Metapolitical wing of nationalist politics

The power of metapolitical practice can be illustrated by the success of Ukrainian nationalist movement of the interwar time. The credit for these achievements, to some extent, may go to a number of bright intellectuals whose ideological leader should be considered Dmytro Dontsov (1873-1973).

It is difficult to say definitely, how the organized nationalist movement could exist without Dontsov and his environment. However, Dontsov and visnykivtsi undoubtedly strengthened the positions of nationalists, but the correlation between metapolitical and explicit political ideas generated by visnykivtsi remains in doubt. Dontsov’s environment produced ideas preceding pure politics as well as political slogans and concepts ready to implement (namely, ardent and principle anticommunism that cooled temporary sympathy to communism of Galicia’s people). Currently, the first category of meanings excites our interest.

One of Dontsov’s greatest contributions to nationalist movement was his ideological legitimization strategy of revolutionary struggle. This strategy inevitably came up against a wall of rationalist, materialist, positivist worldview which dominated as an intellectual vogue among a part of Ukrainians of Galicia. Dontsov struck this wall and paved the way for the maximalist revolutionary strategy.

Critics have often claimed that Dontsov’s magnum opus of the interwar time – “Nationalism” – lacked all the characteristics of a program, and there were no practical political recommendations in it. But, in fact, “Nationalism” was a program document, thought metapolitical rather than political. “Nationalism” was a program of overcoming all the doubts regarding the revolutionary struggle, everything that paralyzed it and attempted to show its futility. “Nationalism” and all that accompanied it paved the way for nationalist voluntarism, which didn’t take into account circumstances which forced Ukrainians to be satisfied with minimum of their aspirations, requirements, and methods.

Paving the way to strong nationalism, Dontsov delegitimized his political rivals. Though the system of ideological coordinates which he created with his colleagues made democracy, socialism or moderate conservatism irrelevant.

The metapolitical impact of visnykivstvo was integral but not monolithic. We can distinguish three main arenas of this influence: general philosophy and methodology, literature and literary criticism.

After World War II the phenomenon of “Literaturno-naukovyi visnyk” was impossible to reappear, though Bandera with his colleagues planned to establish a magazine similar to LNV under Dontsov’s edition. Nevertheless, metapolitical problems accompanied the nationalist movement. It is easy to find literary or philosophical publications in the official periodicals of OUN of the post-war period.

Interestingly, the post-war years give us an example of the struggle against Ukrainian nationalism on the metapolitical level. Primarily, we are talking about the activity of Artistic Ukrainian Movement (Mystetskii Ukrayinskii Rukh, abbreviated as MUR). The representatives of MUR didn’t focus on criticism of nationalist ideology, but freely expressed their hostility towards the ideological heritage of visnykivstvo which promoted diametrically opposite ideas. During the debates with the members of MUR, there appeared new topics, for example, the attitude to existentialism and specifically to Sartre. The phenomenon of MUR is especially interesting because its activity was inspired by the Soviet secret police agent Victor Petrov-Domontovych. Apparently, Petrov understood the importance of vistnykism for the nationalist ideology.

Reconnaissance

The struggle of modern Ukrainian nationalists in terms of cultural hegemony can hardly be considered as a classical war of worldviews, as it has no distinct front. It also hardly can be called maneuver warfare with rapid and effective attacks. Definitely, we are dealing with a somewhat chaotic confrontation, in which there are some controlled fortified areas, some short lines, where there are signs of trench warfare (in miniature), some areas of guerrilla warfare and some areas which nationalists seem not to aspire to (unless single enthusiasts can commit their brave diversionary acts).

To understand the situation better, one should take a glance at the position of the right ideology in the humanities (bearing in mind that it is not limited to purely academic framework and has a broader social projection).

Nationalists have strongest positions in historical sciences. These positions were won in the long struggle for rehabilitation and proper glorification of Ukrainian liberation movement of the 20th century, and for the right to look at the past from Ukraine-oriented viewpoint. The struggle for the establishment of the “historical truth” marked the whole modern nationalist movement.

At the academic level, this struggle meant professional historical studying of the nationalist movement and other kinds of liberation struggle. It reared a galaxy of brilliant researchers (e.g. V. Viatrovych, B. Halaiko, R. Zabily, O. Pahiria, I. Patryliak, M. Posivnych et al.). The academic studies were complemented with popular-science literature (Robert Smith’s works are worth mentioning).

However, historical issues of the Ukrainian nationalist movement in academic discourse are known to have not only great achievements but some dangerous tendencies as well. Most of them can be united by the concept of novodviikarstvo. Dviikarstvo of the previous century attempted to emasculate the nationalistic core of OUN as well as modern destructive trends in researches are aimed at levelling ideological legacy of the nationalist movement. In both cases, we can see attempts of verifying nationalism within a different ideological system, generally speaking, the demo-liberal one (regarding dviikarstvo of the middle of the 20th century, it was even embedded with Marxist ideas).

The paradigm of novodviikarstvo is based on recognition of legitimacy of demo-liberal ideology in conjunction with the national factor. Within this paradigm the nationalist movement of the past is legitimized as “liberating” and “anti-totalitarian” (if one speaks about anti-German and anti-Bolshevik struggle). It leaves no room for updating anti-liberal, right-wing, conservative and revolutionary senses of the nationalist movement. These meanings are offset by suppressing or justifying. For example, referring to the nationalist movement of the interwar era, the historian can make a condescending remark that the fashion for “authoritarianism” was spread all over the Europe. Rhetoric of justifying “authoritarianism” of OUN only indicates indoctrination with demo-liberal ideology that builds an artificial dichotomy between democracy and non-democracy (either in authoritarian or totalitarian versions). Within this rhetoric there is no place for proper updating of inter-war nationalists’ aspirations to build an organic state.

Novodviikarstvo is able to set a distilled image of nationalists of the past into collective consciousness based on demo-liberal ideas. But judging from the standpoint of modern nationalism as an anti-liberal and anti-oligarchic revolutionary force, it is necessary to admit that novodviikarstvo robs tnationalists. Ironically speaking, in a few years in the center of Kyiv due to “Poroshenko” (present or future) a monument to Bandera can be opened (as to “the fighter for freedom of Ukraine” and “the fighter against two types of totalitarianism”). But it will be a very dubious victory, if annual gay parades will be held near the monument. A dubious victory it will be if Bandera’s portrait will appear on the ten-thousand-hryvnia bill, the currency which is devalued and which remains inscribed into the global economics as neo-colonial.

Therefore, the positions of modern nationalists are not certain even in the domain of history of their own movement. But the list of important for ideological struggle fields of historiography is not confined to the problems of OUN and UIA. We virtually have no right historical revisionism, which could challenge the established myths and assessments, basic for liberal and leftist ideological models.

Regarding literature studies, we deal with guerrilla warfare which only occasionally reveals its systematic nature.

Among the topics which make the subject of the “right literary criticism” we may single out interpretation of natiologic problems, research of the most exalted, full of noble meanings, heroic themes of Ukrainian fiction (especially the poetry of visnykivtsi, the heritage of “Catholic Revival”, the poetry of Neoclassics) and updating of the sphere of literature and critics (visnykivstvo and Catholic criticism of interwar period). But the main field of struggle is not the establishment of positive meanings, but their protection and resistance to such destructive trends in literature and literary criticism as postmodernism, feminism, and gender ideology.

Speaking of “right literary criticism” we should recall S. Andrusiv, O. Bahan, V. Donchyk, P. Ivanyshyn, M. Komarytsшa, I. Nabytovych, T. Salyha, and L. Senyk. Some of the researchers directly identify themselves with the right political ideology; some of them have distinct achievements without such self-identity. Indeedб there are a lot of gains: heuristic, institutional, and those that appeared as public discussions. However, destructive tendencies still have advantages in both literature and criticism. Probably, the brightest illustration of this sad situation is the number of current members of the nationalist movements who ardently read the authors-nihilists, such as Andrukhovych or Zhadan.

Actually, it is literary criticism where we should stop describing systematic presence of “right-wingedness” in the Ukrainian academic discourse. The fact that a number of representatives of the “right literary criticism” work in the inter-discipline field saves the day somehow. Such situation is unsatisfactory. The right-wing intellectuals’ involvement in academic philosophy, political science, theory of law and economy is really of great significance. They are welcome in cultural studies, art history, and religious studies. Episodic success of “diversionists” who work in these disciplines has not gained considerable significance yet.

Metapolitics, lost minds and desertion

The proper intellectual component does not guarantee that the political movement will gain quick achievements, but in any case, it acquires inner strength. If circumstances do not allow creating a powerful metapolitical wing, it is important to have at least a reliable metapolitical rear. Modern Ukrainian nationalists have problems not only with the first sphere, but also with the second one.

