The Attraction of Far Right Groups to Putin
More than 40 Syrian rebel factions have condemned the Russian involvement in a war that almost brought President Bashar al-Assad a "crushing defeat”. The United States views the Russian bombing of CIA-backed rebel forces as an intentional act.
Nor can Russia stop 'volunteers' fighting in pro-Assad ranks. For some, this is a continuation of an old alliance. Russia’s ties with Syria deepened when the Soviet Union forged a militaryalliance with Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez. As Charles Lister argued “Russia's claim that its forces are there only to target Islamic State should be taken with a large grain of salt”.
In spite of this continued crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to draw support from the British far-right. Britain First wrote "We say well done Russia and good luck!" when news of the first airstrikes broke.
The party accepts the Russian narrative without question – including the annexation of Crimea. Britain First extends a measure of support to Assad’s regime as a buffer against the competing totalitarianism of ISIS.
A recent pro-Assad Facebook post read "TYRANTS DON'T VOLUNTARILY OFFER TO STEP DOWN. ASSAD HAS BEEN FIGHTING ISIS AND AL-NUSRA FROM DAY ONE. THE WEST'S ACTIONS IN SYRIA HAVE ONLY FACILITATED TERRORISM".
In the Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argued that totalitarian ideologies seek “the transformation of human nature itself”. Jasmine Roman observed this transformation in Syria when writing for The National in Australia.
In recent weeks, Britain First has used its online echo chamber to promoteRussianintervention in Syria. Fascist movements seek consensus by exploiting a fear of difference. Facebook allows consensus to grow through 'likes,' which pushes pro-Putin or extreme messages upwards. The 'asynchronicity' of the online world helps individuals steer discussions towards toxic disinhibition. This toxicity often drowns out alternative voices.
But this pro-Putin stance is not born from a violent desire to eradicate ISIS. Britain First published an article in July headlined "Vladimir Putin: the man who could save the west?”
Putin's moralistic anti-Western rhetoric mirrors that of the Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, who warned that “Having lost our bond with God and the Christian tradition, mankind has been morally blinded, gripped by materialism, irrationalism and nihilism”.
Ur-Fascist psychology requires a plot to ensure supporters feel besieged and threatened. That threat concerns Islam and multiculturalism. Under Ur-Fascism the only uniting social privilege is that of the nation state. Yet, Christianity transcends any traditional notion of the nation state. A fusion of religion and nationalism creates a pan-European identity for the far-right. It must also appeal to racist and xenophobic sentiments. Hence why Britain First argue that:
"the biggest problem for our western, leftwing elites, hell bent as they are on imposing “multiculturalism” on Europe and North America, is a patriotic Christian Russia still existing when the fabric of our societies is destroyed by immigration and Islamification".
Britain First believe that “Putin and Russia will be a major source of help when civil strife breaks out in Europe”.
The British National Party (BNP) took a similar line last year: "The anti-British, anti-Christian, wealth obsessed elites and Establishment apparatchiks that rule us, hate Christianity and Christians. But most of all they hate Russian Putin because he is a tough, strong, God-fearing Christian - and because he stopped a gaggle of Zionist oligarchs from looting Russia".
At a far-right conference in March of this year, Jim Dowson, who founded and later quit Britain First, praised Putin's hyper-masculinity. He told the audience in St Petersburg that “Obama and America — they’re like females! They’re feminized men. You have been blessed by a man who is a man! And we envy that.”
The ex-leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, also attended the conference. He argued that "the survival of Christendom" is "impossible without the rise of the Third Rome: Moscow". Other attendees included representatives from Forza Nuova in Italy, Gold Dawn in Greece, and the German neo-Nazi NPD.
Participants later signed a resolution which took a pro-Kremlin line on NATO and the Ukraine. The resolution also stated that "every effort will be made to protect our conservative values, that are based on Christian traditions and the common ideals of humanism".
In a separate pro-Putin article, Britain First lifted large chunks of text from to the Washington Times. The final paragraph read "All hail Mother Russia, the new beacon of nationhood and Christianity!"
Others have documented the pro-Kremlin connections of various European far-right parties.
Eco understood that the cult of heroism underpins Ur-Fascism. For the European far-right, Vladimir Putin embodies this heroism. He remains their hyper-masculine, moral, cultural and patriotic vanguard against Islam.