Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

19 April 2014

History Lessons: Europe and Ukraine, Past and Future


https://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/bilder/ukraine422~_v-modPremiumHalb.jpg

The history of Ukraine has revealed the turning points in the history of Europe. On 25 May both Ukrainians and EU citizens can decide which way things will turn this time. Ukraine has no future without Europe, but Europe also has no future without Ukraine.




By Dr Timothy Snyder

The history of statehood on the territory of Ukraine begins with two archetypically European encounters. Medieval statehood on the territory of today's Ukraine, like that of France and England, includes an encounter with Vikings. The men from the north sought to establish a trade route between the Baltic and Black Seas, and used Kyiv, on the Dnipro (Dnieper) River, as a trading post. Their arrival coincided with the collapse of an earlier Khazar state, and their leaders soon intermarried with the local Slavic-speaking population. Thus arose the entity known as Kievan Rus. Like all of the states of medieval eastern Europe, Rus was a pagan entity that did not so much convert to Christianity as choose between its western and eastern variants. Like all of its neighbours, it hesitated between Rome and Byzantium before its rulers chose the latter. Rus was seriously weakened by problems of succession before its destruction was ensured by the arrival of the Mongols in the first half of the thirteenth century.

At this point the history of Rus fragments into parts. Most of the lands of Rus were gathered in by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, an enormous warrior state with a capital in Vilnius. Its grand dukes styled themselves the inheritors of Rus and adapted many of its cultural achievements, such as its Slavic court language and legal traditions. Although the grand dukes were pagan Lithuanians, most of their subjects were eastern Christians. After the grand dukes of Lithuania became, by personal union, the kings of Poland, most of the lands of Ukraine were part of what was now the largest European state. Constitutional reforms of 1569 established this state as a republic known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In this "republic of two nations", the lands of Ukraine were part of the Polish crown, and the lands of Belarus part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In this way a new division was created within the old lands of Rus. 

This was the first epoch of oligarchic pluralism in Ukraine. Ukrainian noblemen took part as equals in the representative institutions of the republic, but the vast majority of the population was colonized in large estates that produced grain for export. Local warlords were joined by Polish noblemen as well as Jews, who helped to establish a feudal order in the country. It was in this era that Jews helped to create the small cities remembered as shtetls.




The Holodomor memorial, 'Sad Memory of Childhood,' dedicated to starved children of Ukraine, in Kyiv 



Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive that cover the background to today's situation in Ukraine. [ more ] 

This political system brought the Cossack rebellion of 1648, in which free men who had escaped the system challenged its logic. Fatefully, they allied with a rival state that had roots in ancient Rus, the Duchy of Muscovy. The city of Moscow had been on the eastern frontier of Rus, and unlike most of the territories of Rus it remained under direct Mongol control. Whereas the territories of today's Belarus and Ukraine were in contact, through Vilnius and Warsaw, with the Renaissance and the Reformation, neither of these trends reached Moscow. Its break from Mongol rule is dated conventionally at 1480. The dukes of Moscow, like the grand dukes of Lithuania, styled themselves the inheritors of Kievan Rus. They did not however control Kyiv for nearly half a millennium after the destruction of that medieval state. For most of the time Kyiv was ruled from Vilnius and Warsaw. 

The Cossack rebellions began the decline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and created the conditions for the shift of Kyiv from Polish to Muscovite rule. In 1667 the lands of today's Ukraine were divided between the Commonwealth and Muscovy, with Kyiv on the Muscovite side. This permitted contact between Muscovy and Europe and educated elites from Kyiv's university moved north to become professionals and officials in the growing empire. The pattern repeated itself when the Commonwealth was partitioned out of existence by Muscovy (by then known as the Russian Empire), Prussia and the Habsburg monarchy at the end of the eighteenth century. The Russian Empire, which had no tradition of higher education, exploited literate men trained in Vilnius and Kyiv. 

In the nineteenth century, the Ukrainian national movement also followed rather typical European patterns. Some of these educated men, lay and clergy, began to rebel against their own biographies and present the subject of history not as the elites but as the masses. The trend began in Kharkiv, and then spread to Kyiv and across the Russian-Habsburg border into Lviv. Ukrainian historians of the nineteenth century were leaders among the general European trend of romanticizing the common people, known in Ukraine as populism. This intellectual move also allowed for the imagination of a common Ukrainian nation across the border of the Russian Empire and the Habsburg monarchy (where a small territory known as eastern Galicia was home to speakers of the language we would call Ukrainian). 

As in the rest of eastern Europe, the Great War brought the end of traditional empire and attempts to establish a national state following the Wilsonian logic of self-determination. But in Ukraine the attempts were multiple, one on the Habsburg lands and one on the lands of the Russian Empire. The first was defeated by Poles, who succeeded in attaching eastern Galicia to their own new state. The second had to contend with both the Red Army and its White opponents, who even as they fought against each other agreed that Ukraine would be part of a larger political unit. Although the Ukrainian national movement was comparable to those of other east European territories, and although people fought and died in larger numbers for Ukraine than for most of the other emergent nation-states after 1918, the outcome was complete failure. After an enormously complicated series of events, in which Kyiv was occupied a dozen times, the Red Army was victorious, and a Soviet Ukraine was established as part of the new Soviet Union in 1922. 

Precisely because the Ukrainian movement was difficult to suppress, and precisely because Soviet Ukraine was a western borderland of the USSR, the question of its European identity was central from the beginning of Soviet history. Within Soviet policy was an ambiguity about Europe: Soviet modernization was to repeat European capitalist modernity, but only in order to surpass it. Europe might be either progressive or regressive in this scheme, depending upon the moment, the perspective and the mood of the leader. In the 1920s Soviet policy favoured the development of a Ukrainian intellectual and political class, on the assumption that enlightened Ukrainians would align themselves with the Soviet future. In the 1930s, Soviet policy sought to modernize the Ukrainian countryside by collectivizing the land and transforming the peasants into employees of the state. This brought declining yields as well as massive resistance from a peasantry that believed in private property. 

Joseph Stalin transformed these failures into a political victory by blaming them upon Ukrainian nationalists and their foreign supporters. He continued requisitions in Ukraine in the full knowledge that he was starving millions of human beings, and crushed the new Ukrainian intelligentsia. More than three million people were starved in Soviet Ukraine. The consequence was a new Soviet order of intimidation, where Europe was presented only as a threat. Stalin claimed, absurdly but effectively, that Ukrainians were deliberately starving themselves on orders from Warsaw. Later, Soviet propaganda maintained that anyone who mentioned the famine must be an agent of Nazi Germany. Thus began the politics of fascism and anti-fascism, where Moscow was the defender of all that was good, and its critics were fascists. This very effective rhetorical pose did not preclude an actual Soviet alliance with the actual Nazis in 1939. Given today's return of Russian propaganda to anti-fascism, this is an important point to remember: the whole grand moral Manichaeism was meant to serve the state, and as such did not limit it in any way. The embrace of anti-fascism as a strategy is quite different from opposing actual fascists. 

Ukraine was at the centre of the policy that Stalin called "internal colonization"; it was also at the centre of Hitler's plans for an external colonization. His Lebensraum was before all Ukraine. Its fertile soil was to be cleared of Soviet power and exploited for Germany. The plan was to continue the use of Stalin's collective farms, but to divert the food from east to west. Along the way German planners expected that some thirty million inhabitants of the Soviet Union would starve to death. In this style of thinking, Ukrainians were of course subhumans, incapable of normal political life, fit only for colonization. No European country was subject to such intense colonization as Ukraine, and no European country suffered more: it was the deadliest place on earth between 1933 and 1945. 

In today's Germany, colonial assumptions remain unexamined. Germans are reflective about crimes against Jews and against the Soviet Union (falsely remembered as Russia), but almost no one in Germany recognizes that the central object of German colonial thinking and practice was precisely Ukraine. German leaders as prominent as Helmut Schmidt do not hesitate, even today, to exclude Ukrainians from the normal precepts of international law. The idea that Ukrainians are not normal human beings persists, now with the vicious twist that Ukrainians are held responsible for the crimes in Ukraine that were in fact German policy and would never have taken place without a German war and German policies of colonization. 

Although Hitler's main war aim was the destruction of the Soviet Union, he found himself needing an alliance with the Soviet Union to begin armed conflict. In 1939, after it became clear that Poland would fight, Hitler recruited Stalin for a double invasion. Stalin had been hoping for years for such an invitation. Soviet policy had been aiming at the destruction of Poland for a long time already. Moreover, Stalin thought that an alliance with Hitler, in other words cooperation with the European far Right, he thought, was the key to destroying Europe. A German-Soviet alliance would turn Germany, he expected, against its western neighbours and lead to the weakening or even the destruction of European capitalism. This is not so different from a certain calculation made by Vladimir Putin today, as we shall see. 

The result of the cooperative German-Soviet invasion was the defeat of Poland and the destruction of the Polish state, but also an important development in Ukrainian nationalism. In the 1930s, there had been no Ukrainian national movement in the Soviet Union: such a thing was impossible. There was however an underground terrorist movement in Poland known as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). It was little more than an irritant in normal times, but with war its importance grew. The OUN opposed both Polish and Soviet rule of what it saw as Ukrainian territories, and thus regarded a German invasion of the east as the only way that a Ukrainian state-building process could begin. Thus the OUN supported Germany in its invasion of Poland in 1939 and would do so again in 1941, when Germany betrayed its ally and invaded the USSR. 

Meanwhile, the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland between 1939 and 1941 also favoured Ukrainian nationalism. The Polish ruling classes and the leaders of traditional Ukrainian political parties were deported or killed. Ukrainian nationalists, used to life underground, fared better. Ukrainian leftwing revolutionaries, who had been quite numerous before the war, often shifted to the radical Right after experience with Soviet rule. In addition, the Soviets themselves assassinated the leader of the Organization for Ukrainian Nationalists, which brought a struggle for power between two younger men, Stepan Bandera and Andrii Melnyk. 

Ukrainian nationalists tried political collaboration with Germany in 1941, and failed. Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists joined in the German invasion of the USSR as scouts and translators, and some of them helped the Germans organize pogroms. Ukrainian nationalist politicians tried to collect their debt by declaring an independent Ukraine in June 1941. Hitler was completely uninterested in such a prospect. Much of the nationalist leadership was killed or incarcerated. Stepan Bandera himself spent most of the rest of the war in Sachsenhausen. Some Ukrainians continued to collaborate with the hope of gaining military experience or of some future political reversal when the Germans might need them. But in occupied Ukraine, as everywhere in Europe, the vast majority of practical collaboration had little to do with politics. 

As the war continued many Ukrainian nationalists prepared themselves for a moment of revolt when Soviet power replaced German. They saw the USSR as the main enemy, partly for ideological reasons, but mainly because it was winning the war. In Volhynia, Ukrainian nationalists established a Ukrainian Insurgent Army whose task was to somehow defeat the Soviets after the Soviets had defeated the Germans. Along the way it undertook a massive and murderous ethnic cleansing of Poles in 1943, killing at the same time a number of Jews who had been hiding with Poles. This was not in any sense collaboration with the Germans, but rather the murderous part of what its leaders saw as a national revolution. The Ukrainian nationalists did then fight the Soviets in a horrifying partisan war, in which the most brutal tactics were used by both sides. It was Nikita Khrushchev who ordered that the Soviets exceed the nationalists in brutality to cow the local population. 

