Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, just days after issuing blatant nuclear threats, now engages in the classic anti-Semitic trope of blaming Nazism on the Jews. Speaking to Italian TV, Lavrov responded to a reminder that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish thusly: "When they say 'What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews,' well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing. For a long time now we've been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves."
In Episode 119 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the intellectual challenge posed to Western anti-fascists by Putin's ultra-cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Russian state media have issued a "blueprint for genocide" in Ukraine—in the perversely paradoxical name of "de-nazification." With much of the American "left" stupidly rallying around Putin and repeating his line that the Ukrainians are neo-Nazis, some of the once-stalwart antifas (themselves coming under attack from domestic fascism) are in danger of being coopted by fascism. Of course there are actual far-right elements on the Ukrainian side—which Ukrainian anti-fascists have been actively resisting. But in an atmosphere of totalizing propaganda, it is critical that we do not rely exclusively on pro-Putin sources for information on elements such as the notorious Azov Battalion, but get outside the confirmation-bias bubble. It is even more critical that we ruthlessly reject double standards, and acknowledge that the fascist element is far more hegemonic on the Russian side—and that Putin's new Russo-fascism is aligned with Trumpism.
Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of having used chemical weapons on the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol on April 11, causing troops and civilians alike to develop respiratory symptoms. The claim first emerged from the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard involved in the defense of the city, which posted to its Telegram channel: "Russian occupation forces used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian military and civilians in the city of Mariupol, which was dropped from an enemy [unmanned aerial vehicle]. The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome."
In Episode 116 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of geostrategic and political thinking on the criticality of Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine, from the Crimean War to the contemporary catastrophe. Despite contemporary misconceptions, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels shared the perception of a "Russian menace to Europe" with theorists of Western imperialism such as Halford John Mackinder, Lord Curzon, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Nicholas J. Spykman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Arch-reactionary or openly fascist conceptions of "Eurasianism" were taken up by the German Karl Haushofer and the Russians Mikhail Katkov and Ivan Ilyin—the latter a formative influence on Alexander Dugin, the intellectual mastermind of Vladimir Putin's revanchist imperial project.
In Episode 115 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues to dissect Vladimir Putin's ultra-cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Putin presides over Nuremberg-type mass rallies celebrating war and conquest, spews overtly genocidal rhetoric, and prepares concentration camps for the Crimean Tatars. Alexander Dugin, "Putin's Rasputin" and the intellectual mastermind of his revanchist imperial project, has openly called for "genocide" of the Ukrainians. In areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia, a forced mass deportation of the populace is reported. Putin is clearly approaching a genocidal threshold in Ukraine—while imposing a totalizing police state within Russia. Yet, with unimaginable perversity, all this is done in the name of a campaign to "denazify" Ukraine. The painting of Ukraine as a "Nazi" state on the (dubious) basis of a few ugly right-wing paramilitaries on the Ukrainian side is vigorously repudiated by the leadership of Ukraine's Jewish community. Yet this "Big Lie" is credulously (or cynically) echoed by elements of the "left" as well as far right in the United States—who arrogantly refuse to listen to Ukrainians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 114 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues to dissect Vladimir Putin's cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism—now abetted by pseudo-pacifist war propaganda. "Anti-war" voices in the West join with Putin in relentlessly portraying Ukraine as a neo-Nazi state on the dubious basis of right-wing paramilitary groups on the Ukrainian side—while turning a blind eye to the totalizing dictatorship now unfolding in Russia, and the plethora of equally ugly right-wing paramilitary groups on the Russian side. The inevitable Noam Chomsky sees fit to protest a hypothetical No-Fly Zone (which has been rejected by NATO) rather than Russia's very real bombardment and aggressive war against Ukraine. "Anti-war" clicktivists are also avidly sharing a video from the right-wing pundit John Mearsheimer, who essentially blames the Ukrainians for getting invaded. "Leftists" closing ranks with their supposed right-wing enemies behind Putin's illegal war of aggression reveals the growing hegemony of Red-Brown Politics, and recalls George Orwell's observation that pacifism "is secretly inspired by an admiration for power and successful cruelty."
In Episode 113 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues to dissect the cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism of Putin's war propaganda, which portrays any expression of Ukrainian identity or national aspiration as "Nazism." Much of this hinges on the legacy of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II. Bandera is indeed viewed favorably today by some in Ukraine—just as some in India look favorably upon the Axis-collaborationist independence fighter Subhas Chandra Bose, and some Palestinians lionize the wartime Mufti of Jerusalem who similarly looked to the Axis for support against British imperialism—a reality eagerly exploited by Israel's propagandists. But there is another tremendously important figure who fought the Russians and Germans alike a generation before Bandera, and is nearly forgotten by both "sides" in the current propaganda war—Nestor Makhno, the great Ukrainian anarchist leader of the period of the Russian Revolution. And there is now an anarchist armed resistance to the Russian aggression emerging in Ukraine, reviving the Makhnovist tradition.
In Episode 112 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues to deconstruct the cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism of Vladimir Putin's war drive against Ukraine. Putin's speech announcing his "military operation" in Ukraine says his aim is to "denazify" the country. This as Ukraine's Jews prepare to flee the advancing Russian forces in a mass evacuation. While Ukraine has been going in a more democratic direction since the 2014 Maidan Revolution, Russia over this same period has seen a consolidation of increasingly autocratic power in the hands of Vladimir Putin—who has ruled continuously as either president or prime minister since 1999. As courageous anti-war protesters flood the streets of cities across Russia in defiance of the authorities, the morally and intellectually bankrupt "left" in the United States echoes Putin's lies. Especially called out for regurgitating Kremlin propaganda that paints Ukraine as a "Nazi" state and blames NATO for Putin's war of aggression are the now essentially pro-war CodePink and the very ironically named Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Any genuine anti-war position must begin with repudiating Putin's fascist ambition to rebuild the Russian empire. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.