[This article was written for L’Idiot utile in the Spring of 2022.]
The treatment of the topics recently dominating the news should be causing the bullshit detectors of those of us who haven’t turned ours off to be vibrating to the breaking point. If we just take as an example one factor, the shift from the end of the crisis that never ends that we call the pandemic to the newly announced geopolitical crisis in Europe, we will see the speed at which the focus of public attention can be can be redirected without it being clear who is making the decisions or why. From all COVID all the time, we’ve made the leap to Putin and only Putin faster than a speeding bullet, and the threat to world stability is suddenly refocused from COVID variants to the imperial interests of a billionaire autocrat, who only recently was described as an indispensable trade partner, even if he was a little cringeworthy, given the overall degree of his murderous proclivities.
At the same time, the intersection of the two crises served to expose to the stark light of day a number of the profound hypocrisies that the hegemonic neoliberal system can normally conceal using a variety of contrivances and a certain amount of window dressing. We intend to address certain more or less flagrant double standards that have dominated official discourse and the current approach to pressing issues in recent months.
In a context in which the bourgeois centre hopes to reconstruct the neoliberal colonial order—and is experimenting with new authoritarian ways of doing so—while the far right is increasingly presenting itself as a valid “anti-system” alternative, we encourage those who see themselves as progressive to recognize liberal hypocrisy, to refuse to play along, and to join the anti-fascist and anti-capitalist social movements that simultaneously struggle against neoliberal hegemony and the fascist option.
We are not the first to comment on how timid—not to say sympathetic—the policing of the anti–health measures brouhaha in Ottawa, in February 2022, was compared to the normal robust reaction used to repress civil disobedience actions on the part of social movements at the other end of the political spectrum. Rarely have we seen so many police officers taking selfies with and giving the thumbs up to people participating in a mass civil disobedience action—one that was only a stone’s throw from Parliament! And, of course, there were the hugs, the energetic high fives, and the touching expressions of goodwill. Nor have we ever seen such well-documented participation of past and current members of the Canadian military, including military intelligence and the special forces, and of the police in the organization of a siege[i]. One would be hard-pressed to find evidence of a parallel sympathy among law enforcement for ecological, anti-capitalist, or anti-racist movements or for Indigenous resistance demanding respect for the integrity of ancestral territories in the face of the ruthless assault of the fossil fuels industry.
Let’s recall that only a few weeks before the pandemic began, in the winter of 2020, the RCMP was called upon to intervene and dislodge at gunpoint the land and water defenders who had raised barricades to block the Coastal GasLink pipeline on the ancestral territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation, in British Columbia. The solidarity actions organized across Canada were likewise repressed. No later than September 2021, a few months before the anti–health care measures circus in Ottawa, the same RCMP used a chainsaw to demolish a cabin built by militants on the projected route of a pipeline underneath the Morice River, to brutally dislodge the occupants, two freelance journalists. We doubt the police took the time to gently brush the snow off of their clothes before arresting them, as they did with the anti-maskers in Ottawa.
In a certain number of reports produced in recent years by federal government agencies tasked with monitoring this sort of thing, the far right has been unequivocally identified as a growing threat to Canada’s security. Nonetheless, when a handful of organizers clearly identified with far-right milieus announced their intention to organize a truck convoy to converge on Ottawa, occupy the area around Parliament Hill, and remain there until all health measures were lifted, or, in some cases, until the Trudeau government was removed from power and replaced by a mixed committee that included the leader of the malcontents and his beloved spouse, curiously the intelligence and national security services, the federal police force, and the provincial and municipal forces all failed to take advantage of the week-long interval before the big rigs arrived to hash out and put in place a plan to prevent the announced occupation. Then we got the high fives, the thumbs up, and the touching expressions of goodwill mentioned above.
Two weeks later, after residents of the neighbourhood under siege—and not the public authorities—obtained an injunction to stop the excessive noise, after a resident—and not the public authorities—filed a civil complaint against the organizers of the siege and the occupation, and after the community—and not the public authorities—began to physically prevent the convoy from refueling, the former drama professor and fan of face-painting who plays the role of the prime minister announced that he was enacting the “Emergencies Act.” The same government that had shown itself to be incapable of preventing what had been announced and could easily be anticipated several weeks before it happened chose to make use of an exceptional measure never previously enacted, without in any way proving the necessity to do so, and with the shameful support and allegiance of the social democrats who hold the balance of power.
Some progressive observers who had been fulminating about the conspiracy theory movement for months joined the standing ovation when, following a lengthy grace period, the occupation was faced with a mild form of repression. More than a few of them also welcomed the application of the Emergencies Act to suppress a few hundred frustrated cranks[ii]. That sort of enthusiasm for repression betrays a poor understanding of the relationship between the bourgeois state and social movements. The primary utility of the measure for the government, beyond the immediate powers conferred to cripple this expression of anti-vaxx organizing, is creating a precedent for suppressing future manifestations of popular dissent and disobedience, whether they be progressive or reactionary. This precedent should give pause to anyone who sympathizes with movements for social and economic justice, decolonization, or environmentalism, which might, at some future point, feel the need to engage in civil disobedience. It’s not terribly difficult, for example, to imagine what the reaction of the state will be when an Indigenous community next decides to adopt extralegal means to defend its territory or when a new generation inevitably decides to take direct action to demand radical social and governmental transformation to address the pressing climate crisis we are facing. While this exceptional legislative measure was used on this occasion against a group with reactionary impulses that we find repugnant, there is nothing to guarantee that it won’t be invoked in the future to squash demands that we feel a strong commitment to. History teaches us that repression is almost always much more energetically and forcefully used against progressive movements than it is against reactionary movements.
The Kev-Kév-Kev caravan came to its end, just as everything does, and following a long series of dubious decisions, a show of force as spectacular as it was unnecessary, and a doubtful volte-face, public authorities told us that it was no longer necessary to freak out about the virus, finally decreeing that the time had come to “live with COVID” (i.e., broadly speaking, to stop giving a shit). At this writing, however, as a sixth wave of infections begins, this paradigm shift has yet to translate into the end of Québec’s extraordinary state of emergency rationalized by the health crisis.
It was only a few days before cute infographics of soldiers replaced the colourful charts detailing the number of new COVID cases on the daily news. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, while people were zoning out and watching toboggan and figure skating competitions, the media and the commentators began to slowly beat the drum and to dust off the ageless smoke machines to once again pump out the “fog of war.” Who was good and who was bad was established, and the geostrategic stakes were rapidly delineated—obviously, with particular care taken to massively simplify the whole affair and entirely obscure Western responsibility. The scene was set, and when, on the day after the Olympics ended, Putin finally set his plan in motion, we suddenly found ourselves faced with the first war on European soil since the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia, in the early 2000s.
And the liberal bourgeois system got thoroughly tangled up in its doubles standards.
With the choir singing an arrangement from a well-known score, the politicians, the media, and the established experts preformed classic numbers from the jingoist repertoire. We can forgive younger people unfamiliar with the tune: the refrain focuses heavily on the absolute depravity of the evil one, accompanied by a succession of couplets, sometimes doleful, sometimes laudatory, chronicling the horrors of war, the desperation of the citizenry, and the almost superhuman courage of the politicians and soldiers chosen for the role of heroic figures of the resistance.
Let us be perfectly clear: the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a horrifying imperialist adventure, violating both international law and basic human values. While NATO, the United States, and the European Union bear a good deal of responsibility for the chronic instability in Ukraine over the past twenty years, and in spite of the enormous complexity of the issues at play in the contested provinces, Vladimir Putin and the oligarchs surrounding him are solely responsible for invasion and the war they have launched against their neighbour, an unquestionably sovereign nation, given the lack of evidence to the contrary. The situation is, in fact, so complex that beyond this basic certainty, we must have the humility to firmly resist the temptation to “Westsplain” things. Our main concern here is to expose the double standard at play.
Let’s start with the evil one himself. Vladimir Putin is unquestionably a complete piece of shit. But this billionaire autocrat, whom we demonize, has for quite some time been a key ally of the international capitalist order. Let’s not forget that Russia was part of the G8 during the recent golden age of globalization, from 1997 until the annexation of Crimea, in 2014. The Russian capitalist aristocracy, those we call “the oligarchs,” profited in profound ways from the integration of “their” economy into the international market, and for their part the Western powers generally closed their eyes to the Russian strongman’s anti-democratic, and often fascist, inclinations, which reflect a comfortable marriage of mafia and KGB methods. Let’s just say that until very recently the West treated Vladimir Putin more like an embarrassing cousin who liked to torture small animals in the shed than like the crazy and bloodthirsty tyrant they now tell us he is[iii].
