Told in the devilishly suave, casually lyric tones of Richard Burton, this debut thriller drips with shock and gore but is superior fare, with an especially flesh voice in the opening pages

The Red Fox covers a lot of historical ground, from the Russian Revolution of 1917 through the Cold War. In fact, my idea, in writing it, was to see how much real history you could put into the “popular” form of the spy novel. At the heart of the book is a very real character, Georgi Dimitrov (1882-1949), a Bulgarian, and one of the most important Communist leaders outside of the Soviet Union. He was accused by the Nazis of heading a conspiracy to burn the Reichstag (February 27, 1933), and his trial turned him into a hero of the international Left. Skillfully conducting his own defense, he made fools of his accusers, including members of the Nazi leadership, and was ultimately acquitted.

All this “true” history is woven into the novel, but what especially interested me was an anecdote I’d been told by a person who was a courier for the Communist Party of Canada while it was illegal and underground. This person claimed to have seen a memorandum outlining the agenda for a meeting between Dimitrov and Canadian communists, much as set out in The Red Fox. This was my starting point for the plot. And I was able to work in more history around the character of Harry Brightman, fictional, but also based on a real person, who made a fortune roughly in the way outlined in the book, though he wasn’t a spy. Once, just before a television interview, the interviewer mentioned that earlier in the day he’d done an interview with the Canadian journalist, June Callwood, and when he mentioned that he’d be talking to me she’d exclaimed, “Oh yes, he’s written that interesting novel about—” and supplied the correct name of the Brightman character. Of course I went through the next twenty minutes in a cold sweat, fearing the interviewer would blurt the name out; but he didn’t.

The novel’s third theme was, at the time, both historical and prescient. You must remember that The Red Fox appeared in 1985 while the Cold War was still going strong. On “our” side of the Berlin Wall, the source of all evil was communism as incarnated in the Soviet Union. But The Red Fox hints at another possibility, the long reactionary and anti-semitic tradition in Russian affairs which was already showing up in ‘The Russian New Right’ (to use the title of Alexander Yanov’s important monograph on the subject).

This was the reason I brought in the Romanov’s. This bothered some people but of course the political right in Russia has long had a strong Royalist element, and the mysterious fate of the Russian royal family may hint that the future could be more mysterious than most people think. Bearing in mind developments in Putin’s Russia, I think my look back was insightful; but that’s for the reader to judge.

Table Of Contents


“Enormous political successes can be won on the basis of ideas that are at best semi-rational.” Karl Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism.

In 1985, the year The Red Fox was published, Ronald Reagan was sworn in for his second term as President of the United States, and Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the USSR—the two would meet for the first time that November. It was also the year when Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple (to return in 1997), and the world’s first autofocus SLR was released—shooting film, of course. So it was a long time ago. Gorbachev was clearly someone who was a little different; it was at least possible to hope that things were changing. But few believed the Berlin Wall would fall (it did, four years later) and nobody believed that the USSR be dissolved, as it was in 1991. The Cold War was still on. “International Communism” was still the enemy. And certainly, in spy novels, the villains were to be found in “Moscow Centre,” among ruthless old Stalinists like “Karla.” The Reds were still the Menace. But not in The Red Fox. The KGB were involved, or at least a group within the KGB, but they weren’t Communists. On the contrary, their beliefs and ideology made them ultra-nationalists on the far Right of the political spectrum. The rise of a “New Right” in Russia had been noted by a small number of academics and journalists, beginning in the 1970s, but it was an obscure phenomenon unknown to most people. As a student of Russian history, however, I found it extremely significant, pointing the way to Russia’s future, and so I built it into my book. As it turns out, I can claim a certain prescience: today, the New Right is a significant part of the Russian political landscape. Who were these people? Where did the “Russian Right” come from? An historical question. But very much alive in the present.

The Background of Russian Nationalism

The Russian Right begins, as do all Russian ideological tendencies, in the bubbling cauldron of philosophical and social thinking that marked the Russian nineteenth century. Two great intellectual currents dominated this period, associated with “the Slavophiles” and “the Westernizers.” These groups were undoubtedly different, the arguments and conflicts between them fierce, but by the end of the century they were all converging into nationalism, and a nationalism that was moving to the political right.

The Westerners saw Russia’s future in an emulation of the political and social development of the west: they were following in the footsteps of Peter the Great, who’d taxed beards in order to make his boyars look more “european.” In the 19th Century, the westernizers great leader was Alexander Herzen (1812-1870), the illegitimate son a wealthy nobleman. Given an elite education, he joined a study group at the University of Moscow that was reading Schelling, the German idealist, and Saint-Simon, the French social philosopher—a crime that earned him an six year sentence of exile, extended for another two years because of a sarcastic remark made to a policeman. Hardened by this experience, he became more radical, turning first to Hegel and Feuerbach—the two great influences on Marx—and then to Proudhon, the French anarchist and socialist. In 1847, as popular revolution spread across Europe, Herzen went to Paris, where he was very quickly disillusioned. Europe, he decided, was no longer a progressive historical force; “fettered by the richness of her past,” she was incapable of revolution. So Herzen, the Great Westernizer, turned back to Russia, where he found inspiration in the peasants’ commune, which he saw as the basis for a new socialist order. In his life, he never returned to Russia again, but his thought was now focussed there, away from the West. His politics moved away from revolution to reform, and a belief in an “enlightened autocracy.”

Under Western Eyes: a beard tax token; Peter the Great (1672-1725); Alexander Herzen; Vissarion Belinsky (1811-148): “The fate of the individual, of the person, is more important than the fate of the whole world.”

The Slavophiles, led by Aleksey Khomyakov (1804-1860) and Ivan Kireyevsky (1806-1856), believed in a unique Russian “path.” They rejected rationalism, individualism, industrialization—western ideas—in favour of Russian traditions. So they supported the Orthodox Church and Russian rural institutions like the mir in which peasants held their land communally as part of a “Christian community.” For Kireyevsky, a “European path” would lead to a kind of self-annihilation for Russia. “The Englishman, the Frenchman, the Italian, the German never stopped being Europeans, while always preserving their national characteristics. The Russian, on the other hand, had nearly to destroy his national personality in order to assimilate Western civilization; for both his appearance and his inner cast of mind, which explained and supported each other, were the result of an entirely different type of life, flowing from an entirely different fountainhead.”

