Whenever a few imitation-Nazi skinheads in Germany stage an ugly incident, the North American press inevitably reacts with intense alarm. Headlines scream: `Nazi resurgence in Germany.'
Now imagine the panic and consternation if the real Nazi Party was reformed in Germany, under the name, `Democratic National Socialists.' Werner Sturm, the DNS's new, 50-year old leader, admits some `mistakes' were made during Hitler's days. This time around, promises Sturm, the party will follow more democratic methods.
`We plan to become Euro-Nazis,' says Sturm, `members of a united, prosperous Europe.' But, he adds ominously, `Hitler was right about a lot of things. We demand Germany's rightful place in the sun.' Polls show the DNS with a commanding lead in June elections.
While Sturm speaks of democracy to TV cameras, the recently retired commander of the German Army tells a convention of senior officers, old Gestapo agents, and SS veterans that once the DNS comes to power, it will quickly re-establish the borders, power and discipline of the Third Reich. Outside in the street, throngs of DNS supporters, young and old, stage a candle lit march, carrying portraits of `martyred' Adolf Hitler, and banners: `Make the Reich Great Again!' and `Jews Out!'
This, of course, is merely an ugly fantasy. Germany is thoroughly and resolutly democratic. But while the `yin' of totalitarianism is dead in Germany, its `yang' is alive and well in Russia. The above scenario is happening right now in Moscow. Few westerners seem concerned.
The new communist leader, Gennady Zuganov, currently leads the floundering Boris Yeltsin in Russia's upcoming presidential race, To westerners, Zuganov speaks in dulcet tones. But to Russian audiences, he orates about Stalin's greatness, the need to return to strict communism, and the urgency of restoring Mother Russia to a position of `respect and power.'
On March 16, the popular former Soviet ground forces commander, Gen. Valentine Varennikov, told a meeting of army officers and KGB men: don't worry, the `new' communist party is not `slipping toward `social-democratic' values. The communist party, the general revealed, was firmly committed to the old Stalinist secret strategy called, `Maximum Program.' This is nothing less than the creation of a world communist hegemony, led by Moscow.
As Stalin's ghost was rising from the grave, western media and political leaders remained curiously mute. Ever since Washington declared the Cold War over and won in 1991, the western media and politicians have refused to see the obvious facts about Russia. Namely, that Moscow is slowly, painfully reforming the old Soviet empire.
Belarus is being drawn back into Russia's orbit. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgizstan are already half way re- integrated. Russian troops are fighting in the Caucasus and Tajikistan. Russian arms and agents are flowing into war-torn Afghanistan. `Independent' Armenia and Georgia have become Russian protectorates.
Barely noticed by the western media, Russia's Defense Minister issued his own `Grachev Doctrine' which says, simply, that the old borders of the Soviet Union, everything within them and around them, are the exclusive `security zone' of Russia. In other words, Russia exercises military and strategic control over the entire former empire, including the Baltic states and Ukraine.
Any who dare resist, like the Chechen, will be mercilessly crushed. President Clinton has given tacit approval of this imperial doctrine, and winked at Moscow's violation in the Caucasus of CFE, the main arms treaty with the west. Almost no one believes the latest Carthaginian Peace for Chechnya proclaimed over the weekend by Yeltsin means anything but more slaughter.
Why the west's ostrich-like behavior? First, the western media, with its traditional liberal bias in the US, and socialist bias in Europe, has long depicted communism as a far lesser threat than fascism. Recall, for good example, the media's long love affair with Mao, Fidel Castro, and the communist parties of France, Italy and Spain. Euro-communist were good; Euro-Nazis wicked.
Second, President Clinton has hitched his political wagon to Boris Yeltsin's allegedly `benign Russia.' Clinton, now portraying himself as a steel-jawed international statesman, needs a tranquil Russia run by Yeltsin for his re-election campaign, That's why the Clinton Administration turned a blind eye to Russia's criminal behavior in Chechnya, just rammed a US $10.5 billion loan for Moscow through the IMF, and has even gone so far as to just supply huge quantities of new $100 bills to Russia, much of which will be used by Russian criminal gangs.
Western Europe's leaders have adopted a similar, if less blatant, approach. A communist return to power means Europe will likely have to significantly increase defense spending and make a decision about what to do with the petrified states of eastern Europe. Germany, in particular, has invested billions of marks in President Yeltsin and sees no alternative to keeping its fingers crossed and whistle in the dark.
Whistling won't change facts. The totalitarian impulse has resumed in Russia. Militant, aggressive communism has resurfaced after being suppressed for the past six years. The communists have merely kicked out their old, dinosaur leaders, and put a younger, more capable generation of better- dressed communists in power.
As Russia's economy finds its footing, whether under today's gangster capitalism, or updated communism, Russian nationalism will intensify, and grow ever more assertive.
Pretending otherwise is naive - and dangerous. Rosy optimism is not a policy.
copyright Eric Margolis 1996