These much-maligned oligarchs, whatever we say, are not fundamentally different from the major Western capitalist “families.” They constitute the dominant class around Vladimir Putin and preside over the destiny of the nation with no regard for democratic processes. There are some people who are inclined to say that our billionaires are less evil precisely because they accommodate these processes, to which we respond that one must be fairly naïve to believe that the large bourgeoisie do not exercise a determinant influence on the politics of our countries, just as is the case elsewhere. Some actors, such as the Koch family, in the United States, do so more or less openly, while others proceed with greater discretion. And what can we say about the democratic values of that bastion of kindness governing Saudi Arabia, a stalwart ally of both Canada and the United States? While we don’t adhere to the hypothesis that the Russian billionaires are fundamentally different from other billionaires, we can all nonetheless doubtless agree that billionaires form an international class that shares a common interest in exercising a controlling influence over the world’s governments and does not, in general, give a shit about the common good[iv].
Speaking of oligarchs, it’s more than a bit ironic that a key link in Canada’s fossil fuel network is a pipeline company that a billionaire in Putin’s immediate orbit, Roman Abramovich, owns a 28 percent stake in. Notably, his company is behind Coastal GasLink pipeline that the Wet’suwet’en are resisting. Curiously, Justin Trudeau waited two weeks before imposing the same sanctions on Abramovich as he did on others close to Putin during the early days of the invasion, even though his immediate connection to those sanctioned was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt. The barrage of sanctions deployed against the Russian oligarchs notwithstanding, the mutual interests of Russia and the West, above all Western Europe, in the energy business remain inextricable. We also note in passing that France was still delivering weapons to Russia no less than two years ago.
What is there to say about the famous freedom fighters draped in their national colours, whose courage we are invited to applaud and whose praises we are urged to sing, all without really giving it much thought? That is another issue that is too complex for us to sum up in a couple of catchy phrases. Suffice it to say that it is entirely legitimate to take up arms to defend yourself against an invader, and that the armed resistance, far from being homogenous, encompasses numerous currents that are sometimes antagonistic to each other. In the final analysis, we support the civilian population and its legitimate desire for self-determination in the face of both the Russian Federation and the West. That said, it would be more than a bit embarrassing for an anti-fascist group to remain silent about the fact that the paramilitary Azov Battalion (notoriously rife with neo-Nazis) has been integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard since September 2014, evolving into a regiment that the Ukrainian state considers an essential element in its national territorial defense. The experts whose job it is to explain this sort of thing stress that with 2 percent of the national vote in 2019, the political coalition of Ukrainian ultranationalist and neo-Nazi parties is hardly at the doors of power[v]. It also needs to be said that Russian propaganda vastly exaggerates the importance of neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian state apparatus. It is nonetheless worth more closely examining the presence of ultranationalists and neo-Nazis in the armed forces, whether within or outside of the national army, because that is where they are most active and exercise the most influence. No one seems to really know the extent of their influence, something that absolutely must be kept in mind. Yet the traditional media sought and seeks to minimize and downplay the integration of a neo-Nazi-influenced regiment into the national army. There was understandable outrage when a neo-Nazi militant was uncovered in the Canadian army, but for some reason that escapes us, we are now to believe that there is no need to get excited about the thousands of neo-Nazis and ultranationalists in the Ukrainian national army.
There’s certainly grounds for raising an eyebrow when Putin reinvents himself as antifa and claims he want to “denazify” Ukraine from top to bottom using mortars, all the while quietly deploying neo-Nazi mercenaries in the Donbass region and fully tolerating neo-Nazis from around the world who seek refuge in Russia. That said, we think the media’s tendency to reduce the presence of organized neo-Nazi militias within the Ukrainian state to a footnote is dangerous. They don’t even pretend to be interested. In a March 11, 2022, Radio-Canada report on Canadian volunteers in Ukraine, you can clearly see a “civilian” wearing an Azov Battalion patch and engaging in combat training with a “Finnish instructor.” Are we to deduce from this complicity that the neo-Nazis are also good guys? That, in any case, is how the management of Meta—Facebook and Instagram—seem to see it, having decided in February 2022 to revise their internal policy banning the Azov Battalion, now allowing it to utilize these platforms to praise the courage of its combatants. No one seems to be even vaguely considering the possible long-term consequences of integrating neo-Nazi militias into the national army, of the consolidation of an international neo-Nazi brotherhood in the context of a military adventure financed by the West, or of the transformation of thousands of neo-Nazi militants into national heroes endowed with a mythical aura by a traumatized civilian population. Does no one remember the previous occasions when the major Western powers supported and armed “freedom fighters” with dubious moral convictions, say, in Central Asia and the Middle East?
Whatever actual percentage of the Ukrainian army is made up of neo-Nazis, the manufacturing of consent in this case is, in the final analysis, based on the “unprecedented” courage of the civilian population in the face of a catastrophe. Obviously, the Ukrainian population has exhibited extraordinary courage, but, given the hyperbole at play here, are we to consider other examples of resistance, to whit, that of the Palestinian people against the occupation and Israeli apartheid for the last seventy years, to take an obvious example, less courageous or of a lower quality? A viral meme from the early days of the invasion placed a Ukrainian Molotov cocktail and a Palestinian Molotov cocktail side by side, the first labelled “Heros” and the second “Terrorists.” It would be hard to better summarize the double standard of Western commentators as to the relative legitimacy of different national resistance movements. And there are others that they never mention at all (in Syria, in Yemen, and in Kashmir, for example), or when they do deign to mention them, they hastily dispense with them as “civil wars” or “terrorist insurrections.” A key difference is that often these conflicts can be attributed to the questionable actions of Western powers and their allies and partners in the geopolitical configuration of the hour. And that isn’t to even mention the numerous invasions and regime changes, proxy wars, and “special military operations” conducted by the United States since World War II, with the complicity of our governments, that in no way fall short of the Russian intervention in Ukraine. It is not, however, necessary to go so far afield to expose this double standard: here in so-called Canada the media has never called upon the lexicon of bravery when describing Indigenous land and water protectors. They are more than happy to fall back upon rhetoric about criminality and delinquency. Security experts called upon to comment when Indigenous communities and their allies interfere with industrial activity on Indigenous territory give full-throated expression to calls for the means necessary to dislodge them rather than remarking on the immense courage it takes for Indigenous people to mobilize to fight the state and its police forces, large industry, and public opinion that opposes them. In this regard, one need only think of Gilles Proulx. One of the most strident anti-Indigenous voices in Canada, Proulx, who openly called upon the white population to use violence against the Kahnawake community, in 1990, remains until this day one of the talking heads regularly promoted by the Québecor machine.
Let’s round this out with a discussion of displaced populations. We deplore, with good reason, the forced exile of the Ukrainian civilian population. As we write this, more than four million people have had to flee the country, and that increases daily. It is both normal and desirable that humans feel sorrow when confronted with the suffering of others. The catch becomes apparent, however, when we consider that this sympathy is flexible in a way that indicates a certain structural racism. The problem isn’t that we are moved by the fate of the Ukrainian exiles and go to extraordinary lengths to welcome them, but that we are, on the other hand, insensible to the fate of the Yemenite or Kashmiri refugees, for example, and that we treat the Syrian refugees in Europe as an alarming “migrant crisis” that can only be addressed with repression. In August 2021, the CAQ government said that it was ready to welcome “a certain number” of Afghani refugees; on March 7 of this year, the same government announced that there would be “no limit” to the number of Ukrainian refugees Québec was prepared to take in. In March, Canada introduced “a new path to immigration for Ukrainians who wish to settle in Canada either temporarily or permanently,” an extraordinary measure that it never felt a need to put in place to welcome refugees from other countries torn apart by war. It has even proven incapable of bringing in the forty thousand Afghan refugees it promised to welcome. In the United States, Joe Biden says he is ready to welcome Ukrainians with open arms, while thousands of refugees fleeing horrifying conditions in Latin America languish is ICE prisons awaiting deportation.
