featured, media watch, Russia, United States
Comments 14

RussiaDidIt: cheap meddling, closet Marxists and racial tensions

by Ricardo Vaz, from InvestigAction.net

Cover photo: “Racism – Shame of America” – Soviet poster about the civil rights struggle in the United States

Are you a western journalist or analyst with an issue you cannot explain? Do your symptoms include an unwillingness to learn anything from history and an unconditional embrace of western exceptionalism? Then we have just the thing for you: RussiaDidIt! Taken in the appropriate dosage, RussiaDidIt can be used for just any issue, small and large, old and new, near and far. Call your local US embassy or EU office and order your RussiaDidIt talking points. Side effects may include total paranoia, loss of credibility and a desire to wear the EU flag as a cape.

It seems like all the evils that plague the western world these days have a common cause. Brexit, Catalonia, Trump, racial tensions, the lack of credibility of the EU, all of these have a simple explanation, if we are to believe the mainstream media and pundits: Russia is behind it. And not just Russia, but Putin himself. He must be the busiest villain in history.

True journalists like Robert Parry have analysed and exposed the rise of this new McCarthyism, and how uncorroborated, or sometimes outrightly false, allegations gradually become unquestionable facts. [1]

Screenshots from the Washington Post and Politico

In this piece we examine three articles that have different angles of this RussiaDidIt approach. They have the paranoia of Russian meddling in US elections as a background, but everything applies just as well to similar stories about the EU. Inevitably it all ties back to an inability, or unwillingness, to learn anything from history, and this disgusting myth that everyone should look up to the West as a beacon of superior values. We start of course with the ineffable Guardian.

Cheap journalism and cheap meddling

One day journalism students will study the spiral of lowering standards that took hold of the Guardian. One can sense the denial taking hold of the newspaper as their liberal centrist paradise crumbles. They yearn for a knight in shining armour who can come and save them from Brexit, even if it is Tony Blair, because, believe it or not, the idea of the EU has been here since the Renaissance! [2]

As expected, the Guardian has embraced the idea that the Russians “hacked” the 2016 US elections (whatever that means) wholeheartedly. And it recently reported on new, ground-breaking revelations:

Russian trolls posing as Americans made payments to genuine activists in the US to help fund protest movements on socially divisive issues…

…the newspaper RBC published a major investigation into the work of a so-called Russian “troll factory” since 2015, including during the period of the US election campaign, disclosures that are likely to put further spotlight on alleged Russian meddling in the election.”

So far it sounds very serious. We then learn that the main “socially divisive issue” was race relations.

RBC counted 16 groups relating to the Black Lives Matter campaign and other race issues that had a total of 1.2 million subscribers. The biggest group was entitled Blacktivist and reportedly had more than 350,000 likes at its peak.

Last month, CNN also reported that US authorities believed the Blacktivist Facebook group and Twitter account were the work of Russian impostors.”

The liberal media have often thrown these outrageous suggestions that activism like Black Lives Matter is part of a foreign agenda, as opposed to a reaction to the structural racism that exists in the US (more on this later). But the main point that needs to be addressed about this cunning plan is the following: how much did the Russians spend in these devious activities of inflaming tensions in the US? A whopping… 80.000 dollars! The Guardian thinks the activities of some alleged troll factory engaging in social media activity and paying activists a grand total of $80.000 represents unacceptable Russian “meddling”!

Billboard accusing Martin Luther King Jr. of being a communist

Let us put this number in perspective. Hillary Clinton made $3 million out of 12 speeches to big banks. The entire spending in the US presidential election was almost $2 billion. And the Guardian is worried about these $80.000 worth of meddling. For comparison USAID spent $4.2 million advancing US interests in Venezuela in 2015 alone. Even if these $80.000 had been spent in a single year, it would still be 50 times smaller than what one of the US empire’s foreign policy branches spent only in Venezuela.

