Greil Marcus responds below to queries from Justyne Dillingham who asked Marcus to comment on (1) the motive behind Putin’s interference in the American election and (2) the “line” of certain leftists–writing in “publications like The Nation and The Intercept as well as mainstream outlets like The London Review of Books”—who claim Russia-gate is “a hoax made up by the intelligence agencies and pushed by Democrats to excuse their failure to win last November.”
It’s an open question as to whether Putin was trying to get Trump elected—given that even Trump and his campaign never expected to win—or disrupt and discredit American democracy. Every week we find out that Russian disruptions were more widespread, inventive, creative, and likely effective than we thought. Before long there may be evidence that actual ballots were hacked, so that Democratic votes were invalidated or GOP votes were faked. That would fit in with what Putin has done all across Europe, supporting every fascist, racist, or anti-immigration party in every country, with money, personnel, expertise, and black ops against conventional or legitimate democratic parties. The short term motive for this is to weaken democratic countries, discredit democratic norms, break NATO and the European Union, and give Russia, as it reassembles the most useful parts of the Soviet Union, effective suzerainty if not rule over Europe, through bribery and recruitment of politicians—and satisfy Putin’s need to Make Russia Great Again, which is his basic political message in Russia.
But longer term, and Putin thinks in the long term, there are at least two other ways of looking at it. First, assume, that as a growing number of people who formerly ran US intelligence agencies have said, and as the CIA briefed people after the election, that Trump is a Russian asset or an agent of influence: that is, whether or not he was actively recruited to work as a Russian agent—and he would have been very important as such even if he’d lost the election—he is under effective Russian control to advance Putin’s interests, whether that means (small time) lifting of sanctions or (big time) strategic alliances or deferences, which has already happened in Syria. I’ve argued before that if Trump is, as, again, the CIA briefed people after the election, under Russian control, it’s because Russian mafia or oligarchs, which in Putin’s Russia means the Russian state, essentially own the Trump company by means of billions of dollars of outstanding Trump debt they own and money-laundering they have facilitated.
But this doesn’t address, completely, what is clear and evident from Putin’s actions well before and since the election, and Trump’s acts since, in terms of the construction of a Fascist International, with Russia and the US as the two poles of power and, within their purview, regarding governments to build, democratic institutions to destroy, elections to be replaced by dictatorships, civil rights to be wiped out, full and effective support either for sitting governments or political movements to replace them in—an incomplete list—the UK, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, the Philippines, Japan, and more. Many of these countries—Poland, Hungary, the Philippines, Egypt—are already effectively on board. For Putin this is a project. For Trump it is a matter of instinct and affinities. “Donald, together, we can rule the world.” “Vladimir, I’d love to. But first we have to do something about those chits you’re holding.”
As for the left wing line—which is, of course, the Trump line—that any Trump-Russian alliance during the election is a Democratic Party or Hillary hoax—it’s punitive, delusional (really—the FBI and the CIA were suddenly hotbeds of Democratic Party cabals?), sadistic, and makes you question the good faith of the people saying these things—i.e., do they believe them, or do they have another motive, or is someone paying them to say what they’re saying? I think part of it is ideological: they want to sell the narrative, which means, in current actual if not definitional usage, “false story”—that Hillary lost because she is a neo-liberal (I’d like to see that slur defined) who cares only for the rich and the people saw through her and rightly rejected her, and of course Bernie would have won—though he never faced any negative attention whatsoever during the primaries or after, and would have been taken to pieces by Trump in the debates—where Hillary did her best campaigning—and by the right-wing industries everywhere. That boils down to Listen to Me, I Know the Answers, It Was Obvious All Along, and I Want Power. Plus the fun of beating people when they’ve been defeated. Next, people on the so-called left will, for very different reasons, of course, mostly having to do with the establishment of a truly credible leftist, progressive, intersectionalized, politically cleansed takeover of the Democratic party, take the position that, of course Hillary, and Bill, should be prosecuted and sent to prison for whatever they can be framed for. Wait and see.
There are many, many reasons why Hillary did not win the election in the way that she and most people expected her to. Her weaknesses as candidate. Trump’s strengths. Racism. Sexism. Voter suppression. Russian interference, by way of Wikileaks, which undercut Hillary’s campaign in a thousand ways. Twenty more reasons. But there is only one reason she lost: Comey’s announcement, likely under blackmail from agents controlled by Giuliani, just before the election, that Hillary was again under criminal investigation. If Comey had not made that announcement, it would have been leaked along with accusations that he was protecting Hillary in order to become Attorney General or Secretary of State in her administration, and there is nothing Comey so cares about as his own rectitude. So he sabotaged her election to protect himself. Without that, Hillary would have won. It would have been close. She might have won the states she lost by one percent or less by one percent or a bit more. But she would be president now, and she would have been a good president—not compared to the wreckage being purposely performed on all democratic and republican institutions in the country, but compared to other good presidents, like, to stick to the recent, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.