via Timothy Eastman
Sascha, Andrei, and Mira are members of AntiFascist Union Ukraine, a group that monitors and fights fascism in Ukraine. We sat down to talk about the influence of fascism in EuroMaidan, this is what they told me:
Sascha: There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.
Mira: The two biggest groups are Svoboda and Pravy Sektor (Right Sector). The defense forces aren’t 100% Pravy but a large percentage is.
S: Svoboda is more legal as a group, but they also have an illegal militant faction. Pravy Sektor is more illegal, but they want to usurp Svoboda.
M: There’s a lot of infighting between Pravy and Svoboda. They worked together during the violence but now everything is calm so there’s time to focus on each other. Pravy and Svoboda both take donations and they have lots of money. Recently Pravy has all these new uniforms, military fatigues.
One of the worst things is that Pravy has this official structure. They are coordinated. You need passes to go certain places. They have the power to give or not give people permission to be active. We’re trying to be active but we have to avoid Nazis, and I’m not going to ask a Nazi for permission!
S: A group of 100 anarchists tried to arrange their own self-defense group, different Anarchist groups came together for a meeting on the Maidan. While they were meeting a group of Nazis came in a larger group, they had axes and baseball bats and sticks, helmets, they said it was their territory. They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists. There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult. The Anarchists weren’t expecting this and they left. People with other political views can’t stay in certain places, they aren’t tolerated.
M: Early on a Stalinist tent was attacked by Nazis. One was sent to the hospital. Another student spoke out against fascism and he was attacked.
Pravy Sektor got too much attention after the first violence, the media gave them popularity and they started to think they’re cool guys. Pravy existed before but now it’s growing and attracting a lot of new people.
S: After this Pravy will have more young guys. They have money to make propaganda, uniforms, they’re getting more attention and they look cool.
M: The Ukraine is a patriarchal country so to be a strong man who’s fighting is a good aim.
S: Nazi groups are also trying to mimic leftists, to try to ingratiate themselves. They use anarchist vocabulary, words like “autonomous.” One group of the ugliest Nazis is now doing this by calling themselves “Autonomous Resistance.” They’ve had lots of success with this tactic.
They attract some Anarchists who think they’re changing the Nazis, but really the Nazis are changing them.” They’re becoming more nationalistic, they have more more anti-feminist views, etc. Now is when Anarchists need to speak out and be louder.
S: There’s a whole spectrum of Nationalists represented. They divide themselves into groups with their own symbols. They want support so they don’t use Nazi or fascist symbols so much. They use symbols that are recognizable to other fascistic people, but look innocuous to anyone else. For example there is a special eagle symbol. It’s drawn a certain way, it doesn’t look like anything unless you know the meaning.
No one has any idea how this could turn out, what form a new government could take. The fascist groups don’t have common aims, they know what they’re opposed to, and that they’re opposed to each other, but they don’t all want the same things. If Pravy has positions in a new government that would be really dangerous but that isn’t possible, they aren’t powerful enough.
M: People have these chants: “Glory Ukraine,” “Glory to Heroes,” “Death to Enemies.” But who are these heroes, who are these enemies? I don’t think they have any idea. “Ukraine Above All” is one, just like they used to chant in Germany.
Andrei: I’m from Germany, and from my perspective it’s like Ukraine has had this nationalism since the fall of the USSR. The nationalist sentiment on Maidan is there to divide people. The East of Ukraine favors Russia, the West is nationalist. People are quite divided, but if you look at the whole country everyone has the same social and economic problems. If people saw that and came together that would be the most dangerous for Svoboda, or Yanukovich, or any political party. Svoboda and Yanukovich favor the same neoliberal policies that make life worse for Ukrainians.
M: These nationalists are here not for rights but for nation and it’s practical for leaders to encourage this, because a focus on nationalism lets them do whatever they want. It’s mostly working class and poor people at EuroMaidan, and their attention needs to be diverted to real problems. Lots of people want to manipulate the people here.