Introduction by Oaklandsocialist: Although it is tiny and with hardly any influence, it is a mistake to ignore those on the left who call themselves “anti-imperialists”. It’s an even bigger mistake to make political concessions to them. Now, after almost all of them scoffed at the idea that Putin was going to order an invasion, they are scrambling to cover their tracks. But none of them seems to be willing to reconsider their methods or how they got it so wrong in the first place. In this piece, “Junius” explains their disastrous policies.
No nation ever voluntarily gave up the dominion of any province, how troublesome soever it might be to govern it, and how small soever the revenue which it afforded might be in proportion to the expense which it occasioned.” Adam Smith
In the not too distant past, Putin sent the Russian military into another country. They selected an area and began by destroying hospitals and clinics, then went on to kill doctors and other health care providers. They went after an ambulance service with a viciousness that would have made the Israeli military in Gaza blush. The people of the country refused to surrender and pretty soon Russia began trapping them in cities, killing them if they tried to leave. They eventually leveled several cities. This all happened in Syria at the behest of a dictator, Bashar Assad, who was in danger of being deposed in a popular revolution. Much of it was documented by the White Helmets, which not only dug civilians out of the rubble but had cameras on their helmets which filmed many war crimes.
This began in 2015 and in the years since, this genocidal hell has engulfed millions of Syrians and sent nearly 30% of the population to Europe and North America as refugees. It was largely ignored by all the great powers, except for the far right which exploited the plight of the refugees to promote nativism. But the most inexplicable response was the endorsement of Russia and Assad by a large chunk of the US left who accused the victims of being agents of Western imperialism or terrorists.
All of this had been foreshadowed a year earlier in 2014 when Putin decided to annex Crimea and occupy two Ukrainian provinces that are Russian majority areas. There were rationalizations, such as the need to put down Ukrainian fascists which the US Left fell for hook, line and sinker. The real reason was that a popular protest movement had deposed the puppet government that Putin had installed in Ukraine and which had, as one of its demands, closer relations with Europe. The response of many on the left in the US was startling. First there was the fact they were parroting the foreign policy rationale of an oligarchic capitalist state. Second was the variety of tendencies and groups who joined in on this chorus. There were a few CPers, which was understandable. But they were joined by Trotskyists, the Green Party, and other sectarian Leninist parties. But most of all, they were joined by the larger amorphous “anti war” movement which has very little in the way of political analyses and attaches itself to almost any struggle foreign or domestic where it sees a possibility for organizing and broadening its contacts. These groups are now very careful to avoid any political action that might showcase Russia or China as the cause of the problem.
Putin’s right wing politics
This is a government that has no sympathy for the Left. A small amount of research would have uncovered a significant amount of fascism in Russia that was actually sanctioned by the government and that antifascists are viciously repressed. It would have also informed these activists that there is support for Christian fundamentalism and hostility to women’s and LGBTQ rights. As far as the US is concerned, there are contacts between Russia and Christian fundamentalists such as Franklin Graham and Focus on the Family. Russia has
also been an object of admiration by the far right in this country. Beginning with Lyndon La Rouche in the 1990s, there have been many contacts with Right wing figures such as David Duke who has called Russia a “White Christian country”. The most consequential engagement on the Right, of course, is with the GOP. This mirrors its relations with European parties such as Le Pen’s FN and the AfD in Germany.
Fascists meet with “lefts” in Russian conference
A very odd but by no means anomalous incident took place in 2015 and holds the key to understanding the morass that has engulfed so much of the Left. It was a meeting hosted by Russia where fascist groups like the League of the South met with Leftist groups like Workers’ World to discuss the possibilities of a “multipolar world.” This phrase has seeped into mainstream discourse but was originated by a Russian fascist philosopher named Alexander Dugin. Many people use it to describe a situation where there is more than one imperialist power, but originally it was conceived as a description of many centers of power where only one imperialist bloc existed (the US and its allies). The other “poles” are centers of opposition to imperialism (in the form of NATO) with Russia representing the “Eurasian” pole, a reactionary place of traditional values and religion. All opposition to imperialism has to go through Russia to be legitimate. This is the basis of many leftists’ activism against imperialism and it’s time to start placing quotes around “left” when speaking of these folks and around “imperialism” as well, since it is obvious that only a certain imperialism is of concern to them. As a result of all this, oppressed people such as Syrians, Uighurs, etc. are not considered to be fighting imperialism. Some of the “leftists” described the meeting in Moscow as follows:
“United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the International Action Center (IAC) — both of which are closely associated with the Workers World Party – articles about the Multi-Polar World conference portrayed it as a progressive event against war, racist violence, and repression. The IAC reported, “Major themes of the discussion were the US-backed war against the people of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet Union and economic war against Russia, Venezuela and Iran, and the ongoing uprising against racism and police brutality in the United States.” Neither IAC nor UNAC mentioned that a number of far right groups were represented. UNAC did note that attendees included Israel Shamir, “a leading anti-Zionist writer from Israel,” but didn’t mention that Shamir is also a notorious antisemite.” (See: Matthew Lyons, Threewayfight blog.)
