Sunday, August 13, 2006

From an Email on Moroz, the Left, Lutsenko, Ty and Ljubi Druzi

Trust me that I understand 100% the predicament of a disaffected Leftist--plenty about the Left in the US and the West in general is far from satisfactory, and the history of Western European social democrats (stooges of colonialism) and communists (stooges of the USSR) leaves much to be desired. The only respectable ones have been fringes of the fringe, such as the autonomia in Italy, etc. When it comes to Ukraine, well. . .Oleskandr Moroz and the rest of the Socialists who went with him just obliterated my hope that there was emerging a mainstream, left-wing party in Ukraine worthy of respect and support--and I think some long-time observers of Ukraine might consider me foolish to have even considered this Moroz-led Socialist Party as having such potential. Also, Yuri Lutsenko, now a former member of the Socialist Party, is troubling me. Quick background: Lutsenko was an OR leader-turned-pretty-good-Minister of the Interior (by Ukrainian standards) who was brought into government by Ty, and who was left in his position when Yu fired Ty. Which Yu did, if I may digress, like a little boy fighting with a little girl on a playground because the little girl had "bigger balls" than the little boy, who then felt he had to prove that he was more powerful just by virtue of having balls that he nonetheless didn't know how to use effectively. This is a crude way to put it, of course, but. . .I suggested, at about this time last year, that many "analysts" of Ukraine were producing post-lapsarian narratives in which Ty was the Eve in the Garden of the Orange Revolution. To my mind, her treatment by Yu and the Our Ukraine good ol' boys since her sacking vindicate the observation--for Yu i joho ljubi druzi, Ty has been something of an Eve they have been desperate to keep out of their garden.

Btw, the above statements are based on some recent observations of real playground dynamics. In our neighborhood park, Julija and I often encounter Nastja, one tough little 5 yr old girl who is always doing, and proudly saying that she can do, whatever the boys do. Yesterday she asked her grandmother for her cane because one of the boys in the playground had hit her and taken something from her; babushka smiled as she let Nastja run off with the cane and proceeded to chase the boy all over the playground! Later, recalling the event to my Julija's mama, I thought out-loud that Ty should have been given such a stick in the Ukrainian playground. Ty's trouble, however, was that she had Yu to look to for assistance instead of the backing of granny-grandaughter solidarity. I hope that my Julija grows to be a bit like Nastja, and that she takes on some of the fighting spirit with which her namesake is karmically endowed. But I do digress.

My trouble with Yuri Lutsenko is that he pledged he would not, under any circumstance, work in a Ya cabinet but has now decided to stay in his post with Ya as his boss. Perhaps his mouth ran ahead of his mind a few times (he made this claim more than once), but in the context of Ukraine's politics, this does not look good--he looks like all the rest of the bad politicians who do things for power rather than principle and who therefore consistently make contradictory statements and acts. I do, however, appreciate that he resigned from the Socialist Party after Moroz's perfidy--I am now, btw, certain that Moroz is a svoloch. So no conclusions, yet, about Lutsenko: I will give him a chance. Is he being pragmatic, trying to have a positive impact? It is, indeed, very important that a pro-OR (i.e., a pro-democratization) person remain Interior Minister (to my mind it is already clear that the Regions have made no conversions). However, is it perhaps it is the fact because he, allegedly, was good at getting-nothing-much-done under Yu (if that is true) that makes him trustworthy to Ya [corrections inspired by comment]? The to my mind rather cynical Maksymiuk (cheif of RFE's Ukraine desk) suggested so in the article I posted earlier to my blog. So. . .is Lutsenko, or is Yu, responsible for the failure to bring a single high-profile case to court since the OR? Is Lutsenko a stonewalling Interior Minister, an outsider to the ideals of the OR who pretended to be an insider and who is secretly working for his own agenda, whatever that may be, a la Oleksandr Moroz? Or is he simply hungry to keep power after having gotten a taste of it? I don't know. I don't want to expect the worst of most or all Ukraine's politicians, but recent events pretty much demand that one should.

