A new and frightening strategy is being employed by the enemies of socialism – not by the Far Right, whose terrifying tactics are nothing new to the revolutionary left and which our cadres have been constructed to fight relentlessly, but among bourgeois liberals, establishment progressives and their bootlicking sycophants who consider themselves part of a resistance that somehow includes bowing to Democrats, employing homophobic mockery as a propaganda strategy and demoralizing the opposition by making false claims that it represents the whims of international communism.
Of course, this strategy is being employed by the Democratic Party, that bastion of progressive leftism in the minds of hapless fools, in an effort to smear the recent overtures made by Republican President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Somehow, in their minds, Trump’s reported collusion with the Russian government, and his kindly response to Putin, mean that the Republican Party is the American embodiment of communism. Obviously, for anyone who actually carries a red card and the banner of international socialism upon their heart, this lack of common sense would be hysterical if it didn’t have serious implications for those of us who make up the ranks of socialist and communist organizations in this nation.
To be fair, it is hard to quantify which assault from the bourgeois left is more threatening to the goal of international socialism: their method of parading so-called “democratic socialists” out beneath their party’s banner, thereby equating socialism with policies and ideals friendly to the Democratic Party and the capitalist system at large and diluting the ideals of true socialist revolutionaries or the red-baiting used to slander a president they don’t agree, showing clearly their inability to mesh true leftist ideals with reality. The Democrats’ use of homophobic imagery to demean the relationship between Putin and Trump is an abandonment of anything that could be considered progressive. Their use of the hammer and sickle, an emblem adopted by Vladimir Lenin after the Russian Revolution of 1917 to symbolize the worker-peasant alliance, on propaganda material meant to equate Putin’s Russia with communism and, thereby, Trump’s GOP with communism, is just a continuation of the party’s long-term strategy of diverting might-be radicals from the revolutionary left by demeaning our imagery and message.
Radical socialists, simultaneously, are playing into this strategy at no fault of their own – those of us who carry the red banner do so without considering the cost, which is the only way that one can call themselves a revolutionary, but the bourgeois left is able to take our line and distort it to fit its narrative. Likely, there are few among us who would argue that Putin is a leader with which we have anything in common – he rules over a capitalistic police state and undermines nearly every semblance of human rights within the Russian state. Further, there are few among us who would argue that Trump is a leader with which we have anything in common – he rules over a capitalistic police state and undermines nearly ever semblance of human rights, though perhaps not as brutally and openly as Putin.
However, the radical left, always capable of seeing clearly those issues which the despots within the ruling circles of this country and others prefer to hide, can widely agree on a couple of topics – whether or not Russia interfered with elections in the United States is quite irrelevant to the oppression that the people in this country have faced for generations on end. What passes as democratic elections in this country has never actually been such as, cycle after cycle, we are presented with but two options, both of which represent the ruling class and their gluttonous want for money and power; Trump, who is very much an enemy of working and oppressed people across the globe, is for once not misguided in his attempts to establish better ties between the United States and Russia, though his personal reasons for doing so may well be tinged with corruption and wholly unclear.
This assessment, while as accurate as it can be to those on the radical left, only isolates us further from liberals in the states – reactionaries and reformists who gobble down the DNC’s propaganda with reckless abandon and see anything short of opposition to every move made by Trump as support for his failed and foolish agenda. Perfectly fine with me, as these forces are unwelcome among our ranks in the first place, but much like the recent support of “democratic socialism,” a term used mindlessly by social democrats and scoffed down by their supporters, our unwillingness to bend to the propaganda of the political establishment is a detriment to our cause. To be fair, their strategy is quite brilliant – they have diluted our message by using former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and recent Democratic primary winner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as poster children for “democratic socialism,” thereby watering down the true ideals of revolutionary international socialism while simultaneously equating communism with the fascistic tendencies of the Trump administration and its ties to Putin’s Russia.
While all of this is going on, the right-wing tacticians and extremists of our nation also have the radical left within their sights and are taking ever-widening steps to undermine our efforts locally and nationally. The most blatant of these attacks in the proposed “Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018,” which would carry a penalty of up to 15 years of imprisonment for anyone “wearing a mask” that “injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person…in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege.” The bill was recently introduced in the House and has wide support from the alt-right and its cronies within the administration. That such language would be introduced to fight the anti-fascist movement, rather than the Ku Klux Klan, which is resurfacing in towns and cities across the nation, would be laughable if not so terrifying.