The political collaboration and the uprising of Ukrainian nationalists were, all in all, a minor element in the history of the German occupation. As a result of the war something like six million people were killed on the territory of today's Ukraine, including about 1.5 million Jews. The Germans developed the techniques of mass killing at Kamyanets-Podilsky and Babyn Yar, where more than twenty thousand and then more than thirty thousand Jews were killed by mass shooting. Throughout occupied Soviet Ukraine local people collaborated with the Germans, as they did throughout the occupied Soviet Union and indeed throughout occupied Europe. 

But far, far more people in Ukraine were killed by the Germans than collaborated with them, something which is not true of any occupied country in western Europe. For that matter, far, far more people from Ukraine fought against the Germans than on the side of the Germans, which is again something which is not true of any west European country. The vast majority of Ukrainians who fought in the war did so in the uniform of the Red Army. More Ukrainians were killed fighting the Wehrmacht than American, British and French soldiers – combined. In Germany these basic facts are invisible because the Red Army is falsely seen as a Russian army, an identification insisted upon by the propaganda of today's Russia. If the Red Army is a Russian army, then Ukrainians must have been the enemy. This line of thinking was invented by Stalin himself at the end of the war. The idea of the Great Fatherland War had three purposes: it started the action in 1941 rather than 1939 so that the Nazi-Soviet alliance was forgotten, and it placed Russia at the centre of events even though Ukraine was much more at the centre of the war, and it ignored Jewish suffering completely. 

It is the propaganda of the post-war period much more than the experience of the war that counts in the memory politics of today. No one in power now remembers the Second World War, although some Russian leaders seem to believe the version that they were taught as children. The leading Russian politicians of today are children of the 1970s, and thus of the Brezhnevian cult of the war. The Great Fatherland War became more simply Russian, without Ukrainians and Jews. The Jews suffered more than any other Soviet people, but the Holocaust as such had no place in Soviet history. It appeared mainly in propaganda directed to the West, in which the suffering of Jews was blamed entirely on Ukrainian and other nationalists – people who lived on the territories Stalin had conquered during the war as Hitler's ally in 1939, and people who had resisted Soviet power when it returned in 1945. This is a tradition, to which Russian propagandists have returned in today's Ukrainian crisis: total indifference to the Holocaust except as a political resource useful in manipulating people in the West. 

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union itself was Russified, in a certain special way. The ideological conclusion was drawn that classes exist within the Soviet Union itself and not within individual nations. Thus the USSR needed only one thinking class, and not multiple national ones. As a result the Ukrainian language was driven from schools, and especially from higher education. It remained as a language of low culture and, paradoxically, of very high culture, as even at this point no one in the USSR denied the existence of a distinct Ukrainian tradition in the arts and humanities. In this atmosphere Ukrainian patriots, and even Ukrainian nationalists, embraced a civic understanding of Ukrainian identity. They were aided in this by Polish émigré intellectuals, who in the 1970s and 1980s were defining a future foreign policy for a period after communism. 

These thinkers, grouped around Jerzy Giedroyc and the journal Kultura in Paris, argued that Ukraine was a nation in the same sense as Poland and that a future independent Poland should recognize a future independent Ukraine – without challenging its borders. This was controversial at the time, because Poland lost the lands now known as western Ukraine as a result of the war. In retrospect it was a first step, for both Ukraine and Poland, towards the legal and intuitional norms of post-war Europe. The preemptive recognition of Ukraine within its existing borders became the basis for a Polish foreign policy of "European standards" in 1989. In the crucial period between 1989 and 1991, and for the first time in history, Ukrainian national activists only had one opponent: the Soviet Union. In December 1991, more than 90 per cent of the inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine voted for independence (including a majority in all regions of Ukraine). 

Russia and Ukraine then went their separate ways. Privatization and lawlessness led to oligarchy in both countries. In Russia the oligarchs were subdued by a centralized state, whereas in Ukraine they generated their own sort of pluralism. Until very recently all presidents in Ukraine oscillated between east and west in their foreign policy and among oligarchic clans in their domestic loyalties. What was unusual about Viktor Yanukovych is that he tried to end all pluralism, not only the popular sort but the oligarchic sort as well. In domestic policy he generated a fake democracy, in which his favoured opponent was the far-right party Svoboda. In so doing, he created a situation in which he could win elections and in which he could tell foreign observers that he was at least better than the nationalist alternative. In foreign policy he found himself pushed towards the Russia of Vladimir Putin, not so much because he desired this as such, but because the way in which he ruled made substantial cooperation with the European Union difficult. Yanukovych seems to have stolen so much from state coffers that the state itself was on the point of bankruptcy in 2013, which also made him vulnerable to Russia. 

Oscillating between Russia and the West was no longer possible. By 2013 however Moscow no longer represented simply a Russian state with more or less calculable interests, but rather a much grander project of Eurasian integration. The Eurasian project had two parts: the creation of a free trade bloc of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and the destruction of the European Union through the support of the European far Right. Imperial social conservatism provided the ideological cover for a goal that was eminently simple. The Putin regime depends upon the sale of hydrocarbons that are piped to Europe. A united Europe could generate an energy policy, under the pressures of Russian unpredictability or global warming – or both. But a disintegrated Europe would remain dependent on Russian hydrocarbons. Individual nation-states would be more pliable than the EU. Throughout 2013, media close to the Kremlin returned obsessively to the theme of European decadence, usually expressed in sexual terms. But the decay of Europe is not so much the reality perceived by the Putin regime as the goal of its policy. 

