‘If not me, who?’: Mikhail Gorbachev ended Cold War and saved the world, but failed to save Soviet Union FEATURE

30 Aug, 2022

It is hard to imagine that anyone could have dismantled the Soviet Union from the inside faster or more comprehensively than Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who had no such intention. Its crumbling is both Gorbachev’s singular achievement and his personal tragedy.

It is also the most important moment in history since 1945.

Popular perceptions have transformed the former Soviet leader into a kitschy icon, remembered as much for starring in an advert for no-crust pizza, as for picking up a Nobel Peace Prize.

But in the demise of ‘The Evil Empire’ he was no naïf, nor a catalyst for generic historic inevitabilities. Almost every single event in the countdown to the fall of communism in Russia and beyond is a direct reflection of the ideals, actions and foibles of Mikhail Gorbachev and those he confronted or endorsed.

This is the story of a farm mechanic who managed to penetrate the inner sanctum of the world’s biggest country, an explanation of what drove him once he reached the top, and an attempt to understand whether he deserves opprobrium or sympathy, ridicule or appreciation.

First president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev before a parade marking the 69th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War.
RIA Novosti.
The first president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev signs autographs during the presentation of his new book “Alone with Myself” in the Moskva store.
RIA Novosti.

If not me, who? And if not now, when?
— Mikhail Gorbachev

CHILDHOOD

Growing up a firebrand Communist among Stalin’s purges

Born in 1931 in a Ukrainian-Russian family in the village of Privolnoye in the fertile Russian south, Mikhail Gorbachev’s childhood was punctuated by a series of almost Biblical ordeals, albeit those shared by millions of his contemporaries.

His years as a toddler coincided with Stalin’s policy of collectivization – the confiscation of private lands from peasants to form new state-run farms – and Stavropol, Russia’s Breadbasket, was one of the worst-afflicted. Among the forcible reorganization and resistance, harvests plummeted and government officials requisitioned scarce grain under threat of death.

Gorbachev later said that his first memory is seeing his grandfather boiling frogs he caught in the river during the Great Famine.

Yet another grandfather, Panteley – a former landless peasant — rose from poverty to become the head of the local collective farm. Later Gorbachev attributed his ideological make-up largely to his grandfather’s staunch belief in Communism “which gave him the opportunity to earn everything he had.”

Panteley’s convictions were unshaken even when he was arrested as part of Stalin’s Great Purge. He was accused of joining a “counter-revolutionary Trotskyite movement” (which presumably operated a cell in their distant village) but returned to his family after 14 months behind bars just in time for the Second World War to break out.

Just in time for the Second World War to break out. For much of the conflict, the battle lines between the advancing Germans and the counter-attacking Red Army stretched across Gorbachev’s homeland; Mikhail’s father was drafted, and even reported dead, but returned with only shrapnel lodged in his leg at the end of the war.

Although Sergey was a distant presence in his son’s life up to then and never lived with him, he passed on to Mikhail a skill that played a momentous role in his life — that of a farm machinery mechanic and harvester driver. Bright by all accounts, Mikhail quickly picked up the knack — later boasting that he could pick out any malfunction just by the sound of the harvester or the tractor alone.

But this ability was unlikely to earn him renown beyond his village. Real acclaim came when the father and son read a new decree that would bestow a national honor on anyone who threshed more than 8000 quintals (800 tons or more than 20 big truckloads) of grain during the upcoming harvest. In the summer of 1948 Gorbachev senior and junior ground an impressively neat 8888 quintals. As with many of the agricultural and industrial achievements that made Soviet heroes out of ordinary workers, the exact details of the feat – and what auxiliary efforts may have made it possible – are unclear, but 17-year-old Gorbachev became one of the youngest recipients of the prestigious Order of the Red Banner of Labor in its history.

Having already been admitted to the Communist Party in his teen years (a rare reward given to the most zealous and politically reliable) Mikhail used the medal as an immediate springboard to Moscow. The accolade for the young wheat-grinder meant that he did not have to pass any entrance exams or even sit for an interview at Russia’s most prestigious Moscow State University.

With his village school education, Gorbachev admitted that he initially found the demands of a law degree, in a city he’d never even visited before, grueling. But soon he met another ambitious student from the countryside, and another decisive influence on his life. The self-assured, voluble Raisa, who barely spent a night apart from her husband until her death, helped to bring out the natural ambition in the determined, but occasionally studious and earnest Gorbachev. Predictably, Gorbachev rose to become one of the senior figures at the university’s Komsomol, the Communist youth league — which with its solemn group meetings and policy initiatives served both as a prototype and the pipeline for grown-up party activities.

STAVROPOL

Party reformist flourishes in Khruschev’s Thaw

Upon graduation in 1955, Gorbachev lasted only ten days back in Stavropol’s prosecutor’s office (showing a squeamishness dealing with the less idealistic side of the Soviet apparatus) before running across a local Komsomol official. For the next 15 years his biography reads like a blur of promotions – rising to become Stavropol region’s top Komsomol bureaucrats, overseeing agriculture for a population of nearly 2.5 million people before his 40th birthday.

All the trademarks of Gorbachev’s leadership style, which later became famous around the world, were already in evidence here. Eschewing Soviet officials’ habit of barricading themselves inside the wood-paneled cabinets behind multiple receptions, Gorbachev spent vast swathes of his time ‘in the field’, often literally in a field. With his distinctive southern accent, and his genuine curiosity about the experiences of ordinary people, the young official a struck chord as he toured small villages and discussed broken projectors at local film clubs and shortages of certain foodstuffs.

His other enthusiasm was for public discussion, particularly about specific, local problems – once again in contrast with the majority of officials, who liked to keep negative issues behind closed doors. Gorbachev set up endless discussion clubs and committees, almost quixotically optimistic about creating a better kind of life among the post-war austerity.

POLITBURO

Cutting the line to the throne

By the 1970s any sign of modernization in Soviet society or leadership was a distant memory, as the country settled into supposed “advanced socialism”, with the upheavals and promises of years past replaced by what was widely described as ‘An Era of Stagnation’ (the term gained official currency after being uttered by Gorbachev himself in one of his early public speeches after ascending to the summit of the Soviet system).

Without Stalin’s regular purges, and any democratic replacement mechanisms, between the mid-1960s and 1980s, almost the entire apparatus of Soviet leadership remained unchanged, down from the increasingly senile Leonid Brezhnev, who by the end of his life in 1982 became a figure of nationwide mockery and pity, as he slurred through speeches and barely managed to stand during endless protocol events, wearing gaudy carpets of military honors for battles he never participated in. Predictably, power devolved to the various factions below, as similarly aged heavyweights pushed their protégés into key positions.

The Kremlin Palace of Congresses (now the State Kremlin Palace). The XXV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Feb. 24-March 5, 1976). CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev delivering speech.
RIA Novosti.

Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov, CPSU CC Politbureau member, CPSU CC secretary, twice Hero of Socialist Labor.
RIA Novosti.Leonid Brezhnev, left, chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium and general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, with Alexei Kosygin, chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, on Lenin’s Mausoleum on May 1, 1980.
RIA Novosti.The Soviet Communist Party’s politburo member Konstantin Chernenko and central committee member Yury Andropov attend the Kremlin Palace of Congresses’ government session dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the USSR.
RIA Novosti.Yuri Andropov (1914-1984), General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee (since November 1982).
RIA Novosti.

With a giant country as the playground, the system rewarded those who came up with catchy programs and slogans, took credit for successes and steered away from failures, and networked tirelessly to build up support above and below. Gorbachev thrived here. His chief patrons were Brezhnev himself, purist party ideologue Mikhail Suslov, who considered Stavropol his powerbase, and most crucially the hardline head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov. The security chief referred to the aspiring politician as ‘My Stavropol Rough Diamond’ — another rejoinder to those seeking to paint Gorbachev as a naïve blessed outsider, a Joan of Arc of the Soviet establishment.

After being called to Moscow in 1978 to oversee Soviet agriculture — an apocryphal story suggests that he nearly missed out on the appointment when senior officials couldn’t find him after he got drunk celebrating a Komsomol anniversary, only to be rescued by a driver at the last moment — Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed to the Politburo in 1980.

The Politburo, which included some but not all of the ministers and regional chiefs of the USSR, was an inner council that took all the key decisions in the country, with the Soviet leader sitting at the top of the table, holding the final word (though Brezhnev sometimes missed meetings or fell asleep during them). When Gorbachev became a fully-fledged member he was short of his 50th birthday. All but one of the dozen other members were over sixty, and most were in their seventies. To call them geriatric was not an insult, but a literal description of a group of elderly men – many beset by chronic conditions far beyond the reach of Soviet doctors – that were more reminiscent of decrepit land barons at the table of a feudal king than effective bureaucrats. Even he was surprised by how quickly it came.

Brezhnev, who suffered from a panoply of circulation illnesses, died of a heart attack in 1982. Andropov, who was about to set out on an energetic screw-tightening campaign, died of renal failure in 1984. Konstantin Chernenko was already ill when he came to leadership, and died early in 1985 of cirrhosis. The tumbling of aged sovereigns, both predictable and tragicomic in how they reflected on the leadership of a country of more than 250 million people, not only cleared the path for Gorbachev, but strengthened the credentials of the young, energetic pretender.

Leonid Brezhnev’s funeral procession at Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum.
RIA Novosti.

The decorations of General Secretary of the CPSU Leonid Brezhnev seen during his lying-in-state ceremony at the House of Unions.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and the last Soviet president (second left in the foreground) attending the funeral of General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Konstantin Chernenko (1911-1985) in Moscow’s Red Square.
RIA Novosti.The funeral procession during the burial of Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the CPSU central committee, chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet.
RIA Novosti.The funeral of Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The coffin is placed on pedestal near the Mausoleum on Red Square.
RIA Novosti.The funeral procession for General Secretary of the CPSU Konstantin Chernenko moving towards Red Square.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the Central Comittee of CPSU Mikhail Gorbachev at the tribune of Lenin mausoleum during May Day demonstration, Red square.
RIA Novosti.

On 11 March 1985, Gorbachev was named the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR.

REFORMS NEEDED

Overcoming economic inefficiency with temperance campaigns

As often in history, the reformer came in at a difficult time. Numbers showed that economic growth, which was rampant as Russia industrialized through the previous four decades, slowed down in Brezhnev’s era, with outside sources suggesting that the economy grew by an average of no more than 2 percent for the decade.

The scarcity of the few desirable goods produced and their inefficient distribution meant that many Soviet citizens spent a substantial chunk of their time either standing in queues or trading and obtaining things as ordinary as sugar, toilet paper or household nails through their connections, either “under the counter” or as Party and workplace perks, making a mockery of Communist egalitarianism. The corruption and lack of accountability in an economy where full employment was a given, together with relentless trumpeting of achievement through monolithic newspapers and television programs infected private lives with doublethink and cynicism.

A line of shoppers outside the Lenvest footwear shop.
Ria Novosti.

But this still does not describe the drab and constraining feel of the socialist command economy lifestyle, not accidentally eschewed by all societies outside of North Korea and Cuba in the modern world. As an example, but one central to the Soviet experience: while no one starved, there was a choice of a handful of standardized tins — labeled simply salmon, or corned beef — identical in every shop across the country, and those who were born in 1945 could expect to select from the same few goods until the day they died, day-in, day-out. Soviets dressed in the same clothes, lived in identical tower block housing, and hoped to be issued a scarce Lada a decade away as a reward for their loyalty or service. Combined with the lack of personal freedoms, it created an environment that many found reassuring, but others suffocating, so much so that a trivial relic of a different world, stereotypically a pair of American jeans, or a Japanese TV, acquired a cultural cachet far disproportionate to its function. Soviets could not know the mechanisms of actually living within a capitalist society — with its mortgages, job markets, and bills — but many felt that there were gaudier, freer lives being led all around the world.

And though it brought tens of millions of people out of absolute poverty, there was no longer an expectation that the lifestyles of ordinary Soviets would significantly improve whether a year or a decade into the future, and promise of a better future was always a key tenet of communism.

Several wide-ranging changes were attempted, in 1965 and 1979, but each time the initial charge was wound down into ineffectual tinkering as soon as the proposed changed encroached on the fundamentals of the Soviet regime — in which private commercial activity was forbidden and state control over the economy was total and centralized.

Moscow, Russia. Customers at the Okean [Ocean] seafood store. 1988.
Ria Novosti.

Gorbachev deeply felt the malaise, and displayed immediate courage to do what is necessary — sensing that his reforms would not only receive support from below, but no insurmountable resistance from above. The policy of Uskorenie, or Acceleration, which became one of the pillars of his term, was announced just weeks after his appointment — it was billed as an overhaul of the economy.

But it did not address the fundamental structural inefficiencies of the Soviet regime. Instead it offered more of the same top-down administrative solutions — more investment, tighter supervision of staff, less waste. Any boost achieved through rhetoric and managerial dress-downs sent down the pyramid of power was likely to be inconsequential and peter out within months.

His second initiative, just two months after assuming control, betrayed these very same well-meaning but misguided traits. With widespread alcohol consumption a symptom of late-Soviet decline, Gorbachev devised a straightforward solution — lowering alcohol production and eventually eradicating drinking altogether.

Doctor Lev Kravchenko conducting reflexotherapy session with a patient at the Moscow Narcological Clinical Hospital #17.
RIA Novosti
Stolichnaya vodka from the Moscow Liqueur and Vodka Distillery.
RIA Novosti.

“Women write to me saying that children see their fathers again, and they can see their husbands,” said Gorbachev when asked about whether the reform was working.

Opponents of the illiberal measure forced Russian citizens into yet more queues, while alcoholics resorted to drinking industrial fluids and aftershave. Economists said that the budget, which derived a quarter of its total retail sales income from alcohol, was severely undermined. Instead a shadow economy sprung up — in 1987, 500 thousand people were arrested for engaging in it, five times more than just two years earlier.

More was needed, and Gorbachev knew it.

PERE­STROIKA

“We must rebuild ourselves. All of us!”

Gorbachev at his zenith

Gorbachev first uttered the word perestroika — reform, or rebuilding — in May 1986, or rather he told journalists, using the characteristic and endearing first-person plural, “We must rebuild ourselves. All of us!” Picked up by reporters, within months the phrase became a mainstay of Gorbachev’s speeches, and finally the symbol of the entire era.

Before his reforms had been chiefly economic and within the existing frameworks; now they struck at the political heart of the Soviet Union.

The revolution came from above, during a long-prepared central party conference blandly titled “On Reorganization and the Party’s Personnel Policy” on January 27, 1987.

In lieu of congratulatory platitudes that marked such occasions in past times, Gorbachev cheerfully delivered the suspended death sentence for Communist rule in the Soviet Union (much as he didn’t suspect it at the time).

“The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its leaders, for reasons that were within their own control, did not realize the need for change, understand the growing critical tension in the society, or develop any means to overcome it. The Communist Party has not been able to take full advantage of socialist society,”
said the leader to an audience that hid its apprehension.

“The only way that a man can order his house, is if he feels he is its owner. Well, a country is just the same,” came Gorbachev’s trademark mix of homely similes and grand pronouncements.” Only with the extension of democracy, of expanding self-government can our society advance in industry, science, culture and all aspects of public life.”

“For those of you who seem to struggle to understand, I am telling you: democracy is not the slogan, it is the very essence of Perestroika.”

Gorbachev used the word ‘revolution’ eleven times in his address, anointing himself an heir to Vladimir Lenin. But what he was proposing had no precedent in Russian or Soviet history.

The word democracy was used over 70 times in that speech alone.
The Soviet Union was a one-party totalitarian state, which produced 99.9 percent election results with people picking from a single candidate. Attempts to gather in groups of more than three, not even to protest, were liable to lead to arrest, as was any printed or public political criticism, though some dissidents were merely subjected to compulsory psychiatric care or forced to renounce their citizenship. Millions were employed either as official KGB agents, or informants, eavesdropping on potentially disloyal citizens. Soviet people were forbidden from leaving the country, without approval from the security services and the Party. This was a society operated entirely by those in power, relying on compliance and active cooperation in oppression from a large proportion of the population. So, the proposed changes were a fundamental reversal of the flows of power in society.

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachyov making his report “October and perestroika: the revolution continues” in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses at a joint session of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Supreme Soviet, devoted to the 70th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
RIA Novosti.

Between Gorbachev’s ascent and by the end of that year, two thirds of the Politburo, more than half of the regional chiefs and forty percent of the membership of the Central Committee of Communist Party, were replaced.

Gorbachev knew that democracy was impossible without what came to be known as glasnost, an openness of public discussion.

“We are all coming to the same conclusion — we need glasnost, we need criticism and self-criticism. In our country everything concerns the people, because it is their country,”
said Gorbachev, cunningly echoing Lenin, at that January forum, though the shoots of glasnost first emerged the year before.

From the middle of 1986 until 1987 censored Soviet films that lay on the shelves for years were released, the KGB stopped jamming the BBC World Service and Voice of America, Nobel Peace Prize winner nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov and hundreds of other dissidents were set free, and archives documenting Stalin-era repressions were opened.

A social revolution was afoot. Implausibly, within two years, television went from having no programs that were unscripted, to Vzglyad, a talk show anchored by 20 and 30-somethings (at a time when most Soviet television presented were fossilized mannequins) that discussed the war in Afghanistan, corruption or drugs with previously banned videos by the Pet Shop Boys or Guns N’ Roses as musical interludes. For millions watching Axl Rose, cavorting with a microphone between documentaries about steel-making and puppet shows, created cognitive dissonance that verged on the absurd. As well as its increasing fascination with the West, a torrent of domestic creativity was unleashed. While much of what was produced in the burgeoning rock scene and the liberated film making industry was derivative, culturally naïve and is now badly dated, even artifacts from the era still emanate an unmistakable vitality and sincerity.

Rock for Peace concert in Moscow, 1988.
RIA Novosti.

“Bravo!” Poster by Svetlana and Alexander Faldin. Allegorically portraying USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, it appeared at the poster exposition, Perestroika and Us.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, talking to reporters during a break between sessions. The First Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR (May 25 — June 9, 1989). The Kremlin Palace of Congresses.
RIA Novosti.

Many welcomed the unprecedented level of personal freedom and the chance to play an active part in their own country’s history, others were alarmed, while others still rode the crest of the wave when swept everything before it, only to renounce it once it receded. But it is notable that even the supposed staunchest defenders of the ancien régime — the KGB officers, the senior party members — who later spent decades criticizing Perestroika, didn’t step in to defend Brezhnev-era Communism as they saw it being demolished.

What everyone might have expected from the changes is a different question — some wanted the ability to travel abroad without an exit visa, others the opportunity to earn money, others still to climb the political career ladder without waiting for your predecessor die in office. But unlike later accounts, which often presented Gorbachev as a stealthy saboteur who got to execute an eccentric program, at the time, his support base was broad, and his decisions seemed encouraging and logical.

As a popular politician Gorbachev was reaching a crescendo. His trademark town hall and factory visits were as effective as any staged stunts, and much more unselfconscious. The contrast with the near-mummified bodies of the previous General Secretaries — who, in the mind of ordinary Soviet citizens, could only be pictured on top of Lenin’s Mausoleum during a military parade, or staring from a roadside placard, and forever urging greater productivity or more intense socialist values — was overwhelming.
Gorbachev was on top — but the tight structure of the Soviet state was about to loosen uncontrollably.

USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev in Sverdlovsk Region (25-28 April, 1990). Mikhail Gorbachev with the people of Sverdlovsk at the Lenin Square.
RIA Novosti.

USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev visits Sverdlovsk region. Mikhail Gorbachev visiting Nizhnij Tagil integrated iron-and-steel works named after V.I. Lenin.
RIA Novosti.CPSU Central Committee General Secretary, USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev in the Ukrainian SSR. Mikhail Gorbachev, second right, meeting with Kiev residents.
RIA Novosti.

COLD WAR ENDS

Concessions from a genuine pacifist

In the late 1980s the world appeared so deeply divided into two camps that it seemed like two competing species were sharing the same planet. Conflicts arose constantly, as the US and the USSR fought proxy wars on every continent — in Nicaragua, Angola and Afghanistan, with Europe divided by a literal battle line, both sides constantly updated battle plans and moved tank divisions through allied states, where scores of bases housed soldier thousands of miles away from home. Since the Cold War did not end in nuclear holocaust, it has become conventional to describe the two superpowers as rivals, but there was little doubt at the time that they were straightforward enemies.

“The core of New Thinking is the admission of the primacy of universal human values and the priority of ensuring the survival of the human race,” Gorbachev wrote in his Perestroika manifesto in 1988.

At the legendary Reykjavik summit in 1986, which formally ended in failure but in fact set in motion the events that would end the Cold War, both sides were astonished at just how much they could agree on, suddenly flying through agendas, instead of fighting pitched battles over every point of the protocol.

“Humanity is in the same boat, and we can all either sink or swim.”

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan (right) during their summit meeting in Reykjavik.
RIA Novosti.

Landmark treaties followed: the INF agreement in 1987, banning intermediate ballistic missiles, the CFE treaty that reduced the military build-up in Europe in 1990, and the following year, the START treaty, reducing the overall nuclear stockpile of those countries. The impact was as much symbolic as it was practical — the two could still annihilate each other within minutes — but the geopolitical tendency was clear.

President Reagan: Signing of the INF Treaty with Premier Gorbachev, December 8, 1987

Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the US president Ronald Reagan.
RIA Novosti.
Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and the US president Ronald Reagan signing an agreement in the White House. Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the official visit to the USA.
RIA Novosti.

Military analysts said that each time the USSR gave up more than it received from the Americans. The personal dynamic between Reagan — always lecturing “the Russians” from a position of purported moral superiority, and Gorbachev — the pacifist scrambling for a reasonable solution, was also skewed in favor of the US leader. But Gorbachev wasn’t playing by those rules.

“Any disarmament talks are not about beating the other side. Everyone has to win, or everyone will lose,” he wrote.

The Soviet Union began to withdraw its troops and military experts from conflicts around the world. For ten years a self-evidently unwinnable war waged in Afghanistan ingrained itself as an oppressive part of the national consciousness. Fifteen thousand Soviet soldiers died, hundreds of thousands more were wounded or psychologically traumatized (the stereotypical perception of the ‘Afghan vet’ in Russia is almost identical to that of the ‘Vietnam vet’ in the US.) When the war was officially declared a “mistake” and Soviet tanks finally rolled back across the mountainous border in 1989, very few lamented the scaling back of the USSR’s international ambitions.

Last Soviet troop column crosses Soviet border after leaving Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.

Driver T. Eshkvatov during the final phase of the Soviet troop pullout from Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.Soviet soldiers back on native soil. The USSR conducted a full pullout of its limited troop contingent from Afghanistan in compliance with the Geneva accords.
RIA Novosti.The convoy of Soviet armored personnel vehicles leaving Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.

In July 1989 Gorbachev made a speech to the European Council, declaring that it is “the sovereign right of each people to choose their own social system.” When Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, soon to be executed by his own people, demanded — during the 40th anniversary of the Communist German Democratic Republic in October 1989 — that Gorbachev suppress the wave of uprisings, the Soviet leader replied with a curt “Never again!”

“Life punishes those who fall behind the times,” he warned the obdurate East German leader Erich Honecker. Honecker died in exile in Chile five years later, having spent his dying years fending off criminal charges backed by millions of angry Germans.

Russian tanks did pass through Eastern Europe that year — but in the other direction, as the Soviet Union abandoned its expensive bases that were primed for a war that neither side now wanted.

Graffitti at the Berlin Wall.
RIA Novosti.
East German citizens climb the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate after the opening of the border was announced early November 9, 1989. REUTERS/Herbert Knosowski BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE.
Reuters.
A big section of the Berlin Wall is lifted by a crane as East Germany has started to dismantle the wall near the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin, February 20, 1990.
Reuters.

By the time the Berlin Wall was torn down in November, Gorbachev was reportedly not even woken up by his advisors, and no emergency meetings took place. There was no moral argument for why the German people should not be allowed to live as one nation, ending what Gorbachev himself called the “unnatural division of Europe”. The quote came from his 1990 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

ETHNIC TENSIONS

Smoldering ethnic conflicts on USSR’s outskirts flare up

Ethnic tensions on the outskirts of the empire lead to full-scale wars after USSR’s collapse. Towards the end of his rather brief period as a Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev had to face a problem many thought of as done and dusted; namely, ethnic strife, leading to conflict and death.

