Cultural hegemony & the insidious nature of imperialist propaganda 

Gramsci wrote that “The methodological criterion on which our own study must be based is the following: that the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as ‘domination,’ and as ‘intellectual and moral leadership.’” The capitalist ruling class, and the imperialist order that it depends on to survive, don’t only maintain their rule through coercive force. The other essential part of how they maintain their power is through creating the sense that the imperialist worldview is merely the default, objective truth. That when you hear that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine was unprovoked, or that Taiwan is a separate country from China, or any of the other pieces of propaganda the imperialists present, you’re not hearing propaganda (that supposedly comes from only the other side) but unbiased reporting.

It’s a fundamental reality of social science that there’s no such thing as an unbiased analysis. Every portrayal of world affairs is filtered through a subjective lens, incentivized by whatever material interest the person presenting it has staked themselves in. In the core of imperialism the United States, the material interest that the foreign policy authorities are invested in is that of parasitic extractivism. Capitalism in its current stage can’t survive without the continuation of neo-colonialism, where the core countries export capital to the peripheral countries so that the profit demands of monopoly can be met. And the imperialists have concluded that to maintain their access to these global markets, they must subdue China, which is increasingly enabling the peripheral countries to economically stand on their own feet. 

This is what motivates Voice of America, an outlet that’s directly dependent on the U.S. government, when it consistently skews its coverage of Ukraine in a way that reinforces the narrative about Russia being the side that’s in the wrong. The imperialists have to put forth this narrative because if it’s found out that Russia is responding to a humanitarian threat posed to the Donbass republics by the Kiev regime, a regime which exists due to U.S. cold war meddling, the American people will no longer consent to military aid to Kiev. And if Kiev’s war against Russia can’t continue, Washington won’t be able to carry on its mission of weakening Russia. A mission whose success would make possible Washington’s vision for a subdued China, as Russia is China’s most important ally.

Keeping these facts in mind is how to recognize which motives go behind VOA’s choices of words when it talks about Ukraine. Take this example, which is the most neutral type of statement that VOA and other imperialist sources ever make about the topic:

2021: Zelenskyy appeals in January to U.S. President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO. Russia masses troops near Ukraine’s borders during the spring in what it says are training exercises. In December Russia presents detailed security demands including a legally binding guarantee that NATO will give up any military activity in eastern Europe and Ukraine. In response, NATO repeats a commitment to its “open-door” policy while offering “pragmatic” discussions of Moscow’s security concerns.

2022: In a televised address on February 21, Putin says that Ukraine is an integral part of Russian history, has never had a history of genuine statehood, is managed by foreign powers, and has a puppet regime. Putin signs agreements to recognize the breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and orders Russian troops there.

No proclamations are made in these paragraphs. There are VOA articles that repeat the slogan about Russia’s actions being “unprovoked,” but on the surface, this reads as nothing more than a Wikipedia-type summary of the events. But Wikipedia itself hides a consistent and coordinated pattern of pro-imperialist bias behind its veneer of being a neutral resource, and the same is the case here.

Even “neutral” accounts by imperialist sources aren’t trustworthy because as a rule, they lie by omission. The main way VOA does this is by not mentioning the events which had caused Russia to interpret Kiev’s requests to join NATO as a sign that Russia’s security would soon be compromised. In its chronology of the events between Ukraine’s capitalist restoration and today, VOA doesn’t include the instances of Washington using its NATO allies as tools for placing nuclear missiles on the borders of its adversaries. It doesn’t mention how after joining NATO, Turkey let the U.S. put nuclear missiles next to the USSR. Which would have required VOA to cover a more extensive timeline, but that’s what’s necessary for laying out the sufficient context behind why Russia intervened in Ukraine.

One could counter that the other eastern European countries that have joined NATO since the cold war’s end haven’t acquired nuclear weapons, and this indeed makes the scenario of a nuclear Ukraine less likely. But Russia can still point to the historical precedent of the Turkish missile placement as evidence that it’s possible for Washington to decide to do the same in Ukraine. The fact that Ukraine is today a focal point in the great power tensions makes Russia’s concerns all the more rational. And that’s just one part of why Russia intervened. What VOA also omits is that Kiev has been ethnically cleansing its own people in order to de-Russifi the country, and that the separatist war has been about rescuing the people from this inhumane treatment. As well as that the independent republics were not recognized by Kiev as independent, making a Ukrainian invasion of these republics probable and justifying Russia’s effort to take away the regime’s military capabilities. As International Human Rights teacher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law Daniel Kovalik has observed:

One must begin this discussion by accepting the fact that there was already a war happening in Ukraine for the eight years preceding the Russian military incursion in February 2022. And, this war by the government in Kiev against the Russian-speaking peoples of the Donbass – a war which claimed the lives of around 14,000 people, many of them children, and displaced around 1.5 million more even before Russia’s military operation – has been arguably genocidal. That is, the government in Kiev, and especially its neo-Nazi battalions, carried out attacks against these peoples with the intention of destroying, at least in part, the ethnic Russians precisely because of their ethnicity. While the U.S. government and media are trying hard to obscure these facts, they are undeniable, and were indeed reported by the mainstream Western press before it became inconvenient to do so.

What happens if these and the other hidden realities of imperialism are exposed? As Gramsci wrote, “If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i. e. is no longer ‘leading,’ but only ‘dominant,’ exercising coercive force alone, this means precisely that the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously, etc.” This is why I write: to help bring our society to that state where the existing social order no longer has cultural hegemony to support it, and can only maintain itself through coercive force. The more that imperialism’s disinformation and lies by omission are made recognizable to the people, the more the ruling class will have to rely on coercion. At which point the contradictions of capitalism will have reached a stage of revolutionary crisis, in which the working class has an opportunity to wrest power from a vulnerable bourgeois state. This is how we can liberate both the global population that lives under imperialism, and the population in the core that’s also subjugated by capitalism.—————————————————————————

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