What is Trumpism? Behind the “Deep State Coup”

by Richard Greeman on March 13, 2017

Image from an article on the ultraright Liberty Beacon website

(This is the latest in a series of articles addressing the political crisis hosted by the North Star. To retrieve articles in this series, click the Trumpism link under Categories to the right. Richard Greeman  is a Marxist scholar long active in human rights, anti-war, anti-nuclear, environmental and labor struggles in the U.S., Latin America, France, and Russia. )

Was the forced resignation of Trump’s National Security Advisor, General Mike Flynn, evidence of an attempted “coup” by the Deep State, as a number of anti-imperialists claim? [1]

According to the “coup” conspiracy theory, the intelligence community wants to put the US and Russia on a collision course leading to WWIII, but thankfully world peace will be saved by collaboration between Trump and Putin, the heroes of this fable. This imaginary scenario first surfaced on the white-nationalist website Breitbart News of Steve Bannon fame, and was designed to deflect criticism away from the scandal of Flynn-Trump secret dealings with Russia and support Trump’s attacks on “criminal leakers” in Washington.

The fable is also being spread by Russian propaganda services (perhaps under the orders of former KGB operative Putin, and it is being propagated by Western Leftists nostalgic for Stalin’s Soviet Union. Their justifiable hatred of ‘our own’ U.S. imperialism turns these liberals and Leftists into ‘one-way anti-imperialists,’ victims of the Cold War fallacy that “the enemies of our enemies are friends” – including Putin and Donald J. Trump.

From this point of view, any criticism directed at them is dismissed as McCarthyite. For example, The Nation headlines: “Why We Must Oppose the Kremlin-Baiting Against Trump: The Russia-connected allegations have created an atmosphere of hysteria amounting to McCarthyism.”  In the words of Stephen F. Cohen:

It is not Putin who is threatening American democracy, but rather these Kremlin-baiting allegations against President Trump. It is not Putlin who is endagering US and international security, but rather the high-level political and intelligence enemies of détente. Similarly, it is not Putin who is degrading the US media with “fake news.” Nor is it Putin who is subverting the American political process, but rather the US intelligence leakers who are at war against their own president.[2]

Not my president.

The reality is that within today’s U.S. government there is an internal conflict between two of our enemies: 1) an incompetent, far-right, ideology-driven Trump White House (Flynn was known as an off-the-wall Islamophobe) and 2) an “intelligence community” made up of sophisticated professional imperialist spies, assassins and coup-makers. The Trump gang represents nationalist crony capitalism, and it is ready to make ‘deals’ with similar regimes from Putin to the murderous Duterte (Trump’s personal favorite). The CIA represents the established Washington consensus based on neo-liberal globalization (capitalist internationalism). Neither of these neferious groups can be consider as a “friend” for us 99%ers.

The “coup” theory is based on warmed-up, leftover Cold-War propaganda depicting Russia as the party of “peaceful coexistence.” [3] During the Cold War, Russia at least pretended to be “Communist,” and many Leftists courageously but naively rose to defend it against U.S. imperialism. But today, under Putin, Russia is a reactionary, nationalist (anti-Semitic), mafia-capitalist dictatorship which has abolished all the social benefits once provided by the Soviet regime — retaining only the Stalinist repressive apparatus (the Deep State). Those who defend it are best described as ‘Zombie Stalinists.’

In case you have any doubts, consider this. Putin has long demonstrated his support for the election of  LePen’s National Front in France and of proto-fascist parties in Austria, the Netherlands and elsewhere. It is normal that Putin’s Russia did its best to get Trump elected (just as the U.S. interferes with elections, e.g. Ukraine) and that together they will try to make ‘deals.’ Birds of a feather flock together. Obviously, all these birds are vultures.

Today, we live in a multi-imperialist world, where the rivalries (and opportunistic alliances) between nationalist crony-capitalist states are superseding the domination of international capital regulated by the IMF, WTF, World Bank and various multinational treaties like NAFTA. This post-1989 New World Order, once known on the Left as “Empire,” is crumbling. In today’s New World Disorder, it is ‘every many for himself.’ War is no longer a “threat.” Permanent world war is a daily reality in places like the Middle East and Ukraine, where multiple rival imperialisms, regional and supranational intervene in local conflicts.

All these capitalist-imperialist states (and proto-states like Isis) are our enemies. They are the enemies of the global 99%, they are the enemies of women and of human rights. They are all racists who  repress their internal minority groups. They are all state terrorists who massacre civilians. They can never be our “friends!”

Deep-state coups do exist, but they don’t look like the Flint flap : think of the violent 1973 coup in Chile when Gen. Pinochet’s army overthrew the elected Socialist President Allende (with CIA help) ; or the 2013 coup in Egypt when the army Gen. El-Sisi took power after the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi and thousands were imprisoned.

Misguided Leftists who propagate self-contradictory conspiracy theories to support Russia and her allies are what the Stalinists used to call “useful idiots.”  In the name of one-sided anti-imperialism, they defend bloody dictatorships and ignore the simple truths of human rights and solidarity among the 99%.  The ideology of one-way anti-imperialism provoked splits in the movements against the Vietnam and later the war in Iraq.  Let us not allow this ideology to divert our anti-Trump resistance at a crucial and promising moment when previously-divided social movements are spontaneously uniting: for example in defense of Muslim immigrants, the most vulnerable among us.


