For reasons that would take a book to explain, many Westerners have always been drawn to various types of Russian fascism.
The international Bolshevik variety attracted the left end of the political spectrum, those Lenin accurately called ‘useful idiots’. Yet not all of Lenin’s Western supporters were fools. Some were knaves.
G.B. Shaw was both, which he proved by summing up the prevailing Fabian sentiments in a 1931 Moscow speech:
“It is a real comfort to me, an old man, to be able to step into my grave with the knowledge that the civilisation of the world will be saved… It is here in Russia that I have actually been convinced that the new Communist system is capable of leading mankind out of its present crisis, and saving it from complete anarchy and ruin.”
Having failed to save civilisation, Russia has switched to national fascism, otherwise known as Putinism. That too is never short of Western fans, and the Internet is bursting with girlish gasps unbecomingly issued by men:
“Putin is popular with his people… 86% approval… looks after his own people… a real Christian…” well, you can look up those panegyrics yourself, along with the offerings by some impeccably conservative columnists.
Most of these people aren’t knaves, and some aren’t even fools. Yet they tropistically reach out for Putin’s brand of fascism, desperately hoping to find there the kind of virtues they don’t see in their own governments.
One can understand their frustration. What’s difficult to comprehend is the ease with which they abandon their principles and override their reason.
Surely, for example, they must realise that the much-vaunted 86% approval rating is meaningless, for two reasons.
First, in a country where the government controls the media, approval ratings testify not to the government’s support but to the efficacy of its propaganda. Thus Romania’s dictator Nicolae Ceausescu polled 97% – two days before he was shot out of hand to the accompaniment of wild public jubilation.
The second reason is less obvious, at least to non-Russians. The country’s population has retained the genetic memory of 60 million people murdered for opposing the regime or – in Lenin’s brilliant addition to jurisprudential thought – “capable of opposing” it.
This second category could conceivably include everybody, and everybody lived in terror. Now imagine their descendants receiving a phone call from a stranger who asks a pointed question: “Do you support Putin or not?”
Putin, as everyone knows, is a career officer in the KGB, the same organisation that massacred most of the 60 million. It’s now running the country and, though it’s less murderous at the moment, genetic memory plays up and most people say ‘yes’ just in case.
That’s not to deny that some genuinely support Putin. But then Russia is entitled to have her fair share of idiots too, along with people particularly susceptible to brainwashing – and believe me, Putin’s propaganda puts to shame anything I remember from my youth under Brezhnev.
There goes that bogus statistic, to be replaced by real ones. Such as the rapidly accelerating death rate, with a 5.2% rise in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2014.
The increase is mostly driven by those aged 35 to 40. About 70% of those deaths are caused by alcohol (and 40% of babies dying before age one are crushed to death by their drunken mothers), and happy people seldom drink themselves to death.
Nor do they usually kill themselves. Yet suicide is another important factor, with some parts of Siberia showing three times the rate defined as critical by the WHO.
Putin’s care for his people obviously doesn’t include cancer patients, most of whom are denied opiate analgesics and, unable to tolerate the agony, kill themselves en masse. Those free of malignancies go the same route out of sheer hopelessness.
I mentioned the other day that 23 million Russians live below the poverty line of about £100 a month. Now it has been reported that the region of Kostroma (a city of almost 300,000 not far from Moscow) subsists on a average income of £187 a month – not nearly enough to eat regularly.
All this explains why Russian men’s life expectancy is a year lower than in Rwanda, although I don’t know how many Rwandans support their president Paul Kagame.
However, as Putin’s hacks boast, the Russians lead the world by a wide margin in spirituality. Hard to see what options those poor people have, although it’s noticeable that those who manage to get to the West instantly become as materialistic as everyone else.
Facts will never rid people of their superstitions, of which this irrational adoration of Putin is one. However, I can confidently predict that, when Putin is overthrown, no one in Russia, including the notorious 86%, will bat an eyelid – as no one did when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Heroic dissidents used to risk their lives unfurling anti-Soviet posters in Moscow squares – yet no one protested in 1991, when doing so was safe. Neither will they protest when Putin goes, and his Western fans will have to seek another figurehead as an object of their fascistic cravings.