Literary Fascism

22 September 2009
Article

While browsing through a major Moscow bookstore recently, I happened to notice one bookshelf with a tersely written label that read, simply, “Jews.” It contained a randomly arranged collection of books on the ancient history of Palestine, tracts on Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories, memoirs of escaped Holocaust victims, pamphlets written by “revisionist historians” arguing that the Holocaust never happened, Russian-language publications from Israel, and a large number of books that I would classify as practical guides for organizing a pogrom. In

While browsing through a major Moscow bookstore recently, I happened to notice one bookshelf with a tersely written label that read, simply, “Jews.” It contained a randomly arranged collection of books on the ancient history of Palestine, tracts on Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories, memoirs of escaped Holocaust victims, pamphlets written by “revisionist historians” arguing that the Holocaust never happened, Russian-language publications from Israel, and a large number of books that I would classify as practical guides for organizing a pogrom. In short, it was a classic example of the modern Russian policy of political correctness — an approach that does not distinguish between fascism and anti-fascism, multiculturalism and fervent nationalism, tolerance and intolerance.

Although the business of publishing fascist literature in modern Russia is not highly profitable, it is stable. Huge numbers of people do not read it, but those who do, buy it on a regular basis.

The problem is not only that texts openly advocating Nazism are being sold, but that bookstore shelves are full of more respectable ancillary books that create a perfect environment in which the “discussion” of fascism is convincing. Our bookstores today are full of such literature — numerous works on Russian history that have nothing in common with objective investigations into the past. They include endless tales about conspiracies against Russia. These books depict international events as a succession of schemes the whole world is hatching against Russia. They are rife with mystical discourses on “the Russian soul” and the Aryan ancestry of the Slavic people. And it doesn’t matter that the authors constantly contradict themselves. What makes propaganda effective is not logic but frequent repetition. Through constant reiteration, an idea becomes lodged in the public’s consciousness, even if there is no logical basis to support it.

In the same way that Germany was described in the nationalistic texts of the Weimar Republic, this literature portrays Russia as a “heroic country” and a “victimized state.” This heroism is described not in terms of deeds, but as an intrinsic quality of the Russian people. The leitmotif of “Russia as victim of outside forces” constantly appears without any causes to substantiate the claim. Russian society is animated by self-sufficient heroism that has no need for anything. The outside world is depicted as a place of dangerous intrigues and conspiracies perpetrated without rhyme or reason. The outside world’s antagonism toward Russia is motivated by some natural law, making everyone who Russians consider as “foreign” an enemy by definition.

Such a society has no internal conflicts, only external threats. And if an internal conflict does arise, it is the result of underhanded schemes by outside forces. The outside world is presented to us in the form of a many-sided “evil.” The idea of goodness or higher ideals is wholly absent from this picture. We are urged to protect “our own” and battle against the external enemy, not in order to bring the world or ourselves anything of lasting value, but only because it is “ours.”

In Western Europe, it is considered indecent to even publish such things, even if they can be sold. Major publishers and booksellers are too concerned about their reputations to stoop so low. In our country, there are no criteria by which a discussion of these issues could even be framed. There is only business. However, it is not only the book business that lacks a values system, but business as a whole. If the bourgeoisie have no sense of decency, why should publishers and bookstore owners be an exception?