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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Attempting to have a mature conversation

Topical ideas and proposals of a roundtable between Den and the third sector. Subject – “Systemic political crisis in Ukraine, phase – Euromaidan”
24 December, 2013 - 11:57
“WE ARE EUROPE” / Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

Last weekend Euromaidan celebrated an anniversary of sorts – 31 days of protest. A month ago Kyiv’s Independence Square gathered about a hundred Ukrainians outraged by the Mykola Azarov Cabinet’s decision to suspend signing the EU Association Agreement. That was the beginning of Euromaidan’s first – romantic – phase.

Three weeks ago Den carried a front-page article, “What Will Rally Ukrainians after the Maidan?” The Maidan has changed three times in the past three weeks – on December 1 it turned, under the pressure of the nighttime clampdown on students, from romantic into reactive, and then, stimulated by riot police truncheons on Bankova St. and the intransigent Ukrainian judiciary, into revolutionary. Yet the question we asked on November 26 still remains unanswered. In this article we put forward, as a reply to the front-page question, an idea to establish a “Europlatform” of sorts as a consolidated movement based on moral values. The idea’s author is Den’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna. “There are very many intellectuals here, and I am convinced they are bound to open pages in Facebook to hold an intellectual debate on the principles that will form the European Platform as a broad-based movement of youth. And there will be a result,” the editor-in-chief said to Euromaidan strikers in the evening of November 27. “This may bring forth a more active political organization. You should look for brilliant young leaders. I am sure they are here. This must be used to ‘knead new political dough.’”

As it was to be expected, the reaction was not very active. Yet we invited some representatives of the NGOs that showed activity on Euromaidan to Den’s editorial office earlier last week to have a meaningful discussion of the current situation and the ways out of it. “It is important to understand how this Euromaidan began. How did it enter the political phase? Why did politicians lose control of the Maidan? What impulses did the Maidan trigger? Is society prepared to form its demands to politicians both in power and in opposition? Can these demands be political? We must understand at what stage we are now and what this means for the country,” Ms. Ivshyna noted at the roundtable.

The debate can be roughly divided into two parts. In the first one, roundtable participants shared their ideas of Euromaidan – what it was and is now. The other thing we discussed was Euromaidan’s bottom line – the immediate and ultimate goals to tap the “energy of the million.”

THESIS ONE: “WHAT EUROMAIDAN WAS AT FIRST AND IS NOW”

Oleksii ARESTOVYCH, psychologist, political writer, author of the Warm Ocean Strategy:

“There is too much emotion and too little rationale on Euromaidan today. What is Euromaidan now? It is a gathering of many very good, above all, young and emotional people who are ready to sacrifice themselves and dream, from the bottom of their hearts, about a better life. Euromaidan is based on ‘please’ and ‘welcome.’ But it is very easy, unfortunately, to hypnotize this society by drawing and withdrawing the police baton. Once the baton is drawn, there’s improvised defense and no rational actions. Once the baton is withdrawn, we celebrate a night of peace with [pop group] Okean Elzy. No matter where we go to – the EU or the Customs Union, – we won’t do without rational thinking.

“This rally can be figuratively called ‘women’s revolt.’ It is very womanish (in the worst meaning of the word) to sit down on a sack, cover it with the hem of the skirt, and do nothing else. I am saying this figuratively and in no way want to insult women, for most of them really show rational thinking on the Maidan.

“And attempting to take offices by storm and actively work on the Maidan is manifestation of the masculine principle. It is a call for men not to ‘bash it all’ but to think rationally.

“But the feminine principle is getting the upper hand on the Maidan now, for it is always in for emotional outbursts. Should we hold out? We do… And what is next?

“The Ukrainian feminine principle is a mother who keeps peace and wants things to be quiet. The people’s ‘guiding spirit’ was shot dead long ago near Berestechko. We lost 15 million people in the 20th century.

“The Maidan has been in a blind alley for a week now. It is time to stop hysterics and speak seriously about what we are going to do. Where will the Maidan’s energy go? There are some preconditions for such an open discussion. For example, the Warm Ocean Strategy that I have created says clearly that common good must be the primary goal, a common benefit for Donetsk and Lviv, protesters and riot police.

“The common good is a very rational category. It first occurs in Aristotle’s Politics.

“Hot heads are accusing Euromaidan today of a counterrevolution. But it is an absolutely canonized protest. In reality, it is not spreading anywhere.

“The Maidan itself is undoubtedly a symbol of unity. You can be infected with the spirit of protest on it. So, naturally, it should be supported. But one must show activity not only on the Maidan.

