Whom do you call far-right?
We consider those political parties, groups, or individuals far-right whose convictions imply the possibility of systematic violence to preserve or reinforce discrimination based upon gender, race, ethnicity, religion, citizenship status, or sexual orientation.
It is irrelevant whether the far-right identify themselves as such or prefer using other titles like “patriots,” “conservatives,” “Christians,” “traditionalists,” etc.
What are your grounds for designating an organization or a group as far-right?
We designate an organization or a group as far-right based upon its program, public statements, and activities of its members regardless of whether they had been performed in the past or are performed presently. Also, if an organization or a group in question belongs to a wider far-right group or organization, we classify it respectively. However, all these features should be considered as a whole. An organization or a group is not taken into account as far-right even if it harbors far-right members who, however, do not comprise a majority or a core of the group and thus are unable to affect the aims and methods of an organization or a group in question.
What exactly is the far-right confrontation and violence?
Far-right confrontation is an ideologically and politically motivated activity of far-right organizations, groups, or individuals, who share far-right views, aiming to put pressure and physically obstruct the activities of the opponents. Among others, confrontational acts include blocking location and interrupting an event or a street demonstration without resort to physical violence.
Far-right violence is an ideologically and politically motivated activity of far-right organizations, groups, or individuals, who share far-right views, that includes actions aiming to directly cause injury or damage property. We distinguish the violence against people (attacks, beatings, fights, gunfire, murder, etc.) and violence targeted at the property (arson, property destruction, vandalism, etc.).
What cases are included in stats?
To be included in the stats, a case of confrontation or violence has to comply with two criteria:
- probably, it was conducted by far-right organizations, groups, or individuals whose activities are in line with a broader far-right movement;
- it has a political motivation or declared political goals.
The stats exclude cases of domestic or any other kind of violence and confrontation without ideological or political foundations.
If not a single far-right organization takes responsibility for a certain action, a participant’s affiliation to the far-right movement is established based upon an array of auxiliary characteristics such as the nature of an assault (for instance, the assault happened not incidentally, but was aimed at a specific person or an object), the rhetoric of attackers, the presence of some specific attributes, the assault being part of a wider campaign, the dissemination of information via far-right publics.
Why do you investigate cases of violence and confrontation aimed at political parties?
We include in our database both ideologically and politically motivated far-right violence, for the borderline between them often seems quite contingent. For instance, a far-right attack on the opponents fueled by differences in their ideological stance is simultaneously ideological and political. It is political, for it unfolds within the context of political struggle; nonetheless, it may also contain ideological motivations like intolerance to the opponent’s ideological views.
Politically motivated far-right violence and confrontation can be ideologically driven which is often the case for the subject of violence who commits an attack propelled by his racism and homophobia; but also, they can be strategically driven. The attacks of the second kind are launched primarily to reinforce the position of an attacker in a public field. For example, an attack on a representative of an oppositional party and obstruction of a public event allows an assaulter to increase his political capital.
That is why there is no point in monitoring exclusively a “pure” ideological violence neglecting cases of violence aimed at political parties.
Why do you focus specifically on the far-right? After all, other political actors have their own power groups as well
It is a common practice to monitor the violent actions of an organization or a group that belongs to a particular side of the political spectrum. The choice to monitor the far-right stems from our scientific interest and leftist beliefs that fashioned the mission of the project. Far-right violence often takes the shape of hate crimes that pose the main threat to minorities, vulnerable groups, and the democratic process in the country.
It is also worth mentioning that even if some Ukrainian non-far-right party has a power group at its back and call, it has not been using it systemically as a tool in political struggle.
Moreover, fairly regularly, political parties can resort to the services of far-right fighters as mercenaries. We are interested in such cases inasmuch as far-right members have their say in the decision-making process of the party and their ideology affects the political portrait of this “big” party or movement. When the far-right appear deprived of political agency and are used merely as a tool, we do not consider the occurring cases as far-right violence.
Generally, we observe a growing radicalization of political struggle wherein violence becomes an integral part of it. We record the tendency in our reports.
In your reports, do you record all of the attacks on parties’ representatives?
No. We record just those cases that give grounds for assuming involvement of far-right organizations, groups, or far-right sympathizers who take actions that go in line with a broader far-right movement. In this way, we excluded from our 2020 report 34 cases of violence (three of which against people) and 59 cases of confrontation.
Why do you monitor media? It is scientifically proven?
In many countries, the statistics of far-right violence and confrontations, along with hate crimes are collected by law-enforcement agencies. However, Ukraine is lacking this kind of stats while hate motives are usually kept out of the qualification of the file, even if victims report a corresponding crime.
