“The status of the American Negro is that of an oppressed national minority, and only a Soviet system can solve the question of such minorities,” William Z. Foster, long-time chairman of the Communist Party, U.S.A., wrote in his 1932 book, Toward Soviet America.

Accordingly, the right of self-determination will apply to Negroes in the American Soviet system. In the so-called Black Belt of the South, where the Negroes are in the majority, they will have the fullest right to govern themselves and also such white minorities as may live in this section.

Thus, by sheer sleight of hand, an ethnic majority would be transformed into a minority on its own home territory.

Thankfully, Foster and company never got the opportunity’ to enact their program for rectifying what they believed to be America’s irredeemably racist past. But suppose they had? Following the model actually put into effect by the Soviet Union on the territory of the former Russian empire, it is not hard to see how this principle would have worked out in practice: an African-American republic in the Deep South, a Spanish-speaking republic in most of the Mexican Cession, large territories in the West assigned to various Indian nations (“Navajo Autonomous Republic”), small francophone enclaves in Louisiana and northern Vermont and Maine, and so forth—all under the tight control of an avowedly non-national, even anti-national, regime determined to efface any memory of the former American nation. A truncated “American” (i.e., white, English-speaking) republic would occupy most of the Midwest, Upper South, and Northeast, itself riddled with autonomous regions for Indians and real or imagined ethnic minorities, like Pennsylvania Germans, Chicago Poles, and Cape Cod Portuguese. Even within the borders of this rump America, the residual non-minority American identity, still suspect as the former oppressing power, would be subject to unblinking scrutiny for any signs of reawakening chauvinism.

And now, suppose that—after the better part of a century—the whole system were to collapse, and all the arbitrarily drawn lines to become the borders of internationally recognized states. The resulting “America”-that is, the territory that had not been assigned to one or another of the formerly oppressed minorities—finds itself the mutilated remnant of its former, pre-Foster domain, while millions of non-minority Americans, literally overnight, find themselves “foreigners” under the not-too-tender rule of African-American, Hispanic, etc., governments, which consider their very presence an offense to their “national” dignity. Is there any doubt that, among non-minority Americans, there would be a nationalist reaction, not only over the treatment of dispossessed “Americans” in the minority-ruled statelets but against the dismemberment itself?

This, roughly, is the position that Russia and the Russians now find themselves in, with the dismantling of the Soviet Union. To be sure, as Wayne Allensworth insightfully describes the spectrum of Russian national opinion, there has been a reaction against the vivisection of Russia’s national territory that occurred in 1991, by which the Soviet regime was finally laid to rest. Yet what is surprising is not that this reaction has occurred but that, given the increasing misery into which most Russians have been plunged in the post-Soviet era, it has not been a more forceful one. A stock theme of some of the more extreme (and numerically insignificant) nationalist elements, such as Aleksandr Barkashov’s proto-Nazi movement, Russian National Unity, is the international anti-Russian conspiracy, in which

the United States works in concert with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the U.N., NATO, and an internationalist-oriented elite in the mass media to undermine Russian sovereignty, military security, and cultural identity.

Given, however, the role of U.S. “experts” in turning Russia’s post-Soviet privatization into the biggest looting of a nation’s resources in world history (estimated by some authorities at upward of $400 billion), coupled with a U.S. policy (begun under Bush but compounded under Clinton) that is cynically contemptuous of Russia’s legitimate interests in the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the “near abroad” (that is, the newly independent states, first delineated as administrative subdivisions within the U.S.S.R. by Lenin and Stalin, the borders of which the United States now considers sacred), and the threat posed by an unnecessary and gratuitous expansion of NATO, the mystery is not why some Russians go in for conspiracy theories but why most have not—yet. (Back in the days of communism, the United States meekly acquiesced in the “Brezhnev Doctrine,” under which the Soviet Union had the right to ensure that socialist states would remain eternally socialist. But today, not only is post-communist Russia not entitled to a Monroe Doctrine in its own neighborhood, it is regarded as aggression per se if Moscow objects to the establishment of an American sphere of influence in areas vital to Russia, but of negligible importance to America.)

