Editor’s Note: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (Including the trenchcoat-wearing FCC minister with breath like he’s been sucking a urinal cake looking over my shoulder, tapping his BIC pen on his glass eye, and sighing every time I write something he doesn’t like),
I’ve got to bang out this “news”letter pretty quickly. I’m sitting in a too-small fake wicker chair at the coffee shop at the Broadmoor (one of my favorite hotels, btw). The time difference here puts me two hours behind at six in the morning. Plus, I don’t want the housekeeping staff to find the body in my room. If I didn’t need coffee so badly I would have taken care of that already. But one must prioritize. I think the high altitude here is making my brain itch.
Timothy Snyder has written the best piece I’ve seen on what’s going on in Kiev. It’s worth reading just as a primer. But it’s also interesting in other ways. I had not read a lot about the “Eurasian Union,” a proposed counterweight to the European Union, in much the same way the Legion of Doom is a counterweight to the Justice League. Putin and a band of avowed “National Bolshevik” intellectuals are in effect trying to put the band back together. Snyder writers:
The Eurasian Union is the enemy of the European Union, not just in strategy but in ideology. The European Union is based on a historical lesson: that the wars of the twentieth century were based on false and dangerous ideas, National Socialism and Stalinism, which must be rejected and indeed overcome in a system guaranteeing free markets, free movement of people, and the welfare state. Eurasianism, by contrast, is presented by its advocates as the opposite of liberal democracy.
The Eurasian ideology draws an entirely different lesson from the twentieth century. Founded around 2001 by the Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, it proposes the realization of National Bolshevism. Rather than rejecting totalitarian ideologies, Eurasianism calls upon politicians of the twenty-first century to draw what is useful from both fascism and Stalinism. Dugin’s major work, The Foundations of Geopolitics, published in 1997, follows closely the ideas of Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi political theorist. Eurasianism is not only the ideological source of the Eurasian Union, it is also the creed of a number of people in the Putin administration, and the moving force of a rather active far-right Russian youth movement. For years Dugin has openly supported the division and colonization of Ukraine.
The point man for Eurasian and Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin is Sergei Glazyev, an economist who like Dugin tends to combine radical nationalism with nostalgia for Bolshevism. He was a member of the Communist Party and a Communist deputy in the Russian parliament before cofounding a far-right party called Rodina, or Motherland. In 2005 some of its deputies signed a petition to the Russian prosecutor general asking that all Jewish organizations be banned from Russia.
Some of this was news to me. I was familiar with the National Bolshevism of the early Nazi years. Thinkers like the Ukrainian Bolshevik Karl Radek and the Nazi Otto Strasser dabbled with the idea of merging Bolshevik and Nazi ideology. After all, if you’re already a National Socialist it’s not that long a trip to being a National Bolshevik, now is it? Some left-wing members of the Nazi military described themselves as National Bolsheviks as well. But ultimately, National Bolshevism as an intellectual movement died in the crib. Or so I thought.
What I did not know is that National Bolshevism is making such a comeback. And while, it’s evil and a national-security threat and all that, I can’t help but smile.
The Opposite of Opposites
National Bolshevism must strike some on the left as quite perplexing. After all, Bolshevism and Nazism — like fascism and socialism — are opposites, right?
If you read my book, you’d know I consider this the greatest myth and/or lie of the 20th century (coming in a distant second: the idea that there is a difference between good flan and bad flan).
Funny enough, the Eurasianists are counting on this myth for their propaganda campaign. They insist that the protesters in Kiev are trying to stage a “brown revolution” or fascist coup. In other words the de facto fascists are calling the anti-fascists “fascists.” And apparently lots of folks are falling for it. Snyder again:
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? One line of reasoning seems to run like this: the Russians won World War II, and therefore can be trusted to spot Nazis. Much is wrong with this. . . .
The other source of purported Eurasian moral legitimacy seems to be this: since the representatives of the Putin regime only very selectively distanced themselves from Stalinism, they are therefore reliable inheritors of Soviet history, and should be seen as the automatic opposite of Nazis, and therefore to be trusted to oppose the far right.
Again, much is wrong about this. . . .
Snyder’s rebuttals are good (I’ve trimmed them mostly for space). But they don’t cut to the heart of it.
First, let’s clear some underbrush. The idea that Communism and Nazism are opposites is more of a utilitarian idea than a core conviction for the Left. It is a rationalization that allows the Left to cut around the historical tumor of Nazism and fascism and say, That has nothing to do with us.