Feb 2, 2015

Moscow conference draws fascists, neo-Confederates, U.S. leftists

For decades, some far right opponents of the U.S. empire have been trying to make common cause with leftists. They got another opportunity in December 2014 at an international conference in Moscow on the “Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multi-Polar World.” The conference was organized by the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR). Participants included U.S. leftists from the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the International Action Center (IAC) -- both of which are closely associated with the Workers World Party -- alongside Russian and Italian fascists and U.S. white nationalists from the neo-Confederate group League of the South. It’s worth looking at this convergence in some detail as it speaks to an important pitfall confronting leftists involved in anti-imperialist coalitions.

UNAC and IAC articles about the Multi-Polar World conference portrayed it as a progressive event against war, racist violence, and repression. The IAC reported, “Major themes of the discussion were the US-backed war against the people of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet Union and economic war against Russia, Venezuela and Iran, and the ongoing uprising against racism and police brutality in the United States.” Neither IAC nor UNAC mentioned that a number of far right groups were represented. UNAC did note that attendees included Israel Shamir, “a leading anti-Zionist writer from Israel,” but didn’t mention that Shamir is also a notorious antisemite.

The conference declaration was in keeping with the UNAC/IAC portrayal. It called for an international “united front against discrimination, violation of human rights, religious and racial intolerance” and condemned the “predatory foreign policy of the US and its NATO allies.” The declaration also denounced the oppression of people of color in the U.S. and demanded the release of U.S. political prisoners such as Palestinian activist Rasmia Oda, Leonard Peltier, and Mumia Abu Jamal. The declaration urged “the consolidation of the progressive part of mankind” and promised that “we will make every effort to build a multi-polar world!”

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the phrase “multi-polar world” is a major theme in the work of Aleksandr Dugin, Russia’s leading fascist theoretician, as in his 2012 book, The Theory of a Multi-Polar World. Dugin is leader of the Eurasia Party and the international Eurasianist movement; he envisions a renewed Eurasian “empire” based on authoritarianism, patriarchy, and traditional religion, in which Russians will play a “messianic” role. Dugin disavows biological racism but has called for “the rebirth of the primordial Aryan conscience.”

It’s unclear to me how close the relationship is between the Anti-Globalization Movement and Dugin, but members of the Duginist Eurasian Youth Union took part in the AGMR’s December 2014 conference and have worked with AGMR at other events.

Like Dugin, the AGMR envisions a broad alliance of political forces against U.S. imperialism, ranging from grassroots social movements to Communist Party states to right-wing dictators. The lynchpin of this alliance is Russia. The AGMR website features a list of seven “Faces of Antiglobalization,” almost all of whom are or were friendly with Putin’s government: Belorussian president Alexander Lukashenko, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Venezuela’s deceased left populist president Hugo Chavez, and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. The one outlier on the list -- and only non-state figure -- is Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, whose 1994 uprising was a pivotal event in the global justice movement’s development.

The overall position statement on the AGMR website opposes “the emerging unipolar world” – i.e., the international dominance of the United States and its allies – and “supports the full sovereignty of nation-states including the sovereignty of Russia as an independent player on the political, economic and cultural world stage.”

The AGMR position statement seems carefully designed to appeal to both leftists and rightists. For the leftish side, it criticizes “the global dominance of transnational corporations and supranational trade and financial institutions.” For the other end of the spectrum, it warns against “the attempts to impose a ‘new world order’” and the threat of “a single mega-totalitarian world state,” both of which are standard targets of right-wing conspiracy theories. AGMR also “aims to promote all aspects of the national security and traditional moral values.” (According to Interfax news service, the AGMR joined with several rightist groups in 2013 to plan a public protest against same-sex marriage outside the French embassy.)

The AGMR position statement also includes a lot of language about tolerance and self-determination, for example, “respect for other peoples and their sovereignty, value systems and lifestyles.” Such phrases appeal to both leftists and liberals, but are also favored by the neofascists of the European New Right (ENR), who have replaced traditional fascist talk of national or racial supremacy with slick appeals to “ethno-pluralism” and “biocultural diversity.” Aleksandr Dugin is the ENR’s leading representative in Russia.

On one of its web pages, AGMR also gives a hat tip to the Lyndon LaRouche network as some of the “like-minded people” from around the world who took part in conferences that laid the groundwork for the AGMR’s founding. The LaRouchites promote a quirky crypto-fascist ideology and in recent years have become increasingly aligned with the Russian government on geostrategic issues, for example echoing a pro-Russian line on the civil wars in Syria and Ukraine.

In addition to the Duginists from the Eurasian Youth Union, the December 2014 Multi-Polar World conference also included representatives of the right-wing Rodina Party (which in 2005 was barred from participating in Moscow Duma elections for inciting racial hatred against immigrants) and the Italian neofascist group Millennium, which has had a close relationship with Dugin’s organization for several years. In December 2013, AGMR head Alexander Ionov spoke at a Millennium-sponsored far right conference in Milan. 

