Ukrainian New Left and Grassroots Social Protests: A Thorny Way to Hegemony

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Volodymyr ISHCHENKO , National University of Kyiv-Mohyla, Kiev, Ukraine
When and how the emerging radical new left in the post-Soviet societies is able to win hegemony within the rising social-economic protests mobilization? In the context of the post-Soviet ‘weak civil society’ the new left has a unique opportunity to use ‘the primacy effect’ in order to win strong position within the grassroots social protests. The prior strong position within the movement around some problem gives the privileged position compared to other political groups when the mass mobilization around it erupts. I will analyze the case of Ukrainian radical leftist student union ‘Direct Action’ organized in 2008 by ideological anarchists and libertarian Marxists which appeared to lead 20,000 student mobilization in over 15 Ukrainian cities against introduction of paid services in the universities in 2010 when established student NGOs were siding with the government or discovering they have no mobilization potential. However, the ‘primacy effect’ has its limits as not so many issues are remaining ‘vacant’ (because of the far right active intervention particularly) and not each issues has the same potential to destabilize the political regime. It means an increasing necessity for the post-Soviet new left to win and retain hegemony in the broad coalitions competing with other politicized and often hostile actors over non-politicized masses. Analyzing the case of highly successful ‘Save Old Kiev’ initiative against the privatization of public space, established in 2007 with the dominance of the new left groups coalition but where the far right has ultimately won hegemony, I will show the process of ‘double instrumentalization’:  participation without systematic attempt to establish ideological influence and use of the grassroots protests for the publicity of particular political groups. If these two typical failure strategies are allowed to proceed, they lead to increasing distrust, the collapse of coalitions and isolation of the new left groups.