Bulgaria Nationalist "Ataka" Party Leader Siderov: I Can't Be Follower of Hitler
Interview with Volen Siderov, leader of Bulgaria's nationalist "Ataka" ("Attack") party.
Where does the name "Ataka" ("Attack") come from? How would you explain it to foreign citizens who would find it alarming?
I don't see anything alarming in it. The name "Ataka" ("Attack") is the name of a TV commentary show that is still on the cable TV SKAT, where I have been expressing my position on current political topics. I made it up as a name of the TV show, and of a civic organization.
It comes from the Bulgarian attack on Edirne (Adrianople) on March 13, 1913, when the Bulgarian troops captured the most impregnable fortress of that time, the pride of the German military machine. After the attack and the surrender of the city, specialists from all over the world, including Japan, came to Edirne to study the Bulgarian attack.
This is when the Bulgarian soldier, fighting for the unification of his country, showed incredible heroism. The Bulgarian attack is something superhuman. This is the idea of the name because I believe that today we need such uplifting of spirit in defense of the Bulgarian nation. I want to point out that Ataka's nationalism is defensive, it is an immune system saving the nation from extinction. So there is nothing alarming here. The name is powerful indeed, but the Bulgarian "Attack" is a defensive attack. We could play with the words here and say that the attack is the best defense.
What is the gist of your economic program? Which economic sector should be a priority for Bulgaria?
I want to point out that we published our program as a brochure in January 2009, and have been distributing it since. No other Bulgarian party has done that. In it, we have presented our vision for changing the existing economic model which was imposed as a neoliberal, monetary model; everything has been explained through monetarism.
We favor a different type of economy - the physical, real sector, not the virtual economy. You see now that the global financial crisis is the result of the virtual economy, the trading in secondary financial means, which led to the bursting of the bubble. I have written many articles on this topic, and have warned about the possibility of such a crisis.
That is why the best precaution is an economy that is based on real production and export, not so much on monetarism. That is why Bulgaria needs to start several production sectors - agriculture, high-tech products - that should be supported by the state.
We favor that type of economy. A similar economic model was followed after World War II by Japan, South Korea, and other Far East states, where the state administration supported private firms as well, as long as they were conscientious taxpayers, manufacturers and exporters. This is literally how the Japanese companies got to dominate all over the world; they originally started from very low levels but they manage to expand abroad, to conquer foreign markets with the aid of the state.
I think Bulgaria needs something similar. Some would say that we are a small country. First, it is not true that we are that tiny a country; many of the EU states are smaller. Second, we have the qualified human resources, and certain industrial fields that used to function; some could be restored, and some could be developed anew with state programs.
As far as the taxing policy is concerned, we favor a decrease of the VAT down to 15%, and differentiated VAT rates for medicines just like in France and Germany, and for agriculture. Because now Bulgaria's agriculture producers are in a very disadvantaged position due to the subsidized foreign importers who kill them with dumping prices. This is abnormal, and we need to alter it in favor of the Bulgarian producers.
What is your attitude towards foreign investors?
All this does not mean a conflict with the foreign investors. But unfortunately, a lot of offshore companies and dishonest entrepreneurs came to Bulgaria as foreign investors; their only goal has been to suck out profit without investing and developing production. They called themselves investors but in fact they are pumping out funds including through unfair means - failure to keep their privatization contracts, lack of post-privatization control on part of the Bulgarian state, exporting their profit..
That is why our program states we want reviews and audits of the contracts that are disadvantageous to the Bulgarian state. This is connected with some legal issues but it is not impossible. For a number of sectors - for example, energy distribution. It was given to three companies, and one of them is a foreign state-owned company CEZ.
It turns out the Bulgarian taxpayers pay for the retirement funds of Czech pensioners. This is a paradox. Czech pensioners are welcome at our beaches but it is too much for us to support them. At the same time, Bulgarian pensioners live under the worst conditions in Europe. Monthly pensions in Bulgaria are the lowest in Europe. When we tell foreign partners how much Bulgarian pensioners get per month, they cannot believe it, and ask if that is per day.
This brings me to the most important topic - the retirement system. We favor the creation of a retirement fund guaranteed by the state, a state fund because the private funds all over the world have collapsed. I am sure that any private pension funds in Bulgaria would be turned into financial pyramids. The fund must be guaranteed with state assets, and each person must have an individual account.
We need to do this very quickly, with the agreement of all political parties, because it is a very grave issue. We are an aging nation. We have over 2 200 000 pensioners, and their number will grow; unfortunately, the population growth is negative. We also need to double the minimum pension of BGN 130 - this is absurd, we need at least to cover the basic expenses of the elderly.