Due to these limitations, there appeared a method of systematic media monitoring for maintaining records of political events (protests, strikes, attacks, etc.) which has been widely used by social scientists all over the world since the latter half of the twentieth century. The goal of this sort of monitoring is not (and cannot be) to all-inclusively record all of the suitable events that are of interest to researchers. In fact, this goal is unattainable by any existing methodology. Nevertheless, what social scientists actually can do is to develop a methodology that minimizes typical errors by virtue of source selection and social media inclusion and forms a foundation to reliably monitor the dynamics. Even if there is no method providing 100% accuracy, by using a thoroughly designed monitoring we can establish a picture that carefully reflects the order of things at a certain scale. In due course, this kind of accumulated data will allow for drawing conclusions about really existing dynamics. By way of example, even if not all of the incidents end up in a monitoring report, a decrease of recorded cases by 30% over the year will provide grounds to claim corresponding changes happening on the streets (given the methodology at work stays uniform).
What are the sources you use while monitoring violence?
Our sources include news feeds of national and regional media, activist websites, social media, and private messages received from the victims. The list of monitored sources is open, so to say, since we include in our base the records about cases obtained from other sources as well, not just from the ones we monitor regularly. Additionally, we monitor far-right channels, for they often contain information about various attacks and confrontations.
These sources have many limitations, as follows: media do not include all the cases, it is impossible to cover all social media, neither victims nor attackers have any motivation to go public with all of the cases. Nonetheless, the methodology still enables us to outline general tendencies.
Are the numbers you mention the exact numbers of cases of far-right violence and confrontations that occurred over the year?
No. The numbers we mention are the numbers of cases of far-right confrontation and violence that we recorded since there were some grounds for doing so. However, the number of cases might be considerably higher.
Beyond question, the results obtained through the monitoring reflect only the part of the far-right street violence that happened to be covered in the monitoring sources. Nonetheless, the data is collected systematically and therefore allows to:
- assess the scale of the problem;
- track patterns in far-right activity;
- monitor the dynamics of far-right confrontational and violent street activity;
- identify the key actors among the organized far-right;
- comprehend what kind of social groups have been most commonly victimized by far-right street violence.
Why does your data differ from the data of other organizations?
By now, Marker is the only Monitoring group that researches the ideologically and politically driven far-right confrontation and violence in Ukraine. For sure, there are other monitoring initiatives focusing on attacks on activists and journalists as well as paying close attention to the conditions of the LGBT+ community, anti-Semitism, and conducted hate crimes. However, the focusing point of Marker is precisely the far-right movement; thus, we record exclusively those cases that go in line with it.
There are more recorded cases of violence against political actors because they tend to have better media coverage, don’t they?
No. In fact, references to a considerable lot of confrontational and violent cases against political parties or their representatives are often missing from everywhere, apart from the far-right Telegram channels. At the same time, thanks to the developed infrastructure of human rights organizations, cases of hate incidents and hate crimes as well as cases of anti-Semitism and homophobia are thoroughly covered by media and recorded by human rights advocates in their reports. The real reason for such a high number of recorded cases of violence aimed at political opponents is the operation of the far-right.
The least chances to attract attention have those attacks made against people who are not affiliated to any party, organization, or movement, yet still fall victims of far-right violence. Usually, it happens when the far-right suspect them of membership in the LGBT+ community or any other movement that customarily suffers their assaults. Although we might gather information about such cases from the witnesses and participants of these events, it is quite difficult to record them systemically.
Why do you avoid writing about people accountable for street violence, financial flows, connections to Russia, etc.? These topics seem more important.
Because covering these issues is not the goal of our Monitoring group. However, we do prepare our journalistic investigations, even though they are not a centerpiece of the project. You may access and read them in the section Articles on our website. The Library section offers a list of thorough journalistic and analytical materials, along with reports on the far-right movements in Ukraine.
Who funds your research?
The research is supported by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung on a project basis. The Stiftung is an autonomous structure affiliated to the German parliamentary party Die Linke (The Left); it receives financing from the federal budget of Germany. Similar to the other five political foundations in Germany, in accordance with the decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court of 1986, either in its statute or organizationally and structurally is not the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung dependent on the party, does not work for the party, and does not represent it.
Who affects decision-making?
Decisions on whether to exclude or include a case in the stats are made by the members of the Monitoring group based upon the aforementioned methodology. Neither any other organization nor people can influence this process.