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East European Perspectives: January 12, 2000

12 January 2000, Volume 2, Number 1

Part III C: Radical Politics In Post Communist East Central Europe

By Michael Shafir

X-Raying Post-Communist 'Radical Minds'
C) Conspiracy Theories and Anti-Semitism

Continuing the introspection into post-communist "radical minds" and their modern-day predecessors begun in "East European Perspectives" nos. 3 and 4, this section amplifies on what has earlier been shown to make up a central part of "radical mindedness," namely "conspiracy theories." Their importance has been noted by, among others, Schopflin (1993 and 1997), Tismaneanu (1999, pp. 85-86) and Ramet (1999b, pp. 16-17). But the discussion of these theories cannot be detached from that of anti-Semitism.

Forces on both sides of the post-communist political spectrum have demonstrated that they would not hesitate to adopt postures of what I call "utilitarian anti-Semitism." "Utilitarian anti-Semites" are not anti-Semitic as such, but would not hesitate to exploit existing anti-Semitism if this served their needs of the hour. Three examples would be sufficient. Romanian President Ion Iliescu was ready to forge a coalition with the participation of radical continuity formations displaying unmistakable anti-Semitism--the Greater Romania Party (PRM), the Socialist Labor Party, and the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) (Shafir, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999a, 1999b). In Croatia, President Franjo Tudjman's policy towards the radical return formations combined repression, on one hand, with attempts to appease and co-opt them into his own Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), on the other hand. In spring 1992, the HDZ incorporated into its ranks the radical return Croat National Committee, which had revived a formation by the same name set up by Branimir Jelic, a close associate of Croatian fascist Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic. Members of that formation were given places on the HDZ's executive board, and other Ustasha leaders became members of the government. Tudjman was not adverse to the use of Ustasha symbols and only vigorous protest from the country's Jewish community and its international echo foiled the attempt to name one of Zagreb's streets after Mile Budak, a high-ranking member of the Ustasha regime (Irvine, 1995, pp. 163, 172).

The third example comes from the other end of the political spectrum and from Poland. Amid allegations that Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, one of his rivals in the 1990 presidential elections, was Jewish (he is not), Lech Walesa not only reacted ambiguously at rallies that never ended without someone asking when would Poland "finally rid itself of Jewish rule," but emphasized that he was "happy to be a genuine Pole" and even went as far as to declare that anti-semitism in Poland was "caused by Jews who are concealing their nationality." After his victory, while on a visit to Israel, Walesa apologized for his behavior (Brumberg, 1991, pp. 39-40 and 1994, p.153). But he was back to his old self in the 1996 presidential contest. As he felt he was trailing his challenger, Aleksander Kwasniewski, Walesa once again acquiesced in the face of allegations that Kwasniewski's ethnic origins were Jewish--which, once more, they are not. He did not intervene at a rally at which demonstrators shouted visceral anti-Semitic slogans, denouncing not only Kwasniewski, but also Jacek Kuron and Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who were being sent to "the gas chambers" by Walesa's supporters. Bartoszewski happens to be a survivor from Auschwitz. This was not the first display on Walesa's part of "utilitarian anti-Semitism." Already in June 1995, he sat silent in the congregation as his personal confessor, Gdansk priest Henryk Jankowski (who would also become involved in the 1997-1999 "Auschwitz crosses controversy") told the audience that "the Star of David is implicated in the swastika, as well as in the hammer and sickle." He also called on Poles to "bestir themselves," adding "We can no longer tolerate governments made up of people who have not declared whether they come from Moscow or from Israel." Asked to clarify his statements, Jankowski said that he was "only" calling attention to Jewish misdeeds in banks and financial circles. The Church eventually issued a mild rebuke--Walesa did not bother (Tismaneanu, 1999, pp. 104-5; Ost, 1999, p. 93). But the rebuke did nothing to convince Jankowski to change his ways. In November 1997 he was suspended by the Gdansk archbishop, following renewed attacks on "the participation of the Jewish minority in the Polish government" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1997, 14 April 1998).

