Category Archives: Books

Truth Under Siege

Despite the confusion manufactured by the Russian fascists and their allies around the world, not all forgot what the Fascists had done. They remembered the young students who were beaten on a cold November in the Maidan in Ukraine in 2013.  Ukrainian Mothers and fathers heroically came to the streets in support of “their children.” Thousands of people came to Kyiv and put their lives in danger. Since then and again in 2022 people around the world have come to appreciate the heroic defiance of ordinary Ukrainians. No one else has defended truth like Ukrainians.  Timothy Snyder described their appearance in the Maidan and Kyiv in 2013 this way:

 

“One can record that these people were not fascists or Nazis or members of a gay international conspiracy or Jewish international conspiracy or a gay Nazi Jewish international conspiracy as Russian propaganda suggested to various target audiences. One can mark the fictions and contradictions. This is not enough. These utterances were not logical arguments or factual assessments, but a calculated effort to undo logic and factuality. Once the intellectual moorings were loosed, it was easy for Russians (and Europeans and Americans) to latch on to well-funded narratives provided by television and the internet, but it was impossible to work one’s way  towards an understanding of people in their own setting: to grasp where they were coming from, what they thought they were doing, what sort of future they imagined for themselves.”

 

Ukrainians were not only fighting for their country they were fighting for the truth. They were battling unreason.  I am sorry to say most of us around the world did not realize that at the time. At least I know I did not realize that until about 6 years later.

 

Ukrainians had begun by defending a European future they had chosen but, as Snyder said, they found themselves fighting for a sense that “there could be a past, a present, and a future.”

Russian propagandists claimed the protest at the Maidan was “a right wing coup,” but the real coup according to Snyder was when Putin in 2011 and 2012 returned to the office of president in Russia, which was then not allowed by law.  Snyder believes that Putin wanted to divert attention from his illegal usurpation. He was quite successful as many people in Europe and North America were duped into thinking it was a right-wing coup. As Snyder said,

 

“The Russian claim of a “coup” in Ukraine was among the most cynical of the Kremlin formulations, since the very Russians who made it that, had expected Yanukovych (Ukraine’s president ) to be removed by force and organized (failed or successful) coup d’état in nine Ukrainian districts. The issue in Ukraine was the weakness of the rule of law and the associated inequality of wealth and ubiquity of corruption. It was obvious to protesting Ukrainians that the rule of law was the only way to distribute resources collected by oligarchs more equitably through the society, and to allow others to succeed in the economy. Throughout the entire period of the Maidan, social advance in predictable and just conditions was the central goal. The first protesters were concerned with improving the rule of law by the Europeanization  of Ukraine.”

 

In the current war in Ukraine, the Russian propagandists have been trying similar tricks, like claiming the Russians are there to remove Nazis in control of the Ukraine government and many people in Russia believe that. However, I have not seen much evidence that anyone else believes their propaganda except to some extent American conservatives like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump.  That is a huge improvement over what happened in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014.

Once again it seems like Ukraine is the bulwark against fascism and once again it is paying a heavy price, but this time at least with great support from the west. Once again Ukraine is defending truth again under siege.

Schizofascism and The Russian Spring

 

The Russian intervention in the Donbas in 2014 was called “the Russian Spring.” it  was so wildly inappropriate one might have thought George Orwell invented the description.  It was like saying War is Peace. Timothy Snyder in his book The Road to Unfreedom was much more accurate when he said, “It was certainly springtime for Russian fascism.” Russia of course tried to paint it as a liberation as they did again in 2022.

 

The fascist Alexander Dugin was happy for he saw it as the “expansion of liberation (from American’s) ideology into Europe.” Another fascist Alexander Prokhanov called a Ukrainian politician of Jewish origin a “ghoul” and as “bastard.”  He also said chaos in Ukraine was the work of Israel’s Mossad.  As if all that was not enough lies, he also said on TV that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the fault of Ukrainian Jews.

Snyder described this as follows: “This was a new variety of fascism, which could be called schizofascism, actual fascists calling their opponents ‘fascists’, blaming the Holocaust on the Jews, treating the Second World War as an argument for more violence.” The Soviet foreign minister in 2022 echoed this same type of thinking when he said Jews were some of the worst offenders during the Holocaust.  The fascist theory was that Russia was always innocent and thus could never be fascist. Russia’s enemies were always fascists.  Once more, this reminds me of the American proto-fascists who cannot tolerate the idea that America might not be innocent. That is what their fear of critical race theory for example, is all about. That is why they don’t want anything to say anything critical of America. To them, America is by definiiton always right and just.

