Maksim Shevchenko: ''Robert E. Lee is a symbol of resistance to the united federal government''

Russian journalist and human rights defender tells what is going on in Charlottesville, Virginia

Maksim Shevchenko: ''Robert E. Lee is a symbol of resistance to the united federal government'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

The unrest in the US state of Virginia has been caused by the protest of descendants of Confederates against the violation of the rights of Americans, believes Maksim Shevchenko, a journalist and member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. Last weekend, in the city of Charlottesville, there was a rally against the demolition of the monument to Civil War General Robert Edward Lee. The protest was followed by riots, in which the far right was called instigators, there are casualties. What white Americans really want, what General Robert Lee symbolizes and under what slogans Trump has become the president – read in the interview of Realnoe Vrmeya with Maksim Shevchenko.

''General Robert E. Lee is a symbol of real, armed, true democracy''

Mr. Shevchenko, to begin with, why does the US government want to demolish the monument to General Robert Edward Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia? What kind of military leader is he in such a way that he is so much liked by the far right?

The US government is a vague definition. The USA is not Russia, they have state governments and strong local government. In my opinion, the demolition of the monument was the initiative of some local democratic and liberal organizations.

General Robert Lee is a symbol of resistance of the Confederacy (the South) in the Civil War. He was the commander of the Confederate army and a brave and talented general. Representing the South as slave owners who fought to preserve slavery against the ''progressive'' North is a completely wrong understanding of the American situation, of the Civil War. These motifs are developed by propaganda films that sought to represent everything that way. It was a complex conflict that was associated with different types of economy, different types of production. Yes, slavery did take place in the US, it started almost since the development of the North American States, and in fact, African Americans brought from Africa by the Spaniards and others were a cheap labour force that was tied to the plantations and made it possible to produce crop for export very cheap, very profitable — tobacco, sugar and cotton. Therefore, plantations of the South with cheap labour of black people, with the port of New Orleans, through which the products were exported to Europe, were very much linked to the global financial and trading system. Oddly enough, the South was much more included in globalism than the North. The North was focused primarily on domestic economic growth, and there were also their own slaves, proletarians, new immigrants from Ireland and Italy who came not knowing English and fell under full, terrible dependence on capitalists. Formally, they were freer than black people, but in fact they were in more terrible conditions: they lived in these terrible cities (Detroit, New York), in horrible industrial regions, where children died from tuberculosis and lived to the age of 12.

''General Robert Lee is a symbol of resistance of the Confederacy (the South) in the Civil War. He was the commander of the Confederate army and a brave and talented general.'' Photo: fototelegraf.ru

It was a clash of two types of capitalism. Besides, the South due to the fact that they were landowners and more relied on large land property of Texas, Virginia, South Carolina and so on was more independent, they had more of big bourgeoisie, so they had, curiously enough, the more democratic principles of more self-government, more independence from the federal government, from various economic quotas that the federal government had imposed on them.

The formal reason for the war was the abolitionist demagoguery of Lincoln for the liberation of slaves (formally, the war was started by the supporters of Lincoln who used the slogans of liberation of African Americans for propaganda purposes, to cover their expansionist intentions). There were famous black slave owners, and Robert E. Lee freed the slaves under the will of his relative, their former owner, shortly before the war. The South was heading in the direction of the liberation of slaves anyway, many planters formally gave their salves independence. Naturally, these processes were taking place, and if there was no war, in 2-3 years anyway they would have become free. <…>

Therefore, it is necessary to consider everything as a whole. Of course, the Confederates (the South), oddly enough, provided much more personal freedom, independence of self-determination. They lived in frontier, fought with the Indians, they had more private ownership. Considering that General Robert Lee is a far right force, like propaganda is trying to represent, is completely wrong. <…>

''But General Robert Lee is not a symbol of racism or fascism, as they try to present to us. General Robert Lee is a symbol of real, armed, true democracy of people, whom the confederates largely were.'' Photo: cetusnews.com

But today, of course, within America, the resistance to the federal government is dramatically escalated. The federal government imposes its views on the rest of America and violates personal and private freedom of Americans — those who take a stand in favour of the right to keep and bear arms and others. That is, those who favour the old, ancient law that created the American nation, the federal propaganda calls them the far right and fascists. The liberals impose their own matrix of behaviour on everyone: you have to love whom they tell you to love, you have to not just live close but adore African Americans, and African Americans must love white people, you must adore gay people, and they – not gay people.

