Article by Vadym Novynskyi, People’s Deputy from the Opposition Bloc Party, for the “Zerkalo Nedeli” Weekly Newspaper
It is important to have a sense of proportion in any process. The revolutionary process is no exception.
A revolution is always a destructive force, without any creative energy. However, it is in the period after a revolution has finished that people have the opportunity to create something new. A revolution is the negation and eradication of the past. Revolutions have never made people happy. However, the period after a revolution provides an opportunity for change. Danton, Marat and Robespierre destroyed the old Bourbon France. Napoleon created a new France that was more influential and magnificent than in the time of Louis. But to do that, he had to bring the revolution to an end.
Francois Furet, the French historian, wrote, “A revolution has a birth, but no end”. Endless revolution leads to the total degradation of society when all possible social vices come to light. The authority of the government completely disappears and politics is transformed into ‘mob rule’. The classic Russian poet of the Silver Age, Konstantin Balmont, wrote: “When revolution becomes a satanic whirlwind of destruction, then the truth becomes silent or changes into lies. The total insanity, spontaneous madness grips the crowds, all words lose their meaning and credibility. If such a disaster happens, it inevitably returns to the parable about “the demons which entered in the herd of pigs”. (Mathew 8:31)
This is why it is important not to reignite the revolution or appeal to the dreams of two years ago. We need to talk about how to move on in the creative phase – a reconstruction of the state, the revival of the economy and unification of the nation based on pragmatic rather than ethnic foundations.
I would like to emphasise that I am talking about a post-revolutionary, not a counterrevolutionary society (which, to be honest, a lot of those who lost power in 2014 desire as they would like to return to the political arena). Counterrevolution is also a version of degradation, because it foresees the restoration of the old order, both in terms of the regime and people. I am not talking about the process of replacing the Romanovs with the Bolsheviks, the Jacobites with the Bourbons, and the Red Guard with the Kuomintang. It is about creating conditions for the positive development of a country.
It is impossible to avoid the hard work needed to repair the damage (both physical and mental) that has been done. Nietzsche said what does not kill you makes you stronger. The same could be said of revolutions. They provide an opportunity to conduct a retrospective analysis of what were the prerequisites for the revolution, what proved the catalyst for change, for analysis as to whether more could have been done to prevent the outburst of popular dissent, whether we could have saved ourselves and the state if we had taken quicker decisions and actions, and whether we had made enough effort in the areas of society (from education to the heavy industry) that form the foundation of our state. Did the hopes and demands of our fellow citizens receive adequate attention from the Government and political classes? There is one answer for the majority of these questions: sadly, not enough was done. However, life is given to us by God and we should use it to learn, and to change ourselves and the world for better. Life is given to overcome personal and social crises.
What is modestly referred to as “the search for ways out of the crisis” should actually be called ‘the search for how to recover from a state of revolution’. The crisis is not a reason for, but a consequence of, the revolution. Unfortunately there is no simple answer although cooperation on a programme of social stabilisation is required.
In the meantime, I would like to focus on a few theories.
Thesis one: Ukraine needs reconciliation.
The long and difficult path to rebuilding the country begins with reconciliation. It starts with reconciliation in the hearts, minds and actions of all Ukrainians. Unfortunately, bitterness and anger have reached unprecedented levels in Ukraine. This lack of compassion has already caused the dehumanization of millions of citizens, leading to thousands of dead and millions of ruined lives. This suffering must be stopped. There should be no East-West, Lvov-Donetsk divide. Our strength lies in the diversity of the people who live in Ukraine. We must learn to understand, accept and appreciate our differences. Only then can we stop the ever-escalating spiral of violence, the ever-widening rift in society.
It is clear to me that the basis for such reconciliation can only be through our traditional conservative values, our thousand-year old Christian morality. Ukraine was, is and will always be a Christian country, with the overwhelming majority of its people Orthodox. This is a unifying point that could be used to build social and political cohesion.
My second thesis is that the recovery of Ukraine’s political and economic life must be combined with spiritual rehabilitation.
Any revolution is a nightmare that generates monsters that even the great Goya could not have imagined. Over the last few years we have witnessed all sorts of destructive initiatives aimed at destroying old traditions or of creating new traditions (often described as “returning to our own roots and origins”).
The dual notions of “east and west”, “Galicia and southeast”, “Lvov” and “Donetsk” have co-existed in Ukraine for a long time and were clearly evident after Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence. There is nothing unique about it and it is indeed the situation in many countries today. However, the attempt of each to impose its values on the other will only lead to deadlock.
