From the Facebook page of Russell Bentley, the Texan who joined to help the Donbass liberation fighters
In his article for International Socialist Review about the American Civil War, Donny Schraffenberger observes how the crisis the country underwent largely brought about a shift in consciousness among the white proletariat:
The vast majority of poor whites weren’t abolitionists. They didn’t thrive economically because Blacks were enslaved. Slavery actually hindered their economic development. Even though slavery was against their own class interests, poor whites continued to support the slave system on the hope that some day, as Marx noted, they would become slaveholders themselves. They recognized that despite their poverty and lack of education, they, at least, were not slaves…The resistance of slaves and former slaves mattered. Their running away, denying their labor to the Confederacy, helping the Union armies, and agitating to take up a rifled musket to bring down the slaveocracy convinced more and more Northerners of their cause for freedom. Abolitionists, both Black and white, organized meetings and demonstrations. Antislavery papers such as Frederick Douglass’s North Star or William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator helped to sway public opinion. Soldiers debating the nature of war and slavery around the campfire also had its impact. The timidity of the conservative generals, and their unwillingness to bring the full resources of the Union army down upon the Confederacy, fueled the national debate. The old strategy of compromising to win over slavery supporters was no longer working. Which way forward?
Why is this story applicable to an analogy about how Americans can overall be persuaded towards the pro-Russia stance? Because like was the case with slavery, the U.S. empire has brought the country to a point of crisis due to its refusal to stop engaging in evil. In the case of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the evils our government has committed are carrying out a fascist coup in Kiev, then militarizing Ukraine to the consequence of threatening Russia’s security, then backing the coup regime in its ethnic cleansing against the Donbass Russian speakers. As a consequence of these wrongdoings by their government, the American people are now experiencing a war. They’re not directly faced with it, but the war is destroying the last hopes for stability among millions of working class Americans.
The inflation the conflict has exacerbated is making it ensured that many people in this country aren’t able to buy enough food, pay their bills, or avoid eviction. And like with the war over slavery, the working class people who’ve been negatively impacted by their government’s worst policy—which back then was slavery whereas now it’s imperialist maneuvers to assist in genocide—have not initially been dissuaded from supporting this policy. This is because like how slavery was back then the economic basis for U.S. capitalism, in modern America the country’s main source of wealth comes from imperial extraction. Which directly pertains to the Ukraine issue.
Washington’s meddling and war provocations in Ukraine have been about trying to fortify the presently threatened neo-colonial order. The empire hopes to weaken Russia enough that it can be destabilized and broken apart like Yugoslavia, allowing for China to be subdued in the new great-power competition. If China were subdued, it would stop undermining U.S. neo-colonial extraction across the peripheral countries. Therefore opposing Russia is in the best interests of those whose primary material stake is tied to the continuation of the Global South’s robbery.
What most of the U.S. working class hasn’t (yet) realized is that their primary material interests are not tied to maintaining the U.S. empire. They’re tied to proletarian revolution in America, and therefore to the U.S. empire’s abolition. The ways in which working class Americans “benefit” from imperialism are negligible at best. The only “advantage” they get from it is cheaper consumer goods, which is a tiny factor in comparison to the ways living under an imperialist government harms them. Imperialism, particularly imperialism’s militarist project, depends on austerity being imposed upon the workers in the core. As we’re seeing, these workers are also subjected to grievously damaging inflation in order to keep their government’s warfare operations running.
The latter way in which imperialism harms the U.S. working class is new. It only came to noticeably impact the livelihoods of American workers a year ago, when Russia was provoked into intervening in Ukraine and Biden committed to an indefinitely long proxy conflict. This means the empire has introduced an unprecedented factor within the conditions of the core’s proletariat. Never before have working Americans had less clear of a material incentive to back imperialism. And never before have they had more of a material incentive to overthrow the bourgeois state, which entails coming to support Russia against the empire’s vile transgressions.
You can argue the American working class is chauvinistic towards its own country, and that supposedly this therefore means they’ll never come to support Russia. To which I’d say: yes you can find much imperial chauvinism among the American people. And?
It’s only natural for a population that’s only ever been exposed to imperialist propaganda to exclusively hold pro-imperialist ideas, insofar as they hold opinions on foreign affairs at all. When they’re also exposed to anti-imperialist arguments, like the ones I’ve articulated, they won’t all reject these arguments. Certain elements of them will cling to pro-imperialist ideology, but many more of them will come to renounce it. Or to hate upon first finding out about it, as many working class people aren’t zealous pro-imperialists in the first place. They’re simply going along with what their cultural hegemony tells them to think, without much passion for these ideas the ruling class imposes upon them. Their role in this situation is passive, rather than aggressive like is often the case for the academics, commentators, and social media actors who constantly promote NATO’s propaganda.
That’s because the Americans most inclined to reject the evidence of Washington’s Ukraine meddling, support for ethnic cleansing, and menacing activities towards Russia are the ones in the upper strata of income. They’re the comfortable minority who’ve had the luxury to focus on international affairs, and who’ve naturally embraced the war against Russia with great enthusiasm as per their neo-colonial interests.
As the principled communist parties continue to spread anti-imperialist education, and as principled individual communists continue to do this educational work on their own, we’ll see more of a visible social element which supports Russia. This social element is based in the proletariat, not in the economically privileged individuals who make up the social base for the Ukraine aid effort. If you’re among the one-third of Americans who still aren’t living paycheck to paycheck because of the inflation, it’s easy to keep believing the lies our government has produced to rationalize continuing aid for Ukraine. It’s easy to disbelieve the evidence that Ukraine is guilty of genocide, and that a U.S. coup happened in Kiev in 2014. So is not the case if you’re in the majority which has been getting materially harmed by the war effort.
The day when a working class American sees the evidence behind Russia’s justification for intervening in Ukraine, and then reacts to this evidence with total denial the way the war’s materially comfortable supporters do, will be an odd day. People are not idiots, they can tell they’ve been scammed when the scam is a simple one and they’re shown straightforward proof it’s a scam. And the Ukraine psyop is a ridiculously simple scam, one that’s been directed towards the U.S. proletariat: the empire turned Ukraine into a launching pad for attacks against Russia, got Russia to respond, then sacrificed the wellbeing of the core’s workers to fund a costly war. All while telling these workers their suffering is for the sake of “defending Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
For someone who’s accepted the indisputable evidence of Washington’s role behind creating the conflict, this idea is the most hilariously absurd thing imaginable. The psyop’s creators should be embarrassed of themselves for having spun such a weak story. They’re not masterminds, they’re PR managers who’ve had to put forth the only claim that can act as damage control for imperialism’s Ukraine scheme. And it’s not a convincing claim from the perspective of the people who are being screwed over by this war.
In time, the psyop’s engineers will indeed be embarrassed. All that’s delaying the switch in America’s popular consciousness towards the anti-imperialist stance is the ongoing success of the counterinsurgency against revolutionary organizing, which can’t continue. Not if anti-imperialists put in the work to build our movement. Most U.S. workers only “support” Ukraine because they’ve been exclusively shown the easily debunked account of events that the Ukraine psyop relies on. That isn’t them being happily pro-imperialist, that’s them being made into a captive audience for some of the weakest arguments ever proliferated within American public discourse. When the counters to these arguments are widely seen, the way that millions of people view the world will radically shift.
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