What Fascists? Ukrainian Opposition Seeks to Pretend Away Svoboda

Westerners love a good protest, because it’s easier to imagine braving the elements to make noise than it is to actually do so; and actually effecting political change, in any country, is harder still. At the heart of every Westerner of a certain age lies a certain romantic infatuation with the protests of his youth, and so when Ukraine’s opposition staged inevitably pointless protests, Western hearts soared.

Eventually, someone noticed that Svoboda, the fascist (racist, anti-Semitic, pro-statist, blood-and-soil) party that represents a crucial source of opposition strength, was not merely encouraging the recent protests. Instead, Svoboda goons provided the muscle to attack police, occupy government buildings, stage torchlight marches (including signs that called for “Jews and Russians Out”), and stage logistics to maintain the occupying protests.

Fascism undercuts the opposition’s carefully-crafted, media-friendly image of noble freedom fighters waging war against a (democratically elected in two elections) brutal tyranny, and so Fatherland’s Arseniy Yatsenyuk and UDAR’s Vitali Klitschko have subtly begun letting Western media figures know that they’d really like to be rid of Svoboda, and will be just as soon as the Presidential election is concluded.

Hopefully, no one is fooled.

Yatsenyuk would like to be President and never ever wants his predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko, anywhere near power again. He is often treated as the opposition leader when in fact Klitschko, whose vanity party picked up most of Fatherland’s losses in the last election, clearly has the electoral momentum and, most importantly, the easy facility with German that a Ukrainian politician needs to reach its second-most-important international observer. Yet both men know that they need Oleh Tyahnybok (whose party picked up the remainder of Fatherland’s losses) and its muscle in Ukraine’s West to have any chance against President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

Tyahnybok’s rhetoric has not cooled since former president Viktor Yushchenko kicked him out of what is now the opposition, and yet he is as welcome there as he has ever been.

The proof, as they say, lies in the pudding. Today, Svoboda continues to help organize protests; is counted as a part of the opposition by the opposition in the Verkhovna Rada; and Tyahnybok speaks at the exact same rallies and openly anti-Semitic productions at which Yatsenyuk and Klitschko appear. Ukraine’s opposition wants power, and they are clearly ready and willing to ally with anti-Semitic fascists to accomplish that end.

Western media and leaders, protestations to the contrary, believe in simple storylines, so here is one: Svoboda is the glue that holds together Ukraine’s opposition. Disregard this at your own peril.

Image Copyright Wikimedia Commons