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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Fascism After a Hundred Years

2022 marks 100 years since fascism first came into power.(1) At the end of October, 1922, King Victor Emmanuel III ceded the Prime Ministership of Italy to Benito Mussolini, the head of the National Fascist Party, effectively passing political power on to the fascists.

Italian fascism began as a motley nationalist movement, with few definitive left or right features, united only in its support for Italy entering the First World War.

In the aftermath of the war, the fascist movement was shaped as a reaction to the development of a revolutionary left. With industrial workers occupying factories, rural workers rebelling against landowners, and revolutionary socialists vying for leadership of the workers’ movement, Italian capitalists and big landowners struck a deal with the fascisti to serve as a paramilitary assault force-- squadristi-- against the revolutionary left. The Bolshevik Revolution, as a recent historic social cataclysm, loomed over Italian elites, conjuring their worst nightmare.

Without the conjunction of a successful socialist revolution in a major country, a militant working class inspired by the example, and a ruling class desperate to forestall a Bolshevik-like revolution, Italian fascism might have remained a minor cult, dissipating with the restoration of a stable post-war liberal order.

No doubt the rich and powerful of Italy thought that they could use the fascists for their own purposes. But they were willing to deliver political power to the fascists and allow them to restructure the state for the prize of eliminating the revolutionary threat.

It was this desperate fear of both the reordering of property relations and the destruction of class dominance that created the unique moment in 1922 when fascism went from a movement to a political party to a ruling order.

And it was this historically new fusion of capital and other forms of property with a uniquely modern absolutism, nationalism, and populism that defined Italian fascism after 1922.

Of course, there were ultra-right, ultra-nationalist movements before the rise of fascism.

In France, for example, after the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the Paris Commune, many French elites sought a restoration of France’s “glory.” The burst of nationalism took many forms: revanchism (or revenge on Germany), anti-Semitism (blaming Jews for the tarnished “glory”), Bonapartism (the demand for a strong leader), and monarchism (the restoration of the monarchy).

The movement to restore an imagined glorious France coalesced around a military leader named Georges Ernest Boulanger, noted for his persistent devotion to going to war with Germany and settling accounts. Boulangisme thrived for a few years, adding elements of populism to its nationalist agenda, even attracting many former leftists.

Superficially, Boulangisme resembles later fascist movements, and a few bourgeois historians see it as such. But it lacked the two vital features that are characteristic of fascism and its time. First, there was no imminent anti-capitalist revolutionary threat posed to the existing order demanding a ruling class reaction. And second, the ruling class perceived no existential danger sufficient to discard republicanism-- bourgeois democracy.

In January of 1889, Boulanger’s opportunity arose, but his hesitation and the opposition of most of the ruling class and its agency thwarted a coup.

It is instructive that Boulangisme has gone down in history as a footnote to the nineteenth century.

The Bolshevik revolution and the rise of revolutionary Communist and Workers’ Parties created the conditions for an extremist movement like National Fascism in Italy to be adopted by the Italian ruling class, while the Boulangisme movement is lost to historical obscurity. Reaction becomes fascism only when revolutionary socialism mounts an existential threat to capitalism.

The rise of Nazism fully underscores this dynamic that we came to generically call “fascism.” The rise of ultra-nationalist, revanchist sects led by World War I veterans was commonplace in post-war Germany. The Nazi phenomenon competed successfully in rising above others with its audacity and a significant element of populism captured in its name: national socialism.

As in Italy, the rise of Communism inspired some capitalists, including a group of leading industrialists, to sponsor Nazism’s activity as a hedge against an aroused working class and the prospect of revolution. Until the Great Depression struck Germany, its rulers successfully suppressed the Nazi Party (the party was banned and Hitler imprisoned in its effort to copy Italian fascism’s insurrectionary march on Rome) and the party received less than 3% of the vote in the 1928 federal election.