Russia–Our Lady of Vladimir, The Imperial Eagle, a Cossack

Despite their rejection of European ideals, these men were liberals. They despised the Tsarist bureaucracy. They favoured the emancipation of the serfs and civil liberties, especially freedom of the press. But as the century moved on, their heirs were rather different. Nikolay Danilevsky (1882-1885), was a biologist (who denied Darwin) and developed a theory of historical-cultural “types,” a kind of cultural taxonomy. The Slavic was one of these types, its particular genius being autocracy. The Slavic destiny, or “path,” was to turn away from the declining West and unite the Slavic world under an Orthodox Tsar. Konstantin Leontiev (1831-1891) was also a Slavophile, but like Danilevsky, he was far from a liberal. He abhorred western egalitarianism and materialism, while strongly supporting the Russian monarchy and Orthodox Church, and believed that “the Russian nation was especially not intended for freedom.” So the Slavophiles had moved from being liberal critics of the autocratic Tsarist regime to its supporters and collaborators, profoundly conservative.

This trajectory, leading back to a view of Russia that was rooted in its past, however dark and primitive, is a particular dynamic of Russian nationalism. Isaiah Berlin (a great British scholar, born in Latvia) accounts for it by the reaction to the failed revolutions of 1848 that so affected Herzen. But it has another, more general, cause. Russian thought developed in the nineteenth century under a repressive autocracy, and in the twentieth under totalitarian dictatorship. This repression, in both eras, left its stamp on the thought. Autocratic regimes need dissenters, in the same way that churches need sinners; casting them out becomes a way of proving, and exemplifying, the orthodox faith. Censored, tortured, and imprisoned by such regimes, the dissidents come to know them best, and grow almost intimate with them: a mutual dependence is formed. Perhaps this was best expressed by Boris Pasternak, one of the great dissidents, in Dr Zhivago, one of the great “dissident” books of the Soviet era: Men who are not free always idealize their bondage. So Russian nationalists tend to to take on the coloration of the very regimes they despised.

The Beginnings of Russian Nationalism in the USSR

Prisoners of the Gulag – Khrushchev – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The Russian Right, as it exists today, draws on all the anti-western, Orthodox and authoritarian currents in Russia’s past, but it first emerged as an element in a political crisis in the Soviet Union. Stalin died in 1953. In 1956, at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, the new leader of the USSR, revealed Stalin’s crimes, and tens of thousands of prisoners, released from Stalinist jails, came home to testify to the truth of what he’d said. (In 1962, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, would tell the whole world.) In addition, in 1958 and 1959 a split had developed with Mao Tse-Tung and the Chinese Communists, who still supported a “hard line’ against the west, in contrast to Khrushchev’s policy of “peaceful co-existence.” Chinese Communists, it seemed, still had the faith, while in the USSR all that Communists believed had been revealed as a lie. Khrushchev, having “thawed” the old Stalinist culture of absolute ideological conformity, had created a vacuum of belief: now many different voices were heard to fill it.

Especially in the arts, the newly heard voices were often liberal, seeking contact with culture in the west—painters like Ilya Kabakov and Oscar Rabin, poets such as Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Politically, liberal dissidents were centred around a group of brave men and women who published The Chronicle of Current Events, a careful record of the all dissident activities, regardless of political stripe. They also provided support for many dissidents, especially the writers Yuli Daniel (1925-1988) and Andrei Sinyavsky (1925-1991). These activities, though they certainly resulted in arrests, were not in themselves illegal. On the contrary, they were attempts to force the authorities to act in accordance with Soviet legal norms, and they were carried on in the open, by means of protests, demonstrations, attendance at trials, support for the imprisoned and their families. In contrast to this liberal dissident activity, the first major right-wing nationalist movement was clandestine and directly subversive: this was The All-Russian Social-Christian Union for the Liberation of the People, usually referred to by the acronym of its Russian name, VSKhSON.

The leaders of VSKhSON after their release from prison, Copyright © The Institute of Modern Russia

VSKhSON called for the formation of “an underground army of resistance, which will overthrow the dictatorship and defeat the police detachments of the oligarchy.” Following the ideas of the religious philosopher Nicholas Berdayaev (1874-1948), VSKsHON‘s analysis and programme was fundamentally theocratic. VSKsHON believed that the problems of the world went “considerably deeper than the economic and political sphere… A spiritual struggle for the individual is in progress. Two paths are open to mankind, free contact with God or God’s abandonment.” Though utterly opposed to the Soviet regime, the “path” VSKsHON saw certainly wouldn’t lead Russia toward the West. Communism and capitalism were both expressions of the same evil: “Communism is a sickly child of materialistic capitalism and has merely developed and perfected all the harmful tendencies that were present in bourgeois economics and politics.” Western democratic forms and political pluralism were explicitly, even violently, rejected: “The Social-Christian doctrine of the state regards as unconditionally evil a political system in which power becomes a prize for competing parties or is monopolized by a single party.” This anti-democratic tilt was consistent with Berdayaev, who believed western parliaments were “corrupted talk-fests” and claimed that “Fascism is the only creative phenomenon in the political life of contemporary Europe.” The state VSKsHON envisaged was both corporatist—in the fascist sense—and theocratic, with a dominant role assigned to the Orthodox Church: a “path” that clearly led back into Russian history and thinking. A legislative body would involve “the representatives of peasant communities and national corporations, large unions of manual and non-manual workers.” But overseeing government would be a Supreme Synod, “one third drawn from members of the upper hierarchy of the Church and two-thirds from prominent representatives of the people, elected for life.” This Synod would have “the right of veto over any law which does not correspond to the basic principles of the Social-Christian system.” Finally, the Synod would elect the head of state, seen as “a representative of popular unity.” Taken together, VSKsHON’s program amounted to “enlightened autocracy”—a theocratic regime that would rule with a certain degree of democratic reference. It was also a Christian theocracy. Though written in a time when the USSR took in many different religious groups, these are, effectively, excluded. In addition, “Christian” here means Russian Orthodoxy. And indeed, VSKsHON’s nationalism, like all right-wing Russian nationalism, is ethnically and religiously defined; it is not the nationalism of a state with many nationalities but the nationalism of a single ethnic group seeking the ideological basis for their state.

