Wednesday June 7th 2023

Keep citizen journalism alive!



Letter to the Editor

I am writing in response to Peter Molenaar’s May op-ed, “Peace Be With You.”

In this piece, Mr. Molenaar repeats a number of Russian talking points about Ukraine, all of which are refutable by listening to Ukrainian both here at home in Minneapolis or on the ground in Ukraine. But more importantly, as someone with a long academic background studying fascism and the far right, I want to speak to his accusations of Ukrainian “fascistic gangs.”

Put simply: to believe that, prior to February 24th, there were roving bands of fascists roaming the streets of Kharkiv or Mariupol is false. Fascist groups in Ukraine were and are tiny. They had no meaningful representation in the parliament, nor did the Azov Battalion–about which so much has been said–ever grow beyond about 1000 members. Putin’s brutal leveling of their home city of Mariupol has likely killed most of them. Good riddance, but let us also keep their size in perspective.

Russian (and Soviet) uses of the word ‘fascist’ are grounded in their World War II experience. After World War II, the word came to mean “anyone who is opposed to the USSR (or East Germany, etc.).”  In this use, it means that the United States, Britain, and France, who supplied so much of the weapons and supplies that kept the USSR from collapsing in the German onslaught, were referred to as “fascists” themselves once the war was over. How could this be? Put simply: it was a rhetorical trick and nothing more.

As someone who considers themselves an antifascist, it is and always will be my duty to stand up against fascism wherever it is. At the same time, I have far too many Ukrainian friends from my time living in Central Europe who now find themselves fighting against Putin’s unprovoked and plainly genocidal war. They are fighting to preserve their freedom from Putin’s authoritarian system.

Sincerely yours,

sam harrison

Powderhorn Park

Note: Peter Molenaar, our regular columnist, has promised a rebuttal to Sam Harrison’s letter. Look for it in the July issue of the Alley.

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