Monday, November 13, 2006

Notes of Caution on the US Elections; Comparing Elections USA 2006 to Ukraine 2004

compiled below are some short, excellent cautionary notes addressing the significance of the US elections, all from counterpunch.

the main points these articles convey are as follows (and these points are also relevant for a discussion concerning the failure of the OR to ignite a process of real, progressive change in ukraine):

1) voters in the US have called for sweeping changes, or rather, sweeping reversals of what repulicans have done in the last 6 years; furthermore, a significant proportion of the electorate have passed judgment on years of deregulation, free-trade, the dismantling of the welfare state, and on the rightward drift of the democratic party and american society in general.

2) however, establishment or clintonite democrats (the majority of democrats in congress) are making every effort to reduce the significance of the elections to a referendum on republican conduct of the iraq war and perhaps on conservative stances on the rights of same-sex couples, and otherwise are eager to get back to business as usual.

3) the only way the democrats will even partially struggle for a wide range of grassroots demands is if they continue to feel real, grassroots pressure to do so.

now compare to ukraine:

there were important elections in 2004 in which people were promised a lot and expected a tremendous degree of change. the liberals that came to power, however, were not equal to the task and struggled to reduce the full significance of the elections to a few issues, mostly to the exclusion of truly popular demands. politics in ukraine for the most part returned to business as usual. and in ukraine--as i fear will be the case in the US--the grassroots was not up to the task of remaining organized, committed, and militant in effort to pressure the liberals to do more. significanlty, after the OR, the grassroots and most of its ngo-champions fell apart (in no small part because, at the time of the OR, there was not yet a real, sustainable and wide-spread level of grassroots organization and solidarity, and because the ngo sector did indeed depend greatly on US funds).

note: i don't mean to suggest that nothing has changed in ukraine under yushchenko and that nothing will change in the US under the democrats. however, where the Orange Revolution promised a full struggle of dekuchmization, what ukraine now has is kuchma-lite; and i think that the best one can hope for in the US at this point is a bush-lite that as bad as the beer by a similar (busch) name.

both ukrainian and american society today lack real alternatives to their respective ruling cliques and problematic forms of capitalism, and absent within both is anything resembling the level of grassroots organization and power that exist today in a number of latin american countries.

read on:

democrats, born to compromise. here
The Democrats will not deliver an end to the Iraq war without substantial pressure from below. And that requires large-scale, grass-roots struggle. This should be a wakeup call to everyone who wants an end to the Iraq war, a raise in the minimum wage, a step forward for immigrants' rights-and an end to politics-as-usual in Washington. The door for social change is opening, but we must take action to achieve it.
you call this a sweep? here

democrats can be neocons, too. here

a socialist in the senate? here

election postmortem. here

count your blessings. here

blood on the tracks. here

the democrats and civil liberties. here

the repudiation of one-party rule. here

the return of tom lantos. here

rahm's loosers. here

the roots of corruption. here

other good stuff from the counterpunch site, a daily must-read:

in nicaragua, a chavez wave? here



I'd also like to suggest the following, excellent book:

The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America

the authors, two british journalists who have resided in the US for many years, do an excellent job of explaining how and why the center of american politics has always been much to the right of the european consensus, and how it swung even further to the right in a process that lasted a number of decades. they make excellent clarifications, such as explaining that howard dean--considered today as one of the more "progressive" members of his party by establishment democrats--would have been considered an "eisenhower republican" in a different era in US history, and a conservative in many parts of europe today.


Taras said...

Counterpunch may be right about the right on many counts. But the way these pundits sided with Yanukovych in 2004 just didn't feel right to me. Nor did it feel left enough to me: Under my microscope, Yanukovych clearly represented capitalism's ugliest live-form.

During my Maidan off-duty hours, I nearly choked with the bitchy bias I found in Chad Nagle's reports. It was my right to freedom and better living standards that got counterpunched. Welcome to the left's symmetrical response to FOX News!

While hundreds of thousands of us were peacefully freezing our asses out on Maidan, my only thought — except for visions of a Tiananmen-style crackdown — was for Chad Nagle to get the fuck out of my country before he misled the world any more.

Had Bush's re-election depressed him so badly that the only action plan he had for exposing the imperialist in Bush was by pampering one in Putin?

I wonder if Counterpunch has improved its Ukraine coverage. I hope so. Enough time has elapsed for a balanced judgment to be passed on both Yushchenko and Yanukovych. If today somebody told me that Yu and Ya deserve each other, I’d almost have to agree.

What I would not agree to is that self-serving bias, whether right-wing or left-wing, can further a good cause.

So what do we do folks? I’d say it’s time to realize democracy is a full-time job, and it’s up to us to put the spark back into the democracy department.

Stefan said...

always a pleasure to have you commenting. . .

i just began reading counterpunch over the summer, so i am not aware of their OR coverage.

but i would be as outraged as you if they had writers siding with yanukovych. and in those heady and passionate days of the OR, i also spent much time reading western press coverage, and was particularly dismayed by commentary from fellow left-leaners. i was particularly outraged by the articles that appeared in the guardian, as many others in ukraine at the time were. (i was in ukraine and traveled the country to witness and film demonstrations in cities, towns and villages, heading eastward from pidhajtsi until ending up in Kyiv at the very end of the demos).

but all that was when i believed yushchenko was the real thing. i had willed myself into believing in him--that is, before i arrived in ukraine in june of 2004, i had not thought very highly of the anti-ukraine w/o kuchma demos yushchenko, and in a july piece to a list-serve i established while in ukraine, i even wrote that, "yushchenko is much too much of a neoliberal for me to be excited about him as an opposition leader."

but then i went canvassing all over the pidhajetskyj rajon with relatives, listened and learned a lot, and was slowly persuaded that he may be the real thing.

two years later i see that my initial skepticism was right on, and also that the critics of the orange revolution were in some ways right on.

however, insofar as the BHHRG assholes and some others writing in the guardian reacted, as you put it, with a symmetrical response to the mainstream, western media coverage and indeed were driven by a blind ideological need/desire to counter bush in whatever way, i am still outraged. insofar as criticism of the way yushchenko and team were using both US assistance and the Ukrainian grassroots for their own elite goals led these writers to the absurd conclusion that yanukovych was a good guy--and i even found some stupid anarchists defending vitrenko because of her anti-wto, nato, free trade, etc. stance--i am still dismayed. and insofar as they (was it steele or laughland? which idiot?) claimed that the western press wasn't showing the "huge crowds" in kyiv and elsewhere favoring yanukovych and suggested that claims to a falsified vote were exaggerated--and therefore that much of the grassroots rage was spurious and manufactured--i still think that they can go f themselves!

There is so much to criticize yushchenko and ljubi druzi for--such as for their downright insincerity and for using the multitude of angry ukrainians the way they did and then dropping them like a wet towel one year later, with the firing of tymoshenko and the memorandum of understanding--but it is damn ridiculous to suggest yanukovych had/has any real legitimacy and that the elections weren't that badly falsified. . .

as for counterpunch, i guess i will be going back in their archives for a look-see; and yeah, some of the writers there are hyper-ideological, but others of them are more real.