Modern, ‘progressive’, woke … and wrong: on how the ‘New Normal Left’ learned to stop worrying and love Big Pharma, medical apartheid, the state, NATO, the CIA, neo-Nazis, war, censorship …
Covid policies that would have had the old Left up in arms – the cancelling of civil rights, the deliberate crashing of the economy, the abolition of free speech, forced medical procedures, medical discrimination, the festival of pseudoscience amongst others – were met with donuts by the modern, ‘progressive’ Covid Left, which preferred to rail against the unclean, the rule-breakers and the dissidents. And all this was just fine, said almost the entirety of the modern Left.
If “Public Health” turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the ‘progressive’ Left to signal its essential goodness (‘we are saving lives by locking down, masking up and taking one in the shoulder’), and an ideal cause to turn loyalty to the capitalist state into a virtue, then being obedient on the Ukraine narrative by lionising Zelensky and standing four-square against ‘Russian aggression’ is not far behind in the ‘essential goodness’ stakes.
So, with the Ukraine Psy-Ops, the New Normal Left passed its latest loyalty test, this time to the Western capitalist war state. Suggestible western liberals, including those who trade under the brand name of ‘the Left’, have proved to be like children to the Ukraine Psy-Ops candy-peddlers. For the Covid-compliant Left, it was depressingly inevitable that, trained in its new habits of mind (deference to the state, to the establishment media and to big corporate capital) would be primed for the anti-Putin, Russophobic, pro-Ukraine, pro-NATO psy-ops.
Just as the ‘progressive’ Left swallowed every single lie about Covid (deadliest threat ever, lockdowns work but only if really tough, masks work, and the daddy of them all – the ‘safe and effective’ lie) so, too, have they gulped down every lie about NATO’s proxy war.
Ukraine and the ‘New Normal Left’
For the ‘New Normal Left’, keen to show it is on the right (progressive) side of a struggle between Good (Zelensky) and Evil (Putin), Ukraine is a precious flower of freedom and democracy ruthlessly crushed underfoot by a Putin monster but this characterisation is some degrees wide of the mark. The Left used to have concerns about neo-Nazism and corruption in Ukraine but that was a decade ago and now, with a Putin beast to be slayed, all such concerns are best forgotten. Here follows a reminder of just what the ‘New Normal Left’ now conveniently ‘misremembers’ about Ukraine.
Ukraine’s democratic bona fides are fraudulent. The current Ukrainian government’s origins in a violent, US-backed, Nazi-activated coup is inconvenient to the ‘progressive’ Left and must be memory-holed. State corruption in Ukraine is vast but has also been shelved for purposes of the Narrative – Ukraine still is the most corrupt country in Europe and Zelensky, himself, was fingered in the Pandora Papers, which leaked the financial/wealth details of the world’s rich and famous, for his use of offshore, tax-dodging banking arrangements, as well as his holdings of expensive London properties. Ukraine is famously choc-a-bloc with US Deep State bio-warfare labs, too.
Ukraine is undemocratic. The post-coup government’s very first move was to ban the use of the Russian language in any official capacity and to ban all Russian media in Ukraine. The Ukrainian communist parties were stripped of their right to participate in elections amongst other ‘decommunisation’ laws which, more broadly, curtailed numerous political freedoms, independent media and civil rights, laws which Zelensky has continued. Zelensky, indeed, as a ‘war measure’ has gone further and outlawed all opposition parties (including anti-war and non-communist leftist parties as well as anyone who advocates for negotiations with Russia to end the war).
You will wait in vain, however, for the modern Left to notice any of this, just as, when Zelensky gutted trade union rights as part of his war regime (employers can now unilaterally impose sixty-hour working weeks, for example), the Western ‘progressive’ Left was nowhere to be seen or heard. The New Normal Left has abandoned the Ukrainian working class just as they have abandoned the Western one.
The once anti-war Left has also had nothing to say about Zelensky’s war measures that treat deserters, draft dodgers and other war resisters harshly, nor has the post-coup regime’s reintroduction of conscription (well before the Russian invasion) stirred any dormant anti-militarist passions but, then again, perhaps for a ‘Left’ that supported universal medical conscription through compulsory enlistment in a giant ‘vaccination’ experiment to defeat a virus, then old-fashioned military conscription to defeat the Putin pathogen would be equally meritorious in their eyes.
Highlighting the hand of the US Deep State in Ukraine’s CIA/NED-organised ‘colour revolution’, or noting the anti-democratic, corrupt, ethnic-cleansing nature of the Zelensky regime, or demanding that NATO unilaterally quit the war it started, or declining to join in the daily ‘Two Minutes Hate’ of Putin, will get you called a disreputable ‘conspiracy theorist’ or a ‘Moscow stooge’, by the New Normal Left.