But the economic downturn stressed the German bourgeois parties that had no answer to the economic collapse, to the ensuing unemployment and worker militancy, and to a Communist Party growing in size and influence.

The Nazi Party, drawing greater support from a desperate ruling class and a déclassé petty bourgeoisie, was seen as a bulwark against revolution. As desperation rose, the bourgeois parties threw their support behind an aging ultra-nationalist former general friendly to Hitler, Erich von Hindenburg, electing him president of the republic.

It was only a matter of time before Hindenburg, no friend of republicanism, would hand the chancellorship to Hitler, following the example of the Italian king.

These two European examples of the rise of ultra-nationalist “saviors” of bourgeois rule constitute the template of classical fascism. Throughout Europe in the inter-war period, other responses to the revolutionary left led to other extreme-right regimes defending the ruling elites against an ascendant workers’ movement. Such rightist movements were led by Bonapartist figures like Mannerheim, Pilsudski, Horthy, Salazar, and Franco. While none follow strictly the route to power or the character of rule of classical fascism, they share the essential feature of defending bourgeois rule against the revolutionary left while disposing of bourgeois democracy to ensure their success.

Whether one chooses to call Francoism (1939-1975 in Spain) or Pinochetism (1973-1990 in Chile) “fascist” or “quasi-fascist” is a quibble, since they both share with classical fascism the destruction of bourgeois democracy in response to the perceived threat to the capitalist order.

Fascism Today

Since the demise of the Soviet Union and the decline or dissolution of mass Communist Parties in most countries, ruling classes have neither sought nor supported the overthrow of bourgeois democracy because of an existential threat from the left. Nonetheless, a broad spectrum of leaders and commentators from right to left have attached the term “fascist” to other political figures or movements. In the extreme, “fascist” or “fascism” has simply become an epithet to demonize an opponent.

More subtly, “fascism” is said to be a right-wing, nationalist, and/or racist movement resembling some of the features of some of the fascist movements of the twentieth century. This approach is especially common with academics, liberals, center-left politicians, or others who refuse to concede the critical place of anti-Bolshevik, anti-Communist ideology at the core of classical fascist thinking and its operational utility in garnering the sponsorship of the bourgeoisie.

Typically, theoreticians-- academic and otherwise-- develop a checklist of features distilled from a superficial examination of Nazism ripped from its historical context. Chauvinism, political violence, conservative social values, a cult of personality, etc., are all contingent features of historical fascism; but none alone or taken together were incompatible with or absent from the preceding Weimar Republic or other prior historical eras that witnessed the rise of ultra-nationalist movements. It was the fear of revolution and a compliant bourgeois ruling order that served as the necessary elements to bring fascism to power.

Of course, it is important to recognize as extremely dangerous the nostalgia for historical fascism, as exhibited by the American Nazi Party, the National Socialist White Peoples’ Party, and the many other US “Nazi” organizations that have been spun off. In the same way, the current Ukrainian cult around 20th-century fascist Stepan Bandera is extremely dangerous. With the passage of time distancing the Ukrainian people from the sordid history of the OUN and Nazi collaboration, the promotion of ultra-nationalist groups by opportunist politicians and Western interventionists is not only dangerous, but criminal. They will occupy the same place in hell reserved for the US, NATO, and Israeli imperialists that unleashed fanatical, ultra-conservative jihadists on the world.

Misunderstanding fascism, its origins, and its logic can disable the left. Western leftists have drawn lessons-- both good and bad-- from the united, anti-fascist front adopted by the Communist International in the mid-1930s.