What underlies this different treatment? Is it a natural reflex to more easily feel pain at the suffering of others who look like us, or is it the result of subtle conditioning? Are we encouraged to value the lives of Westerners more and to quietly consider the lives of others as less precious? Why did so many journalists and commentators feel the need to stress that these refugees have blue eyes and blond hair and are immigrants of “a superior quality” who drive cars like ours and share “our civilizational model,” as Fabrice Vil noted in an article published in La Presse, on March 4? Earlier that week, this same newspaper quoted a sniper from Québec who said that he was “not terribly thrilled about the idea of shooting at Russians” because “they are a European Christian people” whom he “doesn’t detest,” a statement that wouldn’t be out of place in a discussion among white supremacists. And then, of course, there is the nightmarish experience of the African nationals turned away at the Polish border and harassed by gangs of racist thugs while white families were greeted with open arms.
We could carry on page after page describing the overabundance of hypocrisies small and large in recent news reports. There is no shortage of examples.
Some people catch a whiff of conspiracy theory thinking in this sort of exposé of the subtle procedures used to encourage adhesion to the dominant narrative and discourage any real reflection on certain contradictory and embarrassing aspects. That, however, is based on the sort of “evidence” that some so-called experts on “radicalization” use to underpin their “horseshoe” theory, making the questionable assertion that there an alignment of sorts between the “two extremes.”
We are not, in fact, talking about a plot conceived behind closed doors by soap opera–style pedo-Satanists or the famed “globalists” of myth and legend. We are also not talking about directives of a mysterious origin whispered into Adrienne Aresenault’s headset. Cultural hegemony and the reality of a widespread intangible pressure that operates simultaneously on multiple levels to affirm and consolidate the dominant discourse becomes, at the end of the day, all the proof necessary. There are numerous techniques of persuasion, and it is obvious that the despotic means used by Vladimir Putin (repression of political opposition, criminalization of dissent, monopolization of the message, restriction of freedom of the press, etc.), which are coercive, differ from the gentler methods used here and elsewhere in the West, which are based most notably on repetition and consistency, pressure to conform, and an a priori reliance on the rarified knowledge of experts. Should we not recognize these processes, which, although less crude, are still not terribly subtle?
Our intention is not to minimise Putin’s crimes or to displace all of the blame onto Western imperialism, which is the disgraceful position of left-wing camp known as “tankies.” Nor are we arguing that there is a widespread international conspiracy, and that we should hunt for the names and addresses of the putative conspirators. We are simply acknowledging the intangible pressure of the hegemony that conditions our consent. Our point is that the consent being manufactured does not, for example, favour a radical anti-war sentiment among the population but, rather, focuses on demonizing an enemy and ingraining antagonism. Beyond that, there is certainly no attempt being made to clarify the role of the West in creating the ever-increasing instability in Ukraine over the last twenty years. There is also no talk about what underlies the diplomatic setbacks, end even less about the radical proposals that just might bring an end to Russian aggression, the dissolution of NATO being an obvious example. At the same time as we are being presented with the very real horrors of war, we meet an enemy that is given form by a barrage of detail down to the most insignificant minutiae, establishing which camp we belong to and to whom we owe our allegiance. We are being groomed to accept the harsh reality of a new cold war, with all that implies, most obviously, militarization and skyrocketing military budgets. The next round could, of course, involve China, were the latter to invade Taiwan. With no obvious light at the end of the tunnel, it’s going to take more than rainbows for us to chill out.
As we have already said elsewhere, the growth of conspiracy theories seen in recent years is the result of the convergence of a number of factors, of which three key ingredients are: 1) political opportunity—an ideologically motivated and militant populist far right is more than happy to feed the conspiracy theory frenzy, which creates a fertile terrain for them to exploit; 2) a plethora of unregulated information—the erosion of critical thought, the multiplication of social media platforms whose very structure favours the creation of filtered bubbles/echo chambers and the influence of toxic and nefarious actors who crank out disinformation; and, most importantly, 3) widespread popular resentment that translates into a popular decline in confidence in the centers of power, i.e., politicians, the intellectual class, and traditional media.
A recent study on “confidence in the institutions” showed that Canadians and Quebeckers increasingly distrust the government, corporations, and the media. Shocked as always, the key interested parties and their analysists catastrophize when relaying these statistics, without delving in the slightest into what might underlie this lack of confidence or making even a minor attempt to determine if these very institutions might not themselves bear a certain responsibility for this outcome. It would seem obvious that this distrust is the result of the fact that the neoliberal system as a whole is clearly crumbling and is no longer able to paper over the ever-widening cracks opened up by the cascading crises. Nonetheless, the system’s advocates endlessly multiply the powerful means at their disposal to convince us that capitalism is the best system possible, and that everything will work out, and as long as we listen to them, we will carry on following them down the road to disaster. It shouldn’t come as a shock that under these circumstances those who suffer the daily consequences of this system are gradually losing confidence in the overlords and their accomplices.
