When American conservatism met Russian Nationalism: a love story from the Cold War

The two dominant factions among the country clubbers who lord it over the morlocks in the United States of Dreamland consist, on the one hand, of a rightwing group who spend a lot of time producing and decrying fake news, and a center-right group of Eloi who have produced a fake consensus history and spend a lot of time contrasting the present barbarians with the beautiful normality of once upon a time.

The murder of 11 mostly elderly Jews in Pittsburgh has produced a lot of articles about how anti-semitism could be happening in Dreamland, of all places. But anti-semitism is, as Rap Brown might put it, as American as apple pie. A minor story this week about Trump sponsored anti-semitism gained some attention: Radio Marti, a government funded propaganda station that broadcasts to Cuba, took up the cudgels of American white nationalists (and Hungarian anti-semites and the rightwing government of Israel) against George Soros. Soros is a billionaire with liberal leanings, and hence must be thoroughly scourged as a cosmopolitan, a secret Nazi accomplice when he was 12, etc., etc. He’s today’s Rothschild, with the difference that in the 19th century a Zionist country with a total contempt for liberal Jewish culture did not yet exist to add its noise to the moronic inferno.


This news story, however, pinged my memory of the good old days, specifically, the old entanglement of American propaganda outlets and anti-semitism during the Cold War. So I went into the archive and looked up some of the material, and I thought, wow, here’s an unexpected predecessor of exactly those gang colors worn by members of the Trump gov today!

It was in the 1970s that Radio Liberty, a station set up by the CIA in the fifties to blast the Soviet beast with the truth, drew attention to itself due to a squabble about what exactly was being blasted. As a consequence of détente, a quota of Jews were allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union – which by this time in its history had long dialectically sublated its original internationalism (when many of the most important Bolsheviks were of Jewish origin) and gone to the next stage of socialism in one country, i.e. the propagation of anti-Jewish shit.  Some of these emigres sought jobs with the Radio Liberty and Radio Free America. This caused a ruckus. The personnel at these two institutions had been recruited, after the end of World War II, from the older generation of anti-Bolsheviks. It was a generation that was seeded with people who longed for the days of the Black 100s, pograms, Cossacks and balalaikas. These folks were Russian nationalists of the purest kind.

In 1977, some American papers – the Washington Post, the New York Times – reported on the dissension at Radio Liberty. They quoted Victor Fedoseyev, a physicist exiled in 1971, who claimed that Radio Liberty gave “free access to people to broadcast anti-Semitic or anti-democratic Russian nationalist views.”  In particular, there were strong links between the Russians employed by Radio Liberty and an anti-Bolshevik group named People’s Labor Alliance, described by the Washington Post as a group advocating a Mussolini solution to the Bolshevik problem – that is, the ascension of some leader who would re-install Russian Orthodox Christianity with an iron hand.

A member of this group who was a producer at Radio Liberty, wrote in the PLA magazine a complaint that many Radio Liberty programs “lacked the Russian spirit: by which I mean one based on Christianity and Orthodoxy. Why are programs at Radio Liberty not carried out for Russia and the Russian people?” At the time, the liberal hero, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was speaking the same language – but few liberals heard it. What danced through their heads when Russians were being all charmingly anachronistic was, no doubt, scenes from the movie Nicholas and Alexandria, a sentimental royal drama that came out in 1971, and was scored to the rumbling sounds of the grandparents of hundreds of Hollywood movie producers turning in their graves – since many of that generation had experienced the glory and tragedy of Nicholas and Alexandria in the form of a Cossack or policeman burning their house down and yelling about how the Yids were using the blood of Christian babies in their rituals (a myth firmly believed by the lovely Romanovs).

The nationality question, so to speak, was solved in the Reagan years when Radio liberty fell into the hands of a new director, George Bailey. Bailey had been recommended by Solzhenitsyn, who doubtless got his favorable image from the magazine Kontinent, an exile rag supported by Axel Springer, the rightwing press baron – a pre-Murdoch. Bailey had worked there with a lot of your standard right wing Russian exiles – the kind of people who couldn’t stand liberal or socialist Russian exiles, like Andrei Sinyavsky. Above Bailey was James Buckley, the brother of William Buckley, who went from Senator to the head of the re-organized government institution that controlled American propaganda. If one wants to trace the royal bloodline that goes from the conservatism of Reagan to that of Trump, I’d suggest dropping your flow meter here. It is in these obscure auspices that American conservatism and white Russian nationalism met, and as in some meeting between a Wodehouse male and a Wodehouse female, a curious stirring was felt about the heart of each.

In 1985, George Bailey resigned from his position. By all accounts, the Reagan administration had amply funded Radio Liberty and Radio Free America, in contrast with, say, Headstart; and by all accounts the Radio Station had done good work publicizing, say, the situation in Poland. But the nationalist Russian cohort had not been tamed. The Post reported on a meeting of Radio Liberty employees addressed by an exile named Leonid Plyusch, who said that the root of all Russia’s troubles were the Jews. Victor Fedoseyev’s wife, who was at the meeting, complained, and was promptly fired.  The news leaked.

I am giving merely a broad impression of the personalities and themes drawn into the struggle over Radio Liberty. To give some flavor of the rightwing tone of Bailey’s regime, the Radio Liberty rightists attacked Richard Pipes, the Reagan aide and well known anti-communist, for being a softy. Or, as they put it in Kontinent, an “idiot” of the Soviet Union. Surely a pre-taste of the schism between the never-Trump righties (who agree with Trump about everything, but have positions among the Eloi) and the always-Trump righties

This is a relatively unimportant anecdote from the Cold War; however, it lives, as an anecdote, in the norms of the time. The fake history in which anti-semitism and white nationalism were obsessions of peasants in Northern Idaho rather than ideas with some patrons in the White House strangles real “resistance” to the trumpist culture. Both Putin and Trump came out of the Cold War that we just don’t want to look at anymore. Look at it and weep, morlocks.

PS – if you are kicking around in this territory, be sure to give Andrei Sinyavsky’s essay, Russian Nationalism, a look. For my money, it was Sinyavsky, not Solzhenitsy, who was the real prophet of the Cold War. He saw convergences where we were told that there were bifurcations. In Russian Nationalisms, published in 1990 in the Massachusetts Review, Sinyavsky gives a pretty concise summing up of the various Russian nationalisms being generated in the dying Soviet state.

Based on these new trends, I tend to think that Russian nationalism is today the womb of violence. It readily combines with the most reactionary wing of Soviet society (the bureaucracy, the army, the KGB) and opposes not only Communism, but democracy and the West. It is curious, however, that some Western groups speak out at times on behalf of Russian nationalists and authoritarians, even though it would seem that Russian democrats should be psychologically closer to them. The logic seems to be that freedom and democracy are good for the West, but Russia requires something a bit more simple and brutal. Something suitable for savages.


Here Sinyavsky is thwacking the cohort of journalists, like David Remnick of the New Yorker, who energetically propagandized for a Solzhenitsyn-ist view of Russia – until, of course, Solzhenitsyn followed the logic of his own arguments and died, as it were, in the arms of Putin. It was bound to be.  Fake history is also, well, history.

I am a translator, author and editor living in Paris. I finished a novel in March, and am busy trying to find an agent. In the meantime, I thought I'd like to start a magazine. Willett's is meant to be a venue for the review of books, personal reflections, and political bitching - and everything else.
About Roger 78 Articles
I am a translator, author and editor living in Paris. I finished a novel in March, and am busy trying to find an agent. In the meantime, I thought I'd like to start a magazine. Willett's is meant to be a venue for the review of books, personal reflections, and political bitching - and everything else.

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