Apologetics, if not outright support, for the forces of political reaction and oppression have become a hallmark of sections of the socialist left in the two and a half decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The “rationale” for such an abandonment of basic socialist principles is rooted in a bogus “anti-imperialism”, according to which any force in conflict with “imperialism” (defined solely as: the USA and/or the European Union) is automatically presumed worthy of some degree or other of support.
Now the “anti-imperialist” left is well advanced in repeating the same ‘mistake’ in relation to the conflict in the south-east of Ukraine.
Obsessed with the role played (or allegedly played) by the US and the European Union, fantasising about the supposed power wielded by fascist organisations in Ukraine, it shuts its eyes to the actual politics of those playing the leading role in the Russian-separatist forces.
On this occasion the result is even more bizarre than usual: the “anti-imperialist” left ends up in a de facto alliance with a political ideology committed to imperialist expansion and containing pronounced elements of fascism.
Eurasianism first emerged as a relatively systematised set of ideas amongst White émigrés in the early 1920s. Central to those ideas was the belief that Russia represented a unique civilisation with its own traditions and path of historical development.
Russia’s future, argued the Eurasians, lay not in following in the footsteps of Europe or Asia (although it would incorporate certain elements of both). Instead, they looked forward to the eventual collapse of the west and the emergence of an expanded Russia as a leading imperial power in its own right.
Eurasianism remained the preserve of Russian diaspora intellectuals until the collapse of the Soviet Union, since when it has become a significant political movement in Russia itself.
The main traits of Eurasianism today are: a commitment to restoring the glories of imperial Russia; the expansion of Russia’s borders to incorporate the territories of the ancient kingdom of Rus; hostility to western liberal values, which it holds responsible for what it sees as the decline and degeneration of the west.
The European Union and the USA — and Jews — are regarded as responsible for the post-Soviet economic and social collapse of Russia. Stalin, on the other hand, is admired as someone who established Russia as a world power.
Eurasianism is socially conservative and singles out gay rights for particular condemnation. Although it frequently presents itself as “anti-fascist”, its “anti-fascism” is no more than a Russian-imperialist glorification of Stalin’s defeat of Nazi Germany and the subsequent occupation of Eastern Europe.
At best, Eurasianism is a form of extreme Russian nationalism. At worst, it is a specific form of fascism which has been shaped by political traditions peculiar to Russia.
And it is the politics of Eurasianism which are espoused by leading figures in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, by the websites which seek to rally support for them, and by those political forces which have taken the lead in Russia in mobilising support for them.
Prokhanov is probably Russia’s best-known fascist. In terms of Russian journalism, his newspaper Zavtra (Tomorrow — a replacement for his previous paper (Djen — The Day) after it was banned) is certainly the most vile.
Prokhanov is an uncritical admirer of Stalinism. He backed the attempted Stalinist coup of 1991 in Russia. He blames Jews for Russia’s misfortunes. He preaches the (alleged) virtues of the Russian Orthodox Church. He advocates the recreation of the Soviet Union — by force if need be.
His big political project is the creation of a Red-White alliance (i.e. an alliance of Stalinists and traditional Russian-imperialists) which will restore the glories of ancient Rus’. The “think-tank” of this Red-White alliance is the “Izborsky Club” (named after the city where it first met).
Under the headline “Alexander Prokhanov to Develop the Ideology of Novorossiya”, the website of the Information Agency of Novorossiya reported last weekend on discussions between Prokhanov and Pavel Gubarev, one of the leaders of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’:
“In the course of the discussions it was agreed that participants in the Izborsky Club — the greatest minds and patriots of the Russian World — will develop the economic and ideological conception of the future state of Novorossiya.”
