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Black Caucus Failing on Ukraine

The founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. (Photo Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives)

On June 11, 2015, the late Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member John Conyers made this statement about Ukraine. “House passed my amendment to prohibit assistance to Azov Battalion—a far-right white supremacist militia at front lines of Ukraine conflict.” Conyers was right of course. The Azov Battalion was and is a core part of Ukraine’s military. They have Nazi roots, as do many other organizations in that country. But after the Pentagon objected the amendment was stripped from the spending bill and never saw the light of day.

The members of the Congressional Black Caucus follow Biden's Ukraine policy in lock step. In doing so they fail their constituents and discredit the legacy of Black politics.

It is important to remember what Conyers tried to achieve the year after Barack Obama sided with right wing Ukrainians and brought down the elected president of that nation. The Conyers amendment passed unanimously in the House but was killed because the administration was well aware of the Azov Battalion’s role and approved of it. The policy of using Ukraine against Russia was settled and any effort to remove a central component of its military was off the table.

Now the CBC is a shell of its former self. Conyers and others from his era would not be welcome among its current membership. They say nothing about Ukraine that isn’t a chapter and verse recitation of Biden administration policy. Even members such as Barbara Lee , still famous for providing the sole vote against the Afghanistan invasion, mouths dangerous platitudes.

“This is a march against democracy. What Putin wants to do is remake and reshape the Soviet Union. It’s not going to stop with Ukraine. No democracy is exempt from what Putin’s moves are, not even against our own country.” She went on to blame Russia for election interference and the usual charges that have held sway ever since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat.

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Her colleagues are no better. The most one can expect is that they oppose U.S. troops being sent to Ukraine. They all repeat the Biden narrative word for word, like wound up robots. None of them question administration policy or even suggest that the crisis might be de-escalated with negotiations between the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine.

Of course foreign policy doesn’t seem to interest the CBC very much. According to their website, their last joint statement on the Foreign Affairs and National Security page was made in December 2020. Those last missives were all rather shallow and consisted of congratulations that Lloyd Austin was appointed Secretary of Defense and happiness that military bases were no longer named after civil war confederates. Apparently they will express no contradiction with Biden and his team on Ukraine or any other foreign policy issue.

The comparison between the current CBC and founding members such as John Conyers is stark. Of course the goal of the democrats has long been to neuter and defang Black politics and sadly they have succeeded in doing so. The power of corporate funding, gerrymandering that makes districts less and less Black, and Barack Obama’s assault on progressive politics have all done their job. Now CBC members do what their leadership instructs them to do and dare not step out of line.

A CBC member, Gregory Meeks, is Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, but he has his position because of seniority and going along to get along. When the House Democrats met at a retreat, Meeks told struggling people that rising gas prices caused by sanctions against Russia are a worthy sacrifice . "I'm asking the people of the United States to also make that kind of sacrifice because in the long run, democracy is at stake. Putin counted on us being divided. He counted on us not staying together.” The democrats don’t even go through the motions. There is not even a pretense that they are the party of working people. Black members are no different in this regard.

If the U.S. was the great democracy that it pretends to be, politicians would be able to express a modicum of disagreement, even when their party is in the White House. Those days are long gone. Now CBC members outdo one another with Ukrainian flags on their twitter pages and no attempt to make a principled case for negotiations which might lead to peaceful resolution.

Margaret Kimberley Promo Image

John Conyers knew that right wing forces were very powerful in Ukraine. Their position has not changed in that government in recent years but what has changed is the nail in the coffin of Black politics. Now CBC members vote to approve billions of dollars for a government full of neo Nazis and take covid relief funds from their constituents in the process. The CBC was once known as the Conscience of the Congress but that moniker is dead, just like Black politics.

Margaret Kimberley
Black Agenda Report