The money could come from a reduction of the state administration. It will be better for the state if the administration is reduced. Also, we have budget surpluses, and it is not publicly known how they are spent. We also have reserves deposited in foreign banks with zero interest - why do we have to keep our reserves there with zero interest, and at the same time look for foreign loans with interest of 10%?
We favor a more sovereign type of economy. Even though the world is very open, we see that this openness and globalization could have serious negative effects. For instance, the financial crisis is purely American but it also hits countries whose capital markets are not that developed.
We believe that a slightly smaller openness would contribute to the stabilization of the national economies. Not just the Ataka party but leading Western analyzers now speak of the need to revise the economic model, of greater state regulation, and of more control over the capital markets. I think the time has come for a new type of capitalism with greater social protection and social solidarity. This is not a communist view, this is a humanist view.
With an electoral support of some 12%, what are "Ataka's chances to participate in the next government of Bulgaria? Is a coalition with GERB and the other rightist parties the only way?
The new Parliament is going to be very complex, and the forming of a majority will be very hard. Some predict there will be six or seven parties in it. Ataka is going to be present there for sure. As far as coalitions are concerned, all political parties say that they are going to decide on that after July 5.
The party with the mandate to form a government (i.e. with the greatest number of MPs - editor's note) will face a very complicated task of forming a majority. If this is GERB, then it will be up to them to realize the mandate. Because if they fail, the mandate would go back those who rule now, and we want an alternative for many reasons - failure, corruption, criticism by the EU, internal discontent.
The situation requires the execution of a few urgent reforms. If the party with the mandate says it is going to take these measures - reforming the justice system, saving the real sector, anti-crisis measures, reforming the retirement system - and asks for our support, we have no reason to deny it because we favor the agreement on the most urgent measures.
Once the situation has stabilized, we could discuss who leans more to the left, and to the right, etc, but right now we believe we need a strong national agreement on the main points. We would support a government doing all that but only with very strict control; we would withdraw our support, if it starts to stray from these points.
Do you believe that any growing support for "Ataka" would lead to growing support for the ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS)? Do you think that the removal of the DPS from the government, and even its disappearance from public life would threaten the ethnic peace in the country?
I think that the term "ethnic peace" is a speculation made up by Ahmed Dogan (DPS's leader - editor's note), and his associates. Through it, they seek to make themselves seem more important, while in fact Bulgaria is not and has not been threatened by any such conflicts. If someone is fomenting ethnic conflicts, then it is from the outside.
The state of Turkey did that in 1985-1989. Now again Turkey is conducting policies inciting such sentiments and the forming of enclaves of the Muslim population - I do not call it Turkish because those are Muslims of Bulgarian origin who were converted to Islam during the Ottoman Turkish rule.
The DPS is an unconstitutional party because Article 11 of our Constitution bans ethnic- and religion-based parties. In spite of that, over the course of years, through political machinations, the DPS was allowed and legitimized, and has gained ground with its permanent voters because it holds them in subjugation.
However, the DPS has long ago turned into a mafia clique who embezzled money from EU and state funds, and used land swaps in order to create a financial resource allowing it to rule over its voters and to keep them in networks of patronage. Based on that, it can be sure to be present in the Parliament.
Then, Dogan is also realizing his ambition to be a leading figure in the executive, as a backstage figure, as he is now since the mandate of the present government belongs to his party. We are against this domination of the DPS in the executive branch and the state authorities as a whole; this is a party with an electoral support of 8-10% but it dominates a number of ministries, state agencies, district administrations, and keeps whole regions of the country as feudal estates, fiefs.
This is no European model and that is why we want the DPS out of the executive. Their presence in the Parliament cannot be hindered because of their voters but we call upon all parties in Bulgaria to declare that they would not make a coalition with the DPS, whose presence in the government has proven to bring corruption and mafia.
Bulgaria's Western partners are well aware of this situation, they know very well that Dogan is a multimillionaire and has connections to the underground world. I cannot understand why their criticism is not directed at his unconstitutional party but is directed at patriotic parties like Ataka.
How come they are not alarmed by the election manipulations that his party has made for years?
In the DPS-dominated regions, one cannot survive unless one is a member of their party. The population there is held in a slave-like condition, and they keep it ignorant and illiterate on purpose. They prevent these people from studying Bulgarian which is abnormal because the official language in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian language. In these regions, they speak only in Turkish, including in the institutions, and during their rallies. They have created a state within the state.
Dogan has often said that if anyone tries to do something about it, bad things would follow. He is the one who has been threatening with conflicts. He has said more than once that the situation here would become like in Kosovo or in Bosnia. I have followed his development and statements for years.
