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Proletarian issue 81 (December 2017)
Heads roll in Russiagate farce
The pot calls the kettle black as one section of the US ruling class tries to convince the masses of Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election.
A host of figures around US President Donald Trump are finding themselves in hot water as imperialism’s drive towards war with Russia continues. This is also intensifying the contradictions within the ruling circles in a number of imperialist nations, as those ‘liberal’ sections of the US ruling class who backed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton are more than happy to use both the actual and imagined Russian links of members of Team Trump to pursue their own political agenda.

As the section of the US ruling class that is intent on overturning the 2016 election result thrashes around ever more desperately, allegations of Russian interference in the process of the election have become their main weapon of choice in delegitimising Trump. In fact, from Brexit to Catalonia via the Scottish independence referendum and the German general election, the ‘sinister hand of Moscow’ is increasingly being presented as the favoured scapegoat – like a particularly unconvincing pantomime villain.

Warring factions

Supported by allied media like CNN and the New York Times, the US department of justice (led by special counsel Robert Mueller) and the intelligence services are conducting a zealous enquiry into anyone who associates with Trump and who may have the slightest hint of a connection to Russia.

As early as February, national security adviser Michael Flynn was felled by the allegations. He was forced to resign his post after only 24 days in office after he admitted misrepresenting his dealings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to vice president Mike Pence. On 5 November, NBC News claimed: “Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence” against Flynn to bring money laundering and perjury charges, apparently connected to Turkey. (Mueller has enough evidence to bring charges in Flynn investigation by Julia Ainsley, Carol E Lee and Ken Dilanian, 5 November 2017)

The NBC report came hot on the heels of the indictments of former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Richard Gates.

“While the president’s lawyers have advised him to let Mueller do his job, expediting a legal process that they believe will ultimately vindicate him, other Trump allies are out for blood. And some believe they’ve found a way to force Mueller to resign without getting the president impeached in the process.

“‘Mueller can’t be a special prosecutor when he himself is under investigation,’ Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant, told the Daily Caller on Monday, hours after news broke that Mueller had indicted former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, and extracted a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos. And Trump ‘doesn’t have to fire anybody’.

“The key, he explained, is the controversial 2010 decision by the Obama administration to allow Rosatom, a Russian nuclear energy agency, to acquire a controlling stake in Uranium One, a Canadian firm that had a major mining licence in the United States. Around the same time, Bill Clinton received substantial speaking fees in Russia, and the non-profit Clinton Foundation received donations from entities with interests in the Uranium One deal.

“Republicans contend that this amounts to a quid pro quo that wasn’t sufficiently investigated by Mueller when he led the FBI. ‘Mueller is guilty of obstruction and cover up in Uranium One,’ Stone argued.”

In other words, Team Trump’s defence against the spurious charges being brought is to play the same Russia blame game as its domestic opponents. So much for his campaign promises of taking a more conciliatory approach to Russia and calming the war lust of the Wall Street hawks.

“Stone isn’t alone in hoping to leverage alleged Democratic scandals to trigger Mueller’s recusal. Multiple Republican members of Congress have suggested, without evidence, that the special counsel is hopelessly compromised.

“Fox News has kept up a constant drumbeat of criticism aimed at Mueller’s office. Even the [Rupert Murdoch-owned] Wall Street Journal editorial board published a controversial op-ed calling on Mueller to ‘serve the country by resigning’ so as to allow the justice department to credibly investigate the FBI’s handling of the infamous [ex-MI6 private investigator Christopher] Steele dossier.” (Forget Uranium One: why Roger Stone’s plot to oust Robert Mueller ‘makes no sense’ by Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair, 31 October 2017)

Another figure who has already fallen due to the Mueller investigation is former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos. “Mr Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.” (George Papadopoulos: Indicted Trump aide met with UK foreign office during 2016 campaign, The Independent, 8 November 2017)

Papadopoulos learned in March 2016 that he would be joining the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser. Later that month, he met in Italy with an individual identified as ‘the professor’ one Joseph Mifsud, who claimed to have extensive Russian government connections and had indeed been a regular at meetings of the Valdai Discussion Club, an annual conference held in Sochi, Russia, attended by President Putin.