“In 2004, during the Orange Revolution, I was a General Intelligence Directorate officer. As I saw from the inside what was going on, I promptly resigned my commission. What was going on there and was evident on the Maidan was intolerable. I was on Euromaidan in the first three nights, when nothing was clear so far and it was necessary to set things into motion and support the people.”

Oleksandr HONTAR, blogger, photographer, author of the initiative “Take Yulia’s Portrait down from the Christmas tree”:

“The Maidan is quieter now. The same applies to me, an ordinary participant. I was near the Presidential Administration on December 1. I am not a provocateur. I am an active person who was angry enough at the government and wanted to change something. I think it is a normal reaction for a person of my age. I was lucky to be near the administration on December 1 and, moreover, to clear away just in time. After the well-known events, I reconsidered my potential capabilities. I think Euromaidan should also reconsider its capabilities.

“For example, my friends and I understood that people needed to be mobilized. Once in a few days we used to go and spend the night there. We always maintained mobile communication.

“Unfortunately, Euromaidan has made no essential progress since the day it was born. Yanukovych and his company and partially the opposition were and still are far away from ordinary people. There is a certain rift between the people and the leaders. They are not always heedful of what we are saying.”

Vasyl HATSKO, chairman, political party Democratic Alliance:

“In April this year we were ‘reckless enough’ to march to Mezhyhiria [presidential country retreat. – Ed.]. It was a story full of processions, detentions, and new processions… We’ve been learning to live in the conditions of never-ending pressure in the past seven months. So we should speak today about a short-term goal – to change power.

“The Maidan has lost dynamism now. It is quite difficult to keep up this dynamics. Not to lose the small gains of Euromaidan’s month, one must look for solutions. I am convinced that the Maidan must become a bridgehead for us. This is the only way to keep the process going – from not only the physical, but also the political and intellectual angle.

“We should not have been dragging our feet after the defenders managed to retain the Maidan. What was the result? Although hundreds of intellectuals are drawing up scenarios of Maidan developments, nobody is listening to them. There is a yawning gap between intellectuals, active groups, and the decision-making center. I am not saying this gap can’t be bridged. It is hardly possible to draw any benefit from this, but it is quite possible to lay a small bridge across.

“The point is that the messages and ideas that are now coming out of the mouths of parliamentary opposition are outdated. ‘Down with the Gang!’ and ‘Free Yulia!’ is a bit wrong. People came to the Maidan not only for this. There is no clear-cut articulation today. The decision making and announcing center is a podium on the square, to which all activists have no access.

“The political offensive continues. It may finally ruin the majority. And although this does not look realistic today, they are already feeling great risks.

“It is clear to Euromaidan activists that, while Yanukovych will reach 2015 without any losses, we will perhaps not live to see that year. Mechanisms will be found to crush civic activity centers on a mass scale. In history, similar active protests used to bring down regimes. That our regime is still standing firmly is an indication of certain weakness of Ukraine’s political parties, NGOs, and third sector in general.

“The ‘million’s’ energy has not been utilized. We need a structured society. Our third sector has proved to be just unprepared for this. Among other things, they also mistrust one another.”

Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

Ruslan ROKHOV, coauthor of the idea to rally around Euromaidan’s public initiatives, a co-initiator of the political association “Power of the People”:

“After gaining independence, Ukraine left the system unchanged. In a way, it still remains the Ukrainian SSR that has the same set of institutions and applies the same methods of action. Unfortunately, when we became independent we failed to launch the process of ‘bottom-to-top’ state formation. Today’s Ukraine is a ‘top-to-bottom built’ structure. It is former Young Communist League functionaries and Higher Party School graduates who received and have been building this country for 22 years – they quickly chose the ‘right’ pattern of behavior and knew where to apply pressure and what was decisive in the struggle. The intelligentsia that came to power in the 1990s – writers and artists – mostly spoke about symbols, such as the anthem, embroidered shirts, etc. Instead, emphasis should have been put on the economy and other more pragmatic things. Then people came more or less to their senses, became aware of their rights and dignity, and rose up in 2004. We missed the first chance to build a new system at the time. An overall emotional upsurge and a desire of changes is not a change itself. Something is to be done. But this energy was dispelled at the time. This resulted in no good.

“Eighty two percent of the people who throng the Maidan support neither the government nor the opposition. It looks like a protest of those who are against everything. The protesting students did not want to stand under political flags. For them, politicians are not more than perpetrators. They don’t view them as leaders. After the romantic Euromaidan had been dispersed, politicians simply ‘grabbed’ the situation. This is why we can see a gap between the young activists and the opposition.