Allensworth, a Russia analyst at the U.S. government’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service, is superbly equipped to explain the complexities and nuances of the kaleidoscopic variations of Russian nationalist opinion. Allowing, perhaps, the wish to become father to the thought, Allensworth confronts the dominant anti-nationalism of American policy—anti-nationalist in its hostility not only to Russian nationalism but to American nationalism and to every other manifestation, in any country, of a patriotic consciousness not completely subordinate to globalist ideology—with the fact (or at least the hope) that Russia is down but not yet out. “Russia is at a crossroads. A choice must be made, not between nationalism and internationalism but between Russian nationalisms.” From among the contenders to succeed the terminally decrepit Boris Yeltsin and his hopelessly corrupt U.S.-supported regime, he clearly prefers retired general Aleksandr Lebed, now governor of Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region and a leading advocate of what Allensworth calls “reform nationalism.” As the most constructive variant of nationalist opinion, reform nationalism, Allensworth suggests, not only can restore Russia to the status of a respectable great power in a very dangerous neighborhood; it has the moral authority to pull the country out of the domestic morass into which it has sunk. Echoing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the acknowledged godfather of Orthodox Christian patriotism in Russia, Lebed believes that a healthy Russia must be reestablished on authentic national traditions—notably, the mutual reinforcement of the army and the Church. (While Solzhenitsyn is, of course, a professed Orthodox Christian, Lebed, so far as this reviewer knows, has never declared his religious faith. He has criticized former Soviet apparatchiki who have opportunistically rushed to declare themselves believers in the postcommunist era; on the other hand, Lebed was the only presidential contender to attend the recent interment of the royal martyrs, Nicholas II and his family, at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.) As Lebed puts it in his autobiography:

So let us remember what Russia stands on, and return the Church, which was separated from the state, to its bosom and create a powerful spiritual state institution. And seriously, thoughtfully, as we can be when we want to be, let us reform the army and bring it back to its former might and grandeur. The Church strengthens the army; the army defends the Church. And on this restored spiritual axis—the two forces of our great power—we can begin to feel like Russians again.

To feel like Russians again. It is hard to read Allensworth’s book without mentally comparing, more than once, the parallels between nationalism in Russia and the quandary of American national identity. When will we be permitted to feel like Americans again? While Foster’s Soviet-style plan for American denationalization never made it past the drawing board, other programs, structurally different but kindred in spirit—multiculturalism in education, multilingualism, affirmative action, dual citizenship, uncontrolled immigration—have confused and demoralized Americans’ national consciousness. In the final analysis, despite the genocidal ministrations of the Soviet regime and the dashed hopes of de-communization, Russians still know they are Russians. Yet how many Americans, by comparison, can describe with any degree of coherence who we are as a people? Indeed, apart from the universalist cant about “one nation, many peoples” that has become de rigueur in public discourse today, is it even permissible to speak of an American “nationality” at all?

The question is hardly an idle one. Allensworth aptly closes his book with a chapter on “The Global Regime and the Nationalist Reaction”:

The conclusive stage of the economic, political, and social rationalization that began in early modern Europe is its globalization. The fear that all nationalists express of the developing hegemonic global monoculture is inextricably tied to their intuitive grasp of the fundamental meaning of modernism’s final drive toward dominance: The real question facing both the Russians and other nations is the question of survival.

The fact that Russians are addressing that question—sometimes, admittedly, in reprehensible (the Nazism of Barkashov), unattractive (the “national bolshevism” of communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov), and bizarre (the ranting of “liberal democrat” Vladimir Zhirinovsky) ways—is itself unacceptable to the global managerial elite that dominates their country and ours: hence Russian nationalism’s bogeyman status among the “democratic” intelligentsia of America and Russia alike. If Allensworth is right in believing that a nationalist of some sort will come to power after Yeltsin, we can expect a full-blown “Who Lost Russia?” hysteria from the globalist apparatus in Washington, and maybe even a new Cold War. But a survey of the current American political scene, alas, offers little hope that the globalists may soon be crying in their Perrier, “Who Lost America?”


[The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia by Wayne Allensworth (Lanham, MD; Rowman & Littlefield) 368 pp., $69.00]