Kwasniewski's "Judaization" and Jankowski's outburst are both part and parcel of conspiracy theories, or rather two strings on the same instrument. The instrument is being played regardless of the number of Jews. Paul Lendvai (1971) has coined the term "anti-Semitism without Jews" in the wake of the Polish anti-Semitic campaign of 1968. In Slovenia, a 1993 poll showed that a significant proportion of the population (20 percent) harbors anti-Semitic sentiments. The census conducted there one year earlier showed that 36 Jews were living in the country (Rizman, 1999, p. 157). Kwasniewski's is a typical case of the "generic Jew." As a former communist party member, he fits into the concept of Zydokomuna in Poland, or "Judeo-communism" in Romania, which is sometimes enlarged to include Masons, as in the Russian Zhido-masontsvo; but more often than not, masonry is taken to be just another instrument in the hands of the Jewish conspiracy. The "Bible" of these theories is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious 1897 forgery by the tsarist Okhrana. The book has been re-printed from Moscow to Warsaw and Prague and has been a bestseller in the entire region.

That many early Bolsheviks, commissars in the Hungarian 1918-19 Soviet Republic, and leaders in the first years of imposed communism on East Central Europe were Jews is indisputable. That they did not consider themselves to be Jewish (having replaced the religious messianism of their forefathers with the far more dangerous political messianism whose prophet was Marx) is no convincing argument for the proponents of conspiracy theories. As Leon Volovici notes, some Jews in Stalinist East-Central Europe were able to achieve "emancipation" at the cost of their own separate Jewish identity, creating among ethnic majorities a "shock" as they began appearing in political public functions previously inaccessible, such as the command structures of the military and the secret police. This re-enforced the already widespread legend of Jews = Communism and of Jews being Moscow agents, despite the fact that only a small minority among Jews availed itself of the new opportunities (soon to be closed before them again) and despite the fact that the bulk preferred emigration, even in difficult conditions. In the post-communist context, however, the legend serves a purpose that did not exist in the past, namely that of Holocaust historical revisionism and/or Holocaust minimization. As Volovici aptly puts it, "the real target of the Jew = Bolshevik propaganda was not the number of Jews in the communist elites, but the alleged Jewish collective culpability for the misdoings and disasters of the communist regimes. Marxism was and is presented as a 'Jewish' ideology, emanating from Judaism, as a tool to rule the world and enslave other nations. This propaganda points to an absolute and imaginary 'Jewish guilt' in order to balance it with the real culpability and real responsibility for crimes committed against the Jewish population" (Volovici, 1994: p. 16-17).

The partisans of the Jewish-Communist conspiracy, however, see communism itself as having been but one of several devices used by world Jewry in its attempts to achieve world power. Neither are they convinced by the argument that not all Jews were communists and their great majority did not support the doctrine. To this, they respond that even if not all Jews supported the communists, all communists were Jews (Blatman, 1997: p. 28). If they happened to have been Gentile, they can always be "Judaized." The "generic Jew" must become the "genetic Jew." As a Jewish activist in the Krasnodar krai(whose politics are dominated by the notorious anti-semite Governor Nikolai Kondartenko, see below) put it, "being Jewish is [no longer] a question of your nationality, but of your social function" (Union of Councils, 1999: p. 2).

If Walesa's partisans were transforming Kwasniewski into a Jew, Boleslaw Tejkowski, the controversial Polish National Commonwealth-Polish National Party leader, was doing the same for Walesa and the entire Solidarity movement, whom he called (what else?) "Judeo-Solidarity." Jankowski, Walesa's confessor, was identified by Tejkowski as being of German origin, which, in the Polish historical context, had implications nearly as bad as being a Semite. Not even the Pope was spared. Tejkowski asserted that Jewish children had been hidden in monasteries during World War II by the Jewish conspiracy in order for them to be baptized and take over the Church from within. This, he said, was how Karol Wojtila became a Catholic priest. Even among the "lunatic fringe" Tejkowski was fringe. Having been several times forced to undergo psychiatric examinations (from which he emerged sane!), in 1995 he was given a two-year suspended sentence for insulting "the Polish authorities, the Jewish people, the Pope and the Episcopate" (Prazmowska, 1995, pp. 209-10; Laqueur, 1997, p. 141; Szayna, 1997, p. 121; Ost, 1999, p. 96). For Tejkowski, every single Polish premier cabinet minister, scientist, and artist were Jewish and serving Jewish interests.