By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union was officially considered by party ideologists to be one multi-ethnic nation, despite it being comprised of 15 national republics and even more internal republics and regions, with dozens of ethnic groups living there in a motley mixture. The claim was not completely unfounded as the new generation all across the country spoke Russian and had basic knowledge of Russian culture along with Marxist philosophy. In fact, the outside world confirmed this unity by calling all Soviet citizens “Russians” — from Finno-Ugric Estonians in the West to the Turkic and Iranian peoples of Central Asia and natives of the Far East, closely related to the American Indians of Alaska.

Demonstration on Red Square. The International Labor Day. “Long live the brotherly friendship of the peoples of the USSR!” reads the slogan under the USSR national emblem surrounded by flags of 15 of the Union republics carried at a May Day demonstration in 1986.
RIA Novosti.

At the same time, the concept of the single people was enforced by purely Soviet methods — from silencing any existing problems in the party-controlled mass media, to ruthless suppression of any attempt of nationalist movements, and summary forced resettlement of whole peoples for “siding with the enemy” during WWII.

After Gorbachev announced the policies of Glasnost and democratization, many ethnic groups started to express nationalist sentiments. This was followed by the formation or legalization of nationalist movements, both in national republics and in Russia itself, where blackshirts from the “Memory” organization blamed Communists and Jews for oppressing ethnic Russians and promoted “liberation.”

Neither society nor law enforcers were prepared for such developments. The Soviet political system remained totalitarian and lacked any liberal argument against nationalism. Besides, the concept of “proletarian internationalism” was so heavily promoted that many people started to see nationalism as part of a struggle for political freedoms and market-driven economic prosperity. At the same time, the security services persisted in using the crude Soviet methods that had already been denounced by party leaders; police had neither the tools nor the experience for proper crowd control.

As a result, potential conflicts were brewing all across the country and the authorities did almost nothing to prevent them. In fact, many among the regional elites chose to ride the wave of nationalism to obtain more power and settle old accounts. At the same time, the level of nationalism was highly uneven and its manifestations differed both in frequency and intensity across the USSR.

In February 1988, Gorbachev announced at the Communist Party’s plenum that every socialist land was free to choose its own societal systems. Both Nationalists and the authorities considered this a go-ahead signal. Just days after the announcement, the conflict in the small mountain region of Nagorno-Karabakh entered an open phase.

Nagorno-Karabakh was an enclave populated mostly, but not exclusively, by Armenians in the Transcaucasia republic of Azerbaijan. Relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis had always been strained, with mutual claims dating back to the Ottoman Empire; Soviet administrative policy based purely on geography and economy only made things worse.

In spring 1989, nationalists took to the streets in another Transcaucasian republic — Georgia. The country was (and still is) comprised of many ethnic groups, each claiming a separate territory, sometimes as small as just one hill and a couple of villages, and the rise of nationalism there was even more dangerous. Georgians marched under slogans “Down with Communism!” and “Down with Soviet Imperialism.” The rallies were guarded and directed by the “Georgian Falcons” — a special team of strong men, many of them veterans of the Afghan war, armed with truncheons and steel bars.

“Down with Communism!”

“Down with Soviet Imperialism.”

This time Gorbachev chose not to wait for clashes and a Spetsnaz regiment was deployed to Tbilisi to tackle the nationalist rallies. Again, old Soviet methods mixed poorly with the realities of democratization. When the demonstrators saw the soldiers, they became more agitated, and the streets around the main flashpoints were blocked by transport and barricades. The soldiers were ordered to use only rubber truncheons and tear gas, and were not issued firearms, but facing the Georgian Falcons they pulled out the Spetsnaz weapon of choice — sharp shovels just as deadly as bayonets.

At least 19 people were killed in the clashes or trampled by the crowd that was forced from the central square but had nowhere to go. Hundreds were wounded.

Soviet tanks are positioned on April 9, 1989 in front of the Georgian government building where pro-independence Georgians were killed as paratroopers moved in to break up a mass demonstration. An anti-Soviet demonstration was dispersed on April 9th by the Soviet army, resulting in 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries. In independent Georgia “April 9” is an annual public holiday remembered as the Day of National Unity.
AFP PHOTO.

Moscow ordered an investigation into the tragedy and a special commission uncovered many serious mistakes made both by the regional and central authorities and party leaders. However, at the May Congress of People’s Deputies, Gorbachev categorically refused to accept any responsibility for the outcome of the events in Tbilisi and blamed the casualties on the military.

Further on, the last Soviet leader persisted in the kind of stubbornness that inevitably must have played a part in his fall. In February 1990, the Communist Party’s Central Committee voted to adopt the presidential system of power and General Secretary Gorbachev became the first and last president of the USSR. The same plenum dismantled the Communist Party’s monopoly of power, even though the country had no grassroots political organizations or any political organizations not dependent on the communists save for the nationalists. As a result, the urge for succession increased rapidly, both in the regional republics and even in the Soviet heartland — the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

In 1990, the Republic of Lithuania was the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Despite his earlier promises, Gorbachev refused to recognize this decision officially. The region found itself in legal and administrative limbo and the Lithuanian parliament addressed foreign nations with a request to hold protests against “Soviet Occupation.”

In January 1991, the Lithuanian government announced the start of economic reforms with liberalization of prices, and immediately after that the Supreme Soviet of the USSR sent troops to the republic, citing “numerous requests from the working class.” Gorbachev also demanded Lithuania annul all new regulations and bring back the Soviet Constitution. On January 11, Soviet troops captured many administrative buildings in Vilnius and other Lithuanian cities, but the parliament and television center were surrounded by a thousand-strong rally of protesters and remained in the hands of the nationalist government. In the evening of January 12, Soviet troops, together with the KGB special purpose unit, Alpha, stormed the Vilnius television center, killing 12 defenders and wounding about 140 more. The troops were then called back to Russia and the Lithuanian struggle for independence continued as before.

A Lithuanian demonstrator stands in front of a Soviet Army tank during the assault on the Lithuanian Radio and Television station on January 13, 1991 in Vilnius.
AFP PHOTO.

Vilnius residents gather in front of the Lithuanian parliament following the takeover of the Radio and Television installations by Soviet troops.
AFP PHOTO.An armed unidentified man guards the Lithuanian parliament on January 19, 1991 in Vilnius.
AFP PHOTO.Vilnius residents holding a Lithuanian flag guard a barricade in front of the Lithuanian parliament on January 20, 1991.
AFP PHOTO.Soviet paratroopers charge Lithuanian demonstrators at the entrance of the Lithuanian press printing house in Vilnius. January, 1991.
AFP PHOTO.

Gorbachev again denied any responsibility, saying that he had received reports about the operation only after it ended. However, almost all members of the contemporary Soviet cabinet recalled that the idea of Gorbachev not being aware of such a major operation was laughable. Trying to shift the blame put the president’s image into a lose-lose situation — knowing about the Vilnius fighting made him a callous liar, and if he really knew nothing about it, then he was an ineffective leader, losing control both of distant territories and his own special forces.

The swiftly aborted intervention — troops were called back on the same day — was a disappointment both to the hardliners, who would have wanted Gorbachev to see it through, and to the democratic reformers, horrified by the scenes emerging from Vilnius.

This dissatisfaction also must be one of the main factors that provoked the so-called Putch in August 1991 — an attempt by die-hard Politburo members to displace Gorbachev and restore the old Soviet order. They failed in the latter, but succeeded in the former as Gorbachev, isolated at his government Dacha in Crimea, returned to Moscow only because of the struggles of the new Russian leader Boris Yeltsin. When Gorbachev returned, his power was so diminished that he could do nothing to prevent the Belovezha agreement — the pact between Russia, Belarus and Ukraine that ended the history of the Soviet Union and introduced the Commonwealth of Independent States. All republics became independent whether they were ready to or not.

This move, while granting people freedom from Soviet rule, also triggered a sharp rise in extreme nationalist activities — the stakes were high enough and whole nations were up for grabs. Also, in the three years between Gorbachev’s offering of freedom and the collapse of the USSR, nothing was done to calm simmering ethnic hatred, and with no directions from Moscow or control on the part of the Soviet police and army, many regions became engulfed in full-scale civil wars, based on ethnic grounds.

Things turned especially nasty in Tajikistan, where fighting between Iranian-speaking Tajiks and Turkic-speaking Uzbeks very soon led to ethnic cleansing. Refugees had to flee for their lives to Afghanistan, which itself witnessed a war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

Government soldiers aim at positions of armed opposition groups in the border area of Afghanistan 08 June 1993. The civil war between pro-communist forces and the opposition has left thousands dead and turned hundreds of thousands of people into refugees in the last year.
AFP PHOTO.

Two fighters of the Tajik pro-Communist forces engage in a battle with pro-Islamic fighters 22 December 1992 in a village some 31 miles from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.
AFP PHOTO.Tajik women cry over the dead body of a soldier 29 January 1993. The soldier was killed during fighting between Tajikistan government troops and opposition forces in Parkhar.
AFP PHOTO.

The long and bloody war in Georgia also had a significant ethnic component. After it ended three regions that were part of the republic during Soviet times — Abkhazia, Adzharia and South Ossetia – declared independence, which was enforced by a CIS peacekeeping force. At some point, Georgia managed to return Adzharia but when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, backed and armed by Western nations, attempted to capture South Ossetia in 2008, Russia had to intervene and repel the aggression. Subsequently, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.

YELTSIN’S CHALLENGE

New star steals limelight

As Stalin and Trotsky, or Tony Blair and Gordon Brown could attest, your own archrival in politics is often on your team, pursuing broadly similar — but not identical aims — and hankering for the top seat.

But unlike those rivalries, the scenes in the fallout between Mikhail Gorbachev, and his successor, Boris Yeltsin played out not through backroom deals and media leaks, but in the form of an epic drama in front of a live audience of thousands, and millions sat in front of their televisions.

The two leaders were born a month apart in 1931, and followed broadly similar paths of reformist regional commissars – while Gorbachev controlled the agricultural Stavropol, Yeltsin attempted to revitalize the industrial region of Sverdlovsk, present-day Yekaterinburg.

Yet, Yeltsin was a definitely two steps behind Gorbachev on the Soviet career ladder, and without his leg-up might have never made it to Moscow at all. A beneficiary of the new leader’s clear out, though not his personal protégé, Yeltsin was called up to Moscow in 1985, and the following year, was assigned the post of First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party, effectively becoming the mayor of the capital.

Yeltsin’s style dovetailed perfectly with the new agenda, and his superior’s personal style, though his personal relationship with Gorbachev was strained almost from the start. Breaking off from official tours of factories, the city administrator would pay surprise visits to queue-plagued and under-stocked stores (and the warehouses where the consumables were put aside for the elites); occasionally abandoning his bulletproof ZIL limo, Yeltsin would ride on public transport. This might appear like glib populism now, but at the time was uncynically welcomed. In the first few months in the job, the provincial leader endeared himself to Muscovites — his single most important power base in the struggles that came, and a guarantee that he would not be forgotten whatever ritual punishments were cast down by the apex of the Communist Party.

Boris Yeltsin, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Moscow City Committee, at the official meeting celebrating the 70th anniversary of the October revolution.
RIA Novosti.

Boris Yeltsin, left, candidate member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, at lunch.
RIA Novosti.Voters’ meeting with candidate for deputy of the Moscow Soviet in the 161st constituency, First Secretary of the CPSU Moscow Town Committee, Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet, Boris Yeltsin, centre.
RIA Novosti.People’s deputy Boris Yeltsin. Algirdas Brazauskas (right) and chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council Mikhail Gorbachev on the presidium.
RIA Novosti.

But Yeltsin was not just a demagogue content with cosmetic changes and easy popularity, and after months of increasing criticism of the higher-ups, he struck.

During a public session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in October 1987, the newcomer delivered a landmark speech.

In front of a transfixed hall, he told the country’s leaders that they were putting road blocks on the road to Perestroika, he accused senior ministers of becoming “sycophantic” towards Gorbachev. As his final flourish, Yeltsin withdrew himself from his post as a candidate to the Politburo — an unprecedented move that amounted to contempt towards the most senior Soviet institution.

The speech, which he later said he wrote “on his lap” while sitting in the audience just a few hours earlier, was Yeltsin in a nutshell. Unafraid to challenge authority and to risk everything, with a flair for the dramatic, impulsive and unexpected decision (his resignation as Russian president in his New Year’s speech being the most famous).

Footage shows Gorbachev looking on bemused from above. He did not publicly criticize Yeltsin there and then, and spoke empathetically about Yeltsin’s concerns, but later that day (with his backing) the Central Committee declared Yeltsin’s address “politically misguided”, a slippery Soviet euphemism that cast Yeltsin out into the political wilderness.

Gorbachev thought he had won the round — “I won’t allow Yeltsin anywhere near politics again” he vowed, his pique shining through — but from then on, their historical roles and images were cast.

Gorbachev, for all of his reforms, now became the tame, prissy socialist. Yeltsin, the careerist who nearly had it all, and renounced everything he had achieved at the age of 54 and re-evaluated all he believed in. Gorbachev, the Politburo chief who hid behind the silent majority, Yeltsin the rebel who stood up to it. Gorbachev, the politician who spoke a lot and often said nothing, Yeltsin, the man of action.

Historically, the contrast may seem unfair, as both were equally important historical figures, who had a revolutionary impact for their time. But stood side-by-side, Yeltsin — with his regal bearing and forceful charisma — not only took the baton of Perestroika’s promises, but stole the man-of-the-future aura that had hitherto belonged to Gorbachev, who now seemed fidgety and weaselly by comparison.

While he was stripped of his Moscow role, Yeltsin’s party status was preserved. This had a perverse effect. No one stopped Yeltsin from attending high-profile congresses. No one prevented him from speaking at them. It was the perfect situation — he had the platform of an insider, and the kudos of an outsider. Tens of deputies would come and criticize the upstart, and then he’d take the stage, Boris Yeltsin vs. The Machine.

On June 12, 1990 Russia declared sovereignty from the USSR. A month later, Yeltsin staged another one of his dramatic masterclasses, when he quit the Communist Party on-stage during its last ever national congress, and walked out of the cavernous hall with his head held high, as loyal deputies jeered him.

In June 1991, after calling a snap election, Yeltsin became the first President of Russia, winning 57 percent — or more than 45 million votes. The Party’s candidate garnered less than a third of Yeltsin’s tally.

By this time Gorbachev’s position had become desperate. The Soviet Union was being hollowed out, and Yeltsin and the other regional leaders were now actively colluding with each other, signing agreements that bypassed the Kremlin.

The Communists and nationalists — often one and the same — had once been ambivalent about Gorbachev’s reforms, and anyway had been loath to criticize their leader. But inspired by Gorbachev’s glasnost, and with the USSR’s long term prospects becoming very clear, they now wanted their say as well. A reactionary media backlash started against him, generals pronounced warnings of “social unrest” that sounded more like threats, and some had begun to go as far as to earnestly speculate that Gorbachev was working for the Cold War “enemy.”

USSR IMPLODES

Failed coup brings down faded leader of fractured country

The junta that tried to take power in the Soviet Union on the night of August 18th is one of the most inept in the history of palace coups.

On August 18, all phones at Gorbachev’s residence, including the one used to control the USSR’s nuclear arsenal, were suddenly cut off, while unbeknownst to him, a KGB regiment was surrounding the house. Half an hour later a delegation of top officials arrived at the residence in Foros, Crimea, walked past his family to his office, in their briefcases a selection of documents for Gorbachev to sign. In one scenario, he would simply declare a state of emergency, and proclaim control over all the rebel republics, in another he would hand over power to his deputy Gennady Yanaev, due to worsening health.

Genuinely angry at their disloyalty, the Soviet leader called them “chancers”, and refused to sign anything, saying he would not have blood on his hands. He then showed them out of the house with a lengthy tirade — clearly recollected by all present in their memoirs — in which he crowned the plotters a “bunch of cocks.”

The plotters were not prepared for this turn of events. Gathering once again back in Moscow, they sat around looking at their unsigned emergency decree, arguing and not daring to put their names on the typewritten document. As midnight passed, and more and more bottles of whisky, imported from the decadent West they were saving the USSR from, was brought in, the patriots found their courage, or at least persuaded Yanaev to place himself at the top of the list of signatories. The Gang of Eight would be known as the State Committee on the State of Emergency. Accounts say that by the time they were driven to their dachas — hours before the most important day of their lives — the plotters could barely stand. Valentin Pavlov, he of the unpopular monetary reform, and the prime minister, drank so much he had to be treated for acute alcohol intoxication, and was hospitalized with cardiac problems as the events of the next three days unfolded.

But orders were issued, and on the morning of the 19th tanks rolled into Moscow. While news suggested that nothing had gone wrong — and at this point it hadn’t — the junta made it seem as if everything had. Not only were there soldiers on street, but all TV channels were switched off, with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake iconically played on repeat. By four o’clock in the afternoon, most of the relatively independent media was outlawed by a decree.

But for all their heavy-handed touch the putsch leaders did nothing to stop their real nemesis. Unlike most coups, which are a two-way affair, this was a triangular power struggle – between Gorbachev, the reactionaries, and Yeltsin. Perhaps, like Gorbachev, stuck in their mindset of backroom intrigue the plotters seemed to underrate Yeltsin, and the resources at his disposal.

Russia’s next leader had arrived in Moscow from talks with his Kazakhstan counterpart, allegedly in the same merry state as the self-appointed plotters. But when his daughter woke him up with news of the unusual cross-channel broadcasting schedule, he acted fast, and took his car straight to the center of Moscow. The special forces soldiers placed around his dacha by the conspirators were not ordered to shoot or detain him.

Yeltsin’s supporters first gathered just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin walls, and then on instruction marched through the empty city to the White House building, the home of the rebellious Russian parliament. There, in his defining moment and as the crowd (although at this early hour it was actually thinner than the mythology suggests) chanted his name, Yeltsin climbed onto the tank, reclaimed from the government forces, and loudly, without the help of a microphone, denounced the events of the past hours as a “reactionary coup.” In the next few hours, people from across Moscow arrived, as the crowd swelled to 70,000. A human chain formed around the building, and volunteers began to build barricades from trolleybuses and benches from nearby parks.

Military hardware in Kalininsky prospect after imposition of a state of emergency in August 1991.
RIA Novosti.
Muscovites block the way for military weaponry during the GKChP coup.
RIA Novosti.

Moscow residents building barricades next to the Supreme Soviet during the coup by the State EmergencyCommittee.
RIA Novosti.Thousands of people rallying before the Supreme Soviet of Russia on August 20, 1991.
RIA Novosti.

Though this seemed as much symbolic, as anything, as the elite units sent in by the junta had no intention of shooting, and demonstrated their neutrality, freely mingling with the protesters. Their commander, Pavel Grachev, defected to Yeltsin the following day, and was later rewarded with the defense minister’s seat. The Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov also supported Yeltsin.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin waves from the balcony of the Russian Parliament to a crowd of demonstrators protesting against the overthrow of Soviet President Gorbachev during the brief coup in August 1991, in Moscow August 20, 1991. The result, ironically, was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. REUTERS/Michael Samojeden IMAGE TAKEN AUGUST 20, 1991.
Reuters.

Realizing that their media blackout was not working, and that they were quickly losing initiative, the plotters went to the other extreme, and staged an unmoderated televised press conference.

Sat in a row, the anonymous, ashen-faced men looked every bit the junta. While Yanaev was the nominal leader, he was never the true engine of the coup, which was largely orchestrated by Vladimir Kryuchkov, the KGB chief, who, with the natural caution of a security agent, did not want to take center stage. The acting president, meanwhile, did not look the part. His voice was tired and unsure, his hands shaking — another essential memory of August 1991.

From left: the USSR Interior Minister Boris Pugo and the USSR Vice-President Gennady Yanayev during the press conference of the members of the State Committee for the State of Emergency (GKCP).
RIA Novosti.
From left: Alexander Tizyakov, Vasily Starodubtsev, Boris Pugo, Gennady Yanayev, and Oleg Baklanov during the press conference of the State of Emergency State Committee (GKCP) members at the USSR Foreign Ministry.
RIA Novosti.

In another spectacularly poor piece of communications management, after the new leaders made their speeches, they opened the floor to an immediately hostile press pack, which openly quoted Yeltsin’s words accusing them of overthrowing a legitimate government on live television.

Referring to Gorbachev as “my friend Mikhail Sergeevich,” Yanaev monotoned that the president was “resting and taking a holiday in Crimea. He has grown very weary over these last few years and needs some time to get his health back.” With tanks standing outside proceedings were quickly declining into a lethargic farce in front of the whole country.

Over the next two days there was international condemnation (though Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat supported the coup) the deaths of three pro-Yeltsin activists, and an order by the junta to re-take the White House at all costs, canceled at the last minute. But by then the fate of the putsch had already been set in motion.

Meanwhile, as the most dramatic events in Russia since 1917 were unfolding in Moscow, Gorbachev carried on going for dips in the Black Sea, and watching TV with his family. On the first night of the coup, wearing a cardigan not fit for an nationwide audience, he recorded an uncharacteristically meek address to the nation on a household camera, saying that he had been deposed. He did not appear to make any attempt to get the video out of Foros, and when it was broadcast the following week, it incited reactions from ridicule, to suspicions that he was acting in cahoots with the plotters, or at least waiting out the power struggle in Moscow. Gorbachev likely was not, but neither did he appear to exhibit the personal courage of Yeltsin, who came out and addressed crowds repeatedly when a shot from just one government sniper would have been enough to end his life.

On the evening of August 21, with the coup having evidently failed, two planes set out for Crimea almost simultaneously from Moscow. In the first were the members of the junta, all rehearsing their penances, in the other, members of Yeltsin’s team, with an armed unit to rescue Gorbachev, who, for all they knew, may have been in personal danger. When the putschists reached Foros, Gorbachev refused to receive them, and demanded that they restore communications. He then phoned Moscow, Washington and Paris, voiding the junta’s decrees, and repeating the simple message: “I have the situation under control.”

But he did not. Gorbachev’s irrelevance over the three days of the putsch was a metaphor for his superfluousness in Russia’s political life in the previous months, and from that moment onward. Although the putschists did not succeed, a power transfer did happen, and Gorbachev still lost. For three days, deference to his formal institutions of power was abandoned, and yet the world did not collapse, so there was no longer need for his dithering mediation.

Gingerly walking down the steps of the airstair upon landing in Moscow, blinking in front of the cameras, Mikhail Gorbachev was the lamest of lame duck leaders. He gave a press conference discussing the future direction of the Communist Party, and inner reshuffles that were to come, sounding not just out-of-touch, but borderline delusional.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the Extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation in Moscow in this August 23, 1991 file photo.
Reuters.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev touch hands during Gorbachev’s address to the Extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation in Moscow, August 23, 1991. REUTERS/Gennady Galperin (RUSSIA).
Reuters.

Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991.

“The policy prevailed of dismembering this country and disuniting the state, which is something I cannot subscribe to,” he lamented, before launching into an examination of his six years in charge.

“Even now, I am convinced that the democratic reform that we launched in the spring of 1985 was historically correct. The process of renovating this country and bringing about drastic change in the international community has proven to be much more complicated than anyone could imagine.”

“However, let us give its due to what has been done so far. This society has acquired freedom. It has been freed politically and spiritually, and this is the most important achievement that we have yet fully come to grips with.”

AFTERMATH

Praised in West, scorned at home

“Because of him, we have economic confusion!”

“Because of him, we have opportunity!”

“Because of him, we have political instability!”

“Because of him, we have freedom!”

“Complete chaos!”

“Hope!”

“Political instability!”

“Because of him, we have many things like Pizza Hut!”

Thus ran the script to the 1997 advert that saw a tableful of men argue loudly over the outcome of Perestroika in a newly-opened Moscow restaurant, a few meters from an awkward Gorbachev, staring into space as he munches his food alongside his 10 year-old granddaughter. The TV spot ends with the entire clientele of the restaurant getting up to their feet, and chanting “Hail to Gorbachev!” while toasting the former leader with pizza slices heaving with radiant, viscous cheese.

The whole scene is a travesty of the momentous transformations played out less than a decade earlier, made crueler by contemporary surveys among Russians that rated Gorbachev as the least popular leader in the country’s history, below Stalin and Ivan the Terrible.

The moment remains the perfect encapsulation of Gorbachev’s post-resignation career.

