Archive | May, 2012

Lenin, Putin and The Occupy Wall Street Movement

7 May

In January 2012 as the world was debating the international “Occupy” movement, conservative pundit and New Republic contributing editor James Kirchick began his diatribe against the movement in the journal World Affairs with the following comparison:

Viewing the Occupy Wall Street movement from post-Communist Europe, I can’t stop thinking of October 1917.  This date, when the Bolsheviks seized power from the Russian Provisional Government and set in place a Communist dictatorship that would last for more than seven decades…

While Kirchick’s article is riddled with cherry-picked negative incidents- a similar method that the left used for Tea Party critiques- his first and most urgent comparison is with the Bolsheviks.  Thus, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, a term that seems obsolete still carries it’s past baggage for some people. Furthermore, framing reactions to the current economic recession through the lens of capitalism versus communism is not just a right-wing scare tactic, but actually began almost immediately in the former home of Bolshevism, the Russian Federation.

In fact, Pravda (yes it still exists) and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) were quick to illustrate the comparisons with the Bolshevik Revolution during the first few months of the economic crisis.  On 22 January 2009, the front page of Pravda featured an article titled “On the Crisis.”  Sure enough, right under the headline Lenin leads the October Revolution in his proletarian workers’ cap.  The text simply states that unemployed workers in Putin’s Russian (unemployment has reach nearly 20% in some areas) are ripe for communist revolution and calls on all concerned to attend a communist rally that was held on January 31 in Moscow.  Further down the page, a picture of pre-revolutionary Russian workers stands side by side with an image of currently unemployed Muscovites to underline the point.  In addition, the newspaper includes a flyer for the demonstration that prominently displays the clenched fists of workers.

While this comparison is fascinating to historians of Bolshevism, communism and the Soviet Union, the actual threat of a communist revolution in Putin’s Russia does not seem serious.  Communist party candidates in Russia do usually receive between 15 to 25 percent of the vote in parliamentary and presidential elections, but their constituency consists largely of older Russians who were left destitute by the free market shock therapy and privatization of the 1990’s.  Ironically for both Pravda and Kirchick, Occupy Wall Street’s Russian incarnation did not hail a new Bolshevik Revolution, but rapidly turned into an anti-Putin movement. Drawing on the examples of both the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street ,  Occupy Moscow and related groups continue to protest the undeniable political corruption and constriction of civil society under Putin.  Furthermore, these protests have not been met with condemnation, but considerable admiration from both the left and right in the West who all dread Putin’s return to the Russian presidency.

Further Reading:

Black, Phil. “Putin Returns as Russia’s President Amid Protests.” CNN, 7 May 2012.  Online at: http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/07/world/europe/russia-putin/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

Kirchick, James. “Over There: The Occupiers, Seen from Europe.” World Affairs (January/Febuarary 2012), pp., 69-76.

Korsunskaya, Darya.  “Occupy Moscow? Street Protests Over Vladimir Putin Presidency.” The Christian Science Monitor, 7 December 2011.  Online at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2011/1207/Occupy-Moscow-Street-protests-over-Vladimir-Putin-presidency

Pravda. Moscow: Communist Party of the Russian Federation, 22 January 2009.

Parfitt, Tom. “Occupy Moscow threat by protesters over Vladimir Putin’s ‘rigged vote’ in presidential election.” The Telegraph, London, 3 March 2012. Online at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/9121373/Occupy-Moscow-threat-by-protesters-over-Vladimir-Putins-rigged-vote-in-presidential-election.html

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Hitler’s Twisted Vision of a “Judeo-Bolshevik Enemy”

6 May


In The Wages of Destruction, Adam Tooze argues that Nazism can only be understood as an ideology that was the product of a “society in transition” from a relatively agricultural and “backward” country into an industrialized European power.  Hitler and the Nazis sought the ability to colonize its neighbors and alter “the European distribution of land, resources, and population” under Nazi control (196).  In order to build the Nazi empire, Hitler relied on intensive mobilization and coercion to mass all possible resources to rearm Germany and then launch overwhelming attacks on several fronts.  According to Tooze, the ideology of German racial superiority and the autarkic nature of the Nazi economy were not just wild ideas, but a serious reality that Hitler and his followers strived to achieve.  Much of Hitler’s racial angst was directed towards the Soviet Union, were both Jewish, Slavic, and other populations soon became victims of Hitler’s racial war of annihilation.