Ukraine can only develop as a state with diverse values and multiple traditions. This applies to language, religion, history and politics. We should not glorify Bandera and Shukhevich to the detriment of other heroes. In our national pantheon there should be room for both nationalists and communists. Both, in their own way, were patriots who fought for a better future for Ukraine, but under different banners. People from different parts of the country, from different regions, have the right for their own monuments. We must find things that unify, rather than divide us. If we start from the premise that Ukraine is the land of our children, rather than the battlefield of our ancestors, it will be much easier to find reasons to unite. No one should be able to dictate in which language we communicate, pray, learn, think and declare love. Neither the political parties nor the country itself can be described as being “right” or “wrong”. Nobody, except God, has a monopoly on the truth.
Robespierre, Trotsky, Mao and Pol Pot tried to break with the past and create “new traditions”. However, there are unshakable foundations that must be taken into account. Healthy conservatism was the key that gave each nation the opportunity to recover after periods of turbulence. Conservatism is always based on family values, historical traditions and the Church as a community of people with shared morals and principles. Today we are seeing attempts to attack and destroy all three of these fundamentals.
Spiritual destruction goes hand in hand with economic destruction. The industrial period, inherited from the Soviet era, is almost exhausted. The country is rapidly losing the last vestiges of its high-tech industries, competitive companies, and traditional markets. A spiritually sick Ukraine is facing the threat of economic catastrophe.
Awareness of this dramatic trend makes us look for ways to confront it. It results in thesis three: Ukraine needs new industrialisation.
During the twentieth century, Ukraine developed as an industrial state. Its industrial capacity was one of the highest not only in the USSR (only below that of the Russian Federation), but also in Eastern Europe. Not even the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (who still remembers that economic union?) could compete with the USSR in terms of industrial output. Moreover, we can confidently assert that Ukraine (within the Union) was a donor of financial, intellectual and agricultural resources (including foodstuffs) for many of the Central and Eastern European countries and their economies.
A lot has changed since independence – the nationalised property of the Soviet times has been privatized and modernized. The passing of time has also played a role and many enterprises have been forced to change the focus of their work or find new markets. However, heavy industry has continued to be the foundation of the Ukrainian economy.
Adherents of European integration have stated, and fairly so, that the industrial sector is one of the barriers to European integration. The European Union, with its strictly regulated industry, is not ready to absorb Ukraine. Firstly, there is the question of quotas on industrial production. Secondly, there is the issue of standards. Thirdly, there is the need for billions of dollars compensation for closing entire sectors of economy. As far back as 2013, participants in the EU Association Agreement negotiations foresaw that a number of Ukrainian companies (including “blue-chip” organisations) would be forced to close. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian administration did not think about how to mitigate the impact on the domestic economy of breakings ties with traditional markets in the East, preferring to postpone that decision to some indeterminate future.
Over the last two years, a catastrophic situation has been developing in Ukrainian industry. Some of the problems lie in areas of the country no longer controlled by Kiev. Objectively speaking, it is felt in some of the country’s ‘key’ industries. For example, metallurgical plants have been adapted for coal, which is mined exclusively in Krasnodon (Eastern Ukraine). As a result, production at industrial giants including “Uzhmash” and “Azovmash” has almost ground to a halt. “Turboatom”, “MotorSich”, NKMP, and “Elektrotiazhmash” are on the verge of closing, putting 2.5 million jobs in the area at risk. It is unrealistic to suggest that workers who have lost their jobs in heavy industry should look for employment in the service sector. It is impossible to imagine turning fitters, turners, casters, steelworkers and others into hairdressers, waiters, masseurs, and sales assistants. It is true that change is inevitable as a result of progress and the country’s transition to a new technological society. However, change needs to evolve over time. It should happen over a generation, not as a catastrophic “tsunami” undertaken for the sake of short-term needs.
In fact, deindustrialization could turn out to be much more destructive for the country than the thirty to forty years of industrialization of the twentieth century. Industrialisation almost led to the destruction of the traditional Ukrainian village. Deindustrialization, on the other hand, is an attempt to destroy the Ukrainian city. The majority of these cities are located in the East of Ukraine and politically they present an electoral challenge for the current government. These industrial centres are international in nature and therefore cannot serve as the electoral base for the current government. The inhabitants of these cities represent the interests of importers, commercial elite, administrators and those who were called “small shop-keepers” by the classicists more than a century ago. The nature of industrial cities and market towns is totally different but both have a place in our country. They need to co-exist rather than supplant each other. Cooperation rather than destruction.
