A man of lofty thought

James Mace is 60!

James Mace turned 60 on February 18! We are not saying “would have turned” on purpose, for those who have passed away go on living if we remember them. Larysa Ivshyna characterized the death of Mace as the demise of an Ally. It is from a professional viewpoint, while in purely human terms it means to be painfully bereaved of a person we did and do love. So we are trying to honor the memory of him, which is very important in a society with so few role models. As a matter of fact, when the US Congress supported marking the 50th anniversary of the 1932-33 Ukraine Holodomor (an ad hoc commission was formed at James’ initiative), this date became and still is a rallying point for the Ukrainians of Europe, the Americas, and Australia. In general, the way Mace highlighted this topic internationally and further developed it in Ukraine can serve as an acid test of sorts for whether one has God or moral criteria deep in their heart.

In 2005 we published a book, Day and Eternity of James Mace, and, two years later, James Mace: Your Dead Chose Me, as part of our library project. Mace had also contributed a large number of articles for the newspaper. An annual prize named after James Mace was established in 2009 on the editor-in-chief’s initiative for taking a civic position in political writing. Those who have won it are historian and political writer Ihor Losiev, historian Ihor Siundiukov, philosopher and political writer Serhii Hrabovsky.

We have prepared on the occasion of Mace’s jubilee some reminiscences and reflections of the laureates on him and on what this date means to them, as well as the opinion of Volodymyr Sklokin, Candidate of Sciences (History) and Associate Professor at the History Department of the Kharkiv-based International Solomon University. Mr. Sklokin has edited correspondence between the US Professor Roman Szporluk, who was James’s scholarly supervisor, and the historian Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, which also mentions James.

Happy jubilee, James!


Ihor LOSIEV, James Mace Prize winner in 2009:

“What makes a great impression on me is the fact that a person who is not linked to Ukraine by birth or family ties should have actively stood up for the Ukrainian people and their historical memory. He did it so consistently and resolutely! Much to our regret, there are not so many people of this kind among ethnic Ukrainians themselves.

“I was also impressed by a Verkhovna Rada incident, when a Communist Party MP bellowed at James Mace: ‘Yankee, go home!’ The truth is that if Ukrainian communists are reviling somebody, the latter is usually a person of integrity. (It is proof by contradiction, so to speak.) Accordingly, the Kuchma-era authorities took a dim view of Mace. Little wonder, for he was a too un-Soviet man, while our top leadership was too Soviet. From this angle, Mace, a typical person of a free world, stirred up bitter resentment among former Soviet Ukrainian apparatchiks and factory managers. For them, he always remained an ‘anti-Sovieteer.’ They put him on the list of dissidents, political prisoners, and Ukrainian freedom fighters – of the people who dwarfed them with their true magnitude.

“But he made the greatest impression on me as an academic of the Western standard that displays such features as ability to prove, argumentation, adherence to facts, and convincing logic. He was a person of high intellectual culture, profound persuasions, and Europeanness in the broad meaning of the word. So I read all his works with great interest. I do not think many of us have thrown so much light on the Holodomor issue as Mace did. You can easily see that it is not only scholarly interest but also human sympathy with that pain.

“I consider the James Mace Prize as recognition of some of my moral persuasions and principles. It is the duty to defend the truth – resolutely and persistently.

“In our times, when we can see everything being sold and bought, in the times of almost total moral degradation in Ukraine, people like Mace are badly needed. The situation is that all our crises are based on an all-embracing moral crisis of society. And it is, first of all, the topmost branch of power that provokes this crisis, for it always gives this nation the examples of amorality. It is in fact a school of indecency, meanness, and venality. Sadly enough, a lot of Ukrainians voluntarily study at this school. So this prize is a counterweight. It is needed because society must see those who are trying to swim against the current. I would say this award is a very important benchmark. It proves that the body of our morbid society does have healthy cells, tissues, and organs on which it can rely while recovering.”