But the New Red Scare doesn’t end there – in state houses across the country, legislators are on the warpath against communist infiltration and considering laws which would keep leftists out of government jobs. Obviously, these efforts are tied to the government’s widening efforts to stoke tensions between Russia and the United States – on the establishment left, those efforts are meant to slander the connections between Trump’s White House and Putin’s Russia; on the right, they are meant for much the same reason but with a more sinister aim to undermine the new “social democrats” who are making a play for seats of power within the governmental establishment. Whatever their aim, both are bringing back the age-old traditions of red-baiting, Cold War politics, and ensuring that a path is laid by which reds can be systematically rooted out of political circles. Even a cynical observer must take heed of these advances, which seem to be growing daily on both sides of the bourgeois aisle, and recognize that being a member of a socialist or communist organization puts us more and more within the cross-hairs of a reactionary situation.
Punching holes in these arguments is easily done but, unfortunately, has little impact on those who perpetuate such infantile strategies. However, it seems their strategies have now seeped into the minds of comrades who are falling for the war lust promoted by both the left and right wings of our established government. That comrades are capable of falling for such blather is indicative of either the comrade’s failure to understand current events and how socialist ideology would decipher those events or, possibly, the radical left’s inability to establish a coherent line, and a method for the continuation of revolutionary education, on this topic and a thousand others.
More frightening, however, is the possibility that our ranks have been infiltrated by reactionaries and reformists who have not tended to their own radicalism and have bought into the notion that they are socialists because they support the Sanders-Cortez version of “democratic socialism.” Either way, a small dose of radical education may serve well some of these reactionary forces within our midst and shine light upon the flaws of the arguments made to stoke tensions against the revolutionary left, both from within and without.
First and foremost, Russia is not a communist nation and Putin is certainly not a communist – any assertion otherwise can most assuredly be deemed misguided at best, or malicious propaganda meant to rekindle Cold War tensions, create cause for military conflict and undermine the work of leftists within the United States and the rest of the world at worst. Like many topics which circle the tongues of radical leftists, the actual time that Russia ceased to be a socialist nation is debatable. However, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) banned, in December 1991. Putin began his career as a KGB foreign intelligence officer, a post from which he resigned in 1991 to serve under the first non-Soviet President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin.
Under Putin, the capitalization of Russia, first begun by Yeltsin, exploded into what is now a capitalist police state. A conversation with any Russian who has lived in Putin’s Russia can confirm that there is nothing in place which resembles the workers’ state of Lenin and Trotsky. Though Putin has alluded to his respect for Lenin, his ambitions to renew the former glory of the Soviet Union are based more in the desire for power and empire-building than in the unification of the sufferers of Russia and its surrounding nations.
Secondly, however despotic Putin’s rule has been, Russia currently poses no threat to the United States. Even if you believe that Russian-meddling in elections has had a significant and detrimental effect on the sham elections of the United States, it takes a leap of ignorance to believe that Russia poses any real threat to the United States. More than that, one would have to wholly ignore world history to believe that Russia, whether in its current form or its previous, has ever done as much damage to the world population as the United States. Let us not forget that during World War II, the Soviet Union was our ally and lost 20 million people to the war, all while securing 80 percent of the Allies’ Nazi kills. To say it another way, Soviet Russia is responsible for the victory over Nazism in World War II: an inconvenient fact that most Americans choose to ignore.
As for the assertion that Putin is a tyrant, which cannot be wholly denied by anyone paying attention to current events, or the claim that Russia has historically and continually pushed its agenda upon other countries, the United States has done far more damage to far more countries in the last half-century or so. A recent article quotes Noam Chomsky as saying the following:
It is not seriously in question, as John Coatsworth writes in the recently published Cambridge University History of the Cold War, that from 1960 to ‘the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites.’ Among the executed were many religious martyrs, and there were mass slaughters as well, consistently supported or initiated by Washington.
The article goes on to detail many of the United States’ more brutal interventions in the affairs of other nations – the millions killed in Indochina during the Vietnam War, as well as President Ronald Reagan’s support for apartheid South Africa, which led to the deaths of 1.5 million, not to mention the United States’ continued intervention in countless Latin American countries, which has racked up enormous death tolls and undermined the economic and political viability of the region.
Further, the present is just as unpleasant as the past – the United States has successfully destroyed Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, continued to support the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen, and continued to support the plunder of the Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in the deaths of nearly six million people. And if the warmongers here at home like to speak of Russia’s meddling, let us not forget that the United States maintains more than 800 military bases in 70 countries – Russia now has NATO troops positioned along its borders, where Poland is equipped with long-range missiles supplied by the United States. While all of these facts may be staggering, they do not begin to scratch the surface of the myriad ways that United States has meddled in the affairs of sovereign nations throughout its existence and continues to do so today.
If we acknowledge factual evidence, we can easily undermine many of the assertions being made by mainstream politicians today to stoke fears of the Russian boogeyman and its plans to implement worldwide communism. Russia is not a socialist nation and hasn’t been for nearly three decades- it is a capitalist police state. Putin is not a communist and actually refused to allow the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution to be widely celebrated in Red Square; Russia poses no physical threat to the United States and, in fact, it is the United States which poses a continual threat to Russia and all other nations across the globe.
Thus, the reasonable observer can deduce that reported collusion between Trump and Putin is in no way connected to communism and the Republican Party, from which Trump hails, in no way represents the ideals of communism, socialism, or any leftist tendency which opposes the violent oppression and exploitation derived from capitalism. While there may be variations in each side’s use of Red Scare tactics, the underlying reasoning is the same as it has always been – the revolutionary concepts inherent in leftist ideologies, as well as the tactics used by their adherents, are counter to capitalism and thereby a threat to the power currently wielded by a minuscule, global elite.
This does not put radical leftists on the side of Putin or Trump, sides which thrive on the fruits of capital and the suffering it levies upon the heads of the mass population of sufferers. What radical leftists are able to see that liberals and conservatives of the United States refuse to see is that Russia is not personally responsible for our daily suffering, a suffering that has gone on as long as this country has existed on the planet; that Russia’s meddling in our election – meddling that is substantiated by an intelligence agency which is also in existence to further the goals of capital – has had no impact on our supposed democracy, which has been flawed if not wholly non-existent since it was derived by a host of white men more than 200 years ago; that nothing Russia or the United States, Putin or Trump, has done is in any way indicative of communistic tendencies and, quite contrarily, in stark opposition to those ideals; that today’s “democratic socialists,” or what we leftists recognize as social democrats, do not represent red thought and are as detrimental to our cause as those who openly oppose it.
While the modern establishment’s newly revitalized efforts toward reigniting the Red Scare of years past is remarkably laughable, and as easily undermined as the arguments of a child in regard to the reasons for weather patterns, we must take quite seriously the effects that these efforts will have on our ability to organize and incite meaningful change within our communities. Like the movements of the past, some efforts much move to the “underground” if we hope for them to thrive without intervention. Communication must move to encrypted platforms not easily infiltrated by our enemies; additional efforts should be taken to ensure that reformists and reactionaries are not easily introduced into our ranks, for with them comes the threat of infiltration from police and other forces loyal to the capitalist establishment. We must better secure our identities as they relate to our organizing and activist efforts, and revitalize efforts to radically educate the misguided masses, through dynamic propaganda and meaningful actions – not protests and demonstrations necessarily, but food drives and tutoring programs and similar activities.
But, most importantly, we must rally around our comrades and ensure that their safety is our first priority and that with their safety comes the possibility of recruiting and radicalizing new members and, in their numbers, we might devise more safety in our cadres, more wisdom among our communities, and a stronger defense against the enemies of equality and enemies of equality and liberation.
Adam Powell is a lifelong resident of Montgomery, Alabama, joined SPUSA in November of 2016 and was a founding member of the party’s first chapter in the state, the Socialist Party of Central Alabama (SPCA). In addition, he is the co-Executive Editor of The Socialist as well as the National Vice Chair for SPUSA. Powell graduated from Troy University with a degree in Print Journalism and Creative Writing in 2005 and since then has worked for newspapers and online news sources all across the state and nation. He also teaches classical guitar and music theory and performs throughout the Southeast. He is married to Sara Powell and they have two children, Fionola and Kieran.