US Fascism Rests on Two Pillars
Review of Craig Unger: American Kompromat
This latest book by Craig Unger is a follow up of his House of Trump House of Putin’ where he detailed much of the financial relationship between Trump and the Russian Mafia. It also touched on the development of the Russian oligarchy from the mafia and the bureaucracy and the role of the KGB (which became the FSB after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991). The term “Russian Oligarchy” will be used to refer to the Social, economic and Repressive system as a whole.This story has been filled in with more information about his dealings with the KGB / FSB and some major new characters introduced.This is a vast and somewhat confusing book with a lot of moving parts. It follows the evolution of the KGB from the 80s through Trump’s presidency. As Unger states in the beginning:
“Even though Trump’s liaison with the KGB … started more than forty years ago, what has happened since – namely, the installation of a Russian asset in the White House- is not simply the carefully calculated result of one extraordinarily cunning, long term counterintelligence operation.”
In addition, to the changing relationship between Trump and Russian intelligence, there have also been forces at work in the US moving us closer to Fascism. Most academics and media treat the development of Fascism as separate from Russiagate and limited to the GOP becoming more authoritarian and plutocratic since the 80s.
Crimes vs. Espionage
Unger discusses the differences between crimes and espionage. Many acts that constitute being an asset of the KGB are not crimes: such as parroting the Kremlin’s foreign policy objectives in Syria and or Ukraine. Or accepting money in exchange for a condo when the cash is being laundered by Russian Mafiosi. People have come to expect that Trump will eventually have to answer for his crimes, and he has committed a huge number of crimes. But these prosecutions, even if they take place, will not address his involvement with the Russian Oligarchy. This distinction plus the fact that Trump’s dealings with the Russian Mafia through organizations like Bayrock were ignored, accounts for the relative uselessness of the Mueller report.
Unger relies a great deal on the knowledge of Yuri Shvets a former KGB agent who worked in DC at the same time that Trump was active with the Russian Mafia and other agents. WIth his aid and that of other intelligence agents on both sides, Unger is able to trace events along this continuum of asset development and explain odd events in Trump’s life (and even seemingly normal ones) as part of this process.
The beginnings of Trump’s cultivation by the KGB in 1980 when he bought TVs for Trump Tower from Semion Kislin’s electronic store. This store served Soviet officials and Kislin was a “spotter” for the Kremlin. Kislin was also mob affiliated (Brighton Beach). Trump had come under surveillance by Czech Intelligence in 1977 after his marriage to Ivana, a Czech national. Eventually he would have a handler. Unger doesn’t say who this was or when they took over his case, but strongly suggests it was Natalie Dubinnin in 1986. A year later, Trump published an ad with Kremlin talking points. Trump’s political ambitions started in the late 80s and KGB interest in him increased. He was bailed out in the early 90s by the mafia owned Bayrock Co. when his casinos left him with a negative net worth. By this time, the Soviet Union was in a state of collapse and the KGB was transitioning to the FSB. The government was transitioning to a mafia state and the country’s assets were being plundered and privatized through violent conflicts like the Aluminum Wars. Vladimir Kryuchkov, a KGB hardliner who lost out in the attempt to overthrow Gorbachev, had come up with the idea of setting up shell companies to transfer the wealth of the USSR should there be a collapse. These companies were for the use of KGB agents who quickly became oligarchs and mafiosi themselves.
The book also follows Opus Dei, a secretive reactionary Catholic group that developed in Spain and supported the Fascist government of Franco. Unger does a service in exposing how deeply right wing Catholic lawyers are involved in promoting Trump and how Opus Dei attorneys like Barr became a “Praetorian Guard for Trump.” The FBI, DOJ and Judiciary have members. John Hansen, an FBI agent who spied for Russian and was a member, has a chapter. The takeover of courts and law enforcement follows the group’s trajectory under Franco, whereas in nazi Germany, the courts were among the last to fall. The media (including the Left) has usually portrayed the Evangelical churches as the primary force behind the Right’s war against women’s and LGBT rights and the main supporters of Trump. Unger draws much needed attention to the role of the Catholic Church.
Unger also examines Robert Maxwell who spied for Israel and Russia and whose daughter Ghisalaine worked with Jeffery Epstein (also examined in a separate chapter). It appears that Epstein made most of his living gathering Kompromat on influential westerners that somehow ended up in Russia during an investigation of Epstein in the mid aughts. It’s not clear that Epstein was gathering this info for the Oligarchy.
Unger also addresses the subject of this book, Kompromat, as it applies to Trump. As a target, Trump would be irresistible to any intelligence agency. Stupid, vain, self absorbed and susceptible to praise he was almost a walking Kompromat target and Unger is pretty certain they have a ton of stuff on him from over the past 40 plus years. But due to his malignant Narcissism and shamelessness, most of it would be useless. In House of Trump, Unger speculates that the Kompromat that is being used to keep Trump in line is sexual. Here, Unger changes his mind and decides it’s mostly financial Kompromat that keeps the Trump top spinning. He is utterly unconcerned about appearing sexist or the accusations so many women have made about sexual assault. But financial subjects strike an immediate nerve, especially the taxes.