The Guardian piece closes by mentioning that the evil Russians also bought ads on Google and Facebook for “tens of thousands of dollars” and “$100.000”, respectively. So in essence, the Guardian is reporting that it found suspicious grains of sand in the desert.[3] It would seem Putin is not just an evil mastermind, he is also a legendary bargain hunter. It should also be clear that the tech giants are more than happy to play their part in the witch-hunt and the crusade against “fake news”, which is nothing but an attempt by the dominant classes to monopolise their control over information.

Trump is a closet Marxist!

Next we look at an opinion column which has got to be one of the most ludicrous texts ever written. At first glance it could be mistaken for satire, but it was actually written by Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard and former member of the Obama administration, for Bloomberg News. The title is “Russia Is Using Marxist Strategies, and So Is Trump”!

While the entire piece should be framed for posterity, we will just quote some of the highlights:

Karl Marx and his followers argued that revolutionaries should disrupt capitalist societies by “heightening the contradictions.” Russia used a version of that Marxist idea in its efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign.

What is more surprising, and far more important for American politics, is that President Donald Trump is drawn to a similar strategy.

Marx contended that as the conditions of workers started to improve, they would cease to be content with their lot, or to regard their alienation as inevitable. Lenin seized on this idea and transformed it into a revolutionary strategy. […] The job of the communist revolutionary was to “heighten” or “accelerate” those contradictions.

During the 2016 campaign, Russians did something very much like that, not to produce a revolution, but to deepen and intensify social divisions (and to help elect Donald Trump).

In short, the Russians tried to foster a sense of grievance and humiliation on all sides. […] Lenin would have been proud.”

The Russian actions that Sunstein is talking about are none other than the buying of social media ads and fostering of activism that we described in the previous section. But how about that for a deep understanding of Marx and Lenin? Sunstein does try to shield himself with a footnote that says:

I am giving a brisk summary of some famously complex and ambiguous arguments from both Marx and Lenin.” [my emphasis]

Marx, Engels, Lenin… and Trump? Cass Sunstein of Harvard University and Bloomberg News is on the maximum dosage of RussiaDidIt!

There is nothing ambiguous about Marx and Lenin. Sunstein’s argument, on the other hand, is unambiguously idiotic. The fundamental contradiction in capitalist society is that one (large) group, the working-class, sells its labour, while another one, the bourgeoisie, profits from it because it owns the means of production. These two groups have fundamentally different interests and are irrevocably at odds, this is called class struggle. Marx’s work is monumental because it was the first truly scientific analysis of the capitalist system, which meant it also explained how it could be destroyed.

The “accelerating of these contradictions” means accelerating this class conflict in order to do a little more than “disrupting” capitalism. The goal is to overthrow capitalism altogether, have the workers seize power and the means of production, and have a society free of exploitation [4] and where production is directed to satisfy human need and not the profit of capitalists. In other words, socialism.

Lenin’s contributions to Marxism, both in theory and practice, are of course way beyond the childish arguments in this piece, from his understanding of capitalism’s inevitable development into imperialism, to his development of the role of the vanguard party. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were responsible for the October Revolution of 1917, the first time that capitalism was overthrown, and the starting point for all the liberation movements that followed.

The whole argument, if it were taken seriously, would be about the strategy to “divide and conquer”, which has nothing to do with Marxism. Just like Trump, the real-estate mogul and reality-TV star, has nothing Marxist about him. If anything, Trump is the highest embodiment of western capitalism.

Surely among the vast libraries at Harvard there must be a “Marx for dummies” book that Professor Sunstein can read. But of course, writing these disingenuous pieces is much easier. The goal of course is to simultaneously push the RussiaDidIt argument and discredit a true alternative to the (capitalist) system, which has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton and a lot (or everything!) to do with Marx and Lenin.

Black Power and Red Baiting

The final article we wish to examine appeared in The Atlantic magazine, and it focuses on the long history of Russia’s “involvement in America’s race wars”. First of all, for a country with a history of slavery and segregation of African-Americans, not to mention the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW2, the term “race wars” seems like an awful understatement. One thing that actually has not changed is the red-baiting practices of the mainstream media, accusing anyone who deviates from the approved narrative of being a Soviet/Russian agent.

