From xxxxxx <[email protected]>
Subject Putin Is Attempting to Center Russia as a Hub of the Global Right Wing
Date March 31, 2022 2:35 AM
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[ Getting clear for the sake of both strategy and tactics will
require a deep examination of Putin’s Russia and its political
character and direction.] [[link removed]]

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Carl Davidson & Bill Fletcher Jr.
March 28, 2022
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* [[link removed]]

_ Getting clear for the sake of both strategy and tactics will
require a deep examination of Putin’s Russia and its political
character and direction. _

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the
Russian government via teleconference in Moscow on March 10, 2022.,


In the current crisis, the left needs a full and thorough
understanding of Vladimir Putin and his aspirations for Russia. We
have been troubled by some of the statements from the U.S. left
concerning the invasion of Ukraine. It seems when confronted with a
complex array of contradictions, too many have lost an ability to sort
out and grasp the principal contradiction: the Putin regime’s effort
to subjugate Ukraine, end its sovereignty and deny its right to exist

“Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely,
Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began immediately after the
revolution of 1917,” Putin said in a televised address in February
[[link removed]].
“As a result of Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine arose, which even
today can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s
Ukraine.’ He is its author and architect. This is fully confirmed by
archive documents…. And now grateful descendants have demolished
monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. This is what they call decommunization.
Do you want decommunization? Well, that suits us just fine. But it is
unnecessary, as they say, to stop halfway. We are ready to show you
what real decommunization means for Ukraine.”

Putin here is clear enough: “Ukraine has no national rights that
Russians are bound to respect. Prepare for reunification,
reabsorption, or some other euphemism for subaltern status with Mother

The difficulties among our left, however, are still understandable,
given there are other major contradictions in this terrain. NATO’s
expansion and press toward Russia’s border is a prominent one. The
tension between the U.S. and the European Union regarding military
expenditures in their respective budgets is another. Then there is the
rise of pro-Putin right-wing populist parties in most European
countries, with an echo in the U.S. right wing as well. The EU’s
conflict with the Global South, both in military campaigns and refugee
crises, also come into play. And in Ukraine, there are also the actual
fascists of the Svoboda party and its armed militia — though their
influence was sharply reduced by the recent election of Zelenskyy. And
in both Russia and Ukraine, there are class and democratic conflicts
with corrupt oligarchs among ruling elites.

Getting clear for the sake of both strategy and tactics will require a
deep examination of Putin’s Russia and its political character and

It is well known that Putin entered Russian elite circles as a KGB
officer. Less well known are the circumstances of his rise. _House of
Trump, House of Putin_
[[link removed]],
by Craig Unger tells the story: As a working-class youth in the old
USSR, Putin’s sole ambition was to be an intelligence officer. The
KGB told him to go to law school first, where he did well. After his
KGB training, he was stationed in the German Democratic Republic (East
Germany) to a mid-level position. When “the wall” came down and
the USSR broke up, he was out in the cold. He made his way back to St.
Petersburg, driving a cab to survive and hanging out in martial arts
gyms, since he was reportedly good at judo. Along with sport and
social solidarity, the gym crews also ran a lucrative drug trade,
selling heroin from Afghanistan, among other contrabands. Putin used
his money and connections politically, getting connected, first, to
the city’s mayor, and later, to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. At
every step, he brought his judo friends with him. They served as a
“security” force and were rewarded with escalating levels of
corruption in taking over the country’s wealth via trade and buyout
deals. They remain with him today as the core oligarchs in his inner
circle. It is said that Putin’s political rule is a three-legged
stool — his loyal gangsters, the new intelligence operatives and
state bureaucrats.

Under Yeltsin, the new Russian Federation was in considerable turmoil.
U.S. neoliberal think tanks held sway for a time with a “privatize
everything” policy that soon produced the ruling order accurately
named a “kleptocracy.” It caused living standards to fall, along
with life expectancy. Chechnyan fighters were wreaking havoc. On his
way out, Yeltsin put Putin in charge, and to Putin’s credit, he got
an economy functioning via central control of Russia’s immense oil
and natural gas wealth. He also brutally crushed the revolt in
Chechnya. Putin gained a popular majority for himself, if not for the
semi-gangster crew around him.

After the Yeltsin years, the Russian Federation settled into a
“Presidential Parliamentary” system, wherein the elected president
picks the prime minister and cabinet. He can dismiss both, but
parliament can only dismiss the prime minister. This shifts primary
power to the executive, and Putin has made much use of it. After being
elected as an independent, he oversaw the formation of his United
Russia Party, which has always won solid majorities, partly because
serious opponents have been jailed or otherwise forbidden to run. The
Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) serves as a sizable
but still second-place loyal opposition to United Russia, while the
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) serves as a more secure backup to the
otherwise dominant United Russia. The LDP, as many wryly note, is
neither liberal nor democratic — nor is it much of a party. Its
politics are a mixture of right-wing populism and a monarchism
connected with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Putin, closely aligned with the church, embraces the right-wing
populism of the LDP as well. But his “conservative” politics have
deeper roots. Some might think that as someone who was both a KGB
operative and trained through a USSR law school, Putin might have some
underlying fidelity to Marxism. _If so, they would be wrong._ How
so? Note that Putin, as a KGB officer, had intimate knowledge of how
the USSR actually worked. Then in the Yeltsin period, he watched the
sweeping theft and privatization of vast state resources by the top
sectors of the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) elites
and their criminal hangers-on. If he had any illusions, they quickly

