By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
As I wrote in my previous article on this issue – the total Western failure of Russia’s “denazification” justification for its armed operation in Ukraine – Russia will lose the battle for Western hearts and minds if it fails to introduce new discussions and prolonged, patient debates about what “Nazi” means in 2022.
Some point out that Russia doesn’t have to convince anyone of anything. Sure, that’s sovereignty… but this only holds true inside of Russia.
What about in Ukraine – they don’t need to understand that they have a problem? Ukraine only needs to obey Russian force of arms and not Russian force of logic?
What about India, China, Cuba, Iran and half of Africa? All those countries which abstained in the United Nations vote on Russia’s operation: they, too, only need to obey Russian force of arms? That definitely won’t work, sorry.
What about the history books? Posterity, also, is no matter? One is either with Russia or against Russia, and thus a Nazi sympathiser who cannot be rehabilitated. Taking an intellectual page from George W. Bush would be a major downgrade in Russian diplomatic skills.
For these obvious reasons – and others in the previous article – the biggest failure of the Russian campaign is ignored at one’s own peril.
I wrote about “Nalis” – Nationalist Liberalists – in 2014, and I still like it. It combines the racism of nationalism with all the hidden oligarchy & baked-in inequality of Western Liberalism. It’s the most accurate description I have seen of the far-right paramilitaries in Ukraine, whose socialism I have not yet been presented any evidence of.
“Socialism” – there’s a term few care about explaining, either. Tarnish it anyhow you like, eh?
Socialism is not the problem in the Russia-Ukraine conflict – the problem is “Liberalism”.
As difficult as it is to get Westerners, and some Russians, to talk accurately about “Nazi” getting people to talk accurately about “Liberalism” is almost as difficult. It’s less emotional, but it requires more intellect because it requires more history: Liberalism (begun 1789) is 140 years older than Nazism, after all.
Because many right-wingers may assume “Nali” is a compliment, let’s just focus on moving past “Nazi”.
I asked in the previous article for ideas other than “denazification” and the best I found was from seemingly a Muslim poster – perhaps she understands the belligerent aspects of the Western mentality better than many Russians assume they do? She suggested “Elimination of European Terrorism’ or even ‘De-Terrorization” – either would have given Westerners pause, at least unlike “denazification”, which they received incredulously: “terrorism” has been their own justification for 20+ years. However, “terrorism” is violence committed for a political end – it doesn’t actually say anything about the actual politics at play. I like her former suggestion, and it would certainly be understood by a billion Muslims and other intelligent people, but I wonder how many Russians consider themselves “European” – many at the Kremlin probably won’t want to use it. China could use this term in the future, but I just don’t think “terrorism” is an honest word, but a fear-mongering one.
In this effort to increase understanding and diplomacy, and to get beyond the inaccurate, hyperbolic and counter-effective use of “Nazi” as regards Ukraine, may I suggest:
In a complete sentence: “It’s a denazification campaign to stop 3rd-generation Nazis, in order to prevent a 4th Reich anywhere.”
A propaganda campaign based around that sentence applied patiently and consistently, has all the elements to explain why Russia got involved in the “2014 Ukrainian Civil War” far, far better “denazification” has.
“Nazism”, “Liberalism” and now “propaganda” – which is not a disinformation campaign but a campaign in order to promote or publicize a particular political cause… I’m using so many unclear political terms!
(And yet everybody grasped “PR campaign”, eh? Fewer pica points than “propaganda” for the headline, too, but these are journalistic concerns.)
‘3rd-gen Nazis’ gives us a new plateau with which to view the ideology of Nazism
One should be able to tell from my suggested sentence: It implicitly moves us past “neo-Nazis”. We need to. We need to introduce some 21st-century relevance and intelligence regarding “Nazis”, finally!
Saying that Nazism hasn’t changed over the generations is like saying socialism, liberalism, Christianity or any other ideology hasn’t changed. It’s always “the same old Nazism”? No update necessary? Not even when generations of Nazis have come and gone, with varying levels of nefarious success?
The 1st generation of Nazis: The era of Hitler and his survivors. Those of this generation in West Germany who weren’t killed became protected by the West and partially took power, both formally and informally. Is that too controversial? To Anglophones, only. Everyone else rolls their eyes at fictions like “the Anglos beat the Nazis” and “the Anglos would never, ever work with the Nazis postwar”. This is the elderly generation.