Communists then understood the nature of fascism, connecting it to the vulnerability of capitalism and its goal: “ bury Marxism, the revolutionary movement of the working class…”. Led by the veteran anti-fascist Georgi Dimitrov, Communists resolved to put aside differences with other working-class organizations-- principally social democracy-- to combat the threat from fascism and the growing danger of world war. This became an elastic tactic, expanding to advocate unity with any non-working-class elements who stood staunchly against fascism:

…when the scattered proletarian detachments, at the initiative of the Communists, join hands for the struggle against the common enemy, when the working class, marching as a unit, begins to act together with the peasantry, the lower middle classes and all democratic elements, on the basis of the People’s Front program, then the offensive of the fascist bourgeoisie is confronted with an insurmountable barrier. (Dimitrov, G., Against Fascism and War, p. 103)

It is clear from this excerpt from Dimitrov’s essay People’s Front that a popular front is broad, indeed. But it is also clear that it is defensive and tactical, meant to stave off the fascist threat.

Yet, Dimitrov also intimates in other passages that the United Front tactic may be a transitional form leading to overthrowing capitalism and a corrective to Communist isolation from the masses.

It was this ambiguity that carried over into the post-World War II era and led many Communist and Workers’ Parties to adopt popular frontism as a strategic approach or as a stage in the transition to socialism. Whether it took the form of an anti-monopoly front or party, a broad labor party, or opportunistically, a “historical compromise” or “Common Program” with bourgeois parties, like the strategy of the self-destructed Italian Communist Party or the now nearly spent French Communist Party, popular frontism became a widely accepted strategy, especially with the Western left. The debate over this strategy continues to this day within the Communist movement.

But it was the application of the united-front tactic against fascism that has proven most problematic since the decline of the social democratic left and the rise of a new fundamentalist right after the economic crisis of the 1970s. In the US and the UK, Reagan and Thatcher were the embodiment of the right turn toward ultra-nationalism, chauvinism, vulgar individualism, deregulation and privatization. Given the gains made by the socialist countries, the victory in Indochina, the growing popularity of socialism in emerging countries, and even a revolution in the West (Portugal), some sensed a “whiff of fascism” in this rightward turn, a right reaction to a growing threat from the left.

After the fall of the Soviet Union-- the bulwark of socialism-- and the accompanying disarray of the Communist Parties, the rightward turn accelerated, realigning the Western bourgeois political parties. New Democrats, New Labor, New Social Democrats moved farther right to accommodate the rightward turn, rather than fight it.

Rather than rebuilding a vital left around the interests of working people, rather than standing apart from the rightward drift, rather than filling the void left by the capitulation of the tradition center-left, many leftists painted the right as fascist, seemingly justifying laying the socialist project aside and joining with the bourgeois parties in defeating the most extreme elements of the right. The historic left project of defeating capitalism and replacing it with a peoples’ economy was to be deferred until the right (the fascist right!) was dead and buried. This was sold as revisiting the 1930s United Front against Fascism.

With the rise of right-wing populist parties and toxic personalities like Orban, Trump, and Johnson, the “fight against fascism” reached its zenith. Much of the twenty-first-century reshuffled left embraced electoral alliances with bourgeois institutions and political parties against right-wing populism under the banner of uniting against the right. In every case, this strategy helped entrench insipid center-right politicians at a moment of political crisis and growing popular anger and alienation.

This analysis and strategy are wrong on many accounts.

Most importantly, it misrepresents fascism, ripping the ideology from its historical roots founded in a desperate life-and-death struggle with the revolutionary left. Today’s left is far remote from posing an existential challenge to the capitalist system and will remain so if it continues to organize against the phantasm of an imminent fascist threat.

Secondly, the current iteration of bourgeois democracy has been corrupted and drained of democratic content to the extent that while it presents a formidable obstacle to any popular revolutionary surge, it is a well-oiled pathway for the dictates of ensconced ruling classes. That is not to deny that all the bourgeois factions engaged in the electoral game “play” the system to retain power with little regard for the procedural “rules” heralded by bourgeois democratic institutions. It is not necessary to discard bourgeois democracy to thwart change in our corrupted political environment.