Putin took charge in 2000. A few years later, in 2006, he visited the
Donskoy Monastery cemetery in Moscow. He placed flowers on the new
graves of three prominent Russians he had reinterred there: Gen. Anton
Denikin, philosopher Ivan Ilyin and writer Ivan Shmelev. Many leftists
will recognize the name Denikin, a military leader of the
counter-revolutionary “whites” who tried to overthrow Lenin and
restore reactionary rule. Shmelev is a lesser-known individual to us,
but he was a popular Russian writer who joined the “whites.”
(“Whites” was the term used during the Russian Civil War to denote
the myriad counter-revolutionary forces. The “Reds,” of course,
were the Communists.)

Ivan Ilyin is the most obscure and most important today. Ilyin was a
Russian nationalist philosopher in Lenin’s time who turned fascist,
even moving his work to Germany under the Nazis in the 1930s. Putin
now has his officers studying Ilyin, along with Ilyin’s follower
today, Alexander Dugin, a modern Russian fascist and favorite of Steve
Bannon, formerly of team Trump. Both Ilyin and Dugin are theorists and
advocates of “Eurasianism,” a worldview asserting that dominance
of the central land mass “homeland” of both Europe and Asia is the
key to world hegemony.

The point? Far from wanting to be a “new Stalin,” Putin’s dreams
are more in tune with wanting to be a new Tsar of the Eurasian
”Third Rome.” The first “Rome,” naturally, was Rome (i.e., the
Roman Empire), and the second was Constantinople (i.e., the Byzantine
Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church). When that center of the
Byzantine Orthodox world fell to Islam, the Orthodox church moved
north and eventually settled in the Moscow of the Tsars, thus the
“Third Rome” to save the Orthodox church and all Christendom.
Today’s Russian Orthodoxy, as well as Putin, see the main challenge
to the church in the values of Western liberalism and the corrupting
ideas of the Enlightenment, especially notions of equality that extend
to the defense of LGBTQ+ people, the right to abortion and related
causes. Putin’s jailing of the feminist rock group Pussy Riot is a
case in point. A good number of U.S. Christian nationalists also look
to this side of Putin as today’s anti-liberal chief defender of
Christendom worldwide.

Putin claimed these departed anti-Lenin and anti-Soviet “whites”
were “true proponents of a strong Russian state” despite all the
hardships they had to face. He stated, “Their main trait was deep
devotion to their homeland, Russia; they were true patriots” and
“they were heroes during tragic times.” He also placed red roses
on the grave of the prominent Russian monarchist, writer Alexander
Solzhenitsyn, who was also laid to rest there.

“Eurasianism,” as the term suggests, stretches from the Great Wall
of China to the coasts of the United Kingdom. To unite “the
homeland,” then, requires purging all of Europe, especially the
West, from the “Atlanticist” influence of the U.S. and the U.K.

“Proponents of this idea,” write Anton Barbashin and Hannah
Thoburn in _Foreign Affairs_
[[link removed]],
“posited that Russia’s Westernizers and Bolsheviks were both
wrong: Westernizers for believing that Russia was a (lagging) part of
European civilization and calling for democratic development;
Bolsheviks for presuming that the whole country needed restructuring
through class confrontation and a global revolution of the working
class. Rather, Eurasianists stressed, Russia was a unique civilization
with its own path and historical mission: To create a different center
of power and culture that would be neither European nor Asian, but
have traits of both. Eurasianists believed in the eventual downfall of
the West and that it was Russia’s time to be the world’s prime

The task of purging Europe of Atlanticism — its various forms of
liberalism, socialism and social democracy — requires Putin allies
within each country concerned. Hence over the past decade or so, we
have watched Putin’s growing support, both financial and political,
for a variety of right-wing populist parties and politicians. The Pew
Research Center in 2017 published a study
[[link removed]] examining
the trend of Europeans who favor right-wing populist parties being
significantly more likely to express confidence in Putin. “The
largest increases in confidence were in Germany and Italy, where 31%
of the public in each country expressed confidence in Putin in 2016
compared with 22% of Germans and 17% of Italians in 2012,” the study
says. “Notably, the survey was fielded before revelations of Russian
hacking in the U.S. presidential election and the subsequent increase
in anxiety ahead of European elections.”

It continues:

Within these countries, those who hold favorable views of right-wing
populist parties — like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) or
Italy’s Northern League — are more likely to express confidence in
Putin than those who hold unfavorable views of those parties. Just
about half of those who give positive ratings to the AfD and 46% who
favor the Northern League say they are confident Putin will do the
right thing regarding world affairs.