This party teaches its voters animosity towards Christians and Bulgarians. They are manipulated that this would become Turkish territory one day, that the Bulgarians are "giaours" ("infidels" - editor's note) - please explain to the esteemed foreign readers what this means.
These are literally their words, I am not exaggerating, I am actually saving some because the information that I have is striking. I don't know why this does not bother the esteemed representatives of the Civilized West because this sort of policy is neither European, nor civilized. These are our arguments for wanting the DPS out of the executive power.
What should be Bulgaria's policy towards its Roma and Turkish minorities?
As far as the minorities - those of the Roma and of the Muslims - they are kept encapsulated by their leaders. This is exactly what we are against. Especially the Roma communities - they live in ghettos, in absolute ignorance. This prevents the children from getting education, learning a trade, becoming integrated citizens of the society. These people are used for criminal activities in order to make rich their leaders who keep their own people in poverty.
We believe that every Bulgarian citizens should be integrated instead of living in tribal societies so that they can work and support their family with that. We are probably the only parliamentary party with a clear vision of how to integrate the Roma because this is a huge problem, and unless we act now, in ten years it would be much worse.
These communities live practically illegally - sometimes 1000-2000 of them would be registered on the same address. This is an anonymous mass whose leaders urge it to commit crimes. These people do not pay their taxes, or water or electricity bills, which is extremely annoying for the rest of the society which sees a double standard.
The Bulgarians who live poorly wonder why they have to wait in line to pay their bills and taxes, and those people do not; this is a privilege; leaving them like that means a group privilege. Our vision is to integrate those people with special state programs, and to use administrative measures to educate their children. We cannot just give them social security benefits, there must some commitment on their part.
This is our view that has been silenced by black propaganda against us over the years that made us seem as if we wanted to carry out some kind of genocide, this is totally absurd.
Ataka is described by many as a neo-fascist and extreme right party. Are these epithets correct and justified?
Not at all because Ataka has a stake on patriotism. We call it nationalism because every nation relies on its nationalism. In America both candidates in the recent elections stated and ended every speech with the US national interest. International dictionaries define nationalism as love for the fatherland, desire to protect and develop your nation, i.e. there is nothing alarming in nationalism.
Any analogies with fascism or national-socialism are wrong not just because we live another era, which is obvious but also every nationalism is different. I call Bulgaria's nationalism "bulgarianism". It is a defensive nationalism. Our national heroes were nationalists - Rakovski, Botev, Levski.
This is a constructive type of nationalism, and Bulgaria has never aspired to conquer and colonize other nations. The same cannot be said about England, France, all Western states. Today the USA is waging wars thousands of kilometers away from its territory. For me, this is not even nationalism, this is chauvinism because you impose your will on others. Bulgaria has never done that.
We, Ataka, are followers of nationalism from the Bulgarian Revival period (19th century - editor's note), that was aspiring to unite the nation.
There is no way we could be followers of national-socialism (Nazism), i.e. Hitler's ideas which are racist. I have a degree in theology, I have publications on religion. I am an Orthodox Christian, and in one of my books I have explained why I cannot be a follower of Hitler because he is anti-Christian. For me, anything that strays away from Orthodox Christianity, from Christianity, is unacceptable, and there is no way that I can follow it as a principle.
I am explaining logically for your foreign readers who may not know the Orthodox Christianity, or may atheists that I have a doctrinal, ideological incompatibility with the things that Hitler propagated and with the fascist doctrine, which is the product of a different era. By the way, these doctrines were born as a reaction to the Versailles Treaty. Bulgaria was also a victim of a similar treaty. But today's era is different we cannot talk about analogies with those doctrines.
Ataka is a Bulgarian patriotic party that wants to see things go well for the whole Bulgarian nation. Because right now we have people who live very well here but those are no more than 5%; people who wonder what kind of a helicopter or a yacht they should buy. We are against this social polarization, this is a Latin American model; we insist on having the European model with social justice, a welfare market economy, and rules and order for all. If this is fascism for someone, then they have weird or wrong views about politics.
Practically every rightist Bulgarian party claims it is nationalist. What sets you apart from other right-wing parties like the Bulgarian National Union - Guard of Boyan Rasate, VMRO, "Zashtita" ("Defense")?
The group around Boyan Rasate - I used to support them because they were young patriotic people. I stopped when I discovered that this man is a militant anti-Christian. His groups in fact follows those pagan forms of national-socialism that was developed in Germany in the 1930s.