Thirdly, the populist right has made no serious effort to create the kind of ideologically-bound squadrista typical of historical fascism. As Diana Johnstone wrote recently in response to the charge that Marine Le Pen, the French right-wing populist, would “confiscate power” and never give it up:

And how would she do that? Her party is not very strong and entirely based on electoral politics. There is no militia organized to use force for political purposes (as in the case of real historic fascists). There are plenty of counter-powers in France, including political parties, hostile media, a largely left-leaning magistrature, the armed forces (linked to NATO), big business and finance which have never supported Le Pen, the entertainment industry, etc., etc.

No one could seriously compare the disorganized, fumbling crew that made an unwelcome visit to the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to the organized, disciplined 30,000 Blackshirts who marched on Rome a hundred years ago.

The exaggerated “threat of fascism” reflects a lack of confidence that the people of the advanced capitalist countries will embrace true, qualitative, revolutionary changes, that the anti-capitalist left can compete for the loyalty, votes, and actions of working people. Instead of building a bold movement for socialism, the timid, despairing left chooses an unrequited affair with center forces in a quixotic struggle against a far-off, hazy foe.

This is not to minimize the harm that the unrelenting rightward march of the bourgeois parties in the advanced capitalist countries has brought on working people over many decades. But that rightward push must be met in the battleground of ideas with bold, aggressive proposals that go beyond a rear-guard defense; it must advance the interests of working people; and it must provide a vision beyond the resignation that there is no alternative to the tune-up of a bankrupt capitalist system.

If we win working people to such a vision, a day will undoubtedly come when we will truly encounter the ugly face of fascism.

(2)  For an entertaining, but remarkably sophisticated account of the rise of fascism and its logic, there is nothing better than to watch Bernardo Bertolucci’s film, 1900. This 5 ½ hour epic captures the class dynamics from Italian fascism’s roots to its defeat in 1944. Forgive the silly historical compromise ending that Bertolucci undoubtedly developed from the Italian Communist Party’s 1976 program.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Truth Lost in the Muck

If the Pew Research Center polling is to be believed, a remarkable-- perhaps unprecedented-- change in US attitudes occurred between January and the end of March. In January, forty-nine percent of the US population thought that Russia was a mere competitor to the US. Another seven percent saw Russia as a partner. Today, seventy percent see Russia as “an enemy”! 

Where Republicans have tended in the past to carry over Cold War attitudes to the twenty-first-century Russian Federation, Democrats with a very unfavorable opinion on Russia now surpass Republicans with a similar view. Seventy-two percent of Democrats or those leaning Democrat see Russia unfavorably, with sixty-six percent perceiving Russia as “a major threat to the US.”

Interestingly, those who are older, better educated, and liberal are more likely to “see Russia as an enemy.”

While a shrill, uncritical media have amplified official hysteria over the February 24 invasion, Pew research shows that the negative view of Russia as a “major threat” has trended up for most of the last decade and a half. After the 2016 election, Democrats’ fears of Russia increased sharply and, of course, again now, with the invasion.

Whatever one thinks about the Russian invasion-- and one can credibly both deplore the invasion and the ensuing growing risk of escalating war while denouncing the US and NATO provocations and aggressions that preceded it-- the manufacturing of hatred for Russia orchestrated by US officialdom and the media demonstrates an enormous power to move public opinion with little regard to reality or responsibility. 

Russia has no military bases near US borders and has neither attacked or threatened to attack US personnel or property. Yet, the US government and NATO have portrayed Russia as a potential or actual enemy for most of this century. 

Beginning with the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the Democrats have elevated Russia to the source of all their failings or setbacks, leading the charge on damning everything Russian. Russia has become the great meddler: Russia meddled in the elections; it supported Trump; it spread disinformation and peddled influence. For leading Democrats, electoral victory was only denied because of Russia.

Of course, all the charges of Russian meddling proved false or insignificant. From embarrassing leaks of campaign shenanigans, from alleged Internet bot farms to Russian collusion with Trump, the Democratic Party claims were debunked or shown of little consequence. Nonetheless, the media charged ahead, legitimizing, exaggerating, and fabricating. Only those playing close attention or following alternative media would know that Russia-blaming was bogus, unworthy of note.