Russian thought and the Russian quest at the beginning of the nineteenth century bear witness to the existence of a Russian Idea, which corresponds to the character and vocation of the Russian people. The Russian people belong to the religious type and are religious in their spiritual make-up. Religious unrest is characteristic even of the unbelievers among them. Russian atheism, nihilism, materialism have acquired a religious colouring… Russian thought is eschatological, is oriented to the end; it is this which accounts for Russian maximalism. But in Russian thought the eschatological idea takes the form of striving after universal salvation. ––Nicholas Berdyaev, The Russian Idea

The development of VSKsHON’a thinking can be seen in Veche, a magazine published in samizdat from 1971 to 1974. (Samizdat means reproduced by hand, usually on a typewriter; veche” was a medieval slavic assembly, perhaps best translated here as “talk” or “talk shop.”) The magazine was published quite openly. The name and address of its editor, Vladimir Osipov, were listed on the cover.

Vladimir Osipov, photo by Alexei Nikolaev

Veche declared itself a “loyal opposition” and commented on current events largely through historical parallels. That is, rather that directly discussion current Soviet politics, it published analyses and discussion of Russian history that were comparable. The magazine is particularly valuable because it promised to publish all letters submitted to it, and largely did; accordingly, it provides an window into Russian nationalist thinking at the time. Osipov began as a “liberal” but his thinking pushed him increasingly to the right, the usual trajectory of a Slavophile. Following Danilevsky, he saw Russia as a historical type, characterized by a peculiar quietism. “The Russian people does not see the state as an enemy and relates to it with complete trust.” The Russian is distinguished by “his ability and habit of being obedient, his respect for and trust in government, his lack of ambition and his distaste for interfering in matters where he does not consider himself confident.” As for dissent, “everything among us that can be termed parties depends on the intrusion of foreign, alien elements.” So rather than détente with the west—the official Communist doctrine in the 1970s—Veche proposed isolation from the west; protected from outside influences, “no anti-state or anti-governmental interest exists.” Given this—here is Osipov’s liberalism—there’s no reason why an “isolated” Russian state cannot be open and tolerant. Veche does address the “national” question, following the thinking of Berdayaev, the mentor of VSKsHON. “In the Russian nature there is in fact some kind of national unselfishness and willingness to sacrifice that is unknown to Western peoples.” This national “unselfishness” means that the editors of Veche “do not differentiate Ukrainians and Belorussians from Russians” and leads them to a rather extraordinary view of the Russian Empire: “If it can be said that the Russian empire was maintained by bayonets, this was true only in the sense that Russian bayonets defended the hinterland from the claims of cruel neighbours. Russian knew how to instil love for itself and this was the secret of its power.” (I say that this is an extraordinary view of the Russian empire, but it wouldn’t be to a historian like Lev Gumilev (1912-1992), the son of the great poet Anna Akhmatova, who believed that the Russians were a “super-ethnos,” a natural association of peoples opposed by Europe in the west, the Muslim world in the south, China in the east. Gumilev’s work was a kind of modern synthesis of Danilevsky and Leontiev. He was extremely anti-Semitic.)

In considering the relations of Russians to other ethnic groups, the nationalism of Veche is most exactly revealed. To Osipov, “Nationalism is inconceivable without Christianity,” for he declared that the journal “will follow the course charted by the Slavophiles and Dostoyevsky,” and Dostoyevsky, in The Possessed had set out his maxim in a famous exchange between Shatov and Stavrogin:

Only the Orthodox can be Russian… Bearing this in mind, it’s indicative that the first three issues of the journal were largely taken up with a long essay by Mikail Antonov, a former Communist who’d left the Party in protest against de-Stalinization. He then joined a group around the economist A. A. Fetisov, whose thinking was described by The Chronicle of Current Events—the group of democratic liberal dissidents—as “a critique of the Soviet political, economic and social system from an extreme totalitarian and chauvinistic position. Fetisov’s work presents the historical development of mankind as having taken the form of of a struggle between order and chaos, chaos having been embodied in the Jewish people, who created disorder in Europe for two thousand years…” Antonov’s article in Veche, “The Doctrine of the Slavophiles,” bears out this description. He wrote: “The people and states of the West have outlived their day and are dying,… the organic characteristics of the English character make the Anglican-Puritan circles eternal, incorrigible and sworn enemies of the Russian people.” The roots of the West’s decline, and hostility toward Russia, can be traced to “the Jew Spinoza” and a “materialistic tendency in philosophy” that “comes from the depths of the Jewish national character.” For Russia, the way is clear. “The same task arises in all areas of the life of the Russian people: to repel the attack of rootless and cosmopolitan elements, to reject Western forms alien to its soul, and to return to the age-old Russian foundations…” So again we have the same formula: a nationalism that is based strictly on ethnic and religious identity, hostile to any outside ideas, forces or groups—especially the Jews—and that roots itself in Russia’s autocratic traditions.

But why should we take Antonov seriously—or any of them? VSKsHON may have had sixty or so members; Veche a few thousand subscribers. In a country of hundreds of millions, surely these people were hopelessly marginal. Part of the answer, of course, is that this tiny minority was expressing the thoughts and feelings of a much wider section of the population. Dissent, even social disorder, was more prevalent in the post-War USSR than is often thought. For example, In 1961, in Murom, the funeral of a local worker, probably killed by the militia, turned into a riot and attacks on KGB buildings; in Aleksandrov a few months later, a routine arrest became a fire-bomb attack on the local militia post. In 1962, there were major disturbances in Riga, Kiev, Perm, and a technical school in Moscow; and then, in June, a workers’ strike in the Novocherkaask Electric Locomotive Works—at the same time nationwide price increases for food were going into effect—turned into a huge protest that brought out the army. 26 demonstrators were shot dead, more than 80 wounded.

