Voices from Russia

Friday, 31 January 2014

The Menace Across the European Continent: The Ukraine and the Rebirth of Fascism

00 Ukrainian rioter 01. 31.01.14

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The violence on the streets of the Ukraine is far more than popular anger against a government. Instead, it’s merely the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism in Europe since the fall of the Third Reich. Recent months saw regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition… protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich‘s refusal to sign an association agreement with the EU that many saw as the first step towards European integration. The protests remained largely peaceful until 17 January, when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed violence on police, storming government buildings, beating anyone they suspected of having pro-central government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev. However, who are these violent extremists and what’s their ideology?

The political faction is Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), essentially an umbrella organisation for a number of ultra-nationalists (read fascist) rightwing groups, including Svoboda (Freedom), Patriots of the Ukraine, Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defence (UNA-UNSO), and Trizub. They share a common ideology; they’re all vehemently anti-Russian, anti-immigrant, and anti-Jewish, amongst other things. In addition, they share a common reverence for the so-called “Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists” of Stepan Bandera, an infamous Nazi collaborator, who actively fought the USSR, who engaged in some of the worst atrocities committed by any side in World War II.

Whilst Ukrainian political forces, opposition and government, continue to negotiate, a very different battle goes on in the streets. Using intimidation and brute force more typical of Hitler’s “Brownshirts” or Mussolini’s “Blackshirts” than a contemporary political movement, these groups managed to turn a conflict over economic policy and political allegiances into an existential struggle for the very survival of the nation that these so-called “nationalists” claim to love so dearly. The images of Kiev burning, Lvov streets filled with thugs, and other chilling examples of the chaos in the country, illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the political negotiation with the Maidan (Kiev’s central square and centre of the protests) opposition is now no longer the central issue. Rather, the issue is Ukrainian fascism… should one support it or reject it?

For its part, the USA strongly came down on the side of the opposition, regardless of its political character. In early December, members of the American Establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were at the Maidan, lending support to the protesters. However, as the character of the opposition became clear in recent days, the American and Western ruling class (and its media machine) did little to condemn the fascist upsurge. Instead, their representatives met with members of Right Sector, deeming them “no threat”. In other words, the USA and its allies gave tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of violence in the name of their goal… régime change.

Attempting to pry the Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US/EU/NATO alliance allied itself, not for the first time, with fascists. Of course, for decades, fascist paramilitary forces in Latin America armed and supported by the USA murdered thousands and many more “disappeared”. To destabilise the USSR, the USA created and financed the Afghan Mujahideen, who were also extreme ideological reactionaries. Later, they transmogrified into al-Qaeda. Of course, there’s the painful reality of Libya and, most recently, Syria, where the USA and its allies finance and support extremist jihadists against a government that refused to align with American and Israeli interests. There’s a disturbing pattern here not lost on keen political observers… the USA always makes common cause with rightwing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain. The situation in the Ukraine is deeply troubling because it represents a political conflagration that could very easily tear the country apart less than 25 years after it gained independence from the USSR. However, there’s another equally disturbing aspect to the rise of fascism in that country… it isn’t alone.

The Fascist Menace Across the Continent

One can’t view, let alone understand, the Ukraine and the rise of rightwing extremism there in isolation. Rather, one must look at it as part of a growing trend throughout Europe (and, indeed, the world)… a trend that threatens the very foundations of democracy. In Greece, savage austerity imposed by the troika (European CommissionEuropean Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) crippled the economy, leading to a depression as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression in the USA. Against this backdrop of economic collapse, Golden Dawn became the third-most-popular political party in the country. Espousing an ideology of hate, Golden Dawn… in effect, a neo-Nazi party promoting anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, and anti-women chauvinism… is a political force the government in Athens labelled a serious threat to the very fabric of society. This threat led the government to arrest the party’s leadership after a Golden Dawn Nazi fatally stabbed an anti-fascist rapper. Athens launched an investigation into the party, although the results of this investigation and trial remain somewhat unclear.

