by Danny Haiphong
Barack Obama, “has spent its last days in the White House laying the basis for World War, claiming that the Russian government had directly interfered in the 2016 elections.” The corporate media and the Democratic Party have joined in the hysteria, along with far too many so-called progressives. “If criticism of Russia at this time takes precedence over fighting US imperialism, then a reexamination of the movement’s priorities is in order.”
Some Guidance on the Russia Question
by Danny Haiphong
This article previously appeared in the American Herald Tribune.
“The Obama-Clinton camp of the ruling class views the current Russian state as a threat to US global hegemony.”
Donald Trump's unforeseen victory in the 2016 elections has infected US politics with a heavy strand of anti-Russia hysteria. Yet it is not the President-elect who has been the source of the anti-Russia war campaign. Trump has expressed a willingness to develop a more peaceful set of relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This has thrown the imperialist system into a panic, especially the Democratic Party. The ruling class loyal to the Democrats has used Trump as an excuse to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton's defeat and distract the public from the real enemy of humanity: US imperialism.
As if two terms of ceaseless war provocations against Russia was not enough, the Obama Administration has spent its last days in the White House laying the basis for World War. It started with the Hillary Clinton campaign's baseless claim that Trump and WikiLeaks worked together with the Russian government to hack into DNC databases. The narrative evolved into a systematic smear campaign against independent media from right to left, orchestrated by President Obama himself. Obama's characterization of all critical media as "fake news" was picked up by the Washington Post, which called for the use of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute "useful dupes" of the Russian government. After Trump made it through the Electoral College convening in mid-December, the Clinton-Obama camp of the ruling class stepped up its propaganda assault on Russia by claiming that the Russian government had directly interfered in the 2016 elections.
“The ruling class loyal to the Democrats has used Trump as an excuse to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton's defeat and distract the public from the real enemy of humanity: US imperialism.”
At a moment’s notice, the CIA was reported to have "proof" of Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee databases. However, such "proof" has fallen short of verifiable fact, with only a CIA brief and a vague Department of Homeland Security report available as evidence of the claim. Furthermore, the corporate media has virtually tripped over itself numerous times trying to prove that Russian interference indeed swayed the US elections. The Washington Post ran a completely made up story of an electrical plant in Vermont that was supposedly hacked by Russia. CNN followed suit by using a screenshot of a famous computer game to show viewers just how the Russians hack elections.
Of course, these examples of corporate media deception should come as no surprise. The corporate media is a machine programmed to lie in the service of America's financial oligarchy whose current state has never been more desperate. And the destabilization of Russia has been on the agenda for quite some time. US-NATO operations along the Russian border have escalated dramatically in Obama's second term. The US-backed destabilization of Ukraine was planned in 2013 and carried out in 2014. Russia was labeled the aggressor by the State Department and the EU-US alliance placed sanctions on Russia's economy that year in the aftermath of the coup. Yet the US fully backed Ukraine's "Euromaidan Revolution." The so-called revolution has been a disastrous project that placed fascist groups into power and further indebted the nation to the likes of the IMF.
“The conflict between Obama and Trump is really a conflict between competing factions of the capitalist class.”
Every action on the part of Washington during Obama's second term has indicated that the Ukraine-model is the Administration’s desired outcome for Russia. The Obama-Clinton camp of the ruling class views the current Russian state as a threat to US global hegemony. This explains why, even in the last days of its tenure, the Obama Administration has amplified the war narrative against Russia. The conflict between Obama and Trump is really a conflict between competing factions of the capitalist class. Trump believes that a peaceful relationship with Russia will benefit the profits of his capitalist partners, while Obama and his camp see a destabilized Russia as a boon for the banks and military contractors which have supported him so handsomely.
