Ovation for Nazi highlights long history of Canadian capitalist sympathy for fascism

By Jacob Wynperle 

On September 22, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Canada’s Parliament, attempting to gain more military aid and solidify Canada’s commitment to prolonging the war in Ukraine.

Instead of supporting peace negotiations – which have been put forward by numerous countries including Brazil and China – Parliament promised an additional $650 million in military aid, bringing Canada’s total commitment to $9.5 billion.

As if the Canadian government’s determination to prolong this war wasn’t disgraceful and anti-human enough, there were numerous instances of both Zelenskyy and Canadian MP’s openly supporting Ukrainian fascism. The most glaring instance occurred when 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunca – who fought for the 14th Waffen SS division – received a standing ovation after being described as a Ukrainian WW2 veteran who “fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.” To put it plainly, a Nazi received a standing ovation in Canada’s Parliament.

There are “family ties” between Ukrainian nationalism and fascism. In 1941, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) – specifically its openly fascist wing led by Stephan Bandera – allied with Nazi Germany and coordinated their “independence movement” with the Nazis’ Operation Barbarossa. This operation sought to invade the Soviet Union and carry out the genocide of Slavs, Eastern Europeans and “Judeo-Bolsheviks” which Hitler called for explicitly in Mein Kampf.

In 1942, the OUN founded the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which led the military wing of the “Ukrainian independence movement,” as the House of Commons speaker called it, and worked hand in glove with the 14th Waffen SS division. During its partnership with the Nazis, the UPA perpetrated some of the most gruesome acts in the entire Eastern theatre of the war, including ethnic cleansing and anti-Jewish pogroms, which were both materially and ideologically supported by Nazi Germany.

However, the UPA and other fascist elements in Ukraine during WW2 were by no means the majority. In fact, 4.5 million Ukrainians fought against fascism in the Soviet Union’s Red Army, and more than 250,000 joined the Soviet partisans compared to about 80,000 fighting for the fascists. By glorifying a man who fought for the Nazis and portraying him as a hero, the Canadian government does an extreme disservice to the actual heroes of WW2 – the working people throughout the Soviet Union, Europe, Africa and Asia, who organized militias and resistance to liberate their communities and their countries from the horrors of fascism.

This disgraceful act in the House of Commons is unfortunately not Canada’s first time providing ideological and material support to Ukrainian fascists. In 1950, the government allowed 2,000 members of the 14th Waffen SS division – which changed its name to the “1st Ukrainian division” after the Nazis were defeated – to immigrate to Canada. One of the ways this occurred, according to historian Irving Abella, was to present an SS tattoo as it “proved you were an anti-communist.”

In 1985, largely due to pressure from the Jewish community, the Mulroney government set up the “Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals” which produced a list of 883 suspects. Between 1987 and 1992, only 26 cases were filed, and charges were only laid in four of them. Perhaps most disgraceful case was that of Imre Finta, who was accused of sending Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Finta declined to bring any evidence to his defence, yet he was still acquitted based on what was considered a legitimate argument – that believing Jews to be the enemy was a reason for killing them. Two appeal courts agreed with this decision.

Roderic Day described the situation quite aptly: “Liberal publications, permanently feigning amnesia, insist on framing the situation as one of endless stumbling and bumbling, flukes and confusion. In reality, the simple fact is that Canadian capitalist sympathy for the Nazi project was massive.”

In his speech to Parliament, Zelenskyy also spoke about the “Holodomor.” He described this as a coordinated genocide perpetrated by Russia against Ukrainians during the Great Famine of 1933.

The problem is that there was no genocide in Ukraine. While there certainly was a famine in 1933 – it hit the whole of the USSR – the claim that it was “man-made,” and a deliberate policy is nonsense. Even virulent anti-communists like historian Hiroaki Kuromiya have determined that, although there were many contributing factors to the Great Famine, ethnic cleansing and genocide were not among them.

The myth of the Holodomor was constructed by a web of anti-communist and pro-fascist lies which were debunked throughout the early 20th century, only to be brought back up by fascist collaborators and anti-communists during and after the Cold War. These forces have constructed the picture of a “double genocide” in the 20th century – one committed by Nazi Germany and an equally horrific one by the Soviet Union.

This is historical revisionism at work. At its core is the groundless moral equivalence between Nazism and communism. Professor Dovid Katz writes that the purpose of this is to exonerate Nazi collaborators of their crimes, using the myth that “the Jews were all Communists and got what they deserved …” Followers of Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera saw Jews as the “vanguard of Muscovite imperialism,” which, in their view, justified any and all actions to exterminate the Jewish people.

Lithuania currently has an entire museum commemorating the theory of “double genocide” – the facility has three floors dedicated to alleged Soviet genocide, but only one room about the Holocaust. Danny Ben-Moshe wrote in the Jerusalem Post that “the fighters against the Soviets, the white armbanders of the Lithuanian Activist Front, are lauded as heroes. The role of the same heroes as the killers of Jews is completely neglected. Ultimately there is a thin line between the obfuscation that is Double Genocide and the outright lie that is denial.”

This shows the “double genocide” theory for what it really is: a dangerous and ahistorical argument aimed at justifying Nazi collaboration by pointing fingers at an imaginary Jewish-Bolshevik bogeyman.

During his speech Zelenskyy praised the City of Edmonton for erecting a monument to the so-called genocide and said that this was part of a strong bond between Ukraine and Edmonton. In reality, it is part of Canada’s complicity in supporting fascism.

There has been a notable rise in far-right activity across Canada, and Parliament’s Nazi ovation makes it clear that none of the mainstream political parties are concerned with fighting it. Rather, they have all done more to prop-up fascism both at home and abroad. Fascism is not just something we need to fight in the streets – we need to fight it in Parliament as well.

It is essential that the working class, oppressed people and all who stand for democracy understand this, and that they strengthen their anti-fascism. This includes learning the actual history of fascism rather than capitulating to “horseshoe theory” which equates the far right with the revolutionary left, and which erases the essential role communists played in defeating fascism in the 20th century.

As Fred Hampton said, “Nothing is more important than stopping fascism, because fascism will stop us all.”

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