During the Second World War Soviet propaganda identified the enemy as “fascists” and ever since, it is believed there  that fascists are their enemy. That is one of the reasons Russians in both Ukraine wars in 2014 and again in 2022 were so quick to accept Russian propaganda. They had grown up with such ideas.  During World War II it was of course true that the fascists were their enemy, but in time their own supporters became fascists in all but name. Soviet ideology also held that fascism arose out of capitalism, once again, not entirely without truth. From this beginning, Soviet propaganda turned the permanent enemy from the west into “fascism” even though they became much more fascist than their enemies.  When truth dies, lies become truths.

 That is why the assault on truth is so important and why it is vital to defend truth.

In 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin characterized himself as the Redeemer from beyond history. As Snyder pointed out, Putin characterized the invasion of Ukraine which was led by the “Little Green Men” who wore green uniforms without insignia, as “a spiritual defense against permanent western attack.” Putin sees himself as saving Christianity from Western perversion.  The west wanted to separate what was essentially one nation. This was the same line Putin used again 8 years later, in 2022, when he tried to finish the job he left unfinished in 2014. Malofeev described the Russian invasion as a war against eternal evil: “for those who do battle there, the war looks like a war waged against hordes fighting under the banner of the anti-Christ with Satanic slogans.” What could be more eternal than the campaign against Sodom?” That’s why Snyder refers to Russian fascism as Russian Christian fascism. They claimed to be Christian, but are actually fascists.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 they telephoned confederates in the region to help them plan a coups d’état.  They later used the same methods as a template around Ukraine. As Snyder said,

“A crowd would storm the regional state administration building,” and then some new assembly would coerced to declare independence and ask Russia for help. In Kharkiv, a crowd of locals and Russian citizens (brought by bus from Russia) did indeed break into the regional state administration building, after first storming the opera house by mistake. These people beat and humiliated Ukrainian citizens who were seeking to protect the building. The Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan refused to kneel and had his skull broken.”

 

Russian propaganda was so effective that from the 1970s on Russians by and large believed that the word “fascist” meant anti-Russian. As a result they don’t believe it is wrong to think that their enemies are all fascists.

In 2014 the Russian propaganda machine claimed that  the Americans had installed a “Nazi junta” in Ukraine, Just as 8 years later they said they had not invaded Ukraine they performed a special military operation to protect it from fascists.  They claimed that by invading Ukraine they were defeating an American occupation. To do that it was necessary for them to drive out the American ruling elite, as well as European bureaucracy and Ukrainian.  Just add perverts to that list and you have a complete list of “fascist” enemies.

 

More Blood  

 

Today, by a remarkable coincidence, one day after I posted about the Bloodlands as they were called by Timothy Snyder, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Allan Levine commented on the same issue based on Snyder’s other book. Levine’s maternal grandfather born in those Bloodlands west of Kyiv. He was 12 years old when World I broke out and 15 years old when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia after the horrors of that war. In my post I quoted how as Snyder said this in his book   The Road to Unfreedom, “together, some ten million people were killed in a decade as a result of two rival colonizations of the same Ukrainian territory”.

 

Levine’s grandfather was a Jew who lived in a part of that region that was constantly fought over by various powerful and brutal  forces.  This reminded me of another book I had recently read by Phillipe Sands called East West Street. It is a fascinating book about the origins of the notion of crimes against humanity and genocide. It is no accident that a number of the most important people involved in that history also came from that same region. One of them was Rafael Lemkin who invented the word “genocide.” He came from Lviv a city much in the news these past 2 months, but I had never heard of it before I read that book. Here is a section of the opening chapter of the book about that city:

 

“Between September 1914 and July 1944 control of the city changed eight times. After a long spell as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s “Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and the Grand Duchy  of Kraków with the Duchies of Auschwitz and Zator”—yes it is that Auschwitz—the city passed from the hands of Austria to Russia, then back to Austria, then briefly to western Ukraine, then to Poland, then to the Soviet Union, then to Germany, then back to Soviet Union, and finally to Ukraine where control resides today…the  streets of Lviv are a microcosm of Europe’s turbulent twentieth century, the focus of bloody conflicts that tore cultures apart.”

