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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rev. Dr. William Barber II [@RevDrBarber], please remove your name from this apology for the Trump-Putin white supremacy project

Dear Rev. Dr. William Barber II,

The Nation recently published an open letter with the title Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security. I was greatly saddened to see that you are a signer to it, and so, I have been prompted to write this open letter to appeal to you to remove your name, least it becomes a distraction from your legacy. Please allow me to explain why.

Vladimir Putin isn't just the head of state of the Russian Federation, he is the leader of a transnational white supremacist movement with strong roots, not only in Russia, but also in many European countries and the United States. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists all over the world see Putin as their leader, Russia as the center of their movement, and a place where they hold power. That is why Richard Spencer called Russia the “sole white power in the world,” David Duke believes Russia holds the “key to white survival,” and the touch-bearing white supremacists in Charlottesville, chanted “Russia is our friend.” Matthew Heimbach, head of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, credits Putin with turning Russia into an “axis for nationalists.” American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor and Sam Dickson, Council of Conservative Citizens member and lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan, have also made pilgrims to St. Petersburg. Steve K. Bannon is another who looks to Putin for leadership of "the Judeo-Christian West." This support is returned as Russian propaganda sources promote Breitbart and other "Alt-Right" websites.

The Soviet Union under Stalin was a Russian supremacist state, so Putin was able to build on that Soviet-era virulent Russian nationalism. Another thing Putin inherited from his KGB days was intelligence services adept at weaponizing racism. Michael Hirsh, Politico, wrote about his rise:
Putin rose to power exploiting the sense of humiliation that Moscow's proud elites felt at the hands of the West after the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991.
Much as Adolf Hitler had done in Germany after World War I, Putin was able to rise to power by harnessing that sense of humiliation, blaming it on "the others," while igniting a sense of superiority among "his" people, and a yearning to recapture imagined lost glory (MAGA), or territory, and then using that to build a nationalist movement to propelled himself to something like absolute power.

Local variations of this new ultra-nationalist, or white supremacist, movement have been growing rapidly in Europe and the United States in recent years, and seriously contending for state power. In France, a Russian-owned bank helped to finance the far-right Le Pen campaign in 2014. In Hungary, Putin took the Nazi-like Jobbik party under his wing. Now the extreme-right governments of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and President Andrzej Duda in Poland are becoming more anti-immigrant, talking about "Europe's Christian roots," and cozying up to Putin. In the Netherlands, anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders is demanding a "Nexit" vote. He is also a Putin fan. Breitbart promoted his campaign. This challenge is serious, in December, Austria became the first European country to bring a far-right government into power; its young new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is also a Putin fan.

These white nationalists see themselves as part of an international movement, and the ideological father of this reaction is Kremlin ideologue Alexander Dugin. He has been called "Putin's brain," he might even be called "Putin's Bannon." Dugin, for his part, hailed Trump as "the American Putin." Richard Spencer is a US follower of Dugin; so is Steve Bannon. Trump's "Drain the Swamp" mantra is very much an Alexander Dugin-Richard Spenser thing. Newsweek described Dugin as:
a Russian ultranationalist and former adviser to Sergei Naryshkin, a key member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party who was appointed Russian foreign intelligence chief in 2016.
That same year, this movement played a very big role in putting one of their own, Donald Trump, into the White House, and as the Robert Mueller investigation is beginning to show, this neo-fascist movement didn't just support the Trump candidacy in ideological or spiritual terms, but also in very concrete, and often illegal, material ways. This foreign support didn't just come from Russia, but from other European "Alt-Right" forces as well, most notably in Britain. His candidacy was part of their project, but, of course, Russia is where they hold power, so it did the heavy lifting.

The reason Trump seemed so obsequious towards Putin after the summit probably has a lot more to do with their relative positions in the white supremacist hierarchy than it does with any blackmail evidence Putin may be holding over him.

Now that Trump has gained the presidency of the United States, he has wasted little time in paying it forward. He used his most recent European trip to promote their white supremacist agenda. That agenda includes tearing down NATO and the EU, to the benefit of Russia, and undermining more liberal governments, to the benefit of their most extreme right-wing contenders. These are not isolated local struggles; we are dealing with a coordinated, worldwide effort to re-assert white supremacy - and Russia is HQ. Just look at how he did this with regards Britain and Germany on his recent trip. Those interested in seeing Trump and Putin get along well, should be delighted with the unity they showed on Trump's recent European tour.

