By John Reimann, administrator of Oaklandsocialist. This article originally appeared on the web site of the British group Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. Oaklandsocialist thanks them for publishing it.
Ukraine may be on the verge of making a significant breakthrough of Russian defense lines in and around Robotyne. A major reason why it has taken so long and has been at such a cost to Ukrainian lives has been the delays of US president Biden in providing the arms Ukraine needs. He waited nearly six months after the 2022 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 jets are considered to be “elderly” compared to the truly modern F-35s.
A compromiser all his political life, Biden seems to be compromising between two wings of his administration, one of which has been calling for all out military support for Ukraine while the other wing calls for Biden to negotiate with Putin over the head of Ukraine. The so-called “progressive” wing of Biden’s party – the Democratic Party – has either been silent or has tended to support the “negotiate now and end U.S. arms support” position. It’s important to understand why this is:
The Democratic Party and U.S. Elections
In the United States, voter turnout in elections tends to be extremely low. Also, there are very few political groups that are independent or even semi-independent of one of the two main parties (Republicans and Democrats). Nor is there any real way for workers to really participate in the Democratic Party. There is no history, for example, of anything similar to the British Labour Party branches, where rank and file Labour Party members would meet and debate issues. That is because, unlike the Labour Party – at least in its past – the Democratic Party has always been a capitalist party since the US Civil War. (Before that, it was the party of the slave owners.)
The result is that those “left” groups of any size that orient towards the Democrats and towards Democratic voters have an outsized influence over the “progressive” wing of that party. Recently, for example, I had a discussion with the “progressive” Democrat who is the city councilor from my district in Oakland, California. Her name is Niki Fortunato Bas and I was trying to convince her to put forward a motion saying that Oakland supports Ukraine. The first question she asked me was what organized groups in Oakland would support that. I know what she was thinking: The main such “progressive” political group in my city is Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). They endorsed Fortunato Bas and have, for example, mobilized members to go door-to-door campaigning for local candidates, including for Fortunato Bas. Even though that might be only a dozen or so people campaigning for a candidate like her, in local elections that include almost no door-to-door campaigning, that can have a real impact. I had to tell Bas that I knew of no such groups, including DSA, that would support a pro-Ukraine resolution. The result was that Bas did nothing whatsoever to help.
A more important example was that of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Democrats’ “progressive caucus” in Washington DC. Shortly before last year’s mid term elections, Jayapal had sent a letter to Biden urging him to call for a ceasefire in Ukraine. Of course, this means allowing Russia to continue occupying that section of Ukraine that it has already stolen. While the letter was drafted in July, Jayapal waited until October to send it. The only reasonable explanation for why she sent it when she did takes into account her voting district, which includes much of Seattle. There, the “progressives” are mainly organized into DSA, which takes a “peace now” and “no support for Ukraine” position. Jayapal was trying to bolster her support from this organized voting bloc. (After other Democrats, including those who have quite a few Ukrainian Americans in their districts, expressed outrage, Jayapal withdrew the letter.)
In the run-up to the 2024 elections, this issue and the role of the “left” groups will be increasingly important. The most important are DSA, “Code Pink”, which is led by Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin, and the Green Party.
At it’s semi-annual convention, held this last August, DSA passed a resolution taking the Putin apologist position. Among other things, it called for ending US military aid to Ukraine. The resolution was passed by 75% of the delegates’ votes. A weak amendment that slightly watered down this resolution but didn’t even directly mention Ukraine was rejected by a 2-1 majority. In the runup to the convention, there had been a weak attempt for a pro-Ukraine amendment.. However, there was no consistent campaign to obtain the necessary signatures and the result was that it never even appeared on the agenda. It is impossible to know exactly what the views are of the majority of DSA’s rank and file members, but that is really secondary. That’s because there is no organized campaigning for support for Ukraine, which can only mean arms to Ukraine, inside DSA. So, even if there is widespread opposition to the official position of DSA, of which there is no evidence, that opposition has no consequence as far as the politicians are concerned.
The other major “peace and justice” group in the United States is Code Pink. As we say in the United States, “money talks and b.s. walks”, and Code Pink has money. According to a well-documented study by “fashbusters”, in the three years 2017-19, Code Pink had a total revenue of over $2.9 million. Most of that
money apparently came from a real estate fund controlled by Medea Benjamin. However, it seems that 23% of it came from the “Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund”, which is really a conduit, in effect a shell company, for Neville Roy Singham, as Fashbusters has now confirmed.
