Tag Archives: left

The Left and ‘That Russia Stuff’

Yesterday’s reaction to the Helsinki meeting between Trump and Putin was, to put it mildly, a shitshow. And once again, we saw the so-called radical left seemingly spending more time attacking “the libs” than, you know, the actual fascists like the president and his minions. Few seemed to notice the fact that their dismissive rhetoric toward “that Russia stuff” and their hysteria about World War III just happens to mirror not only the line coming straight from Kremlin media, but also from the alt-right and neo-fascists the world over. And looking at this mess, and at the same time being part of the left as well as someone who has a bit of a background in “Russia stuff,” I feel I should interject and remind some comrades about some key facts in this whole scandal.

What makes me so qualified to do so? Well apart from my knowledge and experience in Russia and its media, I’ve also been one of those voices of reason when it comes to Russiagate in the first place. Long time readers will note that when the Clinton campaign started to bring up Russia during the campaign, I warned about going too far down that path. Not only were most American voters utterly unconcerned about Russia at the time, it was obvious that Russia and Trump could use such rhetoric to posture as anti-establishment, and posture they did.

Also, I followed the Galeotti line, saying that Russia did not expect Trump to win and thus the interference was actually aimed at causing problems for an incoming Clinton administration. If I didn’t point it out on this blog, I certainly made the point some time on Twitter that Trump is most likely not a conscious agent of Russia, turned either by some kompromat pee tape or by some winding conspiracy dating back to 1987. Rather I saw and still see Trump as being charmed by Putin, who knows how to manipulate such people. If there is any kompromat on Trump, it has to do with business dealings, conflicts of interest, and that sort of thing. Beyond that, I think the main reason Trump seems afraid to call out Putin, especially about election interference, is that admitting that it happened is tantamount to questioning his own legitimacy, and there is simply no way Trump would ever allow that.

Furthermore, I have routinely dunked on people like Louise Mensch, Eric Garland, and slightly less odious figures like Molly McKew. I’ve been attacked as a “Russian bot” by “Resistance” types, and not too long ago Mensch and Garland even sicced their incoherent army of morons on me.

The point I’m making is- you know me. You know I’m not some ex-intelligence community pundit or “neocon” think tank academic, and I’m certainly not an amateur counter-intelligence agent on the internet posting about how Bernie Sanders secretly works for the GRU and Black Lives Matter is a Russian front. I’m a revolutionary socialist, one who has spent most of his adult life in Russia.

So I’m hoping you’ll take it to hear when I tell you that yes, Russia interfered in our election. Yes, it was with malicious intent and it was largely aimed at helping Trump. For whatever reason, Trump has been largely disinterested in doing anything about that, and you should be concerned. Now before you interject, here are a few things to consider.

First of all, no, I’m not reversing my position about the reasons why Hillary lost or the efficacy of the Russian interference. To date, we have no concrete data on who might have changed their vote or stayed home due to things they may have seen on Facebook, specifically Russian propaganda. I’ve often criticized those who are so confident in the efficacy of that propaganda while being so reluctant to make any attempt to measure what influence it actually had. But having said all that, it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if those idiotic memes didn’t change a single vote. The point is Russia put them out there with a certain intention, and that intention was to help Trump. Where they were not supporting Trump, they were encouraging people not to vote for his opponent, which objectively helps Trump.

Think about it this way- suppose there was a Trump supporter in the US, and he tried to support his candidate by writing a blog and maybe making a few Facebook pages with pro-Trump memes. Now let us imagine that they weren’t widely circulated, never got many views, and thus we later determine that they couldn’t have had any significant impact on voting whatsoever. Would we just totally ignore the fact that this person basically campaigned for Trump? Would we pretend he’s not a Trump supporter?

Worse still, the Russian Internet Research Agency, via Facebook, literally tried to hijack leftist causes, all for the purpose of getting people not to vote for Hillary, Trump’s opponent. That should piss most leftists off. I mean every election you see people correctly point out that to claim to stand “on principle” when doing so could hurt millions of disadvantaged or otherwise marginalized groups of people is bad, very bad. It’s almost the very definition of privilege. But operatives encouraged exactly this behavior while posing as leftists. That should piss you off, especially given the well-established connections between the far-right in America and Russia.

Next, let me smack down this objection that says the Russia stuff is going to cause Democrats to lose or that it’s being used as an excuse to ignore things like poor campaigning or historic problems like racism. First of all, as one of my Twitter followers have pointed out, you don’t really see many Democrats literally campaigning on Russia-related stuff. The media’s constantly talking about it, and they often talk to Democrats for commentary in these discussions, but apart from reactive criticism of Trump’s behavior on the Russia matter I haven’t heard of any candidates who are seriously running on a platform of RUSSIA! RUSSIA! RUSSIA!

As for the second issue, that of blaming historic problems on an external cause, yes- this is a valid concern, but let’s not pretend like every liberal does this. When you see the ones that do- just ignore them or dunk on them and move on. We don’t really have many options as to how to actually fight the fascists who dominate our government  at the moment but to work with people who aren’t quite as woke as you on social issues like wealth inequality. The good news is that these people did actually lose to the dumbest candidate in modern history, and thus we have every right to start making demands about how to proceed, but we do need to work with them. If you disagree, by all means run for the hills, kick off your protracted people’s war (I can tell you right now guerrilla foco is going to get you nowhere), and see how far that gets you.

