Rod Liddle

If Ukraine’s protests were a revolution, why wasn’t the Stop the War march?

Our double standards are remarkable

1 March 2014

9:00 AM

1 March 2014

9:00 AM

It’s ages since I last went on a decent demo and had a bit of a dust-up with the pigs. I should get out more, there’s a lot of fun to be had, throwing stuff at the police and shouting things in a self-righteous manner. I think the last one I attended was in the very early 1980s, in Cardiff. Sinn Fein was marching through the centre of the city in support of its right to maim and murder people, and the National Front decided to march against them. As a consequence, the Socialist Workers Party’s most successful front organisation, the Anti-Nazi League, insisted that it had a right to march against the fact that the NF were allowed to march, and that was the section I was in.

Of the three chants in evidence that day, we had the least interesting: ‘The National Front is a Nazi front, smash the National Front’. Meanwhile, the snaggle-toothed hags and tinkers from Sinn Fein were singing ‘Have some fun with a tommy gun, join the IRA’. And the NF gave a reprise of their famous, if non-sequitur in the circumstances, ‘If they’re black/send them back/if they’re white/that’s all right.’ All three contingents shouted abuse at the filth, trapped between these three furious and mentally ill platoons.

I nearly went on the Stop the War march in 2003, and now I wish I had. There were at least a million people on that, perhaps two million. By our own government’s criteria, and certainly by the BBC’s, that more than enough for us to demand regime change, isn’t it? More than enough for the Russians to get involved and demand that the protestors be negotiated with and the prime minister leave the country forthwith. Sadly, none of that happened. We have demos here, but no matter how many people turn out, it is accepted that while the protestors may feel terribly strongly about stuff — the poll tax, hunting, the invasion of Iraq — we have a democratically elected government and, by and large, that’s that: we note your objections and your strength of feeling, but you may not be the majority.

However, we do not extend this rational response to demonstrations when they happen overseas. Not when they happen in Turkey, for example, or Egypt, and certainly not when they happen in Ukraine. When it’s Ukraine, we demand regime change, and we get it. And our television news reporters refer to the protestors not as ‘protestors’ but as ‘revolutionaries’, to be supported almost unconditionally, their aims assumed to be right and just and shared by the population as a whole (apart from a minority of Russkies living in the east), and the sitting government — democratically elected, remember, with a rather stronger mandate than the one enjoyed by our coalition — to be condemned and ousted. Our double standards are remarkable.

With Syria, the western media was behind the uprising immediately, despite the fact that at first it was extremely localised and there was no evidence whatsoever that the grievances against the Assad dictatorship were broadly shared. Nor was there any investigation of the ‘rebels’ — their aims and aspirations, their political or religious motives. The media and the government became entranced by the mob, apparently believing that this was a grass-roots rebellion of decent, liberally minded, secular, ordinary people, against a loathsome tyranny. This was, I would venture, a mistaken assessment — but the case is at least arguable, if you are a bit naive. Assad is indeed a tyrant and an autocrat, after all, regardless of how vile many of his fundamentalist opponents may be.

But what is our justification for siding with the mob, and against the government, in Ukraine? The trouble — ‘Euromaidan’ — began when the Ukrainian government decided not to pursue closer trade links with the European Union, to the dissatisfaction of many in the west of the country — that part which in previous times was part of Poland, or Lithuania, or the Austro–Hungarian empire — and the contentment of the east, with its high proportion of Russians. Again, there has been little or no reporting from the south and east of the country, which wishes to retain close ties to Russia; the huge demos there in support of the now ousted president were not reported at all.

Only now, as they begin to turn nasty, and the pro-Russians feel, with some justification, that they are being co-opted into a very different country, and co-opted by the actions of some elements who cheerfully fought alongside the Nazis in the second world war, are we beginning to hear from Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk and Simferopol. And yet it is too late: the government has apparently fallen, regardless of what the mass of ordinary Ukrainians might want, and a corrupt and autocratic former president — Yulia Tymoshenko — is released from prison and back, centre stage, lapping it all up.

I cannot work out if we are with the mob in Kiev and Lviv because we are starry-eyed and gullible, or because we are devious and Machiavellian. My guess is that on the part of the media it is the former and on the part of the western governments rather more the latter. Either way, I do not think that we have helped either Ukrainians or the world by our interventions and encouragement, any more than — in the end — we will be seen to have helped Syria, Egypt or Tunisia.

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  • James Lovatt

    A humorous, but ultimately pointless piece of journalism, particularly with regard to Ukraine. Have you actually seen the pictures from inside Yanukovych’s mansion, one of many he seized for himself and his greedy gang?