Exceptions to the New Normal Left
The New Normal Left’s political sellout on both Covid and Ukraine has been largely unrelieved by any politically consistent leftwing critique of both. Rare exceptions include the Workers League in Australia, claiming a Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist bloodline, and the more centrist left, but maverick, US Democrat nominee for presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr..
These hens’ teeth exceptions prove the rule that the ‘progressive’ Left has stampeded to the warm and fuzzy politics of feel-good sentiment and ‘the greater good’ which necessitates the severe infringement of civil liberties, human rights, workers’ rights and freedom of speech.
Since the working class, all those retrograde, often ‘politically incorrect’, workers having stopped listening to the woke, ‘progressive’ Left, who no longer speak the language of class, all that remains for the modern Left is the theory of anodyne, bourgeois liberalism and a political praxis of juvenile catharsis.
This has been most evident when the ‘progressive’ Left vents against working class populism and their unlikely (rightish) figureheads. Trump, the man, is not everyone’s cup of tea which makes him an easy punching bag for such a ‘Left’, although just how working class power can be advanced by excluding Trump voters, and those other workers who do not have all the ‘correct’ opinions on every woke fad, is never specified by the ‘progressive’ left which is mired in identity politics. Shallow analysis, name-calling, virtue-signalling and de facto alliance with the capitalist state is what passes for New Normal Leftist discourse these days.
The ‘New Normal Left’ on NATO’s proxy war: Two case studies
- The Socialist Workers Party (UK)
The leading weathervane for all things Covid tyranny, the SWP is, to its credit, aware of a proxy war between NATO and Russia but their trademark analytical prism refracts the war through the now-redundant ‘neither Washington nor Moscow’ prism (someone really should tell the comrades that the Cold War is over) which posits an equality of blame between “the West’s NATO military alliance and Russia” in a “war for dominance in eastern Europe”, according to their latest article on Ukraine.
This framework, however, absolves NATO from its responsibility as the decades-long instigator of the current Ukraine war but old analytical habits die hard, I suppose, and it wouldn’t do your ‘progressive’ self-image any good to lay yourself open to being labelled a ‘Putin apologist’, just as it was imperative to not be labelled a science-denying, Granny-killing, lockdown sceptic, mask rebel and anti-vaxxer.
The SWP does pay lip service to the reality that “on more than one occasion, Biden and US officials have said their aim in the Ukraine war is to “weaken Russia’s strength and influence in Europe” and that the Ukraine war is “part of an even bigger project to reassert the US’s military power—and draw European states into a more tightly-knit alliance—against its biggest rival China”.
This welcome clarity, however, is muddied by the formulaic temptation to describe the proxy war as being “a war between two imperialist camps” in “a decade of growing competition between the West and Russia in eastern Europe”. This undercuts what should be the main focus of anti-war activity in the West which is for the West to cease all support for the war it started which would soon see an outnumbered and outgunned Ukraine suing for a negotiated peace and a return to the status quo ante.
The SWP is correct to say that “Putin is no friend to the international working class” (they could have added that Putin was as much part of the global virus tyranny as any other national leader but they are too wedded to the whole Covid policy disaster to do so) but this ignores the concrete situation that it is not just Putin, but the large majority of Russians who are supportive of the war because of their experience of the long history of Western hostility to Russia.
Considering how ingrained the London Blitz will forever be in British consciousness (and how even just two Japanese midget submarines in Sydney Harbour is an ineradicable part of Australian historical culture), then losing some 27 million people from a Nazi invasion during the same conflict is going to affect infinitely more the Russian people’s attitude to new military threats from a Nazi-infested Ukraine state possessing long-range missiles just ten minutes flight from Moscow.
For a ‘Left’ which roundly denounced Trump as ‘literally Hitler’ (and which slandered Canadian truckers who protested vaxx mandates as ridgy-didge fascists), they have been stunningly mute when it comes to actual, Nazi-insignia-wearing fascists in the Ukrainian government and military.
One thing Covid should have taught the Left is that simplistic morality ales of good vs evil in public health (wicked virus, evil granny-killers, good lockdown, saviour vaccine, miracle masks, etc.) are cartoonish propaganda. So, too, the tales of Bad Man Putin and Democratic Hero Zelensky are childish.
Ukraine is a buffer state, strategically placed to use each neighbouring geo-political bloc as counterweights to each other so as to advance its own security, prosperity and influence. Nevertheless, NATO and its poodle-government in post-coup Ukraine could not leave well enough alone. Ukraine chose, backed by NATO, to poke the Russian bear and upset that advantageous balance. The SWP doesn’t get this just as it didn’t get the danger of upsetting the balance between virus and humans.