America is arranged in another way: people don't want to love those whom who they don't want to love. They are ready to live and draw a line: this is our territory, this is your territory. Today the federal government in the US is acting in a communist way, at least, the Democrats: they want to re-educate the American nation, like the liberals re-educate people across the world. But good intentions pave the road to hell, that is why in America, I believe, diamond cut diamond. This liberal desire to re-educate everyone and to make good thing stumbled by real human nature in which there is a place for bad and racism. I do not condone racism, you know, I cannot be accused of racism or some nationalism, I am just trying to explain the essence of the American way of life.

The same right wing, whom propaganda represents as racist, can be wonderful neighbours, they can interact with black people peacefully. But there is also white negative attitude — supporters of separate living, are mixed in such Greenwich village in New York. There is also the same attitude of black people to white people. There are areas where a white person just can't go or will be threatened by a great danger.

But General Robert Lee is not a symbol of racism or fascism, as they try to represent him to us. General Robert Lee is a symbol of real, armed, true democracy of people, whom the Confederates largely were. He is a symbol of resistance to the unified federal government that imposed the principles of organization of the state on everyone. Some people are fighting for federalism, and the South fought for confederalism — for more independence of the states, cities, etc. It is a very fundamental clash between American people and the federal government that uses propaganda, totalitarian methods to the world, including in relation to the American people, those who consider themselves descendants of the Confederates, and whose symbol is General Robert Lee.

The Parade of Ku Klux Klan in Washington in 1928. Photo: wikimedia.org

Are there any Ku Klux Klan in the US remained? Are African Americans still being lynched there?

All this has no relation to Ku Klux Klan, it is a complete nonsense, absolute propaganda. Besides, one should understand what Ku Klux Klan is. In the films they are shown to be so scary. Imagine 1865, when millions of black people are liberated without any economic preconditions, guarantees and insurance. A terrible violence began there, a terror. Attacks began, burnings of estates. In order to protect themselves, white people united in a paramilitary organization, which was secret: they had just lost the war, they could not even have weapons. It was a factor described in the American literature. How the black gangs were organised that robbed former plantation owners, raped white women, and it was believed that it was a fight for freedom. The war continued in the South for a very long time. Not justifying, of course, racist Ku Klux Klan, David Griffith, a great American director, in his film The Birth of a Nation showed the birth of Ku Klux Klan, and it is the version of Griffith. Faulkner's is roughly the same.

Therefore, if we really want to understand what happened, then it is not so explicitly. The North began to destroy and subjugate the rich, export-oriented economy of the South. This, in particular, was done through manipulation with black population, which was concentrated and was not involved in any kind of economy, except as a mercenary force when they were economically and socially dependent on their employers, employers were not responsible for them. But when they were formally freed by Lincoln and his successor, General Grant, they just became the black power owned by themselves, which had no place in the economic order, but they claimed their share of the pie. There began a race war, which was unleashed, in my opinion, by the North. Thus, it's all very complex processes. The current events has no relation to Ku Klux Klan. The descendants of the Сonfederates do not consider themselves racists. Of course, there are radicals on both sides. But if we consider that 40% of the USA are racist and Klansmen, then those who honour General Robert Lee are Klansmen. But this is not true.

''Trump came to power on the wave against the liberal totalitarian propaganda, which annoyed everyone, when all Americans are lumped together and are tried to make them having the same opinion. When they constantly are told on TV what is good and what is bad.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

''The Democrats is the same Poklonskaya, only vice versa''

Can we assume that there is a collapse of the policy of the melting pot, which is seemingly being imposed in the US?

This has nothing to do with racism. General Robert Lee is a symbol of not racism but confederalism, symbol of a different organization of the United States of America. The main reason for the war of the South was economic, because the North, the president, sitting in Washington, strangled it with their laws, controlled the export of cotton, markets were falling. It was the economic causes of the uprising. Nobody would have begun a war because of black people.

The war was begun due to the inability of the South to develop economically as it was developing. Everything was ok with cotton, sugar, tobacco, etc. They actually had their own exit: the states, starting from Virginia, where agricultural plantations of cotton, tobacco begin, in fact, were rich before the war. They had their own ports, the main one of which was New Orleans.

Will the US ever collapse?

No, not in the near future. But if this internal conflict continues, it will be a serious problem, which is very good for us. They teach the others how to live when they themselves have a mess in the minds and in the country. They teach democracy the rest of the world, let them to solve their own problems first.

By Timur Rakhmatullin