 

It is like hyenas and lions fighting over a carcass. During these times the city never moved, but its name changed many times from Lemberg, Lviv, Lvov, and Lwów. Now Putin wants to rip it back into Russia one more time and he doesn’t care about how many people he has to kill to do that  or whether they are women or children.

 

Levine’s grandfather was lucky—very lucky—to escape to Canada in 1921. Levine says that during the 12 years of 1933 to 1945, “upwards of 50 million civilians and soldiers were killed during those 12 terrible years.”  I think he meant they were killed around the world.  But this was the bloodiest part of that world because more than 10 million people died there. But that was then; this is now. As Levine said,

“Now, with the atrocities perpetrated by Russian soldiers on Ukrainian civilians near Kyiv, Mariupol, Bucha, and other cities, Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again reignited the horrors of the bloodlands. And to what end?”

 

Levine quotes from Snyder’s other book, Bloodlands, about how Stalin and Hitler “pursued transformative agendas with no concern for the lives of individual human beings.”  That is what fascist dictators do. And that is exactly what Putin is now doing. He, like them, is trying to build up a society on the basis of lives which are meant to be sacrificed. And sacrifice them Hitler and Stalin did and now Putin wants to do exactly the same thing. This is another great moment in history. Are we up to the challenge of confronting this radical evil? That is why this issue is so important and why I am obsessed with what is happening in Ukraine. I fear there will be more blood.

Bloodlands

Many of us have not paid much attention to Ukraine until this year. That is a mistake. Ukraine is important. And very interesting.

Europe is well known around the world for colonizing countries for its own benefit. When I was young, I actually believed they did that to spread civilization to the world. That seems almost unimaginably naive now.

What is not commented on as much is Europe colonizing other parts of Europe–colonizing itself in other words.  In no part of Europe was this more significant than Ukraine. First, the Soviet Union under Stalin colonized Ukraine. That was Stalin’s attempt to make Ukraine and Soviet Union one. It was a shot gun wedding.  After that there was the attempt by Nazi Germany to colonize Ukraine. Again this was another bloody union. Neither of these imperial powers used seduction—only brute force. When this also failed, Russia quickly stepped in to fill the void. It would do what Germany was not able to do for long.  As Yale Historian Timothy Snyder who is an expert on Ukraine,  said  in his book The Road to UnfreedomNo other land attracted as much attention within Europe. This reveals the rule: European history turns on colonization and decolonization.” That is why Snyder in another book referred to this area, that included Ukraine, as “the Bloodlands.”  He named an earlier book after that. That  is what Putin is trying to do again.  He wants to join the ranks of Stalin and Hitler.

Everyone wanted the bread basket of Europe. That was and is Ukraine. That is still true. Joseph Stalin realized that Soviet Russia unlike other European countries had no overseas possessions such as India, North America, or South America. He did not think that was fair. It really wasn’t fair for any country to possess other countries, but that was not relevant. Every European country thought it had the God-given right to exploit other countries. As a result, Soviet Russia had no alternative but to exploit its hinterland. Since Germany had no hinterland left, it exploited what it could. Here are some astonishing numbers that Snyder drew to our attention:

 

“Ukraine was therefore to yield its agricultural bounty to Soviet central planners in the First Five-Year Plan of 1928-1933. State control of agriculture killed between three and four million inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine by starvation. Adolf Hitler saw Ukraine as the fertile territory that would transform Germany into a world power. Control of its black earth was his aim.  As a result of the German occupation that began in 1941, more than three million more inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine were killed, including about 1.6 million Jews murdered by Germany and local policemen and militias. In addition to those losses, some three million more inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine died in combat as Red Army soldiers. Taken together, some ten million people were killed in a decade as a result of two rival colonizations of the same Ukrainian territory.”

 

Think about that. Let those numbers sink in. And I learned none of this in High School. How ignorant could I be?  Answer: very ignorant. For good reason, Snyder has called these lands “Bloodlands.”

In the western Ukraine the western districts which had been part of Poland before World War II, Ukrainian nationalists resisted the imposition of Soviet rule over them. Hundreds of thousands of those Ukrainian resisters were deported to the concentration camps called the Gulag. More bloodshed again.