This cannot coincide with my view. Plus their methods border on criminal acts. By the way, it was exactly his group that presented Nazi uniforms - like those of Hitler's SA - in the Military Club in Sofia. All media showed them without any criticism. At one point a picture in a newspaper even showed one of their guardsmen was right behind President Parvanov, in a Nazi uniform.
As far as VMRO is concerned - this party has had many twists and turns over the years, many coalitions with murky parties despite its historic association with the IMRO (VMRO). There are other nationalist formations showing up as well. They often come to me asking for cooperation. I ask them why they are not part of Ataka if they have the same views, why do they want to split the voters?
If they don't realize that, they are either stupid, or do it on purpose. Just like the Zashita party. They know they have no chance of performing well in the elections - just 0,3% at the EP elections - but they still run stealing from our voters. When I reached the second round of the Presidential Elections in 2006 against Parvanov, I ask all rightist parties for support, but they declined. This was irresponsible of them because this is when we had the chance to break the present government.
What should be Bulgaria's policy on the Balkans, and towards the Republic of Macedonia?
This is a question that is often debated Bulgaria but the analyses are rarely precise. Our view in a nutshell is that Macedonia is an artificially created state, and for most of its existence it has been a subject of the Communist International (Comintern) and its projects for the creation of states and nations.
It is known that the Macedonian language was created for one week after 1944, Macedonia was part of both Yugoslavias - the one before 1944, and the communist Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, this once part of Bulgaria is so "macedonianized" that most people there have been brainwashed. Historically, this territory and population belongs to the Bulgarian nation but too many damages have been done.
The bad thing is that once it was the Comintern that set up the Macedonian language and nation, but today it is the West that supports them. It is unbelievable and paradoxic that the Factbook of the CIA and the US State Department speaks about a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, about a Macedonian nation and language, i.e. the same as the Comintern. I wonder what the difference between the Comintern and the US State Department is, and I don't see much of a difference.
In Western Europe, in Brussels, there are lobbies defending the thesis that the Macedonians are a separate nation and people. We are waging desperate battles in order to prove that water is wet but there is no way these battles could succeed without the support of the state. I think Bulgaria should have set more conditions on Macedonia, instead of what it had done so far. This is a matter of historic plausibility. Look at Greece which is firm on the recognizing or the lack thereof over historic questions. Bulgaria needs to be just as firm, we yield too easily.
What do you think of Bulgaria's alliance with the USA, and its NATO membership?
NATO is part of the division of the world in two blocs during the Cold War. We favor the creating of a EU security system that would commanded by Europe, not by Washington. We think that NATO is more of an instrument of American domination of the world but you need to ask the American strategists and leaders who apply this notion.
But we think that US domination is not always positive because the world presents a variety of things. We were against the setting up of US military bases in Bulgaria because this creates more dangers, this makes us enemies of countries that we have never been enemies of. It is unnecessary for Bulgaria to commits so abruptly and demonstratively, we believe that a more neutral approach is more appropriate for Bulgaria, which is a country with a key geographic position, a more flexible approach.
This does not mean a conflict with the USA, this means a diplomacy of dignity. I know many Americans, I know their mentality, and that they respect people with character who follow their views even if they are different from theirs. That is why we must have demands from the USA, they set up those bases for free, with the full freedom to bring whatever they want in there.
At the same time, America pours billions of dollars into Israel, just like that. We are a country with a bad standard of living, with many needs. We should have towards the USA a policy of national dignity. Just as towards any other country - Russia, Sri Lanka, etc.
Should Bulgarians be concerned about Russian interference in Bulgaria's internal affairs?
We must hinder any interference of foreign states - of Russia, of Turkey. Those are states who have always been involved in this region because of their proximity and their interests, they have always viewed it as empires. We need to learn how to counter those interferences. We receive gas and oil from Russia, this cannot be changed because it is a geopolitical fact but still need a policy of national dignity. We believe that any sort of "-phobia" or "-philia" damages our national interests, we need to be more sober.
How do you the EU should develop - as superstate, as supranational or to the contrary?
We have a vision for a Europe of nations and nation-state that have all sorts of connections but preserve their national delineation. Europe is a very different case from the USA where a huge experiment was set up in an open field. This is a continent with centuries-old states, with intertwined cultures so here the melting pot of the USA is not appropriate.
What we need here is a union of nations where everyone is equally respected and there are opportunities for the development of the real sector. For example, Bulgaria was limited in terms of its agriculture and other production sectors. This is not a free economy. It is something like the COMECON earlier. We believe that there must a greater freedom in the EU, a more flexible structure, a harmony of states, and that it should not turn into a pyramid-like structure.
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