Today I saw this very interesting essay in VZGLIAD, written by Vyacheslav Vishnevsky. Vishnevsky takes as his starting point the “We are Latvians” torchlight procession last month in Riga, which was organized by a “far right” political coalition, and which attracted as many as 17,000 people. Still another symptom, in case you overslept Ukraine of the past couple of years, that European nations, both large and small, are tumbling head-first back to the politics of fascism.
Now, I do not throw out the word “fascism” casually, like the pin-heads do. Fascism is a complex political movement involving its own philosophical, political, and economic concepts and platforms. In the genus-species relationship, German Nazism was a particular national species of fascism; but fascism is a broader concept than just the German variety. The other thing that people need to keep in mind when studying the various fascist movements popping up all over Europe, is that the fascism is a mass movement. Involving tens of thousands, and even possibly millions of people. This point was made by Leon Bronstein, back in the early 1930’s, in his famous polemic, “What Is Fascism?” . The always cantankerous Trotsky set out to debate those on the Left who believed that fascism was just some fake “movement” patched together by corporate elites in a back room. Sort of like the American Tea Party!
Nope. Fascism is a real political movement. Sure, it may be funded by international corporations and the American CIA, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a real thing or have armies of followers. Unfortunately for those who believed this totalitarian agenda had been rooted out once and for all in 1945 — nope, think again! Fascism is on the rise, and fascism is on the march. Once again, this is a mass movement, pulling together people from all walks of life, including the lower classes. Who are terrified of the impending capitalist economic collapse and enraged to see their “way of life”, whatever that is, disappearing in the whirlwind of international corporate reconstruction and oligarchic looting of the planet’s assets.
Before proceeding with Vishnevsky’s essay, also please keep in mind that Latvia is a tiny country. The stated estimated population of 2 million is over-generous. As in all the Baltic states, the Latvian population has been declining steadily since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and especially since these nations accepted the Kiss of Death by joining the European Union. Their decline also feeds the impetus to fascism, because people see, not only their way of life, but even their very national identity, and the identity of their own children, under threat of demographic collapse.
Fascism and Nationalism
One of the peculiar things about fascism, I guess you could call it a paradox, is that it is both a “nationalist” and an “internationalist” political movement. I have joked before about the “Nationalist Internationale”. Joking is the only way my linear brain knows how to deal with this odd paradox. But the fact is, these rustic “nationalists” who laud their own nation and people, jet-set all over the world and hold international conferences with nationalists of other, different nations. Each one claiming that his or her nation is the bee’s knees, yet still mostly getting along just fine with the other fascists. And they are not all necessarily white-skinned either!
So, Vishnevsky’s piece, as you will see when you read further, supports my feeling of bemusement. Life would be simpler if we could just write off fascists as primitive racists. As in the case of the Third Reich, when the German people adopted the genetic theories of that outstanding scientific Anthropologist, Doctor Adolph Hitler. But most fascists are not that simplistic. Their shtik is the notion that the “titular nation” is the bulwark of the monolithic state, led by a strong and preferably dictatorial leader. And obviously the “titular nation” varies from titular nation to titular nation. And I like to repeat the word “titular” as many times as possible, because it sounds funny and makes me snicker. For example, in Italy, titular would be “Italy for Italians”; in Latvia it would be “Latvia for Latvians”, and in Russia it would be “Russia for Russians”, etc.
Leaving the details of who is or who is not a titular whatever, up to the great political minds who run these fascist circus shows; and also taking into account that he who is being excluded also varies from nation to nation; although the constants seem to be Jews, gypsies and Arabs. And not always Negroes, strangely enough! But otherwise, details may vary, as does your mileage.
Are Russians the Underclass?
Fascists of the titular state like to have an enemy, the “Other”. He who is not one of us. In the Latvian context, this is obviously the Russian ethnic minority. And most people who have heard of Latvian fascism, along with their cute annual Waffen SS marches, probably believe, and rightfully so, that this movement is mostly directed against Russia, and against the internal Russian ethnic minority.
Here is the wiki entry on Latvian historical demographics. Quoting liberally: “Latvians have always been the largest ethnic group in Latvia during the past century, but minority peoples have always been numerous. Before WW II the proportion of non-Latvians was approximately 25%, the Russians being the largest minority (app. 10%), followed by Jews (approx. 5%), Germans and Poles (2–3%). After World War 2 only small numbers of Jews and Germans remained and following a massive immigration of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians, Latvians almost became a minority. In 1989, the proportion of Latvians had decreased to only 52% (from 75.5% in 1935). Despite the decreasing number of Latvians due to low fertility rates, the proportion of Latvians has considerably increased during the past two decades and reached 62.1% in 2011 (slightly higher than the 62.0% in 1959). This is due to large scale emigration of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. The number of these peoples almost halved between 1989 and 2011.”
Even with this prudent exodus, ethnic Russians remain the second largest ethnic group in Latvia. Due to historical reasons, Russians live mainly in the urban areas. In 2006 Russians made up 42.3% of the population of Riga, and over half the population of Latvia’s second-largest city, Daugavpils. Areas of contention include citizenship rights, religion (most ethnic Russians are nominally Orthodox, and Latvians are Catholics) and the usual squabbles around mono-lingualism, bi-lingualism, and having an official state language.
Given these typical inter-communal squabbles, it is interesting to read, as Vishnevsky points out, that the current “Latvia for Latvians” movement includes quite a lot of ethnic Russians. Or at least people with Russian names and surnames.
And, on the other side of the coin, many truly ethnic Latvians oppose the fascists and defend the rights of the Russian ethnic minority. A sterling example of this is the aging ethnic Latvian Communist politician Alfrēds Rubiks, whose sons continue his legacy of national harmony and civil rights for ethnic minorities.
[to be continued]