1st Published on: Feb 19, 2014
from timothy eastman
Sascha, Andrei, and Mira are members of AntiFascist Union Ukraine, a group that monitors and fights fascism in Ukraine. We sat down to talk about the influence of fascism in EuroMaidan, this is what they told me:
Sascha: There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.
Mira: The two biggest groups are Svoboda and Pravy Sektor (Right Sector). The defense forces aren’t 100% Pravy but a large percentage is.
S: Svoboda is more legal as a group, but they also have an illegal militant faction. Pravy Sektor is more illegal, but they want to usurp Svoboda.
M: There’s a lot of infighting between Pravy and Svoboda. They worked together during the violence but now everything is calm so there’s time to focus on each other. Pravy and Svoboda both take donations and they have lots of money. Recently Pravy has all these new uniforms, military fatigues.
One of the worst things is that Pravy has this official structure. They are coordinated. You need passes to go certain places. They have the power to give or not give people permission to be active. We’re trying to be active but we have to avoid Nazis, and I’m not going to ask a Nazi for permission!
S: A group of 100 anarchists tried to arrange their own self-defense group, different Anarchist groups came together for a meeting on the Maidan. While they were meeting a group of Nazis came in a larger group, they had axes and baseball bats and sticks, helmets, they said it was their territory. They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists. There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult. The Anarchists weren’t expecting this and they left. People with other political views can’t stay in certain places, they aren’t tolerated.
M: Early on a Stalinist tent was attacked by Nazis. One was sent to the hospital. Another student spoke out against fascism and he was attacked.
Pravy Sektor got too much attention after the first violence, the media gave them popularity and they started to think they’re cool guys. Pravy existed before but now it’s growing and attracting a lot of new people.
S: After this Pravy will have more young guys. They have money to make propaganda, uniforms, they’re getting more attention and they look cool.
M: The Ukraine is a patriarchal country so to be a strong man who’s fighting is a good aim.
S: Nazi groups are also trying to mimic leftists, to try to ingratiate themselves. They use anarchist vocabulary, words like “autonomous.” One group of the ugliest Nazis is now doing this by calling themselves “Autonomous Resistance.” They’ve had lots of success with this tactic.
They attract some Anarchists who think they’re changing the Nazis, but really the Nazis are changing them.” They’re becoming more nationalistic, they have more more anti-feminist views, etc. Now is when Anarchists need to speak out and be louder.
Two symbols that could be found at EuroMaidan. The Celtic Cross is a common symbol representing white supremacy. The Wolfsangel (below) was a symbol used by several divisions of the SS during World War II and now represents Neo-Nazism.
S: There’s a whole spectrum of Nationalists represented. They divide themselves into groups with their own symbols. They want support so they don’t use Nazi or fascist symbols so much. They use symbols that are recognizable to other fascistic people, but look innocuous to anyone else. For example there is a special eagle symbol. It’s drawn a certain way, it doesn’t look like anything unless you know the meaning.
No one has any idea how this could turn out, what form a new government could take. The fascist groups don’t have common aims, they know what they’re opposed to, and that they’re opposed to each other, but they don’t all want the same things. If Pravy has positions in a new government that would be really dangerous but that isn’t possible, they aren’t powerful enough.
M: People have these chants: “Glory Ukraine,” “Glory to Heroes,” “Death to Enemies.” But who are these heroes, who are these enemies? I don’t think they have any idea. “Ukraine Above All” is one, just like they used to chant in Germany.
Andrei: I’m from Germany, and from my perspective it’s like Ukraine has had this nationalism since the fall of the USSR. The nationalist sentiment on Maidan is there to divide people. The East of Ukraine favors Russia, the West is nationalist. People are quite divided, but if you look at the whole country everyone has the same social and economic problems. If people saw that and came together that would be the most dangerous for Svoboda, or Yanukovich, or any political party. Svoboda and Yanukovich favor the same neoliberal policies that make life worse for Ukrainians.
