Left photo: 2016 video footage in the Syrian district of Aleppo, several months before liberation, of a group “moderate rebels” mocking a kidnapped 10-12 year old Palestinian boy moments before they beheaded him on camera. Right photo: members of the ultra-right Svoboda party holding a 2017 torch rally commemorating the anniversary of the Ukrainian offensive, led by the Nazi-allied organization of Stepan Bandera against the Red Army.
“Peace” at Home on the Western Front, Exporting Terrorism Abroad: Social Antagonisms and the Contradictions of Capitalism
24 August 2019
In a recent video called, “The New YouTube Purge,” Jason Unruhe raises a key point which contradicts a popular American right-wing narrative that there is a “leftist bias” in Western mainstream media and on social media, with the implication that there is a “left-wing threat”. However, as pointed out by Unruhe, there is no credible threat to the system coming from the Western left whose vigor significantly decreased by the 1970s, with many having fallen into the liberal trappings of identity politics. At around the 2:15-minute mark in the video he states that there is actually no “leftist bias” or a bias against the right; but rather, there is a liberal bias that is embedded in the current climate of social media censorship-blitz:
“There is not a conspiracy against conservatives to censor them. Now that’s what they really believe in this case. But let’s really look at what’s going on. Capitalism needs things to function as smoothly as possible in order to make money; in other words: social anxieties and antagonisms “down”, purchasing “up”. Now there are certain barriers to that, certain contradictions within capitalism that creates the problems that run antagonistic to this desire for “smooth sailing”.”
While it is true that high-profile conservative media personalities are being censored on social media, it is not because of an overarching government conspiracy against the right. It is also not an issue of correct or incorrect ideas. After all, capitalism is built upon inequality, and one cannot expect true equality under such a system in regard to ideas or anything else. In order for the capitalist-imperialist system to function properly, the capitalists need to maintain consumer spending in the countries that comprise the imperialist core. Not only do the capitalists need to maintain consumer spending, but they also need to avoid anything that might hinder “business as usual”, such as workers’ strikes, large-scale protests, or any other kind of popular mobilization that might threaten the established system. This includes both right-wing and left-wing mobilizations, although the right is considerably stronger at present, at least in the U.S. Despite all the brutal violence and terrorism perpetrated by the imperialists and their proxies, the ruling class needs to maintain a positive, peaceful image of the capitalist system, especially in the imperialist countries, in order the keep the system running smoothly. Therefore, the capitalists must place constraints on speech, especially through social media, to maintain a veneer of tolerance and acceptability, and to prevent the spread of non-mainstream right-wing or left-wing ideas which may threaten the system. The capitalists must prevent not only the rise of radicalism in the imperialist core, but also any domestic terrorist activity that does not fit within their agenda. When American right-wing pundits such as Stephen Crowder “go too far” with some of their racist comments, they get de-monetized on Youtube not because the capitalists want a truly equitable and just world, nor because right-wingers are a threat to the system in the same way that the Bolsheviks were to the tsarist regime. The capitalist class considers such comments to be problematic because they are outside the boundaries of acceptable and “peaceful” speech within the imperialist core. By limiting speech that is outside the limits of mainstream acceptability, including both right-wing and left-wing speech, the capitalist ruling class effectively kills any attempts toward creating class consciousness, economic justice, international solidarity, or positive change in general.
With that said, there are, of course, certain right-wing sentiments that the capitalist class and liberal media are willing to tolerate — just not on Western soil; and certainly not on American soil today, in spite of it being the “belly of the beast” (to borrow Che Guevara’s words) and having been built on a foundation of slavery and the genocide of its indigenous populations. Right-wing terrorism abroad is not only exported and funded by Western powers against countries targeted by U.S. foreign policy, but it is also glorified and celebrated in Western mainstream media. In fact, many of the loudest voices championing the Banderite neo-Nazi Svoboda party in Ukraine and the numerous Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist proxy forces attempting to destabilize Syria have been liberals (as well as several sections of the Western “left”). For all their bluster about the American “alt-right”, liberal pundits and anti-Trump U.S. politicians alike appear to be tone deaf to their own hypocrisy in supporting right-wing terrorism against Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuela.
One would be correct to say that the Svoboda representatives or supporters and the Wahhabist and Salafist anti-Assad forces are much less likely to be at the receiving end of the social media censorship blitz. Besides, both U.S.-backed ultra-conservative forces have been rebranded as “revolutionaries” and “moderate rebels” in Western media. Moreover, both sets of reactionaries have taken to Twitter and Facebook several times to openly boast about their exploits or to express outright hatred, all without facing the same liberal condemnation as the American right wing.
