The New Comintern
Vladimir Putin has made the strategic aims of Russia’s war against Ukraine very clear. Those are not exclusively to eliminate Ukraine’s independence and make the country part of Russia. That is one minor subplot of the larger story, though the one most familiar to Western observers. Moscow’s major reason for the war is to stand up to the West -- the United States in particular. Vladimir Putin makes a point of stressing that it is a fight for survival. Russia, in Putin’s view, is defending not only itself against the imaginary forces of darkness intent on destroying it, Russia is the last stand of the Christian civilization under the assault from the forces of barbarism. That destructive power is the liberal order, bent on destroying civilization and its pillars and replacing it with something completely foreign to human nature. Vladimir Putin presents this fateful clash as a duel of ideologies in which no lasting compromise is possible. He presents it as a struggle of the weak against the powerful with Russia as the underdog. Russia, playing a weak hand, cannot rely on its inferior strength alone to sustain the fight. It needs a powerful fifth column in the West to support its propaganda narrative and provide dedicated cadre of enablers and possibly more.
This apocalyptic view of the real and perceived tensions that exist between Russia and the West is simply a rebranded approach the Bolsheviks took in the first decades after the 1917 coup. The Bolsheviks found themselves in an inferior position vis-a-vis the West, similar to the one Russia finds itself now. They quickly realized they needed a strategic low-cost approach to keep the adversary off balance. The eternal flames of the worldwide struggle of the proletariat was their way of attacking the enemy from the rear. And so the Communist International, the Comintern, was born. Stalin disbanded the Comintern a few decades later, in the middle of the WWII, to placate the Allies. Yet the Comintern and the cadres it created during a few decades of its existence helped the Soviet Union during the Cold War to effectively influence and sometimes direct political processes in many democratic countries. The Comintern and its successors were in the business of selling Russia’s interests as universal communist ideology. The seemingly limitless reservoir of useful idiots provided a never-tiring, free, and dedicated labor force to guarantee that no democracy ever felt safe and secure in its struggle with the Evil Empire.
Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative and diligent student of history, is wrapping Russia’s schizophrenic imperial ambitions in the cloak of the universal struggle against the ideology he describes as the West’s valueless unipolar world order. As in the days of the Bolsheviks, the rhetoric focuses on the real issues of Western societies. The analysis blows problems out of proportion, obfuscates the context and, more importantly, presents Russia’s brutal imperial ambitions as a quixotic quest to save the world. The woke ideology successfully conquering the politics and institutions of western democracies is a real concern and arguably a danger to the liberal order itself. Similarly, so were the terrible, sometimes inhuman, conditions of the working class back in the days before and after the Bolshevik coup d'etat. The injustices then and now are real and not imaginary. Neither the Bolsheviks then nor Putin now have invented them. That is the power of Russia’s propaganda of the past hundred years. It is based on facts. Karl Marx would be long forgotten by now if not for his religion being based on objective reality. The issue is not with the facts, but with the remedy.
To many western opponents of the woke onslaught, the Kremlin’s propaganda are the voices of the sirens. Russia offers a response, a real alternative to the excesses and idiocy of the modern woke culture. Whereas in the West, the opponents of the woke are shunned and delegated to the far corners of cultural and political life, in Russia they appear to be thriving and free to express themselves. Yet those voices offer nothing else but the advancement of Russia’s imperial interest at the expense of everyone else. They thrive on confused and frightened individuals threatened by political changes in western democracies and unable to find strong and confident voices in the politics of their own countries. This is exactly how many members of the working class felt in the early part of the 20th century and who eventually found the answers in the simple propaganda coming from Moscow.
The Kremlin started building its new Comintern in the last decade. It has assembled a very colorful coalition of forces that included, to name the most high-profile members Victor Orban of Hungary, Italy’s far right, Marine Le Pen of France, and some dark corners of the MAGA movement. They held conferences and ideological gatherings to cement the united front. There is no clear well-expressed ideology, such as Marxism, uniting these forces, but there is an “ideology of opposition” to the excesses of transgender rights, CRI, and other woke ideological underpinnings. Gender and sex, as an ideological leitmotif, used to unite the Left. Curiously, in the 21st century, it united the Right. Yet it is a very tenuous glue uniting very desperate forces. The war in Ukraine has chipped away some comrades who could not stomach barbaric Nazi-like aggression against another country. Yet many stayed. And even though the new Comintern has not even reached its teenage years, the results of good KGB organizational work are already clearly visible. Russia’s propaganda machine is thriving even though the Russian media is banned and sanctioned in the West. The New Comintern agents, the new useful idiots, disseminate Russia’s talking points free of charge with revolutionary zeal. All across Europe, Australia, and the U.S. you get a daily dose of Putin. Tucker Carlson is the most fascinating representative of that cadre. It is not always clear if he repeats Moscow’ propaganda or invents it. His vitriol and aggression towards Ukraine rivals even Moscow’s channels. This is unprecedented, as there had never been an equivalent to Tucker's act in standing and visibility during the Cold War. We should not be surprised to witness Cambridge Five of the right to appear soon.
The great truth and irony of history is that neither the Right or the Left is immune to being naive and idiotic and McCarthys of the yesteryear may well become Kim Philbys of today.