February 20, 2014

"The protests in the Maidan, we are told again and again by Russian propaganda and by the Kremlin’s friends in Ukraine, mean the return of National Socialism to Europe."

"The Russian foreign minister, in Munich, lectured the Germans about their support of people who salute Hitler. The Russian media continually make the claim that the Ukrainians who protest are Nazis. Naturally, it is important to be attentive to the far right in Ukrainian politics and history. It is still a serious presence today, although less important than the far right in France, Austria, or the Netherlands. Yet it is the Ukrainian regime rather than its opponents that resorts to anti-Semitism, instructing its riot police that the opposition is led by Jews. In other words, the Ukrainian government is telling itself that its opponents are Jews and us that its opponents are Nazis."

From "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine," by Timothy Snyder in The New York Review of Books.

24 comments:

Bob Boyd said...

From what I can gather, these protesters are a strange political hybrid known as the Jotsi's and their goal is nothing less than ruthless extermination of themselves.

William said...

In Byron's time Greek independence was a cause worthy of a Romantic poet. The abolitionist cause, whatever its merits, was more for the Christians and squares than for the unelected legislators of mankind. Something like that seems to be going on with gays and Ukrainians. Jon Stewart is far more likely to ridicule Putin for his treatment of the gays than his murder of Ukrainian nationalists.

Exurban Bourbon said...

I spoke to a co-worker, a Ukrainian Jew from Lvov/Lviv about this situation. She emigrated right before the crack-up of the USSR. She left on account of the anti-semitism: Swastikas painted on her front door, etc. She says the leaders of the Maidan are the same people, that they've been waiting for the right moment to take power, and that they believe now is the time. She didn't sound paranoid or hysterical, just bitter.

I suppose being a key player in the geopolitical Great Game, the US has to pick the anti-Russian side by default. If these undesirables come in to power, we'd have to find a way to make them illegitimate in order to install a proper puppet. Or we could just leave that clusterfunk of a nation to its own devices and lose a notch image-wise. I'd choose the latter option at this point.

Oso Negro said...

@ Bob Boyd - I must object. My 67-year-old mother-in-law has been one of the protesters in the Maidan. Her goal is not self-annihilation, but a government responsive to the wishes of the people. I know, pretty fucking radical.

@Exurban. A modest examination of history will reveal the cheerfully large percentage of Jews who were Bolsheviks and kommissars. Despite Stalin turning on the Jews later, people do remember. My Ukrainian family, who were not privileged to emigrate like the Jews, note that the Jews were doing just fine in the Soviet Union compared to the average citizen before the breakup of the USSR. Unless you believe that Jews as an ethnic or religious group are above reproach, you might speculate whether they did a fine job in improving their lot by using victimhood to obtain emigration rights.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Why exactly do people with such views think they can call other people fascists?

Because Svoboda self identify as fascists. Their flag has the swastika, they use the lightening bolts and 88 as symbols. Is it patriarchical to tell someone their self identification is incorrect? Why is the NYT being so judgmental and uncool?

EDH said...

In other words, the Ukrainian government is telling itself that its opponents are Jews and us that its opponents are Nazis.

In the same manner, doesn't the NYT say that National Socialists are on the "right" in order to impugn conservatives when it's the progressives who hew much closer to the fascist model?

Oso Negro said...

One other thought - Snyder doesn't say a thing about ethnic Russians versus ethnic Ukrainians. I don't believe it to be a key driver in the current unpleasantness, though I see people mentioning it. When Russians talk about the fascists they are invoking memories of the Great Patriotic War. This might be viewed as a pre-cursor to intervention.

Bob Boyd said...

@Oso Negro
Jews...Nazis...Jotsi's?
Its a joke.
I guess if I have to explain that my joke is a joke its not much of a joke.
No offense to your mother-in law.

I do know some mother-in law jokes however....

Exurban Bourbon said...

