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The description for Appleton Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on the Lawrence club page reads, “Appleton Students for a Democratic Society is a multi-issue, progressive organization that is dedicated to attaining tangible social changes on- and off-campus through student-led activism.” Well, it seems that only applies when it’s regarding Western states, and not to certain states’ crimes or actions. When it comes to issues such as the Russo-Ukrainian war, SDS nationwide has been quite generous in publicly sharing with me their views on what they advocate for, courtesy of their paper, “Fight Back!”: an anti-Western agenda aligned with the deepest depravities of neo-fascism within Russia, a society ostensibly for the freedom of marginalized peoples, but in reality catering to a state which terrorizes those who it wishes to terrorize and seeks to extend that terrorism to the rest of its continent and perhaps the world.
Consistently throughout the over-a-year-long war, SDS has peddled an anti-American, anti-Ukrainian, anti-European, anti-democratic, pro-Eurasianist Russian agenda in their newspaper, under the guise of “anti-imperialism,” promoting multiple Russian talking points; namely, such things as the supposed expansion of NATO threatening Russia, apparent crimes of America for starting the war, Ukrainian neo-Nazi control and Russian “protection of the Russian-speakers in Donbass,” among others.
SDS peddles egregious propaganda such as “NATO expansion,” when the countries who joined it post-Cold War did so at their own request. Russia didn’t help itself with its violent invasions and interference in the province of Chechnya—twice—the breakaway Abkhaz and Ossetian republics in Georgia and the Transnistrian region of Moldova. Chechnya saw upwards of 260,000 civilians killed over the span of the two wars from 1994-2003 by indiscriminate bombing, concentration camps and “cleansing operations” (which Russia is replicating in Syria and Ukraine), and in Abkhazia, thousands of Georgians were massacred by pro-Russian Abkhazian separatists (this behavior is being replicated by pro-Russian militias in Ukraine right now). For the former Warsaw Pact countries, such as Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Romania and the Baltic nations, who experienced decades of oppression by the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, to see the new “free, democratic” Russia’s attitudes to its neighbors not changing obviously would drive many to NATO, even if that alliance initially said no one else could join. SDS seems to be ignorant of this very fact in their condemnation of the organization. Now, in SDS’ defense, in the 1990’s, NATO had promised Russia a “no-expansion/integration” policy beyond Germany, so the admission of various Eastern European states to the alliance could be seen by Russians as a violation of the agreement and a continuation of Cold War-brinksmanship. There is, of course, the counterargument that not admitting post-Warsaw Pact Eastern European countries would not have stopped the more imperial ambitions of the post-1990s Russia.
SDS claims that Ukraine is being run by Nazis, and that Russia is going in to “de-Nazify Ukraine and protect Russian speakers.” In “Fight Back,” we see language such as “the reactionary Ukrainian government has been massing troops and creating provocations to the Donbass,” as if the Ukrainian government wasn’t dealing with multiple eastern Ukrainian and Russian ultranationalist groups who attempted to sow deliberate chaos. Yet in its “protection of Russian speakers,” Russia has bombarded cities, such as Mariupol, and massacred hundreds, if not thousands, of Ukrainian civilians from Bucha to Izyum. And for supposed “anti-Nazis,” the neo-imperialist, ethno-nationalist views and works of Russian Nazi Alexandr Dugin have been circulating in the officer corps and policy schools of Russia since the 1990s.
SDS claims that the United States is using the conflict as an excuse to gear up for an attack on Russia. This fantasy is consistent with both Marxist and Russian ultranationalist dogma that the West is perpetually preparing for a war against Russia, and that Russia must preempt it in some form with “protecting itself” by invading its neighbors, primarily to co-opt the space as a “buffer zone” (despite the fact that the country’s massive size itself forms much of a buffer), yet also to subsume the culture under its control to create a monolithic entity. It simply serves as a convenient perpetual justification for regional, if not continental, domination that has been repeated as far back as the pre-WWII order. What is there to stop if the whole world is your buffer space for a fantasized invasion? The “buffer justification,” of course, denies the national sovereignty of the many peoples under the state’s control and justifies further land expansions, almost in a similar fashion to the Nazi concept of lebensraum, the expansion of one’s “living space” for a country. Former Russian President and current Deputy Security Chairman Dmitry Medvedev openly advocates this, once again aligning with Dugin’s influential worldviews within the state.
Alexandr Dugin is a noted Nazi in Russia who has managed to gain great influence amongst the Russian state with his views on murdering and subsuming minorities in the country and the region, as well as the promotion of far-right and far-left groups in foreign states to cause instability. So, an oligarch state with ambitions being modeled after literal Nazi Germany should be seen as even worse than the specter of “U.S. imperialism,” right? Apparently not. SDS has consistently, except for several branches, pushed the narrative that, somehow, Russia is the greatest victim, and that the extermination of Chechens, Ossetians, Ingushetians, Circassians, Cossacks, Tatars, Ukrainians, Poles, Finns, Manchurian Chinese and countless others is all in the name of safeguarding them against the “Evil West.”
We see these views not just pushed by SDS, but dozens of leftist and far-right groups and spokespeople, especially in the United States—leftists such as Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald and Jeffery Sachs have teamed up with those supposedly against them, like Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon, to promote a Eurasianist agenda: America bad, Ukraine filled with Nazis, Russia good, Russia humane defender of humanity, what about the Donbass “genocide” (a myth propagated by Dugin himself and adopted by the Russian government), etc..
In SDS’s worldview, we see shared perspectives between a group supposedly for a “democratic society” and a far-right state intent on brutalizing its neighbors and expanding its already-massive borders, all simply in an insipid and spiteful attempt to “oppose U.S. imperialism,” or in their own words in “Fight Back!”: “No U.S. war with Russia, end U.S. intervention in Ukraine,” as if the U.S. is already in Ukraine fighting Russia, again a fantasy only propagated among the western far-left, far-right and Russian media circles. SDS was called out justly back in April 2022 for its problematic narrative by Lawrentian guest writer Nick Mayerson, but there has not been any official apology or retraction by SDS; in fact, we see a hardening of stance. “Fight Back!”, meanwhile, has only escalated their rhetoric by refusing to change their position regarding the realities of the Russo-Ukrainian war, and has even tied it in with their Marxist ideology, claiming that the U.S. now is itself waging an imperialist war on Ukraine and Russia.
What SDS is pushing for is, frankly, disgusting. Their supposedly “free and democratic, anti-war” sentiments regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and their Marxist thought publicly depicted in “Fight Back!” and their Facebook page, instead of being neutral or even in favor of Ukrainian independence, promotes a heinous, Nazi-inspired regime that has consistently demonstrated a desire to massacre countless in the name of protecting itself. There is absolutely nothing to be seen from SDS other than the fact that they have become nothing more than a vehicle for a regime that seeks death and destruction wherever it goes.