The 2nd generation of Nazis: The European generation which includes the postwar baby boom up to around 1975. European social history, I have learned after 13 years on the ground here, is best divided into the who came of age pre- and post-Berlin Wall toppling. This 2nd generation is the middle-aged generation. It’s archetype is not the Nazi soldier but the typical “neo-nazi” – the late 1970s-influenced punk skinhead.
The 3rd generation of Nazis: We have moved past “neo-Nazi”, because “neo-Nazis” have changed; because we must mark this change; because there will be a fourth generation of Nazis if they are not openly opposed – in all ways, including in thought – better than they have recently been opposed. This generation is the generation who came of age post-Berlin wall – the youngest generation staffing the Azov Battalion.
The implication of “3rd-gen Nazi” should be clear: to remind that “Nazi” is a legacy which has been passed down from generation to generation, that this political ideology still exists in 2022, that this has translated into 14,000 deaths since 2014 in Eastern Ukraine alone so far, and that it has been given unprecedented Western protection. There was no American money, arms and CIA training for the Nazis like there was for the Azov Battalion – the West did not use arms to push Hitler to power in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. If they had been it might have succeeded, like how Western arms and money helped the Maidan Uprising succeed in 2014.
Things change – we must mark these changes with new ideas. Political education campaigns cannot remain stuck in 1940 or else they are certain to fail to reach the youth classes, at the very least.
Who resists such changes to terminology and changes in conceptual thinking the most? Hint – Mao knew this: The elderly class. The foolish among them do not seek to update their view of the world, unlike the younger classes who simply have no choice but to try and make sense of things today. This is why Western elders probably at least paused with “denazification”, but the phrase clearly didn’t work for many young people.
Too grumpy to deal with this? Interrupting the flag-waving? Well, I have some sad news to relate: racism is not going away as easily as we had all hoped after 1945. Therefore, we must talk about the differences in racism between generations – the racism around African slavery is not the same as the racism of 2022, and it is only the people who don’t read columns like this who think it’s truly all that simple.
Allow me to introduce a fourth political term which has no accurate conception in modern Western politics: The West and Russia both need a Cultural Revolution in how “Nazi” is discussed. Because Nazism is a serious threat – because some do really want a Fourth Reich in the West – and because Russia needs something better than merely this “denazification” campaign. They already had one of those, anyway – it occurred after World War II. It would be more accurate to have called this failed intellectual campaign “re-denazification” – that would have done better, truly! Westerners would have had to at least pause and say – “Oh yeah, I guess racism didn’t actually go away after 1945? Re-denazify – I kind of get it. Now can I super-size my fries?”
In my new book on the Yellow Vests, in a chapter called “Where the West is stuck: The fascism of the 1930s and the ‘fascism’ of the 2020s” I discuss these very issues because historical misunderstanding is so very pervasive that I was forced to address it in a book about the 21st century Yellow Vests.. Briefly: My bringing up the failure of “denazification” has been deemed, quite unfairly, as a way for me to sell books. Books which I am giving away for free… by discussing an issue (Nalis) I have written about since 2014… during a period in which the book release was entirely planned to coincide with France’s current presidential election and not a conflict in Ukraine for which I had no foreknowledge…. This is the same knee-jerk logic which refuses to even consider the scope of the “denazification” propaganda campaign failure and merely shouts “tanks to ramming speed!”
In many ways, it’s good that Russia brought these historical misunderstandings back to the forefront: Truly, it’s been impossible to talk about modern Western history due to the taboos and absurdities and falsehoods surrounding “Nazi”! I just hope they aren’t making it worse….
Socialist Democracy doesn’t fear honest discussions about German National Socialism – Western Liberal Democracy does
There needs to be new discussions – whether you join them or not – on terms like “Nazi”, “liberalism” and the way European fascism came to power via an open rejection and denigration of Western Liberal Democracy.
Western Liberal Democracy split from absolute monarchy in 1789, immediately failed when first applied in France in 1848, was re-installed in France at the point of a gun in 1871 by Bismarck and the colluding French 1%, which subsequently produced what I call the “Great War to Forestall Socialism” in 1914 and which then produced the economic failure that everyone calls the “Great Depression”.