@ Oso - A lot of Jews in Western Ukraine were just normal folk, not kommissars. The kommissars were in fact quite hostile to Jews who wanted to maintain their folkways. There's enmity throughout Europe on account Jews' perceived privilege, no doubt, but Western Ukrainians seem to have a seething pile of it, to say nothing of enmity they hold for the Russians of the East and others in Ukraine who prefer to speak Russian. I'm sure these partisans feel they've earned the right to hold such enmities. Its for others to determine if they've earned respect. To my mind, they haven't.

Oso Negro said...

@ Bob Boyd - Oy! It went right over my head.

Oso Negro said...

@ Exurban - It goes without saying that most Jews were not kommissars. When, however, the Ukrainians were looking at a kommissar, it was all too often a Jewish face they were seeing. Did you read Timothy Snyder's book "Bloodlands"? It contains the most frightful paragraphs I have ever read, including my wife's book of "Practical Homicide Investigation."

My protesting mother-in-law, for what it's worth, is ethnic Russian.

mccullough said...

Looks like Ukraine has 70,000 Jews, out of a population of 46 million.

Exurban Bourbon said...

Oso: *It goes without saying that most Jews were not kommissars."

No, it doesn't, and certainly not given the way wrote your initial reply. You're obviously well-informed, but others -- even on this esteemed comment board -- might not know.

Oso: *Did you read Timothy Snyder's book "Bloodlands"? It contains the most frightful paragraphs I have ever read, including my wife's book of "Practical Homicide Investigation."*

I haven't. I've heard some praise for it, but I found his article that is the subject of this thread a most one-sided account of the current situation, one that supports the dominant pro-intervention stance.

The situation in Ukraine is fraught with complexity, and America's involvement in such situations on the Eurasian landmass haven't met with anything that could be called success lately. So I'm skeptical, though appreciate your input.

Exurban Bourbon said...

@ mccullough - In 1939, there were 200,000 Jews in Lviv alone. Today, there's a restaurant in Lviv owned by an ethnic Ukrainian that's got a Jewish theme. "The Golden Rose". There are no prices listed. Instead, the customer haggles with the waitress.

Anglelyne said...

Interesting, but not interesting interesting. The author, after assuring the reader that all the forces of Good, right down to the LGBT hotline staffers, are on the side of the protesters, gets down to his real concern - that the wrong people are appropriating the "Nazi" and "fascist" labels, when he wants the exclusive copyright for their use reserved to his causes. He asks of the perps expropriating these terms for their own propaganda:

Why exactly do people with such views think they can call other people fascists? And why does anyone on the Western left take them seriously?

Is that a serious question? Why does anyone think they can call their opponents Nazis and fascists? These terms have been so over-used and mis-used by "Western leftists" that their currency has been entirely debased, and thoughtful leftists know this. So why at this hour is it so important to the author to earnestly (and futilely) try to re-impose his own usage rules? Is this informing us about Ukrainians?

He writes:

More subtly, what this campaign does is attempt to reduce the social tensions in a complex country to a battle of symbols about the past. Ukraine is not a theater for the historical propaganda of others...

But that is exactly what the author is doing in this article. Notice how quickly it stops being about the Ukrainians, and starts being about other things, which we're just supposed to accept as pertinent because, well, history and stuff. He's disturbed about the dishonest or inaccurate (as if propagandists cared) appropriation of symbols, but he seems less concerned with the way that this may be misleading Western audiences about the real nature of the conflict in the Ukraine, than with losing control of wider "narratives". Oddly, he winds up the article talking about the Holocaust, in a way that sounds as if that's what he really wanted to talk about all along, as if he were "attempt[ing] to reduce the social tensions in a complex country" in 2014 "to a battle of symbols" that fit in more comfortably with his own preoccupations. He waves his hands about the dangers of the "far right" in Europe, but never connects them to Ukraine (and a reasonable reader is aware that when a NYBR writer refers to the European far-right, he means everybody to the right of left-of-center left, but hopes the reader thinks fringe-right Nazi wackos.) And finally he rather pompously calls out the Euroskeptics (boo, hiss):

Ukrainians make real sacrifices for the hope of joining the European Union. Might there be something to be learned from that among Euroskeptics in London or elsewhere? This is a dialogue that is not taking place.