To his critics, many Russians among them, he was one of the most powerful men in the world reduced to exploiting his family in order to hawk crust-free pizzas for a chain restaurant — an American one at that — a personal and national humiliation, and a reminder of his treason. For the former Communist leader himself it was nothing of the sort. A good-humored Gorbachev said the half-afternoon shoot was simply a treat for his family, and the self-described “eye-watering” financial reward — donated entirely to his foundation — money that would be used to go to charity.

As for the impact of Gorbachev’s career in advertising on Russia’s reputation… In a country where a decade before the very existence of a Pizza Hut near Red Square seemed unimaginable, so much had changed, it seemed a perversely logical, if not dignified, way to complete the circle. In the years after Gorbachev’s forced retirement there had been an attempted government overthrow that ended with the bombardment of parliament, privatization, the first Chechen War, a drunk Yeltsin conducting a German orchestra and snatching an improbable victory from revanchist Communists two years later, and an impending default.

Although he did get 0.5 percent of the popular vote during an aborted political comeback that climaxed in the 1996 presidential election, Gorbachev had nothing at all to do with these life-changing events. And unlike Nikita Khrushchev, who suffered greater disgrace, only to have his torch picked up, Gorbachev’s circumstances were too specific to breed a political legacy. More than that, his reputation as a bucolic bumbler and flibbertigibbet, which began to take seed during his final years in power, now almost entirely overshadowed his proven skill as a political operator, other than for those who bitterly resented the events he helped set in motion.

Other than in his visceral dislike of Boris Yeltsin — the two men never spoke after December 1991 — if Gorbachev was bitter about the lack of respect afforded to him at home, he wore it lightly. Abroad, he reveled in his statesmanlike aura, receiving numerous awards, and being the centerpiece at star-studded galas. Yet, for a man of his ambition, being pushed into retirement must have gnawed at him repeatedly.

After eventually finding a degree of financial and personal stability on the lecture circuit in the late 1990s, Gorbachev was struck with another blow — the rapid death of Raisa from cancer.

A diabetic, Gorbachev became immobile and heavy-set, a pallor fading even his famous birthmark. But his voice retained its vigor (and accent) and the former leader continued to proffer freely his loquacious opinions on politics, to widespread indifference.

Gorbachev’s legacy is at the same time unambiguous, and deeply mixed — more so than the vast majority of political figures. His decisions and private conversations were meticulously recorded and verified. His motivations always appeared transparent. His mistakes and achievements formed patterns that repeated themselves through decades.

Yet for all that clarity, the impact of his decisions, the weight given to his feats and failures can be debated endlessly, and has become a fundamental question for Russians.

Less than three decades after his limo left the Kremlin, his history has been rewritten several times, and his role bent to the needs of politicians and prevailing social mores. This will likely continue. Those who believe in the power of the state, both nationalists and Communists, will continue to view his time as egregious at best, seditious at worst. For them, Gorbachev is inextricably linked with loss — the forfeiture of Moscow’s international standing, territory and influence. The destruction of the fearsome and unique Soviet machine that set Russia on a halting course as a middle-income country with a residual seat in the UN Security Council trying to gain acceptance in a US-molded world.

Others, who appreciate a commitment to pacifism and democracy, idealism and equality, will also find much to admire in Gorbachev, even though he could not always be his best self. Those who place greater value on the individual than the state, on freedom than on military might, those who believe that the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the totalitarian Soviet Union was a landmark achievement not a failure will be grateful, and if not sympathetic. For one man’s failure can produce a better outcome than another’s success.

RAISA

Passion and power

The history of rulers is littered with tales of devoted wives and ambitious women pulling strings from behind the throne, and Raisa was often painted as both. But unlike many storybook partnerships, where the narrative covers up the nuances, the partnership between Mikhail and Raisa was absolutely authentic, and genuinely formidable. Perhaps the key to Mikhail’s lifelong commitment, and even open deference to his wife, atypical for a man of his generation, lay in their courtship.

Raisa Gorbacheva, wife of the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev, in Paris during their official visit to France. Ria Novosti.

In his autobiography, Gorbachev recollects with painful clarity, how his first meeting with Raisa, on the dance floor of a university club, “aroused no emotion in her whatsoever.” Yet Gorbachev was smitten with the high cheek-boned fellow over-achiever immediately, calling her for awkward dorm-room group chats that went nowhere, and seeking out attempts.

— Raisa Gorbacheva
“We were happy then. We were happy because of our young age, because of the hopes for the future and just because of the fact that we lived and studied at the university. We appreciated that.”

It was several months before she agreed to even go for a walk through Moscow with the future Soviet leader, and then months of fruitless promenades, discussing exams at their parallel faculties. With candor, Gorbachev admits that she only agreed to date him after “having her heart broken by the man she had pledged it to.” But once their relationship overcame its shaky beginnings, the two became the very definition of a Soviet power couple, in love and ready to do anything for each other. In the summer vacation after the two began to go steady, Gorbachev did not think it below him to return to his homeland, and resume work as a simple mechanic, to top up the meager university stipend.

The two were not embarrassed having to celebrate their wedding in a university canteen, symbolically, on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on November 7, 1953. Or put off when the watchful guardians of morality at Moscow State University forbid the newlyweds from visiting each other’s halls without a specially signed pass. More substantial obstacles followed, when Mikhail’s mother also did not take to her daughter-in-law, while Raisa agreed to a medically-advised abortion after becoming pregnant following a heavy bout of rheumatism. But the two persevered. Raisa gave birth to their only child in 1955, and as Gorbachev’s star rose, so did his wife’s academic career as a sociologist. But Raisa’s true stardom came when Gorbachev occupied the Soviet leader’s post.

Soviet President and General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee, Mikhail Gorbachev, 2nd right, and Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbacheva, right, at the meeting with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, left, at the Soviet Embassy in London.
RIA Novosti.

Raisa Gorbacheva, the wife of the Soviet leader (left), showing Nancy Reagan, first lady of the U.S., around the Kremlin during U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s official visit to the U.S.S.R.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (center left) and his spouse Raisa Gorbacheva (second from left) seeing off US President Ronald Reagan after his visit to the USSR. Right: The spouse of US president Nancy Reagan. The Hall of St. George in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
RIA Novosti.Raisa Gorbacheva (left), wife of the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and Barbara Bush (right), wife of the U.S. president, attending the inauguration of the sculptured composition Make Way for Ducklings near the Novodevichy Convent during U.S. President George Bush’s official visit to the U.S.S.R.
RIA Novosti.Soviet first lady Raisa Gorbacheva meets with Tokyo residents during Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachyov’s official visit to Japan.
RIA Novosti.The meeting between Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, President of the USSR and the heads of state and government of the seven leading industrial nations. From left to right: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, Norma Major, Raisa Maksimovna Gorbacheva and John Major.
RIA Novosti.Soviet president’s wife Raisa Gorbacheva at the 112th commencement at a female college. The State of Massachusetts. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev’s state visit to the United States.
RIA Novosti.

In a symbol as powerful as his calls for international peace and reform at home, the Communist leader was not married to a matron hidden at home, but to an urbane, elegantly-dressed woman, regarded by many as an intellectual equal, if not superior to Mikhail himself. Gorbachev consulted his wife in every decision, as he famously told American TV viewers during a Tom Brokaw interview. This generated much ill-natured mockery throughout Gorbachev’s reign, but he never once tried to push his wife out of the limelight, where she forged friendships with such prominent figures as Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.

Raisa was there in the Crimean villa at Foros, during the attempted putsch of August 1991, confronting the men who betrayed her husband personally, and suffering a stroke as a result. It was also Raisa by Gorbachev’s side when they were left alone, after the whirlwind settled in 1991. Despite nearly losing her eyesight due to her stroke, Raisa largely took the lead in organizing Mikhail’s foundation, and in structuring his life. In 1999, with his own affairs in order, not least because of the controversial Pizza Hut commercial, and Russians anger much more focused on his ailing successor, Gorbachev thought he could enjoy a more contented retirement, traveling the world with his beloved.

CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa at Orly Airport, France.
RIA Novosti.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (center), Soviet first lady Raisa Gorbacheva (right), Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kazakh first lady Sara Nazarbayeva during Gorbachev’s working visit to Kazakhstan.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and his spouse Raisa Gorbachev (center) at a friendship meeting in the Wawel Castle during a visit to Poland.
RIA Novosti.Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa during his official visit to China.
RIA Novosti.An official visit to Japan by USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. He with wife, Raisa Gorbachev, and Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu near a tree planted in the garden of Akasaka Palace.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev (center), daughter Irina (right) and his wife’s sister Lyudmila (left) at the funeral of Raisa Gorbachev.
RIA Novosti.Last respects for Raisa Gorbacheva, spouse of the former the USSR president in the Russian Fond of Culture. Mikhail Gorbachev, family and close people of Raisa Gorbacheva at her coffin.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev at the opening of the Raisa exhibition in memory of Raisa Gorbacheva.
RIA Novosti.

— Raisa Gorbacheva
“It is possible that I had to get such a serious illness and die for the people to understand me.”

Then came the leukemia diagnosis, in June of that year. Before the couple’s close family had the chance to adjust to the painful rhythm of hope and fear that accompanies the treatment of cancer, Raisa was dead. Her burial unleashed an outpouring of emotion, with thousands, including many of her husband’s numerous adversaries, gathering to pay their sincere respects. No longer the designer-dressed careerist ice queen to be envied, resented and ridiculed, now people saw Raisa for the charismatic and shrewd idealist she always was. For Gorbachev it made little difference, and all those around him said that however much activity he tried to engage in following his wife’s death, none of it ever had quite the same purpose.

“People say time heals. But it never stops hurting – we were to be joined until death,” Gorbachev always said in interviews

For the tenth anniversary of Raisa’s death, in 2009, Mikhail Gorbachev teamed up with famous Russian musician Andrey Makerevich to record a charity album of Russian standards, dedicated to his beloved wife. The standout track was Old Letters, a 1940s melancholy ballad. Gorbachev said that it came to him in 1991 when he discovered Raisa burning their student correspondence and crying, after she found out that their love letters had been rifled through by secret service agents during the failed coup.

The limited edition LP sold at a charity auction in London, and fetched £100,000.

Afterwards, Gorbachev got up on the stage to sing Old Letters, but half way through he choked up, and had to leave the stage to thunderous applause.

Alexander Dugin: His Theories and How He Thinks

August 24, 2022 

By Al-Ahed News

An infographic detailing the some of the most significant details in the life of Russian political researcher Alexander Dugin.

Ideologies are no longer the way we know them and this means that the world is being reconfigured

July 17, 2022

Source

By Guilherme Wilbert

I try to bring a reflection in most of my texts about what competes for the international diplomatic and monetary future after Operation Z in Ukraine, but also, I always try to bring the ideological part into the discussion because this still makes many people’s heads spin. Or are Ukrainian flag-wavers not ideologized?

Capitalism and communism have always been enemies at their core, especially in their own archetypes, since communism is internationalist, while pure capitalism is just the simplest way of doing business: you give me money for what it is worth, and I give you the product.

It turns out that along with the collapse of communism after the Soviet collapse in 1991, capitalism has also spiraled, and its most vile forms are found in meta-capitalists and monopolizing companies, which distort the real meaning of free markets, open competition and more.

What happens is that some businessmen behave like communists with money because they use their companies to carry out monopolies and cartels around the world, with the simplest case being that of Brazil, which has a nation of 200 million people to more and only has 5 banks in Brazilian territory operating, these being: Banco do Brasil (created by D. João VI of Portugal during the Brazilian Empire), Caixa Econômica Federal (which is a kind of banking autarchy of the Brazilian Federal Government), Itaú, Santander and Bradesco.  Even HSBC was strong in the country, but could not stand it and closed its operation last decade.

The case of Brazil is a clear example of a country that fell victim to the metacapitalists, even though it had a leftist government like the Workers Party led by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of the country.

And this proves how even orthodox socialism, which is the case of the ideology-north of the Workers Party of Brazil, can be eroded by metacapitalism and its bad ways of doing business.

The point is that cartels, monopolies, oligopolies are distorted forms of capitalism, which look very much like a communist quasi-statist economy because the monopolizer behaves like a communist strong state. And this destroys the sense that is used to identify a communist or capitalist militancy in some countries because the real goals of the ideologies cited here are not made explicit up front. This makes for a dumb and innocuous militancy that sometimes is fighting for the same things without realizing it.

While the communist militant likes a strong State that monopolizes natural resources or not, the meta-capitalist also likes the State because it helps him to make and maintain his monopoly. That is why it is not rare to see people like George Soros, prominent bankers, supporting wealth taxes, for example, because it would be a way for them to continue using the state territory to carry out their monopolies and cartels.

Another practical example coming from Brazil are telephone lines: the country has only 4 cell phone companies, with one (Oi Telecomunicações) in receivership because it is in bad shape.

During Lula’s communist government in the country, the banks had the highest profits, several newspapers reported at the time.  This is a clear proof of the distortion of the communist discourse that usually carries the popular feeling but sometimes only makes its leaders richer and more powerful and more brutal.

Fidel Castro, who died richer than Queen Elizabeth II, it is said.

And a global international reconfiguration is happening right now, with the various economic blocs of countries in the Global South becoming closer together.

This is also because of the ideological capitalist exhaustion due to monopolizing meta-capitalism, or communism, when the exacerbated statization and planned economy is proving wrong again in the countries, making the real economy of production take over the discourse and making smarter heads.

Wars still happen because of ideologies, but they can be stopped by them too

When the clash of civilizations happened in 2019, with the world distrusting China for being bad at preserving Covid-19 cases, as well as trying lockdowns recently that destroyed the global supply chain of production, a lot of bad thought was given to a strong and sovereign state like China’s, especially the more ideologized ones, who blamed the country’s trademark hammer and sickle as the cause of the problems plaguing the world at the time. Except that today, 3 years later, China, which is clearly totally ideologized, may be guiding some parts of the Global South towards an inter-country integration that involves the monetary, diplomatic and trade issues. In other words, the China that would have caused the Covid-19 problem for some ideologues, may be the same country that can save the global economy when the dollar collapses. And it will collapse. It is just a matter of time.

While NATO, which carries an air of the cold war because it still exists even after the end of the Warsaw Pact, is trying to emulate a kind of international police force, going against the very name of the military organization, which in theory would only be in the North Atlantic Sea, today it is already in Asia and Oceania. In what is seen as the opposite thinking of the leaders of Eurasia and the Global South.

Some diplomats from within NATO have even talked about “Global NATO”. What is this if not a trace of colonialism ingrained in the Atlanticist organization to stand up to the enthusiasts of multipolarity, who have sometimes ended up being characterized by the flags with sickle and hammer?

The clearest point I try to make is that ideologies have been eroded by the mistakes or successes of their own leaders, distorting the orthodox common sense of centuries-old doctrines like communism for example. This was seen when the US opened the international market to China, which made them the second global economy today.

But there was also no good interpretation from the West towards Russia for example, which today is a totally different country from the Soviet Union, and could have become an ally. Which would totally change the scenario we are living today.

So ideologies can stop or make wars, either by capitalism or by communists.

Capitalism at war means monopolies arising, while communists at war means massive genocides arising.

Corroded ideology is not necessarily a bad thing, but it shows a breakdown in thinking in society

Ideologies arise as a way of trying to organize models of government, and several of them have even been criminalized around the world due to the massacres they have carried out. But at the same time, this does not mean that they will cease to exist.

When a society thinks 50% one thing and another half thinks 50% another thing, this means that there is a polarity of thoughts that can only lead to chaos and barbarism, because the people, hungry or in difficulty, are not able to come to a consensus, and then authoritarianism and popular uprisings arise.

The corrosion of ideologies, be they capitalist or communist, was something that would happen naturally because time goes on proving some points that have always been pushed by the enthusiasts of such as absolute truths, which are lies.

Several are the cases of communist countries that collapsed and several are the countries that collapse because of meta-capitalism. This is why we must abandon ideologies and simple ways of thinking when it comes to a nation, a homeland.

A homeland is much bigger than a 19th-century German writing. A nation is much bigger and means much more than a Politburo.

Capitalism and communism behave today as different sides of the same coin, with their owners and enthusiasts having the same origins.  Instead of studying the end result, look for the cause. Many coincidences can arise.


Guilherme Wilbert is a Brazilian law graduate interested in geopolitics and international law.

Yellow Vest Win: Proving that Western Liberal Democracy is the same old autocracy

June 27, 2022

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

Source

by Ramin Mazaheri

If we say that the Yellow Vests are not socialist revolutionaries even latently, then what are they protesting about?

To put it the most simply: they are protesting the end of European Social Democracy, with the limited protections it provided.

(This is the seventeenth chapter in a new book, France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best ValuesPlease click here for the article which announces this book and explains its goals.)

The Yellow Vests intuited that the pan-European project has ended the era of European Social Democracy (1945-75) and replaced it with elite-driven, free market, winner-take-all Liberalism.

Seeing that their list of 43 demands doesn’t include the word “Europe” once, however, the Yellow Vests don’t really grasp that the European Union represents the organisational assassin of European Social Democracy. The European Union and Eurozone’s response to the Great Recession made it entirely clear: these are institutions which are perfectly hostile to Social Democracy’s minor redistributions and protections which fundamentally embolden the average worker and citizen.

Social Democracy was not born after World War II, just as “neoliberalism” was first on display back in 1871, with what was imposed after the destruction of the Paris Commune. Marx chronicled the birth of European Social Democracy, in 1848, when the Mountain Party (which initially claimed the mantle of neo-Jacobinism) sided with the small-traders in the June Days massacre instead of with the urban proletariat and rural peasantry, as the Jacobins had done in 1789. They went from supporting Socialist Democracy to calling themselves Democratic Socialists (Démocrate-socialistes) and this – and not the downward slope from Napoleon Bonaparte to Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte – should be considered the truest essence of Marx’s famous line of history repeating itself as farce.

“The revolutionary point was thereby broken off from the social demands of the proletariat and a (social) democrat turn given to them….”

That was the birth of Social Democracy: an ideology where the social demands of the recently-feudal masses (decent pay, health care, education, pensions, etc.) get only partially addressed while the political demands of an aristocracy opposing an absolute monarch (free speech, property rights, trial by jury, etc.) are fully met. Liberalism has always sought to limit progressive changes to the political question of how to move on from feudalism, and to stop progressive changes to the social question of how to move on from feudalism. The reformist ideology of Social Democracy has operated within Western Liberal Democracy for nearly 175 years and only partially prevailed for 30 of them.

The sooner the Yellow Vests realise that Social Democracy will never be a harmonious solution to the elitism dominant in Liberalism, the better, as Marx did:

“The peculiar character of Social Democracy is epitomised in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as the means, not to remove the two extremes – capital and wage-slavery – but in order to weaken the antagonism and transform them into a harmonious whole.”

Putting capital primarily in the hands of the recently-feudal masses so they can provide the broad economic stability and success which would end wage- and debt-slavery has never been a goal of Social Democracy, from the Mountain Party to Leon Blum to Francois Mitterrand to Francois Hollande to the “Democratic Socialists of America” led by Bernie Sanders in the 21st century United States.

Yellow Vest: “We are not beggars! What is 100 euros only given one time? State taxes compose 60% of the price of gasoline, so calling it 100 euros is totally false – the people truly only receive 40 euros. This is election nonsense, but Macron won’t win votes with these crumbs.”

Marx continued in his examination of France and gave us the key to the capitalist culture of both Liberal and Social Democracies: “This substance is the transformation of society along (Social) democratic lines, but a transformation within the boundaries of the small-trader’s class.” One extraneous sentence later: “It believes rather that the special conditions for its own emancipation are the general conditions under which alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle be avoided.”

Trotsky and the Yellow Vests saw that, due to the rise of financial capitalism, a leftist alliance must include the small businessman, but they reject the goal of Social Democracy to elevate their virtues and needs over those of the average worker and citizen.

Thus even when Social Democracy prevails in Liberalist capitalist cultures the virtues of the usually bourgeois-aspiring, individualistic, managerial small-trader class become the highest virtues to be promoted. Everyone must be a self-interested, competitive entrepreneur who aspires to be a boss and a “job creator”. This veneration of the small trader is the most obvious in American culture, and it is American culture which has been imposed on France via the pan-European project: at the alleged “end of history”, with the fall of the USSR, the United States shepherded the pan-European project, which is rightly said to be even more Liberalist (i.e. Bankocratic) than anything which could be created in the United States.

What we see in the modern era, and as this book proves, is that Liberalism, Social Democracy and Fascism have all joined together and “become bourgeois”. This amalgam of 18th century Liberalism, 19th century Social Democracy and 20th century fascism is ultimately not different from the aristocracy of the 17th century and earlier, which which ruled the 99% in an entirely autocratic manner. The extremely modest expansion of wealth and political power from a blood/marriage line to a line of the super-wealthy 1% still results in the exclusion of the recently-feudal masses from policy making, and this is what the Yellow Vests emphatically reminded. Their primary demand was not Socialist revolution but merely to get more public opinion into public policymaking.

The bourgeois bloc continually dangles Social Democracy as a reformist possibility, and thus they secure the loyalty of both the big and the small bosses and owners. However, when the moment of implementation comes, amid the next guaranteed bust in Liberalist capitalism, the response is the anti-Socialist virulence of Liberalism via the ruthless elite domination of a Fascism which has made peace with big capital.

Yellow Vest: “Macron’s repeatedly evaded the main problems. His solutions are not concrete, and it is certain that in a few months we will just be in the same situation. This is why we will keep protesting, for certain.”

Baudelaire wrote, “The most beautiful trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist,” and this is what modern Western Liberal Democracy has done with the elitism, arrogance and autocracy which is the basis of absolute monarchy. Macron’s “Jupiterian” remove has pulled the sheet off of Western Liberal Democracy, again, and reminded that the idea of an autocratic ruler remains the preference of a Western elite which has always been totally opposed to Socialist-inspired measures.

The republican lie of Liberalism

When Western leaders communicate among themselves and with their foreign counterparts they use the language of Liberalism; when they implement policy they use the ruthlessness of Fascism; but when they communicate with the masses they know that republican language is paramount.When Western leaders communicate among themselves and with their foreign counterparts they use the language of Liberalism; when they implement policy they use the ruthlessness of Fascism; but when they communicate with the masses they know that republican language is paramount.

This is especially true in France and the United States, where royalism has been fully discredited from holding public power. Thus, there is a constant emphasis by contemporary French leaders and their mainstream media on maintaining “republican” values.

However, the republicanism of both is an antiquated one as it is based on Liberal and not Socialist Democracy. A perfect example of the inadequacy of their elite-led republicanism is found in the Orwellian name of the group which wages the actual physical repression of the Yellow Vests: the detested CRS riot police (Compagnies républicaines de sécurité – Republican Security Companies.) A woman wearing a full-body bathing suit – a “burkini” (combination of “burqa” and “bikini”) is breathlessly presented as a bigger threat to French republicanism than the repression of the Yellow Vests. Most obviously, there is the mainstream conservative party’s name change shepherded by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2015 – from L’Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP) to les Républicains: the party had so many corruption scandals that a rebranding was deemed unavoidable.

Such is the false republicanism in Liberal Democracies.

The lip service towards republicanism allows the perpetuation of the outdated notion in France that the world still views them as the brightest beacon of progressive politics. They are different than almost all of Northern Europe, where royals still – bewilderingly – remain on thrones which hide mountains of the public’s rightful riches and influence. Indeed, an Iranian can find in France a refuge from the common Western toleration and whitewashing of monarchism.

The elite in the United States uses “freedom”, while monarchies like the UK use “human rights” in the same way – to insist that freedom and human rights for their modern aristocracies still represents the pinnacle of progressivism.

The legacy of 1789 exists in France today only in this constant demand to uphold “republicanism”, even if it is not at all the spirit of 1789 and only mouths its forms. The Yellow Vest repression will remind all of history that the freedoms offered by the republicanism of Western Liberal Democracy with French characteristics are a fantasy – there is only the autocracy of the bourgeois bloc.

France’s 21st century belief that “the republic” must jingoistically unite the French is ultimately a means used to falsely claim the legacy of 1789 while also ensuring that talk for progressive politics ends with this very initial answer to the “political question”, and with no answer to the “social question”, as well.

This also explains why there is so much forced discussion in France about what a huge threat Islam poses to this immoral republicanism: Islam correctly insists on God and morality being the highest allegiance, and certainly not laws forced through by a Fascist-allying, imperialist bourgeois bloc.

