Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Are there any fascists left ?

Members of the Eustonite left (aka the ‘Decent’ left – I can’t speak for my comrades, but I have no problem with the label) are sometimes stereotyped as describing anyone and anything we don’t like as ‘fascist’. Other left-wingers, by contrast, often prefer to define ‘fascism’ so narrowly that the phenomenon virtually disappears altogether. Richard Seymour of ‘Lenin’s Tomb’, a supporter of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP), had a go at those of us who describe the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic as ‘fascist’, on the grounds that to do so ‘degrades the very concept of fascism’. Yet the SWP readily describes the British National Party (BNP) not merely as ‘fascist’, but as ‘Nazi’. When I pointed out that this was a strange inconsistency, given that by just about any measure the Milosevic regime was more fascistic than the BNP has ever been, Richard responded with a lot of bluster but without actually being able to resolve the paradox, something that did not go unnoticed. In order to defend the Islamists, Serb Chetniks, Iraqi ‘insurgents’ and other murderous chauvinists they support – or at least don’t like to oppose – from the charge of ‘fascism’, leftists like Seymour choose to reserve the ‘fascism’ label for those political parties organised by white people in Europe or in the white, English-speaking world, that are openly racist or chauvinistic and that are more hardline on race and immigration than the mainstream conservative parliamentary parties. It’s not a very intellectually satisfying definition, but functionally, it serves the purpose of the leftists in question. On this basis, Jean Marie Le Pen’s National Front (FN) in France qualifies as ‘Nazi’; the Iraqi Baathists and the Hizb ut-Tahrir do not.

In Serbia, the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) occupies a broadly similar political space to the BNP in Britain or the FN in France. Even the Western leftists most ready to apologise for Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic are generally ready to concede that the Serbian Radicals are ‘fascist’. And with good reason. Le Pen visited Serbian Radical leader Vojislav Seselj in Serbia in January 1997 to express his support:

‘Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front, met in Belgrade on 21 January with Vojislav Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, international media reported. Le Pen, who was invited by Seselj and is on a whirlwind Balkan tour, said Seselj’s party protects and defends “near enough the same things that we defend,” AFP reported.’

In April 2002, following an FN electoral success in France, Seselj congratulated Le Pen:

‘In a message of congratulations sent to Le Pen, Seselj said: “Your victory and those of the French patriots provides encouragement and immense hope for all of us, Serb patriots and other nations of Europe, who are caught in the claws of internationalism and seek to win freedom and the right to a better future,” the Tanjug news agency reported.’

In 1989, Seselj visited the US and was awarded the honourary title of ‘Vojvoda’ (warlord) by Momcilo Djujic, President of the ‘Movement of Chetniks of the Free World’. Djujic, whom Seselj revered, was a former commander of the Nazi-collaborationist Chetnik movement; his forces had literally fought alongside the Nazis and Croatian Ustashas against Tito’s Partisans in World War II. No mere opportunistic collaborator, Djujic was an ideological fascist-sympathiser and anti-Semite. A recent Serbian biographer of Djujic has this to say about him: ‘During 1944 Momcilo Djujic was in contact with Milan Nedic, the president of the government of Serbia. Of him, Djujic spoke only good words. He deemed that Nedic, along with Ljotic and Dragoljub Mihailovic, are doing the same work for the Serb nation, but each in his own way.’ (Veljko Dj. Djuric, ‘Vojvoda Djujic’, Belgrade, 1998, p. 49). Nedic was the Nazi-quisling Serbian leader who served Hitler directly and who helped implement the Holocaust. Ljotic was the Serbian fascist leader, whose Serbian Volunteer Corps formed part of the Nazi SS during 1944. Mihailovic was the Chetnik commander, therefore Djujic’s leader. In my book Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia, I cite a proclamation by Djujic, in which he denounces the Yugoslav Communist leaders as ‘paid Jews’ and ‘Communist Jews’, whom Djujic and his fellow Chetnik leaders pledged to ‘crush’ (p. 162). This, then, was the heritage to which Seselj and his supporters subscribed from the start. During the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, Seselj and the Radicals organised a militia called the ‘Chetniks’, after the Nazi-collaborationist militia of World War II. Seselj’s Chetniks were under Yugoslav military command during the assault on Bosnia, and were centrally involved in ethnic-cleansing operations.

