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News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
American anti-Russian struggle today is reactionary, period
February 18, 2017
According to Bloomberg, Russia has supposedly instructed state media to limit Trump coverage.(1) Russia has disputed the insinuation that it controls how much attention Russian media in general gives to the U.S. president.(2) Reportedly, Russia claimed it wasn’t disappointed with Donald Trump.(3) It said it wasn’t illusioned to begin with. The Kremlin seemingly avoided appearing to oppose the forces involved in producing “Flynnghazi.”
It could be that Russians are less inclined to believe there can be an improvement in relations with the United States, as some are saying. Alternatively, it could be that Russians believe it may actually help things along if Americans don’t perceive Russians as embracing Trump. That could give various American politicians some breathing room. Russians themselves might be able to see what’s happening in the United States in that regard. They don’t necessarily need their government to direct them to stop talking about Trump so much. Russians showed they were open to the idea of rapprochement with the United States, giving Americans a chance to demonstrate their obstinacy, but it’s not that Russians are given to speaking without discretion and prudence in public.
In either case, U.S. public opinion could be key. At the long press conference on Thursday in which Trump talked and answered questions for more than an hour, Trump said, “I just want to tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said, you know, he’s sitting behind his desk saying, you know, I see what’s going on in the United States, they follow it closely. It’s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he’s got with this fake story.”(4)
Trump wasn’t blaming the AmeriKKKan people themselves and may have been exaggerating the power of media like CNN. But Trump pointed to a wider distribution of power than some might be willing to admit.
Remarkably, also, Trump was admitting in a way that if the United States were to attack or not “get along with” Russia in the future, it could based on something false. The world should remember that. It could be based on something false involving a large number of media-influenced Amerikans. The only question is whether these amerikans are victims of lies or are actually complicit even if deceived to some degree. Amerikans are often ignorant by choice.
The fact that somebody in the U.S. intelligence community leaked or discussed the classified information that caused former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to resign isn’t in dispute. However, Trump in that particular moment at the conference wasn’t talking about some shadow government pulling strings secretly and keeping the public in the dark about that. Indeed, the revelations worked because they were associated with anonymous but apparently self-identified senior officials and described as such in the media. So now everyone knows what basically happened and the reasons for Trump’s statements about the media and the intelligence community. Making it look like Trump is in conflict with IC leaders was one of the goals.
More to the point, the leaks and the related insinuations, false or not, wouldn’t have power if there were not a population predisposed to accepting or reacting to them in the first place. A large percentage of the U.$. population, including people in both the Democratic and the Republican Parties, have no problem with jingoism. They have no problem with dirty tricks against other countries and even within their own country. They pay lip service to liberal-democratic principles or interpret them in a twisted way as involving a right to receive selective leaks from a gigantic intelligence bureaucracy. They have a basic belief in U.S. spying and in the righteousness and superiority of amerika – even after the past year, in which seemingly half of the U.S. population demonized the other half – which in their view should be outraged at the slightest appearance of foreign diplomatic influence regardless of legality. Mixed in with that belief is extreme cynicism about both means and ends. They are liable to praise the fruits of illegal activity exploiting a massive state bureaucracy and intelligence apparatus, when it benefits them, and engage in the most double-tongued self-righteous indignation when it doesn’t, complete with calls for principled bipartisanship.
Instead of admitting that amerikans are just generally reactionary for durable class and social reasons, so-called progressives are trying to justify pandering to extremely reactionary pro-CIA, pro-FBI, pro-NSA, undemocratic, anti-Russia sentiment in terms of opposing Trump administration “fascism.” The reader’s experience of déjà vu about this may be mitigated only by the following: During George W. Bush’s supposedly uniquely fascist presidency, there was the issue of bad CIA intelligence without which the Iraq War supposedly would never have happened. The CIA was blamed for not preventing 9/11 and then succumbing to White House pressure about Iraq, while the FBI was relatively unscathed and played a major role in accurately attributing the proximal cause of 9/11 to al-Qaeda. Today, the issue is at-least-partly true leaks based on intelligence involving foreigners, possibly gathered by the FBI and leaked by CIA officials among others; the leaks lead to pressure on Trump from, in Trump’s words this week, seemingly “everyone in this country.”