“It was also suggested to Pavel that he become a participant in the Izborsky Club, and that he also open a branch of the organisation in the Donetsk People’s Republic.”(1)
In a Skype interview with Prokhanov posted on the Russian Spring (RS) website (which functions as a kind of semi-official mouthpiece for Eurasianism in south-east Ukraine), Prokhanov not only lauded the stand taken by the separatist insurgents but also called for Russian/Chechen support:
“How can we live in Russia if we do not help (the pro-Russian insurgents)? We cannot do so. We will perish spiritually. Where is our Russian patriotic spirit? The Chechen people have undergone a miraculous transformation. And today it is ready to repay in kindness what Russia has done for them.”
“I appeal to the inhabitants of the south-east, I am filled with hatred and with love. Now, there, with you — is my son, my friends. I pray for those close to me, for Donbas, for Russia. We will be victorious! Stand firm! God be with you!”(2)
Dugin has long played a leading role in fascist and Eurasian organisations: the National Bolshevik Party, the National Bolshevik Front, the Eurasia Party, the Eurasia Movement, and the Eurasian Youth Union.
Dugin’s views epitomise much of what modern Eurasianism stands for. More of an intellectual than Prokhanov and (relatively speaking) less of a mystic, it is Dugin rather than Prokhanov who acts as the ideologist-in-chief of the broader Eurasian movement.
Dugin advocates: hostility to the USA and Europe as a source of decadence and degeneration due to their liberal values; support for the strong corporate state and subordination of the individual to that state, and the creation of a vast intercontinental Eurasian state.
Dugin wrote for Djen before it was banned, and then went on to write for Zavtra. He is also a member of the Izborsky Club. On the website of the Information Agency of Novorossiya a page is given over to Dugin’s writings (3), and his articles are also published on the RS website:
“Our Russian revolution is clearly antithetical. Not for Europe and the USA but against them, against Atlanticism, Conchita Wurst, and the American network of influence. Not against Russia and Putin but for Russia and Putin. For a strong, open and free Russian Russian Orthodox Eurasian State … not for the domination of Western values and Gay Parades.”(4)
“How heavy are the wheels of History …. In order to move them an inch what is needed is fountains of bloods, hearts ripped out of their bodies, the crushing of human fates.”(5)
“In the Donetsk People’s Republic my comrades are dying. Those close to me. It is not just the neo-Nazis of the (Kiev) junta who are killing them, but also the prevarication of Putin. More exactly, the prevarications of the sixth column who openly betray the President and sabotage his decisions. …”
“… What lies ahead is the fateful inevitability of war. When will it begin and how long will it last? But if it does not begin, then not only Novorossiya is finished but also Russia.”(6)
Dugin is also a great admirer of Gubarev, who he sees as turning his ideas into reality, and of the “Novorossiya” party recently created by Gubarev: “This is our party and we fully recognise the orientation and values which it defends.”(7)
Currently the self-styled “People’s Governor of the Donetsk People’s Republic”, and founder of the new political party “Novorossiya”, Gubarev is a former member of the Russian neo-Nazi paramilitary organisation Russian National Unity (RNU), and also a former member of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU).
Despite its name, the latter is a bizarre ultra-Russian-nationalist organisation. Current articles on its website include PSPU leader Vitrenko’s address to a recent Forum of Russian Orthodox Women, entitled: “A Russian Orthodox Mobilisation Will Save Holy Rus — Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia.”(8)
Challenged in a recent interview about his former membership of the RNU, Gubarev replied that he had been a member of the organisation twelve years ago but now:
“I call myself a Russian nationalist, but with the qualification that genuine Russian nationalism is not ethnic but spiritual and humanitarian. Today it would be more correct to describe my views as national-patriotism, with left-of-centre leanings. Russians and Ukrainians are one people, but some Ukrainians have simply forgotten this.”(9)
Under the headline “We Are Building a New Russia”, the RS which posted an interview last week which Gubarev had given to Zavtra (not withstanding his ‘left-of-centre leanings’). According to Gubarev:
“’Narodnost’ (i.e. the sense of belonging to a particular nationality or people) — that is the word which inspires the builders of the New Russia. This spirit of narodnost already hovers above our military fraternalism, and it will not die away, I am sure of that. …”
“… (People I met in Slaviansk) are not fighting for decentralisation, or federalisation, or budgetary autonomy. They are fighting for high ideals, for the true Russian-Orthodox-Slav cause, which finds expression in the idea of Novorossiya. We are being watched not just by the entire Russian world but also by the entire planet earth.”(10)
Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic’, Alexander Borodai worked with Prokhanov on the Zavtra newspaper in the 1990s and then collaborated with him on the Dyen television channel (which shares the same politics as Zavtra).