“Whoever thinks that when Euromaidan is over Ukraine will become a different country is making a glaring mistake. Even if other people assume governmental offices but continue to play by the same rules, this will do this country no good. It is time to change the system and do what we missed at the beginning of independence – to build a bottom-to-top pattern of government. To pursue this very goal, we have established the political association ‘Power of the People.’ It is not today or yesterday that we began this. We understood long ago that this country had come to an acute political crisis. We understood that we would come out on Euromaidan, but what next? It is too little. One must outline goals and plans, distribute responsibilities, and work hard every day. This is still topical today. It is not for Tymoshenko or against Yanukovych that people keep standing on the Maidan. They are standing for a change of the system.

“I think opposition leaders are very well aware of the people’s mood. But if they still keep a low profile, they will be asked what they were doing all this time.

“At a closer examination, the Party of Region does not differ much from [the opposition bloc] Batkivshchyna. How can essentially totalitarian forces like these be building democracy in this country?”

Larysa IVSHYNA, editor-in-chief, newspaper Den/The Day:

“It is a moot point. We had enough democracy in the early 20th century, while there was a dictator, Pilsudski, in the neighboring Poland. He put communists to prison and forbade his citizens to ‘sneak off’ to Moscow. Thus is why there was a ‘Miracle on the Vistula’ and, unfortunately, no ‘Miracle on the Dnipro.’

“Den has published an article on the mistake of Skoropadsky who opted for federation with Moscow. He did so due to the problem of ‘three hetmanships.’ On the other hand, the Directory was also wrong to try to oust Skoropadsky, for he was the only educated leader at the time. This was the drama. You should know when it is time to pressure and when to adequately assess your own strength. And, to do this, you should learn history very well.

“You are right to say that we must demand today that parties and politicians report back – but not only on funding, but also about selling places on their election lists.

“Your demands and ideas look unrealistic today, but they are right. That the opposition leaders, who were running for parliamentary seats, were doomed was a foregone conclusion. They began to vie with bigger shots, applying methods of the latter on their territory to boot.

“Euromaidan protesters do not need these methods. But it is an open question in what way they can continue to fight.

“The Maidan’s achievement is a peaceful nonviolent protest at that stage. People showed a peaceful disagreement to the country’s U-turn. Then there was a different story. But the government was helpless against this. It was aware of this and, for this reason, there were provocations.

“This brought about an attempt to take the sting out of the public protest. We must see what conclusions can be drawn from this for the future.

“I agree with you that we must think today over the forms, content, and political demands of Euromaidan, over the immediate and ultimate goals. On the eve of the Vilnius Summit, Den called for the formation of a European platform. This idea was intended for the students who had staged Euromaidan. At present, this platform may be regarded as just an alliance of organizations that are already represented on the Maidan. On what principles are they to unite?

“Den has never ceased to work with society – neither in 2004 nor now. We are prepared to offer our experience to the society that reads and understands us and is ready to work for changes. There should be 3 to 5 items that are certain to rally the third sector and show preparedness for being a political force.”

R.R.: “Representatives of different strata of the population have come out on the Maidan. Among them are people who view themselves as part of the civic sector only and those who are ready to go into politics. The latter are trying to do more and to assume responsibility. But not all of them are prepared for unification. I took part in the negotiations of several groups. We tried to smooth over the differences, reach a compromise, and make a deal whenever there were any points of contact. All the sides managed to agree that political prisoners must be freed, all criminal proceedings connected with Euromaidan events should be dropped and those guilty of the clampdown be punished. Some of the demands have been met. But there are new problems. All the Euromaidan activists are being summoned to the prosecution and security services to testify. But nobody is saying about this on the Maidan podium. It is a very bad sign.

“It should be clear to all that if there are no snap parliamentary or presidential elections, all the activists who reared their heads on the Maidan will be in danger. The have already been blacklisted. We are all under suspicion. So the Maidan’s third sector must put forward a third demand – the government should guarantee no repressions.

“I will say it again: the Maidan has gathered representatives of different strata of the population. The attempt to have a dialogue is a positive signal. Bu we must continue to work without too much emotion. The question is: what is the common interest and what should we do for this? The third sector is varied. But there is one dike on our way, and we must break it through. Then we will flow in different directions. Why is it difficult for us to tap the Maidan’s energy? There is no fulcrum, i.e., a common goal that everybody understands and from which one can choose the things which he or she can realize on their own. Various organizations have shown the way to do this – some is in charge of food supply, others care for accommodation. Everybody gas found a place to apply their efforts to. And if we get back to the political side of the matter, i.e., other policies and political parties, we must say that if people keep exerting this of pressure on their political force, this will result in changes. But when will this occur? When the people who elect a party have an impact on this party’s program. When people create a program of their own, they know that it is their own product and they will invest their money in it. Only then there will be changes.

