Who? That would be Eduard Limonov, co-founder of Russia’s “National Bolshevik” Party. He is the subject of a fawning biography by the prolific French writer Emmanuel Carrére. “National Bolshevism” is an abortive fusion of communism and fascism that is really just fascism with some communist symbols. Carrére’s book convinces me that this movement is central to an understanding of evolving European fascism. The similarities to Donald Trump’s following are more limited, but the fact remains that they are allied on different levels.
What’s hard to understand is Carrére’s affection for his subject, whom he at one point calls his hero. Limonov to my way of thinking is little more than a flaming asshole. Intelligent but intellectually perverse, and proud of it. Carrére is a prolific author whose mother is an eminent scholar of Russia. The family’s roots are White Russian, but the appeal is still elusive. Much of the book attempts to elaborate on it. It’s as much about Carrére as Limonov.
Limonov was born into a poor family, his father a low-ranked member of the Soviet political police. He goes through stages: a Russian bohemian poet lacking any notoriety, then a degenerate hustler in New York City. He makes it big as a writer with his autobiographical novel, “It’s Me, Eddie,” which I’ve not read. He acquires celebrity in France, then goes to Russia where he falls in with the opposition to Gorbachev, and then Yeltsin, in the company of a mixed gaggle of neo-Nazis and Stalinist nostalgics, if that isn’t the height of idiocy. He makes a side trip to commune with Serbian war criminals during the break-up of Yugoslavia. He writes many more books and in his old age strikes a kind of peace with the regime against which he postures.
The attention this story deserves is in the way it reveals the sort of personality that leads a person to fascism, as well as the kind of political stagnation in which it may thrive. It’s a Russian version of Scarface focused on politics rather than crime. Missing from the book is any clue as to the role of the U.S. and NATO in the catastrophic economic deterioration of Russia, under the watch of the Clinton Administration. Yet another angle from which to consider the role of the Clintons themselves in their own recent defeat.
I’ve described the international fascist front as affiliated with the Putin regime, as well as with the U.S. alt-right. One might wonder how to reconcile that with the national bolsheviks’ erstwhile opposition to their rulers. The answer is pretty simple. The homegrown Russian fascists are stooges for Putin, not unlike historic links between the U.S. ultra-right and law enforcement (sic). Their allies in Europe and the U.S. never criticize Putin, quite the contrary, and direct their energies at U.S. interests, including the European Union and NATO.
Carrére notes similarities between Limonov and Putin himself. At one point, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the current Russian autocrat was reduced to driving a cab. Putin and Limonov had similar, humble origins. The difference is that Putin realized his megalomaniacal dreams, and Limonov did not. For all the comfort he derives from his literary elder statesman status in Russia, in light of his fantasies of leading the masses, Limonov ends up a loser.