Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 21, 2019

Putin, Trump, the Christian Right, Austrian fascists, and the schizoid left

He paved the way for Max Blumenthal and Roger Waters

I came across articles this week that demonstrate how both Christian evangelists in the USA and the alt-right Freedom Party in Austria have been building ties to the Kremlin. An Open Democracy article titled “Revealed: Trump-linked US Christian ‘fundamentalists’ pour millions of ‘dark money’ into Europe, boosting the far right” was written by Claire Provost on March 27, 2019. It demonstrates how US Christian right ‘fundamentalists’ linked to the Trump administration and Steve Bannon are key players that have poured at least $50 million of ‘dark money’ into Europe.

Meanwhile, the same kind of affinities have been shared by the Kremlin and the same alt-right parties, including Austria’s Freedom Party that has been undone by a sting carried out by unidentified parties which showed the party’s Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache meeting with a woman in Ibiza who represented herself as the niece of a Russian oligarch. The party’s first leader was Anton Reinthaller, a former Nazi functionary and SS member. It became the first far right party since the end of WWII to become part of a government when Jörg Haider entered a coalition with the conservative People’s Party in 2000.

In exchange for supporting Russian interests, Strache would be expected to receive secret and illegal donations from the oligarch to the tune of millions of Euros. In the same week that I noticed any number of articles on my FB timeline calling attention to the valiant role of the USSR in defeating Nazism, I wondered how many people posting links to them were aware that the Freedom Party is trying to recreate the Third Reich. An Atlantic Monthly article on the scandal reported:

A state senator for the Freedom Party, reporters revealed, once belonged to a fraternity that openly glorified the Third Reich. (“At that point, the Jew Ben Gurion came into their midst,” go the lyrics for one of the fraternity’s songs, “and said: ‘Step on the gas, ye old Teutons, we’ll manage the seventh million.’”)

People on the left who try to debunk the notion that Trump is pro-Russia will always bring up matters such as how the Ukrainians are receiving heavy weapons from the Pentagon or how sanctions have been maintained and even beefed up. They take Trump at his word when he says that he is the most anti-Russian president the country has ever seen.

However, they don’t bother to address the question of how the Kremlin colludes—dare I use the word?with Christian evangelicals. To a large extent, this simply reflects the tendency of some on the left with a particularly Manichean brand of geopolitics to act as if the Cold War had never ended. During the Cold War, the Christian right was a mainstay of the anti-Communist crusade. Billy Graham, For example, in the summer of 1954, spoke to 25,000 West Germans gathered in Düsseldorf’s Rheinstadium about how Berlin was “a battleground, a continent for conquest”. During the Vietnam War, Graham agreed with Nixon that bombing the dikes in the North would be necessary even if it cost the lives of a million Vietnamese.

But his son Franklin had a different take on Russia. In March 2014, Decision Magazine, a publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, featured a cover article on Vladimir Putin. Inside, a Franklin Graham op-ed praised Putin’s signing a law barring the dissemination of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to children. He wrote: “It’s obvious that President Obama and his administration are pushing the gay-lesbian agenda in America today and have sold themselves completely to that which is contrary to God’s teaching,” Graham wrote. In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

Mother Jones took note of the ties between Russia and the Christian right just around the time that Decision Magazine article appeared. The World Congress of Families decided to hold its annual meeting in Russia that year. The WCF is one of the most powerful voices of the Christian right. Showing its continuing ties to the European far right, it held its annual conference this year in Verona, Italy where Matteo Salvini, the fascist Interior Minister of Italy, spoke on the need “to defend the family that consists of a mother and a father”. Other participants included Dimitri Smirnov, a Russian Orthodox priest who says abortion is  “scarier than the Holocaust” and Forza Nuova, an Italian neofascist party.

Does the sting of the Freedom Party leader in Ibiza mean that he was like some poor soul in the USA who was entrapped to take part in some illegal act, like bombing a synagogue? While I am opposed to stings of this sort as a matter of principle, there is little doubt that Putin is for the rightwing coalition government in Austria until the scandal forced the withdrawal of Strache and other party members.

Russia has naturally denied any ties to Strache’s party but at least one journalist noticed disturbing contacts not only between Putin and these fascists but with Trump as well. In a December 20, 2016 Progress Pond article titled “Trump, Austrian Neo-Nazis, and Putin”, Martin Longman reported that Strache came to New York just after Trump’s election to meet with Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor who subsequently stepped down after he was charged with unauthorized communications with Russian officials. Oh, did I mention that he sat at the same table with Max Blumenthal and Vladimir Putin for the RT.com 10th anniversary banquet in 2015?