“How can people influence the decisions of the ones they have elected? When a voter comes to know that he or she cast their vote for a party that failed to keep its promises, they will never vote for it again.”

L.I.: “We cannot so far afford this luxury. We have no political memory at all.”

R.R.: “But there is an alternative.”

L.I.: “There will be no alternative as long as we let the past sit at the negotiating table. I am not saying we must act radically – come and throw away the ‘creator’ of the system. But it is also inadmissible to let him play the role of a negotiator or, much less, a peacemaker. There should be a reflection. Take even this Maidan: its speakers must react to this. We can bear this now, but it is abnormal. It is a problem for awareness that does not grow as a civil action. A large number of people have thronged the streets, but intellectual progress in just a few good and wise placards.”

Viktoria PODHORNA, political scientist:

“I can see now a major problem called ‘lack of strategic compromise.’ I mean among society and political groups in general. It is a very dangerous situation which can cost us if not the whole sovereignty then a part of it for sure. I wrote an analytical report on the Maidan today, and my forecasts were rather deplorable about the current situation of all the three key players: the government, the opposition, and the Maidan.

“Changing the system is high on the Maidan’s agenda. Why did this occur? We can see that the elite that has been formed in the past 20 years is of a catastrophically low quality. This quality cannot lead to a compromise. It is a regional post-Soviet-minded conglomerate which wants to impose on society its own concept referred to as ‘a one-side game will bring us everything.’ Compromise is not part of their vocabulary. They don’t understand altogether why compromises are needed.

“For a compromise is the basis of any legitimacy. Despite all the financial and coercive resources they have, their crisis is a clay wheel that can ‘fly off’ at any moment. And this wheel is hanging over the almost entire country.

“Secondly, there is such thing as counter-elites. Is the opposition a counter-elite? I began to analyze this for myself and came to a conclusion that it contradicts the idea of counter-elite. There are some very strange relationships between the opposition and those who fund it but belong to the government. The opposition and the government cannot possibly be funded by the same people. And, what is more, the opposition maintains no links with society. Nor does it have a streamlined system of working with society, and no one is going to do so. Coming out on the Maidan, they still think that the main thing is to radiate their faces and periodically climb the podium so that the grassroots do not overshadow them. But where are the real processes? Establishing these links is a guarantee that Ukraine will follow the path of democracy. And the authorities can do nothing when parties cooperate with society. If they spent two years working with society, they could use this reserve.

“We can see no strategic ideas today. Ordinary people are coming to the Maidan to ask a natural question: what is to be done? What politicians are delivering from the podium sounds good but, in reality, this is totally washing away the ongoing processes, which is dangerous. For this means they are using human energy for not so reasonable purposes. So I am asking: what is the opposition doing? It is as much to be blamed for what is going on as are the authorities which do not consider compromises at all. The opposition did its best to thwart the signing of the Association Agreement and the reset of everything. And its calls for the government to resign sound absurd and dangerous. They know only too well that the government will never agree to do so. And if you set such absolutely unrealistic demands, you will perhaps pull the plug on the whole thing.

“Saying that the government is illegitimate, we are also playing with fire. The government may as well make a U-turn and say: we are not legitimate here but we will obtain external legitimacy – we will go to Moscow to sign the Customs Union agreement; Putin guarantees us being in power, and you sort out things later. In a situation like this, it will be more difficult to struggle than it is now. Do we want NATO to move in its troops and trigger a civil war? No one wants this. But the opposition is behaving rather irresponsibly.

“From what I heard last, after fueling the people’s passions on the Maidan, they may obtain a narrow agreement, some partial concessions, that will appease the people. And then? How will the Maidan respond to this after setting such tough conditions and being in revolt for so long a time?

“I think civil society has an immense potential which the Maidan organized and supported, to be frank, without any political parties. In any case, the opposition does not interact with society. I believe we should not only reach the level of a platform, but also hold the opposition by the short hairs. As the opposition has more resources, we should take some alternative actions. We should scare the opposition a little and show that if they go on doing nothing, the public itself will come and offer solutions. The main thing here is to find a common language with the people who really form the Maidan’s ‘core’ and try to do it as fast as possible. We are very short of time.”

By Alla DUBROVYK, Vadym LUBCHAK, The Day
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