by Jonathan Cook
Part 7 - Russian ‘agents’ and ‘assets’
None of this is to overlook the fact that another variation of identity politics has been weaponised against Sanders: that of failing to be an “American” patriot. Again illustrating how closely the Democratic and Republican leaderships’ interests align, the question of who is a patriot – and who is really working for the “Russians” – has been at the heart of both parties’ campaigns, though for different reasons.
Trump has been subjected to endless, evidence-free claims that he is a secret “Russian agent” in a concerted effort to control his original isolationist foreign policy impulses that might have stripped the establishment – and its military-industrial wing – of the right to wage wars of aggression, and revive the Cold War, wherever it believes a profit can be made under cover of “humanitarian intervention”.
Trump partly inoculated himself against these criticisms, at least among supporters, with his “Make America Great Again” slogan, and partly by learning – painfully for such an egotist – that his presidential role was to rubber-stamp decisions made elsewhere about waging wars and projecting US power.
Bernie Sanders has faced similar smear efforts by the establishment, including by the DNC’s last failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – in his case, painting him as a “Russian asset”. (“Asset” is a way to suggest collusion with the Kremlin based on even more flimsy evidence than is needed to accuse someone of being an agent.) In fact, in a world where identity politics wasn’t simply a tool to be weaponised by the establishment, there would be real trepidation about engaging in this kind of invective against a Jewish socialist.
One of the far-right’s favourite antisemitic tropes – promoted ever since the publication of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion more than 100 years ago – is that Jewish “Bolsheviks” are involved in an international conspiracy to subvert the countries they live in. We have reached the point now that the corporate media are happy to recycle evidence-free claims, cited by the Washington Post, from anonymous “US officials” and US intelligence agencies reinventing a US version of the Protocols against Sanders. And these smears have elicited not a word of criticism from the Democratic leadership nor from the usual antisemitism watchdogs that are so ready to let rip over the slightest signs of what they claim to be antisemitism on the left.
But the urgency of dealing with Sanders may be the reason normal conventions have been discarded. Sanders isn’t a loud-mouth egotist like Trump. A vote for Trump is a vote for the establishment, if for one of its number who pretends to be against the establishment. Trump has been largely tamed in time for a second term. By contrast, Sanders, like Corbyn in the UK, is more dangerous because he may resist the efforts to domesticate him, and because if he is allowed any significant measure of political success – such as becoming a candidate for president – it may inspire others to follow in his footsteps. The system might start to throw up more anomalies, more AOCs and more Ilhan Omars.
So Sanders is now being cast, like Trump, as a puppet of the Kremlin, not a true American. And because he made the serious mistake of indulging the “Russiagate” smears when they were used against Trump, Sanders now has little defence against their redeployment against him. And given that, by the impoverished standards of US political culture, he is considered an extreme leftist, it has been easy to conflate his democratic socialism with Communism, and then conflate his supposed Communism with acting on behalf of the Kremlin (which, of course, ignores the fact that Russia long ago abandoned Communism).