The basis for the psyop that Washington is using to justify its proxy war against Russia is so dishonest that there was never any way this war would gain widespread support from places other than imperialism’s strongholds. After the U.S. expanded NATO in contradiction of its promise to Russia; carried out a coup in order to militarize Ukraine; backed militias that are openly guided by National Socialist ideas; and facilitated a campaign by Kiev’s fascist permanent national security state to ethnically cleanse the Russian speakers, Washington expects the world to believe Russia’s action was unprovoked. The context behind Russia’s decision wasn’t merely about national security, it was about an immediate threat to human lives. If Russia hadn’t intervened, the Euromaidan fascists would have murdered many more than they already had since their reign of terror began in 2014.
Upon seeing these facts, the natural reaction is to view Washington as hypocritical for claiming to be the guardian of human rights or sovereignty. That this proxy war is being perpetrated by a Democratic administration, and therefore has been sold through “humanitarian” rhetoric, makes Washington’s lies all the more transparent. The liberal interventionists are viewed as ridiculous by the U.S. empire’s own military strategists, because they try to pretend that the inherently cynical nature of imperialism doesn’t exist. They spin stories about imperialism actually being motivated by altruism and a desire to create an equitable world, when inescapably it’s motivated by desire to trample and steal. This proxy war is about preserving neo-colonialism. Its goal isn’t to help the Ukrainians, if Washington cared about them it wouldn’t have carried out a fascist coup within their country. It’s about weakening Russia enough that Eurasia can be destabilized, disrupting China’s Belt and Road Initiative and maintaining Washington’s global economic grip.
Because of this material incentive behind Washington’s aid to Ukraine, in which Washington seeks to use the conflict as a tool for continuing to exploit the peoples of the peripheral countries, it’s been an intuitive thing for most of the globe to reject the Ukraine psyop. The same goes for the other psyops the imperialists have used to sell their wars against multipolarity. Zhao Lijian, Deputy Director-General of China’s Information Department, has spoken for billions across the semi-peripheral and peripheral world when he’s articulated disbelief in what Washington has recently been accusing its geopolitical challengers of: “The U.S. has a long record of propagating disinformation. From Operation Mockingbird which bribed and manipulated news media for propaganda purposes in the Cold War era, to a vial of white powder and a staged video of the ‘White Helmets’ cited as evidence to wage wars in Iraq and Syria earlier this century, and then to the lie of the century made up to smear China’s Xinjiang policy, the world has seen how the U.S. concocts false evidence and spreads misinformation.”
It’s only in the imperialist countries that there exists a social base for the proxy war. No such base exists in the places that are currently exploited by imperialism, or are fighting against imperialism. In parts of the peripheries, including the ones still ruled by neo-colonial regimes, there’s instead a social base in favor of Russia’s anti-fascist war. This is evidenced by the demonstrations within places like post-colonial Africa that cheer on Russia’s action. The peoples of these places stand with Russia not only because of the Soviet Union’s aid for their past liberation struggles, but because living under neo-colonial exploitation primes a society to more easily come towards a dialectical analysis.
In these circumstances, imperialism isn’t abstract, it’s something that’s perpetually hollowing out your community. So an anti-imperialist consciousness is cultivated among the population out of personal experience. The reality of these countries’ forced underdevelopment (or over-exploitation, as Parenti clarified) creates too big of a divide between what Washington wants them to believe and what makes sense for them to believe. Why should they join in on the silly rituals Washington has put together, in which everybody is expected to condemn Russia amid wild narrative contradictions and U.S. hypocrisies? In the age of climate crisis, the priority of these countries is survival. They’ve been progressively drained of the resources they need in order to keep their people alive amid a catastrophic scenario, a scenario that the imperialist powers have created through militaristic and corporate emissions. They have no incentive to do a favor for Washington, especially after Washington showed its total lack of honor with the Iraq invasion.
This is not to say that every American who’s accepted the Ukraine psyop is doing so out of a corrupt desire to maintain access to neo-colonial extraction. We’re half a century into the neoliberal era, the labor aristocracy has been shrinking for generations and the pre-existing U.S. working class has been getting increasingly impoverished. At this point, almost two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. The bulk of Americans are more exploited by the bourgeoisie than they’re benefactors of neo-colonialism.
The Ukraine supporters in the U.S. who take their stance due to corruption are concentrated within the upper strata of society, shaped by comfortable conditions that let them absorb imperialist propaganda in far greater detail than most others can. The commentator Edward Curtin observes that these types are so innately hostile towards anti-imperialist ideas because they’ve embraced the pro-imperialist worldview as essential to their self-concept as the enlightened: “This is what some call the professional and intellectual classes, perhaps 15-20 % of the population, most of whom are not the ruling elites but their employees and sometimes their mouthpieces. It is this segment of the population that considers itself ‘informed,’ but the information they imbibe is often sprinkled with bits of misdirection, both intentional and not, that beclouds their understanding of important public matters but leaves them with the false impression that they are in the know.”