US rulers, self-anointed as guardians of the capitalist world order, have never forgiven Russia for its decisive role in defeating the US proxies in the Syrian war, prompting another example of a relentless media campaign misrepresenting interests, motives, and facts.

The media not only docilely parrots State Department and Defense Department explanations of Russia’s ill intentions, but dutifully masks the machinations of the new US Cold Warriors. For years, the US has encouraged the expansion of NATO, closing in on Russian borders, and arming hostile anti-Russian states surrounding Russia. The US military has staged war games near Russia and violated its airspace. The cable news commentariat and Sunday morning blowhards have neither noted this trend nor warned of its consequences.

Against the backdrop of this crude, unbalanced propaganda campaign, it should come as no surprise that a Russian invasion-- regardless of the history and circumstances-- should generate another round of demonization and hysteria. But the dimensions of the current media blitz-- a relentless depiction of the noble, heroic Ukrainians versus the brutal, inhuman Russians-- transcend all proportion.

Even a doctrinaire liberal obsessed with legalisms, like Professor Richard Falk, is surprised by the extreme, rabid vitriol directed at the Russians: “There have been other horrific events in the period since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, including Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Palestine yet no comparable clamor for criminal justice and punitive action.” While Falk accepts the conventional depiction of “clear criminality” on the part of the Russians, he is equally appalled at the “pure geopolitical hypocrisy on the other side.”

And hypocrisy it is. Writing on the same day (April 8) as Falk, Nick Turse recounts a US bombing of a city in Iraq in 2015 that “killed at least 85 civilians, may have injured 500 or more people, and reportedly damaged 1,200 businesses and 6,000 homes…”

Almost seven years after the attack, Hawija has never recovered, according to the new report. “The airstrike killed breadwinners and destroyed many workplaces and so cost many people their livelihood; because people’s homes had become uninhabitable, they became displaced; damage to the electricity network reduced civilians’ access to clean (and thus safe) drinking water,” it states. “This demonstrates how one single airstrike can cause reverberating civilian harm effects that last years, even generations.”

Both the horrific attack on Hawija-- one of countless civilian atrocities inflicted by the US military and its allies over many years and many wars-- and the recent FOIA revelations cited by Turse got or get none of the attention brought on by allegations of civilian casualties afflicted in today’s war in Ukraine. The US media has been silent, skeptical, or matter-of-fact over charges of civilian casualties inflicted by US or allied forces, even when the incidents were conceded by the US military!

Any careful reader or viewer of US media accounts of alleged Russian criminality must note that there is no independent investigation of the charges made or welcomed. The word of Ukrainian authorities is simply taken, with no hesitation or attempt made at securing secondary confirmation. The words “alleged,” “claimed,” or purported” -- hedge words associated with good journalism-- never appear before the reports made by Ukrainian officials.

On the other hand, claims by the Russian Ministry of Defense or other Russian authorities are nearly always followed by something like “Those claims couldn’t be confirmed independently.” Clearly different scales of evidence are being used.

Enormous pressure has been exerted on the more deliberate European leaders who have been hesitant to join the sanctions frenzy stirred by the US, UK, NATO, and Eastern European ultra-nationalists. For Italy, the charges by Zelensky of a massacre in Bucha, Ukraine were, without further substantiation, sufficient to move Italy to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas. Only Germany, Austria, and Hungary in the EU continue to resist imposing further hardships on their people to advance NATO’s militaristic aims.

Ukraine’s president, Zelensky, has attained rock-star status in the West with a tour of venues from parliaments to the Grammys, adding his TV-honed skillful appeals to the politician-concocted, media-transmitted message that Russia is the enemy of mankind. No Western talking head ever casts any doubt on Zalensky’s political legitimacy in the wake of the 2014 coup.

With NATO, Ukraine, and Russia arming at a maddening pace and the threat of an expanding war increasing exponentially, the shameless, truth-bending role of the media is irresponsible, if not criminal.

