When is the far-right acceptable to the West? When it's in Ukraine
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
But how genuine is their opposition? The current disturbances in Ukraine and the western response to them, suggests that it’s highly selective to say the least.
Let’s imagine for a moment that there were violent demonstrations led by ultranationalists and neo-Nazis in a Western European country, and that those demonstrators held up posters of figures who had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. That they had shouted neo-Nazi slogans and their leaders had made anti-Jewish and homophobic statements. That these same protesters had used violence to try and topple the democratically elected government – and that they had seized government buildings. We can expect the western elites and establishment journalists to fiercely denounce the protesters, who would definitely be labeled “rioters,” that they would call for “law and order” to swiftly be restored and for the leaders of the demonstrators to be arrested, and for them to be prosecuted under hate speech legislation.
Yet this is exactly what has been happening in Ukraine, and far from condemning the far-right protesters, the Western elites have been enthusiastically supporting their cause.
Before Christmas, Senator John McCain, the US’s leading neocon politician, flew to Kiev and dined with opposition leaders, including Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the extreme far-right Svoboda party. Later, McCain stood alongside Tyahnybok at an anti-government rally. In 1999 a report from Tel Aviv University, cited by Britain’s Channel 4 News, called Svoboda “an extremist, right-wing, nationalist organization which emphasizes its identification with the ideology of German National Socialism.” In 2004, Tyahynbok claimed that Ukraine was run by a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” Although the party has tried to clean up its image since then, the far-right extremism and ugly ultranationalist rhetoric remains – but that doesn’t seem to trouble too much the western elite figures cheering on street protests, in which Svoboda and other ultranationalist groups have played such a leading role.
The same hypocrisy is shown in relation to the issue of gay rights.
Western elite figures have criticized Russia over the 2013 law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors, with French President Francois Hollande being just one of the leading western politicians to announce that he’ll be boycotting the forthcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Yet, whatever our views about it, the law in Russia is very similar to one in force in Britain from 1988-2003, when, revealingly, there were no calls for a sporting boycott of the United Kingdom.
Listen to establishment figures in the West and hawkish newspaper columnists and you’d get the impression that Russia was the worst country in the world for gay rights. You certainly wouldn’t think that there are almost 80 countries in the world where – unlike in Russia – homosexuality was still illegal, and that many of them were strong western allies. The same President Hollande who is boycotting Sochi last year made a two-day official visit to Qatar (a country where male homosexuality is illegal and the punishment is up to five years in jail) to discuss strengthening economic ties with the outgoing Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his son Sheikh Tamim. The French president talked of the “mutual respect and understanding” between his country and Qatar. Qatar is due to host the 2022 football World Cup, but Hollande, the “principled” politician who’s boycotting Sochi, had nothing to say about the country’s record on gay rights.
Instead he drooled: “There’s the great subject of sport, in the sense I mentioned this morning of the only valid competition, namely on the global scale. For the time being, we’re preparing the European [Football] Championship, so it was agreed that we’d share our experience on this, so that Qatar can organize a very fine World Cup. It’s not simply about the sporting event, because we’re well aware that considerable infrastructure and hotel accommodation will be needed, and our cooperation on this can really be exemplary.”
Isn’t it strange how western leaders’ concern over gay rights seems to evaporate when they visit Gulf states and there‘s business to be done? In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can be punished by death, yet will western elites be boycotting the country in protest, let alone be criticizing Saudi laws? We shouldn’t hold our breath.
Last year US journalist James Kirchik became a poster boy for western neocons and the fake left for attacking Russia’s new law live on RT, but Al-Jazeera, the channel owned by the government of a country (Qatar) where male homosexuality is illegal, gets a free pass. There are no calls for people interviewed on the channel to launch into an attack on Qatar for criminalizing male homosexuality or for people to boycott Al-Jazeera because of Qatar’s anti-gay laws.
The fact is that the western elite’s support for gay rights, like their “unequivocal” opposition to far-right, ultranationalist groups, like their “unequivocal” opposition to racism and neo-Nazism, is a sham. It’s used tactically, to help further the elite’s economic and geostrategic interests.
The reality is that you can be as ultranationalist, as Neo-Nazi, as racist and as homophobic as you like – so long as you are opposing a government that the western elites want toppled. The extremism of Ukrainian far-right groups is therefore swept under the carpet, because such groups want Ukraine to sever its links with Russia. Yes, they’re fascists, homophobes and racists, but they’re “our kind” of fascists, homophobes and racists i.e. anti-Russian ones. But in other European countries – e.g. Hungary – ultranationalist groups are condemned, because their interests are not in line with western elite interests.
The bottom line in all of this is money. If there is “regime change” in Ukraine and the country is locked into what are euphemistically described as “Euro-Atlantic structures,” there will be big profits for the western elites – not only would the country become a dumping ground for western multinationals, but a Ukraine in NATO – the same elites’ ultimate dream – would mean more profits for western defense companies and arms manufacturers.
“Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others,” the old joke goes. It’s a perfect way to describe the extremely flexible “principles” of the west’s “progressive” elite.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.