Wednesday, March 12, 2014

U.S. fascists debate the conflict in Ukraine


The Ukrainian fascists who helped seize power in Kiev three weeks ago have gotten a strikingly mixed response from U.S. far rightists. Like others across the political spectrum, U.S. fascists are struggling to understand and respond to the complex situation in Ukraine, and their discussions reveal some important fault lines and contradictions. Anti-fascists -- take note.

As discussed in my previous post, the two main Ukrainian fascist groups are Svoboda party, whose electoral support surged in 2012 from less than 1 percent to 10.45%, and Right Sector, a paramilitary coalition of far-right groups that regards Svoboda as too moderate. Svoboda and Right Sector are descendants of the Ukrainian fascist groups that collaborated with the Nazis and murdered tens of thousands of Jews and Poles. Both Svoboda and Right Sector played an important role in the western-backed "Euromaidan" movement that toppled Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in a political revolution with real popular support, and they've been rewarded with key posts in the new government.

So you might expect that American fascists would be cheering on their comrades in Kiev. After all, when the Greek neo-nazi party Golden Dawn won 7 percent of the parliamentary vote in 2012 and ramped up its violent attacks on immigrants, LGBT people, and political opponents, U.S. far rightists were enthusiastic. But for the most part, their responses to the Ukrainian upheaval have ranged from ambivalent to hostile, for several reasons. Some American far rightists are unhappy about the prospect of another war between Europeans. Some of them consider the Ukrainian fascists politically suspect because of their involvement in a movement backed by the U.S. and European Union governments. And some of them support the Russian government and its vision of a greater Eurasian Union including at least part of the Ukraine.

Map of Ukraine with Oblast Krim (Crimea) highlighted
The Ukraine conflict is in some ways a throwback to the Cold War, when many fascists -- including the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists -- joined forces with the CIA against the Soviet Union, despite their misgivings about the U.S. and western Europe's liberal political systems. But even in the 1950s, there were some far rightists -- such as Francis Parker Yockey -- who advocated an alliance with Russian communism against the "decadent" West. This position was known as national bolshevism.

Since the 1980s, and especially since the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989-1991, the old Cold War alliances have unraveled. To most western fascists, the main enemy is not Russia (or China) but rather the "Zionist Occupation Government" (ZOG) in Washington or western-based "globalist elites" bent on destroying European civilization. Today the main geopolitical debate among western fascists seems to be whether to stake out a "third position" between West and East or to ally themselves with the new post-communist Russian state.

Some fascists outside Ukraine have turned out in support of Svoboda or Right Sector. The Daily Beast reported on March 2 about a Swedish fascist group's initiative to send people and supplies to "support the Ukrainian revolution." But the article's headline, "Neo-Nazis Pour into Kiev," was absurdly alarmist. The lead organizer for Swedish Ukrainian Volunteers admitted, "If we get 50, all in all, I will be very proud."

On Stormfront, the largest neo-nazi bulletin board in the U.S., one contributor announced that he was heading to Ukraine to volunteer his services to Right Sector, and urged other westerners, especially those with military experience, to "come to the aid of fellow nationalists in Ukraine and help found the first nationalist state in Europe, since 1945." But on the discussion thread that followed, nobody else offered to join him, and only some of the comments were supportive. Criticisms included, "If you help Ukrainian Nationalists invade Russian parts of Ukraine, you will put yourself on the wrong side of history" and "This so called 'Ukrainian revolution' is nothing more than the U.S. and the U.K. stirring up trouble AGAIN, in another country."

Other Stormfront threads took a more neutral approach. A second contributor lamented, "Why do White people kill more White people??! Can't they see that ZOG is manipulating them like sheep going to the slaughterhouse?!" while another urged far rightists to brainstorm ways to prevent war and "loss of white life" in Ukraine, such as the idea that Russia could buy Crimea from Ukraine. "This would prevent Ukraine from going to the International (Jewish) Usury Fund and allow also the ejection of some large section of Tartars [sic] (non-white muslims [sic]) from Ukraine."

On the Traditionalist Youth Network website, Matt Parrott of Hoosier Nation called the Ukrainian conflict "ideologically ambiguous" and said he wouldn't pick a side until "one faction or another may unambiguously align with the global identitarian vision." On The Occidental Observer site, Kevin MacDonald, a prominent white nationalist intellectual, wrote that "Ukraine is a textbook case of the costs of multiculturalism, a story of competing nationalisms," but warned Ukraine against allying with the European Union, since EU anti-nationalism leads to "the obliteration of all traditional European national cultures." "A better solution," he suggested," would be to break up states like Ukraine with large ethnic divisions into ethnically homogeneous societies..."

Many American fascists are suspicious of Ukrainian fascists' right-wing credentials. Aryanism.net declared "Authentic National Socialists do not collaborate with a regime as corrupt as that of the USA, that supports Israel and is controlled by Jews, and do not allow themselves to be used as geopolitical pawns." On the other hand, the same author wrote that Right Sector "seems to represent authentic National Socialism (I really hope I am right about this)," and praised Right Sector's commitment to vigilante justice. But Michael McGregor of Radix (successor to AlternativeRight.com) argued that even Right Sector isn't fascist enough, claiming that the group is "dedicated to a type of civic nationalism where the interests of preserving a state...is more important than that of preserving their race or even that of their own ethnic group."

Writing about the Euromaidan protests before Yanukovych had fled Kiev, Vanguard News Network (VNN) wrote that "the Jews and the internationalists (this of course includes America) are angry because the Ukraine won't 'play ball' with the globalist agenda of free trade, global government, non-white immigration, massive debt via [International Monetary Fund] loans, hate-crime laws, and other horrible things." In a follow-up article, VNN added that "Western governments want to bring the Ukraine under Western influence so they can use it as a possible 'weapon' or at least as a 'watchdog' against Russia [which] too often goes against NWO [New World Order] or Jewish interests, e.g., selling sophisticated missiles to Arab countries like Syria."

