Readers of this blog will notice an uptick in the number of posts in the last few weeks. Events in Ukraine, and misleading and obfuscatory spins on them promoted by various middle class left groups and parties, deserve the credit - or blame.
Events in Ukraine have offered the middle class left ample opportunity to get a variety of questions wrong, and these forces have taken advantage of the opportunity with a vengeance.
Most, from CPUSA to Workers World Party to Party for Socialism and Liberation, immediately proclaimed the triumph of fascism in Kiev. Their definitions of fascism boil down to "anything that offends my sensibility," and consciously reject revolutionary socialist continuity on the subject, especially knowledge summed-up from actual struggles in the 1920s and 1930s contained in the works by Leon Trotsky and Daniel Guerin.
Middle class left groups and individuals also immediately liquidated any solidarity to the nationally oppressed Ukrainian and Tartar peoples of Ukraine. Three hundred years of Great Russian chauvinism [broken only in the years 1917-1924] was rationalized out of existence in the blink of an eye. Apparently a nation can cease being oppressed when its oppressor finds itself crosswise to a satanic "US/EU" cabal. Uncritical support for Putin is on the order of the day.
Those who raised the national question were slapped-down as confusionists [at best] of fascists themselves.
Last night I got a Feedly link to Stop the War's statement on Ukraine, "10 things to remember about the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea," which can be found here. It is written by StW leader Lindsey German.
Stop the War is a UK anti-war outfit run by members of various left wing groups. It fielded large numbers in the streets back in 2003, before the US-organized invasion of Iraq. But its political clarity never rose higher than Bush-hating opportunist grandstanding.
The success of the U.S. president’s  trip [to London] was only reinforced by the anti-American, pro-British tone of the demonstrations in the United Kingdom, organized by the Stop the War Coalition and other forces around the theme “Stop Bush.” Focusing their fire on the U.S. government and portraying Blair as a mere “puppet” of Washington, they buttressed the nationalist framework of the British rulers’ efforts to assert their own imperialist interests in the world.
....The British nationalist, anti-American theme of these protests was underlined at the November 20 demonstration of more than 100,000 people that rallied in Trafalgar Square. A 20-foot effigy of Bush was toppled to the ground in imitation of the bringing down of a large statue of Saddam Hussein when invading U.S.-British forces took over Baghdad in April. TV coverage of the rally also showed demonstrators burning a U.S. flag.
Demonstrators carried signs referring to Blair as Bush’s “poodle” and reading, “Troops out now—Stop the organ grinder and his monkey,” with the prime minister of the British imperialist state portrayed as Bush’s monkey.
Referring to the Istanbul bombings, Lindsay German, convener of the Stop The War Coalition, said, “I don’t think it can be any coincidence that these attacks have come against British targets on the day that George Bush is visiting London.” Her argument repeated a commonly heard nationalist theme that “Bush’s war” is hurting “our interests” by making Britain vulnerable to “terrorism.” [Source]
The stressful mental zig-zags imposed on such forces are only increasing today. German's arguments in her statement on Ukraine show this. They resuscitate positions
1. Who is the aggressor? The obvious answer seems to be that it is Russia, but....
A variety of rationalizations follow to excuse Moscow's war moves against Kiev
3. US secretary of state John Kerry has made strong statements condemning Russia, and British prime minister David Cameron has argued against intervention and for national sovereignty. No one should take lessons from people who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and bombed Libya....
Pointing out the utter hypocrisy of the capitalist ruling class, especially in imperialist countries, is only the beginning of knowledge. To do so in order to absolve another capitalist state - in this case, Russia - deliberately misleads when clarity is vital.
But rationalizations on behalf Putin are still to come. It seems Russia's "president in permanence" is simply a Great Power chess piece on the geopolitical game board:
6. The United States is centrally involved. It oversaw the removal of Yanukovich, and its neocons are desperately trying to develop an excuse for war with the Russians. Neocon former presidential candidate John McCain visited Ukraine and addressed the demonstrations in Kiev. As did Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the US state department. Nuland is most famous for her recently leaked phone conversation about micromanaging regime change in Ukraine, in which she declared 'fuck the EU.' Her husband is neocon Robert Kagan, who was co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, the ideological parent of the Bush/Blair war on Iraq
The remaining points can be thus summarized:
7. Maidan protestors in Ukraine have no justified grievances against the recently ousted Yanukovych regime [austerity, anti-democratic laws, cop violence, Russian suzerainty in national politics]. The Maidan social explosion, instead, is the product of forces with a "direct lineage from the collaborators with the Nazis from 1941 onwards...."
8. Russophone speakers in Crimea do not oppose Russia, so why get so worked up?
9. UK activists cannot demand Russian hands off Ukraine.
I will quote section 10 in full, since it sums up StW's politics so perfectly:
10. The crisis in Ukraine has much to do with the situation in Syria, where major powers are intervening in the civil war. The defeat for intervention last year has infuriated the neocons. They are determined to start new wars. After the US failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the neocons are looking for a defeat of Russia over Ukraine, and by extension, China too. The situation is developing into a new cold war. The rivalry between the west and Russia threatens to explode into a much larger war than has been seen for many years.
In the U.S. the "neocon conspiracy" dropped off the politial radar after Obama's 2009 inauguration. But it now reemerges as the middle class left contorts itself over the profound historical and social contradictions bound-up with the Ukraine events.
In this way, while fulfilling its general role as a transmission belt for bourgeois values in the working class, left forces are also able to plow a little ground for Jew-hatred.
What is the "neocon" conspiracy to which StW attributes such world-changing power?
In a 2004 article in The Militant, Sam Manuel writes:
Over the past year there has been a spate of articles by liberal and middle-class radical commentators, as well as by rightists, that attack the Bush administration by claiming that today U.S. foreign and military policy is being orchestrated by a small group of “neoconservatives” in the Defense Department. They often point to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle, and other high-ranking officials.
Some of these commentators go further, pointing to officials with Jewish names and implying or saying that a Jewish “neocon cabal” is involved.
Such "ideas" are not simply the happy hunting ground of Patrick Buchanan and Lyndon LaRouch. They are also an attempt by radicals and leftists promoting the Democratic Party to rationalize bipartisan US foreign policy.
In another 2004 article in The Militant, Manuel writes:
.... the U.S. government is carrying out the most far-reaching shift in military strategy and organization since the second world imperialist war. With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. rulers are compelled to take steps to confront sharper competition from their imperialist rivals and prepare to take on more directly the resistance by workers and farmers to the effects of the deepening world capitalist crisis. Under the banner of the “global war on terrorism,” they are transforming the U.S. armed forces into a lighter, more mobile military better suited to fight the kinds of wars U.S. imperialism will have to pursue around the world.
No wing of the Democrats or Republicans has offered an alternative to this bipartisan foreign policy course. The tone of bourgeois politics in the United States, however, has become more shrill and intense. This growing factionalism among capitalist politicians is a result of the frustration by the U.S. rulers about their vulnerability in face of a future of sharpening economic crises, wars, and uncontrollable forces set in motion by these changes.
‘Neocons’ responsible for Iraq war?
In this context some liberal Democratic politicians and commentators, in attacking their Republican rivals, resort to the false and misleading charge that a secretive “neoconservative” group is shaping U.S. foreign policy and betraying “American interests.” These assertions obscure the fact that U.S. foreign policy is bipartisan, that the Bush administration is acting on behalf of the U.S. ruling class, and that this policy does serve their class interests.
In a typical commentary, Newark Star-Ledger columnist John Farmer decries “the neoconservatives around Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who, with Vice President Dick Cheney as their enabler, authored the misadventure in Iraq.” He identifies former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith, and former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle as among these.
In their 83-page paper titled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Harvard dean Walt and University of Chicago professor Mearsheimer marshal their arguments to contend that “the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the [Mideast] region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.’” They add that “the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby” has made Washington pursue policies beneficial to the Israeli government but not to “the American national interest.”
They argue that “the core of the Lobby is comprised of American Jews” who seek “to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel’s interests,” together with “neoconservative gentiles.” According to them, the so-called lobby not only includes Bush administration officials such as Wolfowitz and Feith, but that it controls the editorial boards of newspapers such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and has decisive influence in the Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, and other major think tanks.
Walt and Mearsheimer claim the “Israel lobby” and “neoconservatives” were the driving force behind the 2003 U.S. invasion in Iraq. “The Bush administration’s ambitious strategy to transform the Middle East—beginning with the invasion of Iraq—is at least partly intended to improve Israel’s strategic situation,” they assert.
The article by James Petras, entitled “The Tyranny of Israel Over America,” churns out the same argument and reeks with the same anti-Semitism and American nationalism. The only difference is that Petras has long portrayed himself as a socialist and anti-imperialist.
Petras quotes anonymous FBI “sources” to claim “large-scale deep penetration of American society and the government by Israeli spies and their collaborators” who fed “disinformation” to the U.S. government to persuade Washington to launch the war against Iraq. He too attributes U.S. foreign policy to the influence of “Feith, Wolfowitz, Perle, and other Zioncons closely identified with Israeli intelligence.”
Petras describes the invasion of Iraq as a war “in the service of Israel” that went against “U.S. good sense and national interest.”
Not surprisingly, Walt’s “research” paper won hearty applause from ultrarightist David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader. On his web site davidduke.com, he praised the Harvard dean for revealing “how these Jewish extremists have manipulated American policy against the clear interests of the American people.”
Who sets U.S. foreign policy?
These assertions about “neoconservative” and even “Jewish” control over Washington’s policies in the Mideast are fraudulent and reactionary. First, the leading figures in the alleged “neocon conspiracy” such as Wolfowitz and Feith, are no longer in the Bush administration. Second, none of the central officials responsible for Washington’s policy in Iraq—Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld—are Jewish.
Last week’s article noted that, while William Kristol’s Weekly Standard and other so-called neoconservatives were among those who in 1997-98 began to campaign for taking steps to overthrow the Saddam Hussein government, this course toward “regime change” predominated among most in the ruling class and became official policy under the Clinton administration.
The conspiracy theories, including the Jew-hating varieties, let the U.S. capitalists off the hook while promoting American nationalism. U.S. imperialism’s foreign policy, far from being hijacked by some isolated group, is controlled by and represents the interests of a class: the wealthy billionaire families who rule the United States, including both their parties, the Democrats and Republicans.
Confusion among workers hungry for a correct appraisal of events is successfully combined with promotion of conspiracy theories blaming Jews for capitalism's growing world disorder.
The "neocon" conspiracy theory embraced by middle class leftists and radicals is also part of a more general political obscurantism. It hides from workers the class basis of US foreign policy. It is ready-made for explaining-away mass mobilizations and historical social explosions like that occurring in Ukraine today. In it, our class become puppets and pawns, powerless and easily beaten as a class and incapable of building a revolutionary socialist leadership to fight for power.
A fellow Marxist on Facebook summed it up the StW statement this way:
Again with the "neocons" and "neoliberals" - this construct substitutes an ideological battle [between "progressives" & "anti-imperialists" against the "neos"] for class formations. It is a way around the direct critique of capital, and direct advocacy of the social interests of our class.(A more complete recapitulation of Sam Manuel's Militant articles on the "neocon" conspiracy can be found here.)
4 March 2014