The popularity of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demonstrates that Bernie Sanders was not a fluke — socialism has caught on in America. I am elated by this. But even as the socialist left is finally broadening its appeal, the movement still faces internal strife. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling has become a flashpoint, as some supposedly left-wing figures run interference for Trump and downplay his inner circle’s connections with Russia.
I get it — and I’m not just saying that as a flippant commentator. Initially, I was among the skeptics myself, convinced that Russiagate served as a convenient narrative for the Democratic establishment to downplay Hillary Clinton’s loss. Her brand of corporate liberalism was anachronistic to our times—calling it “too little, too late” would be generous. Russian collusion was not needed in order for her to lose. Following the principle of Occam’s Razor, we might discount it. Simply put, though: I was wrong.
But many other socialists still have not come to terms with this reality — apparently because they don’t want to diminish the significance of the scathing indictment of neoliberalism that was the 2016 election. Popular left-wing commentator Aaron Maté went so far as to defend Roger Stone after his arrest, dismissing Stone’s actions as “trolling.”
For vocal critics of the Russia investigation, there are, perhaps, sunk costs. They have invested too much in denouncing the collusion narrative, so they bitterly grasp at straws to explain away the latest revelations regarding Russia.
This problem extends beyond public figures to the rank-and-file of the socialist masses — many of whom lash out if you suggest there could be something to the Russia investigation. While Russia skepticism does enticingly enable a view of Clinton’s loss entirely as a product of her being out-of-touch, most committed socialists have little to lose by embracing what now seems to be an obvious reality.
A major reason why skepticism among socialists persists is Russian state media. RT and Sputnik, both owned by the Russian state, have historically provided platforms for many beloved socialist and green politicians and pundits. Despite their inclusion of figures like Richard Spencer and Alex Jones, this has cemented their strong influence on so many leftists — which is precisely the goal.
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Russia’s post-Soviet geopolitical strategy is largely influenced by the works of Aleksandr Dugin, a fascist political theorist. Though many believe Russia is trying to turn the United States into a “puppet,” the goal is even more subversive. Russia means to disrupt things in the West enough to construct a new Eurasian empire ruled by Moscow, starting with — as you may have guessed if you pay attention to international affairs — the annexation of South Ossetia and Ukraine.
Dugin’s 2009 work, Fourth Political Theory, advocates a “conscious cooperation of the radical left-wingers and the New Right” that includes “the ecologists and the Green theorists” — a dream partially realized every time Jill Stein or her 2016 running mate, Ajamu Baraka, appear on the same network, RT, that often hosts the alt-right.
Criticizing Russia, though, is not an attack on socialist or green ideals. In fact, if one truly cares about the environment and the conditions of masses and the marginalized, then recognizing and combating this problem is of utmost importance. Not only are we being deliberately peddled propaganda, but this infantile refusal to face facts regarding Russia destroys credibility.
What once seemed like a rocket propelling perceptions of the inevitability of the socialist movement is now hurtling downward at an ever-quickening pace — and leftists continue to gleefully ride it as if they were Major T. J. Kong at the end of Dr. Strangelove.
What so many of these socialists fear is a return to the pre-Trump status quo, but that fear is helping bring that future into fruition. Russian collusion will undoubtedly serve as a major focus in the upcoming election cycle, and the ties that several prominent leftists have with Russian state media will prove to be a major liability — and those without strong links to Russia, like Bernie Sanders, are being targeted too.
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Much as socialists may want to focus on issues like health care and the environment, ignoring obstacles in front of us will ensure that those goals are never realized. Many socialists rightly accuse neoliberal politicians like Hillary Clinton of being out of touch with the issues regular people face — issues with which they often have firsthand experience. However, they go on to make the mistake of believing their insights on domestic issues translates to a nuanced understanding of international affairs.
The new socialist movement is growing, but must still rely on some degree of cooperation with either Democrats or the alt-right if it is to succeed. The choice here should be obvious, but many socialists seem unaware they are even making it — even as they gleefully retweet apologetics for Mueller arrestees. The success of the movement depends on recognizing that no matter how tired you are of SNL cold openings with Alec Baldwin as Trump, denying mountains of evidence in politics will alienate others— and, without a change of course, that will likely be the 2020 election.