What makes Golden Dawn such an insidious threat is that, despite their fundamental Nazi ideology, their anti-EU anti-austerity rhetoric appeals to many in economically devastated Greece. As with many fascist movements in the 20th Century, Golden Dawn scapegoats immigrants, Muslim and African primarily, for many of the problems facing Greeks. In dire economic circumstances, such irrational hate becomes appealing; it’s an answer to society’s problems. Indeed, despite Golden Dawn’s leaders being in prison, other party members are still in parliament, still running for major offices including Mayor of Athens. Although an electoral victory is unlikely, another strong showing at the polls would make eradicating fascism in Greece that much harder.

Were this phenomenon confined to Greece and the Ukraine, it wouldn’t constitute a continental trend. Sadly, however, we see the rise of similar, albeit slightly less overtly fascist, political parties all over Europe. In Spain, the ruling pro-austerity People’s Party proposed draconian laws restricting protest and free speech, empowering and sanctioning repressive police tactics. In France, the National Front of Marine Le Pen, which vehemently scapegoats Muslim and African immigrants, won nearly 20 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections. Similarly, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands… a promoter of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies… grew to be the third-largest in parliament. Throughout Scandinavia, once-completely irrelevant and obscure ultranationalist parties are now significant players in elections. To say the least, these trends are worrying.

Besides this, one should note too that, beyond Europe, the USA supports a number of quasi-fascist political factions. In their seemingly endless quest to suppress leftists in Latin America, Washington tacitly and/or overtly supported rightwing coups that overthrew the governments of Paraguay and Honduras. Of course, one should also remember that Aleksei Navalny and his nationalist followers, who espouse a virulently anti-Muslim racist ideology viewing immigrants from the Russian Caucasus and former Soviet republics as beneath “European Russians”, spearheaded the protest movement in Russia. These and other examples paint a very ugly portrait of an American foreign policy that attempts to use economic hardship and political upheaval to extend American hegemony around the world.

In the Ukraine, the “Right Sector” took the fight from the negotiating table to the streets, attempting to fulfil the dream of Stepan Bandera… a Ukraine free of Russians, Jews, and all other “undesirables”, as they see it. Buoyed by continued support from the USA and the EU, these fanatics represent a more serious threat to democracy than Yanukovich and the pro-Russian government ever could. If the EU and the USA don’t recognise this threat in its infancy, by the time they finally do, it might just be too late.

29 January 2014

Eric Draitser

Counterpunch

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/29/ukraine-and-the-rebirth-of-fascism/

 

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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Hellenic Parliament Lifts Immunity of Six Golden Dawn MPs

00 Carlos Latuff. Nazis in Greece. 2012

Nazis in Greece

Carlos Latuff

2012

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On Wednesday, the Hellenic Parliament voted to lift the immunity of six ultranationalist Golden Dawn deputies:

Taking part in the vote on Wednesday were 247 MPs, whilst the Golden Dawn deputies abstained from the procedure. Those voting in favour of the motions ranged from 246 to 247. Germenis, Iliopoulos, and Boukouras face charges for participating and managing a criminal organisation, whilst Panayiotaros faces charges of disrupting the peace. Kasidiaris is accused of rioting and Alexopoulos for establishing an illegal radio station. Meanwhile, three Golden Dawn MPs, party chief Nikos Michaloliakos, second-in-command Christos Pappas, and Yiannis Lagos are in pre-trial custody in Korydallos Prison. All three are accused of participating in a criminal organisation, amongst other charges.

16 October 2013

Kathimerini

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_16/10/2013_523372

 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Government and SYRIZA Clash Over Church Tax Proposal

04b-greek-demonstrations

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On Monday, the relationship between the Greek state and the Church of Greece became the focus of a fresh clash between the government and the main opposition SYRIZA party after a leftist MP proposed the introduction of a new tax to pay clerics’ wages. SYRIZA deputy Tasos Kourakis said that the Church should start funding itself instead of relying on dwindling state coffers. Kourakis told a conference organised by the Theology Department of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki that another option would be to impose a church tax on all Greeks who declare themselves Orthodox Christians. He said that revenues from it could go toward church costs and clerics’ salaries.

