Demonization of Eastern Europe

Krugman has finally lost it completely:

There have always been dark forces in Europe (as there are here). When the Berlin Wall fell, a political scientist I know joked, “Now that Eastern Europe is free from the alien ideology of Communism, it can return to its true path: fascism.” We both knew he had a point.

Really? Fascism is somehow an Eastern European thing? Because Italy, Spain and Germany are in Eastern Europe? WTF is this shit?

I’m so tired of this deranged demonization of Eastern Europe.

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18 thoughts on “Demonization of Eastern Europe”

  1. Many Americans writers (journalists, movie critics, economists — educated people who should know better) casually misuse the word “fascist” because they don’t understand its specific meaning.

    Thus, a bully like Trump is a “fascist.”
    Actor Clint Eastwood as a hard-nosed detective shooting first and asking questions later is playing a “fascist” character.
    School systems that won’t let teachers discuss creationism in their classes are “fascist.”
    Requiring voters to show photo I.D.s is a “fascist” trick.
    And I could give a thousand other examples that I’ve seen over the years.

    In Krugman’s case, he may be referring to the populist movements in countries like Hungary and Poland. In his often overwrought mind, any right-wing movement can be labeled “fascist.”

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    1. Exactly. And it drives me nuts because it empties the concept of all meaning.

      But what can I say if I know a scholar of political science who teaches about fascism for a living yet refers to Trump as a fascist in class.

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    2. “any right-wing movement can be labeled “fascist.””

      There are a couple of (very tiny) fascist groups in Poland and there was even a genuine proto-fascist party in parliament ten years ago which very quickly fell apart (and now the leader of that group has done things like help a Jewish group reclaim a synagogue).

      Politics in this part of the world can be very confusing for outsiders….

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  2. I agree that few Americans understand fascism. I’ll admit I’m one of them (an American, not a fascist). I’d appreciate it if you would explain fascism a little bit to your audience.

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    1. “I’d appreciate it if you would explain fascism a little bit.”

      I realize that you’re asking this question to Clarissa, but here’s an accurate summation:

      Fascism is a totalitarian form of government characterized by authoritarian nationalism, dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and control of industry and commerce. It came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe, first emerging in Italy during World War I before it spread to other European countries, most forcefully under Hitler and the Nazis.

      It differs markedly from”socialism,” and socialism’s vile corruption labeled “communism,” in that it doesn’t include the state ownership of the means of production and commerce. Under fascism, private property — privately-owned businesses and the means of commerce and production — are allowed, as long as they follow the dictates of the government. The Krupp industries under Hitler are a specific example.

      “Fascism,” “socialism,” and “communism” are global historical failures on a grand scale, but none of them has ever taken root in America. And they never will.

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      1. Thank you, Dreidel. What we can add to this definition is the government’s complete control over the press, strict censorship, concentration camps for groups deemed genetically inferior, the militarization of the population.

        It drives me nuts that folks who whine that a sombrero is hugely offensive and is cultural appropriation are the exact same people who appropriate the horrific suffering of the victims of fascism and call their own fat and spoiled bratty selves victims of fascism. It’s immoral.

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  3. Let me try balancing it a little…
    While applying terms like “fascism” and “Nazi” to Eastern Europe is an exaggeration, it is also true that in many Eastern European countries the mainstream is more right-wing than in the West (except in the US, especially under Trump). Unfortunately, using these words lightly interferes with any meaningful discussion about the real problem of right-wing nationalism in Eastern Europe… People just deflect arguments containing these terms too easily (see Cliff’s point “there are only tiny fascist parties in Poland”. Literally this is true, but what about those who do not call themselves fascist?). Another problem with discussing Eastern European nationalism is that there is a taboo about questioning the oppressive behaviors of those who were formerly oppressed. (This taboo most likely originates from some pseudo-liberal white man’s guilt.)
    And as everyone could see in the Former Yugoslavia, these problems do not always stay in the plane of “politician X said some offensive things about the ethnic group Y… and some lighter version of that was passed as a law”. If you were a Bosnian in Serbia or a Serbian in some non-Serbian areas, it did not help you that those trying to ethnically cleanse you were not the “real Nazis” according to the proper scientific definition.

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    1. “it is also true that in many Eastern European countries the mainstream is more right-wing than in the West ”

      Right-wing doesn’t equal fascist just like left-wing doesn’t equal communist.

      “Another problem with discussing Eastern European nationalism is that there is a taboo about questioning the oppressive behaviors of those who were formerly oppressed.”

      Who exactly sees Eastern Europeans as formerly oppressed? And has a taboo against criticizing us? And has any guilt about our history?? I’m not seeing any of that at all. I was personally called a Nazi, a fascist, and all sorts of things by Leftie passionaries because of my posts about Ukraine. I detected zero guilt and zero understanding that anybody was oppressed but them. They were clearly considering themselves oppressed by my Nazi leanings.