What a distasteful appeal to emotion. The arguments of the Euroskeptics are invalid because young Ukrainians show courage and make real sacrifices? Nice little propaganda move, the way he slips in as fact that it's the Euroskeptics who are out there refusing to engage in dialogue. Speaking of which:

These were the Ukrainians with the most to lose, the young people who unreflectively thought of themselves as Europeans and who wished for themselves a life, and a Ukrainian homeland, that were European.

Bit of a slip-up there. "Homeland"? Quaint. The loss of national sovereignty, and the "free movement of peoples" that the EU imposes means the end of "homelands". I wonder why he through that in there. No real EU-ropean or globalist believes in "homelands". That's Nazi talk.

Anglelyne said...

Threw. Threw that in there.

YoungHegelian said...

In a revolt-from-below like that in Ukraine now, there's no reason why ultra-nationalists like Svoboda, Ukrainian Jews, pro-European Ukrainians, and oodles of other groups can't be united in their hatred of what they feel, rightly or wrongly, is a slow-motion coup directed from Moscow.

There's no shortage of reasons to detest Russians in the countries that made up the former Soviet Union, and each of the Ukrainian groups above has no doubt nursed its grudge with that tender care & exquisite historical memory that accompany grudges in that part of the world.

So, for now, the Russians & the pro-uprising Westerners each are correct in their own way: the crowd contains BOTH would-be Nazis & Europhiles. Should the rebels win, well then, it becomes a whole different ball game to see who comes out on top amongst them.

Jack Wayne said...

Ann, isn't it about time that any person who pretends to have an education inserts a protest against calling facists "right-wing"? It is a Big Lie and you are a part of it.

Michael said...

The NYRB is here to help us understand. Not as stupidly and resolutely dense as in days past but still awful in its own super serious self congratulatory way. You don't have to actually read it to know that it will have some lefty slant on a topic that is marginally at hand but related.

The Ukraine has had one of the most nightmarish experiences of any part of the world in the last 100 years, almost non-stop chaos, The Nazis, the whites, the reds, the Nazis again, the reds again.

I had a great friend who had lived through all of that in the 30s 40s and 50s. He fled back and forth from the Crimea to the west and back and back again. I think he had Nazi, Cossack, Bolshevik outfits for each blast of horror. He made it to the US and got rich. Kept money under the mattress, cases of vodka in his car trunk, wads of cash.

I wonder if he would be in uniform now or in the crowd or hauling ass for another part of the country.

Hagar said...

Putin cannot allow Ukraine to repudiate Russia, and I do not think Ukraine has the resources to stand up against Russia - not even if it was unified opposition.
And no one is going to help them.

This is not going to end well.

Oso Negro said...

@Michael - Timothy Snyder may have a leftist slant, but I assure, having read his opus on the region, he pulls no punches in describing the horror of what Stalin did to Ukraine. This is more than I can say for the New York Times, the most important 39th-ranked Holodomor-denying newspaper in the world.

YoungHegelian said...

@Hagar,

Putin cannot allow Ukraine to repudiate Russia,

The loss of Ukraine from the former Soviet Union was a huge blow to the Russians. Not only was the Ukraine the breadbasket, coal bucket, & warm water port of the western Soviet Union, but it plays a huge role in the self-identity of the modern Russian. Ukraine is where Russia & the Russians were born, what with the history of the Kievan Rus'. It's also where Russian Orthodoxy comes from. Unfortunately for the Ukrainians, Russia & Ukraine share a relationship that is historically unique on the modern globe.

David said...

I'm still trying to understand the situation and this article did not help very much.

SGT Ted said...

Commies and their American stooges have always called their National Socialist Workers Party competitors, as well as anybody else that dissents, "the far right".

Its the pot calling the kettle "black".