Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 26, 2019

Trump-Zelensky phone conversation re-enacted

Filed under: Biden,Trump — louisproyect @ 1:26 pm

September 25, 2019

Hunter Biden and geopolitical myopia

Filed under: Biden,Ukraine — louisproyect @ 9:33 pm

Hunter Biden

Ever since the Euromaidan protests began in 2014, there have been thousands—maybe millions—of articles in outlets like The Nation, Consortium News, World Socialist Website, etc. making the case that a New Cold War pitted Washington, Wall Street and NATO against Russia. For the rather hysterical people gathered into the Socialist Equity Party’s ranks, there were even worries that this would not remain Cold but likely transformed into a nuclear holocaust.

While most of the attention has been paid in the last couple of days to Trump’s private foreign policy for cleansing Ukraine from corruption, my interest was less in his obviously hypocrisy but how Hunter Biden’s board membership in Burisma, an oil and gas company run by a Yanukovych ally, makes American designs on Ukraine less about the Cold War and more about making money.

In the sort of analysis you get from the Putinite left, the opposition to Euromaidan came from Russian-speaking workers in Eastern Ukraine who wanted to prevent Western corporations from attacking the wages and social benefits that were a legacy of the USSR. This meant making common cause with the oligarchs who backed Yanukovych. With their ownership of mines and smokestack industries in the East, they had a stake in keeping American and Western European corporations out. When Yanukovych decided against joining the EU, that confirmed in the eyes of many leftists that he was a fellow “anti-imperialist” even if he had his foibles, just like Bashar al-Assad.

That being the case, how does the son of the American vice-president end up on the board of Burisma, the symbol of pro-Russian, oligarchic resistance to Euromaidan? Just six months after the protests against Yanukovych began, Hunter Biden was added to the board of directors of Burisma, a post that would eventually pay him $50,000 a month for doing nothing. This would not be his last lucrative gig based on connections to people in high places. In 2013, he formed a private equity firm called Bohai with Chinese partners that relies heavily on cash infusion from the Bank of China. Among its investments is in a Chinese company that developed Face++, facial recognition software currently being used to finger Uyghurs.

Hunter’s successes appear to have serendipitous ties to his father’s foreign policy initiatives. The Washington Post reported on July 22nd this year:

Since then, much of Hunter Biden’s career has coincided with his father’s work as a senator and vice president. He has been a lobbyist for clients with interests before Congress; a senior vice president at a bank, MBNA, that was a major contributor to his father; and a board member of a company backed by Chinese entities, joining the firm just after his father met with leaders of that country.

All of those positions have led to criticism from Republicans, but it was Hunter Biden’s decision to join the board of Burisma Holdings that has drawn the heaviest fire.

While other people with a long-time cocaine habit like Hunter Biden’s tend to face obstacles in career development, especially when it leads to being discharged from the navy as happened to him after a 2014 drug test, his connections to the White House continued to open doors. While Fox News and other rightwing sources have been howling for his head, a careful reading of the liberal press, such as the Washington Post article above, will reveal that there is a lot of nervousness about the nepotism afforded a crack addict, especially a man who knows nothing about Ukraine. In a 28-page July 1, 2019 New Yorker article titled “Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign?”, Adam Entous recounts the problematic character of the father and son’s interaction with both the government and Burisma:

Several former officials in the Obama Administration and at the State Department insisted that Hunter’s role at Burisma had no effect on his father’s policies in Ukraine, but said that, nevertheless, Hunter should not have taken the board seat. As the former senior White House aide put it, there was a perception that “Hunter was on the loose, potentially undermining his father’s message.” The same aide said that Hunter should have recognized that at least some of his foreign business partners were motivated to work with him because they wanted “to be able to say that they are affiliated with Biden.” A former business associate said, “The appearance of a conflict of interest is good enough, at this level of politics, to keep you from doing things like that.”

Making things even more dicey, Joe Biden put pressure on the Ukrainian government to fire the country’s top prosecutor Viktor Shokin who was looking into Burisma’s shady dealings. While Shokin had a well-deserved reputation for looking the other way when it came to oligarchic corruption, including in his slow-walking the Burisma investigation, there is always the suspicion that the VP wanted to short-circuit it. In fact, the over-arching reality is that Burisma cultivated imperialist figures despite its connections to the Eastern Ukraine oligarchy. In addition to Hunter Biden, it added Joseph Black to the board in February 2016. Black was a CIA director under George W. Bush, something that made no difference to Burisma.

Hunter Biden is not the only example of how foolish it is to use geopolitical reductionism to understand strange bedfellows in Ukraine. Generally, those who share a bed with someone supposedly on the other side of the barricades are more interested in making money than having sex.

Exhibit B would be Paul Manafort who is identified in many leftists’ mind with his ties to Yanukovych and hence to Putin. Much of Russiagate was based on the notion that Trump was being hounded by Democratic Party liberals because he sought rapprochement with Putin. With Manafort being an ally in this realignment, no wonder Robert Mueller went after him with a vengeance. He must have been watching Rachel Maddow every night.

But it turns out that Manafort was just a gun for hire. In 2014, during the heat of Euromaidan, he went to work for Yanukovych’s nemesis Petro Poroshenko as reported in a Ukrainian publication:

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager to US President Donald Trump, helped Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during the 2014 presidential elections.

This was revealed during Manafort’s former partner Rick Gates’ cross-examination in court on August 7, according to Ukrainian journalist Natalka Pisnya, who was at the Virginia court where the trial is taking place.

For all of the nonstop liberal attacks on Trump’s influence-peddling, nepotism, corruption, etc., is there much difference between donkey and elephant on business as usual? Trump talked about draining the swamp in 2016 but it will require a revolution rather than drainpipes to bring ruling-class exploitation of their control over the state power to end.

Adam Entous’s New Yorker article takes Peter Schweitzer’s investigations into the Bidens seriously even if he works for Breitbart News. In 2015, Schweizer wrote “Clinton Cash,” a book that dug into the Clinton Foundation’s dirty deals. There is little doubt that his reporting was exploited by Trump’s allies in Fox News. We can expect more of the same with respect to the Bidens this go-round. Here is Entous on Schweitzer:

In March of last year, Peter Schweizer, a conservative researcher and a senior editor-at-large at Breitbart, published “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.” Schweizer is best known for “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Clinton Rich,” which was released in May, 2015. Research for that book was funded by the Government Accountability Institute, which Schweizer co-founded, in 2012, with Stephen Bannon.

“Secret Empires,” which details Hunter’s activities in China and Ukraine, focusses on what Schweizer calls “corruption by proxy,” which he describes as a “new corruption” that is “difficult to detect” and that, though often legal, makes “good money for a politician and his family and friends” and leaves “American politicians vulnerable to overseas financial pressure.” Schweizer often relies on innuendo to supplement his reporting. At one point, he describes “one of the few public sightings” of Hunter in Beijing, when Hunter, “dressed in a dark overcoat,” followed Biden into a shop to buy a Magnum ice cream. “Intentionally or not,” Schweizer writes, “Hunter Biden was showing the Chinese that he had guanxi”—connections.

In the event that Biden is the nominee in 2020, you can expect the rightwing press to be harping on all this. If the Democratic Party, including its “democratic socialist” wing ends up trying to defend Biden from such smears, it will leave many young radicals as demoralized as they were in 2016. Our only hope is that the revolutionary-minded among us can rise to the occasion and yell bloody-murder at the electoral farce that will only end up leaving humanity and mother nature on the fast path to oblivion.

 

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