AnalysisPSL StatementsRussiagate

A socialist orientation: The collapse of the Trump-Russia hoax and the need for an independent movement

Statement from the Party for Socialism and Liberation

The Trump-Russia conspiracy hoax promoted by the “liberal” wing of the capitalist establishment has collapsed with the core conclusion of the Mueller investigation that no such conspiracy existed.

In the narrowest sense, Trump and his gang of ultra-right capitalist operatives are the big winners. They were insisting that there wasn’t collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. Trump told his base that he was the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt by the Democratic Party and its allies in the capitalist media. Trump now claims vindication, and his hapless critics from the Democratic Party and their adjunct media are left hand-wringing and despairing – although they are quickly and disingenuously pivoting to change the narrative that at last they can focus on “kitchen table” issues like health care before the 2020 election.

In a broader sense, however, the biggest winners in the whole sordid affair are the Pentagon, the U.S. spy agencies and Wall Street.

No grand reveal

Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally submitted his finished report to the attorney general after two years of very extensive investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections, mainly focused on two principal issues: first, whether the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government to rig the U.S. presidential elections and, secondarily, whether Trump’s actions as President in relation to the investigation into these issues could constitute obstruction of justice.

On the first, Mueller could not have been more clear. According to Attorney General William Barr’s summation of Mueller’s report: “Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts.”

On the second issue, Mueller declined to make a judgment on whether or not Trump did obstruct justice. He also, however, declined to recommend charges on this issue, which is a statement in and of itself. According to Barr, Mueller laid out the case for both sides. However, his decision to not recommend prosecution and the decision of Barr and other DOJ officials to not pursue such charges means Trump is almost certainly safe from them in a court of law.

Without an underlying crime, and given that obstruction requires specific knowledge of the effect of specific actions on specific legal proceedings, making a case for obstruction would be difficult, more so with Trump as the president. Impeachment proceedings technically could begin without meeting the legal standards for obstruction, but statements from the Democratic Party leadership show that this is highly unlikely.

The findings of the Mueller report themselves are not notable, and the general contours have actually been clear for some time. As individuals associated with the Trump campaign and administration pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes, none of them pleaded guilty to an underlying criminal conspiracy with Russia. It is the height of absurdity that some liberal elites whipped up a frenzy expecting that the final report would contain the long sought-after “bombshell”.

Sabotaging real resistance to the Trump agenda

The anti-Russia witch-hunt succeeded in winning over millions of people who consider themselves liberals and progressives and securely fastened them as cheerleaders for the central institutions of capitalist power – especially the Pentagon and the surveillance state.

As the Pentagon gears up for major power conflict with Russia and China, the liberal part of the population was convinced that Russia was the evil empire that foisted a monster like Donald Trump on “our democracy.” In fact, it is “liberal” public opinion that was most convinced that rapprochement with Russia is wrong or that a peace treaty with North Korea is a “capitulation” to evil. This is music to ears of the Pentagon high command that continues to loot the nation’s resources to meet the next supposed war threat.

This narrative led a section of the population to invest all its hopes for the restoration of “our democracy” in former FBI heads Mueller and Comey and in the CIA. This too was welcome relief for the ever-growing surveillance state apparatus that had been reeling under the revelations offered by courageous whistle-blowers like Ed Snowden and journalists like Julian Assange. Now many liberals hate Assange, even though they loved Wikileaks just a decade ago for revealing Bush’s war crimes in Iraq.

Wall Street banks and corporations are also the big winners in this hoax. Millions of progressive people who should have and would have been in the streets mobilizing to stop Trump’s wholesale de-regulation of corporate polluters and his massive tax giveaway to the billionaires and millionaires of America were instead reduced to powerless spectators watching the media and hoping a right-wing anti-democratic former head of the FBI, the same man who approved of torture and the rounding up of thousands of Muslims after 9/11, would save the country from a Donald Trump presidency.