As Volovici has observed, in the post-Holocaust and the post-communist context, "every Jew is an enemy" can no longer be an effective slogan, but every enemy can be turned into a Jew to increase the effectiveness of the political war waged against that adversary (Volovici, 1994: p. 8). And historical enemies can also be turned into Jews. For Pamyat leader Dimitrii Vasiliev, Adolf Eichmann had been Jewish and, in supervising the Nazi extermination, had acted in line with the Protocols (Tolz, 1997, p. 181). The anti-Semitic Romanian journal Europa in 1991 turned Elena Ceausescu into a Jewess, just as Pamyat had earlier revealed the "true identity" of Lenin's life companion, Nadezhda Krupskaya, to have been "Leah Alekseevna Fishberg," while Leonid Brezhnev was turned into "Alfredo [sic!] Izrailovich Garpinski" (Shafir, 1991, pp. 25, 29). Similarly, Mikhail Gorbachev has been turned into Moisei Solomonovich, Boris Yeltsin is supposed to be in reality Baruch Elkin, an agent of the Mossad and world Zionism, while Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's real name is alleged to be Katz (Solovyov and Klepikova, 1995, p. 25; Union of Councils, 1999, p. 106). Nicolae Ceausescu himself had been nefariously influenced by Elena, whose father's real name was alleged to have been Kohn, according to the PRM weekly Romania mare in March 1992. And this--the weekly concluded-- was proof that it was "the Jews who brought Ceausescu to power and the Jews who liquidated him" (Shafir, 1994, p. 348).

The Jews are, occasionally, replaced by other minorities. When, in 1995, PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor decided to run against Iliescu for president, he turned his former political ally into a Roma. But it was a Roma with strong Jewish connections. It was on behalf of the Jews that Iliescu had acted when he ordered Ceausescu's shooting in December 1989. Only an atheist like Iliescu could have ordered the execution to be carried out "on the holy Day of Christmas, when Romanians do not even slaughter their pig." And, of course, Iliescu was a communist, so Tudor addressed him with "Comrade Iliescu!" Tudor told the "comrade": "The Jews brought you to power, you stay with the Jews, you have not the slightest idea about the passions of Jesus Christ," and ended predicting "Vadim will be onto you what you were onto Ceausescu" (cited in Shafir, 1996, p. 47).

The two publications of Aleksandr Barkashov's neo-Nazi Russian National Unity (RNE), Ruskii stiag and Ruskii poryadok urge that Jews and Roma be "fully eradicated at the earliest possible time," arguing that Western-style democratization is nothing but a sham designed "by Zionists and freemasons for the demoralization of the nation and the seizure of world supremacy" (cited in Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 263). But the Russian radical return has by no means a monopoly on conspiracy theories. The radical continuity embraces them no less. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov warns against Russia's subordination to a world conspiracy headed by the "transnational cosmopolitan ruling class." Nor does Zyuganov beat about the bush as to who is heading that conspiracy. Globalization is a drive born out of Jewish expansionism. "The Jewish diaspora, which traditionally controlled the financial life of this continent, began expanding its own markets by becoming the bearer of the controlling packet of shares in the complete industrial-economic system of Western civilization." The UN and the IMF are but tools in the hands of this conspiracy, which now threatens "with complete annihilation" the "distinctiveness of nations and cultures, their spiritual, historical and religious character." Holocaust minimization is also introduced by Zyuganov via the back door, as he argues in this context that the "essentially genocidal New World Order" can achieve its purpose of annihilating nations "without any concentration camps or gas chambers being necessary." The so-called economic reforms, he says, have resulted in a drop of Russia's population and are thus regulating its demography (cited in Hanson and Williams, 1999, pp. 268-69).

It is best, however, if the "conspiracy" can be shown to extend to the country's "traditional enemies" as well. Romania mare, in 1991, published a caricature in which the name of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (abbreviated in Romanian as UDMR) was spelled as "Jude-MR" (Shafir, 1991). A book published in 1995 by Neagu Cosma, a former communist secret police general, branded Hungarians and Jews for all evils that had affected his country's history, in a perfect exemplification of what the "externalization of guilt" syndrome is all about. The book concentrated, however, on their alleged shared guilt for having brought about Romania's "Bolshevization." Hungarians and Romanians were called "traitors" and "Romania's grave-diggers," and Cosma claimed that no less than 74 out of a total of 484 senators and deputies in the parliament were concealed Jews (Shafir, 1999a, p. 217).

The Romanians, of course, are not unique in combining Jews with the country's other "traditional enemies." The Slovak National Party has on several occasions combined Jews and Czechs, and Jews and Hungarians (Ramet, 1999b, pp. 16-17, Cibulka, 1999, p. 118). In Poland, Tejkowski speaks of a "Jewish-German coalition," and in Bulgaria, the "Jewish pro-Turkish lobby" was supposed to be deviously at work at undermining the reputation of the country under the rule of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, just as in Romania, the same lobby was "well-known" for its pro-Hungarian sympathies under the rule of Ion Iliescu and his nationalist allies (Volovici, 1994, p. 11).