The article explores the history of the Soviet Union taking advantage of racial injustice in the United States for propaganda purposes. How dare those commies bring up the plight of black people in the US? Anyone who knows a bit of history knows that this is not entirely out of place. For example, in the struggle against apartheid, notably in the war in Angola, the US was on the side of apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union was on the side of the Angolans (and of black South Africans), even if their hand might have been forced by the Cubans.

Soviet posters about the struggle against colonialism: Left: “Capitalism is doomed!” (Artsrunyan, 1966); Right: “People of Africa Will Overpower the Colonizers!” (Kukryniksy, 1960)

There is plenty to be said about the Soviet Union’s foreign policy, but the fact is that there was not a single liberation struggle in the Third World in which the Soviet Union was on the side of the oppressor/colonist and the US on the side of the liberation movement. In fact it is the opposite that was true in most cases, if not all.

This takes us to the crux of the matter. According to historian Mary Dudziak, quoted in this piece,

Early on in the Cold War, there was a recognition that the U.S. couldn’t lead the world if it was seen as repressing people of color,”

Dudziak and all these analysts and journalists take for granted that the US, and the west in general, are supposed to lead the world. According to them, these issues of treating black people as second class citizens are a problem mainly because they make the US look bad, and its noble mission of spreading freedom and democracy becomes much harder! It would seem that if racism was a little more polite (or if the Soviets did not bring it up!), then the Sandinistas would have been happy with Somoza, the Viet Cong would have had nothing to fight for, etc.

This unquestioned embrace of US exceptionalism, coupled to a complete ignorance of history, is what ensures that these analysts completely miss the point. For them, people rejecting and resisting US imperialism, or rejecting the EU after years of austerity policies, is just a misunderstanding, which needs to be explained by nonsense such as RussiaDidIt. Had these people actually read Marx and Lenin, as opposed to spewing these idiocies, they would understand that backlash against neoliberalism, or resistance against US imperialism, is to be expected. And there is no amount of fancy speeches by the likes of Obama, saying “freedom” and “democracy” in every other sentence, that will fix that.

The loyal flag-bearers of the imperial establishment are outraged at the idea of someone paying $80.000 to US activists, but the US spending tens of millions funding NGOs and political parties all over the world is more than natural. They are outraged that RT reports on Occupy Wall Street or Ferguson, but Voice of America and Radio Martí are supposed to be welcomed by the rest of the world. Because they stand for the better values… Apart from all the death and misery that is caused by US imperialism, it is this belief in American exceptionalism that makes the US so despised around the world.

Finally, we should stress that our argument is not whataboutism. We are not saying that this issue in place X should not be discussed because there is this other issue in the US. Outlets like RT and Sputnik should have their editorial lines and journalism standards analysed and criticised. The same holds true for Russia’s foreign policy. But, paraphrasing someone who was also accused of being a Soviet agent, it cannot be the greatest purveyor of meddling in the world and media outlets with ever lowering standards bringing these charges forward and pretending to be the Guardians of truth.

Notes

  • (1) We have also written on the ridiculous report published by the CIA, FBI and NSA on the Russian “hacking” of US elections.
  • (2) One wonders why the EU is symbolised by the Medici paying Leonardo da Vinci or by Erasmus and Thomas More being friends and not, for example, by the bubonic plague or Lucrezia Borgia’s antics. You know what else was common to all of Europe before the EU? The slave trade.
  • (3) More recently the Guardian published another bombshell piece, saying that Russia’s Facebook posts reached 126 million Americans. But we are talking about 80.000 posts, only 0.004% of news feed content according to Facebook, during a two year period. The big number is perfect for propaganda, but conveniently it is not made clear whether 126m different users saw the posts, or if for example 10m users on average saw 120 of these posts.
  • (4) We should clarify that exploitation does not mean having a evil boss that pays low salaries and forces workers to work weekends. Workers in capitalism are exploited simply because there is a value difference between what they earn and what they produce. In other words, profit comes from unpaid labour. Exploitation is the foundation of capitalism and should not be framed in moral terms, which imply that the problem is not the system but a matter of finding “good capitalists”.

