Fascism

The Dictatorship

Yuri Felshtinsky, in a recent article discussing what he sees as Russia’s current gradual preparation for a major war:

Сейчас уже понятно, что никакой элиты нет. Есть довольно жестко отстроенная вертикаль власти. В конце 15-летнего пути все, что мы имеем в России, – это диктатура. Это диктатура не сталинского типа, а скорее мягкая диктатура фашистского типа, как при Муссолини или раннем Гитлере. Диктатура при открытости границы – а при Сталине границы были закрыты, при рыночной экономике – а при Сталине никакой рыночной экономики не было, без концентрационных лагерей, без массовых политических репрессий. Но эта мягкая диктатура в любой момент может превратиться и в более жесткую диктатуру – просто по законам жанра.

It is now clear that there is no elite. There is a rather rigidly constructed power vertical. At the end of a 15-year-old path, all that we have in Russia is a dictatorship. It is not a Stalinist dictatorship, but rather a soft dictatorship of the fascist type, like that of Mussolini or early Hitler. A dictatorship with open borders – under Stalin the borders were closed. One with a market economy – under Stalin, there was no market economy. One without concentration camps, without mass political repressions. But this soft dictatorship can at any moment turn into a more hardline dictatorship – simply by the laws of the genre.

Why Putin Is Still In Power

In late 2011 the Russian scientist, writer and political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky gave an interview to the Institute of Modern Russia that was headed: Which Will Fall First – the Regime or Russia as a State? In the interview, Piontkovsky predicted the collapse of Vladimir Putin’s government, though refused to speculate on how long it would take – it might be a process lasting only a couple of weeks, or it might be a long-drawn-out decline spanning several years. Piontkovsky looked to the spread of people power – the kind of power that was then making itself felt throughout the Middle East in the shape of the Arab Spring. This power had the ability to overcome the rigid structures of the state:

How did it all start in North Africa? In Tunisia, a relatively prosperous country by African standards, a young man set himself on fire because he couldn’t find a job. Putin’s regime has ripened to its end. But the end will come later rather than sooner, because of the already mentioned satiated, lazy, and cowardly elite. Still, today’s macroeconomic indicators place serious time limitations. And with serious budget deficits, ruble devaluation, and double-digit inflation, social outbursts will spontaneously form in various regions. All this will push the elite to a greater sense of courage. Which will fall first – the regime or Russia as a state – will become crystal clear to everyone in about three or four years from now. 

In late 2012, Piontkovsky published an article called Why Putin Will Be Gone in 2013,  in which he predicted that Putinism would fall for the same reason that the Soviet Union fell in 1991. The USSR, he wrote, collapsed “not because of falling oil prices, not because of Gorbachev’s ‘betrayal’, and not because of Reagan’s SDI bluff which so terrified the old men in the Kremlin. When in the mid-1980s the communist myth that had created the system finally died in the hearts and minds of ordinary people as well as those of the Soviet nomenklatura, Soviet communism was strategically and psychologically doomed. As Andrei Amalrik had predicted with such genius a quarter of a century earlier.” [my tr.]

Likewise, the Putin Myth of the strong man, the “father of the nation”, protecting it from the Chechen terrorists who were supposedly blowing up peaceful citizens in their apartment blocks, had run out of steam – Russia’s techno-financial elite, Piontkovsky argued, had lost faith in this myth, and without the elite’s support the Putin system could not survive.

Of course, Putin is still there, so Piontkovsky’s prediction was incorrect – as numerous columnists and observers have not been slow to point out. In an article titled Putin or Russia, published at the very end of 2013, Piontkovsky conceded the point, but insisted that the article’s “conceptual carcass” – an outline for a theory of the death of authoritarian regimes and its practical application to contemporary Russia – was still fully backed up by the events that had taken place in Russia during the past year. As a retarding factor, he pointed to the attitude of intellectuals like Leonid Radzihovsky, who for years declared that “Putinism is shit – but it protects us from fascism”. This, Piontkovsky argues, is no different from the statement by the Silver Age Russian essayist and philosopher Mikhail Gerzhenzon, who in the aftermath of the 1905 revolution declared in the essay anthology Vekhi that  “so far from dreaming of union with the people we ought to fear the people and bless this government which, with its prisons and bayonets, still protects us from the people’s fury.”

Now Piontkovsky no longer sees hope that Russia might witness the rise of a popular democratic movement like Ukraine’s Euromaidan. Apathy reigns – and, if not yet formally in power, the fascists are very nearly there:

It was not the masses that brought Hitler to power in January 1933, but a deal he made with the elites. And now ask yourself: what do the fascists in Russia need to do in order to take power without winning free elections, but as a result of the internal  evolution of the Putin regime, of a deal made with it by – may one say it – the “elites”? Is their task easier or harder? In my opinion, much easier. In their case they don’t have to convince 50 million voters. It will be enough to convince three or four villains of the national leader’s inner circle. And they need no convincing.  [my tr.]