Prokhanov approvingly describes Borodai as: “A Russian nationalist. He is a supporter of a strong Russian state. … He’s always been close to me, and has preached the idea of a Russian national white — not red — imperial consciousness.”
In an interview published on the RS website Borodai described himself as “A Russian patriot. I consider that the extent of the Russian world was artificially reduced as a result of certain circumstances, and that the Russian world was divided by artificially created borders.”(11)
In the same interview Borodai described the unrest in the south-east of Ukraine as “a Russian uprising. Russian in the broad sense of the word — in terms of culture, mentality and civilisation.”
Borodai consciously sees himself as a political disciple of Lev Gumilev, one of the founding fathers of the Eurasian ideology in the early 1920s. For a full analysis of Borodai’s politics, see: http://bit.ly/1pZE8TO
Fursov is a Russian academic and historian, and also a member of the Izborsky Club initiated by Prokhanov. As with Dugin, a page on the website of the Information Agency of Novorossiya is given over to Fursov’s articles (12), which are also regularly published on the RS website.
Fursov is a Russian nationalist who sees the current epoch as one of the collapse of the capitalist west and the resurgence of Russia in the face of American hostility: “The main task of the USA is the destabilisation of Eurasia. And the destabilisation of Eurasia is the destabilisation of Russia.”(13)
For Fursov, the great figure in recent Russian history is Stalin. Under the latter’s rule “a huge part of Eurasia became united. Stalin is the author of the anti-globalist neo-imperial project in the twentieth century, Stalin showed how one can oppose the Globalists. Stalin delayed globalisation for almost 70 years.” (14)
The driving financial force behind the Globalists, according to Fursov, were the Rothschilds. But whereas the Romanovs attempted to compromise with the Rothschilds, Stalin made no concessions and thereby earned the hatred of the Globalists. (15)
The current resurgence of Russia began with the annexation of the Crimea: “The Crimean victory drew a line under the shame which began on 2nd/3rd December 1989 when, after having flown to visit the well-known Russophobe Pope John Paul II, Gorbachev flew to Malta and there surrendered the socialist camp to Bush.”(16)
The resurgence of Russia is continuing with the upheavals in the south-east of Ukraine, according to Fursov, despite the role played by the Israel, its secret services and the Rothschilds:
“The Rothschild group is at work in the east of Ukraine. That’s the area they want to get their hands on. The interests of the Rothschilds strongly clash with the interests of Russia. …”
“… The next player in Ukraine is Israel, which is represented in Ukraine by Mossad and practically all of the Israeli intelligence services. Aman, Shabak, Shin Bet, Nativ — they are all present in Ukraine. Mossad operates in close contact with the CIA and MI6. It’s a unified snake of intelligence agencies, which gets the job done.”(17)
Ivan Okhlobystin is a film celebrity whose career includes a spell as a priest and a member of the Kremlin-sponsored pseudo-opposition party Right Cause. He is also pro-monarchy.
According to Okhlobystin, anyone who cannot ‘choose someone similar from the opposite sex for reproduction’ suffers from ‘a psychic anomaly’ and should be banned from voting. ‘Official sodomite organizations’ offend people’s religious sensibilities and should be banned.
Being gay is ‘queer fascism’, writes Okhlobystin, it is ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’. His conclusion: “I would put all the gays alive into an oven.”
A recent statement by Okhlobystin on the fighting in south-east Ukraine, first issued through Prokhanov’s Izborsky Club and then published on the RS website, is steeped in the same fire and brimstone:
“As a pastor, as a Slav, and as a citizen of the Great multi-national Russia I welcome the struggle of the courageous defenders of Novorossiya — a bastion of Christian virtue and military valour.”
