Why fascism won't pass

03 April 2008
The murder of an anti-fascist activist Aleksey Krylov has made a stir in Moscow and hopefully will reverberate all over the country. The public had endured assaults of the Nazis on Kyrgyz and Tajik nationals or the Black. This time it is another case – in the center of Moscow they killed an ethnic Russian. The murder was one in a row of similar attacks but this very time was the direst extremity. On March 19 people were spontaneously gathered on the Maroseyka Street, where Krylov was killed; the mass demonstration came as a manifestation of changing social attitudes. Newspaper headings were all about the “Nazi terror”. Experts were looking for the ways to fight xenophobia. Nothing of the kind had happened after the “Kondopoga pogrom”, ethnic tensions in the Russia’s northern city of Kondopoga in 2006. Back then the reaction of the authorities was mild towards the extreme right and the native population gave its tacit backing to the extreme forms of nationalism. Things have changed, demonstrators on Maroseyka Street were carrying the banner “Fascism is murdering, authorities are covering up!” But there is a long way to go before the rising antifascist movement evolves into consolidation, left alone antifascist activism. And it will take time for us to apprehend the meaning of the events we are witnessing now. Through the 1990s to 2005 the nationalist movement was gaining momentum in the Russian society not only at the level of the general public but also in public politics. In their populist appeals Russian MPs, bureaucrats and top-selling political commentators descended to the nationalist ideas that were on the rise. Spineless opportunism of Russian politicians was a better breeding ground for fascist ideas than even the deeply-ingrained nationalism. The latter served as a cradle for the Russian fascist groups that with time came to replace the “moderate” nationalism. The monster devoured its own creator. In many a way this process reminds of the Germany of 1920s, where Nazism was emerging and massively spreading as a very mild ideology. And though other European nations also witnessed the rise of the Nazi ideology, they were far more resistant to its influence. In mid 1930s in England the native fascists initiated to hold a march, like the Russian march that was held in the biggest Russia’s cities on November 4, 2006, but unlike the demonstrations in Russia, it was a failure. Three thousand of fascists were met by over thirty thousand of communist and socialist-democrat workers. Several policemen were also got hurt in the kick-up for the authorities gave their sanctions to hold the march. There was no more fascist marching in England but they didn’t get off cheap. Poor Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists, was repeatedly beaten in the street and his every speech ended in the orator being attacked. An ordinary English proletarian in 1930s was not a dedicated internationalist. On the contrary, he loved the Empire, and was a nationalist and even a racist in his heart, because he was sure to belong to the “best race” on the pure reason of being a Briton. He had a feeling of superiority towards the Black, Indians as well as towards the “frog-eaters” across the English Channel. But still he was an antifascist by instinct long before the WWII, and he had only one feeling toward the fascist – to wipe his nose. Such behavior has its reasons. Firstly, the deeply-ingrained class consciousness based on the left ideology. And secondly - self confidence: all other races and people were simply not lucky enough to be born British. Why would I tell you all these stories that run so far from today? I do so because it leads us to very important conclusions that our “progressive elite” cannot recognize. We cannot demand that every Russian citizen would be politically correct and rid oneself from nationalist or religious bias. But we must demand that when opposed with fascism or the great-power chauvinism of the Black Hundreds (Chernaya sotnya – extreme right tsarist movement in Russia in early 20th century) they would recognize the enemy against which their grandparents fought a war and resist it. On March 19 the antifascist activists carried the banner “We won in 1945, we will win now!” The Russian society will understand this slogan, for fascism appeals to inferiority complex and resentment of the defeated. Nazis assault in groups not only because each of them is a coward, but because the inferiority complex is the main uniting force. To fight fascism we must appeal to social solidarity and national self-esteem. To let our people be proud of their history we must appeal to real historical events and facts and we should not pervert our history making out of it a myth full of religion and ethnic fantasies. And one more thing, if there was something that the people of the former Soviet Union cold be proud of, it was their struggle against fascism.
Boris Kagarlitsky, a fellow of the Transnational Institute, is a Director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, Moscow. His latest book is Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System (2008) Global alternative