“Adherence to history” of the nationalist movement significantly weakens its attractiveness for young people, who seek for bright senses and holistic ideological systems. To form political beliefs and worldview one will need only heroic images from the past, for another person it is not enough. They need intellectual products of a different kind: anchors of philosophical principles, schemes of historical development, and not banal reactions to modern problems.

 

The efforts the nationalist movement is taking are insufficient to involve young people in intellectualist settings. So not only the potential is lost, but also the conditions for recruiting young Ukrainians to enemy’s side are being created. In fact, indoctrinating students with liberal and marginal leftist ideas as well as involving them in corresponding political structures always have a financial basis. The phenomenon of “hrantozherstvo” (using foreign grants by leftist organizations) is well known. But let us be honest: it exists not only due to the financial temptations; intellectual basis combined with the interest to something bright can easily catch young people into the net of harmful ideas. A bright intellectual wrapper conceals the danger of doctrines; that is a rebellion against a common sense.

Lack of the holistic intellectual culture does not only hinder recruitment but breeds desertion as well. It is natural that some young people, who join the ranks of the nationalist movement, eventually depart from the activity. This departure is caused by the fading of youth maximalism, appearance of pragmatic needs, career ambitions and so on. Not everybody may be an “eternal activist”. The shift away from some activities in the organization would not be accompanied by philosophical desertion. But very often it is. Not least it is caused by the absence of a strong intellectual “skeleton” of activists; everything is only based on emotions. When emotions disappear, beliefs also disappear. It is especially sad when it comes to people from the nationalist environment who managed to build a career in professions that have a significant social impact (education and science, journalism, management), however, the “nationalist school” they left doesn’t affect their activities significantly.

To shift the discourse to the right

As it was mentioned at the beginning, in the present situation nationalists have to strengthen the internal quality of their movement. In particular, the “pause” of uncertainty can be used for catching up for the lost in the intellectual field. A change is as good as a rest. After Maidan and the war, nationalists will really enjoy the “rest” like this.

Both the initiation of narrow metapolitical projects and broader strengthening of nationalists’ involvement in cultural hegemony require efforts of different levels and of different aspects. It means conceptual quest and willpower of all members of the nationalist movement who are capable of doing appropriate intellectual work; focusing efforts on organizational and other routine work; understanding of the representatives of powerful nationalist parties or businessmen who are ready to support the nationalist struggle. The latter point is the most important: without financing projects in publishing, without conferences and seminars, without proper grants and competitions, without financial support of other important activities, it is unlikely to achieve high results in the intellectual field.

The first thing that should be done by the assets of the nationalist movement is to understand the importance of intellectual field.

“Intellectual appetite” of members of nationalist forces should be stimulated. Leaders of different organizations should pay attention to intellectually capable members and encourage them to do creative work and build their career as a form of struggle for the common cause.

Publishing a solid theoretical issue, which will be released in correlation with conducting a seminar, may become an impetus for conceptual research and programmatic developments. A magazine should be published with financial backing of main nationalist forces. Its editorial board should be composed of representatives of these forces and independent intellectuals who will act together. A magazine should become an authoritative periodical among the members of main nationalist forces.

Promotion of publishing is really of great significance. We can distinguish its main areas:

  • promotion of modern nationalist authors who work in popular-science and journalistic genres and dedicate their works to actual issues of Ukrainian and foreign policy, geopolitical life, ideological dynamics;
  • support of publishing academic monographs of the right-wing direction;
  • publishing academic books and textbooks (with Ministry’s endorsement) for students and teachers of social and humanitarian sciences (with journalists’ involvement);
  • quality translations of foreign authors representing the right ideology (from classics to moderns).

One of the components of effecting students and professionals should be creation of sites for a “soft” ideological effect, such as literature and history of art societies, debating and scientific clubs.

Special attention should be paid to journalists. It is necessary to adopt methods of work used by leftists: seminars and workshops, publishing ideological literature, organizing competitions and contests that stimulate media coverage of certain topics.

A far-reaching goal should be to create a philosophical counterpart of the Liberation Movement Research Center and similar institutions that would work in other disciplines.

Struggle for cultural hegemony will not bring immediate gains. But they are necessary because without them it is difficult not only to win but also, above all, to keep winning. Conquering the political power, nationalists will not be able to complete the revolution without making a conceptual revolution, and it requires concepts and the staff. We must at all costs shift the nationwide discourse to the right side.

Ihor Zagrebelnyi

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