The Russian invasion of Ukraine led to an unexpected convergence in the political arena. In fact, all over the world, leftist parties, activists, and even prominent leftist politicians are joining the far right in expressing support for, or at least excusing, the Kremlin’s brutal imperialist aggression against a sovereign nation much smaller.
This strange phenomenon is perhaps most visible in Brazil, where supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and his left-wing rival, former President Lula da Silva, are working hard to show why Russia should not be blamed for the devastation we are facing. witnessing. in Ukraine today.
Like their right-wing counterparts, the Kremlin’s left-wing supporters insist that it was NATO that “provoked” the war and that Russia is merely “defending” itself (of course, refusing to explain how this alleged act of “defensing ” is different from the past “pre-emptive” attacks by the West against countries in the Global South which they vehemently condemned). They are also dismissing credible reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide coming from Ukraine as Western “distortions” and “NATO propaganda” financed by George Soros (ironically also the bogeyman of the anti-Semitic far right), in defense of Ukrainian “Nazis” trying to destroy Russia.
Behind all this, of course, is a justified mistrust of the US and NATO: leftists in Brazil have every reason to question any narrative supported by the empire that inflicted so much pain on their region. After all, there is not a single right-wing dictatorship on the continent that was born without some degree of support or encouragement from the United States.
However, there are also other, much less justifiable reasons behind this surprising pro-Kremlin stance.
In the imagination of many Brazilian leftists, despite its aggressive capitalism and impossible-to-ignore imperial tendencies, Putin’s Russia remains the natural successor to a leftist utopia once represented by the Soviet Union. Not even the undeniable corruption of the autocratic Russian leader, his oppression and abuse of the Russian working class, or his financial and ideological support for the world far right seem capable of shaking his belief that he can and will lead the revolution he overthrows. to the world order led by the United States.
This is not to say that most left-wing activists, thinkers, and politicians sympathetic to the Kremlin are too naive to see President Vladimir Putin for the right-wing kleptocrat that he really is; they probably are not. But they firmly believe that under Putin, Russia can end US imperialism and pave the way for a multipolar world order. And they are willing to turn a blind eye to his regime’s myriad human rights abuses and support his war of aggression against a neighboring nation, in order to see their main enemy, the West, defeated.
On the surface, most Brazilian leftists appear to be avid defenders of human rights, democracy, and justice. They proudly say that they want to see the end of the powerful countries, all the powerful countries, that invade others under the pretext of “bringing democracy.” But sadly, their desire to see the end of the Western-led world order leads them to excuse invasions, wars of aggression, and even genocides when they are initiated by the enemies of the West. In their eyes, the only real imperialism is US imperialism.
Lula, who in a recent interview said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is as responsible for his country’s current fate as Putin, and most of the Brazilian left seems convinced that it is okay to deny the humanity and sovereignty of an entire nation if deals damage in the US
Of course, there are leftists in Brazil who criticize and oppose all kinds of abuses, whether committed by the United States and its allies or by Russia. But more often than not, they end up being accused of not being true leftists or of buying American propaganda by their pro-Russian “comrades” who see any criticism of Russia simply as defending the United States.
In general, it seems that many Brazilian leftists did not accept that the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended. They live in an imaginary world where Russia is waging a revolutionary war against the United States. In this world, all of Russia’s crimes must be excused or ignored. The crimes of other “anti-imperialists” – read anti-American forces of any creed – such as Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua or Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela must also be buried and not talked about. They are blind to the hypocrisy of supporting those who are being oppressed and victimized by Western imperialism, while baselessly branding as “Nazis” the victims of Russia’s equally brutal and deadly imperialism.
These people rightly denounced US-instigated regime change on their continent, condemned Israel for its crimes against the Palestinian people, and opposed the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. But now they seem unable to see that they are siding with the aggressor because that aggressor is not the West, but Russia.
This is, of course, not the first time that large sections of the left, in Brazil and beyond, have found themselves supporting the success of a brutal right-wing dictator simply to spite the West. Many leftists also sided with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in a not so distant story, declaring him an anti-imperialist hero, simply because the United States supported the Syrian people’s revolt against him.
It should have been an easy decision for the Brazilian left to support Ukraine. It is, after all, a smaller country that is being invaded by an imperial power fighting for its independence. But many of them are trapped in a black and white dream world where only one evil exists: America. They love to pretend that Russia is doing everything she does, including invading her neighbors, not to expand her own power but to free the world from the clutches of the evil American empire.
If the Brazilian left wants to succeed once again and show the people that they are on the right side of history, they must stand up to all imperial oppressors, including the Russians.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.