Many of those prisoners were still alive when Stalin died in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev succeeded Stalin. In the 1960s and 1970s Ukrainian communists joined their Russian communist comrades and together ruled the largest country in the world. According to Snyder, Russian communists never denied that Ukraine was a nation, they just thought Ukraine would be better off under Russian rule. That is what colonists always believe. They are exploiting the colonized for their own good.

In 1991 the failed coup against Gorbachev opened the way for Boris Yeltsin, the new Russian ruler, to lead Russia out of the Soviet Union. At the same time, Ukrainian communists agreed with Ukrainian oppositionists that Ukraine should also leave the Soviet Union. As Snyder said, “In a referendum, 92% of the inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine, including a majority in every Ukrainian region, voted for independence.”

These are the people that Putin says are tyrannized by Neo-Nazi Ukrainian leaders into forcing Ukrainians to stay separate from Russia. Many Russian agree with Putin.  According to Gwynne Dyer, writing in the Winnipeg Free Press,

“In a telephone survey of Russians three weeks ago by Lord Ashworth Polls 76% said they supported the “special military operation” in Ukraine, 81 % said it was necessary to protect Russian security, and 85% had a favorable view of Vladimir Putin. The numbers are untrustworthy of course; would you always tell the truth to a stranger ringing up out of the blue and asking dangerous questions? It was also striking that a majority of the youngest group (18-24 years old) actually opposed the war, so there’s some hope if you want it. But a clear majority of Russians strongly back the invasion of Ukraine.”

 

It seems unbelievable that so many Russians would support their leader. It shows the power of lies. It shows what happens when powerful countries fight over weaker ones. Blood land is created.

George Orwell once said if you want a vision of the future imagine a boot stomping a human face forever.

 

 

Sexual Politics: from western democracy to Russian Christian fascism

 

Long before Putin, Russia’s political leader, Leonid Brezhnev had a permanent enemy—the decadent west.

 

Later, Putin found the same enemy to be useful, but he added a twist—a sexual twist. Ivan Ilyin had described his enemies as sexual perverts. By that he meant homosexuality.  Putin found this accretion to his enemy of choice complementary.

 

In the Russian elections of 2001 and 2012 people who wanted their votes counted were painted as mindless agents of sexual decadence rather than believers in democracy. In accordance with the teachings of Ivan Ilyin, Putin and friends saw the sexual deviants, as they described them, as a threat against the purity of Russia.

 

On December 6, 2011 one day after people protested against the fraudulent elections in Moscow the president of the Russian federation at the time referred to them by a  homophobic slur. Vladimir Putin, at the time the prime minister about to become President said on national TV that the white ribbons the protesters wore reminded him of condoms. A little later when Putin was visiting Germany he told Angela Merkel that the protesters in Russia were “sexually deformed.”

This has been a repeating theme among Russian fascists, not unlike American fascists. They are united in Christian opposition to what they considered  the sexual deviants.

Timothy Snyder described a conference on human rights in China where a Russian diplomat argued that

“Gay rights were nothing more than the chosen weapon of a global neoliberal conspiracy meant to prepare virtuous societies such as Russia and China for exploitation. President Putin took the next step at this personal global summit at Valdai, a few days later, comparing same-sex partnerships to Satanism. He associated gay rights with a Western model that “opens up a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis.”

 

I find this repeating theme in fascist societies around the world interesting. What is the connection between sexual hatred and fascist camaraderie across international borders? It has been as clear and consistent in the US as it has been in Russia. Why is that?

 

According to Snyder, this was all part of an organized campaign of deflection:

“Human sexuality is an inexhaustible raw material for the manufacture of anxiety. The attempt to place heterosexuality within Russia and homosexuality beyond was factually ludicrous, but the facts were beside the point. The purpose of the anti-gay campaign was to transform demands for democracy into a nebulous threat to Russian innocence: voting = West= sodomy. Russia has to be innocent, and all problems had to be the responsibility of others.”

 

The fascists disparaged their opposition as sexual deviants because they have no good arguments on their side.  So they called them names instead.  That is a common way to defend an indefensible position. That is part of the reason Snyder referred to theme as Christian fascists.