The rightwing New Democracy shot down the idea, which likened the proposed tax to “Stalinist measures”. ND argued that such a levy would be unconstitutional, as it would discriminate between Greeks based on their religious beliefs. SYRIZA noted that Kourakis’s proposal was the MP’s “personal opinion”, but said that Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras had mooted a similar initiative in the fall of 2011 when the latter was head of the Foundation for Industrial and Economic Research (IOBE). Stournaras accused SYRIZA of distorting comments that he made during a TV interview, when he noted that other European citizens don’t pay clerics’ salaries through taxation without proposing however that Greece follow suit.

28 January 2013

Kathimerini

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_28/01/2013_480874

Editor’s Note:

What SYRIZA proposes is nothing more than the system in place in Germany, where citizens pay a “church tax” that goes to the church of their choice. If one isn’t religious, the money goes into a general charity fund. “Stalinist” is usually “right-speak” for “we don’t like this and we want to demonise the people making this proposal” (such as Potapov’s recent crackbrained initiative concerning “Stalingrad” in the ROCOR). In short, the SYRIZA proposal isn’t leftist at all; it’s merely fair. It simply places the burden of support of the Orthodox Church on Orthodox believers. That’s as it should be, kids… New Democracy is sinking into irrelevance along with PASOK… SYRIZA is Greece’s future, as this common-sense proposal indicates. You can have SYRIZA or you can have Golden Dawn (which is neo-Nazifascist, racist, and xenophobic… that’s no choice at all)… that’s the real-world choice on offer… there’s nothing else. It’s clear that SYRIZA’s the better choice.

BMD

 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Church of Greece Split Over Role of Neofascist Golden Dawn Party

Greek Debt

Vladimir Kremlyov

2012

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Archbishop Ieronymos Liapis faces a serious challenge, as the leadership of the Church of Greece appears deeply split on a range of significant issues, including the role of the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party and the debt-wracked country’s bailout agreement. Pressure from other senior clerics, some of whom who like to portray him as an apologist for the so-called New World Order, appear to have influenced some of Ieronymos’s decisions. Sources close to Ieronymos say that some of his recent comments… such as his recent criticism of the memorandum when he said that Greeks are “victims of all-out usury”… have been the result of outside pressure.

Meanwhile, other leading clerics, spearheaded by Metropolitans Amvrosios Lenis of Kalavryta and Seraphim Mentzenopoulos of Piraeus, made no secret of their support for Golden Dawn. Seraphim has often spoken out in public against Jews and homosexuals. For his part, Amvrosios recently called on Golden Dawn officials to change their style to boost their ratings. In the opposite corner are Metropolitans Pavlos Ioannou of Siatista and Bishop Chrysostomos Savvatos of Messinia, along with a number of other clerics. Pavlos was the main rapporteur of a Holy Synod circular that criticised the memorandum. He recently made headlines by attacking Greece’s neofascist party in a speech where he emphasised that the ideas of Golden Dawn and the teachings of the Gospel are “in direct contradiction and mutually exclusive”. Several bishops followed his example.

Observers noted that the mild-mannered Ieronymos would find it hard to find any middle ground between the two sides, and, at the same time, administer Church finances seriously dented by the declining value of National Bank shares and other assets. An anonymous source said, “The archbishop had to grapple with the beasts, which is out of character”, adding that many people wished that he possessed the communication skills of the late Archbishop Christodoulos Paraskevaidis… if not his political ambitions. “He knows that the more-conservative albeit charismatic Metropolitan Nikolaos Hatzinikolaou of Mesogaia is lurking around the corner. He wants to distance himself from the extremists, without engaging in direct confrontation with them. He’s a low-key individual who despises conflict”.

Nevertheless, some of Greece’s religious leaders want to stop Golden Dawn from using Orthodoxy and popular religious sentiment as a means of extracting political capital from the electorate. Several are making steps to reinforce the Church’s social mission, whilst a number of issues… such as ending state control over Church property that it could use to create a fund for weaker social groups… still remain unresolved.

8 November 2012

Apostolos Lakasas

Kathimerini

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_08/11/2012_469127

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