Nothing is more Liberalist than the European Union, and thus the ‘Social Fascist’ repression of anti-austerity movements and the Yellow Vests

We have already linked the European Union with the birth of neoliberalism and neo-imperialism, we have established how Fascism was subsumed and its tactics adopted, and we have shown how the goal of the third restoration of Western Liberalism is to roll back the modest gains of Social Democracy.

All that’s needed is to show how Western Liberal Democracy wields the power of the state as autocratically as royal families and their coteries used to – for this we simply have to look to the Yellow Vests.

Western Liberal Democracy and pre-1789 autocracy – there is no real difference.

Whether the form is a parliamentary republic based on Liberalism, or an executive-led republic based on Liberalism, or a constitutional monarchy based on Liberalism – the autocracy has been the same. Only the truly elite have the money to buy Liberalist rights and influence in public policy.

Yellow Vest: “As usual, no prison for the rich – everything goes fine for them, always. They never know hunger or poverty, but put everything on the average person’s back. Benalla should have been treated like anyone else – justice should be equal for everyone.”

Just as the trends of 250 years of Iranian or Chinese history can be summarised so too can the trend of the past 250 years of French and Western history, and this book has aimed to do that. Above all the trend of moving away from an autocratic monarch and towards an empowered people’s republic is discerned. The problem has been Western Liberal Democracy’s conception of a republic: what they have always had is an oligarchic republic, inspired by the English, which aims for perpetual repression of the recently-feudal (to Asian conceptions of time!) Western masses.

The early years of all revolutionary republics are always fraught with missteps and mistakes, but made with the sincere goal of broad societal progress. In 1789 the move away from absolute monarchy was met with great difficulty and international opposition. In 1848 the move away from a limited monarchy was met with great difficulty, also caused by great inexperience. In 1871 the move towards a social republic was met with great difficulty and international opposition, also caused by great inexperience. But inexperience is not the primary difficulty of the people today – they know how to rule, but they still face great international opposition. As Marx wrote:

“The cry of ‘social republic’ with which the February Revolution (of 1848) was ushered in by the Paris proletariat, did but express a vague aspiration after a republic that was not only to supersede the monarchical form of class rule but class rule itself. The Commune (i.e. the first appearance of Socialist Democracy) was the positive form of that republic.”

However, the social republic was annihilated by neoliberalism and would not appear until 1917 in the eastern frontier of Europe – Russia.

The Yellow Vests reminded those in the 21st century who believe that the “end of history” had occurred in 1991 that the people’s desires for a social republic are no longer vague. However the Yellow Vests have had the misfortune of living in the world’s only region – the West – where socialist-inspired revolutionary cultures have never won implantation.

To their great credit, the Yellow Vests created a revolutionary condition for all of France. When it was thwarted by Liberal Democratic politicians, media and unions the Yellow Vests continued to march to keep promoting what may truly turn into a revolutionary culture at the next major uprising over Liberalism’s endemic failures. The Yellow Vests have created a vast and reliable network – there’s no doubt they will spring into action at the next opportunity.

The next political progression for the Yellow Vests is the realisation that the pan-European project only dangled the illusion of mere Social Democracy, but that its “neoliberal” basis is actually Fascist and autocratic to its very core.

The analysis of that splendidly successful revolutionary Bolshevik, Trotsky, must be remembered today if the Yellow Vests are to break with the perpetual illusion of mere Social Democracy:

The program of the Communist International has the following to say on this subject: Side by side with the Social Democracy, which assists the bourgeoisie to stifle the proletariat and to lull its vigilance, Fascism appears.’ The Communist International failed to understand that it is not the mission of Fascism to function side by side with the Social Democracy, but to destroy all the existing workers’ organizations, including the reformist. The task of Fascism, in the words of the program, is to ‘annihilate the Communist strata of the proletariat, and their leading cadres.’ Fascism, then, does not at all threaten the Social Democracy and the reformist trade unions; on the contrary, the Social Democracy itself plays a “Fascist” role to an ever increasing degree. Fascism achieves nothing more than the consummation of the labours of reformism, by functioning ‘side by side with the Social Democracy’.” (Emphasis his)

The Communist Bolsheviks rejected mere Social Democracy and instead used Socialist Democracy as their guiding structure ideology, as do Socialist-inspired countries today, who then adapt its primary economic and political imperatives to local cultures and mores. They saw that Social Democracy and Fascism work together to destroy not just Socialist Democracy-inspired groups, unions, parties, countries, etc, but also groups, unions, parties and countries which attempt Social Democratic reforms of Liberalism. As time goes on the Yellow Vests will realise, thanks to their own repression, that Liberal Democracy and Social Democracy offer them no solution except the destruction of the Yellow Vests.

One sentence later – in which Trotsky expressed his usual disapproval with the Moscow-based Comintern – Trotsky continued:

We have here before us all the basic elements of the theory of social fascism. The leaders of the Communist International failed to understand that capitalism in decay is no longer able to come to terms with the most moderate and most servile Social Democracy, either as a party in power, or as a party in opposition. It is the mission of Fascism to take its place not ‘side by side with the Social Democracy’, but on its bones. Precisely from this there flows the possibility, the need and the urgency for the united front.” (Emphasis his)

(Recall that a united front (joining together in society’s leftist struggles), is not the same as a popular front (an electoral alliance).)

Call it what you want: Social Fascism, Liberalism, autocracy, Fascism, constitutional monarchy, rule by the 1% – it is all the same oligarchic autocracy for the recently-feudal masses. I call it Western Liberal Democracy to properly place it in a geographic and historical context.

As soon as the Yellow Vests stop trying to win back the Social Democratic measures which Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Hollande and Macron rolled back, the sooner they will realise that Socialist-inspired countries have shown a better way, method and goal. Without a major reformulation of the pan-European project – which seems impossible to get off the ground in a Liberalist-dominated media – the pan-European project’s initial lure of even greater Social Democratic gains should be seen only as a chimera.

The Yellow Vests know enough to reject existing establishment institutions, as well as pathetic PFAXIst (Popular Fronts Against Xenophobia but for Imperialism) electoral strategies – they must realise the monarchist-elitist-reformist-fascist alliance which is Western Liberal Democracy must be rejected in favor of Socialist Democracy.

That, of course, will lead to even more repression.

But their bravery will earn them more and more comrades; their correctness will only increase as the repression accumulates; the guaranteed cycles of failure in capitalism and the clockwork greed of high finance all make the move away from autocratic Liberalism certain.

The combination of royalism, Liberalism and Fascism is doomed, but people must be liberated from the long-outdated and pernicious influence of Liberalism before the next political advancement can take place. Thus the Yellow Vests, and thus this book, which is another humble tally of Liberalism’s failures.

Yellow Vest: “The people I speak with express absolutely no desire to stop the movement and remain very positive. The Yellow Vests are, above all, the French people, and the French people recognize this and this is why the movement will have a second wind.”

So admirably, The Yellow Vests have cleared the path for France: the despairing working poor, middle and lower classes have a fighting force which can never, ever be called Fascistic. France is back to being the West’s leaders of progressive politics.

Marx’s most important passage on France – guiding France from 1789 to 2022 and beyond

Here we have the most important passage in Marx’s writings on France – from his writings on the Paris Commune – because it historically summarises a century of turbulent political and socio-economic changes and pinpoints the establishment of modern Western Liberal Democracy.

The passage covers the vital and obscured history of France for a century after 1789. The short parentheticals are mine and designed to add clarity to Marx’s meaning:

“If the parliamentary republic, as M. Theirs said, ‘divided them least’ (the different factions of the French ruling class in 1850), it opened an abyss between that class and the whole body of society outside their spare ranks. The restraints by which their own divisions had under former regimes still checked the state power were removed by their unionand in view of the threatening upheaval of the proletariat they now used that state power mercilessly and ostentatiously as the national (and imperialist) war engine of capital against labor.

In their uninterrupted crusade against the producing masses they were, however, bound not only to invest the executive with continually increased powers of repressionbut at the same time divest their own parliamentary stronghold – the National Assembly – one by one, of all its own means of defence against the Executive. The Executive, in the person of (President) Louis(-Napoleon) Bonaparte, turned them out. The national offspring of the ‘Party of Order’ (the dominant political party of the 2nd) Republic was the Second Empire (of Emperor Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte).

The (Second) empire, with the coup d’etat for its birth certificate, universal suffrage for its salvation and the sword for its sceptre, professed to rest upon the peasantry – the large mass of producers not directly involved in the struggle of capital and labor. It professed to save the working class by breaking down parliamentarianism and, with it, the undisguised subserviency of government to the propertied classes. It professed to save the propertied classes by upholding their economic supremacy over the working class; and, finally, it professed to unite all classes by reviving for all the chimera of national glory.

In reality it was the only form of government possible, at a time when the bourgeoisie had already lost, and the working class had not yet acquired, the faculty of ruling the nation. (As they would acquire, starting with the Paris Commune and then later the USSR, China, Iran, etc.) It (the 2nd French Empire) was acclaimed throughout the world as the saviour of society. Under its sway bourgeois society, freed from political cares, attained a development unexpected even by itself. Its industry and commerce expanded to colossal dimensions; financial swindling celebrated cosmopolitan orgies (Marx uses this last word literally, per scandals of the time); the misery of the masses was set off by a shameless display of gorgeous, meretricious and debased luxury. The state power, apparently soaring high above society, was at the same time itself the very scandal of that society and the very hotbed of all its corruptions. Its own rottenness, and the rottenness of the society it had saved (i.e. the bourgeois elite of the 2nd Republic), were laid bare by the bayonet of Prussia, herself eagerly bent upon transferring the supreme seat of that regime from Paris to Berlin.”

The globalist descendants of the victors of 1871 would eventually comprise on Brussels instead of Berlin. Belgium – the country fabricated so that France and Germany would have a place to fight their wars, it is often joked – became “the seat of that regime”.

Yellow Vest: “We are not proud, at least not yet, because we have many more victories to accomplish. We insist on having referendums initiated by citizens, in order to democratically give a voice to all of France and to the Yellow Vests. We will keep marching to ensure that our common future is serene and peaceful.”

If we make only minor substitutions in Marx’s passage to include contemporary developments, does this not make an up-to-date history of France and Europe covering over two centuries?

If the pan-European project “divided them least” (the different factions of national ruling classes in Europe) least, it opened an abyss between that class and the whole body of society outside their spare ranks. The restraints by which their own divisions had under former regimes still checked the state power were removed by their union; and in view of the threatening upheaval of the Yellow Vests they now used that state power mercilessly and ostentatiously as the international war engine of capital against labor.

In their uninterrupted crusade against the producing masses they (the pan-European project) were, however, bound not only to invest the national executive branches with continually increased powers of repression, but at the same time divest their own national parliamentary branches, one by one, of all its own means of defence against the Executive. The Executive, in the person of a modern Louis Bonaparte (or something new and revolutionary, perhaps similar to the Supreme Leader branch of government in Iran)could not be allowed to have turned them – Brussels – out. The national offspring of the pan-European project was the neoliberal Empire of the European Union.

The empire, with the fall of the USSR for its birth certificate, denying the national referendums which rejected the European Union and which were based on universal suffrage for its salvation and the sword for its sceptre, professed to rest upon the neo-peasantry – the large mass of producers not directly involved in the struggle of capital and labor and who desired to avoid more intra-European wars, free movement around Europe and the strengthening of a Social Democratic safety net. It also professed to save the working class by breaking down national parliamentarianism and, with it, the undisguised subserviency of government to the propertied classes. It professed to save the propertied classes by upholding their economic supremacy over the working class; and, finally, it professed to unite all classes by reviving for all the chimera of supranational glory via colluding with the United States to enforce Liberalist values worldwide.

In reality it was the only form of government possible, at a time when the bourgeoisie had fully acquired the faculty of ruling the nation, something they had no experience with in 1848. It (the pan-European project) was acclaimed throughout the West as the saviour of European society. Under its sway bourgeois society, freed from political cares, such as the profit drags and democratic nuisances created by the era of Social Democracy, attained a development unexpected even by itself. Its industry and commerce expanded to colossal dimensions; financial swindling celebrated cosmopolitan orgies; the misery of the masses was set off by a shameless display of gorgeous, meretricious and debased luxury. The state power, apparently soaring high above society, was at the same time itself the very scandal of that society and the very hotbed of all its corruptions. Its own rottenness, and the rottenness of the society it had saved – the royals threatened by 1789, the bourgeois threatened by 1848, the colluding Social Democrats threatened by 1917 and the Fascists threatened by 1945 – were laid bare by the bayonet of the Yellow Vests, herself eagerly bent upon transferring the supreme national seat of that regime from Brussels back to Paris.”

France is not Cuba, Iran, China or even Southern Lebanon – it will likely take a civil war for the Yellow Vests to ever use bayonets to finally win political and economic redistribution. However, the Yellow Vests emphatically prove the willingness of Western Liberal Democracy to use violence just as brutally as the autocracies of 1788.

The Yellow Vests also remind that Western Liberal Democracy does not even allow the rights which Liberalism claims to protect – how long can that persist in a country which regularly demands the right to publicly exercise such rights, and whose pens have been freed by the digital era?

If the French elite is not going to permit even the basic rights of Liberalism, then France needs a defensive force which can protect the Liberalist rights of protesters. That is the subject of the next chapter.

<—>

Upcoming chapter list of France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values.

Publication date: July 1, 2022.

Pre-orders of the Kindle version may be made here.

Pre-orders of the French Kindle version may be made here.

Chapter List of the new content

Europe’s Third Attempt at Suicide and Generation Z+

June 27, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

‘The next war in Europe will be between Russia and Fascism, except that Fascism will be called Democracy.’

Fidel Castro, c. 1992

Introduction

Europe is a serial suicide. The first attempt began in Sarajevo in 1914 and finished in Versailles in 1919. The second began a generation later in Warsaw in 1939 and ended in Berlin in 1945. Having very nearly succeeded at the second attempt (it missed atomic bombs by mere months), Europe sobered up and slowed down, waiting till the centenary of 1914 before it tried for the third time. This attempt began in Kiev, again in Eastern Europe, in 2014 and is continuing in the Special Military Operation (SMO). At every attempt Europe has lost. The first time it lost three empires (the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the German), the second time two Empires, the fatally weakened British and French, so ensuring the supremacy of the American Empire in Europe, as in the rest of the world.

What will Europe lose this time? It will lose the only Empire remaining – the EU. When? Only some time after the conclusion of the SMO. Now, it would be foolish to predict with exactitude when that, which is the culmination of Europe’s third attempted suicide, will be. It could all be over in early July. Alternatively it could drag on for years. However, both those outcomes are extreme possibilities and there are other possibilities inbetween. Nevertheless, some tendencies are clear. It is only the extent and speed at which they will progress that is uncertain. In any case, whatever happens in the Ukraine, Europe will be reformatted. It will never be the same again. The seed sown by the Western elite in Kiev in 2014 is being reaped today in the harvest of division, discontent and poverty in Europe.

If we look at the three aims of the Special Military Operation, we can see that the first and second aims, the liberation of the Donbass and demilitarisation, are both 75% done, despite new arrivals of Western arms to prolong the agony. However, the reality is also that the operation has had to be much extended from the Donbass to the east and south of the Ukraine and there we are not even 50% done. However, the third aim, the denazification of the Ukraine, has not even begun and cannot begin until the murderous Zelensky regime has been replaced with a government which actually cherishes the independence and cultural traditions of the Ukraine. Then it will no longer be a servile chimpanzee of the LGBT West and its Nulands who, very politely speaking, have no time for Europe.

Military

Some have criticised the Allied Special Operation in the Ukraine. After four months, they say, not even the whole of the Donbass has yet been liberated. Such critics should get out of their armchairs and go and fight against NATO. We would soon see how fast they would go. Why has progress been ‘slow’? Firstly, because though the Allied Forces are small in size, they are fighting against the vast bulk of the Kiev Army, which has been trained, retrained, supplied and resupplied and dug into its fortified positions by NATO over eight years. Secondly, because the Allies are trying to avoid civilian casualties and of course casualties to themselves. That is not easy when Kiev is using civilians as human shields and shelling from residential areas. The Allies will not carpet-bomb like the West. There is no hurry.

However, with the very recent events in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, the gateway to the whole of Central and Western Ukraine is being opened. Thus, we read the report on 25 June: ‘The Office of the President ordered the transfer of all reserves from the Mykolaiv/Odessa/Kharkiv direction for a counterattack in the Severodonetsk direction’. In other words, Kiev has only reserves left and it wants to transfer all of them. This sounds like desperation – the end is near. Judging by the quality of Kiev’s reserves so far, this will be a walkover. And that firstly presumes that the reserves will be willing to be massacred. And that secondly presumes that they can be transferred when all around the roads are occupied by Allied troops, or are controlled by Russian radar, artillery, drones and aircraft.

Most significantly of all, this means that Mykolaiv/Odessa/Kharkiv will be left more or less defenceless, without even reserves. According to serious Western data, Ukrainian military losses are about 200,000 killed with nearly three quarters of military equipment and ammunition destroyed. In just four months. This is catastrophic. If even Western spies from MI6, the BRD and Poland say this, then there is little future or hope for the US puppets in Kiev. We can only expect military collapse and the formation of a new government, authentically pro-Ukrainian (that is anti-American) and therefore pro-Russian. What happens after the liberation of the Ukraine? The liberation of Moldova? Of the Baltics? We do not know. But if aggressive NATO/EU sabre-rattling continues, all is possible.

Economic, Political and Ideological

As we know, the Western anti-Russian sanctions, have been a self-imposed economic disaster, an own goal. Blowback has been nasty. Dedollarisation is happening. Pay in roubles, please. Now. Food, fertiliser, oil, gas, all are rocketing in price, and it is not winter. Popular discontent and street demonstrations in Western Europe are mounting. In France the Rothschild candidate Macron has lost control of the French Parliament to the left and to the right. In the UK the ‘delusional’ (the word of members of his own Party) Johnson (a man condemned by his own as ‘an opportunistic journalist who has at his heart a moral vacuum’) is seen as a liability, who will lead the Tory Party to annihilation in any election. We will not speak here of other nonentities like Scholz, Draghi, Trudeau and Biden.

Then there is the formation of alternatives to the Western bloc. A new G8/BRICS+? Russia has seen plenty of discreet and not so discreet support from China, India, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Iran, Indonesia, Africa (from Egypt to South Africa), Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Argentina, Hungary…. That is, from the aptly-named ‘emerging’ world on all five Continents, from those who have raw materials and manufacturing infrastructure. They want to emerge from the ruins of colonialism and neo-colonialism. The isolated West, the US, Canada, UK, EU, Australia, has few friends outside its inward-looking little world. There are just a few occupied vassals in Asia, like Israel, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, who are forced to buy Western arms in order to stop themselves being liberated from themselves, and that is it.

Even the mercenaries of the State-controlled Western media are beginning to go back on their State-paid lies. They are used to turning everything on its head, to inverting it all. Thus, the Russian Army was composed of ‘demoralised and untrained raw conscripts’, who had suffered ‘massive losses’ and ‘lacked fuel and ammunition’, ‘raped children and murdered’, were ‘in full retreat’ and bombed and shelled ‘residential areas and civilians’. Just change the word ‘Russian’ to ‘Kiev’ and we are a lot nearer the truth. Does anybody believe these media lies any more? Surely only the living dead? It must be embarrassing for these hacks who have been telling, or rather were ordered to tell, the opposite of the truth. They used to report their dreams as reality. Now they have to report reality – their worst nightmares.

Conclusion: The Age of Empires Is Over

After the Western defeats, or rather routs, in Iraq and Afghanistan, NATO has no military or political future. In fact, it should have been abolished after the fall of the USSR. The Ukraine (or whatever it will be called in whatever borders it will have when its liberation is complete) is Russian. Just forget it, NATO. You have already lost. The expansion of NATO into Asia? What a joke. Taiwan is Chinese, as will be all the Western Pacific. Just forget it, NATO. You have already lost. The American Century which began in February/March 1917 with the palace revolt by corrupt aristocrats and generals in the Russian Empire, carefully orchestrated from London and New York, is over. Europe no longer needs to attempt suicide, let alone succeed. You are free to restore the sovereignty of your nation states.

The fact is that the Age of Empires is over. 1917 signalled the beginning of this. In 1991 the Red Star (USSR) Empire collapsed. Today the White Star (USSA) Empire, with its Twelve-Star EU (USSE) vassal Empire in tow, is collapsing, and for exactly the same reason: because nobody believes in their ideologies any more. Both Communism and Capitalism have failed. Now is the Age of Free Alliances of Sovereign Nations. What is the future of Europe after its third failed attempt at suicide? It is in reintegrating the Sovereignty of Eurasia, protected by the Russian resource umbrella. The Atlantic never united Europe, it divided Europe. If those who live across the Atlantic want to rediscover from us how to start living normal lives again, they can. But it will be on our terms, those of our Sovereignty, not on theirs.

We have spoken of the Special Military Operation as the culmination of Europe’s third attempted suicide. We have said that Europe will never be the same again after it. This is because, unless Europe is really serious this time about suicide (and it has managed to avoid it twice before), this Operation Z is going to split up the tyrannical Western world, EU and UK Europe, from the USA. It is Operation Z+. And who are we, those who will survive? We are Generation Z+. We are those who will come ‘out of great tribulation’ and survive. We are those who are going to live in the real Global world, not in the Western bubble Globalist world. We are the real Europeans of ancient and new European history, who refused to commit suicide, the Sovereign Europeans. Reality is dawning at last.

The Depravity of the Armchair Communists

May 22, 2022

Source

By Kahlil Wall-Johnson

The inter-imperialist camp, as it has been called, has dedicated itself to painting the Ukraine conflict strictly in terms of inter-imperialist struggle. In their dedication to this interpretation, they have committed to a series of surprisingly extravagant claims, some of which I intend to gather here and hold up to the light. However, it is this camp’s total lack of scruples, specifically when it comes to their sources, that has compelled me to object. Having said this, I find it necessary to reassure the reader that what follows is not (unlike the pieces being critiqued) a rant on how we ought to interpret Lenin’s Imperialism, or even really an attempt to engage with theory. Nor is it a detailed comparison of the role of the US and Russia in the world-system. There is no need to repeat the many articles which have rebutted these claims and contrasted the specific nature of US imperialism to Chinese or Russian foreign policy and trade. Rather, what I am trying to scrape at here is their lazy and offensive attitude towards their sources; an attitude that is repeatedly criticized by the very authors they cite!

Interestingly, it is these individuals’ familiarity with many of the contours of US imperialism that has provided them with a premade template to project onto Russia’s behavior. This has led them to defend certain claims, which at times, even surpass those of the US corporate media. As teaser of what is to come, the figures of whom we are speaking write that “Ukranians are not oppressing Russians” and that “when Putin likens this behavior to genocide, he takes a page from the execrable Adrian Zenz” while going on to speak of “a Russian empire of lies,” and its plagiarism of the US “doctrine of humanitarian interventionism.”

Let us begin with a recent piece titled “‘Is Russia an imperialist country?’— That’s not the right question to ask?’ by a certain Greg Godels. The only potential merit that should be granted the author is that of almost taking a look at the idea of multipolarity through a historical perspective. There is a point to be made. Multipolarity is indeed an abstract concept; without a concrete analysis of the emerging poles, it is not necessarily desirable, nor, as he argues, anti-imperialist in the Leninist sense. Then there is also the problem of the extent to which the world can even reach, or stabilize at, a point of mutually independent sovereign states or empires. This could lead to the subsequent question of whether multipolarity —a potentially ambiguous buzzword, enjoyed principally in foreign policy documents and by foreign correspondents— is even an adequate tool through which to understand economic, military and political history. There is potential here for a rich debate. In fact, it has certainly already begun to take place. Unfortunately, after pointing out the abstract character of the principle at hand, Godels drifts further away from any potential concrete analysis to declare that, since multipolarity isn’t inherently anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist, today’s emerging world isn’t either and, most importantly, doesn’t deserve any support. What makes him think that multipolarity is being supported as an abstract principle, universally valid throughout history? Why assume we are not taking stock of actuality?

