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The most ironic sign about Ukraine and Russia ever

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

It's this one, found outside the September 4 NATO summit on the Ukraine crisis in Newport, South Wales:

protestors nato smash

PROLETARIAT SMASH! (Carl Court AFP/Getty Images/Images)

Red Block, the folks holding this sign, is an amalgamation of two British and one Norwegian Maoist groups. Their goal is pretty modest: smashing NATO as a first step towards the total and unremitting demolition of global capitalism.

It's a charming throwback to the time, just a little over 25 years ago, when people really were trying to smash NATO to make way for international communism. Post-Cold War, the prospects of a communist victory in Europe and North America are...well, they're pretty remote. That didn't stop Russia Today, the English-language Kremlin propaganda outfit, from putting together a laudatory photo essay about the Red Block protest.

That's because Russia is still threatening the NATO alliance. Of course, they're not doing it in the name of communism anymore — Russia is a capitalist state. That's the beautiful double irony of the Red Block sign. On the one hand, antagonism between Russia and the NATO alliance is once again one of the defining features of world politics, so the Red Block folks are right to focus on it as one of the linchpins of the global capitalist system. On the other hand, the proposed Russian alternative isn't communism anymore — a point that you would think would be obvious, but here we are.

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