Unlike the openly pro-nazi VNN, the Lyndon LaRouche network presents itself as progressive and anti-fascist, and when the Yanukovych government fell, LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review proclaimed "U.S.A. and EU, With Ukrainian Terrorists, Establish Nazi Regime." This is essentially the Russian government line, although the LaRouchites combine it with their own elaborate conspiracy theories, notably that both the EU and the U.S. government are really controlled by the British empire. From this perspective, Ukraine's upheaval was simply a putsch carried out by western government operatives, in which popular forces exercised no agency of their own. The LaRouchites give no credence to the Yanukovych government's corruption and repressive brutality as factors that outraged many Ukrainians and led them to revolt.

A related analysis was offered by U.S. supporters of Aleksandr Dugin, such as Global Revolutionary Alliance. Dugin is the Russian far right's leading intellectual, former theoretician of the National Bolshevik Party, and one of the main figures in the European New Right, which offers a sanitized fascism as a project to defend "difference" and "ethnopluralism." He has close ties with the Russian state and is the founder of the modern Eurasianist movement, which envisions Russia as the center of a new authoritarian "empire." Dugin addressed the Ukraine crisis in a recent interview on the Counter-Currents Publishing website, which blends white nationalism, antisemitism, and European New Right ideology. He argued that members of the anti-Yanukovych movement were united not by a desire for political change or closer ties to the EU, but simply by "their pure hatred of Russia." He also found a way to criticize the Euromaidan movement both for including neo-nazis and for including progressive groups:
"The left wing liberal groups are not less extremist than the neo-Nazi groups.... We find especially in Eastern Europe and Russia very often that the Homosexual-Lobby and the ultranationalist and neo-Nazi groups are allies. Also the Homosexual lobby has very extremist ideas about how to deform, re-educate and influence the society.... The gay and lesbian lobby is not less dangerous for any society than neo-Nazis."
Dugin also argued that the hope any Ukrainian fascists might have of pursuing a course independent of major global powers is an illusion:
"There is no 'third position,' no possibility of that.... The same ugly truth hits the Ukrainian 'nationalist' and the Arab salafi fighter: They are Western proxies. It is hard to accept for them because nobody likes the idea to be the useful idiot of Washington....

"There is land power and sea power in geopolitics. Land power is represented today by Russia, sea power by Washington. During World War II Germany tried to impose a third position.... The end was the complete destruction of Germany. So when even the strong and powerful Germany of that time wasn't strong enough to impose the third position how [can] the much smaller and weaker groups want to do this today? It is impossible, it is a ridiculous illusion."
However, Counter-Currents also published a sharply different argument by Greg Johnson, who referred to Dugin as the Russian regime's "apostle and apologist...whose credibility with ethnonationalists should be reduced to zero by now." Johnson offered the most sophisticated far right analysis of the Ukraine crisis that I have seen so far. He argued that "The strife in the Ukraine is not, at root, caused by Russian or 'Western' intervention, for these would find no purchase if Ukraine were not already an ethnically divided nation," and that "even in the absence of outside influence, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had to go [because he] is a crook who plundered his country and was essentially selling its geopolitical alignment to the highest bidder in order to retain his grip on power."

Johnson noted that the far right groups Svoboda and Right Sector had played a remarkably prominent role in the Ukrainian revolution, but as part of a coalition "which also included centrists, Leftists, feminists, gay rights advocates, and ethnic minority agitators, including Jews, Tatars, and Armenians." He argued (echoing Michael McGregor's point quoted above) that Right Sector "falls far short of National Socialism," and that "of all European nationalist parties, Svoboda is probably the most radical and consistent, yet it is also one of the most successful.... Unfortunately, despite an admirable political platform, Svoboda is at present committed to maintaining the artificial Ukrainian state." And unlike Dugin (or LaRouche), Johnson refused to embrace the Russian government:
"Like many White Nationalists, I admire Vladimir Putin because he is an important geopolitical counter-weight to the United States and Israel..., he has sought to address Russia's demographic crisis, and he looks and acts like a real-life James Bond. But Putin is not an ethnonationalist. Indeed, he imprisons Russian nationalists and is committed to maintaining Russia's current borders, which include millions of restive Muslims in the Caucasus."
Johnson conceded that if "Putin were to take back the Crimea, virtually ridding Ukraine of its Russian and Tatar minorities and leaving Ukraine smaller but more racially and culturally homogeneous, it might be a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reason." And he hoped that Svoboda and other ultranationalists would eventually bring about "national autonomy for all peoples within the current Ukrainian borders."

These debates highlight the complexity of the Ukrainian upheaval. A popular uprising has replaced a corrupt, repressive government (representing a pro-Russian capitalist faction) with a coalition of “austerity”-promoting neoliberals and fascists (representing a pro-EU capitalist faction), which now faces military intervention in the Crimea by Vladimir Putin’s Russian government. None of these regimes is on the side of Ukraine’s ordinary people. As a coalition of internationalists from Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere has declared, this is a "power struggle between oligarchic clans [that] threatens to escalate into an international armed conflict."

In dealing with this conflict, fascists are all over the map -- some lined up with (or in) the new Ukrainian government, some backing Russia, and some (many in the U.S.) conflicted or wavering in between. This means that calls to support the Russian government in the name of "anti-fascism" are just as misinformed or dishonest as calls to support Ukraine's "democratic revolution."

Image credit

By Sven Teschke [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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