Lastly I want to tackle two of the dumbest left objections to this issue. The first is the claim that “Well, like, we interfered in their election too!” This is largely based on one story in Time magazine which had a cartoon Boris Yeltsin on its cover, accompanied by the headline “Yanks to the Rescue!” It’s cringe-inducing to see so-called leftist Twitter accounts responding to anyone criticizing Russian interference in the 2016 election with a picture of that cover, acting like it’s some kind of awesome dunk. For one thing, the idea that we should let a far-right wing fascist regime interfere in our election on behalf of a local fascist, with the help of local fascists, just because the US allegedly helped Yeltsin get reelected in 1996 is one of the most idiotic pseudo-left arguments I’ve ever seen. The other reason this argument is idiotic is because the story itself is largely bullshit. Yeah, next time you might want to actually look into Russian history a little bit deeper. It’s amazing how people who seem to pride themselves on doubting the “corporate media” will fall for a narrative largely based on the cover of a major corporate news outlet. I don’t give a shit what the US government supposedly did when I was 14- I’m not going to give Russia a free pass to at the very least, attempt to help a fascist get elected in the US, and you shouldn’t either.

The other moronic objection is that talking about Russian interference and suggesting something be done about it will lead to nuclear war. Yeah, I saw people calling it 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. You know what I haven’t seen? Anyone seriously calling for open war with Russia. What is more, the US already has retaliated against Russia in direct connection with the election interference going back to 2016. Are we at war yet? Nope. Did Russia nuke us? Nope. The truth is that while Putin would like to see an end to the sanctions so he and his friends can stash their ill-gotten wealth in Western banks and real estate, they also need the appearance of a conflict with the West. They need that threat of an external enemy to solidify their support at home. As such, anyone who thinks that toning down the rhetoric will lead to better relations between Russia is not only ignoring the horrible imperialistic shit the regime is doing to its own people and others like Syrians and Ukrainians, but they are also simply ignorant about how the system in Russia perpetuates itself.

So please, let’s not let the fact that some people have been grifters or just plain idiots about Russiagate distract from the fact that this is a serious issue for the left. We’re talking about an authoritarian fascist state that is supporting similar movements and governments around the world. We are engaged in an existential struggle right here in the United States, and as one of my followers (albeit one I often disagree with), some liberals are starting to get really radicalized by this issue. Yes, some of them are going about it in stupid ways or making really bad takes, but we have no other allies to work with. The radical left needs to stop denying the Russia story and try to steer the centrists towards a more realistic understanding of it, as well as an understanding of why real progressive politics are crucial for defeating the far right in America.

The truth is that the “Russia stuff” is a socialist concern. At its root this is a story of wealth inequality, of the shadowy world of money laundering and neoliberal financial systems. It is a story of a global reactionary movement and an archaic, reactionary dream about returning to a 19th century world of imperialistic great powers which divide up the world into spheres on influence which they can exploit at will. Like it or not, this is our fight, and if you repeat the same apologia used by Trump and his defenders both in the US and Russia, you might as well be one of them.

 

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What Is to Be Done About the Left?

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, the Western right is basically one big grift. One way or another you dupe middle class white boomers or frustrated 20-something NEETs into giving you money while ultra-rich individuals, think tanks, and corporations give you a platform with which to do it. There are many different forms of this grift, often rehashed with little variations here and there over the years. One such grift is the “I used to be a leftist!”

This is where the person claims (or in some cases they actually were) they used to be on “the left” until they were “driven away” by something, most often “political correctness” or some other vague bullshit. Now I’m not about to disparage anyone’s so-called lived experience here; I’m sure in some cases these people were actually truly believing leftists of some sort. It’s cultish to the extreme to dismiss this phenomenon by saying “they never truly believed” or that they never fully understood the politics. But these conversion stories always seem to me as highly dubious. After all, I can totally understand being fed up with a certain community on the left, but if you really held basic progressive core beliefs why would you go and join, or aid those who represent diametrically opposed values? Why not migrate to those among the left who you feel better represent those basic values?

But these days I find myself confronting a very unusual situation. What happens when you find yourself pushed away from the left, mainly because you want to avoid the far-right and with each passing year you see the former increasingly tailing the latterWhat about avoiding the mainstream radical left to avoid looking like an Infowars-level conspiracy crank at best, and associating with literal fascists at worst? This is quite a conundrum, but recently I’ve discovered on Twitter that I’m not the only person to notice this phenomenon.

One individual has taken a very harsh stance on the matter. Rather than specifically call out “tankies” or “red-browns” they have flat out accused “leftists” of being fascists, albeit with plenty of good evidence and logical arguments. I voiced my disagreement with this wording, because I believe that no matter how difficult it can be to communicate with some radical leftists from time to time, it is our responsibility to try to set people on the right path whenever and wherever we can. As sayeth Jesus in the scripture, it is not the healthy who need a physician but the ill.

