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Putin's Men in Athens
How Putin Unites Europe’s Extremes

Leaked e-mails showing an extensive correspondence between the newly elected leaders of Greece and prominent figures in Vladimir Putin’s circle in Russia grabbed the attention of the Western media last week. And those emails were explosive, demonstrating how chief Syriza figures were running policy memos by ideologue Aleksandr Dugin and oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, both of whom are tightly connected to Putin. The revelation raised raises serious questions about Greece’s reliability as a NATO and EU member under its new government.

But more than that, the e-mails shed valuable light on how Putin manages to unite both the far left and far right in Europe. As Radio Free Europe reports:

At the end of May 2014, Dugin and Malofeyev hosted representatives of these movements — including Syriza — at a secret conference in Vienna, according to media reports.

At that meeting, researcher Shekhovtsov says, Dugin and Malofeyev “met with representatives of the Austrian Freedom Party, of Bulgarian Ataka, of the French Front Nationale. All of these are far-right parties.”

But Syriza isn’t far-right—in fact, it’s usually described as far-left. This gives an important window into Putin’s appeal in Europe. He speaks simultaneously in the language of anti-capitalism and ethnic grievance-mongering. In some ways, Putin is actually healing an artificial breach in European extremist politics that was created by Stalin in the 1930s for tactical reasons: the labeling of fascist groups as “far right” and polar opposites to the “far left” Communists. Both groups stood in opposition to liberal capitalism, favoring instead high degrees of central planning on national lines.

What Russia holds out to the disaffected of Europe, particularly southern Europe, isn’t an offer of monetary support (Putin probably would like it to be, but Russia’s broke, too). Instead, it’s an offer of sympathy with those who, rightly or wrongly, think the liberal-capitalist order has hosed them. Appeals to both ethnic pride and a more “sympathetic” way of managing the economy have a long history in the Med, and Brussels and Washington risk missing this element of Putin’s strategy at their peril.

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  • Curious Mayhem

    The origins of terms like “far right” and “far left,” as we’ve used them since 1945, started with the Dreyfus Affair, although the French left largely sat that one out. The Dreyfusards were almost all from liberal middle-class parties and the anticlerical wing of the French officer corps. The French left stuck with the line that “bourgeois justice” had nothing to do with them. But the myth grew up after World War One that the Dreyfusards were leftists, revolutionaries, and “anti-fascists,” which was not at all the case. Emile Zola, the first major Dreyfusard, joked that Dreyfus’ supporters initially could all fit in his living room, which was probably not far from the truth.

    The mythology in its current form solidified in the late 1930s, with Stalin’s Popular Front, an attempt (a vain one, as it turned out) to unite middle-class parties and the Left in an “anti-fascist” alliance. That disintegrated with the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, which made World War Two possible — indeed, the war broke out less than two weeks later, when Hitler invaded Poland, followed a couple weeks later by Stalin. In the end, the Popular Front was simply a vehicle for Stalin’s foreign policy, which shifted away from making common cause with the Western democracies against fascism to making common cause with fascism against democratic states. Only Hitler’s invasion of Soviet Russia saved the myth of “anti-fascism.”

    A while back, Jonah Goldberg wrote a fine book on this linguistic sleight-of-hand, called Liberal Fascism. He traced the way that that American liberals and leftists continue to smear “conservative” parties in the Anglo-American world — parties that are largely individualist, limited-government, and “liberal” in the classical sense — with labels like “far right” or “fascist.” In reality, they never had anything to do with one another. As Goldberg documents, the socialist-tinged “new” or “progressive” liberalism of the early 20th century, the ancestor of what Americans today call “liberalism,” has a great deal in common with fascism, especially as practiced in Italy. Being much more statist, it represented a real break with 19th-century liberal politics.

