I’m a Pessimist
My response to the article by Vsevolod Rechytsky “Human Rights – Change of Paradigm?” (http://khpg.org.index.php?id=1271397129) is mixed.
On the one hand, I can agree with all his assessment about the state of our society, both as a whole, and in specific areas. Indeed over the 5 years since Kuchma no reforms were achieved – not of the law enforcement agencies, nor the judicial system, nor medicine which is in a catastrophic state. Some reforms were carried out in the areas of secondary and higher education yet here too the results were not significant. And reforms were not aimed at the development of science and real specialists in Ukraine. In addition, total corruption in education did not disappear.
I even entirely agree that “in the present conditions of socio-cultural schism of the country, technocratism (cosmopolitan pragmatism) can be a useful alternative”. An alternative, as he sees it, to limited nationalism which in Mr Rechytsky’s view gives the country no progress because of the latter’s variegated and mixed socio-cultural tastes.
I agree that cosmopolitan pragmatism, which incidentally was present in our multi-vector society, would not go astray. Its intensification would be extremely beneficial. However where Mr Rechytsky finds this cosmopolitan pragmatism in the actions of the new regime I can’t in any way fathom.
Or is that in the actions of the new President who, like all his predecessors, is trying to make agreements with Russia, and with Europe and with the USA? Yes, Ukraine is doomed to that and it’s good that the new President’s team understands that. Yet neither Kuchma nor Yushchenko resorted to material concessions to both superpowers, Maybe it’s in this that Mr Rechytsky finds cosmopolitan pragmatism? Yet I can see that such concessions are often not accepted even by those who voted for the Party of the Regions. And how will we separate the spiritual from the material?
Furthermore in the actions of the government itself, I can see neither cosmopolitanism nor pragmatism. The newly-appointed Deputy Prime Minister on Humanitarian Issues Mr Semynozhenko in perhaps the first days in his new job twice “shot himself in the foot”. The first time was when he loudly expressed the wish for a union with Russia and Belarus and the second – when he said that he would not obstruct the erection of a monument to Stalin in Zaporizhya. It would be hard to estimate how many Ukrainians in this received a slap in the face which can be neither forgotten nor forgiven. And even an imagined economic miracle created in the future, and not today, could not overcome the consequences of such an inept and anything but pragmatic undertaking.
Two thirds of the country are not inclined towards a pragmatic and absolutely not cosmopolitan mode. It is not only in the West of Ukraine that people have reason to not love Stalin, but also in the East – in the first instance where the genocide of the Ukrainian people took place, Holodomor, the manmade famine organized by Stalin. It is Western Ukraine, then a part of Poland, that did not experience that tragedy. In the East however it would be hard to find a single family which did not in one way or another suffer from Stalinism. Cosmopolitan pragmatism cannot take this into account. While Soviet post-communist nonsense is exactly the mood of an absolute minority of a marginal part of society will support it.
However there can be objections that Mr Rechytsky is speaking first of all of a real liberal-capitalist attitude of the new regime, towards actions in the economic field which should unite divided society on the idea of true economic reform and true growth in the amount and quality of independent business. Such business, in Mr Rechytsky’s view, given a significant amount should in itself be a guarantee of universally accepted freedoms, rights and rules which post-modern society lives in accordance with.
However the post-modern, in my view, is somewhat opposite to post-communist with is inherent State paternalism.
With regard to the economy, it is not possible to make it independent of the humanitarian sphere, and think that the economy will at some stage influence the rest. These are intertwined process and only Marxism considers that the economic is primary and culture secondary in society.
The major political philosopher Hannah Arendt in her most well-known work “Roots of Totalitarianism” asserts that the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century were the result of Darwin’s theory of evolution, and I must agree with this. Ideological post-communist which we have been observing since the creation of the new government is simply incompatible with society’s liberal –democratic existence. The new government will be paternalistic, prefer to influence all spheres of the economic and humanitarian aspects of the country’s life.
I agree with Mr Rechytsky that the circumstance-prompted Judgment of the Constitutional Court is not as influential for the life of society as is suggested by the majority of opponents of the new team simply because of the total incapacity of the Constitution destroyed in 2004 to be the main law of society, and therefore the Constitutional Court cannot be the public arbiter. No judgment of the Constitutional Court would have led to normalization in society since the new elections under the old rules will not make Ukraine’s parliament either effective or more influential.
At present parliamentarianism as such does not exist. There is a struggle of clans, at once pitiful and danger for the very existence of the country. The Verkhovna Rada exists apart from society, does not see, cannot and doesn’t wish to see its interests or needs. It is this that needs to be changed without delay by passing a new law on the election of National Deputies. This is talked about by the team of the new President but does it really want such changes?
The position of Lech Walęsa talking of “a war of all against all under the control of the law”, given an unreformed law enforcement system and inadequate parliamentarianism – is in no way about us. Just as free competition in the economy is not about us. With the appointment of the new government, the number of businesspeople who have turned to the lawyers of human rights organizations has been steadily rising.
From all quarters you hear nothing but tales of the latest assaults on small and medium-size business by law enforcement officers. And even if this is happening without a direct instruction from above, it is undoubtedly with the full encouragement of the ruling elite. How does that correlate with Mr Rechytsky’s stance that “Ukrainian reality is deeply liberal in spirit?”
Yes, I agree that this reality requires unusual management. I have doubts as to whether a post-communist government is capable of that. At least this does not apply to the economic bloc and does not inspire optimism. The economy in the post-Soviet realm is hostage to paraideological and simply mythological matters.
With regard to the law, I am much less concerned by the interpretation of the Constitution which has not existed as a whole structure since 2004, but by the cancellation of local elections and the failure to schedule in the fixed period elections for Mayor of Kharkiv. Also by the wave of paternalism in the draft laws being tabled in the Verkhovna Rada.
I consider that there are clear threats which Mr Rechytsky has not for some reason noticed. The increase in pro-Russian, pro-communist rhetoric from the new regime or its support groups in the Verkhovna Rada, even the very present of communists in the government and the Verkhovna Rada will inevitably swiftly and seriously strengthen rightwing extremists. It is probable that at the next elections they will get into parliament and the longer our deputies put off the elections, the more chance rightwing radicals will have. What kind of liberalism will we be talking about then? On the one hand a post-Soviet nomenklatura, on the other VO “Svoboda” [the Liberty Party headed by Oleh Tyahnybok – translator], and somewhere in the middle the opposition which is ideologically totally incomprehensible either to itself or to society.
You so feel like calling out to BYuT and its leader Tymoshenko, and to Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence: “Hey, where are you? How do you differ in the final analysis from the party in power? How do you perceive Ukraine’s future?” After all the opposition, until recently the opposition, positions itself as a liberal-democratic force? Where were the reforms – court, legal, educational, medical?
I do not share Mr Rechytsky’s optimism either that our worst ill of “bog-like collectivism” is retreating. The bog is simply changing colour and depth. I somehow don’t see individualist-philosophers among the new regime, just as I don’t see those who would carry their dream of freedom of the individual as the greatest value into the main Law, the Ukrainian Constitution.
Is today’s Verkhovna Rada really capable of passing such a Constitution? Even introducing sensible amendments to the present version?
Unlike Mr Rechytsky I am in this sense an absolute pessimist.
V. Rechytsky’s article is here: http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1271527180
cf. the reaction to it in Rule of Law: No Change khpg.org/index.php?id=1271764877