That being said, I must concede this individual had one compelling argument for being so harsh on the radical left as a whole. Paraphrasing their words as best I can, they pointed out how next-to-impossible it is to convince leftists that they are engaging in fascist, racist, or anti-Semitic thinking simply because they identify as left. In other words, they are convinced that by virtue of being leftists, Communists, socialists, or whatever, their core beliefs could not possibly be contaminated by reactionary ideas. While I still disagree that this is justification for writing off the whole radical left there’s a compelling argument here, so much so that it bears devoting some time to developing a solution.

Since 2014 the danger of red-brown,or as one comrade eloquently put it, “bloody shit,” organizing has been rising exponentially. A lot of this, incidentally, has been thanks to Russian propaganda organs such as RT and Sputnik, along with lesser known websites like Fort Russ or Vinyard of the Saker. It is through these vectors that propaganda largely inspired by the fascist Alexander Dugin is diffused and distributed to different ends of the political spectrum. To the leftists is an anti-corporate, anti-globalization message, and the far-right receives a message promising “self-determination” in the form of national separation. The main purpose of all of this, of course, is to push the Kremlin’s foreign policy goals. It matters little whether the recipients think Ukraine is controlled by a neo-Nazi junta or a cabal of conspiring Jews- and Russian propaganda regularly insists both simultaneously- all that matters is that the recipient believes that Kyiv is the ally of their enemies and Russia has a right to intervene in Ukraine as it sees fit.

I do not plan to get into more details of current red-brown activity in this post. I have already done that some time ago, but for those who want to look into the matter further I recommend starting with this link. My focus in this post, which may become part of a much longer series, is to try to determine why the left continues to be vulnerable to far-right entryism and what can be done about it.

Acceptance

The sad fact is that a lot of the left is in denial about the red-brown problem. Some call it guilt by association. Others dismiss it as “horseshoe theory.” Some insist that if they happen to take the same position as fascists, they have completely different reasons. Others are still inexcusably ignorant about the problem entirely.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. In this case we need to identify the problem of red-brown activity and far-right entryism. Many veterans of the left may look at the attitudes of millennials toward socialism or the rise in popularity for movements like Democratic Socialists of America and decide this is a very positive trend. What they may be missing, however, is the fact that many of these young people have no idea what socialism is and they are merely reacting to the vagaries of so-called “late capitalism.” As such, their theoretical foundation is quite weak. Older leftists should welcome them, but also educate them. At the same time, we need to reevaluate our own values and rhetoric and ask ourselves if we are being consistent in our opposition to racism, imperialism, and so forth.

Many young leftists, and far too many old ones, seem utterly oblivious to the the idea that far-right organizations often seek out alliances with them for their own ends. This is by no means a new phenomenon. Alexander Reid Ross has written a comprehensive book on the subject (though it fails hard on Ukraine, ironically because at least one of the cited sources on that topic was himself a member of a red-brown Russia-affiliated front). The basic summary is that almost from the very dawn of modern socialism, there have always been attempts to appropriate some aspects of that movement and meld them with reactionary, right-wing values. And there’s an interesting thread running throughout this long history to the present day- it seems wherever red-brown activity has taken place, it is always the right that gets the most benefit, while the left is typically weakened. It doesn’t matter if we’re speaking of Germany in the Weimar days or today, where parts of the left and far-right sound almost identical on topics like Syria or Russia, yet it is the far-right that is in power and ascendant while the left still flounders ineffectually. There’s a powerful lesson in this- red-brown activity is poison for the left and a boon to fascists. 

Once we acknowledge how serious the threat is, we need to do something about it.

 

Educate

The most important thing is for leftists to understand that this is a serious phenomenon and it is not some centrist liberal horseshoe theory. This has a very long, well documented history and new activists need to be made aware of it.

Also, while teaching good theory can sometimes lead to disagreements and sectarianism, it can also sometimes act as a vaccination against typical red-brown tactics. A person who has a more robust understanding of capitalism and socialism is less likely to fall for the “anti-establishment,” “anti-globalization” rhetoric so often used by the far right entryists. But far more important than theory is a solid system of ethics. History has shown that by divorcing socialism from its moral imperative, all manner of atrocities and unprincipled compromises are possible.

Our moribund concept of “anti-imperialism” is a perfect example of this. So many leftists get so bound up in “opposing imperialism,” which is in their eyes solely Western if not American, that they willfully embrace outright reactionary if not fascist regimes (the Assad regime for example, is arguably fascist by definition). We must never lose sight of the fact that we must oppose all forms of imperialism, but never to such extent that we end up defending far right regimes and regurgitating their propaganda. This is precisely what much of the left is doing now, particularly when it comes to Syria, and in doing so they have literally joined the chorus of far right Assad backers such as the alt-right and old Nazis like David Duke.

Summing up this point, what is far more important than political labels are the values that motivate us to adopt them. Edgy teenagers and college students readily become “Marxists,” “anarchists,” or whatever because this often provides a necessary sense of solidarity and belonging.  But when organizations become nothing but a social circle or a club, cult-like thinking begins and there is pressure to go along with the group in spite of moral conflicts. One should adopt an ideology stemming from basic values. In my humble opinion, one should be a socialist based on values of true liberty and equality, not for social or aesthetic reasons. When you are guided by these basic values, you are less likely to make unprincipled compromises based on purely tactical reasoning such as the enemy of my enemy is my friend (probably the worst concept in political history).