Come to think of it, I had a similar crisis of uncertainty when the semi-progressive Senator Paul Wellstone (from the state of Minnesota) declared that he would run for a second term. Wellstone had pledged he would not run for a second term while campaigning for his first; the pledge was part of his populist attack on "career politicians." I was happy when he said he was going to run again--I agreed with him that he was needed in the Senate as the most progressive senator in the time of the GW onslaught. So maybe Lutsenko is taking a similar position. I want to believe him. But I will have to let his further actions speak. (Wellstone, btw, in the context of the US Congress, was almost a Communist--or, um, that's what his detractors said, conditioned as they were by the fact that the US consensus is so far to the right that anyone with a left toe is a Communist, but now I preach to the choir. Two great books from which to derive talking points to counter the BS about a contemporary liberal, let alone left, bias/consensus in the US are this and this. The first book is excellent in its analysis of how, even in more domestically liberal times, the US consensus has usually been much to the Right of the European, continental consensus. The title of the second book has inspired me to ruminate on taking its title and rewriting its theme as What's the Matter with Donbas?--a book to explain the similar dynamic in Ukraine as in the US whereby people vote for and/or support politicians and businessmen who ultimately stand against the common interest.)


Anonymous said...

"perhaps it is the fact that he was good at getting-nothing-much-done under Yu" - this is balderdash and totally untrue.

See the whole quote and your depiction is a bit off from "an uncompromising custodian of the "Augean Stables" ------ and also note that as IM - Lutsenko CANNOT open nor prosecute cases - look to the General Prosecutor for that. And for the longest time Piskun sat in that seat. What cases Lutsenko had he faithfully followed up but if they are dismissed such as the recent one against Kolesnikov? What can he do?

No surprise that Lutsenko was hospitalized with high bood pressure on the day of Yanukovych's appt. as PM.

"Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a former Socialist Party member who is now independent, is also seen as a Yushchenko man in the government. Lutsenko, an iconic leader of the Orange Revolution, is widely seen as an uncompromising custodian of the "Augean Stables," to which Ukraine's notoriously corrupt police force is sometimes compared.

In accepting his post, Lutsenko asserted that he sees the possibility of implementing the president's policy in Yanukovych's cabinet. However, most Ukrainians have apparently not yet forgotten that he completely failed to implement a major tenet of the Orange Revolution - "bandits will go to jail" - in the preceding cabinets of Yuliya Tymoshenko and Yuriy Yekhanurov. No major investigation by the Interior Ministry into corruption or election falsification has resulted in jail terms. It is hard to imagine that Lutsenko will be more successful now that some of the "bandits" have returned to the government."

Anonymous said...

And you don't need to write What's the Matter with Donbas - instead read Donetska mafia by Kuzin if not already done so.

It is about the people currently come to power and the voters who believed in them - no surprise that their media has been controlled.

Stefan said...

I was thinking out loud in that post about Lutsenko. The main point was that I felt uncertain about him. I do think, very much so, that Maksymiuk was meaning to suggest that Lutsenko was ineffective, so I was following a bit of what he said. But to no conclusions of my own. I thought the way I wrote that email-turned-blogpost made that clear enough. And in the previous post, I had asked, in rx to Maksymiuk's comment, whether the failure to bring any cases to trial was indeed Lutsenko's (i.e., a failure to truly carry out investigations) or was the result of a lack of political will from those higher up, especially Yushchenko (i.e., a failure to initiate any cases in the courts, with Piskun around, etc.). I do tend to think that it is more of the latter. And about Maksymiuk: if you read him consistently since before, during, and after the OR, you will detect a strand in his writing that has always been deeply skeptical of the opposition-turned-Orange-Revolutionaries. Hence, I do think he was meaning to suggest that Lutsenko was not himself effective. Thrown into a world of doubt due to the recent events in Ukraine, I was more willing to entertain this time around Maksymiuk's skepticism. Perhaps I worded it too strongly--I am undecided. I have been told by friends in Ukraine, and have had the impression myself and have written on this blog before, that he was one of the most effective of post-OR politicians. Maybe he is. You seem certain. Good.

As they say, power corrupts and people who start off in politics with good intentions can become addicted to power and corrupted, and merely a part of the system in just this way: by saying to one's self, "I need to stay, I must stay, to keep the flame alive." This is how Castro partially perverted the Cuban Revolution and is where Hugo Chavez seems like he's going (letting paranoia get the best of him and his ideals so that he turns to the unfortunate, pragmatic-in-the-worst-of-ways philosophy of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." What a shame. The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela had such promise--and it may still have it.) So my third main point, drawn in the comparison to Wellstone, was do you trust someone who so easily reverses his pledge to not continue in office? I eventually trusted Wellstone again, but never was able to see if that renewed faith was to be vindicated by his deeds, as he died in a plane crash right before the elections. I think I will trust Lutsenko again.