One such notorious example is the White Helmets, the “humanitarian” front group of Al Qaeda in Syria, who are infamously marketed as the “Syrian civil defense” in Western media and were awarded an Oscar in 2017. In a widely circulated and highly graphic June 2017 video on Twitter, the White Helmets were caught on camera parading the mutilated bodies and severed heads of Syrian soldiers (who were taken as prisoners of war by the “rebels”) as trophies, as well as dumping and disposing of them. One member even bragged to the camera and held up a bloodied severed head so that the camera could get a close-up of it. This was not the first time that these so-called “peace-bearing first aid responders” participated alongside the various terrorist groups in the torture, beheadings, or executions of Syrian civilians and captured Syrian Arab Army soldiers. Despite the numerous atrocities committed by these NATO-sponsored terrorist groups — which also include stealing and hoarding food and water supplies from civilians in “rebel”-held territory, in addition to some of the most gruesome acts of violence — few of them have ever seen any of their social media pages suspended.
In some cases, these reactionary forces who represent complete backwardness would go on to become Facebook policy managers, such as former Ukrainian government official and long-time Svoboda party member Kateryna Kruk. Kruk is a hardline ultra right-wing nationalist who is unabashedly anti-Russia and has openly cheered on fascistic acts of street violence and terrorism on social media several times. This is nothing more than a blatant move to further cement Facebook’s censorship campaigns, on behalf of U.S. interests, against Russia as well as against anti-imperialist voices — especially those who criticize the U.S.-led proxy wars against countries such as Syria and Ukraine. The Svoboda party, which took over Ukraine in 2014 with the help of a U.S.-backed coup, is essentially a rebranding of the openly neo-Nazi Social-National Party of Ukraine; both past and present incarnations of the party are inspired by Stepan Bandera and his Nazi-collaborationist movement. The party is overtly fascist (in the literal and in every meaningful sense of the oft-misused word) and makes no effort to hide its racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic sentiments both online and offline. White supremacist banners and Confederate flags can be seen draped inside of Kiev’s City Hall, and the neo-Nazi militia wing of the party can often be seen sporting a skinhead style of dress as well as glorifying street violence and pledging to defend Ukraine’s “ethnic purity”. And after toppling a statue of Lenin — which Western liberals and anarchists cheered on — the militias hoisted a Nazi SS banner that included white power symbols. They even destroyed memorials dedicated to Ukrainians who died while fighting against Nazi-German occupation during World War II. Yet, in spite of all the mounting evidence that shows that the party actively targets ethnic minorities, the Svoboda party continues to enjoy support from the U.S. and its allies, being hailed as having brought “democracy” to Ukraine.
These cases of Western-sponsored right-wing terrorism in Syria and Ukraine are just some examples of the “out of sight, out of mind” and “not in my backyard” mentality of the capitalist class. More importantly, the double standard by which right-wing terrorism is condemned (and rightly so for the most part) when it happens on Western soil but not when it happens in Syria, Ukraine, or Venezuela, is in keeping with the imperialist objectives of Washington and Wall Street. Namely, right-wing terrorist proxy forces — whether they be Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria), the Svoboda party, or Juan Guaido and his supporters — representing complete backwardness, have the potential to push back economic development in the countries in which they are propped up through their acts of sabotage, which works in favour of the American Empire as it seeks to eliminate competition and/or those who are not friendly towards U.S. capital interests. Therefore, these highly reactionary forces’ methods are not cause for concern for the United States as long as the acts of sabotage and terrorism align with its geopolitical aims. This line of thinking is not unlike that of Richard Nixon who, as Caleb Maupin wrote, was willing to “unleash Milton Friedman against the people of Chile in 1973 following the military coup,” but “would not unleash the nightmare of neoliberalism on America’s middle class.”
Although the social media giant has a liberal bias with a particularly obvious lean towards the Democratic Party, it is no accident that Facebook would hire a representative of the Svoboda party. As a matter of fact, the Atlantic Council, a NATO think tank, is heavily involved in helping to shape Facebook policy and is one of the “fact-checkers” used by the social media company; it ultimately decides what kind of speech is allowed and what isn’t. Hence why anti-imperialist voices are primarily silenced, because Facebook serves and ultimately reflects U.S. capital interests which have a global monopoly. Facebook, along with other social media giants such as Twitter and Instagram, functions as a highly influential tool since it often acts as an unofficial policy arm of Washington on the internet. Furthermore, this is not the first time that the U.S. and other Western powers have colluded (albeit covertly) with fascists, as prior to joining the united front against the Axis powers in World War II, both the American and British ruling classes largely saw Nazism as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and communism.