Russia is a bogeyman at the moment, not just some Arabs and Muslims, but the Republican “fascism” tune being sung by some is a variation on an old theme. Warmongering offers a new anti-racist imperative: not defeating Arabs portrayed as slaveholders and racists, nor opposing Iranians defamed as racists by CNN towards the end of Obama’s presidency and now threatened with more exclusion, but opposing “fascist” Trump’s allegedly white-supremacist outreach to fraternal “white” country Russia. Nevermind that amerika’s biggest allies are already all white-majority countries and were so under Obama – who presided over the highest incarceration rate in the world apart from Seychelles (which has a tiny population), significantly increased formal deportations of undocumented migrants at the border, and significantly increased the criminalization of apprehended undocumented migrants. Yes, that is the same Obama who dramatically expanded mass surveillance, committed remote control kill-list murder, greatly increased drone attacks, got the United $tates accustomed to the idea of having a US$700+ billion military budget in 2010-2011, and invaded more countries and increased the number of wars the United States was involved in – all while achieving the mindfuck of propping up U.S. image among people both inside and outside the United States. No matter how bad things get, Democratic administrations can never be fascist, apparently, so the bar for fascism keeps being raised every four or eight years (that is, with every Democratic victory) and the U.S. itself never quite reaches it.
That leaves open the possibility of endless opportunism. One can just keep uniting with or waiting for progress among increasingly reactionary Democrats and Republicans viewed as having conflicts with the “fascist” leader. Now after Trump allegedly “morally equated” the United States with “authoritarian” Russia and admitted that the United States’ killing people for a variety of reasons is still killing (“you think our country’s so innocent?”), increasingly reactionary people get to style themselves as anti-fascists and friends of Muslims and migrants. If the U.S. were just called fascist already, the problem with accommodating amerikans and suggesting Iran or Russia is no worse than the U.S. would be clear and the opportunists couldn’t go on as they had been doing, because everyone knows what happened with fascist Germany in World War II. That is unless Iran and Russia were to also be called fascist more frequently, in which case a result might be to weaken or oppose a united front against the United States. People would be wondering whose fascism is worse. In the G. W. Bush years, calling Bush a fascist became an invitation to call Islamic governments and movements fascist for opportunist reasons. Bush eventually went away and was replaced by Obama, but the Islamofascism idea stupidly or maliciously supported by many liberals and so-called leftists (influenced by or collaborating with neo-conservatives) remained. Something similar is happening with Russia now and started when Obama was President. What’s going on is setting the stage for another favorably-viewed murderous, warmongering Democratic presidency four years from now.
U.S. liberals and phony “leftists” undermine anti-fascism in multiple ways, including by ceaselessly agitating war-acclimatized amerikans on wage and trade issues instead of opposing militarism. If fascism were to develop in the United States, more than it developed under Obama, U.$. liberals and phony “leftists” would be complicit in that.
Russia versus the United States
By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union was no longer a real contender for global hegemony. And the Soviet Union doesn’t exist at all today; it should go without saying, but many are still stuck in the past. Nonetheless, because of the Soviet-Afghan War and other things, the 1980s were a time when it could have been more correct to have a strong anti-Russia message in international media as a part of opposing imperialism in general. Trump’s pick to replace Flynn, Vice Admiral Robert Harward (who declined), has an unusual history involving Iran, and Harward has talked about how amerikans were once more-welcome in Muslim countries. There’s a reason for that. On the other hand, many in the world in the 1960s were already thinking either the Soviet Union or the United States – fascist or not – might be the number-one danger. In other words, the idea of treating Russia and the U.S. equally was being called into question before the 1980s. Many were saying the U.S. was the #1 enemy even before it became hegemonic – because of the global situation and what the U.S. was doing in the international sphere, not because of internal fascism.
