Thursday, October 25, 2012

Political Extremism in Russia: The National Bolshevik Party

Political extremism in the Russian Federation is nothing new. The modern Communist Party (Коммунистическая партия Российской Федерации) is the second largest party after Putin's United Russia (Еди́ная Росси́я), but this anachronistic party is not enough for many on the extreme left. One party that seeks to fill that void is the National Bolshevik Party (Национал-большевистская партия). The party combines what at first glance one would find as otherwise contradictory symbols, terms, and beliefs. Despite being banned repeatedly and not being officially registered as a party, the NBP is not limited to merely Russia; in fact, it has expanded out towards other Slavic countries, Greece, and even the United States. It has been criticized as not being a piece for legitimate political action, and for the sexualization of its female members.

The party's flag is that of the traditional Soviet hammer and sickle, sans star, featured on a white and traditionally red (extremely recently in Russia, sometimes black, reflecting a shift to a "national anarchism" ideology) flag -- reminiscent as some sort of bizarre mix of Soviet and Nazi symbolism. It is not merely on a superficial level that the movement seems contradictory. Despite wishing to "keep Russia Russian", the party advocates a Eurasian union, and states that they are neither racist nor xenophobic. Indeed, despite the symbolism and the name, the party is decidedly towards the left, breaking away from its nationalist right-wing allies in the year 2000. A splinter group arose using the party's former name of the National Bolshevik Front, but it has failed to rise to the level of the NBP. 

Although the movement behind the party has its roots in the beginning of the Soviet Union, its founder and leader Eduard Limonov (Эдуард Лимонов) is essentially the sole mouthpiece behind it. The journal, "Limonka (Лимонка)", regularly criticizes the Russian government, particularly Putin. Limonov emigrated to the United States during the Soviet era, and it was there that he was introduced to radical left wing politics and the punk subculture. Despite criticism and brief periods incarceration, along with the party being repeatedly banned, Limonov has kept the party going. The NBP was an important player in the opposition coalition known as "The Other Russia (Другая Россия)", and briefly attempted to reform as a new party with the same name, only to be denied registration. 

The NBP has undergone criticism that, outside of a few intellectuals, it is mostly a gang of young, disaffected and alienated hooligans dressed in punk and fascist-chic. Most of its prominent members are journalists (in a very loose sense of the word) and artists. The NBP has regularly conducted riots that are more typical of anarchist black-bloc tactics seen in the western world, and has continuously disrupted what it sees as false democratic processes. Limonov denies this as mere ad hominem attacks.

          Other criticisms of the NBP include its use of propaganda, typically involving young, attractive women. The more extreme propaganda will not be featured here, but it is readily discoverable, typically featuring full or partial nudity. Again, Limonov denies this as an ad hominem attack, and states that he is not in control of what goes where, especially given the party's massive size.

          Time will tell if conditions in Russia improve. Until then, actions such as banning extremist parties not only seem to fail, but have the opposite effect of energizing their cause. The NBP's membership has exploded every time attempts are made to ban it. Although currently operating also as "The Other Russia" in an attempt to move beyond its former image and become a respectable party, The Other Russia was, as previously mentioned, denied registration; abroad, the NBP image remains active, and Limonov keeps one foot in the door with the NBP. Time will tell if the NBP in Russia ever actually becomes a party, and whether it becomes a politically powerful force. 


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