With regards to Britain: Donald Trump was most outspoken and direct about his racism when interviewed by The Sun, a British newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, as is Fox News in the US. He said:
“I think what has happened to Europe is a shame.

“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame.

“I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

“So, I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad.

“I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”
In Europe, he wasn't railing against illegal immigration, he was opposing all immigration on racial grounds. He was as much as saying it would be a shame if Europe was any less "white." He also supported Brexit, a project largely promoted by white nationalists and fueled by fear of immigrants. But it wasn't just with words that he promoted white supremacy in Britain. In that same interview he created instability for PM Theresa May's government by warning that because she failed to follow his Brexit advise, a favorable trade deal with the US is unlikely. The Sun was blunt; they called his comments, "damaging to the Prime Minister." He also attacked Sadiq Khan, the Muslim Mayor of London, and said nationalist leader and chief Brexit promoter Boris Johnson would make "a great Prime Minister"

When US President Barack Obama supported the Remain side of the Brexit vote, Johnson said the president had an "ancestral dislike of the British empire," and called his views on the EU "incoherent ... inconsistent and ... downright hypocritical." Seeming to support Trump's "birther" conspiracy theory, he called Obama a "part-Kenyan president," even though on another occasion he referred to Africa as "that country." Members of the opposition Labour Party were furious at what they called his "dog-whistle racism."

As UK Foreign Minister at the time of the Russian-backed Syrian government chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun, 6 April 2017, he was accused of failing to win G7 backing for new sanctions to penalize Syria and Russia, apparently, because he didn't push for them. In 2016, Boris Johnson earned the title of "Putin apologist" after he blamed the EU for the Ukraine war, just as last week Trump blamed bad relations with Russia on the US.

Nigel Farage told Andrew Neil on his interview show This Week that Trump's rejection of Theresa May's Brexit strategy was his idea, saying “We’ve had the odd chat about it.” Farage was the leader of the racist Ukip party. He is also famous for his racist tropes, and calling for the return of legalized racial discrimination. Trump has said he would make a great UK ambassador. He campaigned for Trump in 2016 and has "deep and well-documented relationships with Russia." He also shares Trump's adulation of Putin. The AP reported:
Nigel Farage has named Vladimir Putin as the world leader he most admires, praising the Russian president's handling of the crisis in Syria.

But the Ukip leader had less kind words for Angela Merkel, describing the German chancellor as "incredibly cold."
He is also a paid pundit on Fox News, on “Fox & Friends” Monday, Farage attacked the "establishment" for "continuing to claim President Donald Trump colluded with Russia," according to the Daily Caller. He also used the need for better relations with Russia, the core argument of the Common Ground statement, to attack both the anti-Brexit and anti-Trump movements:
“Maybe we can start to have a more sensible relationship because at the moment what we’ve got is we’ve got the establishment blaming Brexit and the Trump election on Russia collusion, without an ounce of evidence, and it’s up to Trump to show the world that we don’t need to make things worse with Russia.”
In an earlier appearance on Fox News, he suggested Americans should ignore white nationalism because Islamic terror exists. Farage hopes to meet with Trump when he visits Washington, DC today. All of these people see themselves as part of an international movement.

Last November, the Electoral Commission announced an investigation into “the true source of donations” to Leave campaigners. There are indications that Russia intervened in the Brexit vote on the Leave side by using many of the same techniques it used in the 2016 US elections. Those included the use of botnets and DDOS attacks to cause the collapse of voter registration websites and social media manipulation.

The “London professor” that spied on George Papadopoulos and his Russian connections for the FBI circled in an orbit around FM Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage carried on his relationship with Julian Assange while WikiLeaks was publishing the stolen DNC emails, slipping into the Ecuadorian embassy to meet with him. Many believe he was the conduit between Assange and Russia. So, it turns out that much of this Russian supported white nationalism has a London end.