Seselj and the Radicals are, therefore, fascists who I hope would satisfy even the Richard Seymour definition of the term. Be this as it may, given the current evolution that the ‘anti-imperialist’ left is currently undergoing, it was only a matter of time before, here in the West, someone on ‘the Left’ came out in defence of Seselj and the Radicals. This is what the Irish left-wing blogger Splintered Sunrise does. He posted a comment on Seymour’s blog last January, questioning whether it was appropriate to call the Serbian Radicals fascist: ‘I’ve no doubt that Seselj is a nasty piece of work. But the term “fascism” has a definite meaning, and while I’ve heard lots of leftists call the SRS fascist, I’ve never heard a substantial case made for this. And I’m not defending SRS ideology either, but maybe it’s worth looking at what they say they stand for before pontificating about what they stand for. The trouble is, this stuff isn’t readily available to people who don’t understand Serbian, so Western leftists have to rely on agents of imperialism like Sonja Biserko for their factoids.’ (NB you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the comments box to read this).

This week, Splintered Sunrise offers a measured endorsement of Seselj’s Radicals: ‘I’m not exactly an ideological soulmate of the SRS, and the party contains a lot of, shall we say, colourful characters that people worrying about their respectability might like to avoid. So why do I find myself warming slightly to these fuckers? Mostly, I have to say, this is down to spite. And very largely it’s down to the Empire’s definition of “democracy”, which acquires a specialist meaning when it comes to Serbia. “Democracy” in this context means that the Radicals must never be allowed to form a government no matter how many votes they get.’ Which is to say, Splintered Sunrise sympathises with the Serbian Radicals because they are ‘anti-imperialist’. Of Seselj’s deputy, the acting Radical leader Tomislav Nikolic, currently contesting the Serbian Presidential elections, Splintered Sunrise has this to say: ‘Nikolić is no pearl of great price to say the least, but he has one thing going for him. That is that he isn’t a surrender monkey, which is why the Powers have determined he can’t be allowed to win. More to the point, there is an alternative programme on offer to simply going along with Washington and Brussels. Nikolić is nowhere near as stridently anti-EU as he used to be, but his support for national sovereignty and his call for closer ties with Russia and other countries that don’t regard Serbia as the Heart of Darkness has a lot of resonance.’

Of course, Hitler wasn’t a ‘surrender monkey’ either. And it won’t be Splintered Sunrise who’ll pay the price for his ‘spite’: in an ‘anti-imperialist’ Serbia kept out of the EU, it’ll be the ordinary Serbian citizens who’ll be denied the benefits in the field of work, travel and education that EU membership would bring. There’s no economic or material hardship our ‘anti-imperialists’ are unwilling to impose on the Serbian or Iraqi people in the cause of opposing the US. Also notable is Splintered Sunrise’s resistance to the labelling of Seselj and the Radicals as ‘fascist’, but simultaneous readiness to label the brave human-rights activist Sonja Biserko as an ‘agent of imperialism’. This is very much in the tradition of the late Gerry Healy, a Trotskyist leader in Britain who much preferred Saddam Hussein to Iraqi left-wingers, so much so that he was ready to inform on them to the Iraqi authorities, from which he received money. Indeed, the resemblance between the politics of Healy and Splintered Sunrise may not be coincidental…

Splintered Sunrise is not a serious blogger. He uses words like ‘Stalinophobic’ [in the comments] and ‘imperialised’. The meaning of ‘Stalinophobic’ is all too self-evident; ‘imperialised’ apparently means ‘made subordinate to imperialism’. No doubt James Joyce would have been proud. He frequently posts titillating pictures of lad-mag models on his blog, which also links to pornographic websites, and he muses on masturbation and female pubic hair. The combination of Red-Brown politics, sleaze and personal nastiness that characterises his site is highly distasteful.

In short, someone not worth mentioning, were it not for the fact that he has made it onto the blogroll of numerous left-wing blogs, some of them ones that I have time for. Now, I appreciate that putting someone on one’s blogroll doesn’t mean one agrees with everything they say. But surely, when someone is a fascist sympathiser by any definition of the term, then a line should be drawn ? Is it really defensible to publicise fascist or racist websites, simply because one finds them interesting or informative ?

Unfortunately, there are many on the left who regard it as a provocation even to ask such questions. While not themselves fascist sympathisers, such leftists are 1) ready to turn a blind eye to the powerful (I would say dominant) pro-fascist currents in the ranks of the radical left; and 2) liable to get extremely upset when anyone points out the increasing influence of such currents within the left, as I have discovered. If one raises the issue, one risks being labelled a class traitor, McCarthyite, neocon or such like. This is because the radical-left mindset depends upon a sense of moral superiority in relation to the existing liberal-capitalist order. Question this sense of moral superiority; suggest that perhaps the liberal-capitalist mainstream might actually be morally superior to a left that embraces pro-fascist currents; and you threaten the leftists’ very identity. It’s a bit like telling a devoutly religious person that the God they’ve worshipped all their life is an evil God.

Well comrades, you can have your broad-church united left. Or you can have your moral high-ground. But you can’t have both.

Thursday, 24 January 2008 - Posted by | Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, Red-Brown Alliance, Serbia, The Left


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