In a series of brief interviews with vlogger and activist songster Geof Bard, CounterVortex producer Bill Weinberg dissects the sinister "tankie" phenomenon on the contemporary Western "left," which paradoxically supports Russian imperialism in the name of a misguided "anti-imperialism." This absurd double standard is enabled by the so-called "Chomsky Rule," which holds that we are only permitted to protest the crimes of US imperialism—and thereby renders the crimes of rival imperialisms invisible to the activist-left milieu. The pseudo-left betrayal of Ukraine to imperialist aggression actually undermines our moral authority to oppose the crimes of the US and its client states in places like Gaza and Yemen.
In Episode 126 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989—"6-4," as it is known in China, or "63+1" or "65-1," in a game of keeping ahead of online censors. With the massacre commemoration first exiled from Beijing to Hong Kong, it has now been exiled from Hong Kong to New York City as police-state measures are extended from the mainland. But China's official denialism about the massacre extends even to the US, where both the sectarian left and "paleoconservatives" echo Beijing's revisionist line. Both regime proponents and detractors share the consensus that the massacre and subsequent wave of repression across China was a "red terror," carried out as it was by a "Communist Party." A case can be made, however, that it was actually a "white terror," enforcing China's capitalist conversion. The recent crackdown on dissident workers and Marxist student activists in China—complete with extrajudicial "disappearances"—reveals "Xi Jinping Thought" to be (like Putinism and Trumpism) an updated variant of fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 125 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his deconstruction of the increasingly sinister, aggression-abetting politics of Noam Chomsky. In his recent interview with Current Affairs, Chomsky echoes Henry Kissinger's lecturing to the Ukrainians that they must capitulate to Russian aggression in the interests of global stability—a directive promptly repudiated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Chomsky has long been peddling historical revisionism on Ukraine, but his current convergence with Kissinger is a case study in imperial narcissism—an internalization of the imperialist perspective he has ostensibly dedicated his life to opposing. Fortunately, there is growing dissent on the left to Chomsky's paradoxical Kissingerian line, including from Ukrainian-American scholars—and from Chomsky's own Ukrainian translator, Artem Chapeye.
In Episode 120 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg invites the enmity of his comrades on the left with a long-overdue deconstruction of the increasingly sinister, genocide-abetting politics of Noam Chomsky. In relentless sycophantic interviews, Chomsky inevitably opposes a no-fly zone for Ukraine, war crimes charges against Putin, or even sanctions against Russia, on the grounds that such moves would lead to nuclear war. He offers no acknowledgment of how capitulating to Putin's nuclear threats incentivizes such threats, and the stockpiling of the missiles and warheads to back them up. This is part of a long pattern with Chomsky. He has repeatedly engaged in ugly and baseless "false flag" theorizing about the Syria chemical attacks, leading activists in the Arab world to accuse him of "regime whitewashing." He similarly abetted Bosnia genocide revisionism and (especially through his collaborations with the late Edward Herman) denial of the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia. All this can be traced to the analytical and ultimately moral and intellectual distortions of the so-called "Chomsky rule"—the notion that we are only allowed to criticize crimes committed by "our" side. An illustrative irony is that Chomsky will cynically exploit the suffering of the Palestinians to distract from and relativize the oppression of Uyghurs in China, yet his stance on Palestine is actually timid and cowardly—clinging to a "two-state solution," and opposing BDS as a form of pressure on Israel. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 119 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the intellectual challenge posed to Western anti-fascists by Putin's ultra-cynical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Russian state media have issued a "blueprint for genocide" in Ukraine—in the perversely paradoxical name of "de-nazification." With much of the American "left" stupidly rallying around Putin and repeating his line that the Ukrainians are neo-Nazis, some of the once-stalwart antifas (themselves coming under attack from domestic fascism) are in danger of being coopted by fascism. Of course there are actual far-right elements on the Ukrainian side—which Ukrainian anti-fascists have been actively resisting. But in an atmosphere of totalizing propaganda, it is critical that we do not rely exclusively on pro-Putin sources for information on elements such as the notorious Azov Battalion, but get outside the confirmation-bias bubble. It is even more critical that we ruthlessly reject double standards, and acknowledge that the fascist element is far more hegemonic on the Russian side—and that Putin's new Russo-fascism is aligned with Trumpism.
Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of having used chemical weapons on the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol on April 11, causing troops and civilians alike to develop respiratory symptoms. The claim first emerged from the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard involved in the defense of the city, which posted to its Telegram channel: "Russian occupation forces used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian military and civilians in the city of Mariupol, which was dropped from an enemy [unmanned aerial vehicle]. The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome."
In Episode 117 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg recalls the history of the Neither East Nor West position taken by anarchists and anti-authoritarians in the Cold War—seeking to build solidarity between anti-war and left-libertarian forces on either side of the East-West divide. With the world now arguably closer to military confrontation between nuclear-armed powers than it ever was in the (first) Cold War, is such a position still possible? The recent controversy surrounding a planned art show in New York City featuring the work of Russian anti-war artists crystalizes the dilemma. Weinberg also explores the paradoxically parallel thoughts of democratic socialist George Orwell and conservative moralist CS Lewis, both writing in the era of fascism, on the dangers of a "pacifist" position that abets aggressive war and totalitarianism. It is critical that progressives in the West avoid this trap by supporting the courageous Russian anti-war protesters—not (as some have) the war criminal Vladimir Putin. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 116 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of geostrategic and political thinking on the criticality of Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine, from the Crimean War to the contemporary catastrophe. Despite contemporary misconceptions, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels shared the perception of a "Russian menace to Europe" with theorists of Western imperialism such as Halford John Mackinder, Lord Curzon, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Nicholas J. Spykman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Arch-reactionary or openly fascist conceptions of "Eurasianism" were taken up by the German Karl Haushofer and the Russians Mikhail Katkov and Ivan Ilyin—the latter a formative influence on Alexander Dugin, the intellectual mastermind of Vladimir Putin's revanchist imperial project.