Mar 30, 2014

Spencer Sunshine on rightists in the Occupy movement

Spencer Sunshine has a good article in the Political Research Associates newsletter (Winter 2014 issue): "The Right Hand of Occupy Wall Street: From Libertarians to Nazis, the Fact and Fiction of Right-Wing Involvement." As Sunshine argues, a broad range of rightists got involved in the mostly left-leaning movement, raising serious questions about inclusiveness and decentralized organizing.

Three Way Fight addressed this issue briefly in a November 2011 post, "Rightists woo the Occupy Wall Street movement." But Sunshine's article is much more detailed and comprehensive. Here are a few excerpts:
"Certainly, Occupy was always a largely left-leaning event. But right-wing participation has been the norm rather than the exception within recent left-wing U.S. movements—including the antiglobalization, antiwar, environmental, and animal rights movements—and Occupy was no exception. Right-wing groups inserted their narrative about the Federal Reserve into the movement’s visible politics; used Occupy’s open-ended structure to disseminate conspiracy theories (antisemitic and otherwise) and White nationalism; promoted unfettered capitalism; and gained experience, skills, and political confidence as organizers in a mass movement that, on the whole, allowed their participation."
                     *                     *                     *
"While few right-wing actors see capitalism as a system to be abolished, many are harsh critics of finance capital, especially in its international form. This critique unites antisemites, who believe that Jews run Wall Street; libertarian “free marketers,” who see the Federal Reserve as their enemy; and advocates of “producerist” narratives, who want “productive national capital” (such as manufacturing and agriculture) to be cleaved from “international finance capital” (the global banking system and free-trade agreements)."
                     *                     *                     *

"The point it is not so much that the Left was significantly damaged by the Right’s presence in Occupy—though its presence did open the movement up to attacks in the mainstream media, which wasted the time and effort of organizers while turning off potential supporters. The deeper problem is that right-wing groups benefited from the Left’s willingness to give them a stage to speak from and an audience to recruit from."
                     *                     *                     *

"Are there any practical steps, then, that activists on the Left can take to minimize participation by the Right?

"The administrators at the forum, the main online location of internal discussions, took one small step after they were deluged by conspiracy theorists and Far Right propagandists. In October 2011, they banned anyone who posted about [David] Icke, [Lyndon] LaRouche, [David] Duke, or [Alex] Jones.

"A more proactive first step would be to endorse an anti-oppression platform at the very start, such as the one created at Occupy Boston. Unlike the relatively vague statement from Zuccotti, Boston’s statement explicitly named the types of oppression that it opposed, including White supremacy, patriarchy, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Arab sentiment, Islamophobia, and anti-Jewish sentiment."
To read more

Mar 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. 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 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 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

Mar 4, 2014

Who are Ukraine's fascists?

My previous post attempted to make sense of the struggle that recently overthrew Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych. As Tash Shifrin points out, not only did fascist groups play a leading role in this struggle, but their success "set a new benchmark for fascists across Europe."

Right Sector flag, Kiev, 22 February 2014
Both of Ukraine's two main fascist organizations are represented in the new government. Members of Svoboda (Freedom) party were named to the posts of deputy prime minister; ministers of defense, ecology, and agriculture; and head of the general prosecutor's office. The leader of the more hardline Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) was appointed deputy national security director.

Who are these Ukrainian fascists? What do they stand for? How did they become so influential? And where do they fit in the geopolitical struggle that is suddenly making Ukraine a major point of contention between the western and Russian wings of global capital? This post will try to address these questions.

Svoboda was founded in 1991 as the Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU) and is a direct descendent of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the World War II-era Nazi collaborators who massacred tens of thousands of Jews and Poles in their quest to create a totalitarian, ethnically pure Ukraine. In 2004, in an effort to clean up its image, the SNPU changed its name to the All-Ukrainian Association Svoboda, dropped the Wolfsangel symbol (which had been used by the Waffen SS), and started advocating populist economic and social measures. Svoboda's program, writes Emanuel Dreyfus, "would renationalise a number of enterprises, introduce progressive taxation on business profits, and seek to reduce the dominance of the oligarchs over the political and economic systems."