The professor in turn introduced Papadopoulos to a Russian woman who claimed to be a relative of Putin’s, though Papadopoulos later learned she was not. Papadopoulos told Trump campaign officials about his contacts with the pair and received encouragement.

On 31 March 2016, Papadopoulos attended a Trump campaign meeting in which he claimed he could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.

Papadopoulos sent emails concerning Putin to at least seven campaign officials. Sam Clovis, as Trump national campaign co-chairman, reportedly encouraged Papadopoulos to fly to Russia to meet with representatives of the Russian foreign ministry, after being told that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Clinton it wanted to share with Trump’s campaign.

In May 2016, campaign chairman Paul Manafort forwarded one such request to his deputy Rick Gates, saying: “We need someone to communicate that [Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

Trump’s own son, Donald Junior, was less discreet, emailing “I love it” as he hastened to arrange a meeting with someone who claimed (falsely, as it turned out) to represent the Russian government and to possess incriminating material on Clinton.

The biggest revelation in the plea agreement concerns a 26 April meeting in London. Papadopoulos met with Professor Mifsud, who told him that the Russians had ‘dirt’ on Clinton. The government filing says the professor claimed: “the Russians had [thousands of] emails of Clinton’s”.

Papadopoulos could face up to five years in prison for the crimes to which he has pleaded guilty. The prosecution agreed to seek far less than that – zero to six months – as part of a plea-bargaining deal, which is commonplace in the USA, though a judge will make the final decision. (A former Trump adviser pleads guilty to lying about his contacts with Russia by David A Graham, The Atlantic, 30 October 2017)

Papadopoulos may well have lied to the FBI; he has admitted this. However, it turns out that the ‘Russian woman’ who was supposed to be a relative of Vladimir Putin was no relative at all. Indeed, despite clearly hoping to do so, it seems he may never actually have met with any person representing the Russian government. So much for ‘Russian interference’ in the election!

On the other hand, it is claimed that Papadopoulos did meet with British officials two months before the US election. Does that mean that Britain is guilty of interfering in the election? (Independent, op cit)

Not a shred of evidence against Russia

As the quest to destroy Trump’s presidency progresses, the most high-profile indictments to date are those of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager, whilst Gates was his deputy. Both were indicted in October as part of the Mueller investigation.

Despite all the anti-Russia hysteria in the media, however, neither was actually indicted for anything even remotely connected to Russia. Instead, they have fallen as a result of alleged financial irregularities. Whilst we rejoice at the exposure of bourgeois swindlers, their swindling was not the reason they were targeted. If the US pursued all such financial crooks, its entire bourgeoisie would be rotting in the cells. But the US and its allies have no such concerns. In this case, their only concerns are fingering the Russians and bringing down Trump.

With all the resources at their disposal, not to mention the vast machinery of the so-called ‘deep state’ (aka the secret services), the best Trump’s enemies in the US ruling class can do to connect Manafort and Gates with Russia is to finger them for political consultancy work carried out in Ukraine. That is Ukraine, not Russia.

Since 2006, Manafort’s consultancy company Davis Manafort Partners Inc (DMP) and its offshoot DMP International LLC (DMI) both advised Ukraine’s Party of Regions – the party of ousted ‘pro-Russian’ president Yanukovych, who was subsequently given refuge in Russia. This is the proven extent of Manafort’s links to the Russian government – which is to say that no direct connection has been established. (United States Court for the District of Columbia, 27 October 2017, case 1:17-cr-00201)

Even if Russia were guilty of interfering in the US elections, this would only mean that the imperialists had been given a small taste of their own medicine. The US would merely have reaped what they have sown.

Let us not forget that the US really did interfere in the Russian presidential elections in 1996 – just as they have always interfered in elections everywhere. This meddling stole the victory from Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and brought Washington stooge Boris Yeltsin to power instead.

As Time magazine openly boasted at the time: “The outcome was by no means inevitable. Last winter Yeltsin’s approval ratings were in the single digits. There are many reasons for his change in fortune, but a crucial one has remained a secret. For four months, a group of American political consultants clandestinely participated in guiding Yeltsin’s campaign ...

“Last week Russia took a historic step away from its totalitarian past. Democracy triumphed – and along with it came the tools of modern campaigns, including the trickery and slickery Americans know so well. If those tools are not always admirable, the result they helped achieve in Russia surely is.” (Rescuing Boris by Michael Kramer, 15 July 1996)

Ironically, it was Yeltsin who in 1999 appointed Vladimir Putin as prime minister, on the proviso that Putin would protect Yeltsin and his family from their rightful place in prison – a bargain Putin kept for the rest of Yeltsin’s drink-sodden life. Had Zyuganov won the 1996 election, there would have been no President Putin.

US imperialism the real threat

Furthermore, it is the US, not Russia, that unleashes terror and war in order to bring about regime change on every continent. It is the US that manufactures coups and so-called ‘colour revolutions’ wherever its profits are threatened in the world.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has unleashed a wave of such destabilisation, not only on Russia’s borders but all over the globe. Despite its threadbare cloak of ‘freedom and democracy’, the US imperialists care not a bit if their targets are democratically elected or not. The failed 2002 anti-Chavez coup in Venezuela was Washington carried out without a care for Venezuela’s impeccable democratic credentials.

Moreover, it is the US, not Russia, that props up a host of proxies and puppets around the world, from Ukraine to Saudi Arabia. If these most reactionary regimes were not backed by US arms and dollars (not to mention by US media and diplomacy), their leaders would not see out the week before being hung from lampposts. This is not mere tinkering with elections; it is interference to hold a people in bondage. It is imperialism in all its ugliness.

Finally, the bourgeois media advance an entirely (im)moralistic case when talking about supposed Russian interference: the Russians interfered in the US elections, and interfering in countries’ affairs is wrong. So runs this line of argument. But for progressives, there are no abstract moral or ethical questions; such questions only make sense when related to class and class struggle. In this case, it is a question of imperialism, and of one’s relation to it that ultimately decides the rights and wrongs of the matter.

Even if we were to play along on the basis of this being a moral question, the US moral high ground simply collapses into rubble as soon as we venture to test its stability. For it is the US, not Russia, that rampages around the globe like a bull in a China shop.

Like the Frank Spencer of global politics, the US imperialists created bin Laden to fight the communists, who then used the weaponry and know-how gained to fight the US. The US imperialists interfered in Russia, getting the unelectable Yeltsin installed to fight the communists. But Yeltsin created Putin, and Putin has stood up to the US ... so now they must fight Putin.

The cack-handed nature of US foreign policy would be hilarious if not for the misery it creates. There is no moral high ground available to those who reside in the gutter. So we repeat: it is not Russia that is the great threat to global peace and democracy, but imperialism, and in particular decadent, parasitic US imperialism – whichever bourgeois candidate succeeds in securing the presidency and by whatever means.

Meanwhile, the growing schisms within the US ruling class reflect the deepening of the global capitalist crisis of overproduction. In their desperate quest to wrestle control of the state machinery from one another, the various bourgeois factions are daily exposing the inner workings of the capitalist system to working people. The prestige of US democracy and of the ‘land of the free’ will in all likelihood never recover from these self-inflicted blows, which can only be a good thing for the freedom-hungry masses everywhere.

Let us do everything in our power to help workers learn the lessons our rulers are so intent on teaching us. That this system, driven as it is by the single imperative of maximum profit at all cost, cannot but be based on nepotism, corruption and fraud of all kinds – for such are the oils that keep the system running. Business is business, after all!

And that the capitalist state is a machinery of control and coercion designed to keep the rulers ruling and the poor in their place. That the only way out of the mists of darkness is to forge a new kind of democracy and a new kind of state – one that involves the mass of the working people in planning and running society, and that plans production in order to satisfy the needs of the many rather than to preserve the privileges of a few.

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