President Vladimir Putin at the memorial to the victims at Novocherkaask

Clearly, VSKsHON and Veche had a potential constituency, even if they were unable to reach it. Indeed, the authorities made sure they didn’t. Antonov, the leaders of VKSsHON, Osipov, and most of their followers ended in prison. But there is another reason why their apparently marginal activities were important. In a period when the belief in Communism was fading—in the wake of Khrushchev’s revelations about Stalin—the development of a new nationalism created an alternative ideological support for the Russian state; Russian nationalism became the state’s “hole card.” And it was apparent that, up to a point, the activities of the new Russian right enjoyed a certain protection, “upstairs”—that is, within the Soviet political establishment. The proof of this emerged in the Yakovlev affair.

Alexander Yakovlev

Alexander Yakovlev (1923-2005) was the chief ideologist (thinker-in-chief) of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1969 to 1973. He enters the picture in 1972, when two articles appeared in Young Guard, a paper published by Komsomol, the Communist Party’s youth division. These articles, astonishingly, took a view that was in keeping with the position of the “Slavophiles.” Russia was in moral decline, being Americanized, consumed by the search for material prosperity and dominated by “educated shopkeepers.” In typical Slavophile fashion, true Russian values were to be found in “the soil of the people,” “the Russian folk spirit,” and such unlikely sources as Avvakum Petrov, leader of the opposition to Nikon’s “westernizing” reforms of the Orthodox Church in the 17th Century. The appearance of such thinking in an official Party organ was extraordinary. And so it was only to be expected that Yakovlev, as the guardian of the Party’s intellectual purity, should attack: and he did, in a long article in the prestigious Literary Gazette. But—as astonishing as the articles themselves—it wasn’t their authors who ultimately suffered but Yakovlev. His article set off a power struggle in the political establishment, and Yakovlev lost. He was exiled…not to Siberia, but Canada (almost as cold) where he served as ambassador from 1973-1983. From here on, it was apparent that a traditional right-wing nationalism enjoyed a least a degree of protection at the highest level of the Communist hierarchy: the ideology was becoming “official.” (There is an ironic sequel to Yakovlev’s defeat. In 1983, Mikhail Gorbachev, still only a member of the Politburo, visited Canada to look into Canadian agricultural practices. Yakovlev, as ambassador, naturally travelled with him and the men got to know each other. At the end of the trip, a banquet was given for Gorbachev on the farm of Canada’s agriculture minister, Eugene Whelan, in Amhertsburg, Ontario. Whelan was late in arriving and Gorbachev and Yakovlev took a long walk together around the farm, working out the policies that became perestroika. Yakolev was later recalled by Gorbachev to help implement perestroika and glasnost, and tells the story here. Yakovlev was well thought of in Canada. Pierre Trudeau’s son, Alexandre “Sacha” Trudeau was named for him.)

…Yevgeny Yevtushenko defended the painters and sculptors who pursued experiments in abstract art. He assured the leadership that "formalist tendencies in their work will be straightened out in time." Khrushchev's reply stunned the assembly. "As they say, only the grave straightens out the hunchback." "I hope, Comrade Khrushchev," Yevtushenko answered, "that we have outlived the time when the grave was used as a means of correction." As the audience applauded the poet's remark, Khrushchev sheepishly joined in. ——Joshua Rubenstein, Soviet Dissidents: their struggle for human rights.

With the Yakovlev affair, the New Russian Right begins to assume a broader legitimacy and can be seen in a more present-day context. This can be extended by looking at the career of Ilya Glazunov, a painter.

Ilya Glazunov and Vladimir Putin
Rabin’s “Old Montmartre” and Yankilevsky’s “Big Forms”

Painting, quite as much as literature, had been part of the dissident movement after Khrushchev’s “thaw.” The very first samizdat magazine, Syntax had been published by Alexander Ginzburg, who’d also organized exhibitions of “unofficial art” in private apartments. Like much liberal dissident writing, this art was reaching out the West and its traditions (as well as the great “modernist” traditions of Russian art), and included such outstanding figures as Oscar Rabin and [Vladimir Yankilevsky][14]. But, just as in literature, there was a revival of traditional art, often stressing historical, nationalistic and Orthodox themes. Ilya Glazunov was the leader of this tendency.

Glazunov was born in Leningrad in 1930, both his parents dying in the German siege of the city (1941-1944). Taken to safety in the country, he survived the war, returned to Leningrad, and graduated from the Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (formerly The Imperial Academy of the Arts.) He began to paint in the 1950s. His position has always been ambiguous. He was close to Mikhail Suslov, a powerful Stalinist, and has been accused (strongly denied) of being in the KGB. But he was unable to show his works for years and the official response to one of his paintings, The Mystery of the 20th Century, was to give him a “creative assignment” in Siberia: he painted workers constructing a railroad. He was an early member of the nationalist dissident community. Osipov wrote a laudatory article about him in Veche, which Glazunov may have supported financially. He first appears as an activist in 1965 when he was one of the founders of the All-Russian Society for the Protection and Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments (VOOPIiK)—the monuments often being Orthodox churches and monasteries. The Society had a degree of official sanction, and close to fifteen million members. It was a place where nationalist dissidents and official cultural figures could mingle. It also bore one of the usual hallmarks of the Russian Right: Jews were not welcome. Lev Z. Kopolev (1912-1997)—who spent ten years in Stalin’s prison camps and became the model for Rubin in Solzhenitsyn’s novel The First Circle—called the organization “in essence a legal organization of new Black Hundreds,” a violently anti-Semitic group in the early twentieth century. This became evident when the organization developed into Pamyat (“Memory”), founded in 1980 with support from the Ministry of the Aviation Industry. Its aim, again, was the preservation of historical monuments, but its political goals were wider. Xenophobic, the group tried to claim it was “anti-Zionist” as opposed to anti-Semitic, but among its publications was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion an extraordinary concoction of the Tsarist secret police from 1903 that imagined a vast Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Pamyat split into several factions, the most extreme being led by Dimitri Vasilyev (1945-2003), Glazunov’s former secretary.

