“What the anti-Russia madness has done is provide an extralegal basis from which to attack any ideology or organization that the ruling class dislikes.”
A new year has dawned on US imperialism and the nations that remain under its orbit. The annual transition is often seen as a time to reflect on the events of the preceding year. Reflections bear lessons that inform resolutions and goals formulated for the year to come. 2018’s arrival marks nearly a year since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the Commander in Chief of US imperialism. Many progressives and radicals feared Trump’s ascendancy but hoped that the billionaire would bring about a resurgence in left politic thought and action in the United States. These hopes never materialized.
For all the chaos and crisis that has befallen the White House, Trump has not produced a resurgent left politics in the US. Some may disagree with this assertion. After all, organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have enjoyed a surge in membership since Trump took the White House. The term “socialist,” however, is not an automatic victory for left politics. The DSA has indeed grown and inserted itself in important struggles across the US, including the fight for single payer healthcare. However, DSA and related organizations have been silent on the intensified suppression of the left, which has been equally if not more so characteristic of the Trump era than anything else.
“Trump has not produced a resurgent left politics in the US.”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the suppression is that it isn’t necessarily being led by Trump. Much of the ruling class did not intend for Trump to become President. It has attempted to settle the score with the billionaire in a critical period for the imperialist system. Trump’s overt racism, his tirade against trade, and his talk of a détente with Russia made the possibility of a Trump Presidency inconvenient for a system that relies on US exceptionalism to justify wars at home and abroad. Trump helped strengthen the alliance between the Democratic Party, Republican Party, and the intelligence apparatus in their joint aim to protect the cause of war. These forces wanted nothing more than to control the chaos in Washington and use it to achieve their interests. While the masses have watched on as the ruling class opposition to Trump gossips about his “fitness” for President and pretends to oppose policies such as the recent tax bill, a campaign of repression has been carried forward against the radical left in relative silence.
This campaign of repression illuminates the full character of the US imperial state. One of the major reasons that 2017 was a year of stagnation in radical left politics is because the era of Trump was spurred on by a crisis of neo-liberal imperialism. Conditions both in the US and Western world as well as its spheres of influence have brought about the unraveling of the superstructure. The dominant ideology of US exceptionalism has been challenged by record rates of incarceration, police brutality, and poverty. Military incursions around the world no longer bring material benefit to much of the US and Western populations who are seeing cuts to education and healthcare alongside depreciating wages and job opportunities. Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, two movements that were repressed heavily by the state, were the initial seeds of rebellion against the white supremacist, corporate arrangement that led to the political crisis that rose to the surface in the 2016 Presidential elections.
“DSA and related organizations have been silent on the intensified suppression of the left.”
US imperialism has no solution to what unfolded and can only attempt to opportunistically pursue its agenda in the face of crisis. That agenda has three components. The first is to ensure unmitigated profit for the ruling class. The second is to legitimize the state apparatus that protects unmitigated profit. And the third is to wage war on any alternative that challenges the sanctity of US hegemony. It is only in the context of US imperialism’s agenda that the repression of the left can be fully understood.
The major policy currently underwriting the state-sanctioned repression of the left is the “Russia Probe.” Trump’s signal toward a détente with Russia caused US imperialism’s military apparatus to panic and unleash an investigation into whether the Russian government “colluded” with Trump to win the election. So far, the investigation led by prominent millionaire Democrats like Adam Schiff and intelligence moguls such as James Clapper has yielded zero evidence of Russian interference in US political affairs. However, what the anti-Russia madness has done is provide an extralegal basis from which to attack any ideology or organization that the ruling class dislikes. Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein has been targeted as a possible collaborator with the Kremlin. Google and Facebook have been willing accomplices to the ruling class purge of the left, changing their algorithms to effectively minimize the reach of outlets such as World Socialist Web Site and Black Agenda Report.