Instead of deindustrialization, Ukraine needs industrialisation. However, a new form of industrialisation, focussed on clearly defined markets and sectors of economy using modernised forms of production. This will create employment, new sources of revenue and new investment opportunities. Firstly, it is necessary to stimulate domestic demand as development depends on markets. Infrastructure projects were used to pull the United States, Germany and even China out of recession. Undoubtedly, this would be good for Ukraine’s economic growth.
Global trends show that national economies grow primarily due to the increased purchasing power of the population, the monetisation of social relations between the state and citizens and the introduction of advanced financial instruments such as “helicopter money”. These lead to an overall rise in purchasing power, which in turn leads to a growth in the service sector, encouraging the emergence of both small and medium-sized businesses. This would be the same scenario for the growth of Ukraine’s domestic economy.
However, it is necessary to understand that the development of small and medium-sized businesses, the growth of the domestic market, and the rise in real incomes depend on the already advanced industries in Ukraine (as is the situation worldwide). The formation of a much-needed tertiary sector, and civil society, is possible only because it can be built on our traditional industrial base.
You need to ask yourself, what kind of country you want to build. Do you want a strong and independent Ukraine with balanced relations with the world and a foreign policy subjected to the national interests? Or do you want a country that is like a primitive creature, which, as you know, follows its three basic instincts – sleeping, eating and dying - with reference to Ukraine meaning splitting up the country, stripping it of its assets and distributing the parts among the major players?
Here is the fourth thesis: Ukraine must delay its integration plans and focus on strengthening the nation state.
By this, I do not mean that we do a U-turn, similar to that taken by Viktor Yanukovich. I just mean that European integration is not necessarily the best choice for Ukraine.
Let us be honest. The majority of Ukrainians have an attitude of dependency on Europe. They assume that as soon as they become part of Europe, they will become rich. Incidentally, sociologists have observed the same mentality in a range of other countries including Bulgaria, Romania, and some states of the former Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union taught both its own republics and CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) countries about multi-level paternalism and dependency. However, the European Union is not a charitable organization and is not tortured by the question of how to develop Ukraine. The EU administration does not wake up in morning wondering what they have done for us. Then there is Russia, our largest market and trading partner, who will constantly question the European nature of Ukraine.
One thing is absolutely clear: Ukraine must negotiate with Europe as an equal partner, not as a poor relation. To do this, Ukraine must develop itself not as an object of European policy, but as a subject of regional policy. Ukraine must establish itself as a regional leader, offering a unique product with high value added, and become valuable as a political, and geopolitical, partner. Only then should we raise any integration issues.
The economic and trade deals, dictated by the European Union today, to put it mildly, are not advantageous for Ukraine. There is only one winner. Europe is moving away from Ukraine, despite the assurances of a visa-free regime and support for reforms. Quotas for the supply of products from Ukraine to the European Union are totally ridiculous. We have lost the opportunity to add to the state budget by benefitting from the transit of goods from Europe. We have lost protectionist measures in different areas of the economy, including the agriculture sector. A number of sectors are threatened by decline, for example, the engineering, shipbuilding, aviation and space industries.
Obsession and tunnel vision are the main enemies of efficiency. Why shouldn’t we create a Chernomorsk-Caspian trading union? Their markets are familiar to us, they are of a sufficient size and, most importantly, they have a compatible technological level. The Chernomorsk-Caspian region could, at least partially, compensate for the temporary losses to our economy caused by the problematic political and economic relations with the Russian Federation.
Today the Middle East and Central Asia are perhaps key markets for Ukrainian products, especially agricultural products, metals, construction materials and fertilizers. Ukraine and its regional neighbours have shared geopolitical interests. Why shouldn’t we develop preferential relations with Kazakhstan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan?
Sooner or later common sense will triumph over the issue of economic relations with the Russian Federation. Necessity will ensure that the state of confrontation and hostilities are reversed. Russia is our inevitable strategic partner, a fact predetermined by the history and geography and reinforced by the length of our common border. The laws of economics state that the main markets for any advanced country will be those of a country’s immediate neighbours. Therefore, it is obvious that we shall eventually return to the large Russian market, and this return will be a breakthrough for the Ukrainian economy. It will be huge step towards Ukraine’s renaissance and, therefore, ultimately to the general welfare of its people.
To achieve this revival, we need to change: we must be pragmatic, not fanatic, and see European integration as an opportunity, but not as an obsession.
Europe does not need our industry, even that which has high value added. However, Ukraine still needs the employment and revenue provided by the production of these goods.
The fifth thesis, obvious in the development of the topic, is that Ukraine must avoid the vicious cycle of living in debt hoping that eventually all the issues connected with western loans will disappear.