M: These nationalists are here not for rights but for nation and it’s practical for leaders to encourage this, because a focus on nationalism lets them do whatever they want. It’s mostly working class and poor people at EuroMaidan, and their attention needs to be diverted to real problems. Lots of people want to manipulate the people here.
– excellent piece of citizen journalism, from timothy eastman, An Interview with Mira, Andrei, and Sascha of AntiFascist Action Ukraine
Ukraine and the Rebirth of Fascism in Europe
The violence on the streets of Ukraine is far more than an expression of popular anger against a government. Instead, it is merely the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism that Europe has seen since the fall of the Third Reich.
Recent months have seen regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition and its supporters – protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union that was seen by many political observers as the first step towards European integration. The protests remained largely peaceful until January 17th when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed brutal violence on the police, storming government buildings, beating anyone suspected of pro-government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev. But who are these violent extremists and what is their ideology?
The Fascist Menace Across the Continent
Ukraine and the rise of right wing extremism there cannot be seen, let alone understood, in isolation. Rather, it must be examined as part of a growing trend throughout Europe (and indeed the world) – a trend which threatens the very foundations of democracy.
In Greece, savage austerity imposed by the troika (IMF, ECB, and European Commission) has crippled the country’s economy, leading to a depression as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression in the United States. It is against this backdrop of economic collapse that the Golden Dawn party has grown to become the third most popular political party in the country. Espousing an ideology of hate, the Golden Dawn – in effect a Nazi party that promotes anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, anti-women chauvinism – is a political force that the government in Athens has understood to be a serious threat to the very fabric of society. It is this threat which led the government to arrest the party’s leadership after a Golden Dawn Nazi fatally stabbed an anti-fascist rapper. Athens has launched an investigation into the party, though the results of this investigation and trial remain somewhat unclear.
What makes Golden Dawn such an insidious threat is the fact that, despite their central ideology of Nazism, their anti-EU, anti-austerity rhetoric appeals to many in the economically devastated Greece. As with many fascist movements in the 20th Century, Golden Dawn scapegoats immigrants, Muslim and African primarily, for many of the problems facing Greeks. In dire economic circumstances, such irrational hate becomes appealing; an answer to the question of how to solve society’s problems. Indeed, despite Golden Dawn’s leaders being jailed, other party members are still in parliament, still running for major offices including mayor of Athens. Though an electoral victory is unlikely, another strong showing at the polls will make the eradication of fascism in Greece that much harder.
Were this phenomenon confined to Greece and Ukraine, it would not constitute a continental trend. Sadly however, we see the rise of similar, albeit slightly less overtly fascist, political parties all over Europe. In Spain, the ruling pro-austerity People’s Party has moved to establish draconian laws restricting protest and free speech, and empowering and sanctioning repressive police tactics. In France, the National Front Party of Marine Le Pen, which vehemently scapegoats Muslim and African immigrants, won nearly twenty percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections. Similarly, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands – which promotes anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies – has grown to be the third largest in parliament. Throughout Scandinavia, ultra nationalist parties which once toiled in complete irrelevance and obscurity are now significant players in elections. These trends are worrying to say the least.
It should be noted too that, beyond Europe, there are a number of quasi-fascist political formations which are, in one way or another, supported by the United States. The right wing coups that overthrew the governments of Paraguay and Honduras were tacitly and/or overtly supported by Washington in their seemingly endless quest to suppress the Left in Latin America. Of course, one should also remember that the protest movement in Russia was spearheaded by Alexei Navalny and his nationalist followers who espouse a virulently anti-Muslim, racist ideology that views immigrants from the Russian Caucasus and former Soviet republics as beneath “European Russians”. These and other examples begin to paint a very ugly portrait of a US foreign policy that attempts to use economic hardship and political upheaval to extend US hegemony around the world.
– from boiling frogs post
“We pray that the people are crushed before realizing that all institutions of authority are bullshit, and they get rid of us all – religious leaders, politicians, warlords, banksters. Hear our prayers, great Amen.”
“Hear us, Amen!”