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“Absolute power corrupts absolutely!” – First of December Group launches first manifesto after elections

Artwork: Yuriy Zhuravel
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely!” – First of December Group launches first manifesto after elections
Article by: First of December Initiative Group
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
The First of December Initiative Group was created on the 20th anniversary of the referendum for the Independence of Ukraine. It includes prominent Ukrainian scholars, intellectuals and cultural personalities.

Our manifesto is the first since the 2019 elections. During the presidential and parliamentary elections, most of us opposed electing a new head of state, motivating our position in the interests of national security.

The people of Ukraine decided otherwise, and we accept this choice. However, this does not exclude the fact that some of us have a few reservations about the positive nature of the “people’s will”.

Seeing that we prioritize the protection and preservation of an independent state and national security, we are, in fact, under an obligation to formulate the following points:

  1. The current Ukrainian government has concentrated enormous power in its hands, and no one can be sure what this will do to the country. Ideally, such a concentration of power could help Ukraine make a great leap forward, something Ukrainians have long been waiting for. On the other hand, we must never forget the famous saying: “Power tends to corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!” We warn the Ukrainian authorities to be careful! They must not forget that this axiom also applies to them.
  1. At the end of last year, we warned the former [Poroshenko] government that it was losing touch with the people: “Very often, the rhetoric of our leaders betrays a desire not to explain what has been accomplished, but to camouflage what is hidden.” The new [Zelenskyy] team seems to have taken the same route, maintaining communication with the people at a minimum, making all the decisions behind closed doors, and perhaps even working in a secret cabinet. The recently initiated [Zelenskyy] media marathons, which are actually striving to achieve the same above-mentioned goal, have changed nothing.
  1. We are very disturbed by the fact that the President perceives the “No Capitulation” rallies and protests as actions that have been funded/sponsored by his political opponents. He has failed to sense the real concern expressed by our citizens; he has failed to acknowledge the wave of protest that is sweeping across the country. This testifies to the fact that, unfortunately, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy does not understand that our citizens only want to warn him against committing fatal errors, but in fact, he is more likely to be offended. However, there is a basic rule: the more offended politicians become, the easier it is to manipulate them.
  1. While supporting the government’s quest for peace, the Group warns of negotiating “a peace at all costs”. Appeasing the aggressor is a dangerous and false illusion. It is also misleading is talk of a “thaw” between the predator and his victim. Putin’s regime despises weakness. Only forceful resistance, both military and diplomatic, based on national unity, can stop the aggressor.
  1. The soothing rhetoric expressed by the authorities regarding national security will not replace the feeling of real security. Our nation has paid a high price for its independence and our people have the right to know what threatens them. This is a long-standing principle of Roman law: quod omnes tangit ab omnibus approbari debet (that which concerns all ought to be supported by all). By violating this rule, Ukraine’s ruling elite is either bowing before a foreign power or pushing the country outside the European legal field.
  1. Ukrainian society is torn by doubt and suspicion at a time when it must be maximally united and consolidated in the face of new geopolitical challenges. Moreover, there are visible cracks in the current international security system and in Euro-Atlantic solidarity. The world is on the threshold of a formidable clash between national egoisms. It is now that our nation needs a government that will respect and protect it, and the government needs a nation that will understand and stand behind it. Such mutual trust is achieved only by the truth, however bitter it may be, and by honest and transparent decisions that are the responsibility of our authorities.
  1. In this age of populism, it is possible to win elections by being “populist” and “non-elitist”, but it is impossible to win brutal international duels. It is unfortunate that in his work and talks with the US President, the Ukrainian President found himself in a very delicate situation, something that was very reminiscent of “Zugzwang” in chess (regardless of where you move, you will be at a disadvantage ). Not one of us would want to be in his place. However, it is important to draw two important conclusions from this situation. First, it is time for Ukrainian authorities to recognize the strength and importance of competent professionals. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that weak states need ten times more of such professionals. Secondly, even if one considers that politics is not the realm of absolute morality, Ukrainian authorities should remember that a blatant disregard for ethical principles can turn against them, sometimes very painfully.
  1. We see no progress towards the establishment of the rule of law. Instead, what stands out a mile and more are attempts to replace the rule of law with selective justice applied against political opponents. And we also remark the fickleness and shilly-shallying of many courts that carefully follow the political or financial wind, whatever direction it may blow. Political expediency, generated by populism, prevails everywhere, while the rule of law is denied and neglected. It is like a family curse hanging over our country, and it seems that the current government – contrary to their election promises – does not want to overcome it.
  1. We are for private land ownership. However, Ukrainian courts are corrupt, and official justice too often turns into a mockery of justice. So, failing to wipe out corruption and failing to provide a real legal mechanism to protect the interests of our farmers and villagers, the state has no moral right to legalize land sales. It should explain the logic of its actions, the priority implementation plan, and the risks and threats linked to the lifting of the moratorium on land sales. Land is Ukraine’s national wealth, and in the face of the approaching climatic cataclysm, it may well become the most important national resource of the future. Therefore, land ownership cannot be decided by having the majority party [Sluha Narodu – Servant of the People] quickly push through an ill-conceived bill in parliament. This party should remember that it certainly does not have a certificate of infallibility.
  1. We are disturbed by the fact that the new government is increasingly showing disrespect for humanitarian values ​​and the protection of human dignity. The overwhelming majority of the ruling elite have turned away from the humanitarian sphere, thereby degrading its important role in Ukrainian society and forgetting that it has always been the source of our spiritual strength. However, it is even more shocking that national blindness and ethical insensitivity are manifested by certain show business groups, artistic entertainment groups and Ukraine’s television audience, who fail to distinguish between parody and defamation, legal fees and outright bribery.
  1. All these factors force us to repeat the statement formulated in our Group’s 2011 Declaration: “The future of Ukraine will depend on whether we can elevate humanitarian and spiritual values above short-sighted economic pursuits and political expediency.” Are daily events not enough to help us see how just and appropriate this statement is? Only by acknowledging the priority of humanitarian and spiritual values will we emerge better and stronger from the ongoing trials and tribulations.
Members of the First of December Initiative Group: Viacheslav Briukhovetsky, Ivan Dziuba, Yevhen Zakharov, Yosyp Zisels, Myroslav Marynovych, Ihor Yukhnovsky, Yaroslav Yatskiv.
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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