Laying claim to what Lenin would be saying of the present, Godels and others assume the all too familiar this-is-what-you-need-to-know-about-Ukraine tone. The Bolshevik leader is quoted relentlessly, leaving us no doubt as to whether or not they have read him. When not busy copy and pasting, their writing is completely devoid of the concrete analysis, so beloved by Lenin, which might back their inter-imperialist reading of the war in Ukraine. These pieces range from directly labeling Russia as an imperialist power, to more diffuse readings of Lenin in which Imperialism is presented as a project in which all capitalist states participate, regardless of their position in the hierarchy of national economies, and less as a trait circumscribed to certain powers. Regardless of the path chosen, at the end of the day Russia, and China, are irrevocably implicated in the imperialist project and any opportunities or potential that we might expect to be perceived by a self-described marxist-leninist in the weakening of the US empire, are dismissed on the grounds that the immanent multipolar world, of which Russia is often cast as the sole representative, is tainted by capitalism, or “enmeshed” in imperialism. In fact, these disciples of Lenin explicitly argue against the decline of the US empire representing an opportunity at all, reserving their support for a metaphysical parallel dimension in which they run simulations of a “radical change” pure enough for their ideals.

Beyond these moralistic arguments, history is marching forward— whether these Marxist-Leninists give it the greenlight or not. Despite their nostalgia for the “radical socialists” who “tried to adapt to reality,” their stream of revolutionary rhetoric rings hollow if it is out of rhythm with these developments. Even their source of identity —Lenin and his contemporaries—, while condemning WWI, actively factored its aftermath, a weakened capitalist core, into their calculations (‘the war to end all wars’). Even they recognized the objective nature of the forces at work; the war could not be detained— denounced? Yes, but only as a symptom of the system. Unlike these earnest, ethical interventions, echoing from the inter-imperialist camp demanding that “Russia must immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine and cease interfering in Ukrainian affairs,” while “The United States and its satellites must do the same,” Lenin’s pamphlets well above today’s anti-war petitions.

Before getting too bogged down in particular claims, we would be wise to catch the implicit assumption by which those who do not condemn Russia are supporting, or in favor of the conflict in some way. This is a particularly frustrating depiction of things, especially for those of us who were weary of it prior to February 24. Enough has been written on the series of events that led up to this moment; a series of events, which when considered in their totality, make condemnation of Russia a very stubborn task. The tragedy of the occasion is beyond question, yet beyond this fact, the inter-imperialist camp has shown remarkably little interest in both the specific events that led up to February 24, and the global consequences of a favorable or unfavorable outcome for Russia. Moreover, when the scope of US aggression, encirclement and even entrapment towards Russia is admitted to, they turn around and refuse to consider the gravity of these threats on a military or security level, insisting that it was merely the profit motives of Russian billionaires. Of course, that billionaires in Russia have faced choppy waters, or that the communist party of Russia supports, and called for, their country’s intervention, is deemed irrelevant, or in the latter case potential class treason. In any case, when one seeks to understand the series of events that led up to Russia’s intervention, as opposed to grafting Lenin quotes onto preconceptions, it is hard to think of what Russia could have done to avoid this outcome. These Marxist-Leninists should not be expected to share in Putin’s disavowal of socialism, however, his disdain for Soviet-era allocations of Russian-majority territories to Ukraine (Crimea, Eastern Ukraine) is not unfounded given the current circumstances.

It should also be understood that the present critique is neither directed at the general practice of recourse to Lenin, nor is it intended to rescue him from misuse. Rather, what we are taking aim at is this perspective, passed off as the work of “a good marxist” and “a good historian” (yes, these are real quotes), according to which the present situation would be best understood solely by drawing on literature from, and comparisons with, the early 20th century. Thus Godels repeatedly tells us that “The demise of the Soviet Union has freed the hand of imperialism, producing a world substantially congruent with early-twentieth-century imperialism.“ or that “Twenty-first-century imperialism shares more features with the imperialism of Lenin’s time than differences.” It is an interesting way of proceeding, in which both the past and the present must be significantly distorted, or selectively read, so as to resemble each other, while the differences between the two epochs are only admitted to insofar as “‘New’ great powers replaced or changed places with the line-up active in Lenin’s time.” Before poking any holes in this way of thinking, we might ask the representatives of this trend how they find it presentable to ignore the many contributions made to the field since the days of Lenin, and especially in the wake of Bretton Woods or the breakup of the USSR. Lenin is no doubt a starting point, sure, but how is it passable to present his diagnosis from 1916 as the bulk, if not entirety, of one’s contemporary perspective?

Let us take a look at another claim shared by Godels and some of his comrades in arms: “the attempt to impose multipolarity upon a world saddled with the domination of the British Empire was a critical factor leading to World War I,” which he invokes as a sort of cautionary tale against the dangers of welcoming multipolarity. We might start by asking if it is appropriate to compare the dominance of Britain, or the sterling zone, to that of the American Century and dollar hegemony, especially given the considerable independence of other pre-WWI powers (the Monroe Doctrine being almost a century old). Does a war, which saw the US begin to impose unipolarity, qualify as an attempt to impose multipolarity? Or perhaps, even more to the point, is it not a clumsy anachronism to impose the notion of multipolarity on the colonial world of 1916, which openly embraced imperialist ideology; a world, which regardless of the internal power struggles of Western Europe, was largely dominated by a community of states which for many decades operated as a coalition of colonial powers (i.e. the scramble for Africa)? Can a parallel really be drawn between the Axis powers’ struggle for colonies, and China and Russia’s foreign policy? Apparently so, as we shall see later. Formal similarities aside, must we ignore the particularites of each epoch so thoroughly for the sake of this parallel? In any case, this strained analogy requires both events to be warped to the extent that it is difficult to conceive of how one could aid in understanding the other, and immediately becomes problematic when we compare the contending powers of WWI and those of today. I can only wonder what a truly “good historian” would make of all this.

Regarding the dismissal of multipolarism, it should be noted that this argument depends on Russia, caricatured as a “ravaged former socialist state now owned by mega-billionaires” —with no legitimate security concerns, or internal class struggles, of her own— being cast as the sole representative of an emerging polispheric world. Accordingly, to the extent that the US empire’s decline is cautioned against on the grounds of Russia’s existence, China and other nations struggling against US dominance must either be denounced as capitalist, or be swept under the carpet for the sake of convenience. In the case of the Godels’ piece we have been focusing on, he opts for a mix of the two: the author’s sole reference to modern China is the following isolated statement: “PRC’s impressive entry into the global capitalist economy and subsequent remarkable growth threatens US hegemony, creating intensified competition and tensions.” Thus, far from being an alternative to US dominance, China is portrayed in an almost dangerous light, and is referred to on the sly via its initials (maybe we were supposed to forget about it). The same could be said of this brave theoretician’s declaration that without the USSR, the “the most viable economic scaffold for independent development outside of the imperialist system was eliminated.” We can only assume that the Belt and Road Initiative is either a touch too imperialist for his liking, or that he was hoping we would fail to remember.

Within this logic, the history leading up to Russia’s intervention is pounded into the mold of early 20th-century inter-imperialist competition; an act reminiscent of the “baroque conviction” (p. 293) criticized by Gramsci, and echoed by Losurdo, wherein one becomes more orthodox by seeing the world solely through the lense of economic incentive. In this particular case, the state is nothing more than the administrative branch of capital. As the latter noted, this reductionism “simplifies and flattens the complexity of historical and social processes.” Accordingly, these orthodox marxists, while fully aware of the unilateral nature of US aggression, reduce the war to a question of “whose billionaires are more important to you? The US’s or Russia’s?” Yet history has shown us that military concerns can reach existential levels, upon which the lens of economic incentives becomes relatively inadequate to understand the behavior of states: think of the Cuban missile crisis, or even the arms race from the perspective of the USSR. As Gustavo Bueno put it, the dialectic of class is incomplete without the dialectic of states. One need only remember the conviction of Michael Hudson, or other analysts, that Russia’s motives were primarily of a military nature. This is not to deny that economic outcomes were not factored in; the point is that they start to warp the picture when other factors are disregarded. Likewise, to assert that security concerns can reach existential levels is not to provide a cover story for Russia’s deeper imperialist ambitions. Although it should be said that the instantaneous rejection by many leftists of this particular casus belli is certainly linked to the desensitizing effect of US imperialism. Unfortunately, Godels and his comrades have gone as far as to declare that “Russia is mimicking US policy” and “the doctrine of humanitarian interventionism,” showing very little care for the history of Ukraine or the scope of the US empire.

Of course the trajectory of Russia’s billionaires must be considered, all of this is not meant to absolve them of their misdeeds, quite the opposite. The point is that, in reducing the conflict to the rivalry of two capitalist systems, there is no analysis of the particular development of capitalism in Russia as a creation of US imperialism. It is almost ignored that the people of Russia are more at war with US imperialism than they are with the billionaires of Russia. In fact the latter are its children! Given the havoc wreaked on Russia upon US penetration, it is insulting to write off the exploitation and suffering of the Russian working class as the doing of endogenous billionaires; the people are just as much the victims of US imperialism, while the billionaires are indebted to it. We might add that it was the very moderate limits the Russian state began to impose on its vulnerability and on the looting of its resources that led the US to escalate. Regardless of where you look, the history of this conflict does not agree with these heavily ideological distortions.

Similarly, this rigid, inter-imperialistic reading of Russia’s behavior comes hand in hand with assertion that this war is wholly detrimental to the Russian working class; a view most expounded by a presumed associate of Godels, Nikos Mottas. Here he speaks with remarkable confidence, hailing the stance of the Russian Communist Workers’ Party (RCWP) in opposition to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which is charged with having sold out. Clearly, there can be no mention of the fact that working class Russians have relatives in the war-torn regions of Ukraine, or that the ‘indivisibility of security’ against US aggression is in the interest of working class Russians as well. But even in the statements of the RCWP to which they refer, we find a much more tentative perspective than the one extracted by these ideologues, in fact, certain sentences are deceptively cited, ignoring the context of the broader argument. Yes, the statement is titled “No to fascism, no to imperialist war!,” and does go on to declare that “We have no doubts that the true aims of the Russian state in this war are quite imperialistic – to strengthen the position of imperialist Russia in world market competition,” yet, the very next sentence specifies that “since this struggle today to some extent helps the people of Donbass to repulse Bandera fascism, the communists in this part of it do not deny, but allow and support as much as it is waged against fascism in the Donbass and Ukraine.” The statement is adamant in its support for the intervention, going so far as to regret that “it happened late, much later than it should have” and stressing that “As long as Russia’s armed intervention helps save people in the Donbass from reprisals by punishers, we will not oppose this goal. In particular, we consider it acceptable if, due to circumstances, it is necessary to use force against the fascist Kyiv regime, insofar as this will be in the interests of the working people.” Compared to Mottas, the authors of this statement seem to take the issue of nazism rather seriously!

Most notably, the statement contains no denouncement of Russia’s actions so far, quite the opposite, and repeatedly stresses the need to watch attentively for a potential predatory turn. Disappointingly, here Mottas deceptively confirms his thesis by pasting the last sentence of the second-to-last paragraph: “Not the masters but the workers will die on both sides. To die for class brothers is worthy, but to die and kill for the interests of the masters is stupid, criminal and unacceptable,” omitting that the first sentence is a conditional clause discussing “the possibility of the military campaign of assistance to the Donbass from Russia… developing into a truly completely predatory war,” in which case “We will regard this as a war of conquest.”

Indeed, the statement assumes the aforementioned diffuse definition of imperialism, however its criticism of recent events is deeply measured, and it problematizes its own framework. Both the statement and Mottas agree that the true source of the conflict was not humanitarian, yet while the latter emphasizes its inter-imperialist nature to indict Russia, the statement is open in its identification of US aggression, even citing the revival of fascism! Interestingly, what we find in the RCWP statement is well beyond the moralistic logic of the inter-imperialist camp, as they explicitly posit the possibility of recognizing that Russia is implicated in imperialism, while insisting on supporting their countries actions so far in Ukraine! Thus, contrary to Mottas and co, they are aligned with the diagnostic and tactical dimension of Lenin’s work, as opposed to turning to him for an ethical guide on what can, or cannot be, supported. The piece actually justifies its support for its country, which it nevertheless defines as having imperialistic motives. Is this to say that in certain cases we must choose between nations with imperialistic elements? Must the puritans recant their support for this statement as well? In any case, I recommend that the reader skim over the short statement, if only to grasp the extent to which it has been distorted.

As if that weren’t enough, Mottas then fixes his gaze on the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), which certainly deserves to be criticized for a great many of its positions and policies. However in this case, the PCE’s calling for “the dissolution of NATO” is ridiculed as hypocrisy simply because the PCE has formed a small part of the coalition government for the past several years. Apparently government officials are hypocritical if they criticize state policy. By this logic, one wonders just what exactly politicians are expected to do. He presumably sent the PCE an email in which he told them that if they wanted his support, they must resign and resort to blogging as the sole means of expressing political views.

Another case study in this tendency is Stephen Gowans who, it should be noted, cites Domenico Losurdo and appears to hold him in high esteem. The latter will be of use here, frequently, as a considerable portion of his work is dedicated to questioning the very same current in which the inter-imperialist camp finds itself (or fails to find itself, but can be found we should say). As with the previous statement, we will quote him to great length, not out of deference but rather to display the total lack of scruples of those who twist his work to their ends.

Gowans incurs in the same logic described earlier: China and Russia are branded as capitalist (leaving little to no room for distinctions between economic structures with vastly different magnitudes and dynamics), and equated with the US. Then their rivalry with the US is reduced to inter-capitalist competition and, voila, conflated with imperialism. Given this disdain for all “competitive actions’‘ and self-interest on behalf of states (his telltale signs of imperialism) we can only guess that he would feel more comfortable with other nations if they offered no competition at all to the US and hermetically sealed themselves off from international trade. One can only wonder if these individuals consider the USSR’s foreighn policy to have been completely devoid of competition and self-service? Or maybe socialism has never existed for them, except in Cuba maybe, where the blockade has kept them pure from market forces. They must prefer their socialists “poor but beautiful;” a position which Losurdo repeatedly attacks and condemns in his many responses to this very same rejection of contemporary Chinese policy.

As you will soon see, the extent to which Gowans so perfectly embodies a number of positions which Losurdo disapproves of is comical. Gowans’ ideas are wholly incompatible with the Losurdo book he quotes, and hasn’t read or has intentionally disregarded the Italian philosopher’s work on China or Stalin, where Losurdo shows himself to be one of the most forthright defenders of ‘socialism with chinese characteristics.’ But above all, Losurdo’s work is largely a critical assessment of the millenarian hopes for the “end to classes and states altogether” or the transcendence of polarity in a “nonpolar” world (“the very essence of Marxism” we are reassured); themes so ubiquitous, and very much alive, in Gowans’ rants.

There is something very immaterial about this discomfort with multipolarity. It seems to bother these people that some states are bigger than others, or that even socialist states have to compete for spheres of influence. They seem to object to the fact that the world will always be polarized to a certain degree. Yet, a world where these imbalances don’t exist is a metaphysical experiment, and there is great reason to hope that the dynamics of Chinese, and even Russian, foreign engagement constitute a break from the extremely predatory lineage of western europe and the US. Of course, if Russia and China take a predatory turn in their foreign policy, then they must be critiqued. We are not so blinded by our irrational desire to see the US empire fall.

Gowans is perhaps the most explicit representative of the tendency we have been describing. In his obsession with critiquing those who associate imperialism today with the unipolar role of the US, he writes that his own view is “more complex” because it “follows the lines” of Hilferding, Bukharin and Lenin, while he repeatedly defines imperialism as a “system of rivalry”. Does this mean that in the 90’s, amidst the “end of history” —when rivalry, be it inter-capitalist or Cold War-esque, had largely subsided— that imperialism had slipped into the shadows as well? In any case, this lense of imperialism-as-rivalry begins to lose credence after WWI (unless the USSR is read as imperialist as well). Most alarmingly, he then goes on to complain that the position he is attacking is “at odds with the model developed by the three Marxists cited above.” This is worth ruminating on for a moment. For Gowans, it is an inconsistency that a diagnosis of the year 2022 does not correspond to that of 1916! This is the bizarre anti-historical attitude we have been trying to provide a portrait of. Then, Gowans, in the same piece from which we have been quoting, moves on to the same pre-WWI parallels that Godels had gotten so excited about. Although in this case we are told that understanding contemporary imperialism vis-a-vis the US, and advocating for multipolarity, retroactively “excludes the Axis powers as imperialists,” rendering them anti-imperialist given their struggle against the British empire, as they too sought “their place in the sun.” Once again, apart from the work of another “good historian”, we are face to face with the same refusal of any concrete analysis.

When everything is this thoroughly abstracted and beaten to death, a number of highly reductionist parallels can be suggested: an equally imperialist Eurasian empire is set to steal the stage from the US; Russia’s struggle for the integration of regions on its border is equated to the US drive for control of the same markets; the pre-WWI struggle for the spoils of colonialism is equated to Eurasian integration. Such is the extent to which they scour their brains for symmetries, casting things as a good ol’ fashion imperial tug-of-war.

There is something unforgivable about this apathy, or even reluctance, shown towards the decline of the US empire, the scandals of which we know all too well. The leveraging of these forced symmetries, this insistence that Russia and China are of the same category as the US, the childish attempts to monopolize Lenin or Marx, it rings like more of a fickle provocation than any serious attempt to dabble in history or theory. China and Russia’s concrete terms of engagement are apparently irrelevant, their competition only harboring the dangers of war. There is almost this assumption that the US would ever loosen its grip without a fight! It is absurd how emerging powers are reprimanded for their militarism, as if the only thing holding the US back were not the fear of its own destruction.

It must be fun for this clique to speculate from their position of ideological purity, digging their feet in and demanding a nonpolar, stateless, classless world. Better yet: a paradigm change; a competition-free, altruistic awakening; a revolutionary break with this imperialism-is-everywhere world. Have they been reading foucault? Nevertheless this leisure is not possible for those of us who are confronting the actual historical conjunctions offered to us. In fact, it is worrisome that they did not walk away from Lenin with any appreciation for concrete analysis, and clearly were not influenced by his more tactically oriented works (i.e. Left-Wing’ Communism: an Infantile Disorder, What is to be Done?). Yet, if we were to assume this diffuse notion of imperialism, one could only wish, for example, that Russia had been more imperialist in Gaddafi’s Libya. Their current state of affairs is certainly less desirable than that of the liberated territories of Syria. Yet almost expectedly, this stark contrast is downplayed on the basis that Syria is a Russian “vassal.” Predictably, the areas “ruled” by Russia are put on an equal footing with the ones controlled by “US,” “Turkish” and “Israeli” forces.

Dedicated as they are to this dismissal of imperialist Russia, the representatives of this camp cling to Lenin’s emphasis that there is no formula through which to identify imperialism. It is here where Gowans believes he has found something to adapt to his project in Losurdo, who we are told ”challenges a commonly held misconception that the Bolshevik leader’s understanding of imperialism can be reduced to a checklist of characteristics that define individual states”. But even this clarification is decontextualized and betrayed: far from rejecting the notion of an imperialist checklist in favor of a historically situated approach like that of Lenin’s, they have reverted to a criterion of their own, which happens to be the loosest, most free-floating one available. In short, any activity bearing an element of competition or self-interest, any integration with capitalist markets, constitutes a sign of imperialism. On the other hand, while admitting to the fluidity of his parameters, Lenin built his analysis through the diagnosis of the scale of foreign investments, colonial possessions, superprofits, the merging of private capital, industry and government, etc; that is the specific heritage of the US, EU and NATO. While these authors attempt to untie imperialism from this lineage, moving towards the universal criteria mentioned above, they draw on, or attempt to hold on to, all of the imagery and scandals —the emotional thud— of the definition of imperialism they are distancing themselves from! As if the two were one and the same; as if the imperialism they try to tap into or harness for their denunciations could be reduced to the elements of capitalism, self-interest and international competition which they have detected in China and Russia!

We must remember that the parameters of imperialism must have a degree of flexibility; they must be historical. This is the precondition to be able to recognize modern imperialism as such. Nobody in 1916 could have predicted the evolution of capitalism. Indeed, how could one have foreseen global dollar hegemony? Or a deindustrialized, imperialist core in the US and western europe? The list goes on. Having recognized this, it is highly deceptive to argue that what Lenin was describing could be reduced to things such as integration in international markets, or competition and self-interest, as his work was an acutely historically-situated diagnosis of a specific phase of capitalism, a necessary stepping stone to understand the present, yes, but also insufficient for this purpose. It is equally deceptive if there is no distinction between the vastly different things being equated under the same umbrella, yet this is precisely what they strive to do. The inertia of their commitment to this argument requires them to gloss over the facts. In their extravagance they stoop irretrievably low, warning those who disagree that, besides Lenin turning in his grave, they may be class traitors. Yes, here they finally show their true colors, inadvertently lecturing vast swathes of the “confused” or “ignorant” multitudes who are not of the same mind.

Amidst these tirades against a “very capitalist China” and a Russia no “less an imperialist state than the United States,” Gowans attempts to invoke Losurdo, who is no longer with us to set the record straight. Fortunately, his work leaves little room for interpretation regarding his compatibility with his hijackers’ project. For example, in the online translation of his book on Stalin, on page 293 we find his frustration with the fact that “In analyzing international relations there are those who consider themselves to be the foremost champions of anti-imperialism by expanding as much as possible their list of imperialist countries; all of them put on the same level!;” a conviction which he punctuates several lines later with Togliatti’s famous remark that “one of the fundamental points of our revolutionary strategy, is our ability to understand, at any given moment, who is the principal enemy and to concentrate all our strength against that enemy.”

Yet we need not look any further than the very same book from which Gowans cites to encounter that on page 303, “China is the country that more than any other is challenging the international division of labour imposed by colonialism and imperialism, and furthering the end of the Columbian epoch—a fact of enormous, progressive historical significance.” Again, let’s not forget that Gowans has decided any support for China or Russia —”baby imperialisms” as he eloquently puts it— constitutes “little more than a mental illness.” He clearly has no reservations about drawing on the wisdom of the mentall ill when he stumbles across an isolated sentence that serves his mission.

Losurdo goes on, directly addressing this debate when he remarks that “Today, in the advanced capitalist countries even the intellectual culture influenced by Marx finds it hard to include the struggle to shake off ‘political annexation’ (Lenin) or the ‘political yoke’ (Guevara), to repel military aggression, in the category of emancipatory class struggles. The refusal to interpret endeavors to end ‘economic’ annexation (Lenin) or the ‘imperialist economic yoke’, and to foil ‘economic aggression’ (Guevara), in terms of class struggle, is prejudicial. ” (p. 291) and repeatedly returns to the fact that “Lenin had no hesitation in affirming that ‘[i]n a genuinely national war, the words ‘defence of the fatherland’ are not a deception and we are not opposed to it ’.” Anyone acquainted with Losurdo is aware that his entire work is pervaded by a treatment of the national question that completely transcends the level of thought we are critiquing. For someone in Gowans’ camp, it would take a certain degree of clumsiness or bad faith not to see oneself in the crosshairs of Losurdo’s critique. Let’s just hope he didn’t make it that far in the book.

As a means of distancing ourselves from the particular focus of this debate, the following Losurdo excerpts tap even deeper into the general state of detachment and confusion of this camp. In criticizing a certain familiar outlook, Losurdo, in Hegel and the Freedom of Moderns, writes of “the difficult balance between the legitimation of modernity and its critical evaluation, a balance that characterizes Marx and that Marx himself inherited from Hegel” and notes the former’s awareness of “those who, when faced with difficult situations and the failure of certain ideals, first of all confirm their ‘inner sincerity’ and assume the ‘halo of honest intentions” (2014, p. 262).

Even so, his distaste for this mindset becomes even more palpable when he recalls Engels’ jest at the “beautiful soul” who “delights itself in its on inner purity and excellence, which it narcissistically enjoys in opposition to the baseness and dullness of actuality and the world’s progress” and which upon seeing the “harshness” of reality, “withdraws in horror, and to make up for it, it is always ready to pity itself for being ‘misunderstood’ and ignored by the world;” a place in which it “always ends up making a terrible impression, not only on a political level, by demonstrating its impotence, but on a more strictly moral level, by revealing itself as soft, narcissistic, and essentially hypocritical.”


Kahlil is interested in Gustavo Bueno and the subject of empire.

Rebranding Nazism

May 09, 2022

Source

by Roddy Keenan

As a teacher of history, the topic of Nazi Germany is always one which generates numerous questions from students. How were the Nazis able to convince the public to vote for them? How did they convince the people to go along with their fascist agenda and barbaric policies? How was the Holocaust allowed to take place?