Here we have a handy list of some of the struggles that DON’T involve “imperialism” (police brutality is a feature of the domestic capitalist state and was probably included to increase the legitimacy of this list). People struggling against oppression in these places are not really oppressed and are acting as “NATO agents. Other oppressed people would also include Syrians and Hong Kong demonstrators. Needless to say, dissidents in Russia and former possessions like Belarus and Kazakhstan don’t even exist. In most of its statements, the “RT left” has directly pulled many of its talking points from Russian disinformation. Any unapproved uprising is a “color revolution”. An early trauma of the Putin regime was the Orange Revolution in 2004 when Yanukovich (the same one ousted in 2014) tried to steal the election. The US is always involved in things like this because their foreign policy revolves around “regime change”, the first example being the deposing of Saddam Hussein. This was a disconcerting occurrence for Putin but the phrase also resonates with most US leftists as well. “Neoliberalism”, which used to have a specific meaning in capitalist economics, has been repurposed to apply to any foreign policy move that this group disagrees with. In its original definition, it didn’t include oligarchy or crony capitalism, but currently, it probably could be stretched to include these although it won’t be for obvious reasons.
“What are their motives? That varies from personality to personality, but they all share two traits: an inability to realize the world does not in fact revolve around the United States and the certainty that they know what should happen in countries they don’t live in infinitely better than people who do.” Joshua Collins “Grayzone, grifters and the Cult of Tank”.
This sudden attraction of Russia for these “leftists” may have its beginning around 2010 – 2011. Anton Shekhovtsov believes Putin shifted his perspective during this time. The Arab Spring occurred around this time when entrenched dictators were suddenly deposed by people demonstrating and fighting cops in the street. The most shocking of these for Putin was what happened to Qaddafi. At this time, I noticed sympathy for Qaddafi among people like Cynthia McKinny of the Green Party. Putin decided that he would be an autocrat and impose a far right ideology on the country. This ideology was fascist in nature but also had a red/brown component similar to the National Bolshevik Party founded by Dugin and Eduard Limonov (and later banned). This is where the term “Nazbol” as a label for Leftist supporters for Putin is derived. He also decided to oppose NATO and enlarge the Russian sphere of influence. Russia Today (RT) began broadcasting in the US at this time and NATO has become a prominent boogieman for much of the Left. Previous to this, NATO had far less importance as an actor compared to NATO countries like the US, UK , France or Germany.
Putin: Ukraine has no right to exist
”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” of July 12, 2021 composed by Putin is nearly 7000 words and concerns his obsession not only with restoring the Soviet federation of republics, but the “ancient rus”, a reactionary trope based on race and religion. NATO is only mentioned at the very end. Russia is a weak imperialist power like Germany on the eve of WWI. It lags all the other developed Capitalist countries in the acquisition of a sphere of influence and access to markets and exploitation of natural resources. In fact, all of the places it once dominated have left its imperial domain or are struggling to do so. As a result of the Ukraine invasion there will likely be another stampede for the exits (to NATO) by countries that are uncomfortably close to the hungry autocratic power. Places like Georgia, Finland, Scandinavia, and Moldova.
The RT “left”
Before the invasion, the talking points of the “RT left” pretty much followed Putin’s disinfo. Everything was the fault of NATO, Russia was acting in self defense, its main objective in Ukraine was “denazification” (which was to be achieved with Fascist Mercenaries from the Wagner Group and others). All of this was abandoned once the war crimes began, this time in full view of the world which didn’t ignore it like they did in Syria. Now the slogan that greets anyone looking for analysis blames both NATO and Russia. Only one of these powers is actually dropping bombs on civilians in Ukraine. This slogan implies that action is required by more than one party to stop the killing and destruction. It also acts to obscure the imperialism of Russia which may be its primary intent. An additional element has been added: A demand that we only fight the enemy at home that is supposedly based on a pamphlet written by Carl Liebknecht at the beginning of WWI. Liebknecht was telling socialists not to support their own governments in their drive to war and to be critical of propaganda against other imperialist countries. He didn’t say to adopt the foreign policy objectives of these other countries. And he would never advocate abandoning international solidarity for people under attack which is an overriding duty of any Socialist..
In an earlier day we would have called this behavior “campism”. Campists surrender their first duty to the struggle which is the use of critical thinking in service to the class, to attach themselves to a group, political party, or government. Then they have to perform the intellectual gymnastics we’ve all become so familiar with. Arguing with them is eerily similar to debating a Trumpist. No amount of facts, or personal confrontation with the victims of their ideology can get through. These are people who would have defended the right of Vietnam or Cuba to accept military aid from the Soviet Union. Now they are blaming NATO countries for helping Ukraine arm themselves. They have sucked up an enormous amount of energy and time from other leftists (who don’t warrant quotation marks), and they have attacked people (Syrian activists, for example), who take the side of those oppressed by Russia or its friends. They have also hindered the struggle against fascism, which they don’t acknowledge as existing (except in Ukraine). But most of all, their callous abandonment of oppressed people have left a permanent, moral blot on the Left. Now is the time to diminish their influence and regain our political authority by not allowing Ukraine to be abandoned (again).
For a democratic and free Ukraine!
Oaklandsocialist comments: We thank “Junius” for their article and agree with it. One additional point: Basically these “lefts” have accepted the point of view of Stalin that the working class in the former colonial world are not actors on the stage of history. Instead, they are just pawns to be pushed around in the “Great Game”, the foremost player of which is US imperialism. In fact, for these people, US imperialism is really the only evil that exists. So if the working class in the rest of the world plays no role, then its experiences also don’t matter.
We also recommend oaklandsocialist’s article What Happened to Revolutionary Socialism?
US Fascists and Russia Alt-Right Connections to Putin and Russia
Shekhovtsov, Anton “Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir”
Investigation of Grayzone by Joshua Collins
Karl Liebknecht “The main enemy is at home!”
European Fascists and Russia: Why are German neo-Nazis training in Russia?