Now for the good news. The internal struggle between Trump and the “intelligence community” is not evidence of a coup but the sign of a much-welcome split within the ruling classes, a disunity which reveals their weaknesses and reflects the growing strength of the popular anti-Trump movement. This split offers us new opportunities: for example we can now be seen and heard in the media. A similar split among the rulers opened up back in the Sixties, under the pressure of our  Civil Rights/Black Liberation, anti-Vietnam-war, and student movements which magnified our strength.

More good news. Today’s self-organized resistance movement has at long last succeeded in uniting women, blacks, minorities, low-wage workers, LGBT folks on the old Wobbly principle that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’ This ‘not our president’ network also has allies within the federal bureaucracy and among local Democrats (but not in the neo-liberal party leadership). Wherever it may lead (or fall apart, or be repressed) it is already historical.

So let’s keep our eyes on the prize and not get caught up paranoid plots. It is not our job to defend one right-wing dictator against another but to unite with the global 99% against them all.


No, I don’t think Greenwald and Cohen (and Chomsky who peddles the same line) are Stalinists. They’re Progressives, like my parents and their friends who supported Henry A Wallace in 1948 (my dad ran on the ticket). Like the Nation in the Thirties, which for the most part supported Stalin’s frame-up trials more or less.So did the French Popular Front. Serge couldn’t get published in the 30’s here.

Fellow travelers is a nicer phrase than useful idiots. The logic was the fatal flaw of anti-fascism: the enemy of our enemy is our friend. And even survived the Stalin-Hitler Pact (and the Putin-Trump ‘pact’ which may yet be reversed and lead to confllct). The underlying problem is a tendency for a certain Left (I hate the word) to worship dictators they imagine are “pwogressive”. It’s even worse in France. Read this blog someone just sent me. For me it’s on the nose. http://fabrice-nicolino.com/?p=2533

[1] See report by Glen Greenwald, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to

[2] https://www.thenation.com/article/why-we-must-oppose-the-kremlin-baiting-against-trump/

[3] N.B. Deep-state coups to exist, but they don’t look like the Flint flap : think of the violent 1973 coup in Chile when Gen. Pinochet’s army overthrew the elected Socialist President Allende (with CIA help) or the « soft » 2013 coup in Egypt when Gen. El-Sisi took power after the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

SocraticGadfly March 13, 2017 at 3:17 pm

I wouldn’t call Greenwald a “progressive.” Among other things, last I checked, he still loved him some Citizens United.

“Left-libertarian,” maybe.


Ed Blakeny March 13, 2017 at 5:19 pm

I’m not so sure that the pseudo-left romance with Putin–that homicidal, foul-mouthed, racist little tyrant, so mediocre in everything except (allegedly) his command of judo and of the German language–is inspired by nostalgia for Stalinism.

On the contrary, I suspect that this is a kind of fantasy auto-generated not by Stalinism but by the transcendentalist individualism of the U.S. antiwar coalition of the Vietnam period.

This did introduce some degree of “Marxist-Leninist” vocabulary from Ho Chi Minh, General Giap, and Chairman Mao–as well as perhaps from Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, not to mention the Black Panthers–but the critique of “anti-imperialism” to which the Putin cult has been so inappropriately assimilated was reframed overwhelmingly as a critique of personal morality based on intuition and exemplified by exceptional personalities, not on the rigid precepts of Stalnist Marxism-Leninism.

You were as likely–indeed likelier–to be referred to Thoreau as to Chairman Mao in any attempt to discuss this in depth. The unfocused impressionistic musings of Bob Dylan–which reduced causes and ideas to mere bokeh surrounding the projected image of the singer–were far likelier to be cited as foundation texts than anything in the Marxist-Leninist canon.

Putin is the object of is a kind of perverse “anti-imperialist” personality cult, but not all cults of personality are necessarily Stalinist. I suggest that the remote origins of the U.S. Putin cult–at least the explanation of its baffling popularity–lie more with non-Marxist strains in the Vietnam antiwar coalition than with any deep or lasting influence of Stalinist “Marxism-Leninism” or “nostalgia for Stalinism,” which at most contributed a few briefly fashionable phrases to the chaotic and constantly changing mix of late ‘Sixties ideology.


Max L March 13, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Sympathy towards “anti-imperialists” in far away lands is easily explained by a disgust with domestic elites combined with a lack of independent vision. People think their elites are so bad that somewhere there must be kinder and smarter elites (and lesser evils)

Having said that, this article is very very bad. It greatly overstates the degree of sympathy for these regimes, needlessly smearing Chomksy and Greenwald in the process.

“So let’s keep our eyes on the prize and not get caught up paranoid plots. It is not our job to defend one right-wing dictator against another but to unite with the global 99% against them all.”

That’s an OK finisher, but the rest of the article is just garbage, tone deaf to the point of being infuriating. Yuck.


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