Despite discussing the role of propaganda and censorship, as well as the fear of opposing the Nazi regime, one still finds students often somewhat bemused. Moreover, many invariably argue that nowadays, due to social media, the Internet, and other methods of communication, the evils of Nazism could never succeed in flourishing again.

However, that is about to change. One only has to look at the manner in which the Azov Battalion, a fully-fledged Ukrainian Nazi militia, with significant influence, has been whitewashed in the space of ten weeks. Whereas prior to February 24th 2022, they were recognised as a neo-Nazi battalion, these fascists are now being portrayed as valiant defenders of an oppressed people, fighting bravely against insurmountable odds.

In the past, we have become only too well aware of the role played by the media and big tech in propagandising and manufacturing consent. Whether it’s the mainstream media parroting establishment talking points, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube censoring dissenting views, or Paypal denying media outlets access to their own accounts apparently due to their political stances, Western disinformation full-spectrum dominance appears to be at its zenith.

Yet, the perennial Western purveyors of fake news, such as The New York Times, CNN and the BBC, declare themselves to be gatekeepers of truth, integrity and morality. And this, despite their lies which facilitated the slaughter and deaths of over a million men, women and children, in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

But still it goes on, right up to the present. From the Ghost of Kiev to Snake Island, the Collective Western media has acted as stenographers for the Western and Ukrainian regimes. The examples are too numerous to mention, but the media coverage of the air strike at a railway station in Kramatorsk provided a striking example of the overt and cynical propaganda role the western media has played throughout this conflict.

The missile strikes that killed over fifty people and injured more than one hundred were initially widely reported, with images on front pages across the Western media. However, within forty-eight hours the story had disappeared and barely received a mention. This was due to an Italian news team identifying one of the missiles as being of the type used by Ukrainian forces. The narrative of Ukrainians killing civilians obviously didn’t fit into the propaganda of the Collective West, and consequently, the dead and injured found instant irrelevance.

Now the Western media has turned its malevolent myth-making to the Nazi Azov battalion in the Ukraine. An overtly Nazi formation, descended from the Fascist Banderites of World War 2, it is now being staunchly defended by the Collective West.

Interestingly, it had been previously accepted that the Azov were a far-right, Nazi militia, and indeed, their presence and influence was widely viewed as a dark force within the Ukraine. It’s fascist rituals and regalia, worship of the fascist Stepan Bandera, and its adherence to Nazi ideology, left nobody in any doubt that these were committed fascists, and they were commonly described as neo-Nazis in numerous Western media outlets.

However, since February 24th there has been a stunning shift.

Now, the fact that the Azov battalion is a Nazi organisation is glossed over. The BBC, a propaganda arm of the British State, ran a nine-minute puff piece, arguing, almost pleading, that the Azov fighters were not fascists, but simply a battalion integrated into the Ukrainian army. Meanwhile, MSNBC interviewed Azov Nazis teaching elderly women how to use weapons, and newspapers from the Financial Times to the New York Times are now portraying the Azov as brave defenders of the Ukraine.

An obvious aim of this shameless media operation is to delegitimise the Russian claims of denazification, by arguing that there is no Nazi problem in the Ukraine. Even on the rare occasion that the media refers to the ideology of the Azov units, and indeed, the presence of other fascist and far-right groups such as C14, Right Sector and Svoboda, it claims they have minimal impact on the politics of the Ukraine, pointing to their weak electoral performances. What they fail to point out, is that the mainstream’ parties are implementing policies that the fascists support. Moreover, the notion that parliamentary representation is a metric of influence is absurd when one looks at the likes of Al Qaeda and Isis.

In fact, a leader of the fascist group C14, Yevhen Karas, described the 2014 Maidan coup as a ‘victory of nationalist ideas’. He went on to assert that without the influence of fascist groups, Maidan would have been nothing but a ‘gay parade’.

But this is now an inconvenient truth for the Collective West. Consequently, Azov and their fellow travellers are no longer Nazis or fascists. Instead, they are merely ‘misunderstood patriots’.

Of course, this is nothing new. When it comes to hypocrisy, the Collective West has it in spades. Whether it’s supporting the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, ISIS and AL Nusra in Syria, or the fascists in Ukraine, the Collective West has shown itself to be devoid of any morality when it comes to serving their own interests.

Now, just as Isis and Al Nusra are ‘moderate rebels’, the fascists of Azov are well-meaning nationalist warriors.

So, according to our so-called liberal democracies, even though there might be bad Nazis, there are also good fascists, whose adherence to Nazism is just an ideological quirk. Obviously, those who are on our side are the good Nazis. And it’s the Collective West that always gets to decide who is who.

But one thing is now evident – the blatant manner in which Nazism has been made palatable due to an unrelenting, systematic propaganda campaign, will answer those questions posed by students regarding how German Nazis were able to attain power in 1933 and to subsequently pursue the policies that they did.

‘Scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds’, I was once told many years ago.

The events of the past months have proven just how accurate that old adage is.


Originally from Ireland, Roddy Keenan is a teacher and freelance reporter based in the UK. Roddy specialises in international politics and is the author of US Presidential Elections 1968-2008: a narrative history of the race for the White House’.

Former Israeli Premier: Israel Could Cease to Exist before 80th Anniversary

May 8, 2022

Former Israeli PM, Ehud Barak. (Photo: via MEMO)

Former Israeli premier Ehud Barak has expressed concern that Israel will cease to exist before the 80th anniversary of its 1948 establishment, Israeli media reported on Saturday.

In an interview with the Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Barak predicted a doom-and-gloom scenario for Israel.

“Throughout the Jewish history, the Jews did not rule for more than eighty years, except in the two kingdoms of David and the Hasmonean dynasty, and in both periods, their disintegration began in the eighth decade,” Barak said.

Barak noted that many regimes, including those in the United States, Italy, and Russia, have experienced the curse of the eighth decade, and that Israel is no exception, drawing an analogy between the Zionist regime and fascism, nazism and communism.

The ultra-conservative former premier’s fears echo prevailing fears in Israel.

A recent survey of young Israeli adults found that nearly half of the population in the occupied Palestinian territories is not optimistic about Israel’s future, with more than one-third of people thinking about migrating for jobs and better life.

(PressTV, PC, Social Media)

Forward to the USSR and Operation Z+

May 04, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

On 28 April 2022 President Lukashenko of Belarus spoke of a possible coming together of various independent countries, former Soviet republics, to join the Russian Federation and Belarus in a ‘Union State’. (https://www.reporter.am/the-former-soviet-republics-may-also-be-part-of-the-union-state-lukashenko/). Then, on 3 May President Putin and President Lukashenko discussed the construction of this Union State further. (https://news.mail.ru/politics/51151818/?frommail=1).

In 1991 the Soviet Union, the successor of the Russian Empire, suddenly collapsed in a remarkably similar way to the way in which the former suddenly collapsed in 1917 and on orders from exactly the same transatlantic financial and political circles. No coincidence. Since then the territory concerned, the heartland of Northern Eurasia, like much of the rest of the world has been in chaos, with poverty, injustice and war. Geopolitically, the formation of a Sovereign Union (not Soviet Union) of the peoples and nations of Northern Eurasia is now perhaps the only way of overcoming the vacuum created, which has been at the root of planetary chaos since 1991.

Northern Eurasia, whatever it has been called, is, like it or not, marked by its central and by far its largest nation, the Russian. This is the only one capable of bringing together the sovereign states of the many and varied peoples who live in this continuous intercontinental land-area for peace and justice. Indeed, many look to Russia to carry out precisely this task and so to rescue them from the present disorder of Western ‘divide and rule’ politics, the resulting Western exploitation of their natural resources and oppression of Western-loving oligarchs.

Speaking to citizens of the former Soviet Union of many nationalities over the last 30 years, some things are certain. Nobody wants to go back to the old Soviet ways, for example, to arrests and imprisonments for criticism of the drab, ultra-centralised system, or simply to the daily queuing to obtain even staple goods, food and clothes, the result of the gross inefficiencies of central planning. Nobody wants to live in a country where sausage meat, appearing at best once a week, was sold out by 10 a.m. and where women could not even obtain sanitary products. Nobody wants to go back to a centralised system, where even minute decisions were made by micro-managing, out-of-touch bureaucrats, working on the basis of falsified statistics in distant Moscow.

On the other hand, whatever happened to free healthcare (even if underfunded), free education, full employment, (modest) homes for all, low crime, social justice, liveable pensions, subsidised high culture and the other benefits of the Soviet Union? Little wonder that there is among many all over Eastern Europe a nostalgia for the old Communist system and many still vote Communist. As one woman said to me in Moscow twelve years ago: ‘Of course, we knew that the Communists were lieing to us about our wonderful life under Communism, but what we did not know is that they were telling us the truth about the awfulness of life under Capitalism. Before we had shortages, but we were secure. Now we do not have shortages, if we have money, but we have no security’.

The old Russian Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its double-headed eagle, looking both ways, uniting both East and West. The old Soviet Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its hammer and sickle, imposing a centralised Union, opposing Capitalism in both East and West. Now, hope against hope, we await the foundation of a successor Union, one which must shun the errors of the past, bravely attempting to provide Justice and Prosperity for all.

A Sovereign Union, composed of sovereign nations with new and just borders, agreed on after referenda, freely co-operating in terms of trade and defence, is possible. These initial sovereign nations, in possible order of membership, could be: The Russian Federation, Belarus, much of the old Ukraine, liberated, with its new name, borders and new government, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Thus would be formed a new USSR, a Union of Sovereign Social Republics, a Sovereign Union (SU). Many would rejoice at this, for the dangerous vacuum, the social injustices, the neo-feudal oligarchs’ kleptocracy and divisions left by the collapse of the old USSR have proved to be extremely destabilising for the whole of Northern Eurasia, one sixth of the Earth’s land surface. And that instability has affected the rest of the world quite profoundly, as we can see at this very moment, which is left shuddering at the possibility, however slight, of World War III.

A unique Sovereign Union from Brest to Vladivostok, from the Arctic to Central Asia, could provide an Alliance not only for the new nations formed thirty years ago, but also with still to-be-liberated nations in Europe. Freeing themselves from the shackles of the Anti-sovereign and Anti-social EU, these nations would include Hungary and Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, Montenegro and Macedonia. Perhaps there could be an Alliance with the undeluded elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Asia, in Mongolia, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, and in Africa, and in the ex-Western colonies of the three continents of the New Worlds. Is it really past human ingenuity to live in a system in which there is freedom and social justice for all, in an Alliance, with a Union of Sovereign Social Republics?

A Sovereign Union, standing over the world like a mother stretching out her arms over Eurasia to care for her children, could establish an Alliance of the World’s Nations, a real United Nations, not that corrupt pastiche of one in New York. Everywhere, peoples’ struggles to settle long-standing historic injustices through the abolition of borders drawn up long ago by Colonial Office cultural ignoramuses and natural resource asset-strippers in faraway London, Paris and Washington, would become possible. The formation of new countries, new borders, new constitutions and new prosperity, could gradually be resolved in peace.

After all, what is the alternative? To continue in the present hellish chaos of perpetual war, grinding poverty and cynical injustice? Zorro’s Operation Z, the liberation of the Ukraine, is just the beginning. Operation Z+, the liberation of the world, is the end. Yes, it is a highly unlikely end, but still the only noble one directed towards a worthy New World Order, enough to inspire a direction in even the most disheartened of hearts.

In Memory of JFK: The First U.S. President to be Declared a Terrorist and Threat to National Security

November 22, 2021

By Cynthia Chung for the Saker Blog

In April 1954, Kennedy stood up on the Senate floor to challenge the Eisenhower Administration’s support for the doomed French imperial war in Vietnam, foreseeing that this would not be a short-lived war.[1]

In July 1957, Kennedy once more took a strong stand against French colonialism, this time France’s bloody war against Algeria’s independence movement, which again found the Eisenhower Administration on the wrong side of history. Rising on the Senate floor, two days before America’s own Independence Day, Kennedy declared:

“The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile – it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism. Thus, the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.”[2]

In September 1960, the annual United Nations General Assembly was held in New York. Fidel Castro and a fifty-member delegation were among the attendees and had made a splash in the headlines when he decided to stay at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem after the midtown Shelburne Hotel demanded a $20,000 security deposit. He made an even bigger splash in the headlines when he made a speech at this hotel, discussing the issue of equality in the United States while in Harlem, one of the poorest boroughs in the country.

Kennedy would visit this very same hotel a short while later, and also made a speech:

Behind the fact of Castro coming to this hotel, [and] Khrushchev…there is another great traveler in the world, and that is the travel of a world revolution, a world in turmoil…We should be glad [that Castro and Khrushchev] came to the United States. We should not fear the twentieth century, for the worldwide revolution which we see all around us is part of the original American Revolution.”[3]

What did Kennedy mean by this? The American Revolution was fought for freedom, freedom from the rule of monarchy and imperialism in favour of national sovereignty. What Kennedy was stating, was that this was the very oppression that the rest of the world wished to shake the yoke off, and that the United States had an opportunity to be a leader in the cause for the independence of all nations.

On June 30th, 1960, marking the independence of the Republic of Congo from the colonial rule of Belgium, Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese Prime Minister gave a speech that has become famous for its outspoken criticism of colonialism. Lumumba spoke of his people’s struggle against “the humiliating bondage that was forced upon us… [years that were] filled with tears, fire and blood,” and concluded vowing “We shall show the world what the black man can do when working in liberty, and we shall make the Congo the pride of Africa.”

Shortly after, Lumumba also made clear, “We want no part of the Cold War… We want Africa to remain African with a policy of neutralism.[4]

As a result, Lumumba was labeled a communist for his refusal to be a Cold War satellite for the western sphere. Rather, Lumumba was part of the Pan-African movement that was led by Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah (who later Kennedy would also work with), which sought national sovereignty and an end to colonialism in Africa.

Lumumba “would remain a grave danger,” Dulles said at an NSC meeting on September 21, 1960, “as long as he was not yet disposed of.”[5] Three days later, Dulles made it clear that he wanted Lumumba permanently removed, cabling the CIA’s Leopoldville station, “We wish give [sic] every possible support in eliminating Lumumba from any possibility resuming governmental position.”[6]

Lumumba was assassinated on Jan. 17th, 1961, just three days before Kennedy’s inauguration, during the fog of the transition period between presidents, when the CIA is most free to tie its loose ends, confident that they will not be reprimanded by a new administration that wants to avoid scandal on its first days in office.

Kennedy, who clearly meant to put a stop to the Murder Inc. that Dulles had created and was running, would declare to the world in his inaugural address on Jan. 20th, 1961, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.

La Resistance

Along with inheriting the responsibility of the welfare of the country and its people, Kennedy was to also inherit a secret war with communist Cuba run by the CIA.

The Bay of Pigs set-up would occur three months later. Prouty compares the Bay of Pigs incident to that of the Crusade for Peace; the Bay of Pigs being orchestrated by the CIA, and the Crusade for Peace sabotaged by the CIA, in both cases to ruin the U.S. president’s (Eisenhower and Kennedy) ability to form a peaceful dialogue with Khrushchev and decrease Cold War tensions. Both presidents’ took onus for the events respectively, despite the responsibility resting with the CIA. However, Eisenhower and Kennedy understood, if they did not take onus, it would be a public declaration that they did not have any control over their government agencies and military.

Further, the Bay of Pigs operation was in fact meant to fail. It was meant to stir up a public outcry for a direct military invasion of Cuba.

On public record is a meeting (or more aptly described as an intervention) with CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell, Joint Chiefs Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer, and Navy Chief Admiral Burke basically trying to strong-arm President Kennedy into approving a direct military attack on Cuba. Admiral Burke had already taken the liberty of positioning two battalions of Marines on Navy destroyers off the coast of Cuba “anticipating that U.S. forces might be ordered into Cuba to salvage a botched invasion.”[7] (This incident is what inspired the Frankenheimer movie “Seven Days in May.”)

Kennedy stood his ground.

“They were sure I’d give in to them,” Kennedy later told Special Assistant to the President Dave Powers. “They couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face. Well they had me figured all wrong.”[8]

Incredibly, not only did the young president stand his ground against the Washington war hawks just three months into his presidential term, but he also launched the Cuba Study Group which found the CIA to be responsible for the fiasco, leading to the humiliating forced resignation of Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell. (For more on this refer to my report.)

Unfortunately, it would not be that easy to dethrone Dulles, who continued to act as head of the CIA, and key members of the intelligence community such as Helms and Angleton regularly bypassed McCone (the new CIA Director) and briefed Dulles directly.[9]

But Kennedy was also serious about seeing it through all the way, and vowed to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

* * *

There is another rather significant incident that had occurred just days after the Bay of Pigs, and which has largely been overshadowed by the Cuban fiasco in the United States.

From April 21-26th, 1961, the Algiers putsch or Generals’ putsch, was a failed coup d’état intended to force President de Gaulle (1959-1969) not to abandon the colonial French Algeria. The organisers of the putsch were opposed to the secret negotiations that French Prime Minister Michel Debré had started with the anti-colonial National Liberation Front (FLN).

On January 26th, 1961, just three months before the attempted coup d’état, Dulles sent a report to Kennedy on the French situation that seemed to be hinting that de Gaulle would no longer be around, “A pre-revolutionary atmosphere reigns in France… The Army and the Air Force are staunchly opposed to de Gaulle…At least 80 percent of the officers are violently against him. They haven’t forgotten that in 1958, he had given his word of honor that he would never abandon Algeria. He is now reneging on his promise, and they hate him for that. de Gaulle surely won’t last if he tries to let go of Algeria. Everything will probably be over for him by the end of the year—he will be either deposed or assassinated.”[10]

The attempted coup was led by Maurice Challe, whom de Gaulle had reason to conclude was working with the support of U.S. intelligence, and Élysée officials began spreading this word to the press, which reported the CIA as a “reactionary state-within-a-state” that operated outside of Kennedy’s control.[11]

Shortly before Challe’s resignation from the French military, he had served as NATO commander in chief and had developed close relations with a number of high-ranking U.S. officers stationed in the military alliance’s Fontainebleau headquarters.[12]

In August 1962 the OAS (Secret Army Organization) made an assassination attempt against de Gaulle, believing he had betrayed France by giving up Algeria to Algerian nationalists. This would be the most notorious assassination attempt on de Gaulle (who would remarkably survive over thirty assassination attempts while President of France) when a dozen OAS snipers opened fire on the president’s car, which managed to escape the ambush despite all four tires being shot out.

After the failed coup d’état, de Gaulle launched a purge of his security forces and ousted General Paul Grossin, the chief of SDECE (the French secret service). Grossin was closely aligned with the CIA, and had told Frank Wisner over lunch that the return of de Gaulle to power was equivalent to the Communists taking over in Paris.[13]

In 1967, after a five-year enquête by the French Intelligence Bureau, it released its findings concerning the 1962 assassination attempt on de Gaulle. The report found that the 1962 assassination plot could be traced back to the NATO Brussels headquarters, and the remnants of the old Nazi intelligence apparatus. The report also found that Permindex had transferred $200,000 into an OAS bank account to finance the project.

As a result of the de Gaulle exposé, Permindex was forced to shut down its public operations in Western Europe and relocated its headquarters from Bern, Switzerland to Johannesburg, South Africa, it also had/has a base in Montreal, Canada where its founder Maj. Gen. Louis M. Bloomfield (former OSS) proudly had his name amongst its board members until the damning de Gaulle report. The relevance of this to Kennedy will be discussed shortly.

As a result of the SDECE’s ongoing investigation, de Gaulle made a vehement denunciation of the Anglo-American violation of the Atlantic Charter, followed by France’s withdrawal from the NATO military command in 1966. France would not return to NATO until April 2009 at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit.

In addition to all of this, on Jan. 14th, 1963, de Gaulle declared at a press conference that he had vetoed British entry into the Common Market. This would be the first move towards France and West Germany’s formation of the European Monetary System, which excluded Great Britain, likely due to its imperialist tendencies and its infamous sin City of London.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson telegrammed West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer directly, appealing to him to try to persuade de Gaulle to back track on the veto, stating “if anyone can affect Gen. de Gaulle’s decision, you are surely that person.”

Little did Acheson know that Adenauer was just days away from signing the Franco-German Treaty of Jan 22nd, 1963 (also known as the ÉlyséeTreaty), which had enormous implications. Franco-German relations, which had long been dominated by centuries of rivalry, had now agreed that their fates were aligned. (This close relationship was continued to a climactic point in the late 1970s, with the formation of the European Monetary System, and France and West Germany’s willingness in 1977 to work with OPEC countries trading oil for nuclear technology, which was sabotaged by the U.S.-Britain alliance.

The Élysée Treaty was a clear denunciation of the Anglo-American forceful overseeing that had overtaken Western Europe since the end of WWII.

On June 28th, 1961, Kennedy wrote NSAM #55. This document changed the responsibility of defense during the Cold War from the CIA to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would have (if seen through) drastically changed the course of the war in Vietnam. It would also have effectively removed the CIA from Cold War military operations and limited the CIA to its sole lawful responsibility, the collecting and coordination of intelligence.

By Oct 11th, 1963, NSAM #263, closely overseen by Kennedy[14], was released and outlined a policy decision “to withdraw 1,000 military personnel [from Vietnam] by the end of 1963” and further stated that “It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by 1965.” The Armed Forces newspaper Stars and Stripes had the headline U.S. TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY ’65.

It would be the final nail in the coffin.

Treason in America

Treason doth never prosper; what is the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”

– Sir John Harrington

By Germany supporting de Gaulle’s exposure of the international assassination ring, his adamant opposition to western imperialism and the role of NATO, and with a young Kennedy building his own resistance against the imperialist war of Vietnam, it was clear that the power elite were in big trouble.

On November 22nd, 1963 President Kennedy was brutally murdered in the streets of Dallas, Texas in broad daylight.

With the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, likely ordained by the CIA, on Nov. 2nd, 1963 and Kennedy just a few weeks later, de facto President Johnson signed NSAM #273 on Nov. 26th, 1963 to begin the reversal of Kennedy’s policy under #263. And on March 17th, 1964, Johnson signed NSAM #288 that marked the full escalation of the Vietnam War and involved 2,709,918 Americans directly serving in Vietnam, with 9,087,000 serving with the U.S. Armed Forces during this period.

The Vietnam War would continue for another 12 years after Kennedy’s death, lasting a total of 20 years for Americans, and 30 years if you count American covert action in Vietnam.

Two days before Kennedy’s assassination, a hate-Kennedy handbill was circulated in Dallas accusing the president of treasonous activities including being a communist sympathizer.

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On November 29th, 1963 the Warren Commission was set up to investigate the murder of President Kennedy.

The old Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana was a member of that Warren Commission. Boggs became increasingly disturbed by the lack of transparency and rigour exhibited by the Commission and became convinced that many of the documents used to incriminate Oswald were in fact forgeries.

In 1965 Rep. Boggs told New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that Oswald could not have been the one who killed Kennedy.[15] It was Boggs who encouraged Garrison to begin the only law enforcement prosecution of the President’s murder to this day.

Nixon was inaugurated as President of the United States on Jan 20th, 1969. Hale Boggs soon after called on Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell to have the courage to fire J. Edgar Hoover.[16]

It wasn’t long thereafter that the private airplane carrying Hale Boggs disappeared without a trace.

Jim Garrison was the District Attorney of New Orleans from 1962 to 1973 and was the only one to bring forth a trial concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. In Jim Garrison’s book “On the Trail of the Assassins”, J. Edgar Hoover comes up several times impeding or shutting down investigations into JFK’s murder, in particular concerning the evidence collected by the Dallas Police Department, such as the nitrate test Oswald was given and which exonerated him, proving that he never shot a rifle the day of Nov 22nd, 1963.

However, for reasons only known to the government and its investigators this fact was kept secret for 10 months.[17] It was finally revealed in the Warren Commission report, which inexplicably didn’t change their opinion that Oswald had shot Kennedy.

Another particularly damning incident was concerning the Zapruder film that was in the possession of the FBI and which they had sent a “copy” to the Warren Commission for their investigation. This film was one of the leading pieces of evidence used to support the “magic bullet theory” and showcase the direction of the headshot coming from behind, thus verifying that Oswald’s location was adequate for such a shot.

During Garrison’s trial on the Kennedy assassination (1967-1969) he subpoenaed the Zapruder film that for some peculiar reason had been locked up in some vault owned by Life magazine (the reader should note that Henry Luce the owner of Life magazine was in a very close relationship with the CIA). This was the first time in more than five years that the Zapruder film was made public. It turns out the FBI’s copy that was sent to the Warren Commission had two critical frames reversed to create a false impression that the rifle shot was from behind.

