When the Mueller report found no evidence of “collusion” between Trump’s team and Putin, most decent people (and not just “liberals”) were disappointed, while pointing out that Trump had not been “exonerated” (as he claimed) of obstructing justice. Yet the Morning Star (in its editorial of March 26) positively crowed with delight and echoed Trump’s own propaganda:
“After a two-year inquiry, Mueller can find no evidence of collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign team and Putin’s Russia
“For many liberals, it has become an article of faith that the Kremlin and its oligarchs must have played a crucial role in securing Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“Likewise, they believe that sinister forces in Russia and their collaborators helped procure the Brexit result in the June 2016 referendum. Any indication that anyone in Russia, or any company with Russian links, may have intervened in the campaign is seized upon as an explanation of that outcome” (actually not true, certainly not of the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, the most prominent reporter following this story).
Let’s be clear about who the Morning Star is referring to – and defending – here: Arron Banks, the unsavoury funder of Leave.EU, and a character the rest of the world seems rightly nonplussed that Britain isn’t taking far more seriously. I’ll come back to Banks. As for Trump — there’s nothing wrong with hating him, or wanting to bring him down. Maybe some people (call them “liberals” if you like), placed too much hope in the Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between Trump and Putin. But did they really think Mueller would get Trump on tape, asking a Russian to hack Hillary Clinton’s email?
In any case, we had Trump in a news conference in July 2016, making a direct appeal: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said, referring to emails Mrs. Clinton had deleted from the private account she had used when she was secretary of state. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” The evidence uncovered by Mueller is not vague. It led to indictments of numerous Russian citizens and of organisations, including the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll factory based in St Petersburg.
They bought adverts on social media praising Trump and disparaging his opponents; they stole identities, they even went to the United States and staged fake rallies, including one in which they employed somebody to portray Clinton in a prison uniform.
Understandably, many decent people wanted more. They wanted evidence of Trump not just getting support, but asking for it. Some had hopes of uncovering financial or sexual kompromat, as suggested in the infamous Steele dossier. But the indictment did not address the question of whether the Russians’ actions were actually in response to Mr. Trump. It said nothing at all about Mr. Trump’s request for help from Putin And it is pretty obvious that the Russian state had not just wanted Trump to be president, but had actively worked to aid that end. Since last July, nobody has needed to speculate any more.
As for Banks, he is being investigated by the National Crime Agency over the source of the many millions he spent on Brexit. Like Trump, he sits at the nexus of many Russia-based theories of wrongdoing. Also like Trump, he is a braggart, and a blowhard. Had he truly got Russia to pay for Brexit, he’d probably have boasted about it in a mildly tipsy interview by now, as the Times’ Hugo Rifkind pointed out in a recent column:
“He also tweets me quite a lot [wrote Rifkind], perhaps because he’d like to be friends. This weekend, he picked me as a representative of those who ought to hang their heads now that Mueller has found no collusion.
“I never thought he was in league with Russia, just like I’ve never thought you were,” I explained, politely. “I think you’re both stupid and arrogant enough that they didn’t have to bother.” Maybe it wasn’t so polite. Also, I shouldn’t have said stupid, because neither of these men are that, but Twitter makes maniacs of us all”.
The Morning Star’s evident softness towards Trump, and hard hostility towards those it castigates as his “liberal” critics, is nothing new. When Trump, back in 2016, responding to an interviewer criticising Putin — “he kills journalists that don’t agree with him”, by saying: “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader... I think our country does plenty of killing also!” ... the Morning Star carried an article by one “Zoltan Zigedy”, (the pen name of Stalinist blogger Greg Godels), conceding that Trump is “unpopular” and “right wing”. But the gist of his article was to defend Trump against “the liberal establishment”.
The Morning Star editorial of 26 March repeats this bizarre muscle-memory defence of the Putin regime (as though it was still the USSR) and third-period Stalinism towards the hated liberals:
“They [liberals] then express horror when working-class people vote for reactionary demagogues who at least pretend to share their pain and who propose bogus solutions to their real or perceived problems.
“How much more comfortable to point the finger at Putin, the Kremlin and Facebook than to address the roots of discontent by attacking the capitalist free market or institutions like the European Union that enforce it. How much easier to slander masses of working-class voters in the US and here as thick, gullible racists and xenophobes than challenge the ruling class.”
To which serious socialists can only answer: “How much easier to wish away the racism that lay behind the Brexit vote that you support and the Trump vote that you apologise for, than to address the lumpen element within our class and propose a principled, anti-racist alternative”.