Vasilyev was an unpleasant but effective demagogue, whose high-decibel, rapid-fire delivery galvanised crowds of supporters…When Pamyat ("Memory") was set up in 1979, its aim was cultural. But Vasilyev shook it out of its calm ways and by 1986 had launched a series of violent and angry anti-Semitic speeches, moving into street demonstrations the following year…An inchoate mixture of anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and admiration for Tsarism and Nazism, Pamyat's ideology found a ready audience with those losing out as the Soviet Union gradually began to reform. Some Russians eagerly agreed with Vasilyev that their nation suffered "the cruellest political genocide," that the Bolshevik revolution had been a "Jewish conspiracy" and life under the Tsars "a million times better." As liberals, intellectuals and Jews in Moscow became increasingly concerned, the KGB warned Vasilyev that he risked prosecution of inciting ethnic discord. But no prosecution ever follow, leading many to believe he was secretly supported—if not promoted—by senior Communist leaders.––from Dimitri Vasilyev's obituary, The Independent, 21 July 2003

Ultimately, most followers of Pamyat moved into The National-Patriotic Front, whose ideology was “Orthodoxy, national character and spirituality”—rather clearly derived from the motto of Alexander II, Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. It used the Russian swastika as a symbol.


Glazunov’s own devotion to Orthodoxy and autocracy has never been in doubt. He’s called for the teaching of Old Slavonic in Russian schools. He is no democrat. “I am a monarchist. All my life I have hated the Bolsheviks, since they destroyed Russia. I consider the Romanov period to be the flowering of Russia.” When asked who opposed his work, he once replied, “Those who are alien to the concepts of a Russian national renaissance and to the development of the traditions of a great Russian culture.” When asked his attitude to Christianity, he answered: “Our civilization is justly called a Christian one. The many-centuries-old Russian culture is permeated by the spirit of Orthodoxy. Dostoevsky said: ‘He who is not Orthodox cannot be a Russian.'” Here you have the fundamental principles of the Russian Right, which is no longer “dissident” but part of the mainstream. And indeed Glazunov has been awarded the Order of Merit of the Fatherland, the highest award of the new Russia.

Glazunov is part of a new establishment in which the Russian Right occupies a significant, respectable place. Other members included Alexander Prokhaov, publisher of Zavtra, an ultra-conservative paper. The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, visited the United States in 1992 and called “for the preservation of the white race” and envisages a time “when Russian soldiers can wash their boots in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.” Dimitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, formerly Ambassador to NATO, was a leader of the Rodina Party (Motherland Party) when it signed a petition calling for a ban on Jewish organizations in the Russian Federation, and has since supported the DPNI (The Movement Against Illegal Immigration) that is led by Aleksandr Belov, formerly of Pamyat. This list could go on. The Russian Right is no longer “New,” its “Now.” VSKsHON and Veche are part of history. In a sense, the “past” of The Red Fox is defined by Dimitrov and the Comintern, while the “present” is defined by the New Russian Right.


Comintern is an abbreviation of Communist International, though the organization is often called The Third International, because it was preceded by two other attempts to organize left-revolutionary groups around the world. The first, The International Workingmen’s Association, was founded in 1864 (it included Marx), while the second, the Socialist International, began in 1889 and ended in 1916. Though nominally its successor, the Third International was in many respects organized against the Second, which was reconstituting itself in Berne, Switzerland at the same time (spring, 1919) that the Comintern was being set up in Moscow.

Lenin and Trotsky

From the start, the Comintern was very much shaped by Russian exigencies—the almost constant state of crisis in which revolutionary Russia found itself. The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin and Trotsky, had seized power in November 1917, but by 1919 their Revolution was seriously threatened. Anti-Communist forces—the “White” Russians, as opposed to the Communist “Reds”—were now supported by British, French, American, Canadian and Australian troops in north Russia. Moscow was almost encircled, St. Petersburg cut off.

Canadians Outside the Depot, Siberia — painting by Col. Louis Keene, CWM 19710261-0316

Lenin had always been an internationalist. He’d traveled in western Europe, lived for a time in Munich and Switzerland, and he spoke Finnish, German, French, and English. He’d always believed that a Communist revolution must be global—”workers of the world unite,” as Marx had said. Now such sentiments seemed to find a practical application. Revolutionary uprisings in western Europe might help secure the revolution in Russia. And this seemed entirely plausible. From the Irish Easter Rising of 1916 to the November, 1918 naval mutiny in Kiel that had finally brought down the Kaiser, western European governments had been under threat.

The Easter Rising, 1916 and the German Revolution, 1918

Against this background, Lenin called for the formation of a new International, and in March 1919 delegates from more than thirty Communist and Socialist parties met in Moscow, endorsing a policy that called for the armed overthrow of bourgeois governments in the West. Lenin, in his speech to the delegates, happily imagined that the “more developed countries, where the proletariat has greater weight and influence, have every chance of surpassing Russia once they take the path of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

This appeal was both revolutionary and international, and it was undoubtedly sincere. Nonetheless, as the Comintern developed, its policies were dictated by Russian imperatives rather than the realities of the political situations faced by Communist parties outside Russia (or the Soviet Union, as it was called after 1922). So desperate were the Russians for outside support that uprisings were urged when their success was unlikely—as in the March 1921 actions in Germany that led to the suppression of the German Communist Party or the disastrous coup attempt in Bulgaria in September 1923. On the other hand, caution was sometimes urged when decisive action was needed. This was particularly true in October 1923 in Germany when the vacillation of the Comintern (and the Germany Party’s leadership) probably lost the last chance for a left revolution and opened the door to the Nazis. Most disastrously of all, the Comintern developed an utterly foolish policy that identified socialists—especially the German Socialist Party (SPD)—as”social fascists,” and declared them to be the real enemy, rather than the Nazis themselves.

The history of the Comintern was therefore a history of schisms, a history of intrigues and arrogance on the part of the directing Russian group toward every independent expression of opinion by the other affiliated parties. —— Ignazio Silone (Italian Communist, author of Fontamara and Bread and Wine; born 1900 died 1978)

Given these failures, why did the Comintern continue to attract the loyalty of Communists in the West? Partly, it was simply that the Russian Revolution had given the Russians enormous prestige within the Communist movement. And until Lenin died in 1924, the Russian leadership, despite its failings, despite its failings, probably was superior to the leadership in the smaller parties. As well, the Comintern used its financial resources, and political maneuvering, to install pro-Russian, pro-Comintern leaderships in Communist Parties around the world, such as Early Browder in the U.S., and Harry Pollitt in the U.K. But there was one more reason besides. In 1934, a remarkable revolutionary took over the Comintern’s leadership. He was a Bulgarian named Georgi Dimitrov.