Denial is not generally a sound foundation upon which to build a political project. We believe that the progressive camp is condemned to remain entangled in the status quo, if not even worse, if it persists in ignoring the reasons for the current impasse and for this “loss of confidence in the institutions.” Although the liberal choir sings in every key that capitalism is the only viable model, it is, in fact, the capitalist system as a whole that generates these crises and is leading humanity to ruin.
As anti-fascists and anti-capitalists, we believe it is necessary to think these issues through and develop a resistance not only against the far right and the fascist threat but also against the bourgeois state and the related institutions of power that reinforce neoliberal hegemony and the colonial order. The bourgeois state is not interested in our well-being, and the interests of different social classes are irreconcilable today, just as they always have been. It is certainly the case, in any event, that while wars are declared by the rich and by nationalists, it remains the case that it is generally the poor who die at the front.
Faced with the far right and the fascist threat, on the one hand, and neoliberal hegemony, on the other, our greatest hope is to see the forces devoted to freedom rally around a project that is simultaneously anti-racist and anti-fascist, feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-colonial.
The Québec government has already signalled its intention to reform the health care system in a way that favours “a more far-reaching reliance on the private sector.” In other words, pandemic or not, hot or cold war, the CAQ remains a right-wing conservative party whose main concern is the defense of an unequal and unjust social order. When François Legault waxes poetic about his “achievements,” it is only to piss yet again on the common good. The working class and the progressive social movements must unquestionably form a common front in the coming years to block all of the efforts to forcibly dismantle the social safety net. We must demand, to the contrary, the massive investment in health care, education, and social services that will be required to meet the major challenges we can anticipate. At the federal level, the government undoubtedly intends to redouble its efforts to develop the fossil fuels sector to partially make up for the loss of Russian production on the international market. Social movements have an obligation to act in solidarity with the communities that will be sacrificed to the interests of fossil fuel development and must be ready to engage in an intense struggle to defend the territories and the sovereignty of the First Nations. On the international level, it seems inevitable that before long we will need to (re)build a massive anti-war movement to, among other things, resist intense internal pressure to (re)militarize national economies and play a role in escalating conflicts.
Finally, as always, we encourage our supporters to renew their anti-fascist practice, i.e., community self-defence, without ever losing sight of the revolutionary horizon, because we will never gain our freedom with petitions. In this difficult time, never forget the old libertarian communist slogan:
No war between nations! No peace between classes!
[i] That’s all a bit messy, one must admit. By the way, has there been an official survey of vaccination rates among police forces in Canada?
[ii] Notably, the main promoters of the convoy have been accused of “counseling” various mischief, while coordinating very publicly for several weeks, in contrast to the conspiracy charges brought against a group of anti-capitalist activists held responsible for the ruckus at the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010.
[iii] We have noted over the course of a number of years strong links between the Russian state and certain North American and European far-right currents. Although many politicians and “experts” close to power have exaggerated this influence (blaming Russia for the election of Donald Trump, for the anti-vaxx movement, for the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, etc.), it is not a complete invention. We don’t know if this connection reflects an ideological engagement with the far right on the part of the Russian state or if it is simply a practical way of stirring up shit on the political terrain of rival powers (it is also worth considering the influence of Aleksandr Dugin in Russia). Whatever the actual motives, this influence is certainly among the reasons that the majority of far-right pundits in North America support Putin in this war, while a minority denounce both parties and consider the conflict to be a “fratricidal war” between two majority-white Christian nations.
[iv] Beyond direct political influence, a sociopath like Jeffrey Bezos, to name but one, seems far more concerned with his future go-kart track on Mars than with the survival of the 99% of humanity.
[v] Let’s not forget that three years before the March on Rome and his installation as prime minister of Italy, Mussolini only won 1.5 percent of the vote in Milan in the 1919 general election. Also, the NSDAP only won 2.8 percent of the popular vote in Germany in 1928. Electoral results are a poor indicator of which way the wind is blowing during periods of crisis.