When Garrison got a hold of the original film it was discovered that the head shot had actually come from the front. In fact, what the whole film showed was that the President had been shot from multiple angles meaning there was more than one gunman.

When the FBI was questioned about how these two critical frames could have been reversed, they answered self-satisfactorily that it must have been a technical glitch…

There is also the matter of the original autopsy papers being destroyed by the chief autopsy physician, James Humes, to which he even testified to during the Warren Commission, apparently nobody bothered to ask why…

This would explain why the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), reported in a July 1998 staff report their concern for the number of shortcomings in the original autopsy, that “One of the many tragedies of the assassination of President Kennedy has been the incompleteness of the autopsy record and the suspicion caused by the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded the records that do exist.” [emphasis added]

The staff report for the Assassinations Records Review Board contended that brain photographs in the Kennedy records are not of Kennedy’s brain and show much less damage than Kennedy sustained.

There is a lot of spurious effort to try to ridicule anyone who challenges the Warren Commission’s official report as nothing but fringe conspiracy theory. And that we should not find it highly suspect that Allen Dulles, of all people, was a member and pretty much leader of said commission. The reader should keep in mind that much of this frothing opposition stems from the very agency that perpetrated crime after crime on the American people, as well as abroad. When has the CIA ever admitted guilt, unless caught red-handed? Even after the Church committee hearings, when the CIA was found guilty of planning out foreign assassinations, they claimed that they had failed in every single plot or that someone had beaten them to the punch, including in the case of Lumumba.

The American people need to realise that the CIA is not a respectable agency; we are not dealing with honorable men. It is a rogue force that believes that the ends justify the means, that they are the hands of the king so to speak, above government and above law. Those at the top such as Allen Dulles were just as adamant as Churchill about protecting the interests of the power elite, or as Churchill termed it, the “High Cabal.”

Interestingly, on Dec. 22nd, 1963, just one month after Kennedy’s assassination, Harry Truman published a scathing critique of the CIA in The Washington Post, even going so far as to state “There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position [as a] free and open society, and I feel that we need to correct it.[18]

The timing of such a scathing quote cannot be stressed enough. Dulles, of course, told the public not to be distressed, that Truman was just in entering his twilight years.

In addition, Jim Garrison, New Orleans District Attorney at the time, who was charging Clay Shaw as a member of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy, besides uncovering his ties to David Ferrie who was found dead in his apartment days before he was scheduled to testify, also made a case that the New Orleans International Trade Mart (to which Clay Shaw was director), the U.S. subsidiary of Permindex, was linked to Kennedy’s murder. Col. Clay Shaw was an OSS officer during WWII, which provides a direct link to his knowing Allen Dulles.

Garrison did a remarkable job with the odds he was up against, and for the number of witnesses that turned up dead before the trial…

This Permindex link would not look so damning if we did not have the French intelligence SDECE report, but we do. And recall, in that report Permindex was caught transferring $200,000 directly to the bankroll of the OAS which attempted the 1962 assassination on de Gaulle.

Thus, Permindex’s implication in an international assassination ring is not up for debate. In addition, the CIA was found heavily involved in these assassination attempts against de Gaulle, thus we should not simply dismiss the possibility that Permindex was indeed a CIA front for an international hit crew.

In fact, among the strange and murderous characters who converged on Dallas in Nov. 1963 was a notorious French OAS commando named Jean Souetre, who was connected to the plots against President de Gaulle. Souetre was arrested in Dallas after the Kennedy assassination and expelled to Mexico, not even kept for questioning.[19]

What Does the Future Hold?

After returning from Kennedy’s Nov. 24th funeral in Washington, de Gaulle and his information minister Alain Peyrefitte had a candid discussion that was recorded in Peyrefitte’s memoire “C’était de Gaulle,” the great General was quoted saying:

What happened to Kennedy is what nearly happened to me… His story is the same as mine. … It looks like a cowboy story, but it’s only an OAS [Secret Army Organization] story. The security forces were in cahoots with the extremists.

…Security forces are all the same when they do this kind of dirty work. As soon as they succeed in wiping out the false assassin, they declare the justice system no longer need be concerned, that no further public action was needed now that the guilty perpetrator was dead. Better to assassinate an innocent man than to let a civil war break out. Better an injustice than disorder.

America is in danger of upheavals. But you’ll see. All of them together will observe the law of silence. They will close ranks. They’ll do everything to stifle any scandal. They will throw Noah’s cloak over these shameful deeds. In order to not lose face in front of the whole world. In order to not risk unleashing riots in the United States. In order to preserve the union and to avoid a new civil war. In order to not ask themselves questions. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to find out. They won’t allow themselves to find out.”

The American people would do well to remember that it was first John F. Kennedy, acting as the President to the United States, who was to be declared a terrorist and threat to his country’s national security.

Thus is it not natural that those who continue to defend the legacy of Kennedy should be regarded today as threat, not truly to the nation’s security, but a threat to the very same grouping responsible for Kennedy’s death and whom today have now declared open war on the American people.

This will be the greatest test the American people have ever been confronted with, and it will only be through an understanding of how the country came to where it is today that there can be sufficient clarity as to what the solutions are, which are not to be found in another civil war. To not fall for the trapping of further chaos and division, the American people will only be able to rise above this if they choose to ask those questions, if they choose to want to knowto want to find out the truth of things they dared not look at in the past for fear of what it would reveal.

Whenever the government of the United States shall break up, it will probably be in consequence of a false direction having been given to public opinion. This is the weak point of our defenses, and the part to which the enemies of the system will direct all their attacks. Opinion can be so perverted as to cause the false to seem true; the enemy, a friend, and the friend, an enemy; the best interests of the nation to appear insignificant, and the trifles of moment; in a word, the right the wrong, the wrong the right. In a country where opinion has sway, to seize upon it, is to seize upon power. As it is a rule of humanity that the upright and well-intentioned are comparatively passive, while the designing, dishonest, and selfish are the most untiring in their efforts, the danger of public opinion’s getting a false direction is four-fold, since few men think for themselves.”

-James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851(

We must dare to be among the few who think for ourselves.


The author can be reached at https://cynthiachung.substack.com/

  1. David Talbot, “The Devil’s Chessboard,” pg 304 
  2. Ibid, pg 305 
  3. Ibid, pg 295 
  4. Ibid, pg 319 
  5. Ibid, pg 319 
  6. Ibid, pg 319 
  7. Ibid, pg 337 
  8. Ibid, pg 337 
  9. Ibid, pg 359 
  10. Ibid, pg 350 
  11. Ibid, pg 353 
  12. Ibid, pg 347 
  13. Ibid, pg 354 
  14. L. Fletcher Prouty, “The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy,” pg xxxiv 
  15. Anton Chaitkin’s paper “Hoover’s FBI and Anglo-American Dictatorship” 
  16. New York Times, April 6, 1971, “Boggs Demands That Hoover Quit,” p. 1. 
  17. Jim Garrison’s “On the Trail of the Assassins” p. 116 
  18. David Talbot, “The Devil’s Chessboard,” pg 201 
  19. Ibid, pg 422 

Excuse me, Sir, but are you civilized?

July 25, 2021

Excuse me, Sir, but are you civilized?

by Naresh Jotwani for the Saker Blog

Washington Post recently ran an article with headline which contained the two phrases “civilized nations” and “deter Beijing and Moscow” (see a review here). Use of the latter phrase in the headline shows clearly that the phrase “civilized nations” here has undisguised, in-your-face geopolitical motivation.

But “civilized” and “deter” is in fact a very strange combination of words, tempting and encouraging us to dig deeper into the matter.

One must assume that, in geopolitics, it is “just another day at the office” for one power to attempt to deter another. If two powers are in a state of unstable equilibrium, but not yet openly at war, attempts to deter one another would go on. Such is life. Certain lines – red or otherwise! – must not be crossed, weighty pronouncements must be made, and “swords must be banged against shields”. All this is standard stuff which foreign office trainees must learn, and upon which their “superiors” must base their upward mobility.

Clearly physical power is the one deterrent we all know about, starting from our experiences in school. But what has “being civilized” got to do with all that? Makes you wonder.

Surely I would be deterred by a big guy carrying a big stick – regardless of whether or not he seems to be “civilized”. In the same way, I am also deterred by a growling dog – regardless of whether or not it is fed and groomed by a rich owner! Chengiz Khan attacked other countries with brutal physical force, without any claims of possessing “higher civilization”. Before the sack of Rome, Alaric behaved far more sensibly than the “civilized” ruling elite of Rome.

Around the same time, another article also appeared, this one on the subject of Russian history and civilization (a review here). This article was an honest attempt to educate others, but there was no sign of any attempt to deter anyone. Indeed a resplendent, vibrant, creative civilization attracts others, does not deter them. If a “civilization” is aiming to deter others, then what happens to all the talk of “civilizational values” and “soft power”?

We know that power flows through the barrel of a gun, but today do culture and civilization also flow through the barrel of a gun? Something is surely wrong here! Historically, have the “civilized” always won wars? How do we explain the very recent history of Afghanistan? Which “civilization” has been gaining the upper hand there? What did the “civilized nations” achieve there? Whom did they manage to deter? For how long?

***

What follows is a brief history of how we have got to where we now find ourselves. This is not a work of “academic scholarship” – but rather it connects various “dots” discovered by scholars. The connections are based on the play of human nature we see all around us today.

The word “civilize” derives from the Latin root “civis”, meaning “citizen”, and in this way it is predicated on the idea of a “city”. Nomadic tribes of a period earlier than, say, 10,000 years BC would not have such a word in their language, even while the concept of “fellow tribesman” would be internalized very well.

The earliest cities were in fact trading centres for the surplus primary produce of nearby hamlets and villages. Trading – that is, eminently sensible economic exchanges – happened long before the invention of writing and of money. People were smart even then.

Trade generated surplus wealth. Thus people in cities – that is, traders of one sort or another – were free to explore aspects of life other than the hard work of primary production. Philosophy, religion, politics, law, “higher” arts and literature … all these flourished. Individuals in the city cultivated themselves, while their fellow human beings “out there” cultivated the land. Paeans and hymns were dutifully sung to the glory of the city and her various “gods”.

It was not long before the cultivated ones thought of themselves as “superior” to the others. In any one-on-one interaction with a simpler human being, they could easily run circles around the latter – and probably also justify charging a fee for the privilege!

Aided by writing and money, political power of cities grew rapidly, and it soon reached a point at which cities deemed themselves to be “proud city states”. Thence arose class differentiation between “civilized” city dwellers and the rustic population outside, which was by then economically and politically dependent on the cities. City states eventually grew into empires, following the all-too-familiar dynamic of unlimited human greed and brutality.

The simpler rustic folk were divided into “subjects”, “serfs”, “slaves” … and so on; but when the rustic folk got into friction or warfare with the “civilized” ones, they were dubbed “barbarians”. The preferred words nowadays are “deplorable”, “backward”, “lower caste” et cetera.

This phenomenon has played out repeatedly in recorded history. The phenomenon is grounded in economic motivations, and therefore it also has huge economic consequences.

Before “civilizations” came into being – and therefore before the invention of money and writing – the relationships between primary producers and traders were simple and direct, as depicted below.

Even huge geographical distances could not block trade, since ships and caravans could be used. Traders were brave and ingenious. For probably a couple of millennia, mankind experienced a “golden age of trading”, during which benefits of trade accrued but without onerous economic exploitation, slavery, human trafficking, and so on.

Things changed after the emergence of money, writing and “civilizations”. Multiple layers of political, social, financial, legal and other services emerged, giving opportunity to every “citizen” to climb the hierarchy of choice, depending on his or her aptitude and talent. Of course the two most useful talents would be greed and cunning – but clearly any other talent could be put to use, for example physical beauty, or the ability to declaim in public.

Ever since then, members of the “civilized elite” of most “civilizations” have wanted to get into the act and take their cut. The main goal of such “civilized elite” is to grab every opportunity for easy money, with the view: “After me, the deluge!”

The situation thus evolved to what is shown below, in what is projected as “progress” or the “unstoppable march of human advancement”. Men and women high up in the “pecking order” of a “civilization”, puffed up with their own social position and self-importance, feel free to make profound pronouncements about “the masses” or “the common people”.

[Incidentally, how “civilized” can a society be in which we use the phrase “pecking order”? The verb “peck” applies to poultry birds, and is also seen in the phrase “hen-pecked husband”.]

So much for “civilized”, the word wrongly used in the Washington Post article.

***

Surprisingly, this discussion brings us close to Saker’s recent decision to write and share with us short vignettes about the teachings of Jesus Christ. How so?

Jesus Christ lived through a period of great turmoil in the region, as the ruthless might of the Roman empire came into contact with independent minded Hebrews. His message was of love and charity, rather than greed. He promised deliverance to his followers, mostly poor folk.

When does a poor person cry out for deliverance? For the many poor people that I know, a bit of poverty is alright if only they are allowed to live on in peace. None of them demands perfect economic equality. Many earn their livelihood working for richer people. “I am alright, Jack. Let me be!”, they say – as they adapt, cope and share.

But turmoil most definitely does occur when even the otherwise forbearing poor are in unbearable distress; that possibility can never be ruled out.

Turmoil did occur in the period when Jesus lived and taught. Therefore, his teachings include useful, practical sayings addressing the daily economic and political reality of the poor people who were his followers. We may consider just three of his many profound sayings:

Man shall not live by bread alone …

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s …

By the way, these themes are not readily found in Gautam Buddha’s teachings. Why? Buddha lived in pre-Alexander India. Specific instances of suffering which moved him, when he was a young prince, were disease, old age, death … All of which is really kid stuff compared to what the Romans and other people of the time did on a regular basis.

Gautam Buddha traced the roots of suffering to desire, whereas the followers of Jesus Christ suffered from extreme deprivation and cruelty. It would be inhuman to say that desire was at the root of their suffering, when in fact they desired only deliverance from extreme deprivation and cruelty. Buddha and Jesus Christ addressed two totally different audiences, separated greatly in time, space and economic/political conditions.

***

It’s time to turn our attention back to some economic and political realities.

It is much easier to make money otherwise than by being a primary producer, and typically every human being seeks the easier path rather than the harder one. Primary producers are therefore left further and further behind in the headlong societal rush towards material well-being. However, no self-respecting community or country should accept such a dire economic fate for a significant fraction of its hard-working members.

Political and economic measures must therefore address this issue in a fair manner, and also provide avenues open to all members to benefit from training, education and economic mobility. Any ideology – “capitalism”, “neo-liberalism” or whatever else – which violates this fairness criterion will enrich a very few but also doom the society. Any talk of “trickle down wealth” is no more than false propaganda; “trickle down” just does not happen.

The attitude of “civilizational upper-hand” displayed in the Washington Post headline leads to a bargaining tactic which goes something like this:

Hey, you! Every time we engage in any transaction, negotiation, discussion or collaboration, do keep in mind that – since I am more “civilized” – I am by definition superior to you. Is it not enough for you that I even deign to sit and talk with you?

As against this, realistic bargaining between parties must proceed only on the basis of specific strong and weak points of each party. Any presumed and self-proclaimed – but meaningless! – “civilizational superiority” has nothing to do with any real-life negotiation. Why introduce such a red herring of into “real-politik”? In today’s intellectually multi-polar, competitive world, the adversary easily sees through all such false pretences anyway.

The reality of being “civilized” – if indeed there is such reality! – must not depend on haughty self-proclamation. The word “civilized” must be defined in terms which are universal.

Our only “city” now is the entire Planet Earth. There are no outsiders, and therefore the word “civilized” has to have meaning not limited by this or that so-called great city of the past or present – whether that be Rome, Athens, Washington, Beijing, Jerusalem or Varanasi.

In that spirit, a simple test is proposed here for the reader’s consideration:

Regardless of how highly accomplished an individual may be – in music, literature, politics, law, science, wealth, beauty or any combination thereof – does the person “get it” and accept that the most deprived individual is also a human being deserving of dignity and respect?

Note that the word “charity” does not even occur here. Acknowledgement of the other person’s humanity is far more fundamental that any outward act of “charity”. It follows that laughing at deprived individuals or pouring scorn over them is not civilized behaviour.

Only if the above test is satisfied should a person today be considered “civilized”. Loud, self-serving proclamations do not count. This is a matter not of “politics” or “ideology”, but of humanity. Nobody need fly off at the handle shrieking “Buddha”, “Jesus Christ”, “capitalism”, “communism” or “socialism”! Humanity does not dwell in a person’s brain, wealth or loquacity, but deep inside the heart – or perhaps not even there.

Lest anybody misunderstand, none of the above is a justification for what does or does not happen in my own country. Wherever there are human beings, certain behaviour patterns are bound to be seen. Most of what is described here has gone on blatantly in India for many centuries, and at present there is an intense internal struggle in progress.

The point here is that any “civilization” worth its name should help temper economic injustice rather than exacerbate it. In times of huge diversity and change, an attitude amongst people of “us” versus “them” is inevitable. The key questions ask must be such as these:

What are the terms under which societal injustices and resentments are resolved? How exploitative are these terms? How is extreme deprivation avoided?

No society can be strong if brutal economic exploitation runs rampant amongst its people. The following paradox is too glaring to be missed:

“Leaders” who declaim the loudest about being “civilized”, and try to impose their “civilizational values” on others, represent the very same societies which are going through relatively rapid exacerbation of internal fissures. A recent extensive survey carried out in the UK reported that, according to most younger respondents, the number one priority of the government should be to protect the poorest, weakest and the most vulnerable. An overwhelming majority said “F**k them all” about their own political leaders. (A summary of the survey can be found here.)

Much should be expected from anyone claiming to be “civilized” today.

Russian Return to the Middle East

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21 Jul 21 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Alexander Dugin

Today it is common wisdom to claim that Russia is returning to the Middle East. Some regard it with hate, the others with suspicion, the third with hope.

But before any evaluation according to interests and positions of different players and observers, we need first to clarify how Russia returns? What represents contemporary Russia on the new map of balance of world powers – especially regarding the Middle East?

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In the last 50 years, Russia has thrice changed radically its geopolitical and ideological status. During the Soviet period in the context of a bipolar world, Russia was undoubtfully a geopolitical superpower, the stronghold of Land Power, and the center of universal communist ideology, seeking to gain the mortal fight with the capitalist system, for the global control on the human societies on a planetary scale. The opposite camp – NATO States – represented geopolitically Sea Power and liberal ideology. Geopolitics and ideology, interests and values were densely intertwined forming two totalities – two blocks, two projects for humanity claiming to evict sooner or later the opponent. 

During this period the Soviet Union effectively was present in the Middle East – both as the power geopolitically opposing the capitalist West in most of regional conflicts, but at the same time supporting movements and parties that had in their programs and doctrines something that resonated roughly with the Left – secularism, progressivism, anti-capitalism, and anti-colonialism. The concrete politic of USSR in the region with a mostly religious population varied from the direct support of communist and socialists parties (not too influential and powerful) to pragmatic alliances with nationalist and anticolonial movement when they were not too religious.

So the function of the USSR in the Middle East was based on this two side scheme: geopolitical interests of USSR as great continental power (realist approach) combined with orientation to reach the goal of promoting communist World Revolution (idealist approach). We should consider this paradigm carefully because it shows two distinct cornerstones in the Soviet strategy. They were merged and intertwined in the whole complex but they were nevertheless different by nature and structure.

For example, this paradigm explains why USSR avoided dealing with anti-Western and anti-capitalist movements in the Middle East that were deeply affected by Islam and has religious values at their core. Salafism, Ikhwans, or Shiits were regarded by Soviets by mistrust. For the same reason, USSR itself provoked the disbelief inside these currents.

The Western pole had during the bipolar period a symmetric structure. The pure geopolitical interests (Sea Power) with its inherent scenarios repeating more or less literally force lines of old British imperialism were coupled with liberal ideology, always choosing in regional issues, the opposite side to socialist, leftists or anticolonial forces presumably naturally supported by Soviets.

The crucial moment comes with the collapse of the Soviet Union. That was the fall of the geopolitics of Land Power. The zone of influence of the core Heartland of Eurasia has shrunk radically on three circles. 

·       The large domain of influence including Latin America, Africa, and South Asia

·       The Warsaw Treaty Organization

·       The Soviet Union itself split into 15 parts.

In the realm of ideology, the change was yet more profound because Moscow has totally abandoned Marxism and embraced liberal capitalist ideology.

It was the end of bipolarism – in geopolitics and ideology. Russia has refused to continue to represent the second pole as an alternative, and accepted with Eltsine the role of periphery of the Same.

We need to remember that collapse of USSR as an ideological system was not accompanied by the symmetric abandoning by the USA and Europe of their liberal-capitalist ideology. The end of the cold war happened by the voluntary self-annihilation of only one of the players – the Soviet East has rejected its ideology but the capitalist West did not. That’s how liberal globalism has shaped its form. The globalization in the unipolar world was necessary to the expansion of liberal ideology, accepted by all as some universal norm – hence human rights, parliamentarian democracy, civil society, free market, and other purely ideological dogmas have become necessary global standards, ideological standards secured and promoted by the globalization itself.

There was a unipolar moment (as Ch. Krauthammer called it) that started in 1991. 

In this period Russia has completely withdrawn from the Middle East. It was entirely engaged in inner problems balancing in the 90th on the edge of further collapse of Russia itself. But by pure inertia, some connections established during bipolarity were somehow conserved, as well as the image of Russia as a geopolitical alternative to the West; this image was still living in the societies of the Middle East. The unipolarity left the Arabic population one to one with the Atlanticist liberal West, which was finally free to affirm itself as a unique global player and the highest instance of the decision making. That is unipolarity and it affected the Middle East during the last 30 years culminating in a chain of color revolutions sponsored by the West in order to drown democracy, human rights, and liberalism in “retarded societies”.

The final purge of secular nationalist and somehow socialist regimes (as Baath parties in all its versions – in Iraq, Libya and Syria) has become inevitable – in the unipolar paradigm, there was no global symmetric power that would be capable to contend such processes and support anti-Western political systems and leaders.  

Talking about the second pole – USSR from now on was the hole.

During the last 20 years of Putin’s rule in Russia, the country has restored partly its power. In the clear contrast to Eltsine’s contemporary first term in office, Russia didn’t follow unconditionally any order of the West and led its own sovereign politics. But this time, Russia restores its force only as great geopolitical power – as Land Power, hence the concept of Eurasia, the Eurasianism in general.

But in the field of ideology in Russia, there is a kind of vacuum. The gap left by rejected communism is filled with pragmatic and syncretic conservatism with no hard line. That makes Putin’s Russia much more flexible. Russia represents today’s only geopolitical entity – more and more clearly opposed to the West (Sea Power) but without any clearly defined ideology. 

At the same time, modern Russia cannot any more pretend to be the second pole in the bipolar structure. To play this role Russia is too weak compared with the aggregated potential of the USA and NATO countries. But there is new China whose economic growth has made it comparable with the American economy and threats to overcome it. 

Hence Russia reaffirms itself not as the second pole in the new bipolar system, but as one of the few poles (more than 2!) in the context of multipolarity. Today Russia (militarily and on the level of geography and natural resources) and China (economically) already are two poles of something like a tripolar system. But India, the Islamic world, Latin America, and Africa can one day form other self-sufficient poles. So, the Russian geopolitics of the Great State evolves now in the totally new context of multipolarity. As usual, Russia is still the Land Power opposing Sea Power, but China is also the Land Power having exactly the same global opponent – the liberal West.

So, Russia returns to the Middle East in totally new conditions and with different functions. It is not a second pole opposing the West, but one of the few poles struggling against unipolarity in favor of multipolarity.

By the way, I explained these changes in my book “The Theory of Multipolar World” which was recently published in the USA by Arktos Publishers. 