About the book: I remember reading of its publication and subsequently have forgotten. Thanks for the reminder; I will look at it and hope that it is the equal of Frank's book. You say Kuzin's book is about both both the "businessmen" and politicians, and the people who support them. This sounds promising. Frank's book, while it does provide a catalogue of some of the main Figures and Events of the Business-Politician-Media nexus that has worked in the US so well to dupe so many, also explores the reasons why people are willing to be duped--it is also social and cultural analysis of the grassroots support of those forces. This is what I find interesting. The reasons for supporting and voting for politicians/platforms that are against the long-term, best interest of their kith and kin between working-class supporters of the Republican Party and industrial workers of Eastern Ukraine are both similar and different, and worth exploring. Most observers of Ukraine already know the answers to this or have ideas; what I am getting at is that it would be great to see an English-language study of this topic. I hope this book proves worthy of translation into English along those lines, and wonder if it has been translated or if there are plans to translate it. . .


Anonymous said...

Come on Stefan, I think that this guy has got your # on this one. You wrote, in the notes you sent me of your talk in Minneapolis on the Orange Revolution, "The leadership of Yuri Lutsenko in the Ministry of the Interior is a sign of the positive impact of the Orange Revolution, though the political infighting and lack of a strong will on the part of Yushchenko has severely weakened his own ability to pursue his work."

You have often changed your mind about Ukraine's top figures.

During your fist summer in Ukraine, you initiated your list-serve with an 8pp. MS Word document that was, for the most part, a great bit of ethnography about your beloved Pidhajtsi. However, in it you began reflecting on the coming elections, and wrote sth like, "Yushchenko is too much of a neoliberal for me to be truly excited about him as an opposition leader." But come the Orange Revolution and suddenly Yushchenko was, to your mind, something of a social democrat--not a neoliberal.

Your thoughts on Tymoshenko have also been constantly shifting, and now you have given up hope/faith in Moroz.

As far as I am concerned, those of us who agreed with the Guardian writers as per the so-called revolution in orange in Ukraine are looking rather vindicated.

They all are oligarchs just the same. Tymoshenko will do no more than the others to change the country.

Ukraine needs a sustained mass movement with highly visible leaders that are not politicians. It also needs better, more effective politicians. Your more ethnographic writings about Pidhajtsi, your family histories, and your video work and thoughts on the grassroots are the best part of your blog. Please keep up that good work.

Love n Rage,

Stefan said...

Alright, you both are right. . .my faith in Lutsenko was rather easily shaken with the whole mess that the Rada became.

About Yu: you're right, BlacKhrist to point this out. I took down the link to the IndyMedia interview that I did in the heat of the OR. . .the one in which I called Yu a social democrat and asked why the US would want to support this guy?

That was, um, dumb. I was carried away by the moment, I suppose, and also--and this is something that Kuzio has remarked on--as the elections neared, Yu was talking the talk of social democracy and social justice. Bandits will go to jail, housinig projects and job creation (the implication seemed through government-sponsored programs), healthcare, etc. But it was all sloganeering. He really kept just talking about "a normal life," about cleaning house, about "clean politics," and about the EU. What were his specific plans for achieving these things? Mum was narly the word--but plenty of hints were there. It would be the market, of course, that would save the country. I should have paid more attention.

Kuzio pointed out somewhere that what Yu more or less did was pick up much of Ty's firey rhetoric as the elections neared. But Yu always delivered it in a much more flat or dry manner than Ty, of course--but nonetheless, his ratings went up and up as he increasingly selected more populist/social democratic/social justice stances and slogans.

Turns out that we was not serious about social justice and that he was miserable at implementing his own neoliberal agenda.

Moroz--I have previously neither wholeheartedly defended nor rejected him. But now I see him for the power-hungry SOB that most others have regarded him to be.

Ty--though I do give her the most approval in my mind, I do reserve some percentage of doubt/skepticism. She does look right now as the most promising, in terms of principle, of the top political leaders in Ukraine. And I do believe her story of conversion from post-Soviet oligarch to principled opposition, though. To my mind she has yet to disprove that the label of a "dissident oligarch" (Kuzio coinage) suits her.