Ihor SIUNDIUKOV, James Mace Prize winner in 2010:

“It would be unfair if I took the liberty of saying that I closely knew James Mace. I saw him four or five times only, and we were on nodding terms. Unfortunately, we were almost out of touch, which I, naturally, regret very much. [James Mace worked for our English-language digest The Day, while Ihor Siundiukov works at Den, in charge of the page ‘History and I,’ and his main place of employment is the Academy of Sciences. – Ed.] All I can recall is a serious face, big eyes, and a pensive look. You could feel he was a person of lofty thoughts. I can also remember an incident that occurred, if I am not mistaken, in 2002. James was convincingly explaining at a talk show (I must say that-time talk shows were of a higher level than now) what the Holodomor was and what caused it, when a Communist MP suddenly began to shout: ‘Down with the American agent of influence! Get back to the US!’ This is extremely important and telling because the communists immediately felt that this man could make mincemeat of their whole Stalinist pattern of history and give us back the right priorities.

“I would like to speak about Mace in plain words. Just imagine: an American of Red Indian stock, born in a small provincial town of Oklahoma, made his way up in society owing to his intellect and willpower. He faced rosy prospects in one of the world’s richest countries. Instead, he radically changes his life path and takes interest in the 1920s-1930s history of Ukraine. This subject was little studied and took a low profile even in prestigious US universities. So he had to make quite an effort to find experts. The Ukrainian theme was more and more attracting him. Having studied archival materials and becoming aware in purely human terms of the terrible tragedy that the Ukrainians went through in 1932-33, he set himself a goal to answer the crucial questions: why did it happen and who is to blame? He devoted 30 years to this. There is a Christian saying: ‘One’s grief is everyone’s grief.’ James’ life is a practical embodiment of this.

“Speaking of the people of this magnitude inevitably raises a philosophical question: what is success? In my view, James Mace was really successful. All we have to do is formulate the criteria. Success is not only material wellbeing. Success is when one finds strength to follow the call of their conscience to the very end.

“As for Mace’s political writing, I think we must put emphasis now on the most urgent topics. James repeatedly stressed that the genocide of Ukrainian peasants went on hand in hand, quite naturally, with another process – extermination of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. I am worried that the following idea is penetrating into our mass awareness: the 1932-33 tragedy was in some cases confined to the tragedy of peasants only. But there surely was a tragedy of the Ukrainian intelligentsia – in the same years and months. Stalin aimed to destroy the nation’s backbone – our peasantry – as well as the nation’s intellect.

“We often recall the definition James gave in the 1990s: we are a post-genocidal society. But it is not enough just to recall: it is absolutely necessary to further evolve this concept of Mace’s. What does a post-genocidal society mean? All other things apart, this means the Ukrainians are bereft of their national identity. In other words, we are in fact coming, in a way, more than a hundred years back – to the times Dovzhenko described so brilliantly in The Enchanted Desna:

“I asked father: ‘Who are we, father?’ I don’t know, son. We are local.’

“This is an example of the complete absence of national identity. History is often going back now. This is in fact a post-genocidal society. But, what is more, it is a society, where the fundamental principles of public morality have been destroyed.

“Summing up Mace’s scholarly and journalistic pursuit, I would like to say very simply: we will achieve nothing unless we restore common human morality as well as national identity.

“I consider the James Mace prize as a ban on writing with a lick and promise. One must be able to make a more strenuous effort. In general, the establishment of this prize is a high standard of journalistic responsibility and scientific accuracy, for one must, firstly, write convincingly and, secondly, adhere to facts only. This award requires combination of the first and second criteria, which is very difficult, but necessary, to do.”