With regards to Germany: During a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, Trump bashed Germany for “being captive to Russia,” and “totally controlled by Russia.” In an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News Tuesday, Trump attacked Merkel's humanitarian policy towards Syrian war refugees, saying:
“Angela was a superstar until she allowed millions of people to come into Germany. That really hurt her badly, as you know. She was unbeatable in any election. She allowed millions of people to come in. . . . She has been very badly hurt by immigration.”
Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union party is facing a growing challenge from Alternative for Germany (AfD), which promised to ban all mosques and criminalize wearing the veil. Russia has been providing financial support to AfD leaders, they in turn, applauded Trump's victory. During a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Ellesborough, England, earlier Trump also talked about the wave of immigration caused by war and destitution:
“I think it’s a very negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative, and I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud.”
Then he went after Angela Merkel in particular:
“I have a great relationship with Angela Merkel, but I think that’s very much hurt Germany. I think it’s very much hurt other parts of Europe.”
Rev. William Barber II, we didn't just face Russian interference in our election, we faced foreign white supremacist interference in our election. When they say Trump is "playing to his base," we should understand that to include this international audience too. As the very timing of the DNC email releases showed, that interference was never designed to help Bernie Sanders win, it was designed to help Donald Trump win. Do you think it any accident that Maria Butina, the Russian agent just arrested by the FBI, choice to build her "influence network" in the Republican Party through the NRA? She was seeking to build ties with the most racist Americans.

The Washington Post has "reported recently that Russia-backed entities spent at least $100,000 on Facebook ads designed to pit white, Trump-leaning Americans against Black Lives Matter activists and minorities in general." They have done worst in Europe. Terrell Jermaine Starr, a senior reporter at The Root, wrote in the WPost:
While the White House, whose policy of white supremacy dominates its domestic and foreign affairs, may be the Kremlin’s adversary (or, at least, theoretically), Russia and the United States are ultimately peers in their supremacist outlooks.
Rev. William Barber II, is this the sort of "unity" you seek to promote on the world stage?

Of course, the Common Ground open letter you signed speaks of none of these things. It concerns itself only with questions of war and peace, not the ultra-nationalist movements that have brought wars in the past or threatens the peace now. Its main concern is the threat of nuclear holocaust that has hung over the world for the last 60 years, nuclear war between Russia and the United States, so I will now address this:

For a number of reasons, the Soviet Union felt it had to match a growing US nuclear arsenal during the cold war period. Perhaps the enormous losses of  World War II left them wary of falling behind. But now the Soviet Union is no more. Putin and his post-Soviet cronies partialed out the major components of Soviet system among their friends, making themselves billionaires and oligarchs in the process, but they kept the Soviet nuclear missile capability for the Russian state. Now, Putin is trying to "weaponize" that awesome destructive power into political power on the world stage by using it to claim equality with the United States in the number of times over it can destroy the world, even while it has an economy about 10% of the US economy, more or less equal to that of New Jersey. That is where the core proposition of the Common Ground statement comes from, it argues the United States, as represented by Donald Trump, who has exclusive control of the US nuclear arsenal, must find an undefined "common ground" with Vladimir Putin, who presumably has a similar level of control over the Russian nuclear arsenal.

Since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and on through the cold war, the US and Soviet governments have represented very different ideologies, capitalism and socialism. There was no question of finding common ground, and yet the world survived. The universal demand for co-existence, and no first use of nuclear weapons, proved to be enough to avoid nuclear holocaust for 70 years. In that time, millions of people have been slaughtered, disproportionately in places one prominent American racist referred to as "shithole countries." None have been killed with nuclear weapons, rather they have been slaughtered conventionally with the active support of at least one of what the letter refers to as "the world’s two nuclear superpowers" and the forbearance of the other. Today, when both Russia and the US are represented by white nationalists, the demand for greater cooperation has a very dangerous side.

Now that I have done something to establish the context that the open letter is silent on, we can begin to look at the letter itself, but before proceeding to that, I would like to read into the record what Casey Michel of the Daily Beast had to say about the letter's sponsor, and two of your fellow signers:
The Nation’s coverage of Russian affairs is a national embarrassment. RT is a website that hosts neo-Nazis as “expert” commentators. Yet that does not stop The Nation from publishing whataboutist articles in defense of the propaganda channel; articles pushing the same argument, with the exact same headlines, as those found in white-nationalist publications.

The Nation’s crop of Russia watchers have lately busied themselves by lending credence to the autonomy referendums in eastern Ukraine, thus legitimizing illegal and neo-imperialist land-grabs, or notions that the entire Ukrainian crisis was “instigated by the West’s attempt… to smuggle [Ukraine] into NATO.”

