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Ukraine: Left is Right, Right is Left, Left is Left, …
By Andrew L. Jaffee, November 28, 2004
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I’d love to have a talk about the current situation in the Ukraine with my left-wing friends, but I don’t think they would be interested, and probably not even capable of an intelligent discussion. Not only is the Ukraine so far off and seemingly unimportant to them, the intricacies of its politics defy the usual “left” vs. “right” stereotypes.

I truly believe that many long-time lefties pine for the days of the Soviet Union. It gave them a glimmer of hope for world-wide socialism in their otherwise very comfortable, cushy, American lives. Too much guilt about living in the midst of evil, capitalist American must have driven them to it. Or grandiose delusions of making everything “equal” for the world’s impoverished (e.g., forcing the huddled masses to wear gray uniforms and carry Mao’s Little Red Book). Whatever the reasons, their raison d'etre was simple.

The Soviet Union was most assuredly the representation of the “left” while the U.S. embodied the “right.”

Never mind the fact that the Soviets were far more repressive – more “right-wing” – than the Americans. No free speech, no pornography, no civil disobedience, no fair election was permitted under the Soviets. Yes, the U.S. has had its capitalist excesses, but the “fascist” slogan so carelessly tossed about by the left-wing was just far out in left field, excusing the pun. The Soviet Union had much in common with the Nazis (National Socialists).

So just how would the left sort out the current Ukrainian election crisis? The pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has claimed election victory, but Ukraine’s opposition led by Viktor Yushchenko has been holding mass demonstrations to protest the outcome. Both sides are now warning of a civil war. Eastern regions of the Ukraine are threatening to secede if Yushchenko is declared president. Election observers have called the poll “flawed.” Ukraine’s parliament has voted to declare the election “at odds with the will of the people,” though their resolution is non-binding. Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, "said Washington ‘cannot accept’ the [Ukrainian] election result as legitimate." The country’s supreme court will decide tomorrow on the election’s legitimacy.

Prime Minister Yanukovych is supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Time Magazine:

During the campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not hide his sympathies: he visited Ukraine twice to broadcast his support for Yanukovych. Political consultants and media specialists close to the Kremlin played a major role in shaping both the strategy and the message of the Yanukovych campaign, and according to specialists like the Carnegie Endowment's Anders Aslund, Russia pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into his election bid. On Monday, Putin was the first world leader to congratulate the Prime Minister on his victory, a full two days before the Electoral Commission declared him President-elect. Sources well briefed on Kremlin affairs tell TIME that as protests in Kiev gathered momentum, Putin urged the much-discredited outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, eager to secure a safe retirement amid charges of corruption and political violence, to declare Yanukovych the winner. The sources say Putin made it clear that Moscow would not accept a Yushchenko victory.

Do Putin’s endorsements carry any moral weight? Many observers felt that the Russian presidential elections held earlier this year “failed to meet democratic standards.” Indeed, this is par-for-the-course for President Putin, who spent 17 years working for the dreaded KGB, one of the largest and most brutal “security services” in world history. Vladimir has surrounded himself with other former KGB goons, so in the Kremlin nowadays, “influence stems from the former Soviet organs of repression.”

So dear lefty friends, who is “right” and who is “left” now? Do you still cling to your demagogic delusions? Again, Time Magazine:

Yanukovich, 54, has made no secret of his pro-Moscow leanings. And Ukraine's business and political élite have flourished in one of the world's most corrupt economies; they trust that he won't rock the boat. If Yanukovych seems a throwback to the Soviet era, Yushchenko, 50, wants to bring Ukraine into the free-market age. In opposition, he turned Our Ukraine into a powerful antigovernment bloc that's threatening to undo the currently ruling clans' lock on power.

And how, dear leftists, would you describe Ukraine’s opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko? Is he “right-wing” for opposing Ukraine’s pro-Russian oligarchs? The BBC describes Yushchenko as having

…drew Western admiration after leading some of Ukraine's bravest reform efforts in President Leonid Kuchma's quarrelsome governments. …

Under his direction of the country's monetary system, Ukraine moved from hyperinflation and surrogate money to the hryvnya - the country's own and fairly stable currency.

Then again, the BBC tried to paint Iranian President Mohammad Khatami as a “reformer.” But I have to side with Ukraine's opposition. Better that than having a Ukraine ruled by anti-democratic, KGB goons.

So what’s the point of my “left vs. right” discussion?

My lefty friends have a regular Friday night gathering. I go most of the time. I’m tolerant. Things are fun… until politics come up. I cannot seem to have an intelligent discussion about anything political. Why? Because it is always “left vs. right” in terms of the ancient, washed out definitions. If you support the war in Iraq, you’re a “fascist.” One friend even tried to convince me that things were, alas, better off under the Soviets: at least there was order and stability.

I completely refuse to have political discussions with these people anymore. I’d make more headway talking to rocks. I guess I’ll continue to party with my left-wing friends but save the political discussions for those, mostly on the right, who are capable of coherent discourse. Just what do the old political slurs mean anymore? If you aren’t flexible, you break and become useless. Can you say, “John Kerry” or the “Democratic Party.”

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