A group called Chinamediaproject recently published an article revealing two things: First was the extremely close ties between Singham and the ruling party in China – the Chinese “Communist” Party. Second was the increased influence that Singham (who is married to Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans) is having on Code Pink. In recent years, Code Pink has led tours of Iran that were closely coordinated with that repressive, anti-worker, homophobic, misogynistic, theocratic regime. In 2018, an open letter was sent to them, urging them to abandon thse tours. Not only was it to no avail, Code Pink returned from Iran with a report that in reality was a fluff piece for that regime and it’s war criminal Foreign Minister Zarif. Now, Code Pink is turning to organizing similar tours of China.
Other “left” groups & Singham
According to the same fashbusters study referred to above, the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund donated $84 million – yes, million – to four different “left” groups – “The People’s Forum” ($15.3 million), the “United Community Fund” ($39.6 million), the “Justice and Education Fund”($15.3 million), “Tricontinental” (associated with Vijay Prashad) ($13.3 million), and the “Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees” (a paltry $20,000). This is major money. Combined with the confusions that have always been rampant in the United States – including on the left – it means that the Putin apologists have an inordinate influence within the left in general.
Green Party and Cornel West
In 2016 the Green Party ran Jill Stein for president. She in effect defended Putin and Trump. She went to that infamous banquet in Moscow where she cozied up to Putin and the likes of fascist Mike Flynn. She gave a Putin friendly speech in Moscow at that time. And during her campaign she in effect said Hillary Clinton was worse than Trump,. And in a 2016 interview she defended Putin’s annexation of Crimea and said Trump would be the “peace president”.
Recently, well known “left” intellectual Cornel West announced that he will be running for the Green Party’s nomination for US president. West, who charges between $50,000-$100,000 for in-person speaking engagements, is an opportunist. He takes “progressive” positions on various subjects, but as recently as May of this year he co-authored a Wall St. Journal op-ed praising racist Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s “education reforms”. In 2007, he campaigned for Democrat Obama. Today, he denounces the entire Democratic Party and has announced he will run for the Green Party nomination for president. Responding to the big money behind the Putin apologists and their resulting domination of the “left” in the United States, West also takes the position of apologizing for Putin’s invasion. Jill Stein is leading the campaign to get the Green Party to nominate West, and she almost certainly will succeed.
Many, this writer included, believe that West’s campaign could result in dividing the anti-Trump vote and lead to Trump or his substitute getting elected. Green Party apologists deny this, claiming that those who vote for the Green Party wouldn’t have voted for the Democrats anyway. It’s impossible to really be sure one way or another, but one thing is certain: West’s campaign will help advance and solidify the pro-Putin views in the United States. He will make it politically more difficult for Biden and the Democrats to continue giving such support to Ukraine. And if West’s campaign results in Trump or a Trump alternative getting elected, which is definitely possible, then that will mean the near immediate end of US arms to Ukraine.
Those on the left – socialists and others – who genuinely oppose imperialism and genuinely support democratic rights for all, support Ukraine’s right to defend itself from Russia’s criminal and imperialist invasion. We recognize that kind or “reasonable” words and negotiations will not stop Putin. The only way his invasion can be stopped is through military defeat. Ukrainians cannot achieve this with sticks and stones nor with some shotguns and hand guns. They can only do so with modern weapons of war. And Ukraine is far smaller and has far less resources than Russia. The only way it can bring such weapons to bear is through obtaining them from the United States and other countries, mainly NATO nations. Yes, that is ugly and horrific. The alternative is even worse. Those who oppose arms to Ukraine are in effect calling for a victory for the fascist-connected Putin.
That is why a systematic campaign against the position of the Putin-influenced “left” in the United States should be the top priority. To be fully effective, we must expose the dirty connections the Putin apologists have. This will burn many bridges with this “left”. So be it. We didn’t become opponents of all imperialisms – Russia included – to win friends. We did so because we genuinely believe in international working class solidarity.
If readers find this article useful, they might like this one also:
Opposing the Putin apologists: a personal journey.
Also for more on the historic confusions in the US working class and on the left in the United States, see: Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign holds meeting on “fascist ideas on the left“