“Trump helped strengthen the alliance between the Democratic Party, Republican Party, and the intelligence apparatus in their joint aim to protect the cause of war.”
Suppression of the left is nothing new, but the focus on Russia represents a new phase in the policy. Both ruling parties helped spawn the “War on Drugs” and “War on Terror” as universalized extensions of the COINTELPRO apparatus that terrorized radical left movements a generation ago. The “Russia Probe” follows the same formula under different circumstances. US imperialism’s declining economic influence around the world and the conditions of depravity that characterize the US mainland necessitate a larger target. Demonizing Russia not only develops a further basis for war in the region, but also gives the ruling class a convenient weapon against domestic insurrection.
Demonizing Russia has given cover to widely unpopular political developments in the era of Trump. RT and Sputnik are now classified as “foreign agents” and the range of independent media available to the public has been significantly reduced. Furthermore, both corporate parties have agreed to the largest military budget in recorded history with little resistance from the left. The budget increase will ostensibly be used to escalate wars in Ukraine, the DPRK, Iran, and Venezuela to name a few. Meanwhile, Trump’s domestic policy has followed Republican Party orthodox with the passage of the tax bill. The Administration’s foreign policy, on the other hand, has been haphazard and dangerous, signaling that the “Russia Probe” has achieved only one thing; and that is to fortify and expand the warfare state.
“Demonizing Russia not only develops a further basis for war in the region, but also gives the ruling class a convenient weapon against domestic insurrection.”
The “Russia probe” is designed to ensure that a system where Wall Street and its war mongers sit at the vanguard of society remains the dominant one. That is why the left is entangled in the many webs that the ruling class has spun to justify its anti-Russia campaign. US imperialism is undergoing a multifaceted crisis. Overproduction, automation, slowdown, and massive global inequality override whatever slight improvements in economic growth have occurred in the last few years. The political system, embodied in the duopoly, is incapable of reversing the tide of economic catastrophe. Social democratic demands such as healthcare, education, and jobs have been abandoned for the luxuries derided from austerity, police state repression, and war. Investigations into Russian interference and discussions about Trump’s “fitness” for office only add insult to injury to those Black Americans locked in the prison state or poor people struggling to survive on low-wages. They demonstrate clearly the contempt the system has for the masses of people and lay the basis for further crisis.
“There can be no battle of ideas without a vanguard party, and there is no vanguard party without a battle of ideas.”
The left needs both independent organization and ideology to chart a new path forward for humanity. Independent media is a critical tool for left-wing thinkers, activists, and organizers. A revolutionary movement requires a revolutionary culture and consciousness. Media played a major role in the Black Panther Party’s explosive growth in the late 1960s. National liberation forces in Vietnam relied on propaganda to spread their message of socialist resistance far and wide. Any revolution and movement that has ever been successful relied upon two distinct but related tools to achieve victory. One tool was a vanguard party. The other was ideology. There can be no battle of ideas without a vanguard party. And there is no vanguard party without a battle of ideas. Revolutions in Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea, and Algeria would not have overthrown the yoke of the oppressor without the tools of organization and ideology at the disposal of the masses.
This makes the defense of radical and revolutionary media an important piece to the puzzle that will determine whether 2018 will be a year of resurgence for left politics in the US. Black Agenda Report is the only Black-led source currently reeling from the effects of US imperialism’s suppression of independent media. Black Agenda Report is also one of the few, if not the only independent source that does not kowtow to the forces of imperialism, whether they are led by Black politicians such as Barack Obama or white billionaires like Donald Trump. Black Agenda Report is a tool for class struggle that walks in the legacy of the Black Radical Tradition. For Black Agenda Report and independent media to survive and thrive, the anti-Russia madness must be stopped. You can start by clicking the donate button on the top and signing on to Black Agenda Report’s email list. Make 2018 the year you begin the lifelong commitment to the struggle for a resurgent left that was arrested the year prior.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He can be reached at [email protected]