In France, those partial to the right-wing National Front (FN) are
about twice as likely as those with negative views of the FN to say
they are confident in Putin’s leadership (31% vs. 16%). And those
who view Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom favorably are nearly
three times as likely as the party’s detractors to express
confidence in Putin (26% vs. 10%).

Putin may have miscalculated in his invasion of Ukraine, not only in
terms of underestimating Ukrainian resistance, but also in terms of
the response by forces on the political right around the globe. Putin
seems to have underestimated the force of national identity among
those trying to assert national identities and sovereignties of their
own that they see challenged. This has traditionally been a difficulty
for forces on the far right internationally, i.e., how can one be an
internationalist when one is a fervent right-wing nationalist? As
Jason Horowitz writes in _The_ _New York Times_
[[link removed]]:

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally party —
which received a loan from a Russian bank — declared Russia’s
annexation of Crimea was not illegal and visited Mr. Putin in Moscow
before the last presidential elections in 2017. While she opposes
NATO, Ms. Le Pen denounced Mr. Putin’s military aggression on
Friday, saying, “I think that what he has done is completely
reprehensible. It changes, in part, the opinion I had of him.”

Her far-right rival in the presidential campaign, Éric Zemmour, has
in the past called the prospect of a French equivalent of Mr. Putin a
“dream” and admired the Russian’s efforts to restore “an
empire in decline.

Like many other Putin enthusiasts, Zemmour doubted an invasion was in
the cards and blamed the United States for spreading what he called
“propaganda.” Horowitz runs through a number of other European
countries and their rightist leaders with similar results.

At least one voice on the U.S. right is standing firm. Pat Buchanan
has written a string of columns backing both Putin’s nationalist and
religious “traditionalism.” Even with the invasion unfolding, he
explains, “Putin is a Russian nationalist, patriot, traditionalist
and a cold and ruthless realist looking out to preserve Russia as the
great and respected power it once was and he believes it can be
again.” He favorably compares Russia’s takeover of Ukraine to
Teddy Roosevelt and Panama. (Roosevelt’s administration orchestrated
the secession of Panama from Colombia and blocked Colombian troops
from putting down the rebellion.)

Tucker Carlson on _Fox News_ has been carrying on in a similar vein
with more half-baked notions. Carlson, who has been accused of being
“one of the biggest cheerleaders for Russia
[[link removed]]”
during the conflict, asked viewers whether Putin had called him a
racist or promoted “racial discrimination” in schools, made
fentanyl, attempted “to snuff out Christianity” or eaten dogs.
“These are fair questions,” claimed Tucker, “and the answer to
all of them is ‘no.’ Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that, so
why does permanent Washington hate him so much?”

So, what does this tell us?

For much of the left, exclusive opposition to U.S. imperialism is
equivalent to being on the “right side” of history. This is
frequently articulated in terms of the notion that the priority for
the U.S. left must be opposition to U.S. imperialism.

The problem here is that, first, it ignores that the U.S. is not the
sole source of global violence and oppression on this planet and,
second, that there have been times when the U.S. left has had to focus
elsewhere, e.g., support for the Spanish Republic in 1936 in the face
of a fascist uprising and the intervention of Italy and Germany. This
reality coexists with the fact that the U.S. had not ceased to be

What our examination should remind us is that Putin is part of a
global right-wing authoritarian movement that seeks to “overthrow”
the 20th century. In Putin’s specific case, we are looking at a
complete repudiation of the founding principles of the USSR, most
particularly, the notion of the right to national self-determination.
But what is also underway is the positioning of Putin-led Russia as a
pole for the global right. Opposition to socialism, for sure, but also
opposition to constitutional rule as a whole.

A mistake made by several anti-imperialists, in the 1930s and early
1940s, was to see in Imperial Japan a savior from Western colonialism
and imperialism. It is to the credit of communists such as those of
the Viet Minh in Vietnam, the Communist Party of the Philippines and
the Communist Party of China that they could see through the alleged
anti-imperialism of Japan and recognize that what was being introduced
through the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was not
“co-prosperity” but capitalist domination under Japan and a racial
subordination of entire populations.

We should ponder this history as we reflect on Putin’s obsession
with Eurasia and the white supremacist, homophobic, sexist, religious
intolerant politics that rest behind that one term.

_Carl Davidson is a socialist writer and educator. He was a leader of
the New Left of the 1960s. Today, he resides in Beaver County,
Pennsylvania, where he was born and raised. His current projects
include the Online University of the Left and Beaver County Peace

_Bill Fletcher Jr. is a longtime trade unionist, international
activist and writer. He is a past president of TransAfrica Forum and
was a cofounder of the Black Radical Congress._

_Copyright © Truthout [[link removed]]. Reprinted with
permission. May not be reprinted without permission._

_Truthout publishes a variety of hard-hitting news stories and
critical analysis pieces every day. To keep up-to-date, sign up for
our newsletter by clicking here
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