politics


Two new items on the situation in Ukraine, which will have profound implications for the geopolitical situation, and not only in Europe. First, a sign that those in eastern Ukraine have little sympathy with the protesters in Kiev and western parts. This comes from a blogger’s report on an attempt by a right-wing group of 200-300 to seize government buildings in Odessa, on the Black Sea. Answering a call to ‘stop the Nazis’, thousands of citizens of Odessa turfed them out, aided by the police. After an hour’s standoff, the group dispersed with their tails between their legs. The governor of the Odessa region has called on people to offer a citizen’s guard of the local administration buildings, which they seem to be doing.

Second, a debate between Stephen Cohen and Anton Shekhovtsov, the former a specialist in Russian studies and politics, and the latter a researcher at the University College London. Unexpectedly, Shekhovtsov takes the ‘democracy’ line, arguing that the protesters seriously want to link up with Western Europe in the name of ‘freedom’ and so forth. Cohen, by contrast, calls this half-truth an ‘untruth’. He blames the EU for precipitating the crisis, for the EU insisted that there could be no three-way deal, between Ukraine, the EU and Russia (as Putin suggested). Instead, it was to be EU or nothing, with NATO military lines. Not only would it destroy any form of liberal democracy in Ukraine, with the EU supporting the overthrow of an elected government, but it would have been an economic disaster for Ukraine, since the EU was offering an austerity package. Not hard to see why it was rejected.

More importantly, who runs the show? For  Shekhovtsov, it’s the moderates of the Euromaidan, with a few marginal right-wing elements who are quite limp. For Cohen, on the other hand, the evidence points tellingly to the far right. Their position:

They hate Europe as much as they hate Russia. Their official statement is: Europe is homosexuals, Jews and the decay of the Ukrainian state. They want nothing to do with Europe. They want nothing to do with Russia. I’m talking about this—it’s not a fringe, but this very right-wing thing. What does their political activity include? It includes writing on buildings in western Ukraine, “Jews live here.” That’s exactly what the Nazis wrote on the homes of Jews when they occupied Ukraine.

The debate gets quite heated towards the end, but what interests me the most is Cohen’s point that there really is a civil war under way in Ukraine already. The moderate leaders (Vitali Klitschko and others) have lost control of the streets. They have told the rioters to stop attacking police with Molotov cocktails (filled with napalm) and to vacate the occupied buildings. But the rioters have refused, as they have refused any possible deal. ‘And the street will not stop, partly because—I’d say largely because—the street in Kiev is now controlled by these right-wing extremists. And that extremism has spread to western Ukraine, where these people are occupying government buildings. So, in fact, you have a political civil war underway’.

Cohen points out what I have mentioned earlier: that there are really two Ukraines already. ‘One tilts toward Poland and Lithuania, the West, the European Union; the other toward Russia. … This is what every public opinion poll has told us since this crisis unfolded, that about 40 percent of Ukrainians want to go west, 40 percent want to stay with Russia, and, as usually true in these polls, 20 percent just don’t know or they’re not sure’.

(ht cp and ll)

Two new posts of mine have appeared on the Political Theology Today blog

1. Adam Smith, Storyteller

2. 100 Years of Political Theology: Roland Boer’s Top Ten

More material from the Ukraine. First, from the earliest days these lovely lads have been doing security work for the protesters in the central square in Kiev:

Ukr 01

Armbands with Ukrainian swastikas, I believe. A necessary item of the ‘security guard’ wardrobe. And to spread the word of a white, Christian Ukraine, they read from and have read to them the xenophobic ‘Voice of Blood’. More here. The combination of a tanking economy, high youth unemployment and active far right groups – working hard for quite some time – seems to have provided the basis for what is happening now.

Ukr 03

Second, some western and a couple of central regions have declared independence. Or rather, a number of ‘people’s councils’ have done so. Further, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv have banned the communist party. Meanwhile, those of the Donbass and other regions in the south-east have the resources and are quite ready to use them to defend their own interests. The breakup of Ukraine seems to be on its way, unless someone acts quickly.

Two friends from Kiev have sent me some of the latest, expressing the feelings of those who are horrified by what is happening.

