Thursday, April 1, 2021

Putinism Today a Kind of ‘Half-Baked Fascism,’ Golyshev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 30 – Many have been reluctant to call the Putin regime fascist because they still restrict the use of that term to Nazism rather than recognizing it as a broader category of regimes who use certain techniques to protect the ruler and his class allies against any challenge from the population, Vladimir Golyshev says.

            In 1995, Boris Yeltsin asked the Russian Academy of Sciences for a definition of fascism. The Russian scholars came back with one that made the racial supremacy and genocidal policies of Hitler central to the definition, a choice that meant the term wouldn’t be applied to other regimes, including Russia’s, the commentator says (

            But as others, including Leon Trotsky, understood already in the 1930s, fascism is defined not by racialism but by the methods the dominant economic strata use to maintain their position when they are at risk of losing power. Differences among them, including Hitler’s anti-Semitism, are only superficial. Otherwise, “they are all the same,” these analysts said.

            These methods include, Golyshev suggests, the suppression of political opponents by “openly terrorist methods,” the spread of an ideology that suggests class conflicts are not important, and promoting a growth in the standard of living of the majority by loans, theft, or wars of conquest.  Or by all three “as in Hitlerite Germany.”

            Russia showed some signs of a move to that direction in 1917 but all the potential leaders lacked one or another of the qualities needed to impose fascism. After the Soviet period, Russia “again became a bourgeois country, and the real masters of life became the class of major property holders whom it is customary to call ‘the oligarchs.’”

            Their behavior outraged “the exploited majority,” and not surprisingly, the large owners, fearful that they would lose what they had stolen, promoted measures designed to prevent any “’revision of the results of privatization.’” Not surprisingly, some of these looked to “good old fascism,” not as a goal in itself but as a means of self-defense.

            “In the fall of 1993,” Golyshev continues, “we observed if not Hitlerite than completely Pinochet-style methods of suppressing political opponents, not because Yeltsin was a cruel man but because the threat was too great and the newly born bourgeoisie liquidated it as this has always and everywhere been done – by shots from tanks.”

            “But when the threat passed, [these people] shifted to ‘administration and rule with the assistance of democratic mechanisms.’” Putinism represents a further development “in the theory and practice of fascism.” He “invented fascism lite or as the people say ‘half-baked fascism,’” one that uses fascist techniques in a preventive fashion to block challenges.

            Again and just as was the case with Yeltsin, Putin did so not because he is “an evil man” but because he “defended himself in the only possible way” given the power arrangements in Russia in the first years of his rule. Now, that the main threats have passed, he like Yeltsin has turned away from fascism as the defining element of his rule.

            “In recent years,” Golyshev insists, “elements of fascism [in Putinism] have become ever less and less. Putin already isn’t happy to display his fare torso, ‘spiritual bindings’ are forgotten, and the police have become polite.” In short, “Putin has gradually learned ‘to manage and rule’ without fascism.”

            But if he is to succeed in moving away from fascism completely, he must do what the silent majority of Russians want: he must attack those in the regime who have stolen from the population rather than rely on them as allies. “Otherwise,” Golyshev concludes, “the present period of stability is only the calm before the storm.”

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