Georgi Dimitrov, from Comintern chief to Premier of Bulgaria

Dimitrov was a Bulgarian trade unionist who’d been elected to the Bulgarian Parliament during the First World War. From 1919, he was a member of the Bulagarian Commuinist Party’s Central Committee, and after the failed uprising of September 1923—which had been urged by the Comintern—he was sentenced to death in absentia and fled to the Soviet Union. In 1929 he became head of the Central European Section of the Comintern, and in this capacity smuggled himself into Germany…where he was living on the night of February 27, 1933. It was a fateful night, for this was the night that the Reichstag, the German Parliament, burned to the ground.

The Reichstag Burns

The Reichstag Fire, because of its political consequences, ranks as one of the most important events in twentieth century history. On January 30—just a month before the fire—Hitler had been made Chancellor, though in elections the previous November, the Nazis had actually lost ground. During that election, Hitler had claimed that the Communists were planning a revolutionary uprising—now, with the remains of the Reichstag still smouldering, the Nazis (and the German press) declared that the fire had been the signal for the uprising to begin. The next day, Hitler demanded and received emergency powers that suspended civil liberties in Germany, and allowed him to arrest most of the German Communist Party leadership. Actually, despite this, in elections held on March 5—only six days after the fire—the Communists still polled 17% of the vote, and the Socialists 20%, so that the Nazis—who polled 30%—only had a minority position; but with the help of smaller parties, the Nazis were able to pass “The Enabling Act” which made Hitler dictator of Germany.

Obviously, the Reichstag Fire played into Hitler’s hands, and so perfectly that many thought—then and now—that the Nazis had set the fire themselves. The Nazis, of course, blamed the Communists. At the scene of the fire, the police had found a Dutch national, Marinus van der Lubbe—he had some Communist connections—and he confessed to setting it. But there are many problems with this confession, not least that he was certainly tortured. Forensic evidence presented by the prosecution, and collected by the Berlin police, showed that the fire had been set in many places, was indeed an elaborate piece of arson, and couldn’t have been the work of one individual. Moreover, it was hard to see van der Lubbe as even being the member of a team of arsonists. He had lost most of his sight—a bricklayer, his eyes had been burned with lime. As well, he suffered from some kind of mental deficiency, and at times during his trial he seemed scarcely aware of his surroundings.

Marinus van der Lubbe

It was certainly absurd to imagine that the German Communists would have entrusted their uprising to such a person, even the Nazis saw that. So, to buttress their case, they arrested the leader of the Communist delegation in the Reichstag, Ernst Torgler on the day after the fire—Torgler, at least, would have known his way around the building. Then, on March 9, proving that it had been a widely based conspiracy, the police picked up three more Communists, all Bulgarians, Vasil Tanev, Blagoi Popov…and Georgi Dimitrov.

Dimitrov is at the extreme right, van der Lubbe in the row in front of him between two policemen

It’s generally accepted that when the Nazis arrested Dimitrov they didn’t know how important he was, and certainly not how formidable. Dimitrov was a courageous, resourceful revolutionary. His trial—from September 21 to December 23 1933—was thrown open to the international press, the Nazis hoping to show the world the true nature of the Communist conspiracy. Instead, it was the Nazis who were exposed. Dimitrov made no apologies for himself:

Dimitrov: I am defending myself, an accused Communist. I am defending my political honour, my honour as a revolutionary. I am defending my Communist ideology, my ideals. I am defending the content and significance of my whole life

He revealed how evidence had been fabricated, that the whole affair was rather suspiciously well organized:

Dimitrov: On February 28 Prime Minister Goering gave an interview on the Reichstag fire, in which he claimed that at the arrest of the 'Dutch Communist' van der Lubbe, his Party membership card was seized along with his passport. How did Prime Minister Goering know then that van der Lubbe had a Party membership card on him?

Goering: I must say that so far I have not been much interested in the present trial, so that I haven't been reading all the reports. I only heard from time to time that you (to Dimitrov) were a particularly clever man. That is why I supposed that the question which you asked would have been clear long ago, namely that I never occupied myself with the investigation of this affair. I do not run about or search the pockets of people. If you're still unaware of this,(to Dimitrov) let me tell you: the police examine all major criminals and inform me of their findings.

Dimitrov: But the three officials of the criminal police who arrested and first interrogated van der Lubbe unanimously declared that no membership card was found on him. From where then did the information about the card come, I should like to know? …The witness is Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior and President of the Reichstag, so does the Minister bear responsibility for his police?

Goering: Yes!

Under his questioning, Goering and other leading Nazis ended up losing control of themselves, even shouting in the court:

Dimitrov: After you, as Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, had declared that the arsonists were Communists, that the German Communist Party had committed the crime with the aid of this foreigner, van der Lubbe, did this declaration on your part not serve to direct the police inquiry and the subsequent court investigation in such a fashion as to exclude the possibility of looking for other ways and means of finding the true arsonists of the Reichstag?

Goering: First of all, the law prescribes that the criminal police follow all leads in their criminal investigations…I had only to establish whether or not this was a crime that was political in character. For me it was a political crime and I was also convinced that the criminals had to be looked for in your Party (Shakes his fists at Dimitrov and shouts). Your Party is a Party of criminals, which has to be destroyed! And if this Court has been influenced in that direction, it has set out on the right track.

Dimitrov: Does the Prime Minister know that the Party, "which has to be destroyed," rules over one sixth of the globe, namely the Soviet Union, and that this same Soviet Union maintains diplomatic, political and economic relations with Germany and that hundreds of thousands of German workers benefit from its economic orders?

President of the Court (to Dimitrov): I forbid you to make Communist propaganda here…

Goering (yelling loudly): I shall tell you what the German people know. The German people know that here you are behaving insolently, that you have come here to set fire to the Reichstag. But I am not here to allow you to question me like a judge and to reprimand me! In my eyes you are a scoundrel who should be hanged.