Just as soon as these vaulting ambitions were formulated, the proud Eurasian posture crashed upon the reality of Ukrainian society. In late 2013 and early 2014, the attempt to bring Ukraine within the Eurasian orbit produced exactly the opposite result. First, Russia publically dissuaded Yanukovych from signing a trade agreement with the EU. This brought protests in Ukraine. Then Russia offered a large loan and favourable gas prices in exchange for crushing the protests. Russian-style laws introduced in January transformed the protests into a mass movement. Millions of people who had joined in peaceful protests were suddenly transformed into criminals and some of them began to defend themselves against the police. Finally, Russia made clear, both privately and publically, that Yanukovych had to clear Kyiv of protestors in order to receive the money. Then followed the sniper massacre of February, which gave the revolutionaries a clear moral and political victory, and forced Yanukovych to flee to Russia. The Eurasian Union could only be a club of dictatorships, but the attempt to create dictatorship in Ukraine led to an outcome exactly the opposite of what was desired: the return of parliamentary rule, the announcement of presidential elections, and a foreign policy oriented towards Europe. None of this would have happened without the spontaneous self-organization of millions of Ukrainians on the Maidan in Kyiv and throughout the country. 

This made the revolution in Ukraine not only a disaster for Russian foreign policy, but a challenge to the Russian regime at home. The weakness of Putin's policy is that it cannot account for the actions of free human beings who choose to organize themselves in response to unpredictable historical events. Its strength is its tactical dexterity and ideological shamelessness. Thus Eurasia was very quickly modified: it was no longer a dictators' club and the attempt to destroy the EU, but rather the attempt to destabilize the Ukrainian state and the EU at the same time. Russian propaganda presented the Ukrainian revolution as a Nazi coup and blamed Europeans for supporting these supposed Nazis. This version, although ridiculous, was much more comfortable in Putin's mental world, since it removed from view the debacle of Russian foreign policy in Ukraine, and replaced spontaneous action by Ukrainians with foreign conspiracies. 

The Russian invasion and occupation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea was a frontal challenge to the European security order as well as to the Ukrainian state. It created the temptation for Germans and others to return to the traditional world of colonial thinking, ignoring decades of law and regarding the Ukrainians as unworthy of statehood. The Russian annexation was carried out, tellingly, with the help of Putin's extremist allies throughout Europe. No reputable organization would observe the electoral farce by which 97 per cent of Crimeans supposedly voted to be annexed. But a ragtag delegation of rightwing populists, neo-Nazis and members of the German party Die Linke (the Left Party) were happy to come and endorse the results. The German delegation to Crimea was composed of four members of Die Linke and one member of Neue Rechte (New Right). This is a telling combination. 

Die Linke operate within a certain virtual reality created by Russian propaganda, in which the task of the European Left is to, from Moscow's perspective, criticize the Ukrainian Right – but not the European Right, and certainly not the Russian Right. Now, there is some basis for such criticism. Ukraine does have a far Right and its members do have some influence. Svoboda, which was Yanukovych's house opposition, liberated itself from this role during the revolution. In the current Ukrainian government it holds four of twenty portfolios. This overstates both its electoral support, which is about three per cent, and its representation in parliament. Some of the people who fought the police during the revolution, although by no means a majority, were from a new group called Right Sector, some of whose members are radical nationalists. Its presidential candidate is polling at below two per cent, and the group itself has something like three hundred members. There is support for the far Right in Ukraine, although less than in most members of the European Union. 

A revolutionary situation always favours extremists, and watchfulness is certainly in order. It is quite striking, however, that Kyiv and Ukraine returned to order immediately after the revolution and that the new government has taken an almost unbelievably calm stance in the face of Russian invasion. The only scenario in which Ukrainian extremists actually come to the fore is one in which Russia actually tries to invade the rest of the country. If presidential elections proceed as planned in May, then the unpopularity and weakness of the Ukrainian far Right will be revealed. This is why Moscow opposes those elections. 

People who criticize only the Ukrainian Right often fail to notice two very important things. The first is that the revolution in Ukraine came from the left. Its enemy was an authoritarian kleptocrat, and its central program was social justice and the rule of law. It was initiated by a journalist of Afghan background, its first two mortal casualties were an Armenian and a Belarusian, and it was supported by the Muslim Crimean Tatar community as well as many Ukrainian Jews. A Jewish Red Army veteran was among those killed in the sniper massacre. Multiple IDF veterans returned from Israel to Ukraine to fight for freedom. 

The Maidan functioned in two languages simultaneously, Ukrainian and Russian, because Kyiv is a bilingual city, Ukraine is a bilingual country and Ukrainians are bilingual people. Indeed, the motor of the revolution was the Russian-speaking middle class of Kyiv. The current government is unselfconsciously multiethnic and multilingual. Ukraine is a cosmopolitan place where considerations of language and ethnicity count for less then we think. In fact, Ukraine is now the site of the largest and most important free media in the Russian language, since all important media in Ukraine appear in Russian, and since freedom of speech prevails. Putin's idea of defending Russian speakers in Ukraine is absurd on many levels, but one of them is this: people can say what they like in Russian in Ukraine, but they cannot do so in Russia itself. 

This is the second thing that goes unnoticed: the authoritarian far Right in Russia is infinitely more dangerous than the authoritarian far Right in Ukraine. It is in power, for one thing. It has no meaningful rivals, for another. It does not have to accommodate itself to international expectations, for a third. And it is now pursuing a foreign policy that is based openly upon the ethnicization of the world. It does not matter who an individual is according to law or his own preferences: the fact that he speaks Russian makes him a Volksgenosse requiring Russian protection, which is to say invasion. The Russian parliament granted Putin the authority to invade the entirety of Ukraine and to transform its social and political structure, which is an extraordinarily radical goal. It also sent a missive to the Polish foreign ministry proposing a partition of Ukraine. On popular Russian television, Jews are blamed for the Holocaust; in the major newspaper Izvestiia, Hitler is rehabilitated as a reasonable statesman responding to unreasonable western pressure. The pro-war demonstrations supporting the invasion of Ukraine are composed of people who wear monochrome uniforms and march in formation. The Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine involves generating ethnic violence, not suppressing it. The man who raised the Russian flag in Donetsk was a member of a neo-Nazi party. 

