Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kazembek and fascist "socialism"

Putin's "Russian Spring" politics have roots in the ideas of early-twentieth century fascist Alexander Kazembek, Pavel Pryannikov writes for Tolkovatel. Paul E. Goble provides a gloss in English here.

One thing I find striking about Kazembek is how clearly he illuminates the historical relationship - or rather, the opposition - between fascism and socialism.

On one hand, Kazembek praises the Bolsheviks for overthrowing the "rotten", decadent Romanov regime; he admires the Bolshevik consolidation of power, culminating in the autocratic rule of Stalin; and he traffics in populism and extreme ethnic nationalism, idealizing the Russian people and hoping to (somehow) ground state power in their unanimous will.

On the other hand, Kazembek evidently does not contemplate proletarian control of the means of production. Goble proposes that Kazambek advocated "a combination of Russian autocracy and Bolshevism," but this is not quite what Pryannikov says and the formulation is misleading.

As Nicholas Hayes writes in the Slavic Review, "the strange career of Kazem-Bek is of interest as an overt case study of a Russian chavinist who ascribed the politics of the radical Right to the Stalinist regime". Kazembek's monarchist movement was attracted to Stalin, but only insofar as it could "ascribe its values, including an antipathy to bolshevism, to Stalinism."

Two points to note here. First, Kazembek's politics demonstrate that the Soviets did not exercise a monopoly on the currents of authoritarianism and ethnic nationalism prevalent in early twentieth century Russia. On the contrary, those are the factors that seem to set his movement apart. Kazembek only idealized Stalin insofar as Stalin was a totalitarian ruler; they broke precisely where Stalin aspired (earnestly or otherwise) to place power into the hands of the workers.

In this light, Kazembek is much closer to Hitler than Stalin. As Hayes notes, "Kazem-Bek had praise for Nazism as one of the torches of the national revolutionary movement elevating the military ethos in European civilization, ending Communist anarchy, and upholding the supremecy of the white race." They mostly differed, it appears, on who the standard-bearer of the white race would be: the Germans or the Slavs.

Understood as a kind of Russian Hitler, Kazembek throws the contrast between his German counterpart and Stalin in sharp relief. Kazembek admired both insofar as they exemplified powerful, realpolitik triumph over the impure and decadent establishment. His opposition to Hitler and alliance with Stalin was exclusively a matter of ethnic-national solidarity. He echoed the populist rhetoric of Hitler, but to the very limited extent that Stalin moved beyond rhetoric and allied himself with democratic socialism, the two were openly at odds.

In this regard, the relationship between Kazembek and Hitler mirrors the relationship between Putin and American fascism. You see this in the strange ambivalence of many Republicans towards Putin - beneath the national rivalry, a current of admiration for Putin's power, and a resentful appreciation of its exercise against the international left.