Boris Kagarlitsky

Notes on Russian Fascism

The recent ethnic violence in the Karelian town of Kondopoga started with an everyday fight and clashes between criminal gangs, but has ended with serious politicking and propagandizing.
For the far right, the violence has been a way to attract attention and claim it enjoys the support of the masses. In other words, it is no longer simply a mood but a political reality that both the authorities and civil society have to reckon with.

The Movement Against Illegal Immigration and Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party are two organizations that positioned themselves as the political wing of the rioters. I don't just mean activists from these groups, who arrived very quickly and were heavily involved in subsequent events, but also about the role these organizations undoubtedly played in the ethnic violence. It was these groups that helped turn a vague sentiment into a clear program, to form a clear package of racist demands, and to spread the experience of Kondopoga to other towns.

Until now, the two groups had not been fond of each other and in Moscow had been open rivals. In addition, the NBP has recently been trying to acquire some respectability. Without reneging on its original ideals, clearly set out in Limonov's works, the group and its leader currently prefer not to discuss their documents elucidating the benefits of a fascist dictatorship for Russia. As for the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, it is not so much a political organization as a broad-based front that is home to a number of viewpoints -- from followers of Joseph Goebbels to moderate supporters of Benito Mussolini-style humanitarian fascism.

Yet during the events in Kondopoga, all the fine points of ideological discord and competition were discarded. What they had in common was much more important. Both organizations showed they were capable of united action.

The liberal press both loves and pities the young people of the NBP, who are periodically subject to sanctions by the authorities. Few such political organizations have been honored with so many sympathetic articles in publications that claim to be defending the principles of Western democracy.

On the other hand, liberals regard the Movement Against Illegal Immigration at best with distaste, and its supporters are called fascists. But Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party not only collaborates openly with the movement, but is developing common ideological positions. Pyotr Miloserdov, one of the organizers of a right-wing march in 2005, is an ideologist for both organizations. Zyuganov himself has spoken up in support of Miloserdov: "Here we have a young Communist who is trying to come to grips with class and race relations and is being denounced as a nationalist. But the party has good experience of youth work based on the Russian question. ... Experience shows that national feeling and class consciousness go well together."

The National Bolsheviks are also popular in the Communist Party. Although even in Putin's Russia the Communists and the liberals cannot overcome their mutual distrust, they are united by sympathy for the NBP. The NBP is essentially becoming a bridge between the two ends of the official opposition spectrum. And it is the NBP that is the most active proponent of the idea of unifying all of the opposition.

Based on the reaction in the press, there is a good chance that unification will take place. The ethnic violence in Kondopoga was viewed with sympathy and understanding across the political spectrum. Novaya Gazeta deputy editor Akaram Murtazayev noted that the subsequent discussion was even more catastrophic than the violence itself. Of course, ideological differences still exist, but dislike of darker skinned people is even stronger, which helps to overcome the barriers dividing people. Zyuganov-style Communists immediately found a class base for the violence, while the liberals, after deliberating a while, agreed that there is a "cultural incompatibility" that can only be overcome using radical means. If Caucasus natives do not want to become the same as ethnic Russians, then they will have to be punished according to the laws of the street.

But since, as the Jews have shown -- even after forgetting their native language, rejecting their own religion and swaddling themselves in Russian patriotism -- "outsiders" are still unable to change the color of their eyes, the shape of their nose, or to straighten their curly hair. Dealing with them will take a long time.

So the aim is clear, the task is obvious - to work, Parteigenossen!

Boris Kagarlitsky is director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.

The Moscow Times, Thursday, September 21, 2006. Issue 3502. Page 9.

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