Another thing we need to be educating leftists about is something I’ve seen some Twitter folks refer to as unreality. Unreality is a somewhat novel concept that it is a bit more nuanced than propaganda. Unreality is a state where one bends reality to fit their political worldview. It goes beyond typical conspiratorial thinking in the sense that conspiracy theories become mandatory as a way to process events. For example, in order to maintain the fiction that Assad is the “least worst” option in Syria, one must not only ignore the indisputable fact that his regime and its backers have caused the vast majority of deaths in that civil war, but every particularly egregious atrocity, especially chemical attacks, are nothing but “false flags” designed to provoke a Western regime-change invasion that never comes. Once you can accept some of these claims, there’s no reasonable argument to refrain from going full on Infowars. Remember- when we give up a belief in objective truth we give up the core of our revolutionary theory.

Lastly, it’s time for leftists, especially Americans, to stop living in the Iraq War era where every negative comment by the presidential administration is treated like the run-up to a massive military invasion. One of the most idiotic things I see are claims that criticism of the Kremlin could lead to World War III. Turkey shot down a Russian military jet, one of whose pilots was killed as a result, and in a matter of months the their two dictators had kissed and made up. More recently, the United States wiped out dozens of Russian mercenaries and the Kremlin has been curiously quiet on the matter. If Russia is so volatile that it will launch a nuclear holocaust in response to criticism, that really says more about Russia than it does about the West. In any case, the militaristic rhetoric that has been a staple of Russian media for many years is far more confrontational than anything we see in the US media even in the midst of “Russiagate.”

No Platform

This one is pretty simple- do not accept a platform from the far right or any outlet the routinely gives them a platform. That means no RT, no Sputnik, and certainly no Tucker Carlson (he’s basically a full on blood and soil nationalist now). Do some research to find out whose behind the outlet offering you a spot for commentary or a job.  It is far better to keep your message pure and independent than to get a larger audience via a compromised platform. After all, a large portion of that audience is most likely diametrically opposed to your values anyway.

To be Continued…

I’d like to say there’s a conclusion to all of this, but the truth is that I am merely scratching the surface with this post. It is one thing to study historical phenomena and draw conclusions based on it; it’s another matter entirely when we are actually watching things evolve in real time. We may very well be living in an era of American proto-fascism, and I’m convinced that one of the ways we got to this point has to do with the far right doing a comprehensive overhaul of their strategy and tactics in the past few years. That process is ongoing as well. Among the main changes include things that were traditionally associated with the left, from pro-Palestine activism to opposition to Reagan-Thatcher neoliberalism and embracing Russia despite the regime’s overt display of Soviet imagery.

Since the far right is not bound by the kind of moral values which ought to guide the left, they can rapidly evolve and molt much faster than their opponents can respond to their tactics. As such we are playing catch up and there is precious little time. It is my hope that in the near future every prominent left organization will start taking the red-brown menace seriously. Otherwise we may not have an organized left at all.

Opposite extremes

Recently I read an article which really struck a chord with me. The click-baity headline said that a “militant” atheist who supposedly “became a Jew.” I took this to mean that he converted to Judaism for some reason, but when I read the article I learned that it was about a former leftist activist who decided to start identifying as a Jew. Apparently, despite the fact that he had never practiced Judaism and neither his mother or maternal grandmother were Jewish, other leftists were suggesting his failure to rigidly adhere to  their line about Israel and radical Islam in Europe must be due to his “Jewish” heritage, evident only by his very Jewish surname- Cohen.

I can sympathize with this on many levels. For one thing, I’m not only not Jewish but have a non-Jewish surname, and yet I’ve been accused of being a “Jew” more times than I can count, even though the topic of Israel and Zionism hadn’t been brought up. Of course in my case the people doing this were typically far-right anti-Semites and not leftists, but there’s a common thread between the two scenarios, and that is ethnic determinism. Nowadays I get similar reactions from self-proclaimed leftists when I discuss the topic of Ukraine. Whatever the specific topic, ethnic or biological determinism basically says that you have no free will or agency. If I disagree with the Kremlin line on Ukraine, for example, it must be because I am American or of Ukrainian descent. It has nothing to do with observation and analysis of concrete facts. How it is that one can find so many Ukrainians willingly supporting the Kremlin’s line if not the Kremlin itself in spite of the fact that they are clearly “more” Ukrainian than me is a mystery, but then again determinist arguments aren’t really based in sound logic.

Cohen’s dilemma also resonated with me on another, deeper level. I’m not familiar with his political history or ideology, but since 2014 I have had the feeling of being exiled from the radical left. When “anti-imperialism” was focused on Libya or Syria, it was easy to dismiss all those rebels as radical Islamists or dupes of Washington, thus removing their agency with a broad brushstroke. Then anti-imperialism’s spotlight suddenly focused on Russia and Ukraine, territory I know both politically, linguistically, and culturally. In the beginning of Maidan I was wrong on a number of points, largely because of my lack of first-hand contact with Ukrainian local politics and day-to-day life. On the other hand I knew Russia, and I knew that something is seriously wrong when the Russian government starts claiming that mantle of a fighter against fascism. Moreover, I knew that most Ukrainians are not “Banderites,” and those who harbor positive attitudes towards Ukrainian nationalism usually now very little about Bandera and his ilk. Moreover, their attitudes are largely a knee-jerk reaction to Russian chauvinism and imperialism.