The Multi-Polar World conference also drew representatives from Novorossiya, or New Russia, the entity in eastern Ukraine that, with Russian backing, has declared its independence from Kiev. The UNAC/IAC folks portray the Ukrainian conflict as aggression by neonazis and U.S. imperialists against the people of eastern Ukraine – utterly ignoring the Russian far rightists who are heavily involved in the eastern separatist movement, as well as the Russian government’s own expansionist aims in the region.

U.S. participants in the Multi-Polar World conference included representatives of two southern secessionist groups, the League of the South and the Texas Nationalist Movement, who promoted their own version of “self-determination.” League of the South President Michael Hill spoke at the Multi-Polar World conference and offered a report on the LS website:  
“Hill discussed The League of the South and its goal of the survival, well-being, and independence of the Southern people and how the South’s identity as an historic ‘blood and soil’ nation conflicts with the current globalist agenda of the USA regime. He emphasized the importance of The League’s work not only in preserving a particular people living on a particular land, but also its direct Southern nationalist challenge to the political, economic, and financial engine of globalism—the Washington, DC/European Union alliance.”
While the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to avoid taking positions on other political issues besides Texas independence, the League of the South is well known for its advocacy of white nationalism and Christian theocracy. Still, it’s a bit surprising to see them openly invoking the Nazi-identified phrase “blood and soil.”

The Multi-Polar World conference has drawn some criticism. In a mid-January email to the UFPJ-Activist listserv (UFPJ = United for Peace and Justice), Andrew Pollack criticized UNAC leaders’ participation in the conference. Pollack denounced the presence of U.S. white supremacists at the event and the AGMR’s involvement in homophobic activism and support for dictators Gaddafi and Assad. He also highlighted the UNAC representatives’ praise for the Putin regime, as in the following passage from UNAC co-chair Joe Lombardo’s official report on the conference:
“While in Moscow, we also watched the TV coverage of Russian president Putin giving his annual press conference…. During the press conference, Putin gave figures to show that their economy has been growing in the past year. He then addressed the question of the falling ruble. He explained that they will be able to weather the crisis but it has pushed them into a position where they need to create more diversity in their economy. This, he projects to happen within a two-year time period…

“Moscow is a modern city much like any large U.S. city. The people were dressed well, and looked healthy and cared for. We learned that many of the social benefits that existed under the Soviet Union still exist. These include free universal healthcare. For most people, college was free, and students received a stipend for their living expenses. Putin is very popular with a high approval rating among the Russian people. The people see him as a kind of populist leader.”
Pollack commented, “If only someone would tell the Russian working class how well off they are!” He concluded: “Lombardo announced that ‘The leaders of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia have expressed an interest in attending UNAC’s conference in May.’ Let’s make sure the racist scum who UNAC is playing footsie with don’t come!”

In an email reply to Pollack, Lombardo wrote that the AGMR supported gay rights and its leaders denied having joined any anti-gay demonstration. Lombardo also stated that the Multi-Polar World conference organizers strongly repudiated the views of the Texas secessionists who attended, and that the organizers’ participation in a Black Lives Matter solidarity protest at the U.S. embassy proved they oppose racism.

Maybe the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia’s extensive contacts with fascists and right-wing nationalists result from bad judgment rather than ideological affinity. Either way, their Multi-Polar World conference provided a useful service for far rightists who want to sanitize their image among liberal and leftist audiences.

Unfortunately, UNAC and IAC aren’t the only leftists willing to play along with this. Marxist academician Efe Can Gürcan, for example, recently discussed Eurasianism (specifically including Duginism) as an ideological challenge to NATO and US imperialism, but didn’t mention that Aleksandr Dugin is a fascist. When I objected, Gürcan replied that “One should not avoid potentially transformative dialogue with such movements [as Dugin’s] merely because they are not leftist or because their practices are in some areas objectionable” (Socialism and Democracy, March 2014, p. 170). As a self-delusional rationale for red-brown coalition building, this is hard to beat.

Special thanks to Michael Pugliese for pointing me to much of the information in this post, and to Andrew Pollack for permission to quote from his UFPJ-Activist memo.


Conquer TOEFL said...

"We learned that many of the social benefits that existed under the Soviet Union still exist. These include free universal healthcare. For most people, college was free, and students received a stipend for their living expenses."

LOL. They were most likely in the center of Moscow for a short amount of time, and even there you can find old people begging on the streets if you look.

Yes, universal healthcare remains(though it's being cut back drastically), but its woefully underfunded, horribly backward, and conditions in many hospitals are unsanitary.

As for free education, this is HIGHLY exaggerated, and stipends are a joke, as are the living conditions in many student hostels.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly identified Andrew Pollack as a member of Al Awda NY. In fact, he has not been a member of Al Awda NY for several years and is not a spokesperson for the organization. I apologize for the error.