socio-economic agenda, they are bound to lose to their populist rivals. These groups are perfectly able to combine their nationalism and social conservatism with social-democratic rhetoric, thus monopolising both the right and the left.

Read the complete report:: Fear and loathing in Ukraine: a very “European” protest | openDemocracy

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