The more I learned about what was happening in Ukraine and the more I raised the point in discussions with other radical leftists, some of them having been comrades for years, the more flak I got. Suddenly I was the dupe of Washington and NATO, who stupidly believed the lies of the Western media. But my sources weren’t the Western media, of course. My source was, for the most part, every-day life. I was certainly no Ukrainian nationalist, nor was I a liberal. I am neither even to this day.

At this moment it became undeniably clear that the radical left has a serious problem with its worldview, and in the case of Britain, it seems to be far worse than in the US if we go by Cohen’s complaints. This is not to say that the left’s self-proclaimed goals of equality, social justice, etc. are morally wrong, but rather the failure of the modern left is that it isn’t left. Left is historically associated with progress and change- Enlightenment values. What we see, however, is that most of the modern left is more than happy to embrace any reactionary, right-wing, even anti-Semitic or racist regime so long as it is seen as “opposed to US imperialism.” Stranger still is how enamored Western radical leftists have become with bourgeois identity politics and “call out culture,” yet so many of the same people are willing to forgive the most egregious examples of racism, sexism, homophobia, or wealth inequality so long as the regime in question is “opposed to Western imperialism.” And of course “anti-imperialism” only means opposition to Western imperialism. Russian or Chinese imperialism is just fine.

Frustration with this over-simplistic worldview leads one to strange places. I’ll never forget what one Cracked.com writer (David Wong, I believe) said during a podcast when discussing a similar topic. He talked about how during college he was opposed to the Iraq War, but then his encounters and experiences with other anti-war individuals became so irritating that he started actively arguing in favor of the Bush regime- not because he believed in the war but because it was so entertaining watching his opponents go ballistic.

When you realize that you’re in a movement that has many cult-like tendencies, you feel this kind of pull all the time. When you spend years believing NATO is a rapidly expanding empire and then one day you realize how little actual military expansion (particularly on the part of the US) took place, you feel embarrassed, you want to correct the record, yet you inevitably end up sounding like you’re defending NATO. Pointing out that Kosovo and Crimea are not analogous ends up sounding like a defense of the 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia. In the modern world, and especially on the internet, there simply is no room for dialectical thinking. Everything is in binaries. NATO is either 100% good or its pure evil.

One thing from the article about Cohen leaped out at me. Apparently he’s taken up writing for a more right-wing publication (I’m guessing mainstream conservative), where he claims they let him write “whatever he wants.” I always get a little bit suspicious about this. You see the same thing from RT columnists. “There’s no censorship here! I can publish whatever I want.”  Well when whatever you want just happens to coincide with the publisher’s agenda then sure, you’re not going to face censorship. I’ve seen a fair number of dissatisfied leftists who spend so much time ranting about the left that they become unwitting tools for the right. Not only are they criticizing the left, but they have leftist street cred.

For me it is simply impossible to imagine becoming one of these real-life “neocons” and speaking in front of some think tank about the need to defend “Europe” from Putin’s “new Soviet Union.” I’d gladly offer my analysis and opinions to those willing to listen, even more so for those willing to pay for them, but one reason (the main being a lack of formal academic credentials, to be fair) these think tanks aren’t filling up my inbox is because whatever criticism I have for the Kremlin comes with a pill too bitter for many of these people to swallow, i.e. the role of capitalism and the West in making Putin’s Russia, and how their misguided, pro-business policies are the reason why they find themselves unable to adequately resist the same monster they created. No, the establishment prefers figures who hold Western liberalism as blameless and act as though everything in Europe was just wonderful until that mean old Putin started playing dirty.

But in weaker moments there are times when I wonder how much one changes as they get older. I cannot pretend that my politics have become less rigid and more inclined to seek realistic compromise. They have become more rational than emotional, but I’d say that my commitment to lofty ideals has become stronger. Still there’s a realization that this is how I feel now, in this moment, and I cannot say for sure where I will be several years from now. What would I do if I found myself destitute, and how would I feel if instead I were suddenly wealthy?

Luckily I’ve devised a few tests to make sure I’m not sliding too far to the opposite extreme. For example, I can always look at an Anne Applebaum article. Is the article still full of self-righteous, hypocritical, hysterical establishment bullshit? Indeed it is! I’m still sane! Do I still get angry about things like a US-backed Saudi Arabian bombing campaign that doesn’t elicit any of the grave concern shown for civilian casualties of Russian airstrikes in Syria? Yes, I do! Hooray! My values are still consistent!

There is a stereotype that says young people are super passionate and idealistic until they get out into the “real world” and eventually start jettisoning their values one by one.I’m not so sure that’s accurate. I think it’s possible to maintain the idealism but just be more rational and less emotional about it. This has nothing to do with going to the opposite extreme or becoming a loathsome “centrist” either. If you’re truly passionate about a cause, it means you prioritize actual success and progress ahead of the image or identity of belonging to this or that movement. You become less concerned with rigidly adhering to an orthodoxy so as to fit in, and more concerned with whether these long-held concepts actually advance the goals they were intended to achieve. What is more, compromise isn’t always treason- bad compromises are. And much of the Western left has made a horrible compromise with right-wing forces, something that has only played into the hands of the establishment and their intelligentsia.

