Socialists and other leftists in the US have always played an important role in helping build the unions and build other working class organizations. Today, socialists are more or less irrelevant. The ending of an independent role of socialists inside the unions is directly related to the death grip that the bureaucracy has over the unions. But if and when a workers movement develops, the socialist left will play a role. And as for now: It certainly matters as far as building support for Ukraine and countering the far right (Marjorie Taylor Greene and her type), who support Putin. Unfortunately, Jill Stein and many like her are in line with Greene, and apparently so is the majority of the Green Party.
That’s why we should not ignore what’s happening on the left, including in the Green Party. In 2016, Jill Stein ran as the Green Party candidate for president. In 2020, Howie Hawkins was their candidate. The two of them differ over the question of Ukraine.
I attended the Zoom discussion between Jill Stein and Howie Hawkins last night. The main takeaway, which I will next explore more in depth, is that Stein seems headed down the road already traveled by Medea Benjamin and another trailblazer: Tulsi Gabbard. While Howie Hawkins must be respected for his lonely battle inside the Green Party, I think he is being unrealistic in thinking that he will get anywhere. No amount of facts, reason or appeals to working class solidarity has had any effect on the Trump supporting workers. It will not have any effect on similar types who are nominally on the left.
It only gets in the way to hold out hope for the likes of Medea Benjamin or Jill Stein or the organizations which they lead. Being unwilling to cut ties with them results in reluctance to be really clear on what these Putin-influenced people really stand for.
Stein’s apologism for Putin
Last night, Jill Stein presented the classic Putin apologist line. She started by stressing how much we should fear nuclear war. This implies buckling to Putin’s saber rattling regarding nuclear weapons. She spent most of her time criticizing the US and no time explaining the crimes Russian troops have committed in Ukraine. She blamed “NATO expansion,”, but ignored the fact that the Eastern European countries have joined NATO on their initiative, not NATO’s, because they fear Russian expansionism. This includes the newest member, Finland. She criticized Russia’s “illegal and murderous” war, but blamed the US for it. That criticism was completely nullified by her support for the conditions which would allow the invasion (a word she never used) to succeed.
Howie Hawkins’ reply
Howie presented the standard defense of Ukraine. He stressed the views of workers and the left in Ukraine and the importance of listening to them. He affirmed Ukraine’s right to self determination and explained that the war there is a war of national liberation just as was the Vietnam War. In that war, we did not call for “negotiations”; we called for US troops out now. He also called for support for US arms to Ukraine. There were a couple of points he raised that were questionable to me. Among those were a call for negotiations to satisfy Russia’s security concerns, as if any negotiations between these two capitalist powers can resolve anything.
In some ways, what was left unremarked was the most significant.
For one thing, I had had the impression from Howie that the Green Party is closely divided on this issue. This referred to a vote on whether or not to participate in the Rage Against the War Machine event, which did involve a close vote. However, according to Stein, the Green Party had supported her general position on Rage Against the War Machine by a vote of 88-7. This apparently is partially untrue; the vote was in support of Stein’s general position on “peace in Ukraine”. The comments of the participants in last night’s event certainly seemed to confirm that Green Party members overwhelmingly support Stein’s cover for Putin.
In fact, one speaker from the audience criticized both Howie and Stein because neither directly supported Russia! This same individual denied the reality of the Bucha war crime. Stein, who was nodding her head in agreement while he spoke. She then commented and in effect agreed with him about Bucha. This is no different from denying the Holocaust. Unfortunately, Howie did not comment on this vulgar lie, this defense of war crimes, by Stein.
Equally serious was Stein’s calling for people to get their news from Ben Norton’s “politicaleconomy” site as well as another Putinist web site, Consortium “News”. She said that the mainstream news “will colonize your brain”. There is no difference between these attitudes and that of the Trump/Greene fanatics who get all their “news” from sources like Alex Jones’s infowars and Fox “News”. Again, Howie failed to point this out.
Stein channels Russian fascist Dugin
All of this has to be taken in the context of Stein’s speech at the fascist connected Rage Against the War Machine” (RAWM) event. There, Stein said that the war in Ukraine “is not a right or left issue”. This is a repeat of the Russian fascist ideologue, Aleksandr Dugin and his “Fourth Political Theory”. That theory holds that there are four political views: (capitalist) liberalism, communism/Marxism, fascism, and Dugin’s views which bring fascism and communism together. (For more, see Alexander Dugin – Alchemist of Traditionalism, mysticism, and fascism.) The effect is to infiltrate fascist ideas into the “left”, and Stein showed that’s partly succeeded. At the RAWM event, Stein also spouted all the left fascist memes attacking “Wall Street and the war profiteers” – exactly what fascistic politicians like Josh Hawley have done. It should have been clearly explained that Stein has channeled Dugin and that her position is essentially the same as that of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Trump. This makes Stein far more aligned with people who are far right / neo fascist politically than the any principled socialists.
Which way for Stein and Green Party?
Stein seems headed down the road already traveled by Medea Benjamin and another trailblazer: Tulsi Gabbard. While Howie Hawkins must be respected for his lonely battle inside the Green Party, I think he is being unrealistic in thinking that he will get anywhere. No amount of facts, reason nor appeals to working class solidarity has had any effect on the Trump supporting workers. Nor will it will have any effect on this same type which is nominally on the left.
Ultimately, Stein is helping bring the Green Party into alignment with the “left”-appearing far right (including outright fascists). There is no apparent widespread resistance within that party to this direction. And the Green Party is not alone. From Code Pink to various self-proclaimed “socialist” groups, all too many are headed down that same road.
New Socialist Movement
A new socialist movement must be built from the ground up. Such a movement cannot be built alone by the few socialists who have stuck to the principle of international working class solidarity. To truly build such a movement, what’s required is at least the beginnings of a mass movement of at least some significant section of the working class. We cannot wait for the Jill Stein’s, Medea Benjamin’s Noam Chomsky’s or various self proclaimed “socialists” to regain principles. Nor can we wait for those who are unwilling to cut ties with them and their groups. Doing so just holds us back. That’s because holding out hope for the likes of Medea Benjamin or Jill Stein or the organizations which they lead, or being unwilling to cut ties with them, gets in the way; it makes people reluctant or even unwilling to fully expose the decay that has set in.
Principled socialists can and must start by laying the groundwork, including by clarifying the historical questions involved and trying to understand the present confusing state of affairs and what might come.