Friday, November 26, 2004


McRevolution comes to Ukraine

All those of you who lambast the Bush administration for its monumental, and continuing, screw-up in Iraq must admit that US policy towards central/Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has been a resounding success. Not only are American troops stated all along the southern periphery of the former Soviet Union - courtesy of the War against Terror, of course - but in two countries, somewhat dodgy governments have been replaced by solidly pro-Western ones after street revolts during the current administration - Georgia and Yugoslavia. Now, it seems a third one is under way.

So, after the elections in Ukraine were apparently won by Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian government candidate with solid backing in the heavily industrialized southeast, supporters of the other candidate, pro-Western Viktor Yuschenko, immediately took to the streets in Kiev - massive demonstrations in his favour have been held for days, with demonstrations in eastern cities like Donetsk in Yanukovich's favour being somewhat underreported here - though not by the BBC.

The EU and the US were as quick to denounce the elections as rigged as Putin was to congratulate Yanukovich - a move undertaken successfully in Yugoslavia as well: denounce the election result and have your candidate announce himself as president on the basis of, say, exit polls; besiege government buildings, and if you can, invade them (if you can't, burn them down as happened in Belgrade); overwhelm your opponent with something like shock and awe. Of course, turnout figures in the high nineties as reported from Yanukovich's base seem very fishy indeed, to be sure. The nicely contrarian British Helsinki Human Rights Group reports some dirty tricks in the western part of the country as well, though.

Now, the OSCE's condemnation only signifies which side of which candidate's bread is buttered. As Matt Taibbi noted in a blistering takedown of the OSCE's election monitoring, the OSCE quite happily sanctioned Yeltsin's elections even though most polls showed he was running with about 2% popular support. But we couldn't have had Zyuganov, a Communist, win, couldn't we?

Anyway, as Srdja Trifkovic noted in an analysis of the Ukrainan situation in the right-wing Chronicles Magazine, it is unlikely that the "McRevolution" (borrowing and bowlderizing this nice term from the Dutch NRC Handelsblad) pioneered by OTPOR in Serbia will be successful in the Ukraine. The country is too divided for that. In Serbia, as Trifkovic notes, most of the police and military switched sides before the election was actually held - whereas in the Ukraine, the government seems to have remained largely intact for now (with the exceptions of more local levels like the city of Kiev). Suppose free and totally flawless re-elections were held - it is unlikely either Yuschenko or Yanukovich would win by more than a few percentage points, and both would hold on to their respective strongholds. Yuschenko may well succeed in securing the presidency in Kiev, but that might precipitate a secession of the eastern regions - and vice versa.

But what is astounding about the generally extremely positive attitude in the West towards the Ukrainian revolt is that few people remember what happened in rump Yugoslavia after the OTPOR revolution - funded and assisted, as Trifkovic and also this Guardian article point out, by the US. The "Democratic Opposition of Serbia" lost the democratic part of the title pretty soon after the opposition part became irrelevant with one of the main participating parties (Djinjic's) simply expelling the other (Kostunica's) from parliament. Two successive presidential elections failed since the people were so excited and energized about the advent of democracy in their war-torn country that fewer than forty percent took to the polls (most of which voting for the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party). Only after lowering the bar of fifty percent turnout was a president actually elected. A smashing success story, indeed!

That does not mean Viktor Yanukovich is any kind of working-class titan, as the Trotskyist Newsline would have. It seems to me he represents the first wave of counterrevolution rather than some heroic defender of socialism's gains - the crooks who did the dirty job of dismantling the socialist economy, and who may now well be replaced by more sophisticated crooks who want their share of the pie.

One could say, even, that Putin's endorsement of Yanukovich should be warning enough- Putin being such a beacon of democracy that he succeeded in uniting right-wing oppositionists like Irina Khakamada, the Zyuganovist communists and the National Bolsheviks of Edward Limonov together against him.

The events in the Ukraine may thus well be the next stage in the piecemeal annexation of the former Soviet Union by the west, but as this piece in Spiked points out, there seems to be little to be liked on either side.

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