Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found fourteen defining characteristics common to each. In this article, I will be using these 14 defining characteristics to illustrate that Ukraine has been steadily declining into fascism since the Maidan coup. Fascism is not a simple check list, but a complex phenomena with many aspects both economic and cultural. It would take a much more in depth, class based analysis to truly declare Ukraine as a fascist state but these simple fourteen points are a good place to start.
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
Slava Ukraini is a slogan that we have all heard repeatedly over the past year, even in the United States. It became the official salute of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2018 - four years after the Maidan coup. Historically it is tied to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Stepan Bandera. This slogan has a long history of being connected with fascist movements and its widespread use today is part of a disturbing trend towards normalizing Ukraine’s fascist history.
Ukraine flags are now ubiquitous - in Twitter handles, profile pictures, on churches, in restaurants, on government buildings in the US and US embassies throughout the world, and of course throughout Ukraine. It is safe to say that there is a very strong nationalist movement in Ukraine.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
There is a long history of this post Maidan. In 2016, Amnesty International Released a report detailing arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and torture in Eastern Ukraine by both sides of the civil war. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has been involved in numerous violations of human rights.
Larissa, a Ukrainian who was detained by the SBU, tells her story:
I was taken to the SBU premises and my first interrogation was truly terrible, it lasted 37 hours non-stop, I was prevented from sleeping and the most absurd questions rained down. The SBU agents took turns, I lost the sense of time and I was no longer myself after such treatment. My son had been arrested only to put pressure on me. He was beaten savagely for hours, he was a bloody, bruised, unrecognizable body. They broke his ribs and also his hands and I was threatened that if I did not confess everything they wanted, he would be beaten again. It is a terrible torture for a mother to be blackmailed so cruelly. Finally I was thrown into a jail and collapsed into a deep sleep.
This has continued under Zelensky as detailed by Max Blumenthal for The Grayzone:
Zelensky has further exploited the atmosphere of war to outlaw an array of opposition parties and order the arrest of his leading rivals. His authoritarian decrees have triggered the disappearance, torture and even murder of an array of human rights activists, communist and leftist organizers, journalists and government officials accused of “pro-Russian” sympathies.
Human rights in Ukraine are a thing of the past, especially for people who identify with Russia in any way.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
In Ukraine today, Russia and ethnic Russians are the most common enemy, but socialism and communism have also been targeted as have the Roma people. The communist party was banned in 2015, shortly after the Maidan coup. More recently 11 opposition parties were banned for being “aligned with Russia.”
The roots of this oppression are easy to see in the post Maidan government. In 2012, a law was passed granting regional language status to Russian and other minority languages. This law was immediately repealed by the Ukrainian parliament following the Maidan coup in 2014. In 2019, the law "On supporting the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the State language" was passed which designated Ukrainian and the official state language and effectively banned Russian language use in public settings.
On June 19, 2022, Reuters reports the Ukrainian parliament “voted through two laws which will place severe restrictions on Russian books and music as Kyiv seeks to break many remaining cultural ties between the two countries following Moscow’s invasion.” These new laws are the latest in a series of “decommunization laws” which included removing communist monuments, renaming streets and other places with historical names relating to the USSR or communism, and elevating the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists to official status.
4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
Ukraine has been ramping up their military budget since the Maidan.
From 2014 to 2022, Ukrainian military expenditure has doubled from $3 billion USD to $5.9 billion USD. In 2021, the military spending made up around 1/6 of the entire Ukrainian government’s budget of $36 billion. At the same time, at the behest of the IMF, Ukraine has been implementing harsh austerity measures against the working class.
5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
This is not as prevalant in Ukraine as many of the other points. Women in politics have seen an increase under Zelensky, where 20% of the parliament is now composed of women. This is not that far off from the US in which women make up 24% of the Senate and 28% of the House. None of these numbers are particularly good in a world where 50% of the population is made up of women.
However, the LGBTQ+ people of Ukraine have seen an increased amount of attacks following the 2014 Maidan coup. In October 2016, Azov and Pravy Sektor battalion members attacked a LGBTQ+ film event in Kyiv. According to the report by RFERL, the police did nothing to stop them. The number of attacks on LGBTQ+ centers and events doubled from 2019 to 2020 according to a Reuters report. In his 2016 article Murder After the Revolution, David Stern writes, “Since Ukraine’s February 2014 Maidan revolution, the number of attacks on the LGBTQ community has exploded.”
6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
In 2021, President Zelensky signed a Ukrainian security council decree banning eight media and TV companies that were deemed to be pro Russia for a minimum of five years. This effectively shut down most oppositional media to the official government outlets. It is noteworthy that this censorship began before the Russian military operation in 2022.
Shortly after the Russian military operation began, Zelensky combined all the national TV channels into one program called “United News”, effectively ending any non governmental reporting. According to Deadline, “Zelensky claimed the measure is needed to combat alleged Russian misinformation and ‘tell the truth about the war.’” The Ukrainian media has been entirely under governmental control since March 2022.