One hints that the far right senses a chance for a coup. On Saturday, the leaders of the rioters – known as the ‘three little pigs’ (Klitschko, Tyahnybok and Yatsenyuk) - rejected offers from the President, with two of them to be given the positions of Prime Minister of Ukraine and Deputy Prime Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. Instead, the hit squads of the rioters stormed government buildings in Ternopil, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zhitomir, Khmelnitsky, Lviv, Lutsk, and Rivne, demanding the local governors resign. They have also established ‘people’s commandants’. Knowing that they simply don’t have the numbers to win government, the only way is to work for a coup. Hence the constantly changing demands – reject Russia and turn to the EU, resignation of the president, and end to corruption, and so on. None of these are primary, for only the seizure of power counts.

The rioters may be claiming to represent the majority, even calling for a general strike. But they don’t, points out this comrade, and their calls are ignored The majority of people in Kiev, and especially the populations of Crimea and the eastern regions, do not support the rioters. These people are calling for an end to atrocities, an end to funding areas from the which the rioters come, and the imposition of martial law.

So why oppose the rioters and appear to support a government that is pretty corrupt (but then, so are nearly all governments)? The ragtag movement that the rioters represent is clearly feared to be far worse. Another comrade expresses what are probably the widespread opinions of most of those watching events unfold in discomfort and apprehension. Neither the government nor the rioters can be trusted. While the government is corrupt and uses underhand methods, the rioters are worse, for they are led by the ultra-right and entice many people into aimless violence against the riot police. If the economy was bad even before the crisis, now it’s even worse. Better to stay with the devil you know, I guess.

The big question is why the government hasn’t simply called in the army and crushed the riots. Stun grenades, tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets really don’t work in this situation. My suspicion is that it would lead to the breakup of Ukraine, but perhaps that’s already happening: a small western rump of mostly ethnic Ukrainians may become a new pseudo-state (actually like most of those tiny countries in Europe that really shouldn’t be states) and a larger eastern Ukraine that is much close to Russia.

(ht ll and ys).

Ukr 01a

Peaceful protest of concerned citizens? So much of the press around here would have us believe that the bunch above are out to burn some candles and sing songs of peace, for the love of Ukraine.

Actually, they are part of Svoboda, the All-Ukrainian Union, which is the leading force in the riots and has other groups under its direction. Svoboda used to be known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine, and their Führer is Oleh Tyahnybok. Apart from speaking of the ‘Russian-Jewish mafia’ that is supposed to be running Ukraine, he has openly praised the pro-fascist parties during the Second World War, which actively assisted the Germans in rounding up Jews and communists, and took part in the slaughter of 100,000 Poles. He and his party are anti-Jewish, anti-communist, and anti-Russian. Their base is in parts of Western Ukraine.

Actually, the protesters are flying the flag of that same party from the Second World War, the Ukrainian National Army (UPA), the military wing of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). It’s the red and black one:

Ukr 02a

And if you have a look at some of the pictures here, you’ll see the kind of weaponry they have assembled. One of my comrades in Kiev points out that the innocent looking Molotov cocktails actually have napalm in them:

Ukr03a

So, the far right sees a glimmer of a chance to seize power, since they’ll never get it any other way. Of course, the EU among others is giving them all the support they want – wouldn’t be the first time. What is surprising people in Ukraine is that the government hasn’t cracked down on these neofascists earlier. In the Crimea and the eastern regions there have been rallies and meeting (somehow we don’t hear about those) demanding that the government act more decisively.

In the midst of his discussion of the elections in St. Petersburg of 1912, Stalin has this little gem on bourgeois diplomats:

When bourgeois diplomats prepare for war they begin to shout very loudly about “peace” and “friendly relations.” When a Minister of Foreign Affairs begins to wax eloquent in favour of a “peace conference,” you can take it for granted that “his government” has already issued contracts for the construction of new dreadnoughts and monoplanes. A diplomat’s words must contradict his deeds—otherwise, what sort of a diplomat is he? Words are one thing—deeds something entirely different. Fine words are a mask to cover shady deeds. A sincere diplomat is like dry water, or wooden iron.

‘The Elections in St. Petersburg’, in Works, vol. 2, p. 285.