The social base for revolution is not within this minority of petty-bourgeois and labor aristocrat imperialist stakeholders. It’s in the proletariat, and in the parts of the lumpen who can be “proletarianized” by revolutionary programs to provide livelihoods for those pushed aside by capitalism. The majority of those in these demographics only accept the Ukraine narrative because it’s the sole story they’ve so far come across. They’re not fanatically grabbing up every piece of war propaganda they come across, like the managerial and intellectual classes do. They’re simply trying to survive under a paradigm of cruel austerity and shrinking wages, while passively absorbing the lies that are constantly forced upon them. Their primary material interests do not lie in the fulfillment of the proxy war’s goal, which is to reinvigorate neo-colonialism and neoliberalism. It lies in proletarian revolution.
This detachment of the broad masses from the interests the war advances does not mean they aren’t being successfully manipulated. The power of this psyop, and of all the other imperialist psyops, is that it exploits empathy, portraying Washington’s involvement as crucial for saving a certain group from atrocities. The reality that Washington is only defending the interests of Ukraine’s fascist minority, while helping this minority commit actual atrocities against Ukraine’s Nazi-targeted groups, is concealed by ever-tightening censorship.
So across the imperialist countries, the Ukraine psyop is fulfilling propaganda’s goal of making the population police itself. Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, speaking for the facet of softer rightists who reject the neocon orthodoxy, has observed: “In Europe, skeptics of NATO policy are silenced and cut off by friends, family….In Bratislava earlier this week, I had dinner with some Slovak friends, and heard them talking about how old friendships are ending because of the Ukraine war. Those ending the friendships are people who support the war, and who will not tolerate being friends with those who are skeptical of NATO policy — this, even though none of the skeptics believe Russia was right to invade.”
The part of the intellectual class that The American Conservative represents doesn’t take the correct stance on Russia either. As it won’t be willing to support the idea of an anti-fascist war unless World War II’s scenario (where U.S. was at war with a fascist state) repeats itself. This strain is obviously also incorrect for its bourgeois ideology, its backwards social stances, and its chauvinism towards colonial “progress.” But this strain’s lack of willingness to back NATO is shared by a significant section of the broader population, mainly the conservatives who have less of a material stake in maintaining the war machine. Half of Republican voters feel that Washington sends too much aid to Ukraine, which is the starting point in becoming educated about the full context behind the conflict. And by extension, in becoming educated about all other revolutionary ideas.
The ideologically softer types within this category, the ones who haven’t been radicalized towards Marjorie Taylor Green-style fascism, ironically have more revolutionary potential than liberals do. This is because it’s liberals who are the driving ideological force behind this war. As commentator Philippe Lemoine has written:
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a wave of what I call “liberal imperialism” in the West, which I think is a very unfortunate development, so I want to explain in this essay what I mean by that and why I think it’s such a bad thing. In some ways, this phenomenon is reminiscent of what happened at the end of the Cold War, but it’s also very different. As in 1989, Western elites see the events that are unfolding as validating their worldview and proving that history is on their side. However, today’s liberal triumphalism is very different from the post-1989 enthusiasm, when people assumed that, now that the main alternative to this model had ended in failure, the rest of the world would convert to liberal democracy on its own. Since that didn’t happen, they no longer want to engage with non-liberal regimes and instead advocate aggressive containment, consequences be damned….dividing the world into democracies and autocracies and seeing the main goal of foreign policy as the defense of the former against the latter is a mistake, which will make the world less safe and less prosperous.
Marxists align with anti-neocon conservatives like Lemoine only insofar as we both engage in the measured, pragmatic geopolitical analyses that are incompatible with what liberals want. They come to sound conclusions about foreign policy simply because of how unsound, and in Ukraine’s case insane, the dominant foreign policy views are. In an environment where the liberal orthodoxy says that we should be willing to risk nuclear war if that’s what it takes to weaken Russia, all one has to do to be correct on geopolitics is say the opposite of what the liberals are saying. Tens of millions of even right-leaning minds have come to reject the pro-NATO stance because the pro-NATO stance is self-evidently mad.
Marxists must nurture this anti-imperialist consciousness, acting with enthusiasm to educate whoever is open to asking questions about our government’s foreign policy. This is how we’ll build a movement to defeat imperialism from within, and liberate all the peoples who imperialism oppresses.
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