    I notice that you conveniently avoid the crux of the matter. Corruption was the issue, rampant corruption which runs (or hopefully ran) through everyday life in Ukraine. How much for a university A grade pass? About 100 dollars. Pulled over by the police? Don’t bother with the licence in your wallet. It’s the money they want.

    Try a little more research before misinforming readers. Remember, readers want to trust what they read, but for this to happen you need to be armed with more facts and less jokes.

    • Cyril Sneer

      If the Ukraine turns into a full blown civil war and perhaps a regional war then you’ll have more than corruption to worry about.

      Maybe, just maybe, there are many Ukrainians who don’t want their country to turn into Syria.

      There are also Ukrainians who want neither EU or Russian influence.

      Removing a government by force and foreign supported subversion has consequences and is quite frankly undemocratic. I see far right Neo-nazi groups out in force in the Ukraine. Are you really so sure of what it is that will replace the now ousted Ukrainian government? Just like Libya eh, and just like Syria…

      And of course, Putin will just walk away won’t he?

      I sincerely hope your argument is not based on the left wing rich poor divide cause that seems to permeate online forums? A simplistic and false argument at best.

      • Kennybhoy

        Amen. The possibilities here are very, very scary indeed….

    • Edmund burke326

      Corruption is not unique to Ukraine, the EU has billions- worth of corruption and is close to bankruptcy which is why the IMF and private donors have to assist countries like Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal. Our cabinet has the highest number of millionaires serving, that is not about hard word and saving. The press keep bleating about his (yanukovich) palace. How many heads of state live in flats. Corruption was not the issue otherwise Britain would be in a permanent state of revolution. The London Stock exchange was part of the toxic loan scandal as well as the banks. I hope Russia leaves Ukraine for the US and the EU to fund we’ve done a lot (Nuland) to deserve it.

    • gelert

      The EU does not worry about the huge corruption in the EU.

    • Baron

      Since when does the West favour removing corrupt officials by backing armed men storming the institutions of state so that those elected have to run for their lives. Tell us, please.

      The ballot box is the way to do it. The Ukrainians have done it before, would have done it again next year. The ballot box routine may not be perfect, either there or here, it’s by far preferable to what we have now.

      • Trofim

        Хорошо сказано. This morning on Broadcasting House Lord West (ex-Admiral) pointed out that the Yanukovich government was actually elected. Paddy O’Connell seemed a bit taken aback. You don’t say that sort of thing on the BBC! Heaven forbid!

        And you are, of course, absolutely right to point out the expenses scandal.

        • Baron

          Good Russian, Trofim, the Western ruling elite seems unable to ever comprehend the Russian soul.

    • Baron

      And another thing, James, when the expenses scandal broke here, would you have favoured a gang storming Westminster?

      Also, what will happen to the palaces the corrupt Yanukovych built. Will they be bulldozed, you recon?

    • Baron

      Rod doing ‘little more research’? Hmmm

      You read this. it’s from someone on the spot, and it’s published in the Guardian, a paper you may favour.

    • mandelson

      Have you seen Tony Blairs property portfolio all earned on the basis of what exactly. Quite an improvement for someone who started out as a third rate barrister.

  • Cyril Sneer

    Great article, you echo my thoughts.

    “I cannot work out if we are with the mob in Kiev and Lviv because we are
    starry-eyed and gullible, or because we are devious and Machiavellian.
    My guess is that on the part of the media it is the former and on the
    part of the western governments rather more the latter.”

    Totally agree.

    • gelert

      Katie Stallard’s breathless reporting from Kiev for Sky has been nothing short of open cheerleading for the “freedom fighters”. I wonder if Murdoch has some grudge against Putin.

    • mikewaller

      If you agree with Liddle’s old relativistic tosh, you need to do a lot more thinking. To make the Cardiff/Kiev parallel work you have to change things around a bit. The best fit I can come up with is that the mass of the British people would have to be indifferent to, or well disposed towards, going into Iraqi in support of the Americans under whose nuclear umbrella they had sat comparatively inexpensively for half a century. Then suddenly Blair reveals himself as a crypto-communist, says we are instead going to align ourselves with Russia and when folks start kicking up about that he sends in snipers to discourage them. Then to cap it all, when he does a runner we find that his private estate has been kitted out with ludicrous levels of luxury all at our expense. Unless,unbeknownst to us, all this actually happened, Liddle is taking out of his fundamental orifice

  • Kennybhoy

    Like the destruction of Yugoslavia in the 90s, this was an EU/NGO/media project.

    • Jambo25

      No it wasn’t. I first visited Yugoslavia at the highpoint of Titoism back in 1967 and 1968. Even to callow, late teens, me of the time it was obvious that there were deep religious, ethnic and cultural splits in the country. Yugoslavia still had some of the characteristics of a police state at the time but it only took a few hours before a couple of drunk Slovenes were willing to tell me, on a ferry out of Rijeka, what a bastard Churchill was for leaving them in the hands of Serb barbarians. Over the next month or so that I was there it became very obvious that everybody (especially Croats) thought Serbs were overbearing and self important. Everybody looked down on the Muslims and Kossovar Albanians (Not always the same thing.). Island and coastal Croats felt as much, if not more, in common with Italy as Serbia. Slovenes looked down on virtually everybody and had more in common with Austrians than Serbs. God knows what the Magyar minority, up round Subotica, thought.
      People in the north of the country were largely Catholic and wrote in the Latin alphabet. Those in the Serb areas used Cyrillic and were Orthodox. Largeish areas of Bosnia and Kossovo were more like the more Europeanised areas of Turkey. I got exactly the same impression in the other years I visited. Once Tito and his older colleagues went the country was doomed to fall to bits. Genscher and the Germans’ maladroit diplomacy probably made the break up worse but not that much worse.

      • MassiveEUloverboy

        Please don’t try to reduce simple problems to ones with nuance and complexity

        • Jambo25

          Spot on. I’m not the EU’s biggest fan boy. I think its more of a rather boring necessity than Nirvana but to blame Yugoslavia’s break-up on it is just silly and ahistorical. Incidentally, while deploring the bulk of Serbian actions during Yugoslavia’s split, I still have a lot of sympathy with the dilemmas faced by individual Serbs and Serb communities given the history of the country.
          The truth is, that in Central/Eastern Europe black and white is rare. Shades of grey are more common.

      • Kennybhoy

        You confuse Dynamis and Energia.

        In thirty years beneath the colours I was only ever ashamed in Yugoslavia…

        • Jambo25

          What people forget is that the whole Yugoslavia mess was actually started by Serb nationalists who were used by Milosevic as part of a power grab. The first people to really object to it weren’t the Croats but the Slovenes who wanted out as they had always been the most reluctant Yugoslavs anyway. Once Milosevic sent in the JNA to sort out the Slovenes the whole place began to fall to bits.

  • Baron

    Superb take on the events, and charmingly articulated, too, Rod, thanks.

    The last thing we need what with debt pilling high, no end in sight yet, net immigration worse than ever before, economic growth still anaemic is another Balkan like boil on the EU eastern borders.

  • D Whiggery

    We need the Russian bogeyman to keep Europa together. Things were so much simpler during the cold war so let’s recreate it.

  • I’m sorry, but have any of you pundits actually travelled further east than Italy? Where does your information about events come from? The unfettered UK press, known for it’s utterly objective reporting perhaps? Try living in the country for a few years before you feel qualified to offer an opinion. There’s corruption and there’s corruption. Ukraine currently ranks near the top of the world list and the citizens of Ukraine thought, rightly or wrongly, that European integration would be light at the end of the tunnel
    When Yanukovych extinguished that light by reneging on his promise to sign an agreement to pave the way to integration, rushing to Moscow instead to sign a deal, people of many political persuasions snapped.
    Try paying a bribe every time a traffic cop decides to pull you over. Try standing for a day in one tax office department for a tax form and another day to pay 2000 Hv tax every month for the privilege of running a business. Then another two days to pay your personal tax. I have. Then live this way for year after year, never once finding a politician you can trust.
    My comments were about the events which brought ordinary people out into the streets of Kyiv, day after day, night after night, in temperatures often 20 below. These people originally did not support the Right or Left

    • Jambo25

      Mr. Lovatt, you are far too sensible to discuss this in the Speccie. You don’t blame the EU enough and you know what you are writing about.

    • Raw England

      It was a Nationalist Revolution.

      Nationalism is, after all, the most natural – and most beautiful – default state of humans.

      • Kennybhoy

        Back under yer rock fascist! I spent my working life cleaning up the mess left behind by pond life like you!

        • Raw England

          Calm down grandad.

    • MassiveEUloverboy

      Rod got married in Malaysia if that counts? And then six months later moved in with his 22yr old secretary. Who he physically assaulted. So his credentials to lecture on morality and duplicitousness are actually unimpeachable.

  • YankInSlough

    Interesting how many people on both the left and right are attracted to the Putin line.

    • Jambo25

      Those on the Left hate America and see dear old Vlad as a counterweight to the USA. Those on the right hate the EU (Sorry, EUSSR) and see Vlad as a counterweight to that. Both sets are completely insane.

      • Raw England

        Precisely, Jambo.

        Perfect description.

      • Baron

        And you’re the sane one, right?

    • JimmyLinton

      We’re not attracted to the Putin line, so much. It’s more that we’re a tad confused as to why our government seems to have supported and indeed, precipitated a coup d’etat in Ukraine. A move guaranteed to provoke Russia.

      By all accounts, the creatures now in power in Ukraine, or vying for power, are as bad as the regime our government and the EU help supplant.

      • YankInSlough

        Your last sentence echoes the Putin line and backs up my point.

        What evidence do you have that everyone in the Ukrainian Parliament and government is a “creature”? What does that even mean? What evidence do you have, from their observed actions, that they “are as bad” as the previous regime? Did they build ornate palaces? Did they steal billions? Did they order snipers to shoot 80+ people? What nonsense. That is simply Putinist propaganda.

        • JimmyLinton

          Don’t talk (write) rubbish.

          You need to pay more attention to what’s actually happening and has happened in Ukraine. Explain to me how removing a democratically elected government, three months away from free and fair elections is OK, but a 97% majority on a 79% turn out isn’t.

          The roll call of who’s who in Ukrainian politics (past and present) is hardly a benchmark for integrity and competence.

          • YankInSlough

            First, it’s not rubbish. Second, I’ve responded to your points, but you won’t (because you can’t) respond to my points. Third, your assertion is irrelevant. Were you never taught logic?

  • tompiper

    Orwell gave us the word of course: doublethink.

  • Edmund burke326

    The US invaded Grenada because it claimed it had an interest and while they were there they changed the government. Russia isn’t entitled to protect Russians? Who can then? Why is this coalition govt and the official opposition supporting neo-nazis in Ukraine? Doesn’t Labour have Jewish members? I went on that march back then, travelling from Euston/kings cross. Back then I would have supported regime change over that issue. We were lied to then and we’re being lied to now. Governments don’t suddenly become honest, confessional. Whatever the reason, you would think for the wages these politicians receive, someone would have been aware of Russian sensitivity to Nazism.

    • Edmund. Exactly what is a neo Nazi? What is their exact philosophy and how to you recognise them please? I have listened to members of Britain’s National Front attempt to articulate this but am still none the wiser. The only Ukrainians I have spoken to only cared about deposing a tyrant.

    • YankInSlough

      If the Russians are indeed so sensitive to “Nazism”, why do they not challenge the various totalitarian pro-Kremlin youth groups? Why do they tolerate the crushing of dissent by the State? That is a complete red herring. The obvious totalitarian forces are being orchestrated by the FSB thugs in the Kremlin. Who will they go after next?

  • Yuriy

    Don’t believe to any propaganda that Ukraine has been divided and got civil war.

    We want to unite and protect our country against the Russia aggression, actually Putin aggression, half of our people has relatives in Russia and we will never fight against each other. That aggression is only shown in MEDIA in the internet. Please don’t believe in that lie!

  • David Lindsay

    Spot on.

  • David Webb

    Why would you march against the fact that other people had the right to peaceful protest?

  • The_greyhound

    Mr Liddle gives a salutary reminder of just how simplistic, naive and
    ill-informed the western media circus is, and how much damage can be
    done with the sort of dog-whistle rubbish we get from the likes of the
    BBC (now revealed to be on an earner from the EU) shamelessly promoting a
    pro-EU faction within the Ukraine.

    Yanukovych was elected. So
    was Morsi in Egypt. The reporting seems to lose sight of that all too
    quickly. No doubt Yanukovych is a worthless crook (any worse than
    Blair?), but he is a democratically elected crook.That still makes his
    credentials a million times imposing than some senescent newspaper
    editor at the Guardian, or some boneheaded dork at the BBC.

    Whatever happened to respect for the democratic process, and the rule of law?

  • Brentfordian

    I think that Yanucovych’s legitimacy as an elected leader (and, granted, he did once have that) ended when he started gunning down his citizens.

  • Rachel

    So the West is just as bad! Ha! I knew it! Boy, is that sense of righteousness going to feel good when Russia enslaves Crimea and the rest of Ukraine (read: all of Eastern Europe). The Ukrainians will be all like, “help us! We’re dying in the millions to fund a centralized war machine.” And we’ll be all like, “sorry, man, we can’t help you. Our governments are on time out for doing the same thing. Plus, you’re Nazis. I know it because Stalin said so.”

    Imagine if this escalates to total war! My last thoughts before the planet is obliterated will be, “You’re all a bunch of idiots! If only you’d listened to me, I had all the answers. But you never listened to the prophecies I foretold on YouTube comments and Facebook posts. Fools, every last one of you!” Then I’ll go hide under my Ron Paul blanket and wait for The Happening.