Vienna, April 29 – The conviction on the eve of Victory Day of a Russian for opposing fascism calls attention to two interrelated developments in the Russian Federation, Moscow journalist Yuliya Latynina says in a column today: “fascism is convenient for the regime. But during a crisis, it may be turned against the rulers.”
Writing in “Novaya gazeta,” Latynina uses the conviction of Aleksey Olesinov, head of the Antifa Youth Movement, and the violent suppression by the militia of a public demonstration in support of him to point out the ways in which fascism is spreading in Russia and the threat it poses to those in the regime who have sought to use it against their opponents.
“Fascism,” the Moscow journalist writes, “is an ideology which asserts the exceptional quality of a particular people and explains that all around it are its enemies. If you will,” she continues, “try to find ten differences between that and what [the pro-Kremlin youth group] ‘Nashi’ professes” (www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2009/045/06.html).
Or, she continues, try to find any differences between fascism and “the official ideology of the powers that be who send their children to London, keep their money in Switzerland, buy villages in Nice but explain to the lumpen at Lake Seliger that the West hates us because Russians are a great people.”
If what these groups are propagating is not “the ideology of fascism, Latynina asks rhetorically, “then how should this ideology be called?
Moreover, she says, the current ideology of the Russian powers that be, like fascism, “presupposes enemies of two types: external and internal.” Fighting the latter is not so easy “in an age of nuclear weapons and Swiss bank accounts,” but “conducting a war against one’s own business is far easier” and it is easier still to beat up rights activists like Lev Ponomaryev.
And Latynina points out that despite the views of its adepts, “fascism is hardly an ideology of heroes. Rather it is an ideology which allows the dregs of society to imagine that they are heroes. One can die for the Motherland without any fascism. But to burn up children in concentration camps and feel oneself a savior of the Fatherland, a fascist ideology is required.”
In many countries in the past, there have been “cruelly vertical empires build on the mechanism of institutionalized theft,” she writes. Using power, the leaders of these regimes stole as much as they wanted and remained in power as long as there was more to steal and enough to buy off those who might challenge them. But when the loot ran out, so did their power.
“The situation in Russia is very similar,” she insists. “The unwritten agreement between the upper reaches of the elite and the ruling class of the lumpen bureaucracy is simple: Every year, one must be able to take more money than in the one before from the internal enemy, the businessman.”
The problem for the regime, Latynina says, is that this “unwritten” agreement worked until the current crisis. Now, it is far from clear whether the regime can keep stealing enough to pay off its servants or whether these servants encouraged by that regime to think they have a right to such loot will turn on those who can’t or turn to others who might be able to.
That is clearly a growing concern for the powers that be in Moscow, especially since they have done little or nothing to create the kind institutions such as independent courts or the rule of law that might prevent this reaction by those influenced by fascism from sweeping the “power vertical” and all those in it aside in one more case of “a pitiless Russian revolt.”
To the extent that Latynina is right, a conference on combating extremism that took place this week in Yekaterinburg may prove to be a bellwether event. There, human rights activists, prosecutors, and officials met to discuss how to struggle with extremism through the use of “scientific” measures (www.nr2.ru/ekb/230712.html).
But if the rights activists at this meeting stressed the importance of law in combating extremism, officials there, including prosecutors, appeared as they have in the past to be more concerned about having sufficient police power to combat it, an approach that almost certainly will make the problem worse rather than better in the coming weeks and months.