By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia
Putin’s Russia manifests in one way or another all of the 14 signs of “eternal fascism” Umberto Eco has outlined, “from the cult of tradition, the rejection of modernism, and reliance on historical traumas to the ideas of international and domestic conspiracy, and a cult of death,” according to Igor Yakovenko.
But it is distinctive from 20th century models of fascist regimes in “about 20 ways,” the Russian commentator said in a December 26 talk to the Parnas Political University in Moscow, of which seven are the most important (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C27592F3D167). They include the following:
- The absence of ideology and as a result the absence of propaganda. “The Putin media are not only not journalism but also not propaganda … They are weapons of an information war. They do not disseminate information and ideas: their product is feelings and emotions, including hatred, anger, and aversion to the West, Ukraine and the opposition. And love for Putin.”
- It is parasitic on the West. Putinism relies on economic and technological resources created by the West. That makes it very different from the USSR or Nazi Germany, “Parasitic fascism” does not have plans for “the seizure of the planet.” Were it to do so, Yakovenko argues, it would immediately “die” as a system.
- It uses ‘spider’ wars which seek to exhaust opponents by spider-like attacks on its neighbors and the destruction of its opponents from the inside. All of Putin’s wars “bear a ‘spider’ character.” That is, they seek to kill the organism they are attacking and then consume it once it is dead.
- Lies are the foundation of the regime and information forces are the most important weapons it has. In the fascist regimes of the 20th centuries, military force was predominant and propaganda played a supportive role. In Putin’s regime, the reverse is true.
- Putin’s fascism bears “a fake character.” It professes to be anti-Western but its “children and money are in the West;” and it claims to be a democracy but in fact is the most brutal of dictatorships. The Stalinist and Hitlerite elites also lived “not in complete correspondence with their ideologies, but the Putin elite lives by rules which directly oppose those it declares as the norms for the population.” It is thus, to use Yekaterina Schulmann’s, term, “’a reverse cargo cult.’”
- Putinism in contrast to 20th century fascism seeks the unlimited enrichment of its elites, either via corruption or economic machinations.
- Putinism is fascism with nuclear weapons, which makes it more dangerous because it is in a position, however weak otherwise, to inflict unacceptable damage on its opponents.
According to Yakovenko, the Putin regime will inevitably lose because it is fascist “and fascism always loses.” Putin himself has accelerated this process by destroying the previous social contract with the population, by breaking the agreement with the elite for wealth in return for loyalty, and by destroying cooperation with the West via aggression.
Four categories of people oppose the Putin regime: the politically active emigres, the supporters of street protests, the supporters of elections, and those who cooperate up to a point with the regime but ultimately oppose it like Kudrin. Unfortunately, for success, they need to cooperate but each of them dislikes the others more than it dislikes the Putin regime.
That makes the direct cooperation of the four “impossible,” Yakovenko says. But success may come if they appreciate the need for all four, and each acts so as to not interfere with the others even if it can’t cooperate with them. That is a real possibility if all understand what they are up against, the commentator concludes.
By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia