The Russians are Coming

But Aren’t They Already Here?

Who are the Russian oligarchs or wannabe oligarchs? Slavoj Zizek’s description is particularly apt:

The so-called oligarchs in Russia and other ex-communist countries are a bourgeois counterpart to what Marx called the lumpen-proletariat: an unthinking cohort susceptible to political manipulation because its members have no class consciousness or revolutionary potential of their own. Unlike the proletariat, however, the lumpen-bourgeoisie who emerged in these countries from the late 1980s onward control capital – lots of it – thanks to wild ‘privatization’ of state-owned assets.

Their brainpans rotting from toxic reservoirs of liquid wealth, they never dream of living naked inside the vast steel vaults of the luxury industry, counting the gold bars and stroking their fingers through trays of diamonds, like, say, Donald Trump. That’s because they already own those vaults! They have proven that oligarchic military imperialism has just as many perks as Western capitalism and that you don’t have to live in the West to have your own jumbo billboard ads or to own a garage filled with exotic cars. But the oligarchs are worried. They have what appears to be their own participatory anxiety over the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy that they borrowed from paranoid Western White people featured on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News specials (Russians love Tucker): that Europe is populating Russia – not physically but ideologically – with citizens longing for democracy and a voice in their own affairs. Just look at those protesters on the streets of Moscow! Let’s triple their sentences! And they are getting the idea that they can think for themselves through the example of Ukraine (do they fear an unrestrained Ukraine might go ‘woke’?). But, the oligarchs bleat, it’s a democracy that has merged with what they call ‘Ukronazism,’ or Ukrainian Nazism, which apparently is a greater threat to the world than Hitler’s Nazism. An op-ed published on RIA Novosti by Russian state media (one of the three largest news agencies in Russia that have a mass circulation) by journalist and Kremlin-aligned political operative Timofey Sergeytsev claimed that ‘Ukronazism’ is a greater threat to the world than Hitler’s Nazi Party and called for a complete Russian takeover of the entire country of Ukraine, including its culture. And for a brutal retribution against the people of Ukraine for those who refuse to kiss Putin’s ring. Sergeytsev also remarked ‘that in peacetime it would be necessary to “achieve irreversible changes” and that forced labour, the death penalty and imprisonment would be used as punishment against the “accomplices of the Nazi regime.”’ He made more bold assertions:

The writer also claimed that the ‘majority’ of Ukrainians are ‘passive Nazis, accomplices of Nazism,’ saying that they ‘are also guilty’ and that they ‘must survive the hardships of the war and assimilate the experience as a historical lesson and atonement for [their] guilt…. The writer called for those who took up arms during the Russian invasion of Ukraine to be ‘destroyed to the maximum,’ saying no significant distinction should be made between the formal military and civilians who took up arms to protect themselves against Russian invaders. ‘All of them are equally involved in extreme cruelty against the civilian population, equally guilty of the genocide of the Russian people [and] do not comply with the laws and customs of war. War criminals and active Nazis should be exemplarily and exponentially punished,’ wrote Sergeytsev. Sergeytsev explained that further ‘denazification’ of the majority of the population would need to be conducted through ‘re-education’ which would be achieved by ‘ideological repression (suppression) of Nazi attitudes and strict censorship: not only in the political sphere but also necessary in the sphere of culture and education.’ The writer added that the ‘denazification’ efforts would need to last at least for one generation ‘which must be born, grow up and reach maturity under the conditions of denazification.’ He added that the ‘ethnic component of self-identification’ of Ukraine would also be rejected and that the name ‘Ukraine’ would also need to be removed from any ‘fully denazified state entity.’ Sergeytsev additionally stated that if conquered, western Ukraine would likely remain hostile to Russia and would be ‘forcibly neutral and demilitarized,’ adding that ‘the haters of Russia will go there.’ The writer added that from a line drawn between western Ukraine and Russia, the population would be ‘integrated’ into Russian civilization.

These are the writings of a madman.

It is worth pointing out that Sergeytsev

worked on behalf of the Russian government to prop up pro-Russian Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma in 1991. He also supported Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose questionable election victory, promoted by Putin, resulted in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004. Sergeytsev is also a member of the Russian far-right Zinoviev Club, named after Alexander Zinoviev. Zinoviev was a champion of Josef Stalin as a model leader, the murderous dictator who ruled the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1953.

Sergeytsev is also

a regular guest on the talk shows of Vladimir Soloviev, a top Putin propagandist who has made it onto the EU and US sanctions list. He likes to call Ukraine ‘country 404,’ a riff on the internet error message that appears when a link leads to a page or resource that does not exist, in order to imply that Ukraine is a fiction that doesn’t exist in real life.

Sergeitsev has previously written that

Russia will be the post-war ‘guardian of the Nuremberg Trials.’ According to this ideology, the soldiers who fight today against Ukrainians are not fighting against humans but against Nazis, and, since a large portion of the population voted for its government (called by Sergeitsev, Soloviev and others, ‘Bandera’s gang,’ after the WWII Ukrainian nationalist who allied then broke with Hitler), it is equally infested by the Nazi bacillus. The horrifying outcome of this logic is that the civilian population, immutable collaborators with Nazism, cannot and must not be spared, just as civilians weren’t spared during the firebombing of Dresden at the end of WWII. Putin, who served in Dresden as a KGB officer, often speaks about Dresden. He knows the story well.

Zizek notes with some irony Sergeytsev’s assertion that Russia must forge new alliances ‘in countries that the West has oppressed for centuries.’ According to Sergeytsev, Russia is now intent on partnering with all those countries exploited by US colonialism – ‘Russia must radically reorient, breaking its links with the West to forge new ties with all those countries that were brutally exploited by Western colonial powers’ – in order to ‘lead a global process of decolonization.’ But, as Zizek ruefully remarks,

[I]t is strange to hear such talk from Russia, with its long history of such behaviour. In the eighteenth century, Catherine the Great conquered south-eastern Ukraine and territory from Siberia to Alaska to Northern California. Now, we are told that Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine will be ‘decolonized’ by way of … Russian colonization. Territories will be liberated against the will of their people (who will have to be re-educated or otherwise dissolved).

Benevolent unifier or oppressive colonial power? We wonder. Lots of natural resources to be had, though.

Russians are to be entitled to their version of the truth. After all, according to Putin’s court philosopher, Aleksandr Dugin, ‘Post-modernity shows that every so-called truth is a matter of believing. So we believe in what we do; we believe in what we say. And that is the only way to define the truth. So we have our special Russian truth that you need to accept.’ In America, the struggle against oppression has less to do with a generalized fear of democracy and more to do with blatant racism stoked by fear. Cynthia Miller-Idriss explains that ‘the great replacement theory’ – that dark-skinned, non-European people are replacing those of European descent – was

[c]oined by a French scholar more than a decade ago … and … was quickly taken up globally by white supremacists, for whom the theory now provides a single, overarching framework for ideas that had already been percolating for years. Last September, Media Matters reported that Carlson spent a year embarking on a ‘dedicated campaign to insert the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory … into mainstream Republican discourse.’ Carlson has repeatedly used the language of replacement to suggest or directly argue that Democrats are orchestrating ‘demographic replacement’ to gain political power. The day before the September Media Matters report, Carlson told his viewers that President Joe Biden aimed to ‘replace “legacy Americans”’ and ‘change the racial mix of the country for political gain.’

The term ‘legacy Americans’ used by Carlson is telling. It’s a deeply racist catchphrase or buzzword in his discussion of race to make white supremacy seem more respectable, a term that is meant to signify the inverse of ethnopluralism, or what the Proud Boys gleefully champion as ‘the Spirit of Western Chauvinism.’ Carlson, the perennial frat boy who probably still brags that he has Black friends who are ‘articulate’ speakers, uses the term as a way to ridicule and openly vilify the work of multiculturalists, critical pedagogues, feminists, radical homosexuals, Marxists and New Historicists and all those who challenge the conservative culture of unblemished hyperbolic patriotism with its unsullied triumphalist and revisionist history of America as a White Christian nation.

These days, there seems to be a greater sense of urgency with Carlson in spreading the idea ‘that there is an intentional, global plan orchestrated by national and global elites to replace white, Christian, European populations with non-white, non-Christian ones.’ It will certainly galvanize the Republican voters who are always ripe for conspiracy theories and seem especially drawn to crafty buffoons and courtiers like Carlson, clearly the American Triboulet without the cap’n’bells. Tom Mockaitis notes that

Neo-Nazis expressed a version of ‘the great replacement’ when they chanted ‘Jews will not replace us’ during their tiki torch parade at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. The man who murdered 51 Muslims in Christ Church, New Zealand and the one, who killed 21 in an El Paso, Texas Walmart also subscribed to the replacement theory.

While Carlson and his paeons of praise for real Americans (White Americans) are perniciously revealing about the state of racism in America, coded racism shows no sign of disappearing in the public square.

But the question that should be asked is hidden in the deliberate stoking of fear: What kind of legacy? The legacy of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, George Wallace, Bull Connor, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, David Duke, George Bush Jr. and Donald Trump? The legacy of Jim Crow, lynchings, war, ecocide, epistemicide, fascism?

It turns out that European ethno-nationalists have their own term, a parallel white supremacist theory of demographic replacement that was

[c]oined by the British author Bat Ye’or and published in 2005 in a book of the same name, the concept of ‘Eurabia.’ This conspiracy stipulates that Muslims were secretly attempting to replace white Europeans through immigration and high birth rates in order to increase the size of the caliphate. Ye’or argued ‘that this would create a territorial space in which white Europeans are subject to Shariah and Islamic rule, forced to convert to Islam or surrender into subservient roles. The end result is a Europe that has been converted from a white, Christian civilization to an Islamic one.

Well, it seems now that White Americans and Europeans can unite under the banner of defending civilization for white Christian nationals. What a thrill it must be to relive the Crusades! Tucker, thanks for this opportunity. I’ll have my aunt in Charlottesville, Virginia, who usually sews robes for the KKK, make me a Knights Templar robe. And a shield to protect me from those Antifa folks. Maybe a Russian version of Eurabia will catch on when Putin attempts to decolonize Central Asia. I bet the people of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan can’t wait to find out.

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Full Citation Information:
McLaren, P. (2022). The Russians are Coming: But Aren’t They Already Here?. PESA Agora.

Peter McLaren

Peter McLaren is Emeritus Professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. From 2013-2023 he served as Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, Co-Director and International Ambassador for Global Ethics and Social Justice, The Paulo Freire Democratic Project, Attallah College of Educational Studies, Chapman University, USA.