Retro-politics and the Return of the Cold War

Editorial note: While Justin Raimondo is still recovering from the effects of what turned out to be a kidney stone, we’re running one of his "Between the Lines" columns originally published in Chronicles magazine in February. We have added links that were not in the original.

When the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union imploded shortly afterward, the world breathed a sigh of relief – except in the faculty lounges of our more exclusive universities, the last bastion of Marxism in the developed world. But these hothouse exotics weren’t the only losers: their opposite numbers, the professional anti-Communists, had far more to lose in terms of prestige, employment, and, yes, cold hard cash. Their area of expertise was no longer relevant, or marketable, and their employment prospects were grim until September 11, 2001, when they switched to the "anti-terrorism" racket.

Yet this angle, too, soon ran out of steam, as Al Qaeda’s ranks dwindled and Osama bin Laden met his well-deserved end. How long could we go on spending multi-billions "protecting" the United States from the "threat" of a bunch of half-educated savages cowering in a cave somewhere? The hysteria was way out of proportion to the actual threat.

In these dire circumstances, with their professional credentials – and incomes – at stake, the titans of the fearmongering industry decided to branch out by bringing back the cold war. Retro-politics was the answer to their dilemma. As usual, the neoconservatives were in the vanguard of this new propaganda campaign: Richard Perle brought it to the fore and others shortly joined in with the demand that Russia be kicked out of the G-8 on the grounds that Putin wouldn’t go along with the US war drive against Iraq.

Putin’s open hostility to Bush’s hegemonist pretensions provoked an ever-escalating blast of fury from the neoconservatives, who idolized the thieving oligarchs the Russian leader had jailed or banished, elevating a bevy of unmitigated scoundrels and outright criminals to the status of "political prisoners" and "dissidents." In a sane world, someone who has cornered a lucrative market with the invaluable assistance of the Chechen Mafia is hardly a Gandhi-like figure, but the neocons aren’t choosy about their heroes.

This was the opening shot of a major War Party production, with all the familiar scenery and dialogue rolled out in a curious sort of historical drama that, nevertheless, is set in the present. Vladimir Putin plays the part of Stalin, who has been mysteriously reincarnated along with the alleged resurgence of Soviet-style authoritarianism, which Russia is supposedly "backsliding" into. The "backsliding" theme song is played over and over until the mantra becomes imprinted in the public mind.

To illustrate this theme, a whole array of alleged "victims" must be given maximum publicity, and the perfect example is the group known as "Pussy Riot" – a coven of women who go around performing sex acts in public, including one obscene demonstration in a Russian Orthodox cathedral in which they desecrated the altar while howling obscenities at the congregation. They were arrested, sentenced to a few years in prison, and recently released under the terms of a general amnesty authorized by Putin. Upon their release, they naturally headed straight for the US, where their obscene "act" will ensure them a place as the toast of high society – feted as "freedom fighters" by Russophobes and their patrons in the US State Department.

What’s interesting about the New Cold War is the willingness of the West to side with elements that might be problematic – or even extralegal – in their own countries. Eduard Limonov, the "punk" author and extreme Russian nationalist, is a favorite of the Western media, who love to portray him and his "National Bolshevik Party" as "dissidents" on the same level as, say, Andrei Sakharov. Yet the symbol of the National Bolsheviks – an artful combination of a swastika and a hammer-and-sickle – should tell us everything we need to know about Limonov and his fellow "dissidents" – and that includes the sainted Gary Kasparov, who hasn’t hesitated to cozy up to the National Bolsheviks under the "Other Russia" umbrella.

The latest National Socialists to achieve hero status with the Russia-haters are the two main leaders of the Ukrainian mobs presently rioting in the streets of Kiev. Destroying pubic buildings and throwing firebombs and rocks, these armed insurrectionists are demanding President Yanukovich step down and – incredibly – that the government immediately apply for membership in the European Union! An odd demand indeed at a time when the poorer EU members – albeit richer than Ukraine – are trying to get out of their EU treaty obligations. And an especially weird rallying cry for a movement led in large part by actual National Socialists, as well as miscellaneous anti-Semite fellow-travelers and the usual lumpen elements attracted by any scene of violence.

One of the three big leaders of the insurrectionists is Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the "Svoboda" (Freedom) party. Originally called the "Social-National of Ukraine," and sporting the symbol of the dreaded Wolfsangel – the Ukrainian version of the SS – the party was taken over by self-styled "moderate" Nazis of Tyahnybok’s ilk. Which means that the periodic "anti-Semitic outbursts" this Ukrainian Fuehrer is reportedly prone to are mild in comparison to rank and file Svoboda activists, who desecrate Jewish graves and attack Jews in the streets. Their youth group, known as "C14," has been in the front lines of the anti-Yanukovich riots. In a precursor to their leading role later in the year, Svoboda goon squads arrived at an anti-government demonstration in the city of Cherkassy wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Beat the Zhids!"

The chief leader of the opposition, champion boxer Vitaly Klitschko, is modeled along the same lines: all the leaders of the opposition attended a "comedic" performance put on by a Svoboda member of parliament. Dressed as an Orthodox Jew with long sideburns he stood on the stage in Kiev’s Independence Square – on New Year’s Eve – singing "East and West belong to me, our people are everywhere!"

The skit involved the baby Jesus and a plot by Herod – modeled after Yanukovich – to have the Jewish character named Zhid (an epithet I won’t translate) betray Jesus (and the protesters) into Herod’s grasp. In the end, Zhid switches sides after learning the Herod-Yanukovich has ordered the army to kill all Jewish firstborns. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the performance was: "followed by a solemn singing of the Ukrainian national anthem and congratulatory speeches by [the leader of Yulia Tymoshenko’s UDAR party, Arsenyi] Yatsenyuk, Klitschko and Tyahnybok." The next day, Svoboda mobilized 15,000 party members in a torchlight parade down Kiev’s central boulevard.

I wonder how much the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and the plethora of other "democracy"-promoting US government agencies are pouring into a movement led by rabid anti-Semites who valorize the SS? And why is such an "opposition" getting a good press in the West? News accounts invariably describe Tyahnybok as a "nationalist," but Andrew Jackson was a nationalist – which is a far cry from being a Nazi.

The silence of the Western media is frightening. Time after time we hear that Washington’s latest target is the reincarnation of Hitler and therefore we have to do something. Yet today in Ukraine Nazis are marching in the streets – and the West, including the governments and the media, is cheering them on.

What gives?

Russia is what gives, and specifically Putin’s Russia. The Ukrainian ultra-nationalists may hate Jews but they also hate Putin, and that’s what apparently counts in Western capitals. He has been a vocal, articulate, and quite canny critic of America’s pretensions to global hegemony, and as such he is the target of the moment – especially since his granting of asylum to Edward Snowden.

Which brings us to the latest development in the new cold war: the Snowden-haters are joining up with the Russophobes to construct a grand conspiracy theory that "explains" Snowden’s actions as an operation carried out by the Russian security services from the very beginning. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-NSA) made the accusation on the Sunday talk show circuit in an interview with regime lickspittle "journalist" David Gregory. Snowden "had help," Rogers averred, and Diane Feinstein, sitting next to him, nodded in agreement. Snowden came out and mocked this absurd idea in an interview with the New Yorker, asking "Then why did I go to Hong Kong?" The conspiracy theorists are peddling the lie that Snowden stayed a night at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong – without bothering to show any evidence.

But who needs evidence when you’re constructing a "narrative" with no relation to truth?


You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].