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      1. We have a reader on this blog who is a historian and who’s been exiled from the Western academia simply because he studies ethnic cleansing in the USSR. I read his research and it’s top-quality. Yet he’ll never find a job in the US or Europe because he studies the Crimean Tatars and the Volga Germans. And you are not allowed to notice that the USSR wasn’t perfect in Western academia. It’s that bad.

        So what are we victims of, exactly? The perfect and wonderful USSR?

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        1. OK, let’s separate the flies and the cutlets…
          How some idiots in the Western academia see Eastern Europe and the Western mainstream policies with respect to Eastern Europe are two different things. The majority of people in the West still, thank Cthulhu, believe that the Communist system was oppressive and the USSR was bad. And, as a consequence, are willing to tolerate some not so pleasant aspects of local nation-building.
          The mainstream attitude towards Eastern Europe is similar to that towards Israel, in many respects. (With the noise produced by various social justice activists not stopping military aid). Speaking of Israel, I find it very interesting how quiet they are towards the folks who fought on the German side in WWII and now claim that they fought against Communism or for their own nation-state. Guess Israelis decided that they do not need any precedent of a successful “one-state-two-ethnic-groups” emerging in Eastern Europe / FSU.
          And of course there is another important reason why meaningful discussion about Eastern European nationalism is impossible – because Putin’s Russia appropriated “antifascism”, and accuses everybody whom they do not like of “fascism” … So criticizing nationalism (of those formerly oppressed by the SU or of those being currently oppressed by Russia) is widely perceived as playing on the Krimlin’s side. And so far being on Kremlin’s side is considered a bad thing, outside of academia.

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          1. The majority of people don’t know what the USSR was and can’t tell between Estonia and Eritrea or Ukraine and Uruguay. My students have the vaguest idea of what it was and have to be told that “Soviet Union” and USSR are the same thing. These are college students in the Humanities. So let’s not exaggerate the intellectual sophistication of the masses.

            As for the leftie idiots in academia, journalism, social media – I agree, they are idiots. But they are the ones who define public discourse.

            As for the mainstream attitude to Israel, my friend, I know you lived in the US. Don’t you remember how things are? In 10 years, I found one student who knew what Israel was and had an opinion about it. Because she was from Israel! If I ask my plumber what he thinks about Israel or Ukraine, do you think he’d even understand the question? I asked our journalism students – journalism! – if they knew anything about Ukraine. Eighty people. Not a single person did. And that was in 2015 when Ukraine was on the news all the time.

            Outside of the intellectual circles, nobody is even aware of our countries, let alone has any sort of an opinion. Drat, I was on a flight with a professor from a community college on Monday and he confused Ukraine with Yugoslavia.

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            1. And what, in the name of everything holy, is this Ctulhu that everybody around me mentions all the time? I think I’m in tune with the wrong sort of masses.

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              1. Cthulhu is central figure in the mythos created by hp lovecraft, a writer I’ve never gotten (though i have nothing against supernatural fiction and lurved edgar allan poe beyond all reason as a child).

                Sometime in the 1990s I think it began being used on the internet as an all purpose diety name (I guess so that atheists had something to write instead of ‘for god’s sake’ or ‘thank god’.

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            2. Students are also stunned to discover that the US fought in the Vietnam war. The favorite question is “but why were we there if it was in Vietnam?” I now teach about the protest movements of the 1960s in the US, the anti-war movement, etc. It has nothing to do with my material but if I don’t mention it, nobody will. And I think it was kind of important. I even talk about Woodstock, bring some music in and I feel like a damn idiot. But somebody’s gotta do it because it’s fading from collective memory.

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            3. “have to be told that “Soviet Union” and USSR are the same thing”

              For very different reasons (ideological wars over the past) young Polish people know almost nothing of the communist period (it’s been left out of schools). Failed rebellions and medieval kings they know, the reality of their grandparents might as well be from the moon…

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            4. I must admit your US and particularly the humanities departments are a scary place. My US is a little better.
              At least almost every Trump supporter knows something about Israel… And asks questions about other places. Of course the way they word their questions reflects their preexisting knowledge, but questions they ask. (Did I tell you that while in Illinois I lived in the household of Trump supporters, where only the “rebel” 21-year old son believed in evolution?)

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              1. It’s absolutely true that the more politically conservative people are, the more likely they are to ask questions. The more progressive they are, the more insistently they provide answers and explanations.

                “I’m from Ukraine.”
                Trump supporter: “And how are things over there?”
                Hillary supporter: complete indifference and an uncomfortable retreat from conversation.
                Bernie supporter: a preemptive lecture on how everybody is tired of the cold war rhetoric.

                Never fails.

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