Some interesting statistics concerning bourgeois democracies. In a Eurostat study of 2004, people in the EU’s original 15 countries – almost all bourgeois democracies – were asked to evaluate their level of satisfaction with their form of government. Only 54 percent responded with “very satisfied” or “fairly satisfied.” And in the 10 states of the former Eastern Bloc that entered the EU in 2004, only 29% gave the same answer. In a Latinobarometro study (2004), 18,643 citizens of 18 Latin American were polled, as well as 231 political, economic, social and cultural figures (41 former presidents and vice presidents included). A significant 55% said they would “support the replacement of a democratic government with an authoritarian one”; 58 % said that leaders should “go beyond the law” if needed; and 56 percent said economic development was more important than democracy. The widespread discontent is due to the fact that elected governments have spectacularly failed to provide stability, security, social equity, a fair legal system, and basic social services.

Further, since 1999, The Pew Research Center in the USA has been conducting global satisfaction surveys. In 2006, of the fifteen countries surveyed, China was way in front in terms of people being satisfied with their local conditions: 81% percent, up from 72 % in 2005. Only three other countries came close, with over 50% – Egypt at 55%, Jordan at 53% and Spain at 50% (lower now after Spain’s economic pain). The other countries were below 36%. On the scale of “optimism,” China was again in front, with 76%, followed closely by India at 75%. By contrast, people in the USA registered 48% and in Russia a dismal 45%.

From  Suzanne Ogden, “Don’t Judge a Country by its Cover: Governance in China,” 2007.

Less known than it should be, China actually has eight officially recognised parties apart from the Communist Party. These are non-communist parties with a total membership of 700,000 and actually provide invaluable feedback for the government in its continual efforts to gain a feel for public opinion. Members of these parties often have government posts and senior roles (more here). They are:

Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (RCCK)
In November 1947, the sect of democrats in the Chinese Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) held its first joint meeting with patriotic democratic personages in Hong Kong. On January 1, 1948, the meeting declared that the RCCK had been officially founded.

RCCK recruits members mostly from people who have relations with the former Chinese Kuomintang, those who have historical or social relations with the RCCK and those who have ties with Taiwan. The RCCK also recruits members from other sources, especially those of the middle and upper social strata, and senior and leading intellectuals.

The successive chairpersons of the RCCK in the past were Li Jishen, He Xiangning, Zhu Yunshan, Wang Kunlun, Qu Wu, Zhu Xuefan and Li Peiyao. The present chairwoman is He Luli.

The RCCK currently has branches in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. Party membership numbers 81,000.

China Democratic League (CDL)
The China Democratic League was secretly established on March 19, 1941 in Chongqing, and was then named China Democratic Political League. On November 16, Zhang Lan officially declared the founding of the China Democratic Political League in Chongqing. In September 1944, the China Democratic Political League held a national congress in Chongqing and decided to rename itself the China Democratic League.

The CDL is mainly made up of senior and leading intellectuals in the fields of culture, education, and science and technology.

The successive chairpersons in the past were Huang Yanpei, Zhang Lan, Shen Junru, Yang Mingxuan, Shi Liang, Chu Tu’nan, Fei Xiaotong and Ding Shisun. The present chairman is Jiang Shusheng.

The CDL now has branches in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. Party membership numbers more than 181,000.

China National Democratic Construction Association (CNDCA)
The China National Democratic Construction Association was founded by a number of patriotic industrialists and business people, as well as some intellectuals in Chongqing on December 16, 1945.

The members of the association are mainly business people.

The successive leaders and chairpersons in the past were Huang Yanpei, Hu Juewen and Sun Qimeng. The present chairman is Cheng Siwei.

The CNDCA has branches in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, and more than 108,000 members.

China Association for Promoting Democracy (CAPD)
Founded in Shanghai on December 30, 1945, the original members of the China Association for Promoting Democracy were mainly intellectuals in the fields of culture, education and publishing, together with a group of patriotic personages in the fields of industry and business.

Its present members are mainly senior and leading intellectuals in the fields of culture, education and publishing.

The successive chairpersons of the past were Ma Xulun, Zhou Jianren, Ye Shengtao and Lei Jieqiong. Its present chairman is Xu Jialu.

Currently, the CAPD has branches in 29 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, with a membership of over 103,000.

Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party (CPWDP)
Deng Yanda, a leader of the left wing of the Kuomintang, held the first national cadres’ conference of the Kuomintang in Shanghai on August 9, 1930, and at the conference the Provisional Action Committee of the Kuomintang of China was founded. On November 10, 1935, it was renamed the Chinese Action Committee for National Liberation. On February 3, 1947, it was renamed the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party.

Its members are mainly senior and leading intellectuals in the medical field.

