• Topics / Freedom of peaceful assembly
• Topics / Social and economic rights
Tax Code Protesters’ Maidan: Challenge to the Government or a Lesson for all of us?
For several days now, Maidan Nezaleznosti [Independence Square] has seen the determined protest of thousands of small business owners from throughout the country. Myroslav Marynovych writes that such gatherings – viche in the old days, were generally because the leaders were deaf to the needs of the people. “It was a signal from society that the feedback from the people to the authorities was either hampered, or missing altogether. This epitomizes the task which, in the first instance, the authorities must deal with.
Under the communist regime the fundamental element of governance was a taboo on being pulled by lead from the street. This was the principle that whole generations of the Soviet elite were reared on, and, as we see, post-Soviet also. We mustn’t, however, oversimplify things since the proud “we won’t back down” is also the style of some leaders of entirely democratic countries
This taboo reflects a view which many leaders find alluring: the people (especially a protest rally) are merely a crowd governed by herd instincts and subject to mass psychoses. Absurd, they suggest, to listen to the crowd’s views. It’s much better to use the particular features of its psychology to discredit the protest and break it down completely.
Yet there is another view of relations between the authorities and the people in which the latter are the sole source of power and the State administration serve the people who have delegated them part of their sovereign powers. When those civil servants fail to hear the voice of the single bearer of power, the people, or ignore it, they lose the moral right to represent the people and undermine the legitimacy of their powers.
In these days, even hours, when those in power in Ukraine are deliberating which of these two views to choose, the community of the Ukrainian Catholic University call on the leaders of the State to firmly reject the traditions of antagonism from the past. We are convinced that if the authorities can heed the view of the people and have the courage, for the sake of public accord, to back down from decisions already declared, yet nonetheless faulty, they will not be demonstrating weakness, but on the contrary, great spiritual strength.
No less important is the spiritual strength shown by the people when their just acts of resistance take on a civilized nature. We are proud and happy that the small business owners’ Maidan has succeeded in restraining the first desperate emotions which spilled out into one single act of destruction. Ukraine must not gain fame for its street skirmishes which are so common for the socio-political life of our planet.
In those protesting at present on Maidan we welcome the resistances of civil society – the class of independent business people who have discovered the value of freedom and the weight of personal civic responsibility.
We express solidarity with their civic courage, as well as with their demands based on the principles of social justice, partnership and solidarity. We are for the adoption of a Tax Code which will not place an entire group of people on the edge of bankruptcy.
The Code which the Ukrainian public expects today should reflect a departure by the State from orientation on punitive administration and by the public from reliance on State paternalism.
We would also like to tell Ukraine that our entire university community is praying that God shall stretch out His hand over Maidan and protect those gathered there from all ill. We ask of God wisdom also for our State leaders. May Ukraine emerge from its present trials spiritually strengthened and enlightened.
Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University
Former political prisoner
27 November 2010