There are two footnotes to the discussion of conspiracy theories--one short and amusing, the other rather long and somewhat disturbing. Most Russian and East European specialists are familiar with Zhirinovsky's glossing over his paternal origins. His mother, Vladimir Volfovich tells the readers of his semi-autobiography, was of Russian peasant stock, "Alexandra Pavlovna Zhirinovsky, nee Makarova, whose mother (and therefore my grandmother) was Fiona Nikiforovna Makarova, nee Sergucheva." His father, "Volf Andreevich Zhirinovsky, was a humble lawyer who worked in the administration of the Turkestan-Siberian Railway" and who "died in an automobile accident the year I was born" (Zhirinovsky, 1996, pp. 10-11). In fact, up to late in his youth, Vladimir Volfovich's family name was Eidelstein--Zhirinovsky being the name of his mother's first husband (Solovyov and Klepikova, 1995, pp. 28-29).

Fewer specialists (not to speak of laymen) are probably familiar with the fact that Albert Szabo, leader of the Hungarian People's Welfare Alliance (MNSZ) who denounces the "terror of the Jews after 1945," has a great number of relatives in Israel, whom he visited several times--as fellow radical right competitor Istvan Csurka disclosed (Oltay, 1994, p. 56; Karsai, 1999, p. 145). A search for explanation is well beyond the instruments of the political scientist, though some politologists did indulge into psychiatric theorizing. Be that as it may, Szabo is on sound historical grounds precedent: Bela Imredy, leader of a 1932-1936 radical right government which introduced anti-Jewish legislation, was forced to resign when confronted with documents attesting to his Jewish ancestry. One wonders whether Csurka was familiar with this detail when he chose for his party the denomination of Party of Justice and Life--a clear derivative from Imredy's short-lived Movement of Hungarian Life (Janos, 1982, pp. 292-93). As for Szabo, he returned to Hungary from Australia in 1993, setting up a party called World National People's Party, which was eventually banned by the authorities, whereupon he established the MNSZ. Together with fellow-neo-Nazi Istvan Gyorkos, in March 1996 he was acquitted by a tribunal of violating a law banning incitement to racial hatred and use of prohibited Nazi symbols, on grounds of freedom of speech constitutional provisions ("OMRI Daily Digest," 5 March 1996). But following a speech delivered at an October 1996 rally in which he called for the removal of Jews to Israel, he was given a one-year suspended sentence in February 1998 with three years probation. According to reports in the Hungarian media, this is what determined Szabo to move again abroad in November 1999. But his deputy, Csaba Kunstar, denied the reports, telling a Hungarian state radio interviewer that Szabo had just temporarily moved abroad for several months, to enlist financial support for the party and establish closer links with like-minded Western formations, such as the U.S.-based New Order. The intention, according to Kunstar, is quite the opposite from renouncing political activity in Hungary: taking advantage of the country's lenient legislation, Szabo is to work for transforming Budapest into an international center of radical right activism ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998; MTI, Nepszabadsag and Hungarian Radio, 24 November 1999).

The second footnote is much longer. If it is less amusing, it is because in introducing it, one risks replacing one conspiracy theory with another. I have elsewhere dwelt at length on the fact that nearly all radical parties or leaders in Romania, be they of the continuity or the return variety, can be traced as having had some links with Ceausescu's secret police, the Securitate. This goes not only for Tudor, who was an informer on the pay of the service, but also for National Right Party leader Cornel Brahas (widely known to be an informer when he worked in an administrative post in the Romanian Writers' Union), and for the pro-Iron Guard Movement for Romania leader Marian Munteanu. It was also the former Romanian secret service, now called the Romanian Intelligence Service, that set up the weekly Europa, one of the most ultranationalist publications (Shafir, 1997). At first sight this is illogical; after all, what differentiates parties of radical continuity of Tudor's PRM sort from parties of radical return, is precisely their attitude to the communist legacy. At second introspection, however, this is less strange: the legacy of national communism is one of "ethnic patriots" versus "non-ethnic cosmopolitans." In the 1970s and 1980s the secret services (and by no means in Romania alone) had largely been "purified" of the non-ethnic element and were promoting policies of "national interest." They were nurturing nationalism, though not all in the aberrant form of (as Gilberg calls it, 1990, pp. 49-56) "Ceausescuism." On these grounds, future leaders of radical continuity and radical reform could--indeed do--meet.