Final remark: The Western pole today, as before, is keeping its ideological content intact. More than that – during unipolar moment – when it yet looked like as something sustainable – liberal ideology seemed so powerful and indisputable, that globalists themselves – having no more formal ideological enemies – started to purge the liberal ideology itself, trying to make it yet more liberal. Hence, the disproportional volume of the gender problem raised in the last two decades. (I dedicated my book “Fourth Political Theory” to the discussion of this argument)

So now, I suggest the Middle East readers to compare the function of two global players in the contemporary regional balance of powers. The return of Russia in the Middle East is the coming of Land Power trying to resist the pressure of unipolar West, but this time without any ideological replacement of one secular materialist ideology by the other, of one form of capitalist totalitarianism with the other – communist. Modern Russia has nothing to impose on Middle East peoples on the ideological level. It is enough to regard Russia as an ally and to resist the pressure of the unipolar globalist West. No matter what is the reason for the rejection of the West by the Muslim population – religious, economic, national, or others. Russia is essentially in the Middle East to secure multipolarity not insisting on what should come in exchange for liberalism. This realism and this flexibility open totally new historical opportunities to Russian-Arab friendship.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

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How the Left is being Manipulated into Colluding in its own Character Assassination

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research

By Jonathan Cook

Global Research, January 09, 2021

There was a fascinating online panel discussion on Wednesday night on the Julian Assange case that I recommend everyone watch. The video is at the bottom of the page.  

But from all the outstanding contributions, I want to highlight a very important point made by Yanis Varoufakis that has significance for understanding current events well beyond the Assange case. 

Varoufakis is an academic who was savaged by the western political and media establishments when he served as Greece’s finance minister. Back in 2015 a popular leftwing Greek government was trying to oppose the imposition of severe loan conditions on Greece by European and international financial institutions that risked tipping the Greek economy into deeper bankruptcy and seemed chiefly intended to upend its socialist programme. The government Varoufakis served was effectively crushed into obedience through a campaign of economic intimidation by these institutions.

 Varoufakis describes here the way that leftwing dissidents who challenge or disrupt western establishment narratives – whether it be himself, Assange or Jeremy Corbyn – end up not only being subjected to character assassination, as was always the case, but nowadays find themselves being manipulated into colluding in their own character assassination.

 Here is a short transcript of Varoufakis’ much fuller comments – about 48 minutes in – highlighting his point about co-option:

 “The establishment, the Deep State, call it whatever you want, the oligarchy, they’ve become much, much better at it [character assassination] than they used to be. Because back in the 1960s and 1970s, you know, they would accuse you of being a Communist. They would accuse me of being a Marxist. Well, I am a Marxist. I’m really not going to suffer that much if you accuse me of being a left-winger. I am a left-winger!

 “Now what they do is something far worse. They accuse you of something that really hurts you. Calling somebody like us a racist, a bigot, an antisemite, a rapist. This is what really hurts because if anybody calls me a rapist today, right, even if it’s complete baloney, I feel as a feminist I have the need to give the woman, implied or involved somehow in this accusation, the opportunity to speak against me. Because that is what we left-wingers do.”

Varoufakis’ point is that when Assange was accused of being a rapist, as he was before the US made clear the real case against him – by trying to extradite him from the UK for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan – he could not defend himself without alienating a significant constituency of his natural supporters, those on the left who identify as feminists. Which is exactly what happened.

 Similarly, as Varoufakis notes from earlier conversations he had with Assange, the Wikileaks founder was in no position to properly defend himself against accusations that he colluded with Russia and Donald Trump to help Trump win the 2016 US presidential election against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

 At the time, Assange’s supporters were able to point out that the leaked emails were true and that they were in the public interest because they showed deep corruption in the Democratic party establishment. But those arguments were drowned out by a narrative confected by the US media and security establishments that Wikileaks’ publication of the emails was political interference because the emails had supposedly been hacked by Russia to sway the election result.

 Because Assange was absolutely committed to the principle of non-disclosure of sources, he refused to defend himself in public by confirming that the emails had been leaked to him by a Democratic party insider, not the “Russians”. His silence allowed his vilification to go largely unchallenged. Having already been stripped of support from much of the feminist left, particularly in Europe, Assange now lost the support of a sizeable chunk of the left in the US too.

In these cases, the one who stands accused has to defend themselves with one hand tied behind their back. They cannot hit back without further antagonising a substantial section of their supporters, deepening divisions within the left’s ranks. The victim of this kind of character assassination is caught in the equivalent of reputational quicksand. The more they fight, the deeper they sink.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened to the UK’s former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when he was accused of being a racist. If he or his supporters tried to challenge the claim that the party had become antisemitic overnight under his leadership – even if only by citing statistics that showed the party hadn’t – they were immediately denounced for supposed “antisemitism denial”, posited as the modern equivalent of Holocaust denial.

Notice Ken Loach, who was also on the panel, nodding in agreement as Varoufakis speaks. Because Loach, the noted leftwing, anti-racist film-maker who came to Corbyn’s defence against the confected media campaign smearing him as an antisemite, soon found himself similarly accused.

Jonathan Freedland, a senior columnist at the liberal Guardian, was among those using precisely the tactic described by Varoufakis. He tried to discredit Loach by accusing him of denying Jews the right to define their own experience of antisemitism.   

Freedland sought to manipulate Loach’s anti-racist credentials against him. Either agree with us that Corbyn is an antisemite, and that most of his supporters are too, or you are a hypocrite, disowning your own anti-racist principles – and solely in the case of antisemitism. And that, QED, would prove you too are motivated by antisemitism.

Loach found himself with a terrible binary choice: either he must collude with Freedland and the corporate media in smearing Corbyn, a long-standing political ally, or else he would be forced to collude in his own smearing as an antisemite.

It’s a deeply ugly, deeply illiberal, deeply manipulative, deeply dishonest tactic. But it is also brilliantly effective. Which is why nowadays rightists and centrists use it at every opportunity. The left, given its principles, rarely resorts to this kind of deceit. Which means it can only bring a peashooter to a gun fight.

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_K_Cook/status/131348440736224870

This is the left’s dilemma. It’s why we struggle to win the argument in a corporate media environment that not only denies us a hearing but also promotes the voices of those like Freedland trying to destroy us from the centre and those supposedly on the left like George Monbiot and Owen Jones who are too often destroying us from within.

As Varoufakis also says, the left needs urgently to go on the offensive.

We need to find ways to turn the tables on the war criminals who have been gaslighting us in demanding that Assange, who exposed their crimes, is the one who needs to be locked up.

We need to make clear that it is those who are so ready to smear anti-racists as antisemites – as Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, has done to swaths of Labour party members – who are the real racists.

And we need to unmask as war hawks those who accuse the anti-war left of serving as apologists for dictators when we try to stop western states conducting more illegal, resource-grab wars with such devastating results for local populations.

We must get much more sophisticated in our thinking and our strategies. There is no time to lose.

This essay first appeared on Jonathan Cook’s blog: https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/ 

For Years, Journalists Cheered Assange’s Abuse. Now They’ve Paved His Path to a US Gulag

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SUNNIS AND SHIITES AGREE IN LEBANON

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

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BY GABRIEL ROCKHILL

“The U.S. has established itself as the mortal enemy of all people’s government, all scientific-socialist mobilization of consciousness everywhere on the globe, all anti-imperialist activity on earth.”

– George Jackson

One of the founding myths of the contemporary Western European and American world is that fascism was defeated in WWII by liberal democracies, and particularly by the United States. With the subsequent Nuremburg trials and the patient construction of a liberal world order, a bulwark was erected—in fits and starts, and with the constant threat of regression—against fascism and its evil twin in the East. American culture industries have rehearsed this narrative ad nauseum, brewing it into a saccharine ideological Kool-Aid and piping it into every household, shack and street corner with a TV or smartphone, tirelessly juxtaposing the supreme evil of Nazism to the freedom and prosperity of liberal democracy.

The material record suggests, however, that this narrative is actually based on a false antagonism, and that a paradigm shift is necessary in order to understand the history of actually existing liberalism and fascism. The latter, as we shall see, far from being eradicated at the end of WWII, was actually repurposed, or rather redeployed, to serve its primary historical function: to destroy godless communism and its threat to the capitalist civilizing mission. Since the colonial projects of Hitler and Mussolini had become so brazen and erratic, as they shifted from playing more or less by the liberal rules of the game to openly breaking them and then running amok, it was understood that the best way to construct the fascist international was to do so under liberal cover, meaning through clandestine operations that maintained a liberal façade. While this probably sounds like hyperbole to those whose understanding of history has been formatted by bourgeois social science, which focuses almost exclusively on visible government and the aforementioned liberal cover, the history of the invisible government of the national security apparatus suggests that fascism, far from being defeated in WWII, was successfully internationalized.

The Architects of the Fascist International

When the United States entered WWII, the future head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, bemoaned that his country was fighting the wrong enemy. The Nazis, as he explained, were pro-capitalist Aryan Christians, whereas the true enemy was godless communism and its resolute anti-capitalism. After all, the U.S. had, only some 20 years prior, been part of a massive military intervention in the U.S.S.R., when fourteen capitalist countries sought—in the words of Winston Churchill—to “strangle the Bolshevik baby in its crib.” Dulles understood, like many of his colleagues in the U.S. government, that what would later become known as the Cold War was actually the old war, as Michael Parenti has convincingly argued: the one they had been fighting against communism since its inception.

Towards the end of WWII, General Karl Wolff, formerly Himmler’s right-hand man, went to see Allen Dulles in Zurich, where he was working for the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor organization to the CIA. Wolff knew that the war was lost, and he wanted to avoid being brought to justice. Dulles, for his part, wanted the Nazis in Italy under Wolff’s command to lay down their arms against the allies and help the Americans in their fight against communism. Wolff, who was the highest-ranking SS officer to survive the war, offered Dulles the promise of developing, with his Nazi team, an intelligence network against Stalin. It was agreed that the general who had played a central role in overseeing the Nazi’s genocidal machine, and who expressed his “special joy” when he secured freight trains to send 5,000 Jews a day to Treblinka, would be protected by the future director of the CIA, who helped him avoid the Nuremberg trials.

Wolff was very far from being the only senior Nazi official protected and rehabilitated by the OSS-CIA. The case of Reinhard Gehlen is particularly telling. This general in the Third Reich had been in charge of Fremde Heere Ost, the Nazi intelligence service directed against the Soviets. After the war, he was recruited by the OSS-CIA and met with all of the major architects of the postwar National Security State: Allen Dulles, William Donovan, Frank Wisner, President Truman. He was then appointed to head the first German intelligence service after the war, and he proceeded to employ many of his Nazi collaborators. The Gehlen Organization, as it was known, would become the nucleus of the German intelligence service. It is unclear how many war criminals this decorated Nazi hired, but Eric Lichtblau estimates that some four thousand Nazi agents were integrated into the network overseen by the American spy agency. With an annual funding of half a million dollars from the CIA in the early years after the war, Gehlen and his strong men were able to act with impunity. Yvonnick Denoël explained this turnaround with remarkable clarity: “It is hard to understand that, as early as 1945, the army and the US intelligence services recruited without qualms former Nazi criminals. The equation was, however, very simple at the time: the United States had just defeated the Nazis with the help of the Soviets. They henceforth planned to defeat the Soviets with the help of former Nazis.”

The situation was similar in Italy because Dulles’ agreement with Wolff was part of a larger undertaking, called Operation Sunrise, which mobilized Nazis and fascists to end the Second World War in Italy (and begin the Third World War across the globe). Dulles worked hand in hand with the Agency’s future chief counterintelligence officer, James Angleton, who was then stationed by the OSS in Italy. These two men, who would become two of the most powerful political actors of the twentieth century, showed what they were capable of in this close collaboration between the American intelligence services, the Nazis and the fascists. Angleton, on his end, recruited fascists to end the war in Italy so as to minimize the power of the communists. Valerio Borghese was one of his key contacts because this hardline fascist in Mussolini’s regime was ready to serve the Americans in the anti-communist struggle, and he became one of the international figureheads for postwar fascism. Angleton had directly saved him from the hands of the communists, and the man known as the Black Prince was given the opportunity to continue the war against the radical Left under a new boss: the CIA.

Once the war was over, Senior U.S. intelligence officials, including Dulles, Wisner and Carmel Offie, “worked to ensure that denazification only had a limited scope,” according to Frédéric Charpier: “Generals, senior officials, policemen, industrialists, lawyers, economists, diplomats, scholars and real war criminals were spared and put back in their positions.” The man in charge of the Marshall Plan in Germany, for instance, was a former adviser to Hermann Göring, the commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (air force). Dulles drafted a list of high functionaries of the Nazi state to be protected and passed off as opponents to Hitler. The OSS-CIA proceeded to rebuild the administrative states in Germany and Italy with their anti-communist allies.

Eric Lichtblau estimates that more than 10,000 Nazis were able to immigrate to the United States in the post-war period (at least 700 official members of the Nazi party had been allowed into the U.S. in the 1930s, while Jewish refugees were being turned away). In addition to a few hundred German spies and thousands of SS personnel, Operation Paperclip, which began in May 1945, brought at least 1,600 Nazi scientists to the U.S. with their families. This undertaking was aimed at recovering the great minds of the Nazi war machine and putting their research on rockets, aviation, biological and chemical weapons, and so forth, in the service of the American empire. The Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency was set up specifically to recruit Nazis and find them positions in research centers, the government, the army, the intelligence services or universities (at least 14 universities participated, including Cornell, Yale and MIT).

Although the program officially excluded ardent Nazis, at least at the beginning, in actual fact it allowed for the immigration of chemists from IG Farben (which had supplied the deadly gases used in mass exterminations), scientists who had used slaves in concentration camps to make weapons, and doctors who had participated in hideous experiments on Jews, Roma, communists, homosexuals and other prisoners of war. These scientists, who were described by an official in the State Department opposed to Paperclip as “Hitler’s angels of death,” were received with open arms in the land of the free. They were given comfortable accommodations, a laboratory with assistants and the promise of citizenship if their work bore fruit. They went on to conduct research that has been used in the manufacturing of ballistic missiles, sarin gas cluster bombs, and the weaponization of the bubonic plague.

The CIA also collaborated with MI6 to set up secret anti-communist armies in every country in Western Europe. On the pretext of a potential invasion by the Red Army, the idea was to train and equip networks of illegal stay-behind soldiers, who would remain behind enemy lines if the Russians moved westward. They would thus be activated in the newly occupied territory and charged with missions of exfiltration, espionage, sabotage, propaganda, subversion and combat. The two agencies worked with NATO and the intelligence services of many Western European countries to build this vast sub-rosa organization, establish numerous weapons and ammunition caches, and equip their soldiers of the shadows with everything they needed. To do this, they recruited Nazis, fascists, collaborationists and other anti-communist members of the extreme Right. The numbers vary according to the country, but they are estimated between a few dozen and several hundred, or even a few thousand, per country. According to a report from the television program Retour aux sources, there were 50 stay-behind network units in Norway, 150 in Germany, more than 600 in Italy and 3,000 in France.

These trained militants would later be mobilized to commit or coordinate terrorist attacks against the civilian population, which were then blamed on the communists in order to justify ‘law and order’ crackdowns. According to the official numbers in Italy, where this strategy of tension was particularly intense, there were 14,591 politically motivated acts of violence between 1969 and 1987, which killed 491 people and injured 1,181. Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a member of the far-right group Ordine Nuovo and the perpetrator of the bombing near Peteano in 1972, explained that the fascist “Avanguardia Nazionale, like Ordine Nuovo, were being mobilized into the battle as part of an anti-Communist strategy originating not with organizations deviant from the institutions of power, but from the state itself, and specifically from within the ambit of the state’s relations within the Atlantic Alliance.” An Italian parliamentary commission that undertook an investigation of the stay-behind armies in Italy, reached the following conclusion in 2000: “Those massacres, those bombs, those military actions had been organized or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state institutions and, as has been discovered more recently, by men linked to the structures of United States intelligence.”

The U.S. National Security State was also involved in overseeing ratlines that exfiltrated fascists from Europe and allowed them to resettle in safe havens around the world, in exchange for doing its dirty work. The case of Klaus Barbie is but one among thousands, but it speaks volumes regarding the internal functioning of this process. Known in France as ‘the butcher of Lyon,’ he was head of the Gestapo office there for two years, including the time when Himmler gave the order to deport at least 22,000 Jews from France. This specialist in ‘enhanced interrogation tactics,’ known for torturing to death the coordinator of the French Resistance, Jean Moulin, organized the first roundup of the General Union of Jews in France in February 1943 and the massacre of 41 Jewish refugee children in Izieu in April 1944. Before arriving in Lyon, he had led savage death squads, which had killed more than a million people on the Eastern Front according to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. But after the war, the man whom these same authors describe as third on the most-wanted list of SS criminals was working for the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) of the U.S. Army. He was hired to help build the stay-behind armies by recruiting other Nazis, and to spy on French intelligence services in the French and American controlled regions in Germany.

When France learned what was happening and demanded Barbie’s extradition, John McCloy, the U.S. High Commissioner of Germany, refused by claiming that the allegations were based on hearsay. Nevertheless, it ultimately proved too expensive, symbolically, to keep a butcher like Barbie in Europe, so he was sent to Latin America in 1951, where he was able to continue his illustrious career. Settling in Bolivia, he worked for the security forces of the military dictatorship of General René Barrientos and for the Ministry of the Interior and the counter-insurgency wing of the Bolivian Army under the dictatorship of Hugo Banzer, before actively participating in the Cocaine Coup in 1980 and becoming the director of security forces under General Meza. Throughout his career, he maintained close relationships with his saviors in the U.S. National Security State, playing a central role in Operation Condor, the counter-insurgency project that brought together Latin American dictatorships, with the support of the United States, to violently crush any attempt at egalitarian uprisings from below. He also helped develop the drug empire in Bolivia, including organizing gangs of narco-mercenaries whom he named Los novios de la muerte, whose uniforms resembled those of the SS. He traveled freely in the 1960s and 1970s, visiting the U.S. at least seven times, and he most likely played a role in the manhunt organized by the Agency to kill Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

The same basic pattern of integrating fascists into the global war against communism is readily identifiable in Japan, whose system of government prior to and during the war has been described by Herbert P. Bix as “Emperor-system fascism.” Tessa Morris-Suzuki has convincingly demonstrated the continuity of intelligence services by detailing how the U.S. National Security State oversaw and managed the KATO organization. This private intelligence network, very much like the Gehlen organization, was stocked with former leading members of the military and intelligence services, including the Imperial Army’s Chief of Intelligence (Arisue Seizō), who shared with his American handler (Charles Willoughby) a deep admiration for Mussolini. The U.S. occupation forces also cultivated tight relationships with senior officials in Japan’s wartime civilian intelligence community (most notably Ogata Taketora). This remarkable continuity between prewar and postwar Japan has led Morris-Suzuki and other scholars to map Japanese history in terms of a transwar regime, meaning one that continued from before to after the war. This concept also allows us to make sense of what was happening above ground in the realm of the visible government. For the sake of concision, suffice it to cite the remarkable case of the man known as the “Devil of Shōwa” for his brutal rule of Manchukuo (the Japanese colony in Northeast China): Nobusuke Kishi. A great admirer of Nazi Germany, Kishi was appointed Minister of Munitions by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in 1941, in order to prepare Japan for a total war against the U.S., and he was the one who signed the official declaration of war against America. After serving a brief prison term as a war criminal in the postwar era, he was rehabilitated by the CIA, along with his cell mate, the kingpin of organized crime Yoshio Kodama. Kishi, with the support and generous financial backing of his handlers, took over the Liberal Party, made it into a rightwing club of former leaders of imperial Japan, and rose to become Prime Minister. “The [CIA] money flowed for at least fifteen years, under four American presidents,” writes Tim Wiener, “and it helped consolidate one-party rule in Japan for the rest of the cold war.”

U.S. national security services have also established a global educational network to train pro-capitalist combatants—sometimes under the leadership of experienced Nazis and fascists—in the tried-and-true techniques of repression, torture and destabilization, as well as propaganda and psychological warfare. The famous School of the Americas was established in 1946 with the explicit goal of training a new generation of anti-communist warriors worldwide. According to some, this school has the distinction of having educated the greatest number of dictators in world history. Whatever the case may be, it is part of a much larger institutional network. It is worth mentioning, for example, the educational contributions of the Public Safety Program: “For about twenty-five years,” writes former CIA officer John Stockwell, “the CIA, […] trained and organized police and paramilitary officers from around the world in techniques of population control, repression, and torture. Schools were set up in the United States, Panama, and Asia, from which tens of thousands graduated. In some cases, former Nazi officers from Hitler’s Third Reich were used as instructors.”

Fascism Goes Global under Liberal Cover

The American imperium has thus played a central role in the construction of a fascist international by protecting right-wing militants and enlisting them in the Third World War against ‘communism,’ an elastic label extended to any political orientation that entered into conflict with the interests of the capitalist ruling class. This international expansion of fascist modes of governance has led to a proliferation of concentration camps, terrorist and torture campaigns, dirty wars, dictatorial regimes, vigilante groups and organized crime networks around the world. The examples could be enumerated ad nauseum, but I will curtail them in the interests of space and simply invoke the testimony of Victor Marchetti, who was a senior CIA official from 1955 to 1969: “We were supporting every half-assed dictator, military junta, oligarchy that existed in the Third World, as long as they promised to somehow maintain the status quo, which would of course be beneficial to U.S. geopolitical interests, military interests, big business interests, and other special interests.”

The record of U.S. foreign policy since WWII is probably the best measure of its unique contribution to the internationalization of fascism. Under the banner of democracy and freedom, the United States has, according to William Blum:

+ Endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments.

+ Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.

+ Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

+ Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.

+ Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.

The Association for Responsible Dissent, composed of 14 former CIA officers, calculated that their agency was responsible for killing a minimum of 6 million people in 3,000 major operations and 10,000 minor operations between 1947 and 1987. These are direct murders, so the numbers do not account for premature deaths under the fascist-backed capitalist world system due to mass incarceration, torture, malnutrition, lack of drinkable water, exploitation, oppression, social degradation, ecological illness or curable disease (in 2017, according to the U.N., 6.3 million children and young adolescents died from avoidable causes linked to the socio-economic and ecological inequalities of the Capitalocene, which amounts to one child dying every 5 seconds).

To establish itself as the global military hegemon and international guard dog of capitalism, the U.S. government and National Security State have relied on the help of the significant number of Nazis and fascists it integrated into its global network of repression, including the 1,600 Nazis brought into the U.S. through Operation Paperclip, the 4,000 or so integrated into the Gehlen organization, the tens or even hundreds of thousands that were reintegrated into the ‘postwar’—or rather transwar—regimes in fascist countries, the large number who were given free passage to Empire’s backyard—Latin America—and elsewhere, as well as the thousands or tens of thousands integrated into NATO’s secret stay-behind armies. This global network of seasoned anti-communist assassins has also been used to train armies of terrorists around the world to participate in dirty wars, coups d’état, destabilization efforts, sabotage, and terror campaigns.

All of this has been done under the cover of a liberal democracy, and with the assistance of its powerful culture industries. The true legacy of WWII, far from being that of a liberal world order that had defeated fascism, is that of a veritable fascist international developed under liberal cover in order to try and destroy those who had actually fought and won the war against fascism: the communists.

Gabriel Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher, cultural critic and activist. He the founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop and Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (2017), Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2016), Radical History & the Politics of Art (2014) and Logique de l’histoire (2010). In addition to his scholarly work, he has been actively engaged in extra-academic activities in the art and activist worlds, as well as a regular contributor to public intellectual debate. Follow on twitter: @GabrielRockhill

Weekend Edition
October 16, 2020
Friday – SundayGABRIEL ROCKHILL
The U.S. Did Not Defeat Fascism in WWII, It Discretely Internationalized ItPAUL STREET
The Coup Already UnderwayEVE OTTENBERG
How Trust in a Covid Vaccine ErodedJEFFREY ST. CLAIR
Roaming Charges: Pray, Grin and BarrettROB URIE
Who Elected Donald Trump?RICHARD D. WOLFF
How Fascism Has Converged With Capitalism to Redefine GovernmentMEDEA BENJAMIN – NICOLAS J. S. DAVIES
Trump’s Endless WarsISHMAEL REED
The Tragedy of Stanley CrouchJOSEPH NATOLI
Our Territory is Fractal, Our Mapping HyperrealJOHN HORNING
Compassion, Wolves and America’s First WildernessANDREW LEVINE
Pack the Damn Court, JoeW. T. WHITNEY
Medical Doctors Seek Social and Political Solutions for COVID 19 CrisisREV. WILLIAM ALBERTS
Why Pray for the Renewed Health of a Tyrant Who will Merely Continue to Lie and Harm People?JAMES HALBROOK
I Witnessed an Eco-CrimeLOUIS PROYECT
Can an Eco-Socialist Revolution Save China?PAUL EDWARDS
Emma Goldman and Lesser EvilismJEFF MACKLER
Fact-Checking the Liars: the Record of U.S. Imperial War and PlunderKATIE BILODEAU