On the Left or in Russia? The Strange Case of Foreign pro-Kremlin Radical Leftists (Pt.2).

October 20, 2014
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On the Left or in Russia? The Strange Case of Foreign pro-Kremlin Radical Leftists (Pt.2).

In the first part of this article I pointed out that pro-Kremlin leftists are blind to Russian imperialism past and present.1 Today, regardless of their support of anti-colonial and national movements in Asia and Africa, as in the past, they oppose Ukrainian national ambitions in general and the Maidan movement in particular. None of them seem to have heard of Ivan Dziuba.2 Alongside the Russophilism, neo Soviet sympathies, material interest, delusion and ignorance that can account for this double standard among pro -Kremlin leftists, is the anti-Americanism that has overshadowed anti-imperialism in their thinking.3 Foreign pro Kremlin leftists, I remarked, did not consider the possibility that Ukrainians might prefer the EU to the Russian variant of capitalism because their experience as foreign workers and reading has shown them the latter is more destructive and rapacious than the former.4 Such leftists do not take into account that Russian-style neo-soviet capitalism in Ukraine is not tempered by a strong left opposition, trade unions, independent political parties and rule of law -- what Marx considered the “bourgeois rights and liberties” established in Europe between 1789 and 1914. Neither Russian media nor pro Kremlin leftists consider Russia’s neo liberal capitalist government as imperialist – however defined.5 

In pt. 1 I concluded that regardless of whether or not pro Kremlin leftists are more or less influential than ostensibly liberal pundits and activists, collectively they ensure that more people are exposed to the Kremlin anti-Ukrainian viewpoints outside Russia than would be without them.6 In this second part to my article I draw attention to some further aspects of official Russian media that pro Kremlin leftists ignore and compare their site Google rankings with those of major US EU and Russian sites (as of September 2014).

To begin with, for all their concern over corporate control over US and EU media, pro leftists do not seem to be concerned about Russia ranking 148 out of 179 countries rated in the Press Freedom Index and, that as of the summer of 2014, the government had either closed or muzzled the country’s last major independent media outlets.7 They do not seem to reflect on the fact that unlike in Russia, no journalist in North America or the EU is known to have ever been assaulted or murdered by armed gangs. Foreign leftists do not cite the three major independent Russian English language media organizations that do not toe the Kremlin line on Ukraine. As the Moscow Times and Petersburg Times are foreign owned, leftists presumably ignore them as tainted “western capitalist” media. Novaia gazeta, admittedly, carries very little on Ukraine and, as of September 2014, appeared only in blog format.8

Foreign pro-Kremlin leftists, in particular the editors of Globalresearch, however do rely heavily on official Russian outlets. They don’t seem to care that, in so far as any of the leadings personnages in official Russian outlets like, Dmitrii Tsorionov, Alexander Prokhanov, Sergei Kurginyan, Margarita Simonyan, Dmitry Kiselyov, Igor Osadchii, Evgenii Prigozhin, Mariia Kuprashevich, Vladimir Solovyov, or Arkady Mamontov, ever had anything to do with Marxism or socialism in general, then it was only of the official Soviet Stalinist variety. These leftists either don’t know or don’t care that the Russian they love to cite who they think is a marxist, Boris Kagarlitskii, from at least 2006, has been working with Russian political leaders and extreme-right parties and, reportedly, testified for the prosecution in the summer 2104 trial of Russian radical leftists.9

"Aggressive and deceptive propaganda... worse than anything I witnessed in the Soviet Union," is how Lev Gudkov, the director of Russia’s respected polling organization Levada Centre, characterized the foreign language official Russian media outlets RIA Novosti, and Russia Today.10 Nonetheless, as of September 2014 the google rankings of government-controlled foreign-language Russian media compared favourably with those of the major US and EU news companies.11 RIA Novosti ranked 498 and Russia Today 237. Lower, but still significant, were Pravda (English version) 4162 and Russia beyond the Headlines (rbth.com) 14 803.12 The London Times ranked 5191, Le Monde 423, the NY Times 126, the Huffington Post 73, and CNN 62. Fox News the nearest American equivalent to Russia Today in terms of political bias ranks 172.

To place these figures in context: as of October 2014 Amazon.com ranks 8 and Sports Illustrated 63. Fashion Today 1199, Playboy 3675, Elle 3775, and Popular Mechanics 8 051.

In contrast to the rankings of the major world media organizations those of the radical left are much lower but it does extend Russian viewpoints to an audience that is not normally interested in Russian dominated territories. As of September 2014 the google rankings of radical left sites sampled in this article were as follows - in descending order: Liva, 11 807 309; Stopimperialism.com, 2 148 752; Counterinformation.wordpress, 1 690 906; Canadian Dimension 1 166 503; Borotba, 898 199; Counterfire, 865 994; Socialistproject.ca, 828 017; Rakbkor.ru, 637 392; Workers.org, 518 953; Greenleft.org, 312 859; Marxist.com, 240 166; Links.org.au, 200 066; World Socialist Website, 44 701; Counterpunch.org, 22 295; Globalresearch.ca, 11 181. In contrast to these anti- American pro- Kremlin sites, it might be added, only 2 of the anti- imperialist English language sample sites (Socialist worker --353 029; Workers Liberty – 513 256) were below one million. However, because the sample for this article was illustrative and not representative, it does not indicate whether the pro Kremlin or Ukrainian-sympathetic radical sites are more widely read.

Finally, a more comprehensive overview of the degree of foreign sympathy for Kremlin anti-Ukrainian views would have to consider not only a broad sample of site-commentary but also “trolling” – in particular because observers noticed a marked increase in pro-Kremlin trolling under Putin, who as a KGB operative in Berlin specialized in disinformation.13 No less interesting might be an attempt to determine how many people outside the academic community refer to scholarly political studies journals for information about Russia and Ukraine.

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