Bearing this in mind, the reader can be quite confident that however isolated I become from the majority of the radical left, you won’t see me walking down the path to Neoconville. I know I’m not alone, and I’ve seen more and more evidence that other radical leftists are beginning to raise a call for reform in the movement. We may be outnumbered at the moment, but the stagnation, confusion, cynicism, and constant infighting within the old left will inevitably generate a flow of recruits- specifically those who can think critically and thus are put off by cult-like behavior.

The political realities of the day force us to make arguments which, due to our past activism and ideology, might make us feel uneasy. These feelings will be increased by the backlash we get from the more numerous leftist establishment. Hopefully we will not fall into this trap and decide to go with the flow just so as to avoid potential problems. Arguing against outdated, inaccurate leftist dogma is not automatically embracing the right, and arguments that appear similar on the surface are often based on very different motives.

Finally, in Cohen’s case it makes perfect sense that he labeled himself a Jew after being thus labeled by so many so-called “leftists.” I get where he’s coming from. On the other hand, hysterical Russian propaganda has often inspired many to humorously refer to themselves as “neocons” or in the case of Ukrainians, “Banderites.” Obviously I’m not opposed to political satire, but let’s be sure we don’t let the Kremlin’s propaganda drive us toward actually supporting the opposite extreme, solely because it is opposite. Indeed, both neoconservatism and the Bandera cult in Ukraine are things to be opposed and denounced; it just so happens that Russia’s feigned opposition to such phenomena is not rooted in noble motives. It’s worth remembering that Cohen while resolved to call himself a Jew, and in fact he said that other leftists should become “Jews” as well, as far as I know he didn’t say he was a radical fundamentalist Zionist. Though from the sound of it, his detractors probably don’t distinguish between the two.

 

 

The Worst Idea Ever

“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.” 

-Ulysses S. Grant, describing his feelings immediately after formally accepting the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

Yesterday I wrote on the topic of geopolitics as a theory, and I must say that when one comes to understand the theory and the role it has played in 21st century Russian politics it leads to a sort of Usual Suspects-style epiphany. Suddenly a lot of things that seemed nonsensical or even absurd begin to fit together and make perfect sense. Of course people like Peter Pomerantsev, Mark Adomanis, Daniel Kennedy, myself, and many others have covered the topic of the Kremlin’s bizarre post-modernist narrative which is rife with contradictions. For me however, understanding the role of this theory says something about the people creating and maintaining that narrative. It’s not that they don’t care whether there is any coherency; incoherence is the goal. They actually believe that this works, and their theory is what tells them so.

As if fate itself had decided the matter, the following morning I discovered a blog entry about a conference held in Moscow last December called “The Right of People’s to Self-Determination and a Multi-polar World.” Present at the conference were several American leftist groups such as the International Action Center and the United National Antiwar Coalition, both of which are supposedly linked to the Workers World Party. Also present were representatives of various European fascist movements as well as American neo-confederates and other white nationalists. Just like with the phony “election observers” in the Donbass, I have to wonder if any of these leftists found it odd that they were at a conference frequented by a much higher proportion of far rightists.

The event was organized by a group known as the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia. While the author of the blog post does not draw a direct link between the AGMR and the Eurasianist movement of Russian fascist Alexander Dugin, they do note the participation of Eurasian Youth Movement members in the conference and point out that members of both organizations have worked together in the past. Based on my knowledge of politics in Russia I would say the distinction is entirely unnecessary. Judging by the group’s rhetoric it’s obvious that this is just another government-financed front organization, just like Dugin’s own parties and organizations. One must understand that to these people, the specific organization is unimportant. New groups or parties can be launched overnight. All that matters is the message.

What this tale represents is the extreme danger Russia poses to the global left. It is a right-wing, authoritarian state backing right-wing movements beyond its borders, often with real, concrete means either in the form of cash or propaganda. Groups like the AGMR pay only lip service to left-wing causes like equality, social justice, and socialism. Unfortunately much of the Western left is so ideologically bankrupt that it falls for these slogans every time without considering that their solidarity is a one-way street.

The left suffers from the common problem of political illiteracy; it knows very little about what other people believe. As such, many leftists just assume that people on the far right would never associate with them or join with them in activism movements because they wouldn’t willingly do the same when it comes to right-wing causes. While it’s true that Communists don’t go to Tea Party rallies and mainstream conservative Republicans don’t go to antiwar marches, far right-wing populists happily go to both. Their ideology, very compatible with geopolitical theory, teaches that the ends justify means and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is why neo-Nazis are happy to infiltrate antiwar marches, Occupy protests, or anti-WTO actions just as easily as they would visit a Tea Party or anti-immigration rally. Sure, they may secretly hate more of the people they march with at a pro-Palestinian rally, but you have to remember these are people who are forced to conceal their beliefs on a daily basis in a world where overt racism is socially unacceptable. What’s suppressing your hate a little more when you’re “doing it for the cause?”  Moreover, many of these far rightists have grievances with mainstream conservatives as well.

