Workers in the U.S, Ukraine and around the world should consider the significance of Biden’s latest diplomatic maneuvers.
This week, he welcomed Indian president Narendra Modi to the White House with this speech in which he described the United States and India: “Two proud nations whose love of freedom secured our independence…. Equity under the law, freedom of expression, religious pluralism, diversity of our people…” Modi responded: “Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy. There’s absolutely no space for discrimination.” Meanwhile, hundreds protested outside the White House gates against the bigoted and repressive Modi regime.
Biden’s overture to Modi follows his move to patch up a deal between two other repressive and corrupt rulers – Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. First, though, let us look at who Modi is:
Gujarat pogrom/race riot and Narendra Modi
In 2002, India’s Hindu bigots staged a race riot or “pogrom” against the Hindu minority in the state of Gujarat. It is estimated that as many as 2000 Muslims were burned, hacked and beaten to death. Narendra Modi was the governor of the state at that time, and he was so complicit in this atrocity that he was banned from entering the United States. He has not changed much since the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Modi heads the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, which is the political arm of the Rāṣṭrīya Svayaṃsevak Saṅgh or RSS.
As Indian socialist Kavita Krishnan explains in her presentation on why the world should pay attention to Narendra Modi, the RSS is an actual fascist paramilitary organization. Al Jazeera reported on this recent Hindutva (Hindu bigotry) provocation, which is just one of many, and Human Rights Watch reported “The Modi government continued its widespread practice of harassing and sometimes prosecuting outspoken human rights defenders, and journalists for criticizing government officials and policies…. The government failed to…. prevent and investigate mob attacks, often led by BJP supporters, on religious minorities and other vulnerable communities.”
Democratic legislators’ weak response
Shamed by Biden’s crass overture to Modi, over 70 Democratic senators and representatives sent Biden a pleading letter in which they “respectfully request(ed)… you… raise directly with Prime Minister Modi areas of concern.” (“Concern” over atrocities, not condemnation.) It mentions the “worrisome increase in religious intolerance” in India, but doesn’t mention the direct role of Modi and his party, the BJP, in encouraging that. The letter concludes by hoping for a “a successful, strong, and long-term relationship” between the US and Indian governments (meaning between Biden and Modi). One of the leaders in formulating the letter was progressive leader Pramila Jayapal. Her concerns did not prevent her from attending the state dinner in honor of Modi on Thursday evening, though. Another “progressive”, Ro Khanna, was also there.
This state visit is only the third such visit to the Biden White House. Its purpose is to woo Modi away from Russia and China, and the devil with concerns for “democracy”. It comes after a similar overture to similar dictators:
Saudi Arabia and Israel
Earlier this month, Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. The NY Times clearly explained the purpose of the visit, which was to try to arrange a deal between the Saudi and Israeli governments. According to the Times, Blinken’s entire visit was closely coordinated with the Netanyahu government, and the idea was that such a deal would mean Saudi recognition of Israel. That would not only mean all sorts of trade and investment opportunities for Israeli capital, it would also increase the prestige of Netanyahu, who is in deep trouble due to his corruption scandal and resulting attempts to take control over the Israeli judiciary. As for bin Salman, such a deal would open the way for Saudi Arabia to start refining nuclear fuel, supposedly for nuclear energy. But why does oil rich Saudi Arabia need nuclear energy? The reality is that bin Salman wants Saudi Arabia to join the club of nuclear powers, just as its rival – Iran – is on track for doing and as Israel already has done.
As for those two rulers?
According to one report, bin Salman is the world’s most repressive ruler. Amnesty International writes in their 2022 report: “[Saudi] Courts resorted to the death penalty following grossly unfair trials, including in cases of individuals who were children at the time of the alleged crime, and people were executed for a wide range of crimes. Thousands of residents were subjected to forced evictions in the coastal city of Jeddah. Migrant workers continued to be abused and exploited under the sponsorship system and thousands were arbitrarily detained in inhumane conditions, tortured and otherwise ill-treated, and involuntarily returned to their home country as part of a nationwide crackdown on undocumented migrants. The country’s first Personal Status Law came into effect, codifying male guardianship and discrimination against women.”
Netanyahu would feel comfortable with those methods. Amnesty International’s 2022 report on Israel and the occupied territories says: “Israel’s continuing oppressive and discriminatory system of governing Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) constituted a system of apartheid, and Israeli officials committed the crime of apartheid under international law. Israeli forces launched a three-day offensive on the occupied Gaza Strip in August during which they committed apparent war crimes. This compounded the impact of a 15-year ongoing Israeli blockade that amounts to illegal collective punishment and further fragments Palestinian territory. Israel escalated its crackdown on Palestinians’ freedom of association. It also imposed arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement and closures that amounted to collective punishment, mainly in the northern West Bank, ostensibly in response to armed attacks by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers and settlers. The year saw a rise in the number of Palestinians unlawfully killed and seriously injured by Israeli forces during raids in the West Bank. Administrative detentions of Palestinians hit a 14-year high, and torture and other ill-treatment continued.”
But who cares when Biden reportedly estimates there is a potential “to keep Riyadh from gravitating further toward China”.These diplomatic overtures prove the lie to Biden’s claim that he stands in principle for democratic form of rule.
Because of the economic and financial power of U.S. capitalism, and because it has long standing traditions of capitalist democracy at home, in general it can make that claim, but wherever standing up for democratic rights gets in the way of US capitalist interests, then those rights must be abandoned.
Biden’s commitment to democracy and Ukraine
This brings us to the question of Ukraine.
Ukrainians – as well as workers in the US – have every interest in resisting the fascistic invasion of Putin. His rule in the areas overrun by his army is no different than that of Crown Prince bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. Putin’s invasion cannot be stopped by kind words or negotiations. That is why we should support arms to Ukraine no matter the source, including from the US. But we should have no illusions; Biden has been extremely hesitant in sending those arms. He waited nearly six months after the invasion started before sending the medium range HIMARS rockets to Ukraine. (He never has sent the long range rockets.) Then he waited nearly another six months before starting to send the modern Abrams tanks. It took another four months after that before the Bradley fighting vehicles arrived. The F-16 fighter jets are only now being authorized to be sent to Ukraine and won’t arrive until too late for the current offensive. Even those are considered to be “elderly” compared to the truly modern F-35s.
This hesitancy has forced Ukraine to delay its spring counteroffensive. The apparent effect of this delay has been to enable Russian troops to fortify their positions even more strongly, thereby creating an even greater challenge to Ukrainian forces.
Biden’s hesitancy results from a division within his administration: The military wing – best represented by his chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley – advocates a negotiated settlement with Russia rather than an outright Ukrainian military victory. That’s because their main concern is to avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia. On the other hand, the diplomatic wing of Biden’s administration – as represented by Antony Blinken and Victoria Nuland – believes that outright victory is desirable and possible and sees little chance of a direct military confrontation. Biden is balancing between these two wings. He doesn’t have to say anything. He simply has to minimize and delay military aid.
Democracy at home
The struggle for national and democratic rights in Ukraine is connected with a struggle here in the United States. Here, Biden stands for capitalist democratic rule, as opposed to today’s Republican Party. But just as he continually hesitates and takes half steps regarding aid to Ukraine, he does something similar here at home regarding the fascist connected Republicans. He constantly makes overtures to them in the hopes of returning to the previous collaboration between the Republicans and Democrats. There are differences, but there is also a similarity between the interests of Ukrainians to defeat Putin’s fascistic invasion and the interests of US workers to keep the Republicans out, even if that means Biden as the alternative for now. But we can no more rely on Biden to defeat Putin in Ukraine than we can rely on him to defeat the Republicans. For that in both cases an independent movement of the working class is required as a start.
How and with what program that can develop is the question of the hour.