The successive leaders and chairpersons of the party were Deng Yanda, Huang Qixiang, Zhang Bojun, Ji Fang, Zhou Gucheng and Lu Jiaxi. Its present chairman is Jiang Zhenghua.

The CPWDP now has branches in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, with more than 99,000 members.

China Zhi Gong Dang (CZGD)
The China Zhi Gong Dang was founded in October 1925 in San Francisco, USA, under the sponsorship of some overseas Chinese societies. In May 1947, the party held its third congress in Hong Kong, and reorganized itself into a new democratic party.

Its members are mainly from the middle and upper social strata of returned overseas Chinese and their relatives.

The successive chairpersons of the party were Chen Qiyou, Huang Dingchen and Dong Yinchu. Its present chairman is Luo Haocai.

The CZGD now has branches in 19 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, with more than 28,000 members.

Jiu San Society
At the end of 1944, a number of progressive scholars organized the Forum on Democracy and Science, to strive for victory in the Anti-Japanese War and political democracy, and to develop the anti-imperialist and patriotic spirit of the May 4 Movement of 1919. In commemoration of victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and in the world anti-Fascist war, on September 3, 1945, it adopted the name Jiu San Society (“Jiu San” means September 3 in Chinese). On May 4, 1946, the Jiu San Society was formally founded in Chongqing.

Its members are mainly senior and leading intellectuals in the fields of science and technology.

The successive chairpersons of the past were Xu Deheng, Zhou Peiyuan and Wu Jieping. Its present chairman is Han Qide.

The Jiu San Society currently has branches in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, with more than 105,000 members.

Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (TSL)
The TSL was founded in Hong Kong on November 12, 1947 by a number of Taiwan personages engaged in patriotic campaigns after the February 28 Uprising of the Taiwan people that year.

The TSL is composed of people from Taiwan.

The successive chairpersons of the past were Xie Xuehong, Cai Xiao, Su Ziheng, Cai Zimin and Zhang Kehui. The present chairwoman is Lin Wenyi. From 1987 to 1992, the Fourth Central Committee of the TSL adopted the presidium system. The executive chairmen were Lin Shengzhong (1987-1988) and Cai Zimin (1988-1992).

The TSL now has branches in 13 provinces and municipalities directly under the central government, with a membership of over 2,100.

Personages Without Party Affiliation 
During the New Democratic Revolution (1919-1949), the famous personages without party affiliation were generally called prominent public figures. Since the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was founded in 1949, the category of “democratic personages without party affiliation” has been set up. Currently, those who do not belong to any party but have made positive contributions to and have a positive influence on society are categorized as personages without party affiliation. They are mostly intellectuals.

The representatives of this group included Guo Moruo, Ma Yinchu, Ba Jin, Miao Yuntai and Cheng Siyuan.

(source: White Paper on China’s Political Part System)

Loathe as I am to join the flood of material on Mandela after his recent death, it seems as though everyone wants a piece (and is able to get it) from Mandela. It is oddly reminiscent of the death of Tolstoy a little over 100 years ago. Conservatives, aristocrats, church leaders, liberals, anarchists, and socialists all sought to claim him as one of their own. So also with Mandela. In that light, I can’t help approving of this great piece by Tom Bramble in Red Flag (sent by CP). It begins:

The death of Nelson Mandela closes the life of a heroic resistance figure who devoted his very being to the struggle against apartheid even though this came at immense personal cost. Mandela was, also, however, the saviour of South African capitalism, which condemned so many of his countrymen and women to continuing terrible hardship even after the destruction of the apartheid regime. His broad popularity in South Africa, ranging from the pauper to the plutocrat, cannot be understood without comprehension of both these facts. (more here).

Yesterday, Mika (who is visiting here with Elisa from Finland), mentioned this intriguing observation by none other than Mussolini:

Nothing is more relativistic than fascist mentality and activism [attività]. If universal relativism and action are equivalent, then we are fascist, we who have always boasted that we don’t give a damn about the nominalisms to which the bigots of the other parties always cling as bats on rafters; we, who had the courage to smash all the traditional political categories and to call ourselves from time to time: aristocrats and democrats, revolutionaries and reactionaries, proletarians and antiproletarians, pacifists and anti-pacifists—we are truly the relativist par excellence, and our movement calls upon the most current trends of the European spirit. (Mussolini, Opera omnia, 17: 267–69).

So fascism is the most radical relativism, which then expresses the European spirit …

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