While the U.S. was a growing threat constantly on Hitler’s mind, a threat that was closer to home and immediately undermined his domination of Europe was the Soviet Union.  Moreover, Hitler specifically referred to the Soviet Union as a “ruthless Judeo-Bolshevik enemy,” thus combining his anti-Semitism with anti-Communism.  The marriage of anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism was not unique to Hitler, but he was certainly the most extreme example.  In fact, Hitler believed in an international Jewish conspiracy that bankrolled not only the “Bolshevik dictatorship,” but also Washington and London.[1]  One irony in Hitler’s abhorrence of Bolshevism was the fact that both ideologies were “undoubtedly collectivist at their core.”  After all Stalin and Hitler were both concerned with the industrialization of largely peasant societies, and both shared affinities for aspects of modernity such as Fordist production lines.  However, Hitler had no problem contrasting his vision of a superior German racial community with the “Bolshevik cult of primitivism.”[2]

Not surprisingly Hitler found plenty of time in Mein Kampf for rants against his “Judeo-Bolshevik” enemy.  Tooze eloquently summed up Hitler’s view on the Historical significance as follows:

“The essence of politics was ‘the historical struggle of nations for life’.  This had manifested itself in a succession of major clashed: Christianity and the barbarian invasion, the rise of Islam, the Reformation.  The French Revolution marked the beginning of the modern era.  Ever since, the world had been moving ‘with ever increasing speed towards a new conflict, the most extreme solution of which is Bolshevism; and the essence and goal of Bolshevism is the elimination of those strata of mankind which have hitherto provided the leadership and their replacement by worldwide Jewry’.  Compromise was impossible: ‘ A victory of Bolshevism over Germany would lead not to a Versailles Treaty, but to the final destruction , indeed to the annihilation of the German people.”[3]

With such a radical and racist view of international history, Hitler’s war plans soon had the explicit goal of preventing the “Bolshevization” of the earth by annihilating of the Jewish race in Europe.  Furthermore, Hitler not only believed in an external Bolshevik threat, but his rise to power in Germany itself was to a large extent the defeat of German communists and “agrarian Bolsheviks” who were competing with nationalists in proposing solutions to peasant discontent, land reform, and other economic ills.

In sum, the fact that he applied the term Bolshevik to both internal and external enemies is indicative of the concept’s rhetorical potency during the interwar years.  It is also worth noting that Stalin shared an equally antagonistic view of Nazi fascism and that the battle between these two ideologies was one of the major factors in the terrible methods and outcomes of the Second World War, particularly the horrific destruction of European Jewry and Slavic populations.

Further Reading:

Hirsch, Francine. Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, 2005. (For great comparisons of Bolshevik and Nazi ideologies surrounding nationalism and race)

Hitler, Adolf.  “Adolf Hitler Warns the World of the Menace of Bolshevism: Main Part of the Fuhrer’s Closing Speech, 1930’s.” A book of primary sources found in the Harry Ransom Center Book Collection.  Call no. HRCMIN 18016 BW 12.

Hitler, Adolf.  Mein Kampf.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

Tooze, Adam.  The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy.  New York: Penguin, 2007.

Waddington, Lorna Louise. Hitler’s Crusade: Bolshevism and the Myth of the International Jewish Conspiracy. New York: Tauris Academic Studies/ St. Martins Press, 2007.


[1] Tooze, 8-12.

[2] Ibid. 135.

[3] Ibid., 220.