People in the Third World shouldn’t let Russia conduct military operations in their country without permission. And any pro-amerikan policy or attitude of Russians should be opposed to the extent that can be done without precipitating a nuclear war. But the idea that the United States and Russia must be opposed equally – though it seems to be progress in comparison with attitudes openly favoring the United States – is a holdover from a previous era. Plain and simple. It is so anachronistic as to be laughable if it weren’t seriously believed by so many. Notions of Cold War II favoring the United $tates are also common of course and give rise pro-amerikan attitudes in various forms.
Today, the U.S. is hegemonic and has been so for decades. It has European allies that are higher on the oppressed’s enemies lists than Russia. Yet, in the U.$., some so-called leftists with grandiose delusions fantasize they can oppose imperialism in general by promoting and somehow controlling anti-Russian sentiment.
In the 1960s, it was unclear to many which of the two, if either – the Soviet Union and the United States – was going to win the hegemonist struggle and what the long-term consequences of that would be. At the same time, both countries were severely threatening then-socialist China and other countries. For geographic reasons and other important reasons, some viewed the USSR, which had stopped being socialist, as potentially the greater threat. So, dividing the U.S. and the USSR from each other (by uniting the U.S.) and even preferring the U.S. in some contexts could have made more sense then at least in theory. What the world faces today is a hegemonic country that may end up having a US$700 billion military budget again in 2018(5) and specifically uses alleged Russian and Chinese threats to justify that while Trump puts on a friendly face. John McCain and Trump no doubt have sincere disagreements with each other, but they are working together more than most realize. In that context, it is evident that opposing Trump on Russia at the moment actually plays into the hands of militarists, including Trump emself.
Instead of building anti-imperialism, people in the U.S. publicly opposing Russia rapprochement with the best intentions actually get caught up in fretting about the slightest disagreement between the U.S. and Australia and other NATO countries – while magnifying Russia as a threat, a country with which there are already hostile relations. They end up supporting NATO interests, as many of Trump’s critics are accurately accused of doing though Trump also supports the NATO alliance in actuality. They end up building for militarism, in unity with Trump contrary to various appearances. There is always the danger of imperialist countries cooperating against the Third World – this isn’t new and has been happening for many decades – but the idea of some grand harmony of imperialism including Russia was always far-fetched. Opposing anti-Russia sentiment in the U.S. is necessary to oppose militarism.
On this point there is much confusion among people claiming to oppose capitalism or imperialism. A division has emerged between those who support a united front against the United States, and those who don’t. In this context, many people claiming to emphasize the conflict between imperialism and the Third World, who don’t also really emphasize the particular role of the United States, end up in the same camp as those who support CIA coups in the Third World as part of some kind of global struggle against capitalism/imperialism existing everywhere in the abstract. Some of these people claim to disagree with Karl Kautsky’s “ultra-imperialism” theory and are liable to mistakenly associate that theory with the idea of a global united front (including international investors) against the United States. Yet, they simultaneously support CIA insurrections as if imperialism were progressive and (in various ways) fret about a Russian danger while managing to also lump Russia with the United States.
CIA influence as opposed to CIA conspiracy theory
There is an issue here of CIA influence as opposed to CIA conspiracy theory. This writer has had occasion to mention the CIA specifically. In doing so, the point is not that there is a shadow government, that the CIA victimizes amerikans, or that other agencies or areas of society are unimportant. The CIA just has a certain lane others are supposed to stay out of, a departmental purview. Like the U.S. State Department, it offers certain careers to people interested in international work. It is involved in violence and psychological warfare in the Third World (though of course Pentagon involvement could also be discerned or suspected in many cases). The CIA has an international focus such that liberals can both agree with what it does regardless of differences about abortion rights, evolution, school vouchers, health care, gun control, minimum wages, climate change, etc. CIA findings are used to legitimize military operations and budget decisions. One thing the CIA and the State Department both work on is shaping messages about the U.S. and other countries. Both are professionally involved in worrying about amerika’s standing in the world. What the CIA and the State Department do to influence foreign public opinion often influences U.S. public opinion indirectly, but with the Flynn phone call leaks what we are looking at is brazenly obvious spy involvement in influencing a receptive U.S. public that then exerts pressure. Another effect is to make Trump look isolated from the U.S. public in the eyes of international observers, misleadingly.
