Social democracy in Ukraine is often surrounded by misconception. Ukrainians tend to confuse social democracy with socialism, bolshevism, communism, fascism or Nazism. Not many pay due attention to the main ideas of social democracy, such as workers’ well-being, equal opportunities, lessening the gap between rich and poor, freedom and solidarity. Social democracy’s spirit has a lot in common with the French Revolution motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité!”. Social democracy stands against nationalistic hatred, intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. Social democracy could be the way to stop war in Donbas and fight corruption and oligarchy in post-Soviet states. If everybody is free, equal and solidary – there is simply no reason to fight a war or give a bribe.
During a training “Social democracy – in EU neighbouring countries: Ukrainian reality”, Yuliya Bubley, the coordinator of the Social-Democratic Platform in Ukraine had the opportunity to talk with Ukrainian sociologist Yevgen Golovakha, who shared his thoughts on social democracy in Ukraine. Golovakha is one of the most respected scholars in Ukraine. He holds a PhD in practical sociology and is professor. His researches were published in Russia, USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Hungary, Israel, Poland and Belarus. Golovakha is a Deputy Director of the Sociology Institute of the National Academy of Science in Ukraine and a member of the Public Council of experts in internal politics and member of the Presidential Commission on democratization and civil society development. One of his scientific interests is sociology of politics and social transformations.
What is the current attitude of Ukrainians to social democracy? Do they feel the need of this political force?
Yes, certainly! Our researches show that it’s one of the two most popular ideologies today. There is an enormous societal request. Nevertheless, it cannot be realized now in the form of a party since the level of trust among the population to parties is miserable. That’s why it’s necessary to position itself as a movement and get ready for the time when there will be a need of a party. I support the idea of movements as a starting point.
What is the support for social democrats among the population?
In the last 20 years the support of the population increased with 10%, from 5% to 15%. It reached 15% already in 2006 and it stayed that way ever since. Now it is necessary to conduct educational work in order for the trust and support level to grow further.
In which regions people support social democracy more and in which – less? Why?
The centre of Ukraine and its south (Mykolayivska, Khersonska and Odeska oblasts) support social democracy the most! 20% of the questioned population is in favour. The centre supports because it’s the most moderate part of Ukraine and social democracy is a moderate ideology. What concerns the south – they have no alternative. They don’t want to be nationalists nor “regionalists” [supporting the politics of the party of the former president Yanukovich]. They want something to rely on. That’s why they rely on social democracy. Even in Donbas 10% of the population supports social democracy. As regards to the West – the situation there is much worse! Democrats and nationalists have a big advantage there.
What is the image of a social democrat?
Social democrats are younger than communists and socialists but older than liberals and nationalists. A social democrat is average as regards to material wealth, his age and political views. He is careful and most experienced of all. Maybe he is careful because of his experience since he knows the consequences.
What are the perspectives of social democracy in the current Ukrainian reality?
Completion of liberal reforms open a big space for social democracy. We will see what the perspectives for social democracy are after the liberal reforms are finished. If they fail – the time of authoritarian regime will come, and if there are at least some positive consequences – the time of social democracy will come since social democrats have a program for distribution of excessive funds for supporting those groups of population that need it.
When do you think the time of social democracy in Ukraine will come?
Well, I think in around three years. From 2019-2020 is the time of social democracy.
Do you support social democracy?
Yes, I support social democracy, but in real circumstances. Though, it’s still far to such conditions. If I lived in a rich country, I would have been a liberal. My conscious prevents me from being a liberal in Ukraine.
Which social-democratic values are the closest personally to you?
Among the three main values – freedom, solidarity and justice, I think that freedom is the most important. I am forced to express solidarity because I live in a poor society and as regards to justice, I think that it doesn’t exist at all in this world. This is why I will not say anything about it.
This article was previously published in Ukrainian on the website of the Social Democratic Platform. The SDP is a movement based on the principles of freedom, equality, fairness and solidarity.