The danger here is that while Trump's virulent racism and billionaire status makes him untrustworthy at best, the Obama-Clinton camp's march to war with Russia is an immediate threat to humanity right now. A direct military confrontation between Russia and the US could turn nuclear, and fast. In fact, US intelligence contractors and consultants have been in discussion for years since the fall of the Soviet Union about the end of the so-called pact of "Mutually Assured Destruction" or MAD. This idea has its roots in the first Cold War. Many military analysts of the so-called "free world" concluded that the US and Soviet Union's possession of a strong, nuclear armed military prevented a direct confrontation due to the threat that the destruction of one country meant the destruction of both. Of course, this did not stop the US from using nuclear weapons on Japan in World War II as a show of force to the Soviet Union. And it certainly didn’t stop the US from murdering millions in Korea, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic in the name of containing communism.
“Vladimir Putin and the United Russia Party's rise to power in the 21st century ultimately broke US domination over Russia.”
During the Cold War, people living in the US were spoon-fed the narrative that the Soviet Union’s communist model in particular was a direct threat to the existence of so-called US democracy. Yet as WEB Du Bois and Paul Robeson can attest from their visits, the Soviet Union had much to teach the US. The Soviet Union's socialist economy guaranteed things like paid maternity leave and free childcare in its constitution, a right that escapes historical record for families in the US to this day. When the Soviet Union was destroyed in 1991, the majority of Russia was thrown into deep poverty. Public assets were privatized and worker control over the economy was taken away by force. Life expectancy for Russian men dropped by almost five years from 1991-1994 due to the sudden loss of vital services in healthcare, housing, and education. The majority of the Russian population hopes for the restoration of many aspects of life of the Soviet period.
When the Soviet Union was broken up into pieces, the US and its allies declared an "end of history." Global capitalism's dominance was declared a permanent fixture of life by its agents in Washington and the West. Russia became a vassal state of the US under the dictates of Boris Yeltsin. However, US dominance over Russia ended up being a short lived phenomenon. Vladimir Putin and the United Russia Party's rise to power in the 21st century ultimately broke US domination over Russia and should be seen as a direct backlash to the fall of the Soviet Union.
“Russia's foreign policy under Putin has been conducted with respect to international law.”
However, the era of Putin could never be labeled socialist or communist in orientation. The Russian government remains a capitalist state. However, Putin has become wildly popular among the Russian population mainly because his party has used the state to reign in the vilest forces of the nation's oligarchy. In 2000, Putin restored the Soviet national anthem and the red flag as national symbols, but left out the communist references. Poverty has declined under Putin and life expectancy has risen by five years. And Russia's foreign policy under Putin has been conducted with respect to international law, giving ordinary Russians a reason to be proud of the country's role in the world.
Of course, all is not rosy in Russia. The Russian Federation remains friendly with billionaires and the vast corruption of the Yeltsin-period has not been fully eradicated. Putin is not looking to give working people state power or distribute property on a socialized basis. Time and time again, Putin has expressed willingness to work with the US on matters of terrorism and trade. Activists and organizers in the US do not have to fall in love with Putin for these reasons. However, if criticism of Russia at this time takes precedence over fighting US imperialism, then a reexamination of the movement’s priorities is in order. It is the obligation of radical forces in the US to fight all wars whose roots lie in Washington D.C. The Russian people at this time have chosen Putin as their leader and the privileging of criticism of the Russian government over organized struggle against the US war machine only helps the latter continue its path of destruction.
“The massive silence that can be heard regarding US war crimes must be broken.”
When it comes to Russia, movement actors need to consider that Trump's Presidency has already brought about a higher level of insurgency than the Obama period. Nearly three decades of capitalist crisis and two-party consensus has ravaged the material conditions of workers and oppressed people throughout the planet. Monopoly capital's dominance in the US has also taken a toll on the consciousness of the movement. However, few activists and organizers within this insurgency have made the struggle against US imperialist war their own. The massive silence that can be heard regarding US war crimes must be broken. There exists a real danger that the movements of our time could be led down the anti-Russia path given the rabid way in which a section of the ruling class is currently promoting it. But Russia did not systematically rob the working class in the US, nor did it erect the largest police and prison state in the world. Russia is not waging endless warfare around the world at the expense of billions. All of this belongs on the shoulders of US imperialism and it is time we make this clear as the era of Trump nears.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]