Calls by Canada’s National Defence Committee for increased “sanctions” that is, economic warfare, against Russia, and for an increased NATO presence in the Black Sea, directly threatening Russia’s southern flank and its Crimea territory, used the term “revisionist power” to describe Russia. This term has also been used by American and NATO diplomats and generals concerning China. It is a term that is never defined. To Marxists it rings of not being true to the cause of revolution, and that is, until recently, its most common usage. Lately it has been used to label anyone who questions official or standard narratives of history with the sense of condemnation for “revisiting” the facts and constructing an alternative narrative that more closely fits the facts. If you claim the attacks on Yugoslavia, or Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria were acts of aggression instead of” humanitarian interventions”, you are now labelled a “revisionist.” If you deny Russia influenced the elections in the USA or Europe or deny their new allegations of Russia taking over social media, or deny that Ukrainian ships violated Russian waters in the Kerch Straight, you are a “revisionist.” In other words it is a term of censorship. So the adoption of the word by the NATO war machine in its propaganda against Russia and China, as a strategic concept, is puzzling. Are the Russians and Chinese betraying a revolution? Are they rewriting history? Since it is almost never defined in the articles or essays pumped out by all the propaganda organs of NATO the public is left guessing as to what it can mean-but one thing they are sure of, it must be bad.
The first time I saw it being used was in a 2014 article in the blog of an American right-wing think-tank and since then it has been used repeatedly by US and UK think tanks, in speeches by NATO politicians, in their policy papers, tweets, and press conferences but, again, never is the term explained. It’s as though they are speaking a secret code to themselves. You are left to understand the code or find the meaning in the subtext. But one place we can look to try to understand what they mean and why they are using this term now as a regular part of their propaganda is the US National Defense Strategy of 2018, the summary of which states,
“The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers. It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape the world consistent with their authoritarian model-gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.”
And, that after World War Two,
“The United States and its allies and partners constructed a free and open international order to better safeguard their liberty and people from aggression and coercion. Although this system has evolved since the end of the Cold War, our network of alliances and partnerships remain the backbone of global security. China and Russia are now undermining the international order from within the system by exploiting its benefits while simultaneously undercutting its principles and rules of the road.”
In other words Russia and China are “revisionist” because they do not accept the “international order” constructed by the USA, the veto authority the Americans impose over other nations, a prime example of which is the American pressure applied to the servile government of Canada to arrest Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, in order to cripple that company, the Chinese economy, to pressure Iran, and which has damaged the Canadian peoples relationship with China and the Canadian economy.
But what is this “international order” except a world order of brutality, war and bribes, in which the liberties of the people are smashed and aggression and coercion are the primary tools of control. The Americans speak of their attempt to dominate the world as if it is a sacred thing, a gift from the gods, and presume to act as if they themselves are gods and any nation or people that rejects their domination are anathema, to be excommunicated from the international order, the mighty church of US imperialism, until they fall in line or are destroyed. Anyone who does not fall in line is automatically “authoritarian” and a rebel against their mafia “world order.”
But it is the USA and its allies that are the revisionist powers. It is they that have rejected and destroyed the principles of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg principles against aggressive war, the right to self-determination of peoples, the right to sovereignty of nations, of independent economic, social and political development, of peaceful co-existence or, as Chinese President Xi puts it, a win-win world order. It is they that have committed aggression against nations across the globe since the end of the Second World War, that have assassinated popular leaders, sabotaged economies, entire political systems, and have treated their own peoples as so many fools to be led around by the nose as the capitalists steal their money so they can have their wars to make themselves more money.
It is they who rewrite history, who offer false narratives of their actions, of their wars, to hide the shame of their criminality. They adopt Napoleon’s famous observation that “history is a set of lies agreed upon” by setting up a myriad of propaganda organs in the form of think tanks, government committees, so-called “non-governmental organisations,” by controlling the media in all its forms, and are now engaged in constructing the tools of censorship of social media with never-ending false allegations of “Russian” sabotage and influence, allegations that are repeated and amplified almost every day. People who speak out are blacklisted, fired from jobs, threatened, ridiculed in the mass media, thrown in prison, disappeared, assassinated. This is their utopia, a dark and fearful place, awash with blood.
They waged a savage war against Yugoslavia and have the nerve to say it was for the good of the Yugoslav people. They invaded and still occupy Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria. They control other wars and conflicts too long to list and call their wars of terror a war on terror. They overthrew the government of Ukraine and replaced it with Nazis, in the name of “democracy.” They threaten Iran, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, even small Burundi, with destabilisation and misery and claim they are defending “human rights.” The American elite even undermine their own political system by claiming that their elections are not legitimate and somehow controlled by the Russians thereby setting up the psychological conditioning for a one party state.
“Truth” and “Integrity,” as we see with the recent revelations in the UK of the military and intelligence services being used to spread disinformation about political opposition parties and dissidents, are their code words for disinformation, lies and corruption. In the face of mass unrest as they continue to immiserate the working class of the world in order to increase the rate of exploitation of labour to increase their profit, the repressive forces of the state are applied in all their forms, they even stage violent incidents to justify the repression, and arrest some on the right to pretend to be neutral and for “human rights” as they aim their main forces at any rise of the left which they try to splinter into a thousand pieces and prepare for new forms of repression.
So when you hear the American and NATO leaders speak of Russia and China as “revisionist” know what they mean: that Russia and China are still independent of their world tyranny, that they resist. This then is what “revisionism” means, American style; resistance to the American world order.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”