On Russia, Today’s Liberal Luminaries Take Their Cues From Fascists

Viktor G. Tsyplakov, “Facing a Firing Squad,” 1945

It’s unlikely that most American news consumers have ever heard of Ukrainian nationalist groups like the OUN-B, but these days, ideas espoused by these groups will have a familiar ring to New York Times readers.

As far as progenitors of anti-communism, Ukrainian nationalists (a designation which includes fascists, Nazis old and neo-, and other reactionary elements) have always punched above their weight class, with their stories providing a lot of right-wing grist for Washington’s propaganda mills. This has happened when US interests drive a surge of aggression against Moscow, specifically during three distinct periods. The first two were during the Cold War—first in the 1950s, then during the 1980s.

The third major period is happening right now. As the US establishment’s dreams of full-spectrum dominance over a unipolar world grind and howl against the Russian border, ideas popularized by Ukrainian fascists and their friends in Washington are en vogue to an unprecedented degree, particularly through highly publicized figures like author Timothy Snyder.

However, unlike during the first two Cold War-era periods, the current offensive is being driven primarily by the Empire’s “liberal” wing, a.k.a. the ruling class elements that coalesce around the Democratic Party. All this adds up to a bizarre scene in America circa 2017, and strangely enough, it was summarized most accurately by the Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dimitrov in his 1935 text “The Fascist Offensive” (which could serve as an alternate title to this piece):

Let us take, for example, so important a country in the capitalist world as the United States of America. There millions of people have been set into motion by the crisis. The program for the recovery of capitalism has collapsed. Vast masses are beginning to abandon the bourgeois parties and are at present at the crossroads.

Embryo American fascism is trying to direct the disillusionment and discontent of these masses into reactionary fascist channels. It is a peculiarity of the development of American fascism that at the present stage it comes forward principally in the guise of an opposition to fascism, which it accuses of being an “un-American” trend imported from abroad… American fascism tries to portray itself as the custodian of the Constitution and “American democracy.”

This is an attempt to explain what’s going on with an “American fascism that at the present stage it comes forward principally in the guise of an opposition to fascism.” Or, as it’s become known since the 2016 election, the #Resistance. This spectacle, largely centering around a series of conspiracy allegations about Russia, draws upon decades of reactionary misinformation and is inspired less by traditional liberal heroes like Franklin D. Roosevelt than Ukrainian fascists like Stepan Bandera. This is the story for how and why America’s ruling elite chose to make Ukrainian fascism mainstream.

Chapter 1: Fascism and Anti-Communism: a Match Made in Hell – on Soviet anti-racism and the shared class interest between liberals and fascists.

Chapter 2: Goebbels, Hearst, Bandera, and McCarthy – Nazi propaganda makes its way to North America; the activities of Ukrainian nationalists during WWII; Ukrainian fascists come to America at the dawn of the Red Scare.

Chapter 3: Ronald Reagan and his Conquest – the Reagan administration’s plans for a gargantuan military buildup and propaganda offensive; Western intelligence agencies’ favorite “scholar” Robert Conquest; Ukrainian nationalists take up Reagan’s campaign.

Chapter 4: Washington Über AllesWashington plunders a unipolar world; fascist advocacy groups and liberals promote Nazi lies; the birth of Cold War II.

Chapter 5: Timothy Snyder, Euromaidan, and the Fascist Offensive – Timothy Snyder brings fringe revisionist history into the mainstream; the specter of Stepan Bandera haunts Euromaidan; Democrats make friends with modern-day Banderites.

Chapter 6: #Resisting the Oriental-Bolshevik Menace – Democrats take up Ukrainian fascist propaganda; liberal luminaries manufacture an Orientalist hysteria; NATO threatens to unleash another Operation Barbarossa.

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The Ukraine flyer hoax was a perfect mix of American propaganda tropes

It happened so quickly in the mainstream American imagination. Russia went from being merely part of the rogues’ gallery of American adversaries to an opaque, Oriental Reich bent on global conquest. Russia is on its way to being another North Korea—a country about which people will believe anything, as long as it’s bad. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, people are seriously discussing whether or not Russia is about to conquer Scandinavia. Russia didn’t even invade all of Ukraine, but the US Pacific Northwest better watch out.

The Russian Empire tried to dominate North America before, it will do it again!  Flag of the Russian-American Company, 1806  Wikimedia Commons

The Russian Empire tried to dominate North America before, it will do it again! Flag of the Russian-American Company, 1806 Wikimedia Commons

Despite liberal fetishism of the idea that “knowledge is power,” information doesn’t confer power or spread based on its quality alone. Stories about the depravity of America’s enemies are amplified because of how they serve the interests of the powerful. A bellicose Russia is an ideal vector for stories that make America look good. It gives the US a chance to perform concern for high-minded ideals. For additional traction, these narratives are reduced to the simplest moral binary. When these elements are married, it guarantees that you’ll be hearing that story–whether it’s true or not. All of these elements came together this week in a widely circulated hoax, concerning anti-Semitic flyers being handed out by Russian-allied separatists in Donetsk. The hoax encapsulates American propaganda’s favored tropes: whitewashing the actions of America and its allies and ascribing Nazi-like behavior to America’s enemies.

The story was that pro-Russian elements had disseminated flyers in the separatist-friendly Ukrainian region of Donetsk, ordering local Jews to “register.” The letter, with its threatening, anti-Semitic nature containing overtones of the Holocaust, caused “an international scandal.” The American mainstream media, from Drudge Report to ThinkProgress, took it up and amplified the story. The letter made its way to Secretary of State John Kerry, who called it “grotesque.”

It certainly would have been grotesque, if it had been true. However, the letter was a hoax, fabricated for as-yet-unknown ends. The content of the letter itself should’ve raised questions. A portion within accused local Jews of collaboration with the “Bandera Junta.” A group aligning themselves with Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian figure who collaborated with the Nazis, would be an unlikely ally for Donetsk’s Jews. The American media loses its already anemic critical faculties to make America’s enemies look identical to the Third Reich. Beyond the American media’s receptiveness to this message, this narrative is very friendly to America’s interests in the Ukraine. At this point, aligning the pro-Russian separatists of Ukraine with right-wing anti-Semites accomplishes a whitewash of America’s support of Ukraine’s neo-Nazis.

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