 

The Big Lie and Putin as Redeemer

 

Vladimir Putin began his political career claiming to champion democracy.  That was how he persuaded Yeltsin to appoint him his successor.  Putin saw himself as the only person who could fill the position of the purely innocent redeemer.  Putin started off by discrediting democracy and its institutions. As timothy  Snyder said,

“In discrediting democratic elections in 2011 and 2012, Vladimir Putin took on the mantle of the heroic redeemer and placed his country on the horns of Ilyin’s dilemma. No one can change Russia for the better so long as he lives, and no one in Russia knows what will happen when he dies.”

 

The Soviet Union started out as a world revolution that failed.  After the collapse of Communism Russia, established a constitutional republic, legitimated by democracy. It would have a parliament with free elections. All of that was on paper.  But in Russia paper rarely matters.

Ivan Ilyin had thought that when the Soviet Union collapsed it would be replaced by a fascist dictatorship. What else would a Christian fascist propose? Although his ideas did nothing after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the oligarchs thought his ideas might be useful. Ilyin had thought a pure redeemer would emerge from a realm of fiction and act from a spirit of totality—i.e. the totality of Russia. The pure redeemer for the pure nation.  That miracle never happened, yet, as Timothy Snyder explained,

“Yet a feat of scenography by skilled propagandists (or, in the Russian phrase, “political technologists” might create the appearance of such an earthly miracle. The myth of a redeemer would have to be founded on lies so enormous that they could not be doubted, because doubting them would mean doubting everything.”

 

This is the fundamental insight of the autocrat. It was endorsed by Hitler then Putin and later Trump. A big lie could usher in big power. As Snyder said,

“It was not so much elections as fictions that allowed a transition of power a decade after the end of the Soviet Union, from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin. Then Ilyin and Putin rose together, the philosopher and the politician of fiction.

 

Sadly, democracy never took hold in Russia.  Power never changed hands after an election.  This is exactly what Trump tried in 2020, but he failed, because the US had enough democratic institutions with enough believers in democracy to thwart his grab for power, but this apparent stability seems more illusory than real.

Ivan Ilyin did not foresee one development of the transfer of power in Russia, namely, that the extremely wealthy would choose Russia’s redeemer. Snyder described that scramble for power this way:

“The wealthy few around Yeltsin, christened the “oligarchs” wished to manage democracy in his favor and theirs. The end of Soviet economic planning created a violent rush for profitable industries and resources and inspired arbitrage schemes, quickly creating a new class of wealthy men. Wild privatization was not all the same thing as a market economy, at least as conventionally understood. Markets require the rule of law, which was the most demanding aspect of the  post-Soviet transformation. Americans, taking the rule of law for granted, could fantasize that markets would create the necessary institutions. This was an error. It mattered whether newly independent states established the rule of law, and above all whether they managed a legal transition of power through free elections.”

 

The western countries, led by the GeorgeH.W.  Bush regime was incredibly naïve about this.  Putin was not. The redeemer was far from innocent. And as a result everyone was left with a mess. And now we are all paying a hefty price for that.

 

Enormous Lies

 

The ideas of Ivan Ilyin played no role in the collapse of communism. They came to prominence after communism fell when the Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats began to consolidate authoritarian power. To do this with a colour of right they had to create a fiction that could justify this. And for this, they found Ilyin’s ideas enormously useful.

 

In the service of these ideas the Russians produced an incredible array of highly skilled propagandists so that “a Russian redeemer should emerge from a realm of fiction.” As Timothy Snyder said,  in his book The Road to Unfreedom these Russian,

 

political technologists” might create the appearance of such an earthly miracle.  The myth of the redeemer would love to be found on lies so enormous that they could not be doubted, because doubting them would mean doubting everything.”

 

Again note the similarity to both Hitler and Trump both of whom also used the big lies. The bigger the better. What Hitler, Putin, and Trump all learned was that the bigger the lie the harder it is not to believe it.

Hitler under stood this: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” And Trump followed suit

Putin: Ivan Ilyin’s Disciple

 

After he died Ivan Ilyin’s ideas were largely ignored for about 50 years. Then they were revived with vigour, by “post-Soviet billionaires.” The oligarchs in other words, found his ideas congenial. They found these ideas enormously convenient to justify the incredible inequality in Russia. As Timothy Snyder said,

“Putin and his friends and allies accumulated vast wealth beyond the law, and then remade the state to preserve their own gains. Having achieved this, Russian leaders had to define politics as being rather than doing. An ideology such as Ilyin’s purports to explain why certain men have wealth and power in terms other than greed and ambition. What robber would not prefer to be called a redeemer?”