After WWII, the CIA employed numerous former Nazi officials as spies against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Not to mention, the United States and its allies violated the 1945 Potsdam agreement by siding with the reactionary German factions that wanted to partition Germany, leading to the creation of the puppet government of West Germany — which included several ex-Nazi officials in positions of power and would be invited to become a NATO member. They also violated the agreement by re-arming West Germany. With these historical events in mind, one may understandably find it puzzling that U.S. officials such as the late Republican Senator John McCain and liberal favourites such as Barack Obama would condemn the violent clashes that took place in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017 involving right-wing extremists. However, there is historical context to that phenomenon as well, which is rooted in American Supremacy. Namely, World War II historical revisionism by the United States has always manifested itself by attempting to diminish or erase the major contributions, achievements, and immense sacrifices of the Soviet Union — while the U.S. exaggerates the role it played by portraying itself as the “heroes” who carried the full weight of the war, even if they were the latecomers and had made business deals with the Nazis prior to (and in some cases, during) joining the Allies in combat. The fact that it was the Soviet Union that defeated the Nazis threatens the myth of America as a liberating force — a myth that is needed in justifying U.S. imperialism; hence the reason for the U.S. lionizing and exaggerating its role in WWII.
While the Western far right is a public relations inconvenience, “pink-washing” has actually been a long-running strategy of the imperialists to manipulate the public as they began to realize that expressions of hardline, openly reactionary ideas were starting to become marketing liabilities. As Maximilian Forte says in his book, Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa:
“Few recognized that liberal imperialism was the driving force in new American conquests even under putative conservatives such as George W. Bush, and thus many did not recognize ‘neoconservatism’ whose ideological principles and goals are that of a ‘new’ liberal imperialism: direct intervention, regime-change, nation-building, counterinsurgency, pacification, aid, development. The hard-line conservatives in the U.S. instead proclaim that America is a republic, and not an empire. Others clearly disagree. The result is the creation of a renewed hierarchy that not accidentally mirrors old ethnocentric theories of ‘cultural evolution’ from the nineteenth century and some of the racial typologies of the time: the West, white, developed, and superior has the right to intervene in Africa, and Africa has the ‘right’ to be intervened in, and should be barred from even intervening in its own affairs. We are not dealing with coincidences and accidents, not at this level of expenditure and obsessive strategizing: the U.S. military’s new Africa Command (AFRICOM), the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), the work of the USAID, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) with its nearly exclusive focus on Africa—none of these things are ‘accidents.’”(p. 18)
Indeed, capitalism needs to constantly adapt to changes in material conditions in order to survive and preserve itself; naturally, that includes the need to expand beyond national borders through imperialism. Over the years since the height of the Cold War, that also included making imperialism more palatable to the Western masses and giving it a “humanitarian” veneer. And so today, many of the “social justice movements” such as the “Stop Trump” movement are, somewhat ironically, nothing more than large displays of pro-imperialist American chauvinism that ultimately stand in defense of the U.S. political establishment, as they sympathize with militant racialists in Ukraine and with Islamic fundamentalists attempting to overthrow the secular leftist government of Syria. Perhaps the only real difference between these groups and the more traditionalist right wing is that the former is in favour of a “multicultural” and “intersectional” imperialism, while the latter favours a white supremacist imperialism.
It may seem paradoxical that the capitalists would be financing the “Stop Trump” movement, as well as the crack-down on “hate speech” on social media, while funding reactionary forces of backwardness abroad at the same time. By directing liberals and other would-be leftists into the “Stop Trump” movement, the capitalists effectively reinforce a pro-imperialist ideology among such a crowd by shifting the focus away from the imperialist system and onto a single, unlikable individual while avoiding any acknowledgement of the imperialist atrocities carried out by Democrats such as Barack Obama. One could even say that “left” and “right” are barely distinguishable in the West today considering how lacking the former is in pursuing class struggle. But more importantly, and as recent history shows us, social “peace” within the domestic core of the imperialist nations is profitable under capitalism, while global peace is not. It is clear that there is an antagonistic contradiction here, considering that both peace and war cannot exist at the same time, and that “humanitarian intervention” is nothing more than a euphemism for imperial conquest meant to put the “social justice warrior” conscience at ease.
The notions of “free speech” are indeed full of contradictions, considering that freedoms are inherently contradictory. As Lenin once said, “‘Freedom of the press’ in bourgeois society means freedom for the rich systematically, unremittingly, daily, in millions of copies, to deceive, corrupt and fool the exploited and oppressed mass of the people, the poor.” Thus, the underlying issue for communists is who is being heard and who is being silenced, and how, for instance, imperialist wars are being framed; it is not so much of an issue of “bias” — of course Western mainstream media will be on the side of U.S. imperialism and will reflect the dominant ideology of capitalism. After all, and simply put, “ideology” is a way of organizing ideas; it is not “biased” or “untrustworthy” opinions made by fringe groups, as mainstream media would like us to believe. In any case, it is always the victims of imperialism whose voices are hardly heard above the noise of Western war propaganda; by extension, the global masses will continue to be silenced when the capitalist class is allowed to drown them out. Only by organizing to support the united front against imperialism and working to establish socialism in the exploited nations will the voice of the people ever be heard.
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