Serhii HRABOVSKY, James Mace Prize winner in 2011:

“A considerable part of today’s intellectual circles – both in the West and here – is infected with what I think is a very dangerous disease. Begun as a revolt against the Cold-War-time conventionalities and dogmas, it turned into the ruination of values, the loss of the common worldwide frame of reference, and the attempts to evade any generally-accepted and binding ethic, and moral norms in scholarly and social activities. Of course, far from all advocates dare deny Nazi crimes, but there is no shortage of those who are willing to justify Stalinism and communist totalitarianism as ‘another paradigm of civilizational development’ or ‘the right to a historical experiment.’ In the 1990s, when this disease affected the intellectual circles of Ukraine, there emerged almost a dominant paradigm of renouncing the educational mission of philosophy, historical science, and literature studies, the outlining of social development projects, and creation of viable ideologies. The message was that it was enough to write texts, with due account that any discursive practice is nothing but ‘ontological language game.’ Meanwhile, the aspiration to reject somebody’s ideological or philosophical postulates in favor of other, more correct, ones was branded as ‘totalitarianism,’ ‘imposition of the grand narrative,’ an attempt to build a new-time ‘governmental discourse’ in the conditions when humankind has at last shaken off the ‘tyranny of narratives.’

“After all, according to French thinkers Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, the modern (or ‘postmodern’) world should drop, both in theory and in practice, the customary opposed splits which ostensibly had a direct bearing on the very order of things: East – West, male – female, high – low, real – imaginary, subject – object, etc. They claim that in the current cultural and mental space ‘dualism or dichotomy is unthinkable even in the primitive form of good and evil.’ For it is inadmissible that something will become privileged and, hence, ‘suppress everything else.’

“Just like this: ‘even in the primitive form of good and evil.’

“And it is not the limit. Another French thinker, Gilles Lipovetsky, claims that we are now in the so-called post-duty (apres devoir) epoch, the epoch of ‘minimalist’ morality. As this group of intellectuals claim that testaments and absolute duties are no longer viable, the only thing that, according to Lipovetsky, possesses a universal force is the slogan: ‘No excesses!’ This slogan is being projected against the backdrop of extreme individualism and aspiration for a good life which is only limited by the requirement of indifference-colored general tolerance. In other words, we see glorification of what seems to be man’s freedom from any duty, which looks rather emblematic.

“This is the intellectual atmosphere that prevailed in the West in the mid-1980s and reached us in the 1990s in which James Mace lived and worked.

“Naturally, there are enough scholars, writers, and journalists in the US, Western Europe, and Ukraine, who are guided by different standards, for whom good and evil is not something hopelessly outdated or even ‘totalitarian’ and who understand the necessity of enlightenment – of course, in flexible and easy-to-grasp, rather than coercive, forms. Clearly, Mace’s works on spotting and researching sociopolitical, almost absolute, evil found comprehension and support among a large number of intellectuals. But there was no lack of resistance, rejection and overt skepticism – not only on the part of those Western professors whom the eminent Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky crudely and wittily called ‘Left scum,’ i.e., undisguised followers of Bolshevik ideas, but also on the part of seemingly independent, and nonconformist ‘masters of thoughts’ who are equally far from various political currents. In reality, these Western (and our) intellectual ‘against-alls’ were and are standing on the way of the societal comprehension of elementary and even, if you like, absolute truths: no modernization or electrification can justify the Holodomor and no totalitarian machine, in spite of it being able to be effective at times, never was, is not, and cannot be an adequate response to the challenges of the day, and killing children is always an unforgivable evil. These elementary things are, as we see, not always shared even by some highbrow intellectuals.

“In other words, today, when the wave of the abovementioned intellectual illness seems to be on the wane, we are obviously underestimating the difficulties James Mace had to overcome in his work. Moreover, those difficulties were in an educated milieu which was seemingly to be the first to take over the baton. But…

“But in late 2011 a prominent Ukrainian historian categorically stated in a lengthy interview that ‘the Ukrainians were doing well even under a ‘colonial yoke,’ the latter word combination being deliberately taken between the inverted comas. Moreover, ‘as is known, the Ukrainian Republic played by far the main role’ in the formation of the USSR and in the Holodomor, too, Ukraine as such was an accomplice in Bolshevik crimes. This is the ‘creative’ way of ‘reconsidering’ what seems to be clear and deep-seated in mass awareness.

“This means that the cause and legacy of James Mace is not something purely academic and faraway in time. It is the sore point of today. It is our cause. A society cannot survive if it has no frame of moral references, does not distinguish between good and evil, and does not put the record straight in understanding its past. Will it have a future otherwise?”