That these views bizarrely mesh with those of Trump and his Breitbart-friendly advisers is perhaps another oddity of an age of ideological psychosis. Stephen Cohen, The Nation’s lead Russia analyst (and husband of the magazine’s editor in chief and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel), has even been endorsed by David Duke and the wife of white-nationalist Richard Spencer {his wife, Nina Byzantina, translates Dugin's works into English - Clay}, the intellectual godfather of the pro-Trump “alt-right,” as a rare voice of sanity when it comes to U.S.-Russian relations.
I would also note that Stephen F. Cohen was on Fox News Monday, after Trump's summit with Putin. He told Tucker Carlson that Russia should be closer to the US because it "has more in common with the United States, it's a Christian country..." 

On Tuesday, Katrina vanden Heuvel was on Democracy Now, asking "How do we resolve Ukraine?" She sounded like those asking, "How do we resolve Vietnam?" at a time when others were demanding that the US simply "Get Out of Vietnam!" She discussed the summit and pitched the open letter. She and host Amy Goodman talked about "isolationists roots" and "authoritarian" leaders, but they mentioned none of the above, not the racism, not the white nationalism, or any nationalism, not the white supremacy that ties it all together. They didn't even mention immigration, the issue at the forefront of fascist base-building worldwide currently. Later, Amy did a segment on Boots Riley.

Now to the Open Letter, line-by-line:
Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election.
Any common ground must be based on facts. Unfortunately, fascist-minded rulers like Trump and Putin have little regard for them. We can't allow their denials to cloud our vision. Russian election interference has been happening, not only in the United States, but also in Europe, and everywhere it has been to install white supremacist regimes. We will not insure peace by accepting Putin's denials.
Meanwhile, relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest and most dangerous point in several decades.
This simply isn't true, although this is what Putin would like us to believe because it means we focus on the threat of nuclear war, which means we focus on the power of two men above all else. The truth is, apart from a few "shows of force" in Syria, the two nuke commanders have never been closer.
For the sake of democracy at home and true national security, we must reach common ground to safeguard common interests—
It remains unclear as to who is supposed to be sharing this common ground. Only the United States and Russia are mentioned. Is it because both Trump and Putin each control nuclear arsenals that can destroy the world many times over? Is it common ground between these two white nationalist leaders that you are petitioning for?
taking steps to protect the nation’s elections
How is this a common interest with Russia? Russia doesn't hold free and fair elections, and interferes with those in many other countries, including the US.
and to prevent war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.
This is the core fear this open letter hopes will drive our activities. Putin brandishes the threat of nuclear holocaust because it is only in the area of nuclear weapons, and only because of their destructive power, that Russia can be called a superpower. Economically, it is less significant than Italy.
Whatever the truth of varied charges that Russia interfered with the election,
Once again, there is undeniable evidence that the Russian Federation has interfered in the elections in the United States, and 26 other countries since 2004. No just and lasting peace can be built on the acceptance of this type of interference in the free elections of any country by any imperialist power.
there should be no doubt that America’s digital-age infrastructure for the electoral process is in urgent need of protection.
There is every reason to doubt this throw-away line. America's network security is the best in the world. Even so, it can always get better and it can always be hacked, particularly by state actors with unlimited resources, but much of the current electoral process is still paper-based and impervious to Internet hacking.

On the other hand, Putin's attack on our 2016 elections had many elements, and while it remains unclear what is meant by "America’s digital-age infrastructure for the electoral process," it must be remembered that the Russian assault on our election involved many other elements including creating fake social media accounts, posting phony political ads, creating phony organizations, calling phony rallies, directly colluding with the Trump campaign, and throwing a lot of support behind the Jill Stein campaign to help Trump win.
The overarching fact remains that the system is vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere.
This statement is either always true, or it is nonsense. Would-be hackers, by definition, can't hack anything anywhere until they become hackers. Overarching is hyperbole, I thought the danger of nuclear war was overarching. Only those with little real understanding of hacking think that what was done by a state organization with unlimited resources could have also been done by "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." That kind of thinking is based on imagination, not real world experience.
Solutions will require a much higher level of security for everything from voter-registration records to tabulation of ballots with verifiable paper trails.
The main thrust of the attacks Putin launched against our electoral system in 2016 were much the same as those he has carried out in Europe. They were not against voter-registration and voting systems so much as about fake ads, stealing private data and weaponizing it, creating false organizations, publications, social media accounts, financial contributions to 3rd party diversionary campaigns, etc.
As a nation, we must fortify our election system against unlawful intrusions as well as official policies of voter suppression.
This purposely confuses two very different things tied together only by a focus on "our election system." Given the level of cybercrime, state initiated and otherwise, we must fortify all our "digital-age infrastructure" against unlawful intrusion, not just electoral systems. A breach of the security of a nuclear site could be disastrous, but no worries, ours is the best in the world and great people are working on it.

