In a time when the world is being overrun by fascism, the left should be doing everything it can to combat and weaken reactionary elements. Yet throughout the western left, leftists are seeking to make common cause with the right. It’s not simply limited to the likes of Caitlin Johnstone advocating aligning with the neo-nazi self-proclaimed “alt-right”. We have leftists choosing to work with crypto-Larouchites (and sometimes not so crypto) advocating “opposition to empire” but from the right. Despite the fact that such viewpoints are contradictory and incoherent, they still have their defenders among those ostensibly on the left, often proclaiming imperialism to be the primary contradiction that must be confronted, despite the fact that the so-called right “anti-imperialists” do not oppose imperialism in itself. It is simply giving right-wingers an entry point into what is supposed to be the left. Enabling right-wing entryism is not only indefensible, it is self-destructive to any leftist movement that wishes to succeed.
This inclination to platform and enable right-wingers who claim superficial views in common with the left is not one that is unique to any particular tendency or organization in the western left. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is pandemic. This article will focus on such issues within the Party for Socialism and Liberation (or PSL), and specifically regarding party leader Brian Becker. The PSL is a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist party which formed in 2004 after splitting from the World Workers Party (WWP). Becker is a co-founder of the PSL, as well as co-director of the PSL-affiliated ANSWER coalition, an antiwar and civil rights organization.
Brian Becker also hosts a radio show on Sputnik, called Loud & Clear, alongside John Kiriakou. Kiriakou, of course, is most well known for being a CIA whistleblower, who exposed the government’s use of torture. Before that, however, he served in the CIA for over a decade. While working for the CIA he spied on communists in Greece. Why a member of a Marxist-Leninist party would choose to work with a man who spent part of his professional career targeting communists for persecution is baffling.
While Kiriakou’s work oppressing communists may well be solely in the past, in the present Kiriakou is a regular guest on another Sputnik radio show, Fault Lines, co-hosted by Lee Stranahan, a far-right disciple of Andrew Breitbart. Among the topics that Kiriakou discusses are the supposed dangers of radicalization of American Muslim communities (Becker himself has also appeared on Fault Lines). Kiriakou also advocates for US law enforcement meddling in foreign countries when American citizens are killed there.
It is not simply Becker’s choice of co-host that raises questions, however. Ray McGovern, another former CIA officer, has been a frequent guest on Loud & Clear. McGovern worked for the CIA from 1963 to 1990. Again, why should a Marxist-Leninist be willing to trust someone who worked for the CIA for such a significant chunk of the Cold War? As with Kiriakou, though, in McGovern’s case it’s not solely about his past work. McGovern himself frequently works with LaRouchePAC, which should speak for itself. McGovern also spreads right-wing hoaxes manufactured by Larry Johnson, another former CIA analyst who also worked for the State Department. Johnson is most well known for creating a hoax about Michelle Obama ranting about “whitey” during the 2008 presidential campaign. He has also manufactured claims about Barack Obama wiretapping Donald Trump.
Another Loud & Clear guest, Alberto Garcia Watson, is a holocaust denier and anti-semite.
Another guest on Loud & Clear is one known as Lionel (@Lionelmedia on twitter). Lionel is an anti-vaxxer, 9/11-truther, virulent transphobe and quite open anti-communist and Trump fan. He is probably the last person in the world anyone on the left should want to have discussing Trump endorsing anti-Muslim propaganda, yet he was Loud & Clear’s choice.
Another recurring guest is Alexander Mercouris, editor-in-chief of The Duran. The Duran is a right-wing “news” website that loves to peddle George Soros conspiracy theories.
There is a recurring theme here other than Loud & Clear’s guests being either LaRouchite entryists or outright belonging to the far right, and that theme is opposition to the ridiculous Russiagate theory. But opposing such nonsense absolutely does not require platforming crypto-fash, anti-semites and various other far-right bigots.
Now, one might say that the act of platforming these people isn’t harmful in and of itself. Becker does not only give them a platform, though, he also gives them a certain amount of legitimacy. Someone who doesn’t know the background of some of these people may hear them on Becker’s radio show, then believe they have some sort of credibility, rather than being hate-mongers and cranks.
It is not simply a matter of legitimacy, though, as Becker’s guests can also use the platform he gives them to spread their reactionary views, even if they may choose to do so through insinuation and dogwhistles rather than overtly. On this episode (at about 12:19), Ray McGovern characterizes US policy in Syria as directed by Israel. In fact he says “the only way you can explain what the US has been doing in Syria” is advancing Israeli interests. Not only is this idea that Israel directs US policy rooted in anti-semitism, it also requires ignoring the rather straight-forward fact that the State of Israel is a US client state and serves to advance US interests in the region. McGovern also repeatedly peddles the Seth Rich conspiracy theory (starting at 35:07) including citing noted white nationalist, and rapist, Julian Assange.
So, what is the conclusion here? Why has Brian Becker chosen to provide a platform to such reactionary elements? Why does he trust former anti-communist spies to not manipulate him and his audience? There are two obvious reasons that come to mind. The first is that Becker is extremely cynical and will side with anyone who superficially agrees with specific points like the Russiagate nonsense or US spy agencies (the so-called “Deep State”, a theory with its own significant issues) being bad, regardless of how reactionary their other views are, or what other agendas they are pushing.
The more disturbing possibility is that Becker himself is a crypto-fascist entryist attempting to steer people ostensibly on the left towards anti-semitism and right-wing viewpoints.
Fundamentally, though, it doesn’t matter why. What matters is what voices Becker is giving a platform to, and a lot of those voices are deeply reactionary. Becker himself is an agent of reaction, that much is clear. The PSL continuing to allow this does nothing other than discredit the organization. How can marginalized people trust the PSL to protect them or their interests when one of their leaders frequently hosts people who spread bigotry against them on his radio show? How can Jewish, Muslim, trans, or frankly any, comrades trust Becker given the people he gives a platform to, and by extension how can they trust the PSL?