On Friday, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee voted on the Resolution on “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” The Resolution, submitted by Russia, has been adopted by 115 votes against three.
The US, Canada and Ukraine opposed the move. "The position of Ukraine is particularly deplorable and alarming, says a statement made by the Russian Foreign ministry. — It is hard to understand, how the country, whose people have fully experienced the horrors of Nazism and made a remarkable contribution to overall victory over it, can vote against the document condemning its [Nazism] glorification".
What is also quite appalling are the 55 abstentions mostly from NATO countries and their allies. The mere fact that these states chose not to support an anti-NATO motion, tells a sad story.
Jean-Yves Camus is a political analyst and Associated Research Fellow at IRIS (France):
Yes, the US and Canada voted against, as well as Ukraine. And all the EU member countries abstained. This is the result that of course has to do with the international situation. But I really feel that this kind of resolution should have been voted on not with regards to what is happening in Ukraine, but with regards to the real problem itself. That is –in a part of Europe today — there exists a glorification of the Nazi past, and this is the problem we have to tackle.
How bad is this problem? Not so long ago we talked about the rise of ultra-rightist parties, which in fact had shown good results at the general elections in those countries…
Jean-Yves Camus: Yes, the rise of the national populist parties is a real problem. But also, in several countries, especially in the Eastern Europe, the governments and the significant parts of the public opinion have a feeling that the Soviet rule and the Nazi rule are to be seen as the two different sides of the same token, which, of course, it totally false, given what happened during the WW II. But in several of those countries the governments and parts of the public opinion are trying to impose a vision that Communism, on the one side, and National Socialism, on the other side, are the two kinds of totalitarian ideas that are almost similar.
Why would they do that?
Jean-Yves Camus: They do that, because they regard the period when they were part of the Soviet Union as some kind of an occupation, which, in their eyes, is very much similar to that of the Nazis’. Of course, this is totally unbearable. This isn’t truth. If you want to be critical towards Communism, then, of course, this is totally fine with me. But you cannot, it is simply not possible, not to eye the fact that National Socialism was something totally different with the mass extermination of people, with the mass extermination of the Jews.
And what stands behind this glorification of Nazism in several of those countries is the fact that the Nazis were not alone exterminating the Jews, for example. There also was a local collaboration with the Nazis and the local people took part in the mass murders of the Jews at that time. And this is something that the governments today, especially in the Baltic states, for example, but also in, let’s say, Romania and other countries have not totally accepted. There is a need for the historical truth to be assessed in those countries. And this still has not been done properly.
Talking about Nazi in Germany in the 1920-30’es, their rise was largely facilitated by the general downturn in the global economy. Are there any parallels with the current situation?
Jean-Yves Camus: I don’t want to say that the present situation in Europe is similar to that of the 1920’es, because the rise of Nazism was not only the result of a very bad economic situation, it also had to do with a very weak state, following the end of the German empire and the loss of the WWI.
And it also had to do with the attitude of part of the conservative right, which didn’t see the rise of Nazism or did not properly assess what the Nazi party was. Part of the conservative right, even the Christian right in Germany did not stand against the National Socialist Party when it still was in the minority. And in the end they believed that the Nazi party could be an ally in their fight against Communism. And this proved to be a total mistake.
Absolutely! But now we can see that the neo-Nazis are also quite instrumental in organizing all kinds of revolts, like we've seen in Ukraine.
Jean-Yves Camus: Yes! And also, the neo-Nazis, or at least the parties with the strong neo-Nazi slant, are successful in the polls in Hungary – the Jobbik Party – and in Greece. And it is certainly incredible that in a time of the economic crisis in a country like Greece, which is a member of the EU, a party with clear neo-Nazi credentials can rise to a several dozens of members in the Parliament, until the crackdown which was ordered by the Greek Government last year.
So, there is a possibility today and not only in Ukraine, but also in other countries as well, that the parties belonging to the most radical part of the extreme right might take advantage of not only of the economic crisis, but, I would say, the weakness of the European democracy to rise to an unprecedented height since 1945. We used to believe that the Nazism and the extreme right were dead after 1945. And once again, this is totally false…
Latvia is one of those countries where the Neo-Nazi are openly supported by authorities in different levels…
Says Valeriy Engel, First Vice-President of "World without Nazism" International Human Rights Movement (Latvia):
This was also expected, because all this year the US and Canada voted like they voted yesterday. And the reason why, for example, the US voted so, is because they have the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights, to the Constitution, where it is written that it is impossible to prohibit an expression of an opinion in any form and in any place. And that is the reason. And I think that that is the reason why Canada voted like they voted. And this is also the reason of the position of the Western European countries.
The other situation is in Ukraine and in the countries of the Eastern Europe. Ukraine has declared that they voted against, because they demanded to equalize Nazism and Stalinism, Nazism and Communism. And that is the reason.
For example, from the Ukrainian point of view, they voted against this resolution not because they have this amendment to the constitution about the freedom of speech, they voted because they want to equalize the Nazism and Communism. And it is dangerous.
Valeriy Engel: Because, first of all, the result of this equalization will mean the rehabilitation of the holocaust. In this situation the holocaust would be some of the murders committed a lot during the war. It is the other thing and it will be okay, and it is dangerous. And in my point of view, the general situation with the radical nationalism in Europe is very bad. From this point of view, of course, the refusal of some countries to support this resolution is bad for the general situation in these countries, because in this situation we have to speak about the attitude, first of all, of the young population to the glorification of Nazism in the European countries.
And the young seem to be quite appealed by those quasi-military organizations, why?
Valeriy Engel: They are looking for the national idea. Unfortunately, they can’t find another good idea in their history. They have to find something what can ensure their nation…and by a nation they understand the ethnicity or the ethnic tradition, they are looking for an idea to support the national development.
But isn’t it really dangerous? I mean, they seem to be used as instruments.
Valeriy Engel: It is dangerous, because today in the process of globalization of the world, in the process of the globalization of economy, when a lot of people are moving from one country to another (and in the former Soviet Union most of the population was international) this is dangerous, because it can create a problem between several ethnic groups in the population and it can reave the society.
Now you don’t have any country in the EU where the national radicals would not be members of the parliaments. And it is dangerous, because the mistakes in the European integration are used by the European radicals for coming to power. And in the last election into the European Parliament we could see that a lot of nationalists, a lot of radicals from the entire Europe came into the Parliament. We have seen the great success of the Le Pen’s party in France and the German nationalists, the British nationalists. I think today there are a lot of political parties who are supporting and using this situation for their own political goals.
But nationalists and Nazis are a bit different, aren’t they?
Valeriy Engel: Of course! We can speak about the radicals, we can speak about not radicals, we can speak about the neo-Nazis. The difference between them is a different understanding of what nationalism is. If you are a patriot, you are struggling for your own culture, you won tradition – it is okay. But if you are struggling against the culture and traditions of your neighbors – it is radical.