President of the Court: Dimitrov, I have already told you not to make Communist propaganda here. That is why you should not be surprised if the witness is so agitated! I most strictly forbid this propaganda! You can only ask questions referring to the trial.

Dimitrov: I am delighted with the reply of the Prime Minister.

President of the Court: Whether you are pleased or not is quite immaterial. Now I deprive you of the right to speak.

Dimitrov: I wish to put one more question pertaining to the trial.

President of the Court: (still more abruptly): Now I deprive you of the right to speak.

Goering: (yelling): Get out, scoundrel!

President of the Court: (to the policemen): Take him out!

Dimitrov: (whom the policemen have already seized): You are probably afraid of my questions, Mr. Prime Minister?

Goering: (shouting after Dimitrov): Be careful, look out, I shall teach you how to behave, once you're outside of this courtroom! Scoundrel!

Exchanges like this made Dimitrov a hero…here is a depiction by [John Heartfield][23], the great photo montage artist and collaborator of Bertolt Brecht: Dimitrov confronts Goering.

![The Judge, and the Judged — AIZ, November 16, 1933][24]

Around the world, people rallied to his support. In London, Willi Munzenberg, a Comintern and KPD propagandist, organized a counter-trial whose judges included Georg Branting and Arthur Garfield Hays, one of the most prominent civil rights lawyers in the United States. Ultimately, the whole Nazi case fell apart. Though clearly set up to convict Dimitrov, the court had no choice but to release him and his co-defendants, though van der Lubbe was convicted and the judges stoutly maintained that the fire had been the result of a “Communist conspiracy.” (Van der Lubbe was beheaded on January 10, 1934. Torgler, despite his acquittal, was immediately incarcerated under the emergency laws.)

Deported to the Soviet Union, Dimitrov was quickly appointed to head the Comintern. His prestige was immense. Beginning in the 1920s, the Communist Parties of the world had been the leading opponents of fascism—against Mussolini in Italy, Oswald Mosley in the U.K, l’Action Francaise in France, the “goldshirts” of Mexico, the “blueshirts” of China…even the Parti national social chretien of Adrian Arcand in Canada.

Mussolini, Charles Maurras, Oswald Mosely, Adrian Arcand

Now Dimitrov led the international Communist movement in the last phase of this battle. The Comintern’s “social fascist” policy was reversed, and a “Common Front” was urged with all other groups, including liberals and socialists, who opposed the fascists. This “front” was sufficiently powerful and threatening that it served as the rationale for the Anti-Comintern Pact, signed between Germany and Japan on November 25, 1936, Italy joining the next year (and so completing “the Axis.”) By then, the Spanish Civil War was raging, and this became the climax of “the anti-fascist struggle.” From more than fifty countries, left-wing idealists streamed into Spain to help the Republicans in their battle with Franco’s falangists who were powerfully supported and supplied by Hitler and Mussolini. In Canada, these men were organized as the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, in the US the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. In France—who supplied the largest number of volunteers—the battalions had many different names; but wherever they came from, and whatever they were called, it was the Communists, and the Comintern, who organized them.

The flag of the International Brigades; Finnish-Canadians from the Mac-Paps; a company of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade; Los Internationales; Hemingway’s novel about the Spanish Civil War; the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion; the Abraham Lincoln Brigade on the march.

“No man ever entered earth more honorably than those who died in Spain,” Hemingway wrote of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and he was right. The men who fought in the Spanish Civil War were heroes. But despite their idealism, the record of the Communists in the Civil War is complex and has a very dark side, including murder and betrayal—it is perfectly possible to argue that Stalin was quite happy to see the Spanish Republicans go down to defeat. That defeat came in April 1939. For Mussolini and Hitler, it marked the end of their dress rehearsal for all-out war. They’d tested their latest weapons—Stuka dive-bombers, Archimede-class submarines—and now they were ready for the main event. Stalin had started negotiations with France and Britain on a security pact after the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had appeased Hitler at Munich in September 1938, but by July of the next year, those negotiations had broken down. The Germans moved in, offering Stalin a “non-aggression” pact that was signed on August 23, 1939—usually called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact after the foreign ministers of the two countries. With his eastern flank secure, Hitler was free to move. On September 1, 1939 he invaded Poland; finally, on September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

Now came the final, ironic twist in the history of the Comintern, that revealed once again that despite being an “International” it was fundamentally subservient to Russian interests. Most international Communist Parties—including, for example, the Canadian Communist Party—immediately supported their national governments as they declared war, but then the word came down from Moscow that this was inconsistent with Soviet policy, and these Parties reversed themselves overnight. Here’s how this was rationalized by Tim Buck, the leader of Canada’s Communists:

“Confused temporarily by the superficial appearance of British action against Nazi aggression, the leadership of the party made a false estimate…it called for simultaneous support of the war and a political struggle to compel the government to wage a genuine anti-fascist war. The party’s call for a ‘fight on two fronts” was scarcely published, however, before the facts of the situation showed it to be wrong. It was an imperialist war, between imperialist powers, for imperialist aims on both sides…Recognizing the concrete facts of the situation, the leadership of the party quickly corrected its first erroneous position of “a fight on two fronts” and called upon the Canadian people to: ‘Keep Canada Out of the War!'”

So the leaders of the “struggle against fascism” now told their followers not to fight Hitler! This reversal was catastrophic. Whatever sense it may have made in terms of the Soviet situation, it destroyed any credibility the Communist Parties had built up in the West. The Comintern was effectively a dead letter. On May 15 1943 it was formally dissolved. Dimitrov spent the war in Russia, tip-toeing through the dangers of Stalin’s mad court. In 1946 he became Premier of Bulgaria. But he was always an independent figure, and his negotiations with Tito, leader of Yugoslavia, to form a Balkan federation were too much for Stalin to take. Although the details are obscure, Dimitrov died—likely murdered—in Russia, July 2, 1949.