All of this is consistent with the fundamental ideological premise of Eurasia. Whereas European integration begins from the premise that National Socialism and Stalinism were negative examples, Eurasian integration begins from the more jaded and postmodern premise that history is a sort of grab bag of useful ideas. Whereas European integration presumes liberal democracy, Eurasian ideology explicitly rejects it. The main Eurasian ideologist, Alexander Dugin, who once called for a fascism "as red as our blood", receives more attention now than ever before. His three basic political ideas – the need to colonize Ukraine; the decadence of the European Union; and the desirability of an alternative Eurasian project from Lisbon to Vladivostok – are now all officially enunciated, in less wild forms than his to be sure, as Russian foreign policy. President Putin presents Russia today as an encircled homeland, not of the revolution as the communists used to say, but of the counter-revolution. He portrays Russia is a special civilization which must be defended at all costs, even though it generates power in Europe and the world through its rather generic collection of reactionary mantras and its accidental possession of hydrocarbons. 

More than anything else, what unites the Russian leadership with the European far Right is a certain basic dishonesty, a lie so fundamental and self-delusive that it has the potential to destroy an entire peaceful order. Even as Russian leaders pour scorn on a Europe they present as a gay fleshpot, Russia's elite is dependent upon the European Union at every conceivable level. Without European predictability, law and culture, Russians would have nowhere to launder their money, establish their front companies, send their children to school, or spend their vacations. Europe is both the basis of the Russian system and its safety valve. Likewise, the average Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ in Austria) or Marine Le Pen (Front National in France) voter takes for granted countless elements of peace and prosperity that were achieved as a result of European integration. The archetypical example is the possibility, on 25 May, to use free and fair democratic elections to the European parliament to vote for people who claim to oppose the existence of the European parliament. 

Like Putin, Strache and Le Pen propose an obvious contradiction: all of the benefits of European peace and prosperity will somehow remain, even as Europeans return to some form of national state. But this, of course, is a utopia as stupid as it is colourless. There is no nation-state to which anyone can return. The only alternatives in a globalized world are various forms of interaction. For countries like France or Austria, or for that matter Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary, the rejection of the European Union is the embrace of Eurasia. This is the simple objective reality: a united Europe can and most likely will respond adequately to an aggressive Russian petrostate, whereas a collection of quarrelling nation-states will not. The leaders of Europe's rightwing parties no longer even attempt to hide that their escape from Brussels leads them into the arms of Putin. Their party members go to Crimea and praise the electoral farce as a model for Europe. Their allegiance, in almost every single case, is to Putin rather than to the supposedly far-Right Ukrainian government. Even Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, now shares Putin's propaganda on Ukraine with millions of British viewers in a televised debate. 

Presidential elections in Ukraine are to be held on 25 May, which by no coincidence is also the day of elections to the European parliament. The ongoing Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine is meant to prevent these elections from taking place. In the next few weeks, Eurasia means the collaboration of the Kremlin and the European far Right as Russia tries to prevent the Ukrainian elections from happening at all, and as European nationalists try to win European elections. A vote for Strache or Le Pen or even Farage is now a vote for Putin, and a defeat for Europe is a victory for Eurasia. The return to the nation-state is impossible, so integration will continue in one form or another: all that can be decided is the form. Politicians and intellectuals used to say that there was no alternative to the European project, but now there is: Eurasia. 

Ukraine has no future without Europe, but Europe also has no future without Ukraine. Throughout the centuries, the history of Ukraine has revealed the turning points in the history of Europe. This seems still to be true today. Of course, which way things will turn still depends, at least for the next six weeks, on the Europeans.




Dr Snyder is an American historian. He is a Professor of History at Yale University, specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, and the Holocaust.  He has been the holder of the Philippe Roman Chair of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is also affiliated with the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna and the College of Europe in Natolin, Poland.  He is also the author of the seminal book, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, which goes into great depth and detail exposing the atrocities committed in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine, by both the Nazis and the Soviets during the 20th century.

In Your Easter Bonnet With All The Frills Upon It ... From Dean Martin To Judy Garland, Vintage Photographs Reveal The Pomp And Circumstance Of New York's Easter Parade (Photo Essay)





By The Daily Mail

A new collection of vintage photographs reveal the pomp and circumstance of New York's Easter Parade decades ago, with hundreds and thousands of spectators - including the rich and famous - using it as occasion to model the latest fashions.

In one black-and-white image, dated 1948, screen stars Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are seen strolling along in top hats, cravats and striped blazers with canes to hand. While another captures billionaire oil magnate John D. Rockefelle Jr. on his way to church dressed in his Sunday best.

Joining the A-star line-up is a 15-year-old Judy Garland riding in a horse and cart wearing furs. Ironically, nine years later she would be responsible for immortalizing Manhattan's famous pageant by staring in Irving Berlin's hit film Easter Parade opposite Fred Astaire.


Star smile: Joining the A-star line-up is a 15-year-old Judy Garland riding in a horse and cart wearing furs in 1939. Ironically, nine years later she would be responsible for immortalizing Manhattan's famous pageant by staring in Irving Berlin's hit film Easter Parade opposite Fred Astaire
Star smile: Joining the A-star line-up is a 15-year-old Judy Garland riding in a horse and cart wearing furs in 1939. Ironically, nine years later she would be responsible for immortalizing Manhattan's famous pageant by staring in Irving Berlin's hit film Easter Parade opposite Fred Astaire


Other 'celebrity sightings' at the event during the mid-20th centurt included TV comedian Milton Berle, screen star Bette Davis and surrealist artist, Salvador Dali, who first visited New York in 1934.

