The latest and perhaps most egregious example of Jacobin promoting right-wing politics is the eulogy of Eduard Limonov, founder of Russia’s National Bolshevik Party. Its author, Maciej Zurowski, describes himself as a Marxist yet was excited by the Nazi symbols employed by Limonov and his followers:
Pictures of “Nazbol” demonstrations were intriguing: there were black-clad Russian punk girls and skinheads marching in tight formation, extending their arms to display a cross between a Roman salute and the clenched fist of the Red Front. Their banner: essentially a hammer and sickle superimposed on a Nazi flag. Images of Stalin, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, and sometimes Sid Vicious . . . It all looked amazing, and I consumed the visuals like fascist pornography.
Zurowski goes on to gloss over the violent record of Limonov’s “National Bolsheviks” or NazBols and denies their fascist character:
Moreover, unlike fascist movements, the Nazbols were never a particularly violent bunch, confining themselves to spectacular actions, stunts, and damaging property — always directed against those “above,” never kicking down.
As Bellingcat’s Aric Toler pointed out on Twitter:
It seems Zurowski is something of a NazBol sympathizer himself since throughout the piece he consistently downplays Limonov’s thirst for blood (whether in Ukraine or Bosnia) and lies about his subject, writing “nor was Limonov personally a racist or antisemite.” Limonov’s racist diatribes say otherwise. “The swastika has no chance in our country,” he lamented. His solution? Ditch the Nazi flag’s black swastika for a hammer and sickle.
The blowback from leftist Twitter over the Limonov eulogy was so intense that Jacobin deleted the tweet below which accurately reflected the piece’s effusive tone:
Here are some more examples of Jacobin pushing right-wing politics:
- Calling on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to not only “embrace Brexit” but specifically hard Brexit.
- Calling for a no-deal Brexit, the hardest of all hard Brexits.
- Publishing Koch brothers-funded climate change denier James Heartfield, who later went on to stand as a candidate for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
- Publishing praise of Sweden’s refusal to lockdown their economy or schools during the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in the fifth highest per capita death rate in Europe. (The subject of the interview, Dr. Martin Kulldorf, was on a panel hosted by Florida’s Republican governor and wrote a piece calling for schools to be reopened to deliberately infect students thereby contributing to the development of herd immunity.)
- Publishing a sympathetic piece on the pro-Trump anti-science anti-lockdown protests in which right-wing Christian militia leader Christian Yingling was portrayed as a victim of economic circumstances.
- Publishing a sympathetic interview with Ammon Bundy who led armed right-wing vigilantes to occupy federal land (the interview was retracted after other media outlets exposed that it was a hoax).
- Publishing Meagan Day’s praise for Tucker Carlson’s “populism” and his “better days.”
- Publishing articles by plagiarist Angela Nagle* who touted the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act in an article for the pro-Trump magazine American Affairs and went on to Tucker Carlson’s show to attack Democratic Socialists of America.
- Publishing an article opposing enforcing child support laws against deadbeat dads (a staple Men’s Rights Activist position).
- Publishing Thomas Fazi who retweeted an anti-Semitic attack on left-wing Jews from self-proclaimed NazBols, argued that immigration threatens national culture, and criticized Italy’s Dive-Star government for not cracking down harder on immigrants.
- Publishing a defense of the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign’s promotion of homophobic racist misogynist podcaster Joe Rogan.
- Interviewing Die Linke MP Sahra Wagenknecht without pushing back against her bigoted anti-immigrant statements or her Islamophobic remark that the president of Turkey is a “terrorist.”
- Doxxing a whistleblower during Trump’s impeachment just as pro-Trump publications did.
Why does Jacobin push right-wing positions and figures? Part of the answer is that the magazine’s founder Bhaskar Sunkara* adheres to no principle other than the pursuit of profit and anything that generates clicks is good for business.
More fundamentally, Jacobin adheres to what’s known as “class first” leftism in which struggles against racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression (even fascism!) are downplayed, ignored, or opposed which opens the door to all sorts of reactionary and right-wing politics masquerading as ‘left’ or ‘progressive’ (NazBols and Strasserism being the most extreme examples of how far this phenomenon can go; Blue Labour is perhaps a more relevant example for Western contexts).
The magazine — which represents a definite political tendency with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) despite differences of opinion between authors and editors — believes Sanders’ presidential campaigns are a model of “class first” leftism that American socialists should emulate. See for example this now-deleted Tweet posted after Sanders won the Nevada caucus:
In reality, the Sanders campaign’s victory in Nevada had everything to do with “lazy culture-based outreach”:
Across California, and in neighboring Nevada and Texas, the Sanders campaign has also put on soccer matches and house parties, some billed as “Tamales for Tío Bernie,” an affectionate Spanish-language term for “Uncle Bernie.”
The campaign wants to be deeply embedded in Latino communities, said Bianca Recto, communications director for the campaign in Nevada. She said at least half of the 200 paid staff on the ground ahead of the caucuses are people of color, many of them locals.
The irony here is that “class first” leftism is a great way to keep the progressive and socialist movements overwhelmingly white and middle/upper-class in composition and appeal.
*Bhaskar Sunkara deleted all his tweets about/defending Angela Nagle. Perhaps he has finally come around to the radical idea that pushing right-wing figures and politics ‘but from the left’ is actually bad.