Thus, the ideas of Ilyin became the ideology of Putin and his cronies. The ideology of Christian fascism replaced Marxist ideology. They are no more communist than the Chinese leaders. Of course, all of this was amazingly similar to the practice of Soviet power before the collapse of communism. All Soviet citizens had been educated in that system so this felt familiar and comfortable to them compared to the anarchic kleptocracy that followed a brief near neo-liberalism after the fall of communism. It came as a relief to Russians, as fascism came as a relief to Germans and Italians in the 1930s.

This brings me back to the politics of eternity.  As Snyder said,

“The politics of eternity cannot make Putin or any other man immortal. But it can make other ideas unthinkable.  And that is what eternity means: the same thing over and over again, a tedium exciting to believers because of the illusion that it is particularly theirs. Of course, this sense of “us and them,” or as fascists prefer, “friends and enemies,” is the least specific human experience of them all; to live within it is to sacrifice individuality.”

 

Once again, it is amazing how Trump fits in once more. He hinted he wanted to be president for life, like some of his dictator pals. He wanted to be added to Mount Rushmore. And he was serious. And of course, Trump saw the world as one of friends and enemies. Everyone who did not do and think like him was an enemy. Those who paid obeisance were friends, so long as they did not stop. Of course, the incredible inequality in Russia is mirrored in the United States.

 

Russian Christian Fascism

 

Timothy Snyder described Ivan Ilyin’s nationalism this way after the revolution of 1917:

“Ilyin thus portrayed Russian lawlessness as patriotic virtue. “The fact of the matter, “ he wrote, “is that fascism is redemptive excess of patriotic arbitrariness.

 

Again, this is music to Putin’s ears.

 

Snyder sees religion as playing an important role in Russia fascism just as it does in American fascism:

 

“Ilyin’s use of the Russian word for redemptive, spasitelnii, which means released a profound religious meaning into politics. Like other fascists, such as Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf he turned Christian ideas of sacrifice and redemption towards new purposes.  Hitler claimed that he would redeem the world for a distant God by ridding it of Jews.  “And so I believe that I am acting as the almighty creator would want, “ wrote Hitler. “Insofar as I restrain the Jew, I am dong the work of the Lord. “  The Russian spasitelnii would usually be applied by an Orthodox Christian, to the deliverance of believers by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.  What Ilyin meant was that Russia needed a redeemer who would make the “chivalrous sacrifice” of shedding the blood of others to take power. A fascist coup was “an act of Salvation,” the first step towards the return of totality to the universe…To make war against the enemies of God was to express innocence. Making war (not love) was the proper release of passion because it did not endanger but protected the virginity of the national body…True “passion” was fascist violence, the rising sword that was also a kneeling prayer.”

 

All this follows from the core belief that that the  nation is pure, innocent and holy. Hence, in effect, Ivan Ilyin argued for Christian fascism. His fanaticism was theological. To love God meant to fight his enemies without restraint or limit.  Anything else was evil. The leader of that fight would be the redeemer. One can see how Vladimir Putin would find a fantastic role for himself. He would be the redeemer of Russia. The redeemer must be strong and uncorrupted. He must be a man like Hitler, Bolsonaro, or Donald Trump.

 

For these reasons Snyder said, “Fascism, however, is about a sacred and eternal connection between the redeemer and this people.” This was an idea later implicitly endorsed by Trump and Putin. As Snyder said, “A fascist presents institutions as the corrupt barriers between leader and folk that must be circumvented or destroyed.

 

Snyder described the fascist leader in a way that would include Hitler, Putin, and Trump:

 

“The redeemer should be regarded as “leader” (gosudar) “head of state,” “democratic dictator,” and “national dictator,” an assemblage of titles that recall the fascist leaders of the 1920s and 1930s. The redeemer would be responsible for all executive, legislative, and judiciary functions, and command the armed forces.”