While the "aftertaste" of one conspiracy theory replacing the other might still remain, this explanation must be borne in mind as one looks at evidence from other post-communist countries. By 1991 Nash sovremennik, a journal of the Union of Russian Writers, was printing the Protocols. This journal, together with Molodaya gvardiya, emerged as the mouthpieces of Pamyat. Just as retired General Neagu Cosma would eventually do in Romania, they began publishing "statistics" on the participation of Jews in Bolshevik governments, as well as "theories" that "demonstrated" that all major historical events linked to revolutionary upheavals, from the French to the Russian, were the outcome of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracies. This triggered among liberal circles in Russia the belief that the KGB was masterminding an attempt to discredit liberalism--a persuasion strengthened by the fact that Pamyat leaders demonstrated a good familiarity with contemporary foreign anti-Semitic literature that was unavailable to the average Russian reader. The new radical return publications were being openly sold without the KGB doing anything to stop them, while some KGB officials were apparently supporting Pamyat (Tolz, 1997, pp. 181, 183-84; Laqueur, 1997, p. 180). Defectors from Zhirinovsky's party eventually claimed that the man had been a KGB agent all the time (Laqueur, 1997, p. 187).

Among the new Russian radical continuity formations one finds the Officers for the Revival of the Fatherland, headed by Aleksandr Sterligov, a former KGB general. This nationalist organization, set up in 1991, joined the following year the Russian National Council (RNS), becoming its militarized branch. The council was yet another example of the "Red-Brown" alliances. Headed by Sterligov, for some time it included such radical return formations as Barkashov's RNE, Viktor Korchagin's Russian Party of Russia (extreme-nationalist and anti-Semitic, regarding the "Jewish problem" as being Russia's main problem), the monarchist Russian Party of National Revival, Nikolai Lysenko's National Republican Party of Russia (advocating the unification of all territories where Russians live, anti-communist, and regarding Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis and northern Caucasians as Russia's main enemies), but also the more heterogeneous "cultural" "Fatherland" (Otechestvo) organizations. Among the latter, the group set up in 1989 by members of the editorial board of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' Na boevom postu acquired the most notoriety, due to the publication in 1991 of Viktor Ostretsov's book The Black Hundred and the Red Hundred, praising the activities of the former. In 1992, the RNS held its first congress and elected four chairmen. One of the four was called Gennadii Zyuganov (Pribylovsky, 1994; Laqueur, 1997, p. 187).

Hungary's Csurka admits that he has been coerced into signing a statement agreeing to act as an informer for the secret services (AVO, later AVH), but claims his reports had never harmed anyone (Oltay, 1994, p.59). A shadowy past including ties with the communist secret police and to the Gruenwald Association of nationalist party members had also Stanislaw Tyminski, the surprising emigre returned to Poland who, in 1990, managed to place second in the presidential elections after Walesa with 23 percent of the vote, beating Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and forcing a runoff with the former Solidarity leader. He then went on to form Party X, which eventually died off as an oddity. In his inflammatory speeches, Tyminski vilified, among other things, the reform and privatization program of the government, presenting them as (what else?) a Jewish conspiracy to rob Poland of its riches and partition the country again (Prazmowska, 1995, p. 205; Szayna, 1997, pp. 118-22). In Bulgaria, the Committee for the Defense of National Interest, whose ultranationalist postures were directed at the ethnic-Turkish minority, was headed by Mincho Minchev, a former State Security officer (Bell, 1999, p. 245). The post-1990 leader of the nationalist Matica slovenska, Jozef Markus, was revealed by the screening process to have collaborated with the secret communist police (Cohen, 1999, pp. 134-36). Slovene National Party leader Zmago Jelincic's revealed past collaboration with the secret services in 1993 caused a split in the party. Six deputies left the formation, setting up the Slovene National Right led by Saso Lap (Rizman, 1999, pp. 152-53). In Serbia, Seselj's radical return Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has turned out to be thoroughly infiltrated by the country's secret services, which apparently ordered their agents to defect from the SRS's federal and republican parliamentary groups when Seselj's relations with President Slobodan Milosevic took a confrontational turn in 1995 (Pribicevic, 1999, p. 207).


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