  • 14 Comments

    1. Michael McNulty says

      It wouldn’t be so bad if there had been a basis in truth upon which they could belabour the point but it is all based upon lies. America has sunk to the playground politics of petulant children. It is all so dangerous.

      Like

    2. rtj1211 says

      I would love to be hired by Russia as Chief Counsel in a court case about this. Never in legal history would a competent Brief have such a treasure trove of historical evidence to titillate a jury with.

      ‘Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, you are tasked in this trial in determining whether it is the right of genocidal mafias to bring a court case complaining that a young buck had the temerity to sleep with el Capo’s daughter and should thus be sent to Siberia for Hard Labour.

      I shall present conclusive documentary evidence, witness testimony and released CIA files to show that the USA and the UK have interfered in foreign nation state governance, have initiated coups to overthrow democratically elected Leaders, have funded armed insurgencies to install puppet dictators and have engaged in a global propaganda war using Hollywood, TV, print media and the internet all designed to secure US hegemony despite lack of democratic legitimacy.

      I shall present numerous strands of evidence concerning the execution of President John F Kennedy and his younger brother which at the very least can be said to have interfered with US democracy. US actors will be central to that interference.

      I shall present evidence of electoral roll malfeasance, electronic vote rigging, voter intimidation and more to demonstrate inculcated undermining of US democracy from within, notably from within the US Republican party.

      I shall present evidence of the KKK actively seeking to prevent suffrage for those of colour, the higgest single historical interference in US democracy on record.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, I will present a case presenting the USA as the worlds greatest historical philanderer taking a man to court for shagging said philanderer’s wife, who presumably was not top of his list for belt notching……’

      That would a trial lawyer’s ultimate wet dream, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Harry Stotle says

      They said irony was dead after the nobel peace prize was awarded to Kissinger yet here we are, all these years later, listening to the PR arm of the corporate media whine about electoral meddling in the USA.

      I mean christ on a bike after decades of covert ops and illegal wars resulting in death or displacement for literally millions of ordinary citizens (and across several continents) wouldn’t it be great to think that the arch political gangsters were finally reiving a little bit of pay-back?

      The new cold war rhetoric that has surfaced in our media tells us that liberal hacks are either plain thick or amoral cowards – if the Russians can expose the rottenness at the heart of corrupt presidential elections, then bring it on, that’s what I say.

      Liked by 2 people

    4. curri says

      The Cold War was mostly fakery that often took on a life of its own and sometimes got out of control (e.g.,Cuban Missile Crisis) . To discover this, all you have have to do is notice that virtually none of US Cold War propaganda effort had anything to with the details of Communist democides like the Red Terror and the Holodomor. Mostly it had to with communism being ‘anti-democracy’, ‘anti-religion’ or ‘anti-free enterprise.’ Note the contrast with the treatment of the NS regime.

      Like

      • bevin says

        The “Holodomor” was a hoax, nothing of the sort ever took place. It originated in fascist propaganda and has been sustained by cold warriors in cahoots with fascists.
        As to the ‘democide’ of the ‘red terror’ I suspect that you are referring to a history of the sort compiled by Robert Conquest in order to discredit socialism and advance the hegemonic ambitions of imperialism.
        If you want to look at ‘democides’ in the capitalist era a good place to begin is in Ireland in the 1840s, recurrent ‘famines’ in Bengal after 1757 and the disappearances of entire races in America since Spaniards first swaggered ashore.
        A proper accounting of the numbers of those dying during the collectivisation of Soviet agriculture is something that would be very welcome. When we have it we will see the complexity of the causes of those deaths. They will include years of sanctions imposed by imperialism, including refusals to supply food during famines and persistent efforts, from abroad to intervene militarily which lasted throughout the history of the Soviet state.
        As to more modern ‘democides’ that which occurred in Russia during the systematic wrecking and looting of the economy, carried out at the behest and with the encouragement of the US and its allies led to more deaths than Pol Pot, Reagan’s ally, dreamed of. And in a much worse cause.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Big B says

          “The “Holodomor” was a hoax, nothing of the sort ever took place. It originated in fascist propaganda and has been sustained by cold warriors in cahoots with fascists.”

