Originally Published Nov 10, 2017
It seems like everyone is a conspiracy theorist now.
From the ever present marching band of insecure males gulping down Alex Jones’s neutropics talking about a globalist takeover of the world and their hidden antifa armies, to the YouTube left conspiratorial rabbit hole that pins all of our political system’s ills on the Democratic National Committee’s personal hatred of America’s Socialist Jewish Grandpa, these theories are all around us.
Even our “sensible” technocratic center has fallen into a George Norrie worthy rabbit hole concerning the effects of Russian influence on our most recent national election. Figures such as Louise Mensch, David Frum, and Eric Garland portray this collusion as a massive and global conspiracy, one rooted in Vladimir Putin’s personal hatred of America, with Donald Trump serving as either a willing dupe or decades long sleeper cell.
Besides the simplicity of applying a rejected James Bond script to political analysis, the political value of this conspiracy is obvious when one puts the figures pushing the theory in their context. Those with the most to gain from this narrative would be those looking to deflect from the epic failure of not just the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, but from the broader Democratic Party’s electoral failures at both the national and local levels.
Between the investigations led by Robert Mueller into possible Russian collusion and the recently released “Paradise Papers”, we are gaining a greater clarity of what happened and why. The conspiratorial pronouncements of the Democratic Party Center, the DNC Obsessive Left, and the Radical Trumpian Right are all wrong, blinded by their need for a narrative to comfort their worldview
Much of the discussion concerning the revelations of the Paradise Papers and the Mueller Probe have hinged on a theory of STATE collusion between the Trump organization and Russia. This attempt to recreate a Red Dawn scenario, but this time instead of teenagers in suburbia it’s MSNBC watchers on Twitter, misses the most obvious and barely concealed conspiracy: the conspiracy of capitalism.
Examine the most recent revelation concerning Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. As evidenced in the Paradise Papers, a collection of over 13 million files from 19 different tax haven released by a consortium of international news agencies, Ross has a large stake in the Russian shipping company Navigator. Along with shipping, Navigator has a partnership with the Russian oil business Sibur, which is co-owned by Vladimir Putin’s son in law.
The takeaway from this revelation have centered around the personal Putin connection, which is a logical strategy for those looking to turn the rather large, but disparate Russia narrative into a case of a singular strategy to deconstruct American democracy. But this is a faulty narrative that ignores the incentive structure that defines the global capitalist system. In fact, according to David Dayen in the Intercept, Ross had holdings in 75 different international shipping companies beyond Navigator.
Ross is a man who lives and breathes late-capitalism. Before becoming Commerce Secretary, Ross made hundreds of millions of dollars restructuring failed companies through leveraged buyouts, cutting workers pensions and pay, destabilizing communities and taking off with boatloads of cash. Ross was called “The King of Bankruptcy” by ABC, personifying the breed of vulture capitalist that fill the ranks our current international oligarchy.
Does it surprise one, then, that a figure like Ross would be linked up with the Russian oligarchy? What binds Ross and Trump to Russia is not treasonous spycraft driven by “pee tapes” and their ilk, but rather the similar drive towards the goal that defines capitalism: profit. If we wish to stop the kind of collusion many are fixated on, we must attack the unjust system that produces this massive fortune and the 21st century barons who control that wealth.
Why won’t Democrats make the case that this collusion is beyond a singular individual or government, but instead is the logical outgrowth of the over financialization of global society? For generations now, liberals have shied away from broader capitalist critiques. By going for the root of this kind of economic collusion would not just implicate major players in the party, from donors to politicians, but for the centrist who have controlled the party since at least 1976 critiquing capitalism would be rejecting their modus operandi: the appeal to the professional class that has grown to define Democratic politics.
But as the growth of groups like Democratic Socialists of America among a diverse cohort of millennials has shown, there is a thirst for challenging the market supremacy ideology that pervades both the left and right of electoral politics. If Democrats can connect the Russian collusion story to the abuses of power from oligarchs from all over the world, they can both appeal to a rising left and continue to damage the Republicans reputation and power as Trump continues to crash. Fighting for anything less is not enough.