“Russia is one of the largest obstacles in the way of US expansionism, next to China -- which should be enough to convince US activists to defend Russia from imperial attack.”
US hatred of Russia dates back to the Soviet period. This November marked the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution that produced the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union for short. The successful socialist revolution in Russia signaled the end of capitalist hegemony and the beginning of an era where workers, peasants, and all property-less people would rule their respective societies free from exploitation. Bolshevism spurred a fierce response from capitalist profiteers everywhere, especially from the emerging US empire. The Soviet Union was immediately invaded by a coalition of imperial powers. These same imperial powers spread anti-communist fervor far and wide as a means to weaken the Soviet menace.
This same anti-communist sentiment is currently the backdrop for the anti-Russia hysteria that has spread to Washington’s every edifice. Alleged association with Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin, is seen as the highest possible crime to the Democratic and Republican Party establishment. Russian media has been blacklisted and President Trump's campaign is under a permanent investigation for claims of "colluding" with the Russian government. The investigation has yet to yield any evidence to prove the claims. However, proof is not what the ruling class is seeking.
“Alleged association with Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin, is seen as the highest possible crime to the Democratic and Republican Party establishment.”
- Russia obsession is driven by the insatiable lust for war. re are many in the US ruling class who believe that war with Russia is a necessary precondition to the maintenance of US dominance in the world. The fear being spread about Russia is reminiscent of the Cold War period. Putin has been repeatedly labeled an authoritarian dictator in the same manner that the Soviet Union was depicted over a half century ago. Few days pass where Putin isn't placed under heavy scrutiny for his former post as intelligence officer for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s intelligence wing.
The fear that the ruling class spreads about Putin and Russia is rooted in the legitimate concern of a Soviet revival. Memories of the Soviet Union run deep in the Russian population, with recent opinion polls indicating a general nostalgia for life under the socialist state. Post-Soviet shock therapy decimated the living standards of the population and transformed the nation into a puppet state of the US and West. From 1991 until 2000, US-puppet Boris Yeltsin plundered the national treasury at behest of the IMF. Millions of people died prematurely from substandard living conditions. The life expectancy of men declined by nearly a decade during this time as workers were suddenly unable to afford housing, healthcare, and basic necessities.
“The Russia obsession is driven by the insatiable lust for war.”
Life in the Soviet Union, however, was a far cry from the Yeltsin-era. The Soviet economy was socialist in the sense that all means of production belonged to the state. Public planning was conducted by workers’ councils and various popular institutions instead of the capitalist model of electing representatives to manage the affairs of private capital. Healthcare was universal and the hourly work week was capped at 41 hours. Unemployment fell to zero as the right to housing, healthcare, and employment were inscribed in the Soviet constitution.
The Soviet socialist economy exhibited high rates of economic growth. Science and technology thrived under the guidance of an economic plan geared toward the needs of the people. The Soviet Union sent the first person and satellite into space. Soviet scientists introduced the first methods for painless childbirth. They also introduced to the world the first organ transplants. Science and technology were the engine to the Soviet Union's socialist model, much to the chagrin of the imperialist world.
The Soviet Union accomplished all of this despite a non-stop war against it. Imperialism, or the rule of monopoly capital which dominates societies in the US and Western orbit, feared the international implications of the Soviet Union's economic model. During WWII, Germany's fascist military invaded the Soviet Union at the expense of 27 million Soviet lives. Much of the Soviet Union's infrastructure was destroyed. Yet the Soviet Union immediately reconstructed its society to the point where it was able to provide free education to foreign students from across the world, including more than a few Black American freedom fighters.
“Wherever socialism arose, the US intervened to stop it.”
Fear that the Soviet model would spread across the world was the primary reason the US overthrew over fifty foreign governments after WWII. Former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski famously said that the arms and funds provided to the Mujahideen in their war against the Soviet Union were a response to the opportunity of "giving the USSR its own Vietnam." Afghanistan is but one example where Soviet aid prompted a harsh US response. Wherever socialism arose, the US intervened to stop it. Millions were murdered by US interventions in Cuba, Korea, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo to name a few.
It is in this context that Russia reemerged as a counter weight to US imperialism, albeit under vastly different conditions. The rise of Putin ushered in a new age of dignity for a society that had been completely stripped of it. Subservient oligarchs were reigned in, key industries nationalized, and extreme poverty greatly reduced. Putin also implemented an independent foreign policy orientation hostile to NATO encroachment along the Russian border and regime change abroad. Russian aid to Syria beginning in 2015 was a direct response to US support for terrorists in the region, a policy that reached its climax in 2011 when the US and NATO countries utilized terrorists to destroy the Libyan state. Russian foreign policy has been especially popular among Russia’s citizenry.
“Russian aid to Syria beginning in 2015 was a direct response to US support for terrorists in the region.”
Of course, Russia's independent political path has been paved on capitalist terms. The nation remains hindered by private capital and the detrimental effect of US sanctions on the nation's standard of living. Still many US observers, whether they identify as scholars, activists, or communists, have fallen into the anti-Russia trap. Criticism of Russia's current limitations usually lacks any investigation into why the US ruling class is so obsessed with provoking war with the former Soviet Union. That the ruling class, especially the Democratic Party, uses anti-Soviet rhetoric to slander Putin and Russia appears to be of no concern to those who claim to have historically defended socialism and the right to self-determination.
While Russia is by no means a socialist economy, US fear of Putin stems from the same roots that produced the first "Red Scare." Russia is at the center of a new era of international politics ushered in by the crisis of US imperialism. The misery imperialism has wrought can no longer operate in the old way. Nations are increasingly looking to Russia and China for alternative economic, military, and political arrangements. The socialist bloc disintegrated nearly three decades ago but imperialism did not. US imperialism took advantage the demise of the Soviet Union, expanding its tentacles at the expense of dozens of nations across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
“Russia is at the center of a new era of international politics ushered in by the crisis of US imperialism.”
It only took a few decades after the Soviet Union's destruction to realize that US imperialism has reached a dead-end. The US share of the global economy has shrunk dramatically since the end of the Second World War. Russia is one of the largest obstacles in the way of US expansionism, next to China. That fact alone should be enough to convince US activists to defend Russia from imperial attack. Yet far too many are more concerned about whether the current Russian government is corrupt itself rather than allowing Russians to decide their own destiny free from US interference.
Political economy is the study of how production affects the development of society. Those who claim to study political economy should be concerned with the war being waged on Russia right now. The reasons for US hostility toward Russia are different in form but not in essence to anti-Soviet hostilities of the 20th century. US imperialism fears a Soviet revival. Revival doesn't necessarily merely mean a reenactment of 20th century events. What it means is that US imperialism fears Russia's reemergence on the world stage, which in fact is the only condition that can support a true revival of socialism in Russia should it ever occur again. Either we acknowledge the Soviet roots of anti-Russia hysteria now, or continue onward toward nuclear war, economic crisis, and ecological disaster.
Danny Haiphong is a Vietnamese-American activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]