As tensions between the US and Russia have increased in the last year, so too has the polarization of public opinion. While the western corporate media has reverted to its formerly antagonistic, Cold War era attitude toward Russia – predictably radicalizing much of western public opinion, infusing the discourse with a decidedly Russophobic bias – it has increasingly been left to those on the political margins to deconstruct the false narrative, expose the Empire’s agenda, and defend the right of sovereign nations to act independent of western diktats.
And it is here, on the political margins, where many are willing to speak out against the US agenda in Ukraine and beyond, where the real fight for hearts and minds is taking place. The political mainstream will simply go along with the narratives presented to it by the Empire’s compliant media, thus ensuring its continued impotence and irrelevance to policy. However, a loud chorus of critics, dissidents, and anti-imperialist voices is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore.
And while on the far right libertarians and paleoconservatives are engaged in their own internal conflict over support for Russia and President Putin, so too is there an internal, quasi-ideological confrontation taking place on the left.
Many self-proclaimed “leftists” have merely transposed their anti-Soviet politics into an anti-Russian ideological posture, which sees in Russia both an embrace of capitalism and a desire for imperial revanchism. In this way, such groups (numerous on what passes for the “organized Left”) run interference for the political establishment, serving to dilute the potency of an anti-imperialist message through internecine conflict, demonization, and sectarianism. They proclaim that there is nothing about Russia worth defending for leftists. But is this true?
Here are a few reasons why those on the left who argue that Russia is “no better than the US” are either plainly ignorant, or they have ulterior motives:
1. Opposing US-NATO. Any self-described “leftist” should immediately question their own position when they find themselves on the same side with Washington and NATO on questions of foreign policy, war and peace. Russia has consistently (and with increasing assertiveness in the last few years) opposed the Empire’s agenda in various corners of the globe.
In Syria, Russia (with China following its lead) has become the leading global voice of resistance to the US-NATO-Israel-GCC agenda that has destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Exercising its veto power at the UN Security Council, Russia has prevented a US-led war on Syria at least twice, each time supplying important intelligence information that cast doubt on the US narrative that conveniently blamed Assad for every single atrocity in that foreign-backed war on his country.
In Ukraine, Russia has effectively ended the eastward march of NATO expansion, drawing its red line, and demonstrating to the world that the once subservient “non-Western” developing economies will not be made into mere supplicants subject to the whims of power brokers in Washington, London, and on Wall St. Moreover, Russia’s rejection of the US-instigated coup in Ukraine, and its subsequent support for the rebels of Donetsk and Lugansk, has demonstrated to the world that western soft power is not some inexorable force, but is instead a carefully manipulated political weapon that can be blunted with sufficient planning and popular resistance.
2. BRICS, SCO, and “Multi-Polarity.” Russia is, along with China, the driving force behind the establishment, and continued development, of non-Western international forums such as the BRICS grouping, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Union, and a handful of others. These platforms for international cooperation have one important feature in common: they are not dominated by the United States.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, nearly every major international institution has, in one way or another, been dominated by the United States. From its political hegemony in the United Nations, to the levers of its economic dominance in the IMF, World Bank, and other international financial institutions, to its global military capabilities in the form of NATO and similar military architecture, the United States has acted as judge, jury, and executioner around the globe. In effect, this could best be described as US global hegemony. Put in slightly more traditional, though no less accurate, leftist terminology, this could rightly be called US imperialism.
And so, why would anyone who truly believes in the political, moral, and ethical bankruptcy of US imperialism not want to support those forces rising globally to challenge it? It is seemingly a “no-brainer” that those who believe US hegemony and imperialism to be one of the scourges of the planet should be promoting any forces providing a counterweight to it. And yet somehow many leftists are convinced – partly, I would argue, from a decades long ideological and political decay coupled with the cumulative psychological effects of multi-generational propaganda and red-baiting – that Russia today is no better or worse than the US, merely a rival. Of course, this sort of anti-historical analysis is silly, if not dangerous. Considering the US global military footprint in nearly every country, its influence and power manifested in myriad ways all over the globe, its perpetual wars, etc., only a fool could make such a comparison with a straight face and then ask to be taken seriously.
3. Opposition to Shock Therapy and Disaster Capitalism. A primary preoccupation of many on the Left has been to oppose the twin evils of IMF “shock therapy” and “disaster capitalism,” both fundamental parts of what has come to be known as the “Washington Consensus.” These phenomena include privatizing and selling for scrap the institutions of the state once it enters into political and/or economic collapse while, simultaneously, demanding “economic liberalization,” which is merely coded language for austerity on the one hand, and plunder on the other. Such policies can really only be implemented in times of great crisis and near total collapse, either from political, economic, or even natural disasters. It has been done countless times, from Chile in 1973 to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, to Haiti still today.
However, the most infamous, and globally significant, example of this sort of shock therapy and disaster capitalism came in Russia in the 1990s. There, the institutions of the one-time superpower were stripped of their most valuable component parts and sold on world markets, primarily to US and European investors through the intermediaries of a parasitical class that has come to be known as the “Russian oligarchs.” This formation of a new capitalist economic elite on the wreckage of a formerly socialist (the degree to which the Soviet Union was truly ‘socialist’ is not going to be debated here) state is the quintessential template for how disaster capitalism works. Those on the left who seemingly opposed these policies in Latin America and elsewhere somehow conveniently forget the tough road that Russia has had to travel to claw its way back to global relevance.
Or their argument goes that one set of oligarchs was simply replaced by another set dominated by President Putin. Naturally, they conveniently leave out the part about re-nationalization of certain vital industries, restarting Russian economic production, raising standards of living from the deplorable state of the early 90s, improved infrastructure, medical services, and so on. All these things, you know, the material conditions of life for millions of people, somehow become irrelevant when set against a seemingly moribund orthodoxy.
4. WWII, The Holocaust, and Defending Historical Memory. Since the end of the Soviet Union, many right wing, reactionary, and often fascist, tendencies have emerged throughout the former Soviet bloc. These movements, far from preaching “conservative values” in any way recognizable in the West, rather root their politics in a vehement hatred of the Soviet Union/Russia and communism in general. Their hatred however is not manifested in some search for historical truth, but rather in an insidious attempt to rewrite history, casting themselves and their fascist antecedents as “patriots struggling against Bolshevism.”
This whitewashing of history is being vigorously promoted by the US and many of its European toadies who, for political reasons, want the historical narrative to be written in such a way as to make an equivalence between the Soviets/communism and the Nazis/fascism. It does not take exceptional perceptive powers to see the agenda behind this. In making such an equivalence, the US is then able to present itself as the great hero of the 20th Century, having defeated the “twin evils” of fascism and communism. Of course, such historical fiction is what passes for truth these days in the West.
Perhaps this agenda, long understood by many on the Left, though increasingly forgotten by the 21st Century ‘Left’, goes a long way to explaining the seemingly limitless support that the West provides to fascists in Ukraine where, just as more than 70 years ago, fascists are mobilized to counter the Soviets/Russians. Of course, it should be remembered that the Ukrainian Nazis, followers of the degenerate collaborator Bandera, care not that Russia is not communist, as for them it is the “Moskals” (pejorative term for Russians) that must be “cleansed from the nation.” It is this blind hatred of Russia that makes them the darling of the US, which is the primary reason why they are described as “nationalists” and not rightly as Nazis.
The Holocaust is also critical to this story. As the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army was just celebrated, perhaps it is worthwhile to examine just how much history has been erased. It was, after all, the multi-national Soviets (Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, etc.) who liberated most of the concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz, only to find that 70 years later, Russia is not invited to commemorate the event. In the Baltic states, as in Ukraine, you hear talk of monuments commemorating the “heroes” who “fought communism.” But who are these heroes? And when did they “fight communism”? That part is conveniently left out of the story, lest the veil of historical amnesia be lifted to reveal that these are monuments to Nazi collaborators and other fascists.
So, these are monuments to perpetrators and participants in one of the worst genocides in history, one that attempted to cleanse Jews, Romani “Gypsies”, homosexuals, the mentally handicapped, and other “undesirables” from the face of the earth. In cities like Lviv, the very existence of the Holocaust is denied, let alone the city’s heinous role in it. There was no rounding up of Jews in the streets. There was no cheering for the Nazi invaders. There was no collaboration. Or so they would like us to believe. And the US and Europe allow this narrative to fester, like an infection spreading through the body politic of Europe.
Only Russia is countering this historical erasure, reminding everyone that their “Great Patriotic War” was the salvation of Europe, the salvation for millions of Jews, the salvation of freedom. This clashes with the Russophobia, creating a sort of cognitive dissonance that has become all too pervasive in recent years.
5. Political Support for Victims of US Imperialism. There is an undeniable trend manifesting itself in recent years, namely that countries under assault by the Empire now have a friend, if only for political expediency, in Russia. As Moscow has become more assertive in its foreign policy, it has consistently begun placing itself as the defender of nations being attacked. So, Russia has been the lone power (with China following Russia’s lead) blocking US aggression against Syria. Russia has extended a friendly hand to DPRK (North Korea). Russia has maintained comradely relations with Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. Russia had continued expanding its political, economic, and military cooperation with Iran. These are not insignificant developments as they represent a growing awareness both in Moscow and around the world that Russia is willing to act as a counterweight to US geopolitical ambitions and hegemony.
Of course, Russia has self-interested reasons for doing this, as all states do in their political decisions. However, it is equally true that Russia increasingly sees its role as a defender of countries victimized by the US-EU-NATO order.
The importance of this assertiveness in defending such states is perhaps most clearly illustrated by the negative example: Libya. In 2011 Russia, under then President Medvedev, chose not to veto UNSC Resolution 1973 which authorized a “No Fly Zone” in Libya which, to no one’s surprise, was immediately transformed into a de facto authorization for war. Russia’s refusal to veto the measure – a decision Medvedev has since admitted was regrettable – is a principal reason why the US-NATO were able to carry out their vicious war against Libya, topple Gaddafi, throw that country into chaos, and destabilize the whole region. What if Russia would have vetoed and there would have been no resolution? Would the Libyan state still exist, rather than being the chaotic failed state it is today? Would all those lethal weapons have fallen into the hands of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, and other terror groups? Would North Africa be as dangerous as it is today? The answers are painfully self-evident.
Russia is vital to maintaining stability and some semblance of imperial restraint on the West. Its steadily stronger responses to the US and Europe demonstrate that perhaps, finally, the Russian political elite are beginning to realize this. Perhaps they have finally understood that rather than constantly waxing poetic about their “Western partners” and looking for any way to further integrate themselves into a Western-dominated system, they must strike out on their own, blaze their own trail, and show some backbone in the face of the ever-present US boot on the neck.
If it is true that Russia’s political elite have finally recognized their own global importance, the world will benefit. Hopefully, some on the so-called Left will also come to this realization. If not, then they should cease to call themselves anti-imperialists, and instead admit what they really are…the left flank of the Empire.
Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.