    The problem with American liberalism today is, not that it’s fascist, but that it keeps pursuing generally liberal ends with statist means, which keep backfiring. That’s the burdensome legacy of the early 20th-century “progressive” era — the “imperial presidency,” rogue “independent” government agencies — combined with the Democratic party’s roots in corrupt machine and ethnic-ghetto (or “identity”) politics. No one before 1914 would have labeled such politics “liberal,” and the label was not so consistently applied before the 1940s or 50s.

    In the rest of the world, “liberal” is still generally used in its older and correct sense, meaning rule of law, limited government, free markets, and so on. American liberals left that behind decades ago.

    • Big Bad Vodoo Daddy

      Bla bla bla bla bla bla. Nice whataboutism. Stick to the subject matter you kremlin troll. Its not about America or your mind’s view of fascism in America. This is about Russia stoking fires in the west to create disunity to fragment European politics and the EU itself. Go back to kindergarten clown, as it seems you haven’t learned anything.

      • Tom

        I think you are confused. Curious Mayhem is fairly anti-Putin, and is being so here, pointing out the similarities of our current “right” and “left.” Furthermore, his knowledge of history seems to surpass yours, since he understand the knock-on effects of historical decisions.

        • Big Bad Vodoo Daddy

          You have no idea what I know or don’t know, so don’t pretend to know me. Looking at your comments and his over time, and the upticks makes me question the veracity of your statement. Besides, anyone quoting Jonah Goldberg as source and combining “liberalism” and “fascism” is a joke, just like you. The subject is about Russia and if you don’t realize what curious mayhem is doing here then you are his accomplice. I have no patience for Kremlin trolls or people who defend them. Ot Thay Bis Gopnik. You don’t belong here.

          • Tom

            Mac, I’ve been posting here longer than you have. If anyone doesn’t belong here, it’s you.
            That having been said, I really don’t know what on earth you are talking about. Not one Russian troll has ever upvoted him or me, and both of us, when we bother to engage on those threads, attack them, not Ukrainians.

            Therefore, the joke’s on you.

        • Curious Mayhem

          Why, thank you (as he peels off the rotten tomatoes …)

    • Andrew Allison

      Great comment. Far-left and -right are simply attempts to demonize those with whom one disagrees (a problem to which TAI has shown itself susceptible). Liberal Fascism ( is a must-read for anybody wishing to understand the inherent fascism of the American left.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Any country which is experiencing a 21st-century widening of the wealth gap between its very wealthy citizens and most others has been “hosed” by capitalism. Unfortunately, this effect has occurred and is occurring in most of the countries. The solution is not communism. The solution is broad agreement across societies to maintain substantial progressive income and estate taxes WHILE letting free-enterprise work its magic. If “westerners” cannot marshal enough courage to speak this common sense to the populations, we may find substantial segments of the populations who prefer to listen to the likes of Putin, or even Islam. You cannot plan to just leave masses of people in an economic mess and expect anything but a political mess—-anywhere.

    • John H Newcomb

      Agree that income inequality is problematic but Putin’s Russia might not be a good example of progressive income distribution:
      – “Russia among world leaders in terms of income inequality”:

      • FriendlyGoat

        Indeed, which is one of the many reasons the Russian people need to replace him.

        • Andrew Allison

          You are, for once, correct. It’s the Russian people who need to replace him; but given that his approval rating is 85%, that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Meanwhile, as in Greece and elsewhere, it’s the proletariat who will suffer for the sins of their rulers.

    • Andrew Allison

      Your blinders cause you to overlook the hosing of Russians by Putin and his oligarch buddies, a hosing which makes the hosing brought about by QE look amateurish.

  • John H Newcomb

    Opposing radical camps are agreeing how to divvy up support for Putin’s internal and international policies: Marxists beat up on capitalist roader neo-liberals while far-right smash gays, Jews, Muslims, feminists.

    Syriza’s “red fascism” is nothing to new to Anton Shekhovtsov, who has been researching radical right in Ukraine and Russia and now sees convergence between the two opposing radical camps.
    – Syriza’s neo-fascist friends from Russia:
    – “Putin’s useful idiots and little ribbentrops in Europe”:

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