Most leftists never examine far right ideology and thus they never expect that their movements or coalitions could be infiltrated by fascists or manipulated by them from without,especially if the fascists use carefully worded slogans that appeal to them. These are especially effective considering the mainstream left’s poor understanding of globalization, its strengths, and the actual problems it creates. Ask a leftist if they’d attend a rally against globalization organized by fascists and they’d most likely give you a categorical refusal. Ask a fascist if they’d attend an anti-globalization rally put on by Communists and socialists, and they’re likely to say something like, “Anything that weakens the system is good.” It seems that the only leftist faction which has demonstrated any consistent competence in detecting these fascist influences on both sides of various issues such as Maidan and Ukraine have thus far been the anarchists. That most Communist movements all across the spectrum have utterly failed to do the same is a stain on their record and this represents a serious theoretical degeneration on their part.

i have said before that on the whole, Russia is not a threat to the capitalist world. Putin and his ideologues believe they are being clever but in the end the strategy of piling lie upon lie will bring about the collapse of the whole rotten structure. This means that those who are most threatened by his regime are the citizens of Russia themselves, as well as some countries around Russia’s periphery. As a socialist, however, I am quite convinced that Russia’s post-modernist geopolitical theory is a dire threat to the global left and the struggle for human liberation. This is not simply because Russia is an authoritarian, quasi-fascist state; that would only affect Russians. No, it is because in the attempt to preserve its oligarchical regime, the Russian state is pumping poison into the veins of the global left, distracting and confusing our activists, supporting our enemies, and getting our people to do their bidding for nothing in return.

By this point I’ve no doubt tripped the mental alarms of many leftist readers. “Are you saying the Russia is a bigger threat than US imperialism,” some may be thinking.  Yes. Yes I am saying exactly that, because if the left does not start to develop some theoretical integrity and totally purge the Kremlin’s crypto-fascist propaganda and outdated “anti-globalization” geopolitical poison from its system, there’s simply no point in talking about fighting capitalism in the West. We will be tied down, unwittingly fighting for a corrupt, capitalist, wannabe imperialist state which will ultimately collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions and leave the Western capitalists just as triumphant as they were before. The left has nothing to gain from the continued existence of Putin’s regime and none of the time and resources spent doing its bidding will ever be reciprocated.

I realize that this still puts a bad taste in the mouths of many so-called “anti-imperialist” leftists. They’ve fallen for the foolish false dichotomy that calling out the Russian regime or any regime that boasts “anti-American” credentials is somehow siding with their own capitalist governments. If they would only look back through history, they would see that Communists of all stripes and sometimes even anarchists allied with more progressive regimes against reactionary ones. Russia promotes a fascist theory which says that ideals don’t matter, only the constant struggle between empires matters. Is this somehow better than Western regimes which preach democracy and human rights yet often fail to live up to those standards?

What about Western support for Saudi Arabia? What about Ferguson? What about austerity?  Indeed, what about, what about? Ask yourself this. When someone tells you that the liberal democratic nations have a moral superiority over a corrupt, oligarchical capitalist state that promotes a neo-fascist domestic ideology, why is it you bring up all those stains on those nations’ human rights records? You do it because the ideals are real, even if the governments’ belief in them isn’t. Western governments fail to live up to the standards they preach because of the internal contradictions of their capitalist systems, not because those ideals are nothing but a ruse to secure more power.  Those ideals are what cause you to feel outrage when you see your government engaging in wrongdoing. In Russia, these ideals are invoked to condemn US meddling in Iraq and Libya, while totally discarded when supporting a bloody war in Ukraine for no other purpose than to prop up Putin as a great leader of a Russian chauvinist superpower.

More importantly, rejecting outdated, failed “anti-hegemony” politics and purging Russian geopolitical poison is not siding with US or other Western imperialists. On the contrary, the time and energy which is currently spent on defending dictatorship like Russia and its ever-shrinking circle of allies could be used more effectively on activism against our own governments. More importantly, as long as leftists allow themselves to be duped into coalitions with fascists and assorted cranks in defense of corrupt dictatorships, the system’s own ideologues will always manage to outflank, outwit, and outfight them on a moral level every time. Indeed, that’s what they’ve been doing over and over again.

What is more, a real leftist movement can influence future Maidan-like movements and steer them away from Western-funded NGOs and far-right nationalist organizations instead of outright condemning them as tools of the NATO and the IMF. The far right and the capitalist-funded think tanks take action and get involved, why shouldn’t the left?  Then again, that takes work. Sitting at home drafting “hands off dictatorship X” statements is a lot easier, and RT will even interview you about it!

In conclusion, I generally believe that movements should be judged by their results, but there are times when their goals need to be considered as well. Geopolitics is an inhuman theory that serves fascist imperialists and has nothing to offer humanity but endless war. It is wielded by the Kremlin to preserve the oligarchical rule of Putin and his cronies as they oppress the peoples of Russia and Ukraine. By contrast, the values of liberal democracy and human rights are not in themselves flawed. It is the contradictions of the system as a whole which prevents governments from realizing those values. Those contradictions also lead these states into making pacts, alliances, and concessions to right-wing regimes like that of Vladimir Putin.  To believe that the left has a champion in Moscow is fatal to the left. It leaves us confused, distracted, renders our campaigns and blows ineffective, and leads us into league with our mortal enemies. The blood must be purged of this poisonous notion.

