The other day I suggested that, when political opposites attract, they aren’t really opposites. Even if there’s something that separates them, what unites them is much weightier.
For example, back in the 1930s the Left were taken aback by the ease with which German ex-communists were joining the SA and SS. Since communism was to them commendably left-wing, Nazism had to be right-wing by default. So how come?
They didn’t realise that there exists kinship that transcends political tags. Hence communism and Nazism can converge with each other much more naturally than either could converge with conservatism, which is also misleadingly called right-wing.
(On this subject, I’d suggest the book Diary of a Man in Despair by Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, the aristocratic German conservative murdered by the Nazis in the last days of the war. I find it the most moving and incisive account of that time in Germany.)
Mussolini, who had a vast experience of both national and international socialism, understood this perfectly. He wrote at some time in the ‘30s that Russian communism had developed into “a kind of Slavic fascism” – and he was right.
Communist slogans had been downgraded to the level of meaningless mantras, and during the war Stalin largely abandoned them.
Coming to the fore instead were patriotic slogans borrowed from the Russian Empire. Generalissimo Suvorov, who until then had been described in Soviet encyclopaedias as “a lackey to imperialism” and in general evil incarnate, was suddenly hailed as a great Russian hero and had a medal named after him.
Millions of Russian soldiers, few of them untouched by murderous purges and famines, had refused to fight for communism in the first months of the war. But they were successfully rallied under the banners of Holy Russia and motherland.
Even the church (ROC) was invited on the bandwagon – this though at least 40,000 priests had been brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks. It was at that time, incidentally, that the ROC hierarchy became in effect an NKVD department, remaining in that role through multiple changes in that organisation’s name, all the way to today’s FSB.
If you compare Soviet and Nazi propaganda of that time, you’ll see the difference in language but not in substance. And even if you understand neither language, a quick look at the two sides’ posters, sculptures, paintings, films and architecture will tell you everything there’s to know.
Had Stalin lived another year, the world would even have been treated to another Final Solution to the Jewish problem, putting to bed forever any notions of irreconcilable differences between ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’.
Whatever positive goals red and brown extremists inscribe on their banners, their negative animus is identical: visceral hatred (as opposed to constructive criticism) of the West, the urge to reshape it in their own image. The sides may be different, but the coin is the same.
Hence it’s instructive to see how British extremists at both ends converge in their affection for Putin’s Russia.
Discounting transparent trolls of the kind who inundate my e-mail with their cretinous messages, both extremes are driven not so much by rational arguments in favour of Putin’s kleptofascism as by visceral sympathy for a hard man putting his foot down – whomever he puts it down on.
If I were a Freudian, I’d probably go off on a tangent trying to ascribe this sympathy to homoerotic attraction. But I’m not, so I won’t.
Yet it’s clear that adoration (latent or otherwise) of Putin reaches the depths simple statements of political affiliation can’t reach. And the KGB colonel knows how to cultivate such deep feelings, even if he knows little of anything else.
(For all his bogus degrees, Putin is staggeringly ignorant. For example, the other day he misquoted Count von Münnich, General-Field Marshal in the eighteenth-century Russian army. Münnich quipped that “The Russian state has an advantage over others in that it is run directly by God. Otherwise it is impossible to explain how it exists.”
This Putin twisted to dismiss the sarcasm and claim that Russia is God’s own country. In the process, he ignorantly referred to Münnich as ‘Marshal’, a rank that didn’t exist in the Russian Empire.)
All this explains why Jeremy Corbyn, who isn’t a communist only in the most technical of senses, joins forces with our fascisoid hard Right in his adulation of Putin.
In this my friend Jeremy displays a greater understanding of Putin’s Russia than they do. They justify their love for the evil KGB thug by claiming Putin’s Russia isn’t at all like the Soviet Union. Jeremy loves Putin because he senses it is.
In that spirit he accuses those who object to Putin’s use of WMD to murder British subjects on British soil of “McCarthyite intolerance of dissent”.
It sounded like a spiritualist séance: suddenly the spirit of Tail Gunner Joe came wafting into the room enveloped in the usual fog of lies.
McCarthy, for all his well-documented flaws, wasn’t intolerant of dissent. He was intolerant of communists in high places, where they could both spy and shape public opinion. Specifically, he went after known communists in the State Department, show business and later the army.
That earned him the eternally undying hatred of the Jeremy Corbyns of this world, except, with all that time elapsing, they’ve changed their tack. They used to scream that good people were accused of being communists. Now they scream that good communists were accused of being communists.
After all, all those Rosenbergs, Hammetts and Hisses were ‘idealists’, and idealism expiates all sins – including doing the bidding of the most carnivorous state in history.
“The Salisbury attack is appalling,” allowed Jeremy. “But we must avoid a drift to conflict.” Allow me to translate: we should invite Putin to murder with impunity whomever he likes. My Putin trolls doubtless feel the same way.