Natsbols Banned Again and Russia’s Anti-Fascist Skins

It looks like Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party can’t catch a break. Once again the radical organization has been denied registration as a political party. The decision by the Taganka district court upholds the previous ruling by the Justice Ministry. This is the fifth time the NBP has been denied official registration as a political party since 1998. Under Russian law, political parties must have at least 50,000 members to register with the Federal Registration Service. Depending on who you ask, the NBP boasts a membership of around 15,000.

Once again, Limonov vows to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a move that will probably not amount to much. But Limonov must take a stand and besides mass actions by his organization, this is pretty much the only option he has.

However, the lack of registration has not deterred NBP activities. Last week several activists were arrested in Voronezh and Moscow at NBP protests calling for Russia to either recognize or incorporate break away regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

With all the talk about the rise of fascism in Russia and the news of more racial killings (RFE/RL has a timeline and articles here and here) and beatings (here and here) primarily in St. Petersburg, one wonders about the anti-fascist movement. By anti-fascist, I don’t mean the hollow proclamations by the government and Nashi against fascism. I mean the anti-racist skinheads and hardcore punks that fight the Nazi skinheads in the streets. A search brought me to a critical but revealing article about “Russian AntiFas.” Here’s an excerpt:

In theory, anti-fascism sounds hard as nails: anarchists, punks and skinheads running around and looking for brawls with Moscow’s Nazi-skinhead underground. When I first envisioned this story, I thought it’d be filled with Chopper-like braggarts, righteous, scar-covered thugs living in squats and in a constant state of war. After all, whatever you say about Russian fascists, they’re definitely scary. Last year according to the SOVA Center, which gathers info on racial attacks, they were credited with 28 murders throughout Russia. It’d seem like anyone looking to take them on would have to be equal parts crazy and tough. In other words, anything but dill.

Furthermore, it’s understandable why they’re a bit camera shy. The basic tenet of AntiFA is to challenge the growing neo-Nazi movement in Russia with force; they want to make it hurt to be a Nazi. But they’re vastly outnumbered by Moscow’s real skinheads, who according to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights numbered 5000 two years ago, the last time anyone bothered to count. Last November, ultra-rightists mobilized up to 5000 to goose-step down Tverskaya holding racist signs in broad daylight. According to Dima, a skinhead I talked to who is neither AntiFA nor racist (boneheads, as enlightened Russian skins call their racist/fascist brethren), AntiFA activists on a good day can only muster a group of about 50 and their total number in Moscow is no more than 200. I figured they must have brass balls.

So, it was a bit of a surprise when Ukrop asked me to meet him at Bilingua. Nothing against the cafe, which is a favorite among bearded intellectuals and other assorted pencilnecks, but it’s not exactly the hard-assiest place in Moscow. Nor did his lunch of beer and grenadine add to the baby-faced punk’s intimidation-creds. By the time he started telling me that the fascists were on the decline and AntiFA was rising, I realized I’d been had.

AntiFA is just another western fad, no different than riggers, cigar-smoking, and sushi. Russia’s always had a minority of Westernizers in its capitals, looking to the West for trends that they blindly copy. The trend AntiFA’s membership is mimicking is the same soft stuff as the Food Not Bombs and Critical Mass crowd in the States. I got to know those two movements well when going to school in Minneapolis, one of the last places in the States where punk was practiced by people beyond high school. They’d do their thing, occasionally causing a traffic jam or starting an organic garden on an abandoned lot, and nobody would pay them any mind. They bought books at the local anarchist book store, ate vegan, espoused totally impractical politics, and spent their weekends crowding into mattress-lined basements to watch punk shows. They’re as unthreatening as someone with a shaved head can be. That, to the AntiFA crew, must seem like paradise.