Thus the rise of Nazism is unexplainable – unexplainable like “denazification”! – without admitting fascism’s successful, popular condemnation of Western Liberal Democracy. WLD-ers in the West and even Putin himself will never admit this because it would be to cede ground to an actual political rival: Socialist Democracy.
(Contrarily, the Azov Battalion came to power via Western billions, shooting both sides at Maidan Square and without any motivating political ideas other than anti-Russianism. Lumping these groups together without differentiation – facile, absurd, what a mistake and what an assist to awful Western Liberal Democracy!)
This successful condemnation is why it’s simply inaccurate and absurd to say things like the “Nazis had no socialism”. To do so is tremendously counterproductive and actually hurts Socialism more than merely explaining Nazism’s relationship with socialism – we cannot understand Western political history if we relinquish the incredibly necessary criticism of Western Liberal Democracy and Capitalism With Western Characteristics as logically implied by fascism’s rise.
Hitler, reader of Marx, summed it up himself in 1922: Without the “essential principle” – race – Nazism “would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground”.
Why should socialists fear admitting this? If they do it’s probably because they seek the approval of Western Liberal Democrats – talk about a waste of time….
Because by including race – this is… not really socialism, but something different.
Or when Hitler rejected the class struggle, vital to socialism, by saying: “There are no such things as classes: They cannot be. Class means caste and caste means race.” Well, Nazism may include some Marxist analyses but this is… not really socialism, but something different.
Making an alliance with corporate powers, instead of appropriating from the greedy expropriators… this is not really socialism, either.
But the rejection of Western Liberal Democracy – due to its decades of failures by an oligarchical leadership barely different from monarchy – that is the same as socialism. But the rejection of Western Liberal Democratic economics – due to the decades of failures by free market capitalism (i.e. the economic component of liberalism) – that is the same as socialism.
So it can’t be stressed enough: Socialism has nothing to fear from free, honest, patient examination of the Nazis relationship with socialism.
However, Western Liberal Democracy has much to fear regarding true discussions of their relationship with the Nazis. They, over and over, allied with fascism again socialism in the 1930s; they colluded with the Nazis after 1945; they encouraged 3rd-gen Nazis in places like Ukraine in the 21st century. See the progression and need for new terms like “3rd-gen Nazis”.
Socialists WANT to discuss Nazism – it’s Western Liberal Democrats who have to obscure, falsify and lie, just like they are doing in the causes of the Ukraine conflict.
Nobody appeased Hitler more than Western Liberal Democrats, and they leaped to their feet when he said things like: “I shall take Socialism away from the Socialists.” Truly, Hitler has been allowed to do that even up until 2022, but only by Western Liberal Democrats from Washington to Moscow. And these same “democrats” kept listening when Hitler continued: “Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution.”
So it should be clear: I’m not worried about discussing to the nth degree the true amount of “socialism” in Germanic National Socialism.
What Western socialists must stress is not how we need to “re-denazify”, but how things have changed:
Nazism used to be as opposed to socialism as it was to Western Liberalism. In a reversal of this – and despite other similarities between Nazis and the Azov Battalion – Nazism TODAY is as opposed to socialism as it is ALLIED with Western Liberalism.
This is not complicated, but there has been a change. There’s vital historical realities from the 1930s to discuss and demystify. The USSR and socialism stands on the right side against 1st-gen Nazism – don’t cede the ground to Western Liberal Democrats and play their game. Make them play your game, which is honesty, accuracy, progression and not regression.
I hope this article was as helpful and provoking of necessary discussion as the first article.
I think that once people get over the shock that “denazification” hasn’t worked, then they will realise that what I wrote there and here was true:
Double-down on “denazify” if you want but you will still have to patiently, methodically explain what you mean because many have not understood this unexpected and antiquated term from 80 years ago.
So the problem continues: Historical distortion, obfuscation and wilful denial of what “Nazism” was, is, and might still curdle into being. And “Liberalism” – well that’s even worse! Don’t get me started on “neoliberalism”. And what’s all this nonsense about “Cultural Revolutions” being bad? And you know “propaganda “isn’t just used in ad campaigns – it has a serious political basis!
And once we solve these, then we can use “Nalis”.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His new book is called ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values’. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.