Thanks for the compliment about the videos, etc. I won't be getting back to that kind of work for a while--heading back to Ukraine for a two weeks this Tu and won't be writing much and certainly won't be doing any video-editing.

Stefan said...

Oh, about feeling vindicated--Don't get ahead of yourself.

US support most certainly was there and played an important role in the immediate success of the OR, but any talk of how it happened that subtracts the actions and passions of the multitude of Ukrainians is an incomplete story.

This narrative of a top-down revolution involving Ukraine's top brass and foreign governments (of the West) parallels the dominant story of how the USSR fell apart, and both narratives subtract a fundamental part of the story.

Some literature has been coming out for a while that challenges the dominant view that the USSR collapsed due to a top-down revolution of sorts. One great book--A Carnival of Revolution--puts the multitude or the people back at the center as the motors of change. Internal, grassroots pressure and everyday, commonplace forms of resistance to the USSR and its hegemony of Central Europe led as much if not more to the collapse as did competition with the West and Gorbachev's reforms.

The same has to be said of the OR, regardless of its result.

Anonymous said...


You write and do your blog HOW YOU WANT TO!!!!!

political/apolitical/village life/political commentary --- do it your way and I am SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY that I wrote my orig. comment re: Lutsenko, if it caused you to change. So what if you have dissenters or change your political views (all of us can grow and change and shift as events/people/realities progress and thrive) So f***ing what? you changed your mind -- that is not BAD that is GOOD GOOD GOOD - it means that you are not an entrenched fanatic or extremist but a thinker!!!! Be proud! Be strong! and let your ideas FREE!

Anonymous said...

Oh and another thing Stefan,
You know WHY I read your posts????

because I do not agree with u. It forces me to challenge my own views and thoughts. Face to face - we would not agree (I would mutter pinko tree huggin liberal while you would say nra lovin republican rightist) BUT SO WHAT? It is all good - because we are both right.

For ex. when does a person become a thief? when they were born? when they think of stealing something? when they commited the action? and are they ever redeemed? and how? through sitting in prison? repentance?

Life is complicated, paradoxical, tough and really complex! So I really want you to express your views and I really want to read them! And don't you ever back down or apologize for changing your mind!

Again and for the last time, pls. don't water this site down into a nostalgic country life frieze. I mean don't get me wrong I do appreciate the beauties of that but I come to this site more for the beauty of your voice.

Stefan said...

Well gosh! Thanks for this defense. BK is an old acquaintence who thinks that he is out-lefting the left; I think he fails and that his thinking flows at that point in which the left regresses and meets the extreme right as a similar/familiar shade of fascism. Nonetheless we love to provoke one another--as your comments provoke me. Thanks for commenting and thanks for reading. I agree that debate is a crucial element of democracy, whatever that may be!

Also, I may not be as much a bleeding heart as you may think. I am not the kind of liberal--in fact, I don't describe myself as liberal--that thinks that people who take up guns and struggle against occupations and injustices are as equally at fault as those who do the occupying and exploiting. I am by far not 100% pacifist. I do not blame the victims of Western occupations and Western-backed wars, and of Western-backed dictatorships, and of Islamic fundamentalist regimes for their rage. I think that, first and foremost, STATES need to stop being terrorists on the behalf of fundamentalist interests if there is to be lasting peace.

Market and Islamic fundamentalism are equally destructive; and yet it is crucial to understand that the latter rose in response to the former--and it is crucial to understand that the fomer is not a beacon of peace and democracy, but destructive and pernicious.

States need to stop being terrorists on the behalf of market-fundamentalism, Islamic-fundamentalism, or any other kind of fundamentalism, such as the spread of so-called liberty/democracy by force of arms--bonpartism fails again and again, yet people continue to think they can liberate the world by force of arms/armies/State power. The US and the USSR were equally guilty of a kind of bonapartism; however, it is clear that the leaders of both sides cared little for actual, real liberty and more for power and prestige. The latest Napolean in Washington is walking with fewer and fewer clothes these days. At least, more and more people are realizing how naked is his administration's quest for power. Of course, for me, the folks of that administration have always been naked, fooling around in an orgy of lust for power and prestige.

BK has not and won't cow me now; nor will anyone else, most likely.

If I stop writing about Ukraine's top political figures, it will purely be because I have no idea what to think anymore about them!