- The Socialist Alliance (Australia)
Away from the preserved-in-amber politics of the SWP, what do the rest of the ‘New Normal Left’ have to say? My barometer for the non-SWP Left is the Socialist Alliance in Australia which produces the Green Left Weekly newspaper (which I used to write for before their Great Covid Betrayal) and whose roots lie in a different current of Trotskyist politics (Cannonite as opposed to Cliffite, for those interested in sectarian political esoterica). GLW/SA, too, were reliable Covid tyranny supporters and, therefore, not surprisingly, their political compass on Ukraine is also askew, sheeting home the lion’s share of blame onto Russia/Putin, with NATO’s role trailing badly in the outrage stakes.
So, just as GLW ran with ‘deadly pandemic’, worthy lockdowns, the mask charade and unproblematic ‘vaccines’ during Covid, their analysis of the proxy war (as per their latest article) presents us with little more than empty regime talking points such as “Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine” (absent any context of NATO’s role) to be “deplored and condemned” whilst their commentary on the progress of the war itself is that Russia is forever “failing” in its imperialist war for territory.
Jeremy Corbyn is cited approvingly with his demand for “the big powers” to “end their escalation” (another take on the equivalence of responsibility for the war). So, too, are Irish Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald given space to muscle up to Putin:
“Vladimir Putin must understand that the international community will remain united with Ukraine for however long it takes to face down his brutal invasion” (and, nope, I checked – I hadn’t strayed on to the BBC website by mistake).
GLW also finds a congenial voice in a former US Greens Party presidential candidate who sees the proxy war as a noble “resistance to Russia’s invasion” which also requires arms being supplied to Ukraine. Strap in for another Vietnam, folks, this time with the roles reversed as the ‘Left’ now barracks for war against a political enemy which must be defeated in the great cause of freedom and democracy.
It is, by contrast, the political right (specifically the ‘alt-right’, the dissident right, the nativist right, the MAGA right, the Tucker Carlson right and definitely not the old neo-con right) which is most strongly opposed to the proxy war for being yet another debacle in a string of futile, costly military engagements overseas which enriches only the arms industry, whilst it is the ‘progressive’ Left, the ‘liberal-interventionist’ friends of the neo-cons, which is now on the warmongering bandwagon. As they did on Covid, Right and (the New Normal) Left have swapped political places.
What is to be done
Just as the best government policy option for Covid was to do absolutely nothing and to simply live with the virus as we do with every virus, the best policy in regard to Russia was to do nothing in the way of provocation by threatening Russian national security and to learn to live with Russia and its sovereignty needs.
That moment has passed, however, and, this side of an international proletarian revolution, the shooting war must be brought to a swift end. The best way to do that is for the perpetrator of the conflict (US/NATO/Western neo-imperialism) to withdraw its economic and military support for the corrupt, undemocratic, Nazi-riddled Zelensky regime and to force Kiev to the negotiating table. The Left has to take up this political challenge rather than reinforcing the Narrative of ‘Russian aggression’. Squawking about how offensive Putin is simply proselytises the Authorised Version of the Ukraine Gospel.
Sides can be picked in wars despite their unsavoriness. Marx and Engels backed the North in the American Civil War despite its capitalist relations of production. Communists backed the Allies against fascism in WW11 despite their being class societies riddled with sexism and other divisions. Sixties socialists backed the Vietnamese resistance against US imperialism despite the neo-Stalinism of their communist leadership.
The military defeat of Russia would be a defeat of the broader, global, populist movement (cf Brexit, Trump, the Dutch farmers, the French pension-protestors, etc.) which, whilst it is not subjectively anti-capitalist is objectively resisting the political/economic logic of global capitalism. In politics, your horse in the race might not be your ideal runner, and Putin truly is no friend of the workers, let alone a socialist, nor is he greatly democracy-minded, but as the head of one prong pushing back against the drive of US capital to expand ever eastwards, is a temporary, if awkward, ally of the populist resistance to global capitalism. Personal invective by the New Normal Left about Putin is no substitute for Marxist geo-political analysis.
A NATO victory in their proxy war against Russia would be a further victory, coming so soon after the fake pandemic, for more elite, ruling class control in our New Normal world. A true Left can not be part of such a NATO victory. True, it would have to wear the juvenile abuse of the New Normal Left for being, in the delightfully satirical words of C J Hopkins, “the old-school Left. The Covid-denying, conspiracy-theorizing, Putin-loving, far-right-extremist” Left. But, in the phrase used by Leon Trotsky (about the sell-out Mensheviks of his day), the ‘progressive’, liberal, fake Left, the Lockdown Left, the NATO Left, the New Normal Left, is fit only for the dustbin of history.
The Global Research website has a politically heterogeneous suite of writers but has been solid on both Covid and Ukraine.
Some of their articles have been directly referenced in the above text and some other useful articles are: