Many months ago an entry foretelling the end of Right Sector, as it is commonly perceived/recognised (particularly amongst a lazy mainstream media) was published – within it alluding to several reasons why the end was inevitable and on the immediate horizon – “Right Sector may be fashionable, but it is not an entity that will stand the test of time. Indeed, when talking about Right Sector as a brand, that is not to infer that all that call themselves, or identify with Right Sector have a standard ideology – or even a remotely shared ideology. Whilst a shared ideology may have been somewhat true in late 2013 and throughout early 2014, by Autumn 2014 many of those that assumed the Right Sector brand were doing so for reasons of imagery or as a cover for more nefarious schemes – but not due to a shared ideology (probably to the ire of those with a far right ideology).”
In short, the original ranks of the ideologically driven far right/nationalists swiftly became diluted due to a lack of central control within the organisation, allowing pretenders that subsequently wallowed in the infamy/glory of the identity without any real belief in nationalism, and also becoming/providing a (perhaps unwitting) security blanket/organisation for those engaged in criminal activity knowing a weak State would not take on Right Sector “personnel” for want of Right Sector backlash from even the slightest hint of persecution.
The blame for such dilution clearly lies with the Right Sector leadership of the time – and it is the decisions made then that would, in part, ultimately result in the rot within the organisation that would bring it to a swift end. Another reason was the lack of organisational planning and public projection (other than the lazy mainstream media reporting).
As an example, the far right (if we accept about 1 in 10 members having such an ideology) Azov Battalion grew in number due to its reputation as a fighting unit that was accomplished and disciplined, regardless of the unit’s core ideology. It also moved into the State institutional “mainstream”, becoming an incorporated unit within the National Guard. It is a mixture therefore of nationalists and of patriots – and there are distinct differences between the two.
“By “nationalism” I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled “good” or “bad.” But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” – Notes on Nationalism 1945 – George Orwell
Further, Azov projects itself among society in ways very similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood by way of “outreach programmes”.
Right Sector remained outside of the State institutions and failed to form any kind of outreach projection, whilst allowing criminality within its ranks (for the most part, and disregarding its units on the eastern front) therefore operating both outside of the control of the State and also outside of the law. It was thus doomed to a relatively short existence from the choices and decisions it made.
As democracy by its nature demands the greatest extent of tolerance and inclusion for those that remain within the law, but the exclusion of those that operate outside the law, Right Sector has no political future. Any attempt to force a political future by threats of violence simply further disqualifies it and further alienates it at a ballot box where the far right is continuously eviscerated.
There must be limits to tolerance after all – “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. – In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.” – Sir Karl Popper
It has thus come to pass that Dmitry Yarosh, the now former leader of Right Sector and current parliamentarian, has announced that he and his team are leaving Right Sector – with Mr Yarosh alluding to some of the aforementioned “issues” for their departure from the organisation.
“I believe that today Right Sector as a revolutionary structure has fulfilled its mission and it has fulfilled it completely. My team and I withdraw from the national liberation movement “Right Sector”. We announce establishment of a new political movement, the founding congress of which is scheduled for February. We are now working on its development, concept of operations, program guidelines.”
Politically, having seen the far right in Ukraine decimated at both Verkhovna Rada and local government elections in 2014 and 2015 (with votes for the political parties of the far right so low as to make every EU nation envious). Mr Yarosh can clearly see that the Right Sector vehicle will take him no further in politics – and he would be correct.
First and foremost, and of particular importance to Ukraine and those within the Right Sector units holding the line on the eastern front with the occupied Donbas, they appear to remain with somewhat quasi-legitimacy when considering Mr Yarosh’s words – “Therefore, the 5th and 8th battalions of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps and the Hospitallers Medical Battalion are being reorganized into a Ukrainian volunteer army. It will be one of the structures that will form our new movement. We are continuing to fight at the front line against the foreign aggressor and work at the home front to develop our country.” Just how legitimately and seamlessly a “Ukrainian Volunteer Army” fits institutionally with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and therefore what legal protections can be lawfully afforded to these units by the State, is somewhat unclear. Likewise it is somewhat unclear just how much longer Ukraine (and its external supporters) can or will put up with armed entities that are not fully under the control of the State.
Let’s be quite blunt, whether the method of governance be dictatorship, autocracy or democracy, the State in all cases has control over, and the monopoly upon, violence. Without it enforcing the rule of law, or indeed enforcing rule by law for the dictators and autocrats, becomes problematic.
Where then does that leave Right Sector without Mr Yarosh, his leadership team, and without the military units that will shed their skin and become part of the “Ukrainian Volunteer Army“? A move which Mr Yarosh states is necessary for their development – “They need to grow and develop further, to move to a new level.”
With the identifiably political and military elements moving on, that seems to leave only the pretenders, organised criminality and the uncontrollable liabilities of the truly clinically swivel-eyed behind – all of which could, and perhaps should, have been subjected to an internal cleansing long ago.
Indeed Mr Yarosh alludes to the necessity to leave those that any internal cleansing would have ejected, behind – “as was before, we do not abandon the revolutionary path, but we categorically reject pseudo-revolutionary activity that threatens the existence of Ukraine as a state and stains the reputation of the patriots.
We are in opposition to the incumbent government, but we do not consider blood shedding, doomed-to-failure revolts against it as an option. With all the above reasons, my team and I are leaving the Right Sector national liberation movement. We are initiating the creation of a new political movement whose founding congress is scheduled for February. We are now working on its development, the concept of our activity, programmatic guidelines.
Now it is time to concentrate on issues of national importance. Our movement has grown, become stronger, and is now entering a new stage of its development. Now we want to appear not as a movement that has narrow functions, but as a national patriotic one in order to unite all patriots of Ukraine. Without radicalism typical of peripheral social groups and without liberal empty rhetoric. Building an independent Ukrainian state remains our goal. We’ve got a dual task – to preserve the existing state as a springboard for building national statehood and to conduct revolutionary change in it to ensure the freedom, justice and well-being of the Ukrainian nation.”
We are not really left to ponder to greatly whether Mr Yarosh deems Right Sector a brand that has no electoral hope of rehabilitation in the eyes of the Ukrainian constituency – his statement appears to suggest as much – but we are left to ponder whether he felt unable to purge the ranks of Right Sector from the pretenders, criminality, and simply too loony to control.
That the pretenders will disappear into nothingness as the Right Sector brand disintegrates will be no surprise. Fashion is a fickle thing.
The more serious questions are what becomes of the organised criminality that has hidden itself within the Right Sector brand/cloak? Can or will Mr Yarosh allow the authorities to take them down unhindered, whilst clinging to the Right Sector brand he once headed? The same question of the truly swivel-eyed that bear the brand and are baying for further a revolt that Mr Yarosh pooh-poohs.
Is he a man capable of simply drawing down the shutter on Right Sector never to look back no matter how dysfunctional it will become in its death-throws? Can he resist interceding for those remaining with the Right Sector brand when many will be subjected to the judicial due process before Right Sector completely evaporates?
Further, it is one thing to create a broader, less radical nationalist political movement – though one with a “Ukrainian Volunteer Army” as an appendix tests the limits of political inclusion in a democratic, rule of law, political system – but quite another to make it a politically viable party as the recent 2014 and 2015 national and regional elections make clear in Ukraine. How will the messaging be different? How much more “inclusive” – specifically how less nationalistic in rhetoric and appearance – will any new political movement be?
Nevertheless, the statement of Mr Yarosh without doubt signals the overdue end of the Right Sector brand – a brand that has long since lost its way internally. The question will be whether he can build another nationalist entity that avoids suffering the same weak internal management and membership issues that caused the internal slow creeping cancer within Right Sector within a few months of its creation.
Perhaps the only things that can be expected, will be the continuing mainstream media hyperbole over a Ukrainian far right that has almost no voting constituency of note, and the swiftness of any new entity’s infiltration by the SBU and Kremlin alike.