The censorship is not limited to Ukraine. In August, CBS pulled a documentary about weapons going missing in Ukraine after pressure from the Ukrainian government.
7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
Ukraine has consistently used fear mongering over Russia to push for joining the EU/NATO, scrapping the Budapest memorandum (and obtaining nuclear weapons), and to target political rivals.
In April 2021, the SBU jailed 60 people for protesting, claiming they were sent by pro-Russian forces. Even pro Maidan Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko claimed to have been targeted by the SBU.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
Ukraine is a largely Orthodox Christian nation. The Russia military operation has caused a schism between the two prevalent sects in Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church of Ukraine cut ties with Russia, but has still been targeted. As reported by the LA Times, “Members of the Security Service of Ukraine, the National Guard and police searched the monastery last week after a priest spoke favorably about Russia during a service there. The Security Service said its agents searched more than 350 church buildings in all, including at another monastery and in a diocese of the Rivne region, 150 miles west of Kyiv, the capital.” This was part of a campaign that included Ukraine banning the religious activities of the church.
As can be seen in the image above, Orthodox priests blessed the flags of Donbas battalion in 2014. The Donbas battalion was founded by Semen Ihorovych Semenchenko as an unofficial militia. It was implicated in human rights abuses including torture in August of 2014.
However, there is no obvious link between the church and government in Ukraine.
9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
This is a major problem in Ukraine. Nothing could be more clear than Ukraine’s ties to global capitalists. Zelensky’s presidential campaign was funded by Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. The depth of these ties was revealed in the Pandora Papers. Today, Zelensky is carrying out an agenda of privatization on a massive scale. The merger of corporate interests with the state is being done openly.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
Using the war as an excuse, Ukraine has been carrying out a deliberate campaign against labor. On August 17, Zelensky ratified Law 5371 which cuts away labor rights and union protections. As Open Democracy describes:
In practice, this means that around 70% of workers in Ukraine have been stripped of many labour protections. Collective agreements negotiated by unions – over salary or holidays, for instance – no longer apply. The law also removes the legal authority of trade unions to veto workplace dismissals.
The law, which amended the Labor Code of Ukraine, is the latest in a string of legislation targeting worker rights and the ability of unions to function freely. For the past two years, lobbyists have pushed laws in Parliament that reduce wages, limit the use of formal contracts that ensure workers have job stability and weaken their collective voice by targeting unions. Under the restrictions of martial law and the chaos of war, members of Parliament have passed many of these measures.
Any attack on labor is to be opposed and these are especially dangerous under martial law.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
This isn’t as apparent as many of the other points. Ukraine did reform their education system with a new law in 2017. This law made some improvements but at the same time contained an attack on the Russian language. It specified that specified that only the Ukrainian language can be used in post-elementary education in Ukraine. This ethnic nationalism in education is another blatant attack on Russian speaking people in Ukraine.
As to the other aspects of this point, I was unable to find much evidence one way or the other on higher education.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
The military police in Ukraine literally have a fasces as their symbol. There is no more open declaration of fascism than proudly displaying this fascist emblem.
In the emblem of the western management of the military police of Ukraine, the fasces are combined with a lion that is reminiscent of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) symbol.
The government special police (SBU) have run rampant with their arrests as previously noted.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
Ukraine has long been considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This has not changed. Zelensky has been shown to be corrupt in the Pandora papers. As the Guardian describes it:
Since 1991, officials, members of parliament and businessmen have created complex and highly lucrative schemes to plunder the state budget. The theft has crippled Ukraine. The economy was as large as Poland’s at independence, now it is a third of the size. Ordinary Ukrainians have seen their living standards stagnate, while a handful of oligarchs have become billionaires.
Zelensky has done nothing to stop the corruption. As New Europe says, “It has recently become clear that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky loves kleptocracy as much as his predecessor Petro Poroshenko.”
14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
This whole situation in Ukraine was started by a coup - which is pretty similar to a fraudulent election. The removal of president Yanukovych was done through an unconstitutional parliament vote.
Elections since then can be considered fraudulent since a large portion of what was recognized as Ukraine broke off and became autonomous or joined Russia.
Does this mean Ukraine is a fascist state?
Not necessarily. To truly determine whether Ukraine is fascist or not would require a deeper, Marxist analysis. The fourteen points of Dr. Lawrence Britt do point to Ukraine having fascistic tendencies. This is definitely concerning and the fact that western media has duped most of the US population into supporting this regime is disturbing. There is no good reason for the US to be funding a proxy war led by a state with fascist tendencies, but that is what is happening. There is nothing new in this, the US has often backed similar states and in fact, the US itself fits many of the fourteen points. After all, it is a capitalist state founded on genocide and slavery.
14 out of 14 for both Ukraine and the US. you nailed it!