The event, which takes place on Easter Sunday, started out as a spontaneous event in the 1870s and soon became an annual tradition.

By the 1950s it had an attendance rate of close to one million and other cities developed their own versions. Philadelphia and Boston were among these, as were Coney Island and Atlantic City, where the parades became tourist attractions. 


By the mid-20th century, the parade's religious aspects had faded, and it was mostly seen as a demonstration of American prosperity. It reportedly only attracted 30,000 bystanders in 2008.

In 1988, Albert Baragwanath, a then senior curator at the Museum of the City of New York, told the New York Times that the parade's decline in popularity was due to a 'general decline in the refinements of life'.

He continued: 'I feel that the whole elegance of Fifth Avenue has deteriorated. The elegantly dressed people aren't there anymore.'

However, the event remains on the calendar and is less about style and more about having fun.

This year the area along Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets will be closed to cars from 10am to 4pm to make ways for the annual parade of Easter bonnets and costumed pets.


Swagger: Dean Martin (left) and Jerry Lewis attracted much attention in the Easter parade on Fifth Avenue when they appeared in 'new' Easter outfits that hark back to the old days in 1948

Swagger: Dean Martin (left) and Jerry Lewis attracted much attention in the Easter parade on Fifth Avenue when they appeared in 'new' Easter outfits that hark back to the old days in 1948



Bonnets on! One woman lets her enthusiasm for General Dwight Eisenhower go to her head in 152 (left) while in 1944 actress  Lisette Verea opted for a quirky headpiece complete with a red felt lips and a protruding cigarette 


Quite a buzz: TV stars Steve Allen, (L) and Eva Gabor, interview Surrealist Salvador Dali, (C) in front of St Patrick's Cathedral during the Easter Parade in 1951

Quite a buzz: TV stars Steve Allen, (L) and Eva Gabor, interview Surrealist Salvador Dali, (C) in front of St Patrick's Cathedral during the Easter Parade in 1951


 
Family affair: Easter Sunday on Fifth Avenue in 1922 the wife of famed American philosopher C.S. Pierce, walks with her children (left) while financier George Jay Gould's brood step out in matching outfits and bonnets


Attracting the rich and famous: Prince George of Russia and Miss Jane Erdmann were snapped as they took part in the annual Easter Parade along Fifth Avenue in 1933 while walking their dogs

Attracting the rich and famous: Prince George of Russia and Miss Jane Erdmann were snapped as they took part in the annual Easter Parade along Fifth Avenue in 1933 while walking their dogs




Wearing the latest fashions: The parade which takes place on Easter Sunday, started out as a spontaneous event in the 1870s and soon became an annual tradition - here two couples are seen wearing their finest in 1922


 
A child's delight: Milton Berle, stoops to hug his daughter in the midst of New York's Easter parade in 1950 while motion picture star Bette Davis and her artist husband William Grant Sherry were spotted taking a leisurely stroll through Central Park with their daughter Barbara the previous year


Rammed! Spectators crowd the streets around Rockefeller Center for the Easter Parade in 1945

Rammed! Spectators crowd the streets around Rockefeller Center for the Easter Parade in 1945



Piece of history: Dressed in the traditional Easter fashion, a Paramount newsreel cameraman trains his camera on the crowds in 1948

Piece of history: Dressed in the traditional Easter fashion, a Paramount newsreel cameraman trains his camera on the crowds in 1948




Growing in popularity: Church-goers seen at St. Thomas' Church in 1915 (left) on Fifth Avenue and in 1922 (right)





Dressing like a billionaire: Oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, Jr. steps out in his Sunday best before going to Easter service at church in 1922 (left) and 1924 (right)




Stepping out in style: Three women model the latest fashions in 1922 - wide-brimmed hats, low heels and calf-length skirts appear to have been in



Change of scenery: Easter morning in 1900 in New York with horse-drawn traffic and two motor cars

Change of scenery: Easter morning in 1900 in New York with horse-drawn traffic and two motor cars


Community spirit: Russian costumes on Fifth Avenue in 1922 - this this year the area along Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets will be closed to cars from 10am to 4pm to make ways for the annual parade of Easter bonnets and costumed pets

Community spirit: Russian costumes on Fifth Avenue in 1922 - this this year the area along Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets will be closed to cars from 10am to 4pm to make ways for the annual parade of Easter bonnets and costumed pets


More...






















http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Pz6Y71izjiM/UVayTbki-pI/AAAAAAAAKn8/g135HwWGM2I/s640/banner.jpg









18 April 2014

The Slow Death Of Free Speech In The West


AA671283: Literature, Music, Theatre

How the Left, here and abroad, is trying to shut down debate —  from Islam and Israel to global warming and gay marriage



By Mark Steyn

These days, pretty much every story is really the same story:

  • In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘Fucking Zionist, fucking pricks… Get the fuck off our campus.’
  • In California, Mozilla’s chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage. 
  • At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declares that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as fringe wacko extremists like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson. 
  • In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia. 
  • In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries. 
  • And in Canberra the government is planning to repeal Section 18C — whoa, don’t worry, not all of it, just three or four adjectives; or maybe only two, or whatever it’s down to by now, after what Gay Alcorn in the Age described as the ongoing debate about ‘where to strike the balance between free speech in a democracy and protection against racial abuse in a multicultural society’.

I heard a lot of that kind of talk during my battles with the Canadian ‘human rights’ commissions a few years ago: of course, we all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’… which all sounds terribly reasonable and Canadian, and apparently Australian, too. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all. So screw that. 