“I give my blessing to the destruction of this satanic fascist plague — without mercy, by all possible means — and to wiping from the face of the earth everything which is even a reminder of it. All those who give up their life in this war in defence of Divine Glory will end up in Paradise.”(18)
Kalashnikov (real name: Vladimir Kucherenko) is simultaneously a Stalinist nostalgic and Russian ultra-nationalist who calls for the creation of a new “federated Russian Empire”, consisting of Russia, almost all of Ukraine, parts of Belorussia, plus Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
According to Kalashnikov, ‘the white (western and Russian) part of humanity is in crisis’ as a result of ‘dysgenics, deindustrialisation and descientisation.’ In the Russian world ‘the crisis of man is reflected in its most disgusting and protuberant form.’ The Russian people is becoming ‘excess biomass.’
The only way to save Russia from ‘degradation and extinction’ is the scientific creation of ‘super- and post-people, new forms of humans.’ This will ‘provide us (Russians) with new strength. This can make Russia a world leader.’(20)
In the meantime, and more modestly, in an article on the RS website (“The Future of Russian Civilisation is Being Decided Here”) Kalshnikkov calls for Ukraine to be reduced to little more than a garden allotment sandwiched between ‘Carpathian Rus’ to the west and ‘Malorossiya’ and Novorossiya to the east.
“These lands were never Ukraine. In these lands there was no Banderist movement during or after the Great Patriotic War. They did not greet Hitler with flowers here. Here they defended Odessa and Sevastopol to the last drop of their blood. …”
“… What is needed is to spread the powerful flame of the movement for Novorossiya across Ukraine in its agonies, as it descends into poverty and ruin. … The remainder of Ukraine (i.e. post-dismemberment), mortally struck down by Russophobia, will become a poverty-stricken super-Moldova, cut off from the sea.”(21)
Shamir is an internationally well-known anti-semite and Holocaust denier who peddles the traditional tropes of anti-semitism. It says much about the politics of the RS website, and of those whom the website wishes to mobilise support for, that the website has published his material.
According to Shamir, Jews control the media (“The rich Jews buy media so it will cover their (and their brethren’s) misdeeds. No view can be proposed to the general public unless approved by a Jewish group”) and want to control the world (“Palestine is not the ultimate goal of the Jews, the world is.”).
Shamir lived in Russia in the late 1980s and early 1990s and wrote for Zavtra, as well as maintaining links with other Russian neo-Nazi and anti-semitic organizations.
In late May the RS website published a long rambling article by Shamir, enthusiastically proclaiming the emergence of a new Moscow-Peking-Berlin alliance which would put an end to the current US world hegemony. According to the article:
“For the first time since the 1950s public opinion in the west has turned in favour of Russia. This change of mind began in radical and marginal circles among anti-Zionists, anti-globalists and anti-imperialists, and then spread more widely.”
“Look at the comments and articles about Russia in the most anti-Russian newspapers (the “Guardian” and “Der Spiegel”) and you will see how public opinion is favourable to Russia. [This presumably refers to articles by Seamus Milne and John Pilger.] … Russia is an important regional power, mutters the humiliated Obama. But no! Russia is a world power.”(22)
Babai the Cossack
Babai the Cossack (real name: Alexander Mozhaev, from Belorechensk in the south of Russia) has been presented by the RS website, and other websites which share its politics, as the cult-figure and physical embodiment of the values and politics of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk and of the new Novorossiya.
And not without justification.
Mozhaev arrived in Crimea at the time of Russia’s annexation. His explanation of why he then left for Kramatorsk: “We were sitting around wondering what to do next. So we decided to go and conquer some more historically Russian lands. …. Before the American menace comes to my homeland, I came here to stop it, and to get back some Russian land in the process.”
Mozhaev’s video clips, which were posted on the RS website on an almost daily basis throughout May, are peppered with references to the Russian-Orthodox identity.
In calling for a boycott of the Ukrainian presidential elections, Mozhaev directed his appeal at ‘Russian-Orthodox Slavs’. To clarify the military conflict in the south-east he explained: “We are not separatists. We are not terrorists. We are Russian-Orthodox warriors. We are going to return the Holy Rus’ to our home.”
The enemy for Mozhaev is the west and its ‘junta’ in Kiev, which he describes as consisting solely of ‘lesbians, paedophiles and gays.’(23) Mozhaev has also described himself as participating in ‘a holy war against fascism’ and in defence of ‘the ordinary Russian-Orthodox people’ against ‘Judeo-Masons’:
“I ask (President Putin) to open a corridor for people who want to fight for Holy Rus’ and destroy the western evil. … Not the entire west, no. The Judeo-Masons are the ones who are creating everywhere in the world a chaos that that suits them. Because of this we — the ordinary Russian-Orthodox people — suffer.”(24)
Unsurprisingly, ‘the living symbol of Free Slaviansk’ is a monarchist: “The President of Russia — that’s the Tsar. What you call him, that’s not important. … In Rus’ there must be a Tsar. And Putin is an autocrat, thank God.”(25)
The fact that the likes of Borodai and Gubarev have emerged as key political leaders, that outright fascists such as Prokhanov and Dugin have rallied to their cause, that Babai the Cossack is considered ‘good publicity’, that separatist websites publish material by known fascists — all this shows up the real politics driving forward the separatist movement.
To recognise that as a fact does not entail support for the government in Kiev — a government, not a ‘fascist junta’, as the champions of Novorossiya and their hangers-on describe it — any more than it entails support for the USA and the European Union.
Nor does it mean ignoring the very real social and economic issues in the south-east of Ukraine which the likes of Borodai and Gubarev exploit in pursuit of their own political project: industrial decline, collapsing social services, the corruption and the huge wealth accumulated by local elites, and issues of political and national identity.
Each escalation of the level of military conflict — as the Kiev government pursues its so-called ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ and more fighters cross the border into Ukraine from Russia — increases the level of polarization around national rather than class identities.
Insofar as socialists can gain a hearing for their ideas against such a background, they need to expose and challenge not just the politics of the Ukrainian government but also the reactionary Eurasianism of the latter-day White Russian imperialists.
And to do that, they first need to be able to recognise and to understand the politics of the latter for what they are — not socialist, not anti-imperialist, not some confused forerunner of socialism, but simply Russian-imperialist and reactionary.
1) Information Agency of Novorossiya, 05/06/14
2) RS, 28/05/14
4) RS, 26/05/14
5) RS, 30/05/14
6) RS, 28/05/14
8) PSPU 02/06/14
9) Information Agency of Novorossiya, 07/06/14
10) RS, 04/06/14
11) RS, 24/05/14
13) RV, 29/05/14
16) RS, 29/05/14
17) RS, 30/05/14
18) RS, 06/06/14
21) RS, 31/05/14
22) RS 27/05/14
23) RS, 18/05/14
24) RS 20/05/14
Rally in Moscow, variously entitled “Support Inhabitants of the Donbas”, “Russia for the Donbas” and “Stand Up for the Donbas”:
Organised by Aleksei Zhivov (and his friends). Zhivov was founder and leader of the “National-Patriots of Russia” (2001-07). Member of the organising committee of the first Russian March in 2005 (an annual demonstration by fascists and ultra-nationalists, with occasional guest appearances by the Ku Klux Klan). Joined the “Right-Conservative Alliance” in 2012.
Lots of Russian Imperial Flags (1858-1883, nowadays used only by monarchists and the far right) and flags of the “Russian Imperial Movement” (ditto) on the Moscow rally.
Speakers at the rally included: Vladimir Zhirinovsky (leader of the far-right LDPR), Denis Pushilin (‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ leader, who had met with Zhirinovsky the previous day), and Aleksei Zhivov, with recorded speeches by Pavel Gubarev and Ivan Okhlobystin (see main article) broadcast to the crowd.