- by J Nielsen
- The Guardian
- Issue #1998
Photo: Takver (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A major question that needs to be addressed in Western countries like Australia is why they support fascism in Ukraine. Before we can answer this question, there is an even more basic question: how prevalent is fascism in Ukraine? Not a few in the West – even among the broader “Left” – are keen to dismiss such realities, or at least suggest that it applies to merely a few marginal groups.
Let us consider the actual situation. As Elena Karaeva – in a recent article in RIA Novosti – observes: fascism was “the main tool and the main method for building Ukrainian statehood.” Yes, right from the beginning, in 1989, fascism was at the roots of Ukrainian state-building. There was a strong push to identify Ukraine as an ethnically pure “Ukrainian” country, excluding Russians, who make up a significant portion of the population. For a while, there was an uneasy truce, but it did not last.
The racial hatred in Ukraine has been directed for decades at Russians, who live mostly in the eastern parts of Ukraine. Russian Ukrainians have been consistently denied opportunities in higher education and barred from jobs in government agencies. The continued efforts to ban the Russian language finally achieved fruition in 2014, and the vigilante fascist groups stepped up their efforts to harass and beat up anyone who spoke Russian. The Ukrainian state has, Karaeva points out, consistently refused “to pay pensions and benefits to several million people: the elderly, women, children.” All of them are Russian.
What did Western European countries do during the long decades since 1989? They played down the developments. “Ukraine is different,” they said, it is still building a state. Even though some Western European countries such as Germany ban fascism in their own territory, these are simply words. They tacitly, and often openly, encouraged its flowering in Ukraine, as well as in states that made up the former Yugoslavia.
After the coup in 2014, the fascist forces in Ukraine came brazenly into the open. Operatives such as the Azov Battalion and the Right Sector – among others – were at the forefront of the coup. Their units were incorporated into the Ukrainian military. Even more, every Ukrainian military division has a core of 25-30 fascists, dominating in the officer ranks. Ukraine’s top military training institution, the Hetman Petro Sahaidachny National Army Academy, is home to yet another fascist group known as Centuria. The US administration provides vital support to the training institution. The examples go on and on: fascism is part of every state structure.
These are all inheritors of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), led by Stepan Bandera, who is revered in Ukraine. Bandera’s outfit openly worked with the Nazis in the 1940s. An annual torchlight procession celebrating Bandera’s birthday has been held in Ukraine since the 1990s. Monuments have been erected to his memory.
In 2015, the coup regime in Kiev passed a law, “On the legal status and honouring of the memory of the fighters for the independence of Ukraine in the Twentieth century.” Both the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and their leaders were elevated to the rank of national heroes. Even more, the regime in Kiev provided significant funds – from international sources – to the present fascist organisations, under the pretext of the patriotic education of young people.
At the same time, fascist units focused their attention on the eastern republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which had declared independence in light of what they had experienced and what knew would happen. The fascist groups designated Russians as “Untermenschen,” – the Nazi German racial term meaning “sub-human” – and set out to eradicate Russians from Ukraine. These days it is called “ethnic cleansing.” For eight long years, as Karaeva observes, “people lived under rocket attacks and in the sights of sniper rifles, in improvised bomb shelters and basements.” They lived without regular water supply and gas for heating. And they longed for a time when they could “cook dinner normally on a gas stove, and then eat it in the family kitchen, without fear of shelling and without the need to hide with small children in basements when the siren wails.”
Are these developments restricted to Ukraine? Here, we may refer to a recent article in the US magazine Politico “Is Biden Ignoring a Key Tool to Combat Violent Extremists?”. The article points out that the Azov Battalion has close connections with many international fascist organisations, such as the US’s Rise Above Movement, the Nordic Resistance Movement, and the extremists in Croatia who uphold the Independent State of Croatia and the openly fascist Utashe organisation from the time of the Second World War. Thousands upon thousands of young men from about fifty countries – especially Croatia – have gone to the Ukraine to train and fight with the Azov Battalion, among others, only to return to their countries of origin.
As for Australia, let me quote from the same Politico article the following, which concerns the 2019 mosque massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand, carried out by the Australian Brenton Tarrant:
“Tarrant, who killed fifty-one people in two mosques, has been linked to the Azov Battalion […]. The flak jacket Tarrant wore during the assault included a symbol used by the Azov Battalion and other global Neo-Nazis; his manifesto, which was published online and has been cited by white supremacists worldwide, claims that he visited Ukraine. Tarrant also says he was in touch with Breivik, the Norwegian far-right extremist who killed seventy-seven people in 2011, before the massacre. His online manifesto cited both Breivik and Roof, the American white supremacist who in 2015 gunned down nine Black worshipers in a South Carolina church. And the gun Tarrant used for his rampage allegedly was labelled with the white-supremacist names and memes from around the world.”
Almost eighty years after the defeat of fascism by the Soviet Red Army, fascism has come out of hiding and is showing its face. Its swastika may, as Elena Karaeva observes, have some “cosmetic concealer and high-quality powder,” but it is the same swastika.
To return to the initial question: why do Western countries such as Australia support fascism in places like the Ukraine?
A minimal answer would focus on tacit support or inaction, coupled with a focus elsewhere. This is the angle of the Politico article mentioned earlier. It puzzles over why the US does not designate such groups as “Foreign Terrorist Organisations.”
A more substantial answer would be that many Western countries find fascism a useful tool from time to time. Much like the US’s fostering of Islamic terrorism in Central and Western Asia, the significant financial and logistical support for fascist groups takes place when they can be useful instruments in opposing a foreign power. The most telling example is how the British in the 1930s encouraged Hitler to attack the Soviet Union and then delayed the opening of the Western front as long as possible so that the Wehrmacht would wear down the Red Army. So also today with the US – and now EU countries – with regard to fascist organisations in Ukraine as a way to damage Russia – and its friends such as Serbia.
Or is there an even more substantial reason? Think of the way many German Nazis joined the US and UK administrations in western Germany after the Second World War, or how Japanese imperialists in the southern half of the Korean peninsula seamlessly joined the US military organisation when it arrived in Korea. At the time of writing, countries across Western Europe are openly facilitating and funding “volunteers” from fascist organisations to go and fight in Ukraine. There is an inherent fascism in the Western liberal form of the state itself.
A final question: how do we assess the Russian efforts to denazify Ukraine? Putin is hardly a friend of communism, and he has recently tried to put the blame on Lenin, Stalin, and the Soviet Union’s minority nationalities policy for creating the modern state of Ukraine. As a comrade pointed out to me, Putin also delayed recognising the Donbass republics since they are strongly communist and would undermine his vote in elections. But the situation has changed, so much so that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has urged a united front to combat fascism in the Ukraine:
“The CPRF proceeds from the need to dismantle the results of many years of efforts to Banderise Ukraine. Real policy on its territory is in many ways dictated by rabid nationalists. They terrorise Ukrainian people and foist on the authorities an aggressive political course […]. In the situation when the Russian Federation has taken a stand in defence of the people of Donbass, it is necessary to render every possible assistance to refugees and the civilian population of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). We call on our society to render them all the necessary succour and support.”
Coercing Kiev provocateurs into peace and restraining NATO aggressiveness has become the bidding of the time. Only demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine can ensure lasting security for the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and the whole of Europe. We consider it important to make wide use of the methods of people diplomacy and humanitarian cooperation in protecting peace and preventing the resurgence of fascism.
Once again, it seems to be the time for an anti-fascist united front.