I have often heard it said that Ukraine would not be required to repay its loans. Some say that when we join Europe, the West will write off our financial liabilities, as it did at the beginning of the 1990s when it wrote off half of Poland’s debt. They think that when we show Europe the reforms we have made, they will magically write off our debts.
I am not saying that we do not need Europe for reforms as well as democracy. Europe is confident we need them and their standards.
However, Ukraine is not Poland. In the early 1990s, there was a unique situation in which Poland became an exemplary model to Eastern European countries of a country transitioning from a socialist to a market economy. A lot of exceptions were made for Poland, not only in relation to its liabilities. Poland gained de facto preferential treatment on entering the European Common Market, but this was not given to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia or the Baltic States. Why should the European Union make similar concessions to Ukraine today?
I am sceptical as to whether Leszek Balcerowicz, former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and advisor to the President of Ukraine, could follow the same path taken by Poland. Balcerowicz did not introduce the measures taken by the Polish Government to rescue its economy. The reforms only began after Balcerowicz’s “shock therapy”. In Ukraine, we have started to implement reforms, but then we will still need the shock therapy and a state rescue programme.
We are only obliged to implement a system that would enable the inflow of investment instead of credits. It has been said that when you borrow money, you have another man’s money. However, when it comes to repaying the loan, it is your money. And you can add, plus interest. Plus interest on the interest, a feature of the IMF credits.
You can see where an ill-conceived policy of credit loans can lead by looking at the examples of Liberia and Argentina. In Liberia’s case, every citizen had to be satisfied with an average of between 90 cents and one dollar a day, while the state repaid its debts to the IMF to the tune of three dollars per day per person. In Argentina’s example, the two defaults resulted in land and a number of strategic assets passing into the hands of foreign creditors. I do not think that anyone wants Ukraine to be faced with either of these options.
Again, investors will not come to Ukraine without it addressing the necessity for new industrialisation.
The sixth thesis, follows as a conclusion of the fifth one: the main task of post-revolutionary Ukraine must include the establishment of a new system for running business, which renders features such as corporate raiding impossible.
If Ukraine, according to the data of Heritage Foundation (2016), is 162nd in the world’s ranking of economic freedom (the worst rating for any European country), then it is not merely a wake up call. It is an alarm bell!
The task of economic transparency can not be resolved without a number of conditions being met: without a fight against the illegal armed groups which terrorise and invade companies; without a programme of transformation of the financial and industrial groups in the country and stimulation of the development of small and medium-sized businesses instead of the populist deoligarchisation; without a reduction of the state apparatus and the limitation of its impact on business; without the creation of programmes for fighting corruption but the eradication of the reasons for corruption; without a radical revision of the licensing system… Only then will the entire system have been destroyed. My opponents claim that they are terrified. However, you wanted the revolution, didn’t you? How can there be a revolution without destroying the system? – I will answer.
The legal system must protect business. Every bourgeois-democratic revolution must lead to expanding opportunities and initiatives for business people, and to the development of a middle class (which is nearly 10—12% of population in Ukraine). The middle class should be the bearer of democratic values. Democracy is strongest when it is perceived as an instrument for achievement of the goals of the middle classes. This is a fact. If we abandon the economic component, ignoring the economic potential of the country, and the new transparent forms of running business, does it mean that the process we call revolution was actually a proletarian revolution? Was it a rebellion of the lower classes?
Of course, these are only philosophic and casuistic musings. The more I reflect on the events of recent years, the more I come to the conclusion that post-revolutionary structures are needed. We need dramatic, hard-hitting solutions in the political, administrative and legal spheres. Perhaps a Patriotic Act that sweeps aside all the mistakes that have been made over the last few years and consolidates the frameworks of the new political, legal and administrative reality.
In my opinion, Post-revolution represents a triumph of common sense, public optimism, stability and strategic vision. It represents the need to stop experimenting with traditions – traditions that always eventually resurface.
I am a Ukrainian patriot. I made my choice consciously and I am not going to change my mind. I followed my convictions, when I became a Ukrainian citizen, no matter how many of my detractors claim the contrary. I live and work here, I pay taxes here, and I abide by the laws here. My future is here. I care about the fate of the country that I now call home.
I am writing these lines on the eve of a bright and joyful celebration – Christ’s Resurrection – and I hope for the rebirth of Ukraine, the return of tolerance, moderation, sincerity, stability, wisdom and the ability to comprise. These are all characteristics for which the Ukrainian nation has been famous.
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Article by Vadym Novynskyi, People’s Deputy from the Opposition Bloc Party, for the “Zerkalo Nedeli” Weekly Newspaper