Draft Perspectives, 2024-2025: Part Three, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the worldwide drive toward fascism

May 4, 2024

II. Trump 2.0: A global threat


III. Russia’s war on Ukraine and the worldwide drive toward fascism

The drive toward fascism and the proliferation of wars and military assaults on civilians flow out of this total crisis. Russia’s war on Ukraine is a prime example of how the international order is falling apart. Shortly after Ukraine became independent out of the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine ceded all its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the U.S., and the UK in the Budapest Memorandum. That included recognizing its independence, sovereignty, and borders as they existed at that time. In Putin’s early years as president, he reaffirmed that, and even said that joining NATO would be Ukraine’s decision.

But in 2014—after two political revolutions in Ukraine weakened Russia’s economic and political grip on the country, and not coincidentally after the U.S. had weakened itself with its imperial overreach in Iraq and Afghanistan—Putin annexed Crimea and stoked an armed separatist takeover in eastern Ukraine. His all-out invasion in 2022 stalled in the face of fierce resistance from Ukrainians.[1] From the beginning Ukraine has received assistance from the U.S. and allied countries. However, despite strong rhetoric—and despite supplying mountains of weapons to Israel, often in secret, sometimes bypassing Congress—Biden has been ambivalent about giving too much assistance. This set the stage for today’s impasse, after pro-Putin Congressional Republicans, from Speaker Mike Johnson to Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, blocked aid for months under Trump’s instructions, weakening the resistance. Ukraine’s counteroffensive stalled, and as its air defenses dwindled, Russia has been able to bomb cities, kill more people, and destroy more infrastructure.

PRO-PUTIN LEFT IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO PRO-PUTIN RIGHT

Anti-Putin art in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Rasande Tyskar, CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Shockingly, a large section of the U.S. and European Left agrees with the pro-Putin Republicans and much of Europe’s far Right that aid should be stopped and Ukraine must offer territorial concessions to Russia. Trump—whose affinity for the murderous, reactionary dictator Putin is no secret—claims to have a “secret plan” to end the war, which insiders say revolves around forcing Ukraine to give up large swaths of its territory. A Trump victory in November very likely would mean Ukraine’s quick defeat. And yet the Ukrainian people are fighting on, helped by real solidarity from below.[2]

This is not a question of the peculiar personalities of Trump and Putin. It is the kind of social breakdown we can expect more of as long as capitalism in total crisis is allowed to maintain its grip on the world. The kind of alternative we need is not the supposed “return to normal” that Biden offers. What is needed is a total alternative: a revolutionary transformation from the ground up.

Certainly no improvement could be found in the far Right’s dedication to crushing every liberatory movement, every meaningful labor organization, every media outlet that does not toe its line. And yet some on the Left and center-left have imagined that Trump would be better on Palestine.[3]

That is an impressive act of forgetting what he actually did in office. Yes, Biden has been terrible on Gaza, supporting Israel’s genocidal assault, and continues to be terrible despite the change in his rhetoric. But Trump on bended knee delivered everything Netanyahu wanted, and he is far readier to extend the war to a war against Iran. The Republican Party in general has become a cheerleader for genocide in a way that should be absolutely shocking but their inhuman rhetoric and actions have been normalized to an incredible extent. Many of them call for blocking even humanitarian aid to Gaza—Congress in fact defunded the UN Relief and Works Agency for a year, even in the face of famine—while they spew genocidal rhetoric such as, “It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick.”

Lack of confidence in the potential of the masses to revolutionize society can lead to abstract revolutionism, but it can also lead to thought trapped within the horizons of the systemically anti-democratic, pro-capitalist electoral system. That in turn can lead to being co-opted by the Democratic Party but it can also lead to a both-sidesism that sees no new threat in the fascism attached to Trumpism, pretending elections make no difference, and even supporting “Left” candidates like Jill Stein and Cornel West who act as apologists for Russia’s genocidal attacks on Ukraine and Syria.

Another genocide is rending Darfur in Sudan, where Arab militias are killing, raping, and displacing Masalit people. The militias are part of one of the two military factions fighting for supremacy within the counterrevolution. Both factions are still active in suppressing the revolution that overthrew dictator Omar al-Bashir five years ago, while at the same time killing each other and, as collateral damage, thousands of civilians. Peel back the outer layers of every genocide, every suppression of democracy, every march toward fascism in the 21st century, and you will find a counterrevolution driven by rulers’ fears of masses’ quest for universality and liberation.

HINDUTVA FASCISM

June 2022 protest against Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in India. Photo: Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY-NC 3.0 DEED

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the reactionary strongmen that the U.S. Right, including Trump, emulate, sometimes consciously. Fascism and war cohabitate, with the specter of India going to war with Pakistan and/or China—all three countries being nuclear-armed—always looming. Modi’s theocratic Hindutva nationalism finds it expedient to rattle sabers and to depict the 172 million Muslim Indians as well as 240 million Pakistanis as an existential threat to Hindus, who make up approximately 80%, or one billion, of India’s population.

After ten years in power, Modi is campaigning to win a big enough majority in Parliament to transform the Constitution to a theocratic framework, aided by the jailing of several opposition leaders on trumped-up charges, the taming of a formerly free press, and even death squads killing dissidents abroad, such as Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Arundhati Roy explains the fond embrace between Modi and India’s biggest billionaire industrial capitalist, Gautam Adani, whose Adani Group conglomerate is involved in coal, solar and wind energy, hydrogen, cement, infrastructure, port operations, media, and many other economic branches. One event, the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, illuminates Modi’s project.

Modi took center stage in the ceremony, honoring a Hindu temple built where Hindutva chauvinists destroyed a mosque in 2002 and Modi as a state official allowed killings of Muslims in the aftermath. As the Indian historian and novelist Mukul Kesavan wrote:

“It is a sideshow, because the movement to build a Hindu temple at Ayodhya was never an end in itself; it was a means to an end, the public assertion of Hindu supremacy over India’s religious minorities, particularly its Muslims. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign for the Ram temple was a lever used to prise apart the institutional safeguards that protected India’s nominally secular democracy.

“In this, the BJP has succeeded. Its vanguard role in the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque made it, by the end of the 20th century, the pan-Indian party of Hindu grievance. The killing of Ram temple activists in a railway train in 2002 (31 Muslim men were convicted of setting fire to the train) and the pogrom of Muslims that followed, gave Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, the chance to stand out as the hammer of the Hindus. In his political persona, the sacred symbolism of the temple and the profane satisfaction of violently showing minorities their place were joined.”

What shines through both this singular symbolic event, Modi’s campaign, and his record in power is his quest to combine religious, governmental, and business state-capitalism under his supreme leadership—a quest that has analogues in many countries.

As in India, Russia, Hungary, and the U.S., everywhere the far right has placed targets on the backs of women, immigrants, ethnic and religious minorities, and those who fail to conform to prescribed gender and sex roles and norms.

IV. The crisis in thought


[1] See “Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine puts the future of humanity in doubt” by Ron Kelch, March-April 2022 News & Letters.

[2] See “Solidarity with Ukraine: for its self-determination and against world fascism” by Bob McGuire, News & Letters, March 17, 2024.

[3] For example, Medea Benjamin tweeted: “is there anything Trump did during his terrible 4 years as president that comes even close to the horror of Biden’s support for genocide in Gaza?”

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