Historian Per Anders Rudling writes that Svoboda's makeover followed the example laid down by other European far right parties such as the Austrian Freedom Party and the National Democratic Party of Germany. "Svoboda's official policy documents are relatively cautious and differ from its daily activities and internal jargon, which are much more radical and racist.... Svoboda subscribes to the OUN tradition of national segregation and demands the reintroduction of the Soviet 'nationality' category into Ukrainian passports" (p. 237). According to political scientist Anton Shekhovtsov, "although Svoboda... does not have a worked out doctrine, it is possible to distinguish several different ideological strands most commonly articulated by the party leaders, including anticommunism, anti-liberalism, racism, anti-Russian sentiments, glorification of Ukrainian historical right-wing extremism and fascism, and heterosexism."

Antisemitism is central to the party's ideology. Svoboda head Oleh Tiahnybok claimed in 2005 that Ukraine was ruled by a "Muscovite-Jewish mafia," and, according to Rudling, in 2011 party activists fought with police as part of a protest campaign against Hasidic Jewish pilgrims visiting the Ukraine.

Svoboda got only 0.7% of the vote in 2007 parliamentary elections, but this support jumped to 10.45% in 2012, and the party entered the Rada (national parliament) for the first time with 37 seats. As the BBC reported, "in addition to expanding its traditional base in the country's Ukrainian-speaking west -- it won close to 40% in the Lviv region -- Svoboda made inroads into central regions, capturing second place in the capital Kiev." Svoboda's support is mainly working class in the western Ukraine, but the party also attracted intellectual and middle class people in Kiev, according to Denis of the leftist Autonomous Workers Union.

The other major fascist group is Right Sector, which was formed in November 2013 by activists from several small neo-nazi groups. Right Sector is primarily a street-fighting organization, with an estimated 2,000-3,000 members, that criticizes Svoboda as too moderate. Max Blumenthal writes, "Armed with riot shields and clubs, the group's cadres have manned the front lines of the Euromaidan battles this month, filling the air with their signature chant: 'Ukraine above all!' In a recent Right Sector propaganda video... the group promised to fight 'against degeneration and totalitarian liberalism, for traditional national morality and family values.'"

Svoboda and Right Sector supporters were a small portion of the Euromaidan protesters against Yanukovych, but they gained legitimacy from the nationalism that pervaded the movement. Right Sector militants and their allies physically attacked leftists who tried to have a visible presence in the Euromaidan or join the movement's Self Defense groups. By mid February 2014, the Self Defense forces (including some 1,500 under separate Right Sector command) were confronting police with guns as well as Molotov cocktails. Shifrin writes, "The center of gravity shifted from mass participant in Euromaidan to the organized strength of the fighting force. And the fascists have far greater weight among the fighters than in the protest as a whole."

The resurgence of Ukrainian fascism is very recent, but its seeds were planted years ago. In broad terms, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 many ethnic nationalisms and right-wing ideologies gained visibility and support. In Ukraine specifically, the return of rightist emigres dovetailed with propaganda initiatives of the new government centered on the 1930s and 1940s. Rudling notes (p. 231) that former President Viktor Yushchenko's government (2005-10) promoted a historical myth of the fascist OUN as freedom fighters and democrats struggling to liberate Ukraine from Soviet tyranny, and that ultra-nationalist and antisemitic propaganda have become commonplace in Ukrainian academia. In western Ukraine, especially Lviv,
"ultra-nationalist ideologues have found both effective and lucrative ways to work with entrepreneurs to popularize and disseminate their narrative to the youth, [such as] the Jewish theme restaurant Pid Zolotoiu Rozoiu (Beneath the Golden Rose), where guests are offered black hats of the sort worn by Hasidim, along with payot. The menu lists no prices for the dishes; instead, one is required to haggle over highly inflated prices 'in the Jewish fashion'" (p. 233).
Commemorating the centenary of Stepan Bandera, Kiev, 2009
The modern celebration of the OUN and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), includes public festivals, nightclub events, and the renaming of streets and buildings after OUN leader Stepan Bandera. Rudling sees a basic contradiction in this historical cult: on one hand, ultra-nationalists celebrate the Waffen-SS Galizien, a German military division composed of Ukrainians that carried out many atrocities; on the other, they hail the OUN as resistance fighters against Nazi Germany, who supposedly even rescued Jews (pp. 231, 235).

