This article is based on a speech about Russiagate given by Gloria La Riva, a member of the Central Committee of Party for Socialism and Liberation. 

When we characterize “Russiagate” as the new McCarthyism, a new Cold War, it is no exaggeration. 

But what was McCarthyism?

Beginning in the 1940s, there was an offensive by U.S. imperialism to counter, and eventually overthrow, the Soviet Union and socialist camp. At home, it was an equally aggressive offensive against the working class, against organized labor, against the Communist and Socialist movement, to drive back the gains that had been made in the 1930s. It was conjured up in the most hysterical way, characterizing communism as a demonic enemy, which included anything that was progressive.

It was the time of the U.S. genocidal war against North Korea, of the great Chinese Revolution, of 1949. It was the Vietnamese struggle against French colonialism that was about to become the U.S. war in Vietnam. It was a time of national liberation struggles throughout the world. For U.S. imperialism, they had to be crushed.

It was a cultural war, filmmakers driven out of Hollywood and blacklisted for more than 20 years. Leftists were driven out of unions. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two members of the Communist Party, were executed for allegedly giving atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union. They were even blamed for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in the Korean War.

The anti-communist hysteria had a devastating effect on the left in the United States. The witch-hunt allowed the ruling class to suppress dissent and build the growing surveillance apparatus of the State.

McCarthyism was a massive and wide-reaching offensive, whether the FBI’s infamous Cointelpro or the CIA’s creation of the “non-communist left” and related entities, that in reality were instruments of imperialism.

In 1947 the National Security Act was passed, and the National Security Council was created, along with the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and many other police agencies meant to provide the intelligence arm for U.S. objective of global hegemony. The CIA went on a rampage abroad, engineering coups against democratically elected governments in Guatemala, Iran, Congo and backing reactionary regimes.

Today’s new McCarthyism is similar in that it is calculated to divert Americans’ attention from the massive U.S. surveillance and cyber war, the endless wars and plans for more wars, racist repression in the United States, growing inequality and attempts to suppress the popular struggles. 

In one sense, today’s witch-hunt is not the same as that of the 1940s and 1950s, in that there is no Soviet Union or socialist camp as it existed. But in recent years, Russia has recovered from its disastrous decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia under Putin has taken back control of much its resources and has rebuilt the military. It has the second largest nuclear arsenal and is viewed by Washington as a major obstacle, along with China, to U.S. global domination.

Russia’s alliance with Syria has been a key factor in thwarting regime change by U.S. imperialism and its alliance of reactionary governments, including France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan,

Hillary Clinton’s defeat was not caused by Russian government hacking; it was the Democrats’ complete abandonment of any pretense to advocate for the working class. It was Hillary Clinton’s anti-worker arrogance that really cost her the election, and the very real perception that she was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs. Of course, we know Trump and both parties are, too.

And Clinton said “America is great” in response to Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Sure it’s great if you’re rich. But if you lost your job and your home, as so many millions did in the economic crisis, it’s not so great. Clinton offered nothing but disdain and arrogance to those who are suffering.

Accusing Russia of influencing the U.S. elections came at the moment that Wikileaks was about to reveal her 50,000 emails that exposed the Democrats’ manipulation to keep Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination.

Post-election, the Democrats were vociferous in their accusations against Russia in Congressional hearings, yet they surrendered completely to the Republicans and Trump on DACA and many other issues. By conflating Trump with Russia, they hope it can propel them back into the Democratic majority in Congress and the White House.

Russiagate has become a new weapon of the ruling class, with daily and more unfounded accusations, to divert people from seeing the real danger: the military buildup against Russia and China, the continuing U.S. war against Syria, and threats to Iran and the DPRK.

There is no proof of Russian government hacking into the U.S. voter databases to influence the elections, none at all.

But there IS proof of deep U.S. interference in elections abroad, wherever the government felt that its “interests” were at stake. 

This is an important fact to remember: From 1946 to 2000, the U.S. interfered in 81 elections.

The U.S. imperialists raise the specter of alleged Russian interference in elections. But the U.S. — the greatest manipulator of elections — has spent billions of dollars to not only influence other country’s elections, rather to also overthrow governments whose elected governments it opposes. It has a long and sordid past.

There was Chile, 1973. The democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown with the direct involvement of the CIA after an U.S. economic offensive, ushering in years of military dictatorship.

The Republic of the Congo, where Patrice Lumumba’s government was the first independent government elected after almost a century of Belgian colonialism and genocide. Lumumba was soon hunted down in a CIA operation, he was tortured and then murdered in 1961.

In Guatemala, the government of Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in a 1954 coup with the direct involvement of the CIA after fierce red-baiting, because Arbenz’s land reform was challenging U.S. corporate ownership of the country. More than 250,000 Guatemalans, mostly indigenous peasants, were slaughtered over the next 35 years.

And Russia was also a target of U.S. electoral interference.

In 1996, Boris Yeltsin’s presidential election campaign was only in the single digits according to polls, because of the utter disaster he helped create after the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union. The Communist Party’s candidate Gennady Zyuganov had far more support. So Bill Clinton authorized a 10.2 billion dollar IMF loan, which helped bolster Yeltsin’s election. This allowed him to use the funds to ameliorate the economic crisis. Hundreds of U.S. operatives were brought in to Russia to save Yeltsin and get him elected. 

Mexico’s presidential elections will take place this coming July 1. Before his ouster, former National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster ridiculously warned that Russia is going to interfere in Mexico’s elections. There is no proof at all of Russia’s involvement, but you can be sure the U.S. has been deeply involved in Mexico’s internal politics for decades, including its elections.

Russiagate is a smokescreen, a fog much like the anti-communist hysteria that affected so many people in the 1950s to accept U.S. imperialist policies. But it could only last so long. The great African American civil rights struggle could not be suppressed by the powers that be forever. At first, the anti-communist hysteria enabled the U.S. to massively escalate the war in Vietnam until the U.S. growing defeat led to a split in the ruling class over the war, and mass opposition made the war no longer viable. 

It is much the same way today. While the new “McCarthyism” is a challenge for the progressive movement and some forces have fallen for it, the capitalists cannot resolve the economic and social crises that affect tens of millions of people in the U.S. Scapegoating, xenophobia, anti-immigrant bashing, brutal racism, can only work on some and only for so long. 

We don’t believe that the anti-Russia campaign is likely to end any time soon, as the U.S. political establishment has made it clear that it sees Russia, along with China, as its main enemies. So it is critically important that the progressive movement confront the new McCarthyism in as forceful and effective way as possible.