LGF on Wilders

At LGF, Charles Johnson writes that

it’s “inconsistent” for Wilders to claim to be standing up for freedom of expression at the same time as he calls for banning books and taking away basic rights from people; but I’ll go further. It’s deeply hypocritical, and deeply un-American to call for these things. These are fascist opinions. And American citizens who applaud this kind of rabble-rousing populist garbage should be ashamed of themselves.

The indiscreet charm of totalitarianism

At Fifi, Veli Itäläinen raises some questions about Russia’s National Bolshevik Party, a motley assemblage of artists, poets and hangers-on which is sometimes seen as having a role to play in the defence of human rights:

It’s generally assumed that artists are a little extravagant. They are forgiven more. But is a fascist always completely harmless, if he happens to be an artist?

Hat tip: FinRosForum

Scottish Nashizm

Scotland’s opportunistic nationalist party leader Alex Salmond is currently pitching for the support of young, disaffected Scots whose anger is diffused between issues like the banking crisis and the Middle East, and is trying to steal some of George Galloway’s thunder. The results are worth pondering. In an extraordinary analysis published at Harry’s Place, Tom Gallagher dissects the wide-ranging peculiarities of Salmond’s new attempt to dismember the United Kingdom by means of an all-out assault essentially based in nihilism. Excerpt :

Salmond hopes to acquire leverage on Capitol Hill that will prove useful in any power-struggle with London over the terms of independence if the SNP’s vision blossoms despite the current polar economic climate. At the same time, he is reaching out to regimes in the Muslim world and looking for an injection of cash for infrastructure projects that will enable him to bypass Whitehall. First Qatar was approached in the hope that an investment fund controlled by its rulers could be persuaded to build bridges and schools in Scotland on a supposedly not-for-profit basis. In the last year, visits by Salmond to Qatar have been described as imminent but they have fallen through perhaps owing to the economic problems now faced by the United Arab emirates. Malaysia is now in the Nationalists’ sights. The Scotsman newspaper on 16 March reported that Osama Saeed, the First Minister’s chief adviser on Islamic issues had made contacts with sovereign wealth funds in Malaysia in the hope that they could be lured to Scotland. He is only recently back from the World Economic Islamic Forum in Jakarta which he attended with other luminaries of his pressure group, the Scottish Islamic Foundation. Osama Saeed does not bother to hide his contacts with Muslim Brotherhood organizations and personalities based in Britain. He has convinced not a few movers and shakers in the tight Scottish political establishment that as someone who disavows violence, he is the acceptable face of radical Islam.

Update: the results of all this are beginning to make the headlines.

Neither calm nor peaceful

In a debate on the spread of anti-Semitism among the political left in Sweden, Svenska Dagbladet‘s Per Gudmundson has responded to Left Party leaders who marched under Hamas flags in Malmö last Saturday as they took part in an anti-Israel demonstration outside the closed Davis Cup tennis tournament, and defended their actions afterwards (my translation):

It is being said that the “Stop the Match” demonstration in Malmö was sabotaged by a few troublemakers, and that the protest was really an expression of peaceful criticism of Israel. “Other participants behaved in an exemplary manner,” wrote  Dagens Nyheter. There is reason to doubt it. Open anti-Semitism was visible In “Stop the match” – and the video recordings show it.

In the part of the demonstration that marched under the green flag of Hamas a well-known anti-Semitic chant was repeatedly heard:

‘Khaybar, Khaybar, ya yahoud, jaish Muhammad saufa ya’ud ” translates as “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Muhammad’s army will return “. The verse alludes to a battle in 629 AD, when a Muslim army under Muhammad’s command captured the mainly Jewish oasis of Khaybar. With insignificant losses the prophet crushed the numerically superior Khaybar army and forced the inhabitants into submission. A few years later the surviving Jews were driven out completely.

The chant, which is aimed specifically against Jews and not against the State of Israel, is common in the Middle East. The fact of its being shouted under the flags of Hamas is to be expected. Hamas is an anti-Semitic movement that refers to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its charter. This is well known even to people who don’t know Arabic.

In his speech to the demonstrators on Saturday, Lars Ohly deplored the criticism of “Stop the match” as an attempt to “associate the strong, grass-roots protest with extreme acts of violence and anti-Semitism.” In the aftermath, the Left Party has found itself in the wrong  where the riots are concerned. A blind eye is turned to anti-Semitism. In the party’s statement it says that the “riots ruined a completely calm and peaceful demonstration.”

Ohly ought to explain why he thinks that slogans which explicitly threaten ethnic cleansing and the slaughter of Jews are “calm and peaceful” criticism of Israel.

See also: Anti-Israel rally in Sweden turns violent