Typically, people on both the “left” and the “right” would criticize concerns similar to some of those being discussed here by accusing the speaker of raising the topic of the CIA or Western influence to support reactionary governments. Since the Flynn debacle embarrassing to Trump obviously and undeniably involves the CIA and/or other agencies in the intelligence community, and opportunists want to take advantage of that without making the U.S. look too bad internationally, it becomes necessary to suggest the leaks and even the IC itself somehow represent the will of a noble amerikan people struggling against both fascism and dangerous Russian-U.S. cooperation. Somehow Russia, China, various Middle East countries, African countries and others can’t play any useful role in global progress, because they are capitalist (as if any country in the world today weren’t), but amerikan spies and imperialists, and white people in some European countries, can. And some of these racist pieces of shit selectively yapping about Arab, Muslim, Third World and Eastern European leaders, while flattering powerful Democrats and even some Republicans, want to be taken seriously as some kind of radical anti-fascist. They are apt to say positive, flattering things about John McCain now while almost never finding anything favorable to say about a non-amerikan Muslim who wouldn’t make a good CIA asset.
It comes down to that many of these people and others are either CIA-influenced themselves. Or they just don’t give a shit about what the U.S. does internationally as long as they get what they want in domestic policy, and as long as the CIA/State Department doesn’t oppose their particular ideas too much. Whether an unprovoked Trump presidency was actually going to make nuclear war less likely or more likely just wasn’t important to them, or if they perceived nuclear war as being less likely with Trump they still didn’t care. Not too different from some of the Evangelicals they claim to disagree with, perhaps some imagine themselves bursting forth through a mushroom cloud and landing heroically in a post-apocalyptic wasteland to assume the role of savior, more likely some Mephistophelean figure.
Russians themselves know how many nuclear weapons they and the amerikans have, weapons that one day won’t be under the control of the current leaders. They might exercise a reasonable amount of self-control in what they say about the amerikans so U.S. hegemony can disappear without elevating the risk of nuclear war. The support of other countries in opposing the U.S. is necessary to make that happen. Anti-Russian so-called anti-fascism in the U.S. just makes things worse in various ways. ◊
• “AmeriKKKa is still the dominant power in the world and needs to be opposed as such,” 2016 December. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-12-28-news-US-hegemony-UNSC-settlements-resolution.md
• “U.S. economic outlook improves; structural basis of crisis continues to develop,” 2017 January. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-01-08-news-Jan2017-US-economic-outlook.md
• “The global anti-American economic struggle: Iran and China address trade and investment obstacles,” 2017 January. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-01-22-news-2017-World-Economic-Forum-China-Iran.md
• “Iranian-Palestinian relations develop in the midst of unexpected U.S. election result,” 2016 November. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-11-15-news-Palestine-Iran-Abbas.md
1. “Kremlin tells media to cut back on fawning Trump coverage, sources say,” 2017 February 16. https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-16/kremlin-said-to-tell-media-to-cut-back-on-fawning-trump-coverage
2. “Kremlin spokesman says Russian media free to define their editorial policy on Trump,” 2017 February 17. http://tass.com/politics/931560
3. “Kremlin denies any disappointment with Trump administration,” 2016 March 24. http://www.voanews.com/a/kremlin-on-us-russia-relations/3729207.html
4. “Read the full transcript of Trump’s first solo press conference,” 2017 February 16. http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/16/click-for-a-full-transcript-of-trumps-first-solo-press-conference.html
5. “McCain proposes $640B defense budget for 2018,” 2017 January 17. http://thehill.com/policy/defense/314550-mccain-proposes-640b-defense-budget-for-2018 “Combined with a projected $60 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, McCain’s plan would bring next year’s defense budget to a total of $700 billion.”