Ukrainian far rightists today don't just replicate the OUN's classical fascism, but blend it with other currents of fascist ideology. Rudling writes that Svoboda has been influenced by European New Right thinkers such as Alain de Benoist, who have replaced open racial supremacism with the nicer-sounding "ethno-pluralism," and who have promoted the Conservative Revolutionaries of interwar Germany as a far right tradition mostly outside of the Nazi movement. In 2010, Svoboda intellectual Yurii Mykhal'chyshyn published an anthology of key texts that brought together Conservative Revolutionaries (Ernst Juenger, Oswald Spengler), "left" Nazis (Ernst Roehm, Otto and Gregor Strasser), mainstream Nazis (Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg), and Italian and Spanish corporatist theoreticians (pp. 239, 243).

Mykhal'chyshyn has also served as a link between Svoboda and Ukraine's autonomous nationalists, who combine neo-nazi content with styles and slogans borrowed from left-wing autonomists and anarchist black blocks, such as black hoodies, masks, and a straight-edge lifestyle, while glorifying street violence against their opponents. Autonomous nationalism started in Germany as a sub-current within the neo-nazi scene, and has been visible in Ukraine since 2009, according to the German-language Antifaschistisches Infoblatt. The Infoblatt describes this as an effort by young neo-nazis to look more modern and more European. Ukrainian autonomous nationalists are not numerous, but they have worked closely with Svoboda and other far right parties.

Ukrainian fascists' international outlook is especially important, given that the movement which eventually toppled Yanukovych began by demanding a closer relationship with the European Union and not Russia. Svoboda has advocated Ukraine joining the EU, apparently to win favor with its electoral base. Alec Luhn of The Nation reports, "Yury Noyevy, a member of Svoboda's political council, admitted that the party is only pro-EU because it is anti-Russia. 'The participation of Ukrainian nationalism and Svoboda in the process of EU integration is a means to break our ties with Russia,' Noyevy said." Svoboda, along with the British National Party, Hungary's Jobbik, and several other far right parties, is part of the Alliance of European National Movements, which opposes EU centralization.

Right Sector, meanwhile, wants no part of the Europe Union. One of the group's coordinators told The Guardian, "'For us, Europe is not an issue, in fact joining with Europe would be the death of Ukraine. Europe means the death of the nation state and the death of Christianity. We want a Ukraine for Ukrainians, run by Ukrainians, and not serving the interests of others.' Tarasenko said the goal of the group was a 'national revolution' that would result in a 'national democracy' with none of the trappings of the 'totalitarian liberalism' that the EU represents for him."

Despite these sentiments, Right Sector, along with Svoboda, is now tied to a government that represents the pro-EU faction of the Ukrainian ruling class. Assuming that the new government isn't simply forced out by the Russian military, it's unlikely that the fascists could seriously pursue their national revolution against the oligarchs. The Right Sector hardliners might want to try, but I agree with Mark Ames that Svoboda will probably be coopted into embracing pro-Western policies, including EU austerity demands. "Neoliberalism is a big tent that is happy to absorb ultranationalists, democrats, or ousted president Yanukovych."

But that's very different from saying that Svoboda or Right Sector are just tools of the EU, or the United States, who have carried out a successful putsch on behalf of their masters. This is not the Cold War, when Ukrainian fascists were dependent on the CIA and loyal allies of the Reagan administration against the Soviet empire. Today's far rightists have to deal with great power geopolitics, but that doesn't mean they're happy about it. Remember that Osama bin Laden was once a Reagan ally, too.

See also this follow-up post: U.S. fascists debate the conflict in Ukraine

Photo credits:

Stepan Bandera celebration photo by Vasyl` Babych (Own work), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Right Sector flag photo by Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.