A day before the Progress Pond article was published, the NY Times described the fallout from the Strache-Flynn meeting. A cooperation agreement outlined plans for regular meetings to hammer out economic, business and political projects. It was signed by Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of Putin’s United Russia Party. In welcoming the fascists to his party headquarters, Zheleznyak cited Europe’s “migration crisis” as a field for cooperation. I can’t say I am surprised that this is a field of cooperation since the European fascist movement prioritizes nativism as well as homophobia and anti-abortion laws just as does the Trump administration.

In the 1950s, schizophrenia was often mislabeled as an illness entailing a “split personality”. In fact, the word “schizo” is Greek for split. It was confused with dissociative identity disorder that was dramatized in the 1957 film “Three Faces of Eve” that was based on a true story of a woman manifesting 3 different personalities. In 2016, M. Night Shyamalan upped the ante with “Split”, a film whose main character had 23 different personalities.

Perhaps the first popular culture expression of this phenomenon was Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde”, in which the transformation to the evil Mr. Hyde was triggered by chemicals produced in a laboratory rather than in the brain.

It occurs to me that the Doctor Jekyll/Mister Hyde duality is rampant on the left today with many people saying all sorts of good things about the Palestinians but evil things about the Syrians because of their embrace of Manichean geopolitics that sees support for every Kremlin initiative as incumbent on “anti-imperialists”. Max Blumenthal is a prime example although one has to wonder if his being paid in rubles rather than ideology or chemical imbalances explains his evil writings on Syria. You get the same thing with Roger Waters and Susan Sarandon who would likely martyr themselves on behalf of the Palestinians when their “good” half takes over but when the “evil” half kicks in, they have no trouble defaming the half-million or so martyred Syrians as jihadists who deserved what they got.

Today, the left is mobilized around the threat to abortion rights in places like Alabama, Georgia and Ohio that is being pushed by the Christian right. It is this very Christian right that Steve Bannon is aligned with as it hopes to transform Europe into something resembling Alabama on a continent-wide basis. Dennis Bernstein can write an article for Consortium News about the ongoing struggle for abortion rights in 2016 and then turn around in 2018 conduct a softball interview with the late Robert Parry, who founded Consortium News, about The Rush to a New Cold War, which repeats the same talking points you hear continuously there, on Grayzone, WSWS.org, The Nation and elsewhere. Parry tells Bernstein:

The Russians have taken a very different perspective, which is that the United States is encroaching on its borders and threatening them in a strategic manner. They also look at what happened in Ukraine very differently. They see a U.S.-backed coup d’etat in February 2014 that ousted an elected president and put in a regime that is very supportive of free market, neoliberal policies, but also includes very strong right-wing elements, including neo-Nazis and far-right nationalists. A crisis was created and tensions continue to spiral out of control.

A search for “Freedom Party” and Austria on Consortium News returned zero hits.

Perhaps the only explanation for this part of the left’s split personality is its failure to understand world politics from a class perspective. If your unit of analysis is the nation-state and if you somehow think that the Cold War, that had at its roots a conflict between two different modes of production that were as irreconcilable as capitalism and feudalism, has never ended, you can easily end up waking up in the morning writing benign articles or Tweets about the need for solidarity with the Palestinians and closer to midnight writing crap about how Syrians gassed their own families with chlorine as a “false flag”, with blood dripping from your fangs. Is there any hope for such people reintegrating their personalities by reading Marxists? If so, I’d recommend that they start with Leon Trotsky’s 1938 “Learn to Think”:

Let us assume that rebellion breaks out tomorrow in the French colony of Algeria under the banner of national independence and that the Italian government, motivated by its own imperialist interests, prepares to send weapons to the rebels. What should the attitude of the Italian workers be in this case? I have purposely taken an example of rebellion against a democratic imperialism with intervention on the side of the rebels from a fascist imperialism. Should the Italian workers prevent the shipping of arms to the Algerians? Let any ultra-leftists dare answer this question in the affirmative. Every revolutionist, together with the Italian workers and the rebellious Algerians, would spurn such an answer with indignation. Even if a general maritime strike broke out in fascist Italy at the same time, even in this case the strikers should make an exception in favor of those ships carrying aid to the colonial slaves in revolt; otherwise they would be no more than wretched trade unionists – not proletarian revolutionists.

 

 

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