Yet, it should come as no surprise. In 2003, a similar overwrought, frenzied media campaign behind the US invasion of Iraq rallied a majority with a very thin tissue of lies at its foundation. In retrospect, it is difficult to remember even one journalist, outside of the fringes of the mainstream or with the alternative media, who dared to challenge the official, US government narrative. It should have been a profound refutation of the notion that we have a free and independent press. 

And recent Western media coverage of wars in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria show the same slavish obeisance, the same conformity, underscoring the myth that capitalist journalism and objectivity belong in the same room.

Of course, the fusing of the private press and the government opinion-makers reaches its highest stage in the US. Moreover, it is not a new phenomenon, but one that has evolved with the concentration of media assets into complex monopoly-entertainment corporations.

Even farther back, during the Korean War, the flow of war “information” was contaminated with the taken-at-face-value, tainted statements of generals and politicians, as documented by I. F. Stone’s nearly-forgotten classic, The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951. Through a careful reading of news releases, press conferences, and date-lined reports, Stone was able to find the inconsistencies, the exaggerations, and the prevarications that passed for the official account of that war.

As perhaps the US’s foremost and most fearless liberal investigative reporter, Stone continued to puncture the smug, self-satisfied journalism of his and our era. He was one of the very few voices to challenge the Gulf of Tonkin fabrications that led to the massive escalation of the Vietnam War.

In response to a speech by President J. F. Kennedy before the American Newspaper Publishers Association after the Bay of Pigs debacle, Stone wrote:

Now it seems that no truly patriotic American, especially a newspaperman, is supposed to tell the truth once our government has decided that it is more advantageous to tell a lie. This is the real meaning of President Kennedy’s appeal to the American Newspaper Publishers Association for self-censorship in the handling of the news. (When the Government Lies, Must the Press Fib? -- May 3, 1961)

If Stone were alive today, he would be sickened by the utter servility of our media to power and wealth.

Greg Godels

Sunday, April 3, 2022

War in Ukraine: Will There be a Winner?

While debates rage unproductively over which side to support in the Ukraine war, the larger questions of who will ultimately gain and who will lose are becoming clearer.

Making matters most difficult is the fog of tricked-out misinformation flowing from all sides, reminding us of how capitalism has corrupted, vulgarized, and juvenilized the occupation of journalism.

At times in the twentieth century, there was a small, elite cell of adventuresome journalists who would draw satisfaction from risking life and limb to offer eye-witness accounts counter to the official narrative. A careful reader could allow for class bias, editorial meddling, and euphemism to construct a credible, independent picture of events or incidents.

Today, the number of independent journalists in that tradition can be counted on the digits of one or two limbs.

No one is sneaking into Mariupol to check on Ukrainian atrocity claims or sampling Russian death notices to challenge official numbers. Reports of military encounters are simply taken from government press releases or news conferences from the Ukrainian Ministries, NATO, or the Russian Ministry of Defense. The mainstream media is surfacing no Seymour Hershs or David Halberstrams. If they arose today, they would be summarily banished to celebrity chasing. Consequently, little is reported of high confidence, neither atrocity nor heroism.

To make matters worse, the swarm of “expert” commentators make little effort to place events in any context, historical or otherwise. We don’t know where the level of fighting, military progress and competence, civilian casualties, or physical destruction stand in relation to other recent wars or confrontations (for example, US or NATO wars) or in relation to reasonable expectations. We only have unsupported generalities and emotional, unsupported charges of “genocide,” “brutality,” or “war crimes.”

Nevertheless, we can avoid succumbing to wild media exaggerations while also drawing some useful conclusions from facts that are uncontested.

It is uncontested that Russia has, after a month of fighting, revised its plan, downscaling its goals. The Russian government has so stated. That fact implies that its initial plan was not successful, which implies, in turn, that the government misjudged the military balance of forces. The Ukrainian resistance was stronger, the Russian attackers were weaker, or both.

We can only speculate whether Russian military leaders thought that they would be met as liberators, that internal allies would rise up, that the West would offer no assistance, or that the Ukrainian military was decisively weaker than it proved to be. In any case, the war continues, with thousands, perhaps ten of thousands, dead and millions driven from their homes.

You don’t have to fall for the Western media circus that, like the skillful British propagandists of the 1914 War, depict the adversary as bloodthirsty rapists, pillagers, and child killers, to recognize that the public relations campaign for the hearts and minds of the West has been won by the US, NATO, and Ukraine.

The Blinken/Nuland State Department has successfully used a compliant media to shepherd the more level-headed, practical, and hesitant politicians in Germany, France, and Italy into joining the ultra-nationalist Eastern European Russia-haters in a crusade against Russia. Europe is now more militantly aligned against Russia than at any time since the height of the Cold War. Military budgets are swelling and economic, social, and diplomatic ties with Russia have been severed, with the US energy sector and war-making industry the biggest winner.

If US policy was to bait Russia into intervention-- and I think it was-- then the trap succeeded.

Whatever security goals the Russian government sought, the best that they will get are treaty guarantees that have no more gravitas with successive Ukrainian governments than the vague assurances of the past. A poor country armed with aged Soviet weaponry is now armed to the teeth with many of the latest and most effective NATO instruments of war.

Understandable concerns over the growing influence of ultra-nationalist Stepan Bandera admirers and the thugs and gangs that embrace Bandera’s World War II Nazi collaboration will now only grow with their further acceptance and integration into Ukrainian resistance to the invasion. The invasion has actually legitimized their role in fighting the Russian invaders, deflecting from their history of terrorism-- the opposite outcome from that projected by the Russian government in its explanations.

An already dubious democracy, Ukraine has stepped back, outlawing eleven opposition parties, including the Communist Party. It has condoned the harassment of Russian speakers and charged many with sabotage and betrayal.

War has eroded Russian civil liberties as well, with anti-war activists harassed and arrested.

The US’s favored war-by-other-means strategy-- comprehensive sanctions-- has cost Russia dearly, beginning with the killing of the Nord Stream II pipeline. Weaponizing sanctions to accomplish foreign policy goals has become a highly effective way for the US to impose its will. The US government manufactures warrants for sanctions for reasons often beyond ridiculous (the charge of “terrorism,” for example, is made and then instantly withdrawn with no evidence of changed behavior). Those sanctioned may even include parents or children of “bad” actors, a cruel application of kin punishment.

What is truly astonishing is how the US administration secured the collaboration of European leaders in approving sanctions against Russia that actually harm Europe more than Russia! Undoubtedly, this kind of distorted “unity” will rebound badly on both the US and the EU.

It must be noted that imperialist war always immediately benefits the participating leaders by distracting from their failings and rallying support around patriotic appeals. In this regard, Putin, Zalensky, Biden, and the other NATO leaders all drank from the cup of imperialist opportunism.

In the short run, Putin appears to be the determined defender of Greater Russian interests, Zalensky the heroic underdog facing the Russian Bear, and Biden the indignant defender of the cause of self-determination. But Putin and Zalensky have fat in the fire, necessitating an endgame before casualties, costs, or opposition grow too much. Only Biden benefits from an extended war, though his NATO allies may wake up to their sacrifices for US foreign policy aims.

As a wave of inflation follows the latest wave of COVID, threatening to further hammer the global economy and further erode living standards, attention is drawn from the failure of bourgeois politicians to offer all but the lamest of solutions to a war promising little but pain for the world’s workers.

Thousands rally in Athens against the imperialist war in Ukraine and against Greece’s involvement in an action organized by the Communist Party of Greece

As always, imperialist war only benefits the weapons purveyors and the predatory corporations, while bringing tragedy to the working classes. We must refuse to participate in our own destruction

Greg Godels