By Paul Street
Counter Punch (4/27/18)
The RussiaGate conspiracy drama is a double-edged damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t trap for people on the portside. The perils of signing on to the storyline are clear as day to any self-respecting Leftist. Five come to mind off the top of my head:
1. Neo-McCarthyite distraction from numerous terrible things that the racist, nativist, sexist, white-nationalist, and eco-cidal, planet-cooking Trump administration and the Republican Party are doing with scant serious opposition from the dismal dollar Democrats. The media and the Democrats have the political culture mired in the Russia-Trump conspiracy while the in-power right-wing has worked all-too behind the scenes to: slash taxes for the already absurdly wealthy Few; reduce poor people’s access to health care; hand the federal bench over to religious and free-market fundamentalists; attack women’s reproductive and other rights; deport and harass immigrants; attack minority voting rights; criminalize protest and dissent; rollback labor and collective bargaining rights; rollback civil rights; increase the insanely gigantic Pentagon budget; make desperately poor people perform underpaid work in order to receive health insurance and public housing assistance; shred environmental protections; weaken financial regulations; decrease workplace safety; murder thousands of innocents across the Middle East; deepen Washington’s alliance with murderous regimes like Saudi Arabia and Israel; speed-up the fossil-fueled Greenhouse Gassing-to-Death of Life on Earth (a problem that receives astonishingly slight attention from the Russia-mad media).
2. Letting the Inauthentic Opposition Party – the Democrats – off the hook for the demobilizing nothingness of their Wall Street-captive neoliberal politics by blaming their minority status on an external power (Russia) whose impact on U.S. elections is tiny compared to the influence exercised by the United States’ own corporate and financial oligarchs.
3. Aligning oneself with the false notion that the United States possessed a functioning “democracy” for Russia to interfere with in the first place in 2016. US.-Americans enjoyed no such thing: they were living in a clear and richly bipartisan corporate and financial oligarchy, subject to an “unelected dictatorship of money” (Edward S. Herman) long before Russian intelligence operatives first allegedly hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s computers in late 2015.
4. Deadly and ironic alignment with a National Security State (including the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA) that has long worked to destroy the Left and crush democracy and social justice at home and abroad
5. Deadly and ironic alignment with the U.S.-led New Cold War against Russia – a reckless, expensive, and provocative imperial policy that no peace-loving progressive should remotely support.
That’s the damned-if-you-do part of the trap. It’s no small matter. Warnings about some of this (especially what I mentioned under the first point above) came early in a March 2017 New York Review of Books essay penned by Masha Gessen under the title “Russia: The Conspiracy Trap.” Gessen worried with good reason that the Russia obsession was a deadly diversion from issues that ought to matter more to those claiming to oppose Trump in the name of democracy and the common good: racism, voter suppression (which may well have elected Trump, by the way), health care, plutocracy, police- and prison-state-ism, immigrant rights, economic exploitation and inequality, sexism and environmental ruination—you know, stuff like that.
The fact that this advice warning came from Gessen was important. As a longtime anti-Putin Russian dissident, she could not credibly be accused of undue (or any) allegiance to the Kremlin.
The other side – the damned-if-you-don’t side – of the Russia conspiracy trap is trickier. The danger here is that leftists will end up looking stupid – head-in-the-sand stupid – when they take their understanding of points 1 through 5 to mean that they should reflexively dismiss the entire RussiaGate narrative. That, too, is a mistake. Grasping the five dark downsides mentioned above does not mean that one has to automatically pretend to know that there is nothing whatsoever to claims that the Kremlin got involved in the 2016 election cycle on behalf of Trump– a candidate who, after all, had a long and strange relationship with Russia, and who promised to stand down from the reckless NATO-expansionist New Cold War that the “lying neoliberal warmonger” and arch-imperial “queen of chaos” Hillary Clinton had long championed.
Are we really supposed to pretend, as good leftists, that Trump’s campaign didn’t contain highly placed and significantly Russia-compromised players (e.g., Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn)? That the Trump campaign didn’t exhibit a creepy willingness to accept whatever dirt Russia may have possessed on Hillary Clinton? That Trump hasn’t behaved …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )