Why we oppose Biden’s Warsaw speech and Putin’s war

BY:Joe Sims| March 31, 2022
Why we oppose Biden’s Warsaw speech and Putin’s war


As the bombs drop and the war rages on into the fifth week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden dramatically escalated the danger of a wider conflict by calling for Vladimir Putin’s removal. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” quipped Biden at the end of a much-touted speech in Warsaw.

The allegedly off-the-cuff remark sent advisors scurrying, somewhat implausibly denying they represented a shift in U.S. policy. France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, distanced himself from a comment Biden made earlier in the day describing Putin as a butcher. “I would not use those words,” said Macron, arguing that “”everything must be done to stop the situation from escalating.” Nadhim Zahawi, a UK cabinet minister, said was “for the Russian people to decide how they are governed.” A host on Russian state TV, now the country’s only outlet with other media banned, called for Biden’s removal and his replacement by Trump. “It’s time for us, our people, to call on the people of the United States to change the regime in the U.S. early, and to again help our partner, Trump, to become president,” Popov said. Dear Mr. Popov, please stay the hell out of our internal affairs, as we’re working to stay the hell out of yours.

The CPUSA recently rejected calls for regime change from whatever quarter in an updated statement.

As dangerous as Biden’s call for regime change was, the president’s speech was laced with ideological bombshells. The Democrat used the occasion to restate his administration’s self-proclaimed Cold War against authoritarianism. “Today’s fighting in Kyiv and Melitopol and Kharkiv are the latest battle in a long struggle. Hungary, 1956. Poland, 1956, and then again, 1981. Czechoslovakia, 1968,” he argued. But this is a loosely defined and selective anti-authoritarianism indeed — the Biden administration has yet to take on the likes of the Saudi Arabian dictatorship or its role in the civil war in Yemen, a war fought with U.S.-supplied arms. The same could be said for el-Sisi’s Egypt, Orban’s Hungary, and the list goes on. Get the picture?

The irrational, obsessive Russophobia of U.S.’s ruling elites is a very dangerous thing.

Biden’s address was replete with Iron Curtain rhetoric, beginning with the invocation of the likes of arch anti-communists Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa, to say nothing of his attempt to identify all things Russian with socialism and Putin. The irrational, obsessive Russophobia of U.S.’s ruling elites, whether in its original anti-Soviet form or in its contemporary guise, is a very dangerous thing. It closes the door on the immediate need for ceasefire and negotiations, or at the very least, it makes the work of diplomats more difficult.

Biden’s ideological barrage within the context of the Ukraine war has added fuel to the fires of insidious bourgeois nationalism of both left and right, strengthening the hand of right-wing nationalists like President Duda of Poland and Prime Minister Orban of Hungary. His rhetoric serves to sharpen imperialist rivalries and heighten the global fascist danger. Here, the very source of the danger and the center of gravity of the coalition needed to combat it have been called into question, with some absolving U.S. imperialism and even, incredibly, ceding leadership of an international anti-fascist united front to it. How else can one interpret left-wing endorsements of Biden’s call for Putin’s removal?

On top of all of this, there’s the perplexing problem of coming to grips with the nature of the Putin regime itself, its class composition, political complexion, and the motives that lie behind its invasion of Ukraine.

Here an objective analysis is complicated by knee-jerk responses alleging that any attempt to provide context and background to the events that led up to the war justify the war itself. While it’s true that context is not necessarily cause, a war explained should not be confused with a war excused.

One must admit here that a curious defense of Russia also seems to be at work. While it ought to be clear to all blessed with the gift of sight that the Russia of 2022 is hardly the USSR of 30 years ago, there are those who conjure in the Russian invasion an anti-imperialist impulse in the face of an undeniable NATO encirclement and years-long U.S. provocation. But this at best is an anti-imperialism with limitations: don’t you know comrades, that capitalism was restored in Russia and that the country is now led by a ruling class whose ill-gotten gains were the result of the wholesale theft of public property after the USSR’s collapse?

While context is not necessarily cause, a war explained should not be confused with a war excused.

In this regard, Putin’s anti-communist credentials themselves were revealed to anyone with doubts in a February speech where he blamed Lenin’s approach to solving the national question for today’s problems saying in part: “We are ready to show you what real decommunization means for Ukraine.” As the saying goes, “when a person tells who they are, believe them.”

There’s no doubt that Mr. Putin, on behalf of Russia’s capitalists (notice that we don’t use the term “oligarch,” when applied almost exclusively to Moscow yet another expression of Russophobia) is on a mission. The issue is a mission of what type: to pursue a simple inter-capitalist rivalry or has capitalist Russia quickly entered the imperialist stage full blown, as classically defined? Already in 2016 D. Noviko, representing the Communist Party of the Russian Federation at the 16th meeting of the Communist and Workers Parties in Hanoi, described his country’s economic system as imperialistic, monopolistic, parasitic, and decaying capitalism, a significant description given the debate around the motivations for the war. He wrote: “In Russia, the world socio-economic crisis is combined with the internal crisis caused by the restoration of capitalism and the bankruptcy of liberal bourgeois policy. The country has all the features of imperialism named by Lenin. It is monopolistic, parasitic and decaying capitalism. Russia is under growing outside pressure of stronger countries of the world capitalist system. They resort to economic sanctions, political blackmail and military threats.”

In response to these threats — and here Mr. Biden’s strident claim in Warsaw that NATO is “defensive only” is downright laughable — Putin’s government has become extremely nationalistic. The Kremlin now pursues its perceived national interest with a vengeance in response to NATO encirclement and the West’s refusal to treat it as an equal within their much vaunted “rules based international order.” Moscow’s policy has been to vigorously play both ends against the middle in an effort to disrupt, disturb, and destabilize their Western European and American capitalist rivals. In this regard, the anti-NATO and anti-EU postures of the European right have for some time been courted by Putin. Witness the support offered Le Pen in France and the British right, including the UK’s Brexit.

Putin pursues Russia’s perceived national interest with a vengeance in response to NATO encirclement

But United Russia’s international policy is not one-sided. In one moment, they’re courting Le Pen in France, the next they’re entering into economic and military cooperation with Xi Jenping’s China, in still another, they’re playing footsie with the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Michael Flynn at a Putin-sponsored dinner.

The ideology and outlook of Russia’s ruling majority is another matter. There’s a belief in some quarters, without much hard evidence, frankly, that the Putin regime is right-wing, even fascist, pointing to alleged influences of Alexander Dugin, an ex-communist turned “national Bolshevik” (a euphemism for national socialist or Nazi). Others, with wide experience in East-and-West European socialist politics and diplomatic circles, describe the Russian government as center-left in domestic politics, citing the renationalization of formerly privatized sectors of the economy and the maintenance of public along with private pension and healthcare systems. In this view, the foreign policy moves in the exact opposite direction, mirroring, ironically, the Democratic Party, who, while “liberal” domestically veer hawkish and right, outdoing at times the GOP, in foreign affairs. Then there are those who simply scratch their heads in utter bewilderment as to the Kremlin’s political complexion, though most see Mr. Putin himself as an autocrat.

Left and Right is determined by class platform

But hasn’t politics since the days of the French Revolution, when reaction sat on the right side of the aisle and the Revolution on the left, been framed largely, though not entirely, around the respective class platforms of contending forces? Of course, 20th- and 21st-century culture wars on race, gender, and sexual orientation have colored easy assessments, but the class factor remains a basic criterion.

Here, gaining the opinion of our Russian comrades would be decisive. For us, what’s going on in Putin’s head is not as important as the economic and political practice of Russia’s ruling circles, a practice most dramatically revealed by the military incursion into Ukraine, an invasion that benefits no one but the ruling classes of Russia and elsewhere.

On this score, the fraternal parties gathered in the world communist movement including our own, are largely united in condemnation and opposition to Putin’s military action, but with notable exceptions, including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, who support the war, though some are speaking out against it. Communists oppose war and champion peaceful settlement of international disputes. In this connection, Jerónimo de Sousa, leader of the Portuguese Communist Party recently spoke to the need to deescalate and end the conflict:

It is urgent to stop the policy of inciting confrontation, which will only lead to the worsening of the conflict, to the loss of more human lives, to greater suffering.

Initiatives are needed that contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, to a ceasefire and to a process of dialogue with a view to a negotiated solution to the conflict, to the response to the problems of collective security and disarmament in Europe, to the fulfillment of the principles of the UN Charter and the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference, in the interests of peace and cooperation among peoples.

Is not U.S. imperialist policy  the main contributor to the war danger today?

It’s true that today, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, new problems have emerged with respect to the struggle for peace and the danger of fascism. In conditions of global capitalist crisis, war always carries within it a growing fascist danger.

In both cases, broad coalitions are needed to successfully carry out and win the fight.

Leadership in this fight in the U.S. must fall to our working-class and people’s movement and cannot be ceded to any other party or force, particularly the Biden administration, given its aggressive foreign policy aimed at China, Cuba, Venezuela,and yes Russia. Has this not contributed mightily to the current international crisis? Taken as a whole, is this policy not the main contributor to the war danger today? Therefore, calls for World War II–type alliances are misguided and unfortunate; they imply a military solution that one cannot possibly endorse.

In fact, the opposite is needed — de-escalation, detente, demilitarization — and to the extent that such efforts are broadly based and built from the ground up, it will be successful. We pledge ourselves to the broad working-class people’s action and diplomacy so necessary to that fight.

To be clear, world anti-facist and pro-peace unity is needed against Putin, Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, and others, but it is up to the people in each country to settle their own affairs and not allow the slightest hint of interference from others. This should include, by the way, bringing an end to the U.S. arms buildup and export, a destabilizing factor worldwide.

Peace is possible if the workers and people of our planet rise up and make it so.

The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect the positions of the CPUSA.


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