          Do you have any citation or anything factual at all to back up this outrageous post-truth fabrication? Whilst not a deliberate genocide; there is a mass of documentation that says you don’t. To say that there was NO mass starvation in the Ukraine (and elsewhere in Russia – especially Kazakhstan) in 1932-33 (at least partially as a result of forced collectivisation) is a monstrous ideologically blinkered lie. To say say that it was “fascist propaganda and has been sustained by cold warriors in cahoots with fascists” is an epistemically challenged propaganda in itself. Facts and citations please: not Stalinophilic confabulations.

          Like

          • Harry Stotle says

            Good questions, and I admit I don’t know the answers to them.

            I am reading Synders ‘Bloodlands’ which argues for the Holodomor (amongst other tings) while on the other hand Grover Furr says Synder’s analysis is incorrect. He does so by claiming Synder fails to use any primary research sources (when making attributions about Stalin’s motives) and secondly by the fact famine in the region was cyclical, and while the famines in the early 30’s were particularly devastating they were not in essence politically driven.

            Grovers refutation here (based on his own book, ‘Blood lies)

            We do know that Gareth Jones had articles published in the Times as early as 1931 describing the terrible tragedy that took place in the Ukraine but this still does not tell us if the death toll was a direct result of Russia’s agricultural policy (collectivisation) wider systemic failings, or malaevolence – or maybe it was a combination of all three?

            Liked by 2 people

            • Harry Stotle says

              Link to some of the Gareth Jones stuff (The Gareth Jones diaries – the man who knew too much)
              chrome-extension://bpmcpldpdmajfigpchkicefoigmkfalc/views/app.html

              Like

              • Big B says

                The Holodomor is a politically charged hot potato: made supercharged and superheated by the (CIA) Ukrainian neo-nazi’s own ideological determination to prove it WAS a genocide. And the Ukronazis (and the CIA) are not averse to rewriting history or slipping the odd document into the historic record to prove their case. Or adding approx. 7 million to the figures.

                Leaving external factors aside: the argument boils down to whether Stalin intentionally requisitioned grain (knowing the likely consequences) and likewise; prevented “bread migration” (by sealing the Ukrainian border and forced repatriation of those who did leave. True.) The argument as to whether it was a genocide revolves around the modern definition of ‘genocide’ – retroactively applied. The argument against seems to be that Stalin was not ethnically (or religiously) specific in his repressions – which seems a bit weak to me. And that the famine was not specific to the Ukraine (true.) The debunking (based on Tauger) was that it was a cyclical famine, exacerbated by drought and poor post-Tsarist agriculture (partially true.) But the cause-and-effect correlation between the rate of collectivisation and the severity of famine comes from none other than the declassified Soviet archives. Not much to argue with there. So, not an intentional genocide: but nevertheless -StalinDidIt!!!

                Archival documents regarding grain procurement and gain export, presented in this volume, show, without any doubt, that in 1929—1932 there existed a causal link between the rate of collectivization of formerly individual farmers, procurement of grain for export and mass hunger. In the epicentre of this tragedy, one finds the main areas of grain production in the USSR that were designated as regions of blanket collectivization. These areas included Ukraine, […]

                http://rusarchives.ru/publication/famine/famine-ussr.pdf

                On the broader point of democide, ethnic cleansing, and politicide of Lenin and Stalin – the facts are irrefutable. You really have to be willfully and ideologically purblind to them. And the argument that imperial capitalism did it too is the weakest form of diluted morality imaginable. Or, ignoring the documentary evidence – you could maintain that the Ukranian diaspora, the CIA, Goebbels and the “fascists” made it all up!!!

                Liked by 1 person

    5. Marc Krizack says

      What the author doesn’t acknowledge is that the Russian ads were aimed not to foster a progressive Black Lives Matter movement but to make that movement falsely look like it hated white people in order to further white animosity towards the Black Lives Matter movement. Russia today is not the Russia of the Soviet Union. Putin is fostering fascist and protofascist movements. The Soviet Union, even post-Stalin, supported liberation movements even if the depth of that support can be questioned.

      Like

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