 

I would submit that this is perfect description of what Hitler, Putin, and Trump have each tried to achieve, with varying degrees of “success.” According to Snyder Ilyin would make Russia a “zero party” state. This again was taken up by Trump in 2020 when the entire Republican Party platform was Trump. No policies were needed. Whatever Trump wanted was the platform. The Republican Party all but disappeared in the 2020 presidential campaign. If I thought Trump ever read, I would think he must have read Ilyin or at least got a précis from Putin. Ilyin thought Russians must overcome democracy “by political habits that excite and sustain Russians’ collective love for their redeemer.” The resemblance to Trump and Putin is remarkable. As Snyder said, “Voting should unite the nation in a gesture of subjugation.”

Ilyin had the same attitude to law as Putin and Trump:

“By “law” he meant the relationship between the caprice of the redeemer and obedience of everyone else. Again a fascist idea proved to be convenient for an emerging oligarchy. The loving duty of the Russian masses was to translate the redeemer’s every whim into a sense of legal obligation on their part. The obligation, of course, was not reciprocal. Russians had a “special arrangement of the soul” that allowed them to suppress their own reason and accept “the law in our hearts.” By this Ilyin understood their to suppress their own reason in favor of national submission.”

 

Isn’t this exactly the doctrine enunciated by Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz at Trump’s impeachment trial and later enthusiastically endorsed by Trump and his minion Rudy Giuliani. Whatever Trump did was lawful. What he wanted was lawful. And amazingly, only 1 Republican voted to impeach Trump and later, more than 73 million Americans voted for Trump in the presidential election that followed. More than73 million Americans voted for fascism!

 

In Russia this was all given a religious gloss. Here is how Snyder described it:

“The Russian nation, summoned to instant war against spiritual threats, was a creature  rendered divine by its submission to an arbitrary leader who emerged from fiction. The redeemer would take upon himself the burden of dissolving all facts and passions, thereby rendering senseless any aspiration of any individual Russian to see or feel or change the world. Each Russian would experience this immobility as freedom. Unified by their redeemer, their sins washed away in the blood of others, Russians would welcome God back to his creation. Christian fascist totalitarianism is an invitation to God to return to the world and help Russia bring an end to history everywhere.”

The sleep of reason leads to  treating the nation  and its leader as holy.

Holy Nationalism

 

Timothy Snyder in his book The Road to Unfreedom, explained eternity politics this way:

“Like all immorality, eternity politics begins by making an exception for itself. All creation might be evil, but I and my group are good, because I am myself and my group is mine. Others might be confused and bewitched by the facts and passions of history, but my nation and myself have maintained a prehistorical innocence.”

 

The leader and the people have a mystical relationship transfused with innocence in a corrupt world. Ivan Ilyin, who inspired Russian fascism,  saw this connection between the leader and nation as pure and holy.  Putin who became the disciple of Ilyin adopted this position. Only utter purity and can justify crimes in the name of the nation. Because the nation (Russia) is so pure and holy all manner of crimes are justified in its defence. Any invasion is justified if it employed in the holy cause of the nation. For the purity must be protected at all costs. As Snyder said,

“What Ilyin saw was a virginal Russian body.  Like fascists and other authoritarians of his day, Ilyin insisted that his nation was a ‘creature,” an organism of nature and the soul, an animal in Eden without Original Sin.”

 

As a result of its innocence “Russia does no wrong; wrong can only be done to Russia. Facts do not matter and responsibility vanishes.

According to Snyder,

“Ilyin saw in Russia virginal Russian body. Like fascists and authoritarians of his day, Ilyin insisted that his nation was a creature, ‘an organism of nature and soul,’ and animal in Eden without original sin. Who belonged within the Russian organism was not for the individual to decide, since cells to not decide whether they belong to a body.  Russian culture, Ilyin wrote, automatically brought ‘fraternal union’ wherever Russian power extended.”

 

This is why Putin insists that no matter what Ukrainians say, Ukraine is an indivisible part of Russia. He got this idea from Ivan Ilyin.

Ilyin was not a communist. He was a Russian nationalist. He believed Russia had been contaminated by communist ideas which came from the west. Russia was too good to resist these toxic ideas. Underneath Russia was good.  No acts could be too extreme for something so holy as Russia. It interests me, that this of course, is exactly what Americans often say about their holy nation too. Nationalism tends to be the same everywhere.

All actions, no matter how horrendous, are justified to defend such a holy nation. And such an attitude leads directly to massacres in Ukraine. And then no lies are too outrageous to legitimate in defence of the holy nation.