Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Neo-Nazism Now ‘Serious Global Threat,’ Russian Rights Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – Seven decades after the defeat of Hitler, neo-Nazism has ceased being “a marginal phenomenon” and become “a serious global threat” both in countries with a strong democratic tradition and those which are coming out of their own very different totalitarian pasts, according to Moscow human rights activist Aleksandr Brod.

            The passing of the generation which remembered the horrors of the Third Reich and the self-confident, self-serving and wrong belief that economic growth would make the return of Nazi-like ideas have both contributed to this dangerous trend, he writes in Nezavisimaya gazeta (

                According to the Russian National Security Council, there are about 500 neo-Nazi groups acting on the territory of European Union countries, despite the fact that many were victims of Hitler, Brod says.  There are also neo-Nazi groupings and trends in the former Soviet republics and in the United States as the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August showed. 

            Indeed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he continues, “there exist more than 900 various ‘hate groups’ in the United States.”

            “Unfortunately, Russian reforms in the 1990s weighted down with the slogan about the invisible hand of the all-powerful market also underrated the danger of the transformations they carried on from as far as radical nationalists, defenders of xenophobic and racist views are concerned,” the human rights expert says.

            “As a result,” in Russia, “the nationality question was ceded to the populists; and a great deal of time was required until the authorities and civil society were able to recognize that danger which could arise as a result of ignoring such an important sphere.”

            One reason for that, Brod suggests, is “the mistaken opinion that economic growth by itself will lead to the solution of socio-political and even ideological problems.” The experiences of many countries shows that “neither a high level of economic development nor a large middle class … [prevents] outbursts of xenophobia and nationalist and racist attitudes.”

            Instead, “the political culture of the people, the strength or weakness of democratic traditions and government and civic institutions are the factors which play the primary role in the task of struggling with xenophobia, nationalism, and racism.” And besides the government, experts, journalists, and activists of various kinds must play a role as well.

                Brod devotes most of his attention to the situation in the West where he says “playing at” neo-Nazi attitudes by politicians and in the former Soviet countries other than Russia where he says national “historical policies” bear much of the blame for the legitimation and rise of Nazi-like ideas and movements.

            He devotes much less time to Russia where these arguments could be made with equal or even greater force and when he does discuss his country, he blames liberal reformers, whose neglect of this issue certainly has played a role, rather than to the Putin regime which in the name of fighting fascism has in fact promoted it in the worst Orwellian fashion under other names.

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