The idea that the pro-Western Ukrainian government is actually some kind of front for neo-fascist/neo-Nazi forces of darkness has been assiduously flogged by the Russian propaganda machine from the start of the conflict and has also been flogged by the Putin regime’s Western supporters. It still has currency on fringe anti-Western sites, partly aided by the fact that there really are some unsavory, ultranationalist, and in some cases neo-Nazi elements among the paramilitary groups involved in the Ukrainian government’s military operation against the insurgency. (Needless to say, the insurgency and the need to fight it helps empower those marginal elements.)
Of course, the people who profess to be very concerned with the fascist problem in Ukraine tend to ignore the well-documented involvement of Russian ultranationalists, neo-fascists, and neo-Nazis in the pro-Russian insurgency in Eastern Ukraine. I’ve written on this issue more than once.
And now the latest: Pavel Gubarev, the former “People’s Governor” of Donetsk and one of the earliest separatist leaders to gain prominence, bragged on his Facebook page the other day about a “real Italian fascist” joining the rebel cause to fight against “the wrong kind of Nazis — the pro-American ones.” Gubarev himself is, as I have written, a longstanding member of Russia’s neo-Nazi “Russian National Unity” movement, which has a lovely logo and equally lovely uniforms:
Anyway, Slon.ru, an independent Russian online magazine, interviewed Gubarev a few days ago about a lot of issues related to the insurgency, including the “real Italian fascist.” There’s a write-up in Moscow News, but that part of the interview is so darkly hilarious it deserves to be reproduced in full.
Slon.ru: Speaking of history: the entire patriotic movement in Novorossiya, the “Russian Spring,” uses a lot of references to the Great Patriotic War and the war against fascism. At the same time, just the day before yesterday, you wrote on your Facebook page about a “real Italian fascist” who is fighting for the Donetsk Republic. How do these things fit together?
Gubarev: Fascism — you have to understand, it’s not the same as Nazism of some sort. In Italy, there’s a fascist-like … well, all right, a fascist party. It’s a normal party, not some sort of fringe one. A normal fascist party. And so he’s a member of that party. He says, “They’re the wrong kind of fascists, pro-American ones, and I’m the right kind, anti-American.” So which side should he be fighting on? And so he’s fighting, side by side with anti-fascists, against those he considers a common enemy.
Slon.ru: Still, it doesn’t really seem to make sense. Even [insurgent leader Igor] Strelkov’s recent statement said that “our goal is to join our forces in the struggle against fascism.” Yet here you are talking about “the right kind of fascist.” In Russia, the word “fascist” always has negative connotations.
Gubarev: Come on, you work for an intellectual publication, you shouldn’t treat the word “fascist” as a label. It’s not a label — it’s a term that has meaning.
Slon.ru: And what does it mean to you?
Gubarev: It means fasci, a bundle. It’s Italian socialism, people’s socialism.
Slon.ru: I get all that, but…
Gubarev: In Europe, if you’ve been there, the word “fascist” has no negative connotations. It’s the word “Nazi” that does.
Slon.ru: And yet on our TV, they keep saying that it’s the Kiev junta that’s run by fascists, by fascist thugs.
Gubarev: Oh, you know what, stop getting me all confused. I’ve already told you everything.