But I don’t really think that many people these days are genuinely interested in ‘striking the balance’; they’ve drawn the line and they’re increasingly unashamed about which side of it they stand. What all the above stories have in common, whether nominally about Israel, gay marriage, climate change, Islam, or even freedom of the press, is that one side has cheerfully swapped that apocryphal Voltaire quote about disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it for the pithier Ring Lardner line: ‘“Shut up,” he explained.’ 

A generation ago, progressive opinion at least felt obliged to pay lip service to the Voltaire shtick. These days, nobody’s asking you to defend yourself to the death: a mildly supportive retweet would do. But even that’s further than most of those in the academy, the arts, the media are prepared to go. As Erin Ching, a student at 60-grand-a-year Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, put it in her college newspaper the other day: ‘What really bothered me is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.’ Yeah, who needs that? There speaks the voice of a generation: celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity. 

The examples above are ever-shrinking Dantean circles of Tolerance: At Galway, the dissenting opinion was silenced by grunting thugs screaming four-letter words. At Mozilla, the chairwoman is far more housetrained: she issued a nice press release all about (per Miss Alcorn) striking a balance between freedom of speech and ‘equality’, and how the best way to ‘support’ a ‘culture’ of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ is by firing anyone who dissents from the mandatory groupthink. At the House of Commons they’re moving to the next stage: in an ‘inclusive culture’ ever more comfortable with narrower bounds of public discourse, it seems entirely natural that the next step should be for dissenting voices to require state permission to speak. 

At Brandeis University, we are learning the hierarchy of the new multiculti caste system. In theory, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. If conservative white males were to silence a secular women’s rights campaigner from Somalia, it would be proof of the Republican party’s ‘war on women’, or the encroaching Christian fundamentalist theocracy, or just plain old Andrew Boltian racism breaking free of its redoubt at the Herald Sun to rampage as far as the eye can see. But when the snivelling white male who purports to be president of Brandeis (one Frederick Lawrence) does it out of deference to Islam, Miss Hirsi Ali’s blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly news anchor. White feminist Germaine Greer can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine’s standards, Ms Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of ‘cultural identity’: ‘One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation,’ as she puts it. But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of ‘one man’s mutilation’ and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too ‘hateful’ to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all: race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women. 

That’s another reason why Gay Alcorn’s fretting over ‘striking the balance’ is so irrelevant. No matter where you strike it, the last unread nonagenarian white supremacist Xeroxing flyers in a shack off the Tanami Track will be way over the line, while, say, Sheikh Sharif Hussein’s lively sermon to an enthusiastic crowd at the Islamic Da’wah Centre of South Australia, calling on Allah to kill every last Buddhist and Hindu, will be safely inside it. One man’s decapitation is another man’s cultural validation, as Germaine would say. 

Ms Greer has reached that Circle of Tolerance wherein the turkeys line up to volunteer for an early Eid. The Leveson Inquiry declaration of support signed by all those London luvvies like Emma Thompson, Tom Stoppard, Maggie Smith, Bob Geldof and Ian McKellen is the stage that comes after that House of Commons Science and Technology Committee — when the most creative spirits in our society all suddenly say: ‘Ooh, yes, please, state regulation, bring it on!’ Many of the eminent thespians who signed this letter started their careers in an era when every play performed in the West End had to be approved by the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain. Presented with a script that contained three ‘fucks’ and an explicit reference to anal sex, he’d inform the producer that he would be permitted two ‘crikeys’ and a hint of heavy petting. In 1968, he lost his censorship powers, and the previously banned Hair, of all anodyne trifles, could finally be seen on the London stage: this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Only four and a half decades after the censor’s departure, British liberals are panting for the reimposition of censorship under a new ‘Royal Charter’. 

This is the aging of the dawn of Aquarius: new blasphemy laws for progressive pieties. In the New Statesman, Sarah Ditum seemed befuddled that the ‘No Platform’ movement — a vigorous effort to deny public platforms to the British National party and the English Defence League — has mysteriously advanced from silencing ‘violent fascists’ to silencing all kinds of other people, like a Guardian feminist who ventured some insufficiently affirming observations about trans-women and is now unfit for polite society. But, once you get a taste for shutting people up, it’s hard to stop. Why bother winning the debate when it’s easier to close it down? 

Nick Lowles defined the ‘No Platform’ philosophy as ‘the position where we refuse to allow fascists an opportunity to act like normal political parties’. But free speech is essential to a free society because, when you deny people ‘an opportunity to act like normal political parties’, there’s nothing left for them to do but punch your lights out. Free speech, wrote the Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson last week, ‘buttresses the political system’s legitimacy. It helps losers, in the struggle for public opinion and electoral success, to accept their fates. It helps keep them loyal to the system, even though it has disappointed them. They will accept the outcomes, because they believe they’ve had a fair opportunity to express and advance their views. There’s always the next election. Free speech underpins our larger concept of freedom.’ 

Just so. A fortnight ago I was in Quebec for a provincial election in which the ruling separatist party went down to its worst defeat in almost half a century. This was a democratic contest fought between parties that don’t even agree on what country they’re in. In Ottawa for most of the 1990s the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was a chap who barely acknowledged either the head of state or the state she’s head of. Which is as it should be. Because, if a Quebec separatist or an Australian republican can’t challenge the constitutional order through public advocacy, the only alternative is to put on a black ski-mask and skulk around after dark blowing stuff up. 

I’m opposed to the notion of official ideology — not just fascism, Communism and Baathism, but the fluffier ones, too, like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘climate change’ and ‘marriage equality’. Because the more topics you rule out of discussion — immigration, Islam, ‘gender fluidity’ — the more you delegitimise the political system. As your cynical political consultant sees it, a commitment to abolish Section 18C is more trouble than it’s worth: you’ll just spends weeks getting damned as cobwebbed racists seeking to impose a bigots’ charter when you could be moving the meter with swing voters by announcing a federal programmne of transgendered bathroom construction. But, beyond the shrunken horizons of spinmeisters, the inability to roll back something like 18C says something profound about where we’re headed: a world where real, primal, universal rights — like freedom of expression — come a distant second to the new tribalism of identity-group rights. 

Oh, don’t worry. There’ll still be plenty of ‘offending, insulting or humiliating’ in such a world, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Mozilla CEO and Zionists and climate deniers and feminist ‘cis-women’ not quite au courant with transphobia can all tell you. And then comes the final, eerie silence. Young Erin Ching at Swarthmore College has grasped the essential idea: it is not merely that, as the Big Climate enforcers say, ‘the science is settled’, but so is everything else, from abortion to gay marriage. So what’s to talk about? Universities are no longer institutions of inquiry but ‘safe spaces’ where delicate flowers of diversity of race, sex, orientation, ‘gender fluidity’ and everything else except diversity of thought have to be protected from exposure to any unsafe ideas. 

As it happens, the biggest ‘safe space’ on the planet is the Muslim world. For a millennium, Islamic scholars have insisted, as firmly as a climate scientist or an American sophomore, that there’s nothing to debate. And what happened? As the United Nations Human Development Programme’s famous 2002 report blandly noted, more books are translated in Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years. Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast. 

As American universities, British playwrights and Australian judges once understood, the ‘safe space’ is where cultures go to die.



Related Reading:






17 April 2014

An Amazing Odyssey: First Colour Postcards Of The 'New World' Showcase Life In The US At The End Of The 19th Century (Photo Essay)




By Sarah Gordon 

These postcards are the first colour photographs taken of the New World, capturing the majesty of the American landscape, from buzzing city scenes to the dramatic Grand Canyon.


The Big Apple: Mulberry Street, the main thoroughfare in Manhattan, is brought to life with the photochrom process, showing the varying ethnicity of New Yorkers and a glimpse at their everyday lives

The Big Apple: Mulberry Street, the main thoroughfare in Manhattan, is brought to life with the photochrom process, showing the varying ethnicity of New Yorkers and a glimpse at their everyday lives



Dating back to the late 19th century and early 20th century, they have been released from a private collection especially to celebrate travel through the US in a book entitled An American Odyssey. 

The photographs were taken between 1888 and 1924 and were made into postcards celebrating cities, landscapes and everyday life across the country.



Traditions: Members of the Seminole Tribe in Florida - whose history dates back to the early 1500s - are depicted in the dugout canoes in their elegant dress

Traditions: Members of the Seminole Tribe in Florida - whose history dates back to the early 1500s - are depicted in the dugout canoes in their elegant dress




Many of the images are produced using a photochrom process, taking black and white negatives and filling them with colour by transferring them onto lithographic printing stones.

Another process used was phostint, a way of tinting black and white and sepia images which was used by companies - including what was then known as the London Daily Mail - to print colour postcards of important events, such as scenes from the First World War.

These spectacular postcards are from a private collection amassed by graphic designer, photographer, and collector Marc Walter. He specialises in vintage travel photographs and has one of the world's largest collections.



Rainbow effect: The Grand Canyon is shown in all its glory with greens, rich reds and purples depicted by the photochrom technique

Rainbow effect: The Grand Canyon is shown in all its glory with greens, rich reds and purples depicted by the photochrom technique


On track: Transport is a dominant theme throughout the images, showing America at the cutting edge of technology

On track: Transport is a dominant theme throughout the images, showing America at the cutting edge of technology


Laundry day: This unusual picture shows a Monday in New York City, when the streets were filled with clean washing being aired among the buildings

Laundry day: This unusual picture shows a Monday in New York City, when the streets were filled with clean washing being aired among the buildings


These particular images were produced by the Detroit Photographic Company at the turn of the century, combining landscapes with human interest images for city dwellers, immigrants and even gold rushers and the last Wild West cowboys.

The 612-page hardback book, published by Taschen, is a celebration of America and is considered a journey through its later 19th and early 20th-century landscapes and will go on sale for £135.

Photos include a busy city scene on the busy thoroughfare of Mulberry Street in New York, while another contrasts dramatically, capturing the rural life of a Seminole Indian family sailing in their dugout canoes in Florida.



Gold rush town: A glorious panorama shows the Californian city of San Francisco when it was still a relatively small settlement


Gold rush town: A glorious panorama shows the Californian city of San Francisco when it was still a relatively small settlement




Southern life: A magnolia plantation is shown in bloom on the edge of the Ashley River in Charleston with a local woman stood looking out over the water

Southern life: A magnolia plantation is shown in bloom on the edge of the Ashley River in Charleston with a local woman stood looking out over the water



Feats of engineering: The Gerogetown Loop over Clear Creek Canyon in Colorado was hugely important to the nearby gold and silver mines at the start of the 20th century

Feats of engineering: The Gerogetown Loop over Clear Creek Canyon in Colorado was hugely important to the nearby gold and silver mines at the start of the 20th century


Magnolia Plantation, on the Ashely River in Charleston, is brought to life with the application of colour to the image, while the Grand Canyon is also shown shimmering with colour.

Transport is also a leading theme in the postcards, featuring spectacular train journeys crossing Clear Creek Canyon, on Georgetown Loop in Colorado and the Mount Lowe Railway, on the circular bridge in California.




An American Odyssey

An American Odyssey


Tourists can still ride on the Georgetown Loop railways, experiencing what life was like during the gold rush era, when everyone was trying to make their fortune. 

And spectacular National Parks such as the Grand Canyon still draw crowds, with millions of visitors every year.


SoRo:  More...