Left Contrarianism at its Best

This, dear readers, is why the American left is a failure.  Here we have a pretty straightforward story. Islamic State militants burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. The Islamic State, for those of you who haven’t been keeping score, is that organization that beheads people regardless of age or sex based on the slightest religious or culture difference, an organization that openly promotes this practice. Of course for edgy American leftists, it’s simply not acceptable to express any outrage at this behavior. Time for some whataboutism!

Basically, the article compares the burning of the Jordanian pilot to lynching in America, which often involved the torture of mostly black victims with fire. As the article correctly retells, white Americans reveled in the spectacle of lynchings, actually bringing entire families to the event and selling postcards afterwards. There can be no doubt that American lynching was every bit as horrifying and barbaric as what Islamic State fighters do to their captives. That being said, lynching is generally accepted as having died out in the 1960’s at the latest(as if such a practice could die out fast enough), and was in steep decline as early as the 1930’s. While the United States educational system has fallen far short of the bar when it comes to educating Americans on the institution of lynching and organized violence against black Americans, lynching has long been condemned as an immoral and barbaric practice. Can IS say the same about beheading and burning alive? Oh right, they can’t.  In other words, the Islamic State today is like the white lynchers of the 19th and early 20th century.

For fuck’s sake just look at this headline:

Yes, ISIS Burned a Man Alive. White Americans Did the Same Thing to Thousands of Black People

Note the total lack of reference to the time frame. ISIS burned a pilot about a week ago. “White Americans” engaged in lynchings decades ago.  Also there’s a big difference between a movement like the Islamic State and a large, socially constructed group known as “white Americans.” American leftists are fond of sarcastically quipping about objections like “Not all men” or “Not all whites.” Well I’m sorry but this is relevant here. Sweeping generalizations are bad, period. These  modern American leftists would howl with outrage if someone had wrote that “Muslims burned a pilot alive,” and they would be right. There’s a big difference between saying “Muslims” and “Islamic State fighters.” The latter is a movement where beheading people and committing atrocities is considered an occupational activity.

While every issue the author brought up is definitely valid and certainly worthy of an article, there is literally no reason to juxtapose these events. It’s just another example of a leftist seeing people outraged about something and deciding how they can be as edgy as possible. It’s like that film nerd  who sees a group of friends discussing what they thought was a really great film, and then just has to tell them how terrible the film really is.

Sometimes I want to ask these people what is so terrible about being shocked or outraged at an atrocity like this or the one which occurred last month in Paris. Is Jim Crow going to come back if we express a measure of sympathy for the people who were gunned down in Paris, several of whom were Arab and one of whom was African? Will women lose the right to vote if we condemn the burning of a Jordanian pilot, or even just hold our tongues about it?

The American left has become insanely paranoid that any alignment between its positions and that of the so-called “mainstream” will be tantamount to unconditional surrender to the system. If we admit that the American government is in fact morally superior to the Islamic State, then that must mean it is always morally superior and we can never criticize it again. I strongly suspect that the real reason the Western left engages in this kind of paranoid fantasy is that deep down in knows it has nothing to offer the masses. It has been far too long dominated by academics attempting to justify their existence by creating convoluted post-modern theories, propped up by contrived jargon which they insist makes their fields every bit as empirical and important as biology or chemistry. The US government can make us of its limited moral superiority as capital to get away with less moral actions. The left prefers to preserve its failed institutions and simply wag its finger at the system rather than to take some initiative and truly struggle with it. The idea of struggling for social justice totally trumps actually achieving it.

No matter how unfair it seems, the system will always be more popular and garner support when it condemns things like IS atrocities. When shocking things like this happen, nobody of any racial or ethnic group wants to listen to someone saying, “Oh yeah you know white people did stuff like that over half a century ago.” It’s not that they don’t find that shocking or horrifying, it just simply not the time nor place to bring that up.  If anything, it would make more sense to bring up the topic of the burning pilot when you are trying to teach someone about lynching, to connect history to the present. Instead, our plucky leftists see people in shock due to this horrible atrocity and they think, “I’ll show them! They need to know they’re wrong!’ Admitting that people being shocked at the idea of burning someone alive is a clear sign of progress means admitting that society has managed to progress without the wise council of today’s academics and privileged college students. Indeed, the Civil Rights movement did much without knowing about privilege theory, trigger warnings, or the works of Judith Butler. Alas, it was not perfect, however, which is why today’s social justice warriors must set the world straight.

Look, left, if you want to be anything more than a joke in a world that is in fact turning increasingly right wing and in large part due to your own incompetence, here’s a tip- When someone burns a person alive, either express your sympathy and outrage with everyone else, or shut the fuck up. Bring up your agenda when the time is right. The left is supposed to be pro-humanity, and yet lately it seems to be dominated by people who have zero understanding of human contact or psychology. Naturally much of the edgy left likes to respond with “Fuck you, I don’t need anyone to police my language!” Hey no problem. The system polices its language though, and it’s winning. So either learn how to deal with people or don’t cry when your internet-based movement is an utter failure because all you can do is blog about pop culture and what “allies” are actually much worse than the far right.