That Ukrainians will vote for their freedom this weekend is a coincidence of true perfection. For our movement is a triumph, not of mobs but of joyous crowds; of protests, not of looting; of clear purpose, not confusion. As a result, something new will color the habits of those who govern Ukraine from now on: respect for individuals, which is the ultimate check on the abuse of power.
Nothing can ever diminish what was at stake -- and the victory that has been won -- on the streets of Kyev. Ukraine's people have renewed their self-respect through courage and resolution. They have reason to be proud. Self-confidence among the governed and caution among the rulers: these are the psychological springs of democracy and true freedom, and they can never again be diverted in our homeland.
Nobody ever doubted that Ukraine had changed vastly in its twelve years of independence. Yet, caught in the sights of a gun barrel, nobody -- not even the brave men and women who camped in their hundreds of thousands in the snow before Ukraine's parliament -- knew with certainty whether those changes had wrenched Ukrainians from the grip of fear and apathy. The success of their defiance shows the power of the idea that bewilders
outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and his acolytes: that democracy means taking res-ponsibility for one's fate into one's own hands.
The regime clearly expected the crowds that protested the fraudulent election of Nov. 21 to scatter in apathy. They did not. This left the regime to choose between using force to quell the growing resistance or cutting its losses. By refusing to leave the streets and squares of Kyev, Ukraine's mass volunteer army of democrats forced our country's gray old men of the past to retreat into the past.
This is a breakthrough that will endure. For 70 cynical years, and for centuries before that, everything done in the name of Ukrainians was done without our consent. Corrupt regimes, through intimidation and bribery, insisted on the loyalty of the bureaucracy, police and armed services. Newspapers and broadcasts were packed with lies. The Kuchma regime's vast wealth, stolen from ordinary Ukrainians, suggested that the reign of thuggery and deceit could go on forever.
But Ukrainians have now given their seal of approval to democracy and an open society. From now on, the force of ideas, not the force of arms, will win the day.
For once, Karl Marx, the mischievous cause of so much of Ukraine's misery, got something right: "The point," he said about the world, "is to change it."
Of course, our movement was created out of opposition: opposition to corruption, opposition to surrendering our national independence, opposition to the rule of the bully. The joy of opposition is its simplicity; Ukrainians understood what we opposed and stood side by side with us.
Now we must lead a nation in which -- thanks to the cynical ploys and hate-filled rhetoric of a discredited regime -- some sections seem to be set against the democracy we seek to build. But no section of Ukraine is our enemy and none will be treated that way. For we need no reminding of what must be Ukraine's priority. We have shouted it from every platform in the country: end corruption and abuse of power for personal and partisan gain. It is a message carved on our hearts.