Voter suppress is something else, and includes many issues like redistricting, felony voter exclusion, voter ID requirements, etc., areas far afield from cyber security.
At the same time, the US and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course.
Where is this coming from? Our president just called the EU "a foe," and Russia a foe "in some respects." Russia has been carrying out an aggressive foreign policy that has put it on a collusion course with many countries. It has propped up the murderous Assad regime in Syria, even while it has been the combined forces under Russian military control that have been responsible for most of the half million dead. Russia annexed Crimea, and is trying to wipe out Crimea's Tatars, and invaded Ukraine and has been carrying out an imperialist war of aggression there. It shot down a passenger jet [MH-7] and killed another 298 civilians while carrying out this war. It has used prohibited poisons to kill its enemies outside of Russia, and as documented earlier, it has interfered in the internal politics of many countries.

We should also address two recent cases where the US and Russian governments may have appeared to be on a collision course. The first was Trump's cruise missile barrage of 6 April 2017 after the Assad regime chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun. This was widely trumpeted as a bold strike, but later analysis showed that it was carried out with Russian cooperation to look like a credible response without doing much damage. Two days after the attack, Bill Palmer wrote "Syria gas attack and Donald Trump’s military response don’t add up – unless Putin orchestrated it."

Another notable clash came in February of this year when US forces near Deir Ezzor killed as many as 200 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group. Putin uses private Russian military contractors for their deniability. There are many mysterious things about this incident, and some have wondered if the US military wasn't being used to discipline the Wagner Group. Maxim Borodin, a Russian investigative journalist who was investigating this story died after falling from the balcony of his apartment in western Siberia just a few weeks after publishing an exposé about the Wagner group and this incident. Putin's government declared there was no foul play. Russia is a very difficult place to be a journalist in. I hope the need to find common ground doesn't mean a need to curtain our criticism of the suppression of free press in Russia.
Diplomacy has given way to hostility and reciprocal consular expulsions, along with dozens of near-miss military encounters in Syria
I find it sad that this statement shows no concern for what is being done to Syrians on the ground by all the air forces bombing them. It's only apparent concern is what an accident between the competing killers might mean for us.
and in skies above Europe.
Is this a reference MH17 to the airliner Russia shot down? Have there been any others?
Both sides are plunging ahead with major new weapons-development programs. In contrast to prior eras, there is now an alarming lack of standard procedures to keep the armed forces of both countries in sufficient communication to prevent an escalation that could lead to conventional or even nuclear attack. These tensions are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.
It's pretty clear that "current partisan fixations" is code for the Russian probe and fight against the Trump cabal, in other words, the fight against the takeover of our country by a transnational white supremacist gang. The argument seems to be that those waging this struggle need to be mindful of the reality that precisely those who they are struggling against, Trump and Putin, control 90% of the world's nuclear weapons and are building more all the time.
The United States should implement a pronounced shift in approach toward Russia.
It would appear that Trump is already doing that. It is a pronounced shift to the right, in the direction of white supremacy. That is the "common ground" Trump and Putin are developing. Rev. William Barber II, is that the common ground you want to see developed?
No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of US and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of US-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false. Concrete steps can and must be taken to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.
A cynic might conclude that the real object of this "Common Ground" campaign is to build left-wing support for the lifting of US sanctions, something Putin and his pals want very badly, and Trump has promised.

Finally, the position championed by this open letter is that no freedoms, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the damage that could be done by the two masters of nukes. I, for one, reject that capitulation. I will continue to fight this fascist and white supremacist trend, even though it be on the rise, even if some of its leaders have nuclear arms. I believe to do otherwise will truly be the death of humanity.

Therefore, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, I beg you to join me by removing your name from this apology for the Trump-Putin white supremacy project.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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