Furs, and the fur trade, have always been important to Canada. To Voltaire, the country was just queleque arpents de neige—a few acres of snow—and it was this attitude that led the French to quite happily give up Canada in exchange for Guadeloupe during the negotiations around the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Seven Years’ War (1754 – 1763). What Voltaire missed was the extraordinary value of the fur-bearing animals that lived in the snow, and became the basis for the operations of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Company was founded in 1670 and is still going today, but its fur business reached a peak with the popularity of the felted beaver hat in the early and mid 1800s. A beaver hat was an essential fashion accessory for any man of fashion, from the New World to the Old.

To this day, the beaver is one of Canada’s national symbols (made official in 1974) and is depicted on the reverse of the country’s nickel coin…
…and indeed the fur trade continues to have real economic importance. Canadian exports of fur pelts and fur apparel are around $450 million annually, and Canadian trappers and fur farm owners take in about $120 million. (World fur trade activity is around $14 billion a year.) There are about 60,000 licensed trappers in Canada (25,000 are Aboriginal Canadians), and over 300 fur farms. About a third of Canadian fur production is from wild animals, the most important species being muskrat, beaver, and marten. The most important farmed species is mink, but the fox is second.
The Red Fox
Vulpes vulpes. The red fox is the largest of the foxes, though because of their long, sleek fur foxes almost always seem larger than they are. On average, adults are only about 15-20 inches high at the shoulder, and two to three feet long. (A fox will weigh between 8 and 15 pounds; a German Shepherd dog between 65 and 90). They are widely distributed in both North America and Europe, in Central America, Asia, and they’ve even invaded Australia. They’ve been hunted for eons, but actually flourish near human habitation, and I’ve personally seen them many times in London, England. Fox fur has always been valuable, especially the fur of northern Canadian animals whose guard hairs are particularly long and silky. The popularity of fox has changed—still changes—with the whims of fashion, and was probably at its height in the 1930s when it was the glamor fur worn by actresses such as Mae West, Claudette Colbert and Marie Dressler.
Harlow and Colbert in Silver Fox

Foxes have always been hunted and trapped—here is a link you may not want to use—but most fox fur is now produced from farmed animals. Today, the largest producer of fox pelts is Finland, but fox farming began in Canada. This was in the late 1880s, and in our smallest province, Prince Edward Island, where the development of the farmed “silver” fox led to one of the great “bubbles” in history.

“Silver” fox is not actually silver; the coat is grey to black but the long outer hairs are tipped with white (as is the tail), giving the pelt an overall “silver” sheen.

Silver Fox

The silver fox is a naturally occurring melanistic form of the red fox, vulpes vulpes—it is not a separate species, or even sub-species. Both because of its rarity and beauty, the fur of the silver fox has always fetched premium prices in the fur trade: so there was a considerable incentive to farm them. And indeed farming was the only way to obtain a consistent, large supply of silver foxes. The gene that produces this colour is recessive, so unless silver foxes are bred with other silver foxes, they tend to return to the dominant red coloration. Foxes, however, are difficult to farm. They are a territorial animal and don’t adapt well to captivity. They are also monogamous: pairs need to be together. And a distressed mother fox will often kill her babies.

Savage Island, later Cherry Island, now Oulton’s Island: northeast coast, PEI

Two men solved the problems of raising, and breeding, silver foxes in captivity. Robert Oulton (1835- 1920) was born and raised in New Brunswick but moved to Prince Edward Island after the death of his first wife, finally settling on an island near Alberton, P.E.I. The island is now named for Oulton, but when he arrived it was called Savage Island and was covered in virgin forest. Oulton cleared a farm, but was always interested in hunting and trapping. One of his hunting friends was Charles Dalton (1850 – 1933). Dalton had failed as a farmer, and then as a druggist, because his real passion was hunting and the outdoors—and hunting foxes in particular. “At every opportunity I indulged my passion for the chase…The fox was my great objective, and the very name of black fox had a romantic attraction for me beyond any other allurement of the sport.”

Charles Dalton and Robert Oulton

The two men went into partnership. Dalton supplied the initial pair of foxes—he probably stole them from a fox’s den—and would later deal with the financial side of the business. Oulton took care of the animals on his farm. Since it was on an island, it was ideal. He developed a large pen with inward sloping walls—foxes are skilled climbers—which were also dug into the soil, to keep the animals from digging their way out. A first litter appeared in 1894. Dalton later set up his own operation at Tignish, and it was said that his foxes were thick and dark, except for a white-tipped tail, while Oulton’s were bluish black. The first pelt was sold in London in 1900 for $1800 dollars, and in 1910 Dalton sold 25 pelts in London for over $30,000.

PEI fox farming, heyday to bust

By this time, auctioneers in London had guessed that such large volumes of silver fox pelts could not come from wild animals: they had to be farmed. So the secret of Oulton and Dalton’s success was beginning to come out. Already, in 1900, the original partnership had been expanded when some of Dalton’s neighbors guessed what was happening and wanted to buy in. They formed “the Big Six Combine” and agreed to keep secret the techniques for breeding that Oulton had worked out. But in 1910 the nephew of one of the combine members sold a breeding pair to a syndicate owned by the heir to PEI’s largest department store. Soon, breeding foxes became a mania. People began buying interests in foxes, and companies were formed—and shares and options sold—whose only assets were a few foxes. Eventually, such companies enjoyed a market capitalization of around $40 million. The First World War interrupted the boom, but in the 1920s it started up again. In 1925, a single train out of Summerside carried over $750,000 worth of furs, and in 1929 the Island could boast of more than 700 fur farms and over 20,000 animals—this was a time when a fox scarf, with just one pelt, could sell for $1000. (You could buy a Model-A Ford for $385). Now the Depression hit, but the number of fox farms on the Island rose to over 1,200, and probably one in ten Islanders kept foxes. In 1939, 76,000 pelts were sold. But the market was glutted and fashion had moved on. The Island’s great silver fox boom was over.

Of course, like all booms it was fun while it lasted—as long as you weren’t a fox. Oulton had moved back to New Brunswick before he died, and was comfortably off. Dalton, who became Lieutenant-Governor of the Island, died in 1933. He had sold all his fox operations in 1914, turned to philanthropy, establishing a tuberculosis sanitarium and making various educational endowments. He died a rich man.