Nearly every political faction in the US currently sees Fascism as a phenomenon that arose in the middle 2010s and that has a symbiotic relationship with Trump and the GOP. On the Left, or at least the part of the Left that is concerned about Fascism, it’s viewed as a symptom of a grave crisis of capitalism, which it is. We also clearly see our class enemy as the US plutocracy and its police state. But there is great ambivalence about seeing the Russian Oligarchy in the same light.
This foreign source of Fascism is fostered by the Russian disinformation. This disinformation not only affects elections and social media, it has been directed against the US Left. Several people have undertaken the study of “red brown” politics, Duginism (named after Putin’s Fascist ideologue), or “National Bolshevism” (herein referred to as “Nazbols”. They include Alexander Reid Ross (“The Fascist Creep”), Matthew Lyon (Three Way Fight Blog), Bill Weinstein (Counter Vortex). Unger mentions that in the KGB was not finding very many informants acting out of ideological sympathy due to the crimes of Stalin. It would appear that they’ve filled this void with RT and Sputnik “Leftists” ready to justify Assad’s crimes in Syria, China’s crimes against the Uigers, and the aggression against Ukraine. The main accomplishment of “Nazbols” like Glenn Grenwald, Aaron Mate, and Matt Taibbi has been to make discussion of the Russian Oligarchy, much less criticism, taboo on the Left. No group in the US has experienced the harshness of this push back on the ground than activists attempting to help Syrian refugees and defend the Syrian Revolution against Assad (and now Putin). At the same time, the Oligarchy also supports Fascist groups, mainly in Europe, and the GOP in the US. It also promotes fundamentalist Christianity. The red brown Left in the US also denigrate Antifascism for obvious reasons.
A question raised by John Reiman “[I]s whether the January 6th investigation will be a cover up along the lines of the Mueller report …In both cases, … a serious investigation would tend to reveal such explosive threats to the rule of the Capitalist class that it would weaken that rule.” There’s a good chance it will. The biggest mystery is the response of the Ruling Class and its Intelligence Agencies to the rise of Fascism. They pay lip service to democracy and equality but are passive as the Right works through the GOP to strip them away. And there seems to be a similar apathy toward the intervention of a hostile power. Those who are concerned are treated to endless performances (like the Mueller Report) designed to make us think Something Is Being Done. Meanwhile, the bodies pile up, whether from the pandemic or violence by Fascists and police, as we wait for the system to work.
The main opposition to Russian Oligarchy are Liberals and the weak Centrist government that they imposed on us as the only alternative to Fascism. The people rose up against great odds and voted Fascism out of power, probably the first time in history a people has done this. Their accomplishment will have bought us time (no one knows how much time) to beat back a pandemic and alleviate a small amount of the suffering brought by Trump and the GOP. There is every indication that the attacks of the Fascists will not stop. They have the backing of law enforcement, a major party, part of the military (but not all), and most likely billionaires like Koch. Not mentioned, of course, is the support of the Russian Oligarchy.
A likely scenario in the coming years is that of the Spanish Civil War. There the anti Fascist Left struggled to defend a Centrist, popularly elected government from the Fascists. Stalinists, the predecessors of today’s Nazbols are playing the same role in betraying this struggle. To win, Antifascists have to understand the full extent of what they’re fighting. And that includes the class traitors who are making a defacto alliance with the Right as a result of the campaign against the US Left by Russia.
- Council of National Policy planned to contest the election from February 2020 to the insurrection
- Article by Terry Burke (Committee in Support of the People of Syria- CISPOS) 2019
- Shekhovstov, Anton, Russia and Western Far Right. A history of the support by Putin and his predecessors of Fascism in Europe.
- Southern Poverty Law Center (2018)
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State (2006) “Breaking the Opus Dei Code”
Oaklandsocialist thanks Junius for reviewing this book on this important subject. Among other things, what Unger shows is the continuing degeneration of the capitalist class in the US and globally as it increasingly sinks into drug dealing, human trafficking (including of young girls), etc. As Roger Silverman has pointed out, this is a sort of “lumpenization” of the capitalist class. This is a symptom of the degeneration of capitalism as a whole.
One thing to think about is whether Trump represents a fascist threat or a threat of one-person dictatorship/”Bonapartism”. Yes, groups like the Proud Boys, Boogaloo and Oath Keepers are fascist, but they don’t begin to be a mass force such as wwere Hitler’s SS and SA. This is not just a quibble over words. Seeing Trump as “fascist” makes it more difficult to understand and figure out how to deal with the tens of millions of US workers – mainly but not exclusively white men – who support Trump. We think that a better example than Hitler or Mussolini for what Trump represents is Hungary’s Viktor Orban. There Orban has taken one person rule through a series of maneuvers similar to what Trump did during his term in office. This was a process entirely different from Franco’s civil war.
Also for further reading see:
- Oaklandsocialist’s review of Unger’s previous book, “House of Trump, House of Putin”
- Another book that outlines Trump’s links with the Russian mafia/capitalist class is “Treason and Betrayal”, which is reviewed here: Is Trump a “Traitor”?
- Oaklandsocialist has written many articles commenting on Trump’s role as a money launderer of the Russian mafia capitalist class. This article also contains links to all the articles that document his. Money Launderer in Chief, the Capitalist Media and Socialism: A Timeline