The role of the Democratic Party elites in leading the country in a sharp rightward direction, especially on foreign policy and political suppression, is not novel. It was the Democratic Truman White House after World War ll that inaugurated the fierce anti-communist witch-hunt that drove leftists from their strong position within the U.S. labor unions. Communists and socialists were hauled before congressional committees. Socialists in academia were driven from their jobs. Leaders of the Communist Party were imprisoned simply for being communists. Paul Robeson, the Hollywood Ten and other leading cultural figures were purged as the witch-hunt gathered steam – they lost their jobs, passports and freedom. During this same period, liberal organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union willingly joined in providing the government with names of communists and “suspected” communists.

Strengthening the corporate monopoly on the flow of information

Trump would not have stood a chance of becoming president except for the billions of dollars in free media coverage provided him by CNN, MSNBC and the other ratings/profit-driven capitalist media outlets in 2016. These American media capitalists not Putin should be held responsible for making Trump “a thing” in 2016, because that is actually what happened.

The corporate media’s role only became more shameful as the “Russia-gate” phenomenon took shape. Throughout this process, the capitalist press did not at any time air even the slightest skepticism – and in fact generally ridiculed it – not even of the rear-end-covering variety, which is a powerful indictment of those institutions. Relying on anonymous sources, often from the intelligence community and perhaps Mueller’s staff itself, the media built a universe in which there were no questions at all about the allegations of a Trump-Russia “collusion.”

In fact, the intense focus on Russia has essentially sidelined many of these issues and robbed them of oxygen in the broader media environment. This, of course, now gives Trump a stronger position from which to fight as his varied opponents are left picking up the pieces of their shattered anti-Trump strategy.

Current and former intelligence officials, along with the capitalist press and social media giants, have aggressively fanned the flames of this narrative, raising the specter of Russia behind almost everything.

Many of these truly odious figures who have been rehabilitated by Russia-gate, mainly neocon war enthusiasts and torture proponents, have also become a bulwark for capitalist domestic policies, writing op-eds and tweets warning the Democrats away from embracing any of the policies popular among the Democratic bases so as not to endanger the 2020 election campaign. In other words, “if you hate Trump, drop universal health care and focus on Russia, or you’ll lose.” People like former CIA Director John Brennan have become mainstays on liberal TV outlets such as MSNBC.

This trend is not confined to traditional media outlets. Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have, in the past year, engaged in large purges and suspensions of users and alternative media outlets on the basis of them being connected to Iran, Russia or Chinese “influence operations.” This is a loosely defined category that is often determined as much by supposition and guessing as by fact.

‘Great power competition’ and the threat of a catastrophic new war

Mueller, as a right-wing political animal, cleared Trump of wrongdoing but affirmed that “Russia” interfered in the U.S. elections. Thus, the anti-Russia hysteria is given license to grow, and it will grow because it conforms to the reorientation of U.S. imperialist policy, which is preparing the population for a major escalation of military expenditures, a new generation of nuclear weapons, the militarization of outer space and possible open military clashes with Russia and China. Short of an all-out confrontation, these global tensions are playing out in other conflicts around the world, as in Venezuela, where Russia is opposing the U.S.-orchestrated coup plot.

While both political wings of the ruling class are moving decidedly to the right and in the direction of war, there is a new movement for social change and socialism that is starting to sweep the country. Therein lies the source of hope and optimism. Bourgeois liberalism and bourgeois conservatism are nothing more than sources of mass deception and misdirection.

Both parties of the U.S. ruling class are servants of Wall Street and the Military-Industrial Complex. Both parties insist that the “rights” of big capital must take precedence over the “rights” of the working class and humanity to access health care, affordable housing, a decent education, a job or income that provides a secure living standard, an end to mass incarceration, and in defense of the environment from the predatory ravaging of nature by capitalist corporations and banks.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is engaged in all areas of this monumental struggle. This moment is the clearest indication that it will be impossible to prevail in the struggle for social justice and socialism at home without a clear cut, principled and persuasive opposition to imperialism, war and militarism, the institutions of state repression, and the capitalist-owned media. We are in a battle of ideas. Bourgeois and imperialist ideology – in both its liberal and conservative varieties – are a ball and chain on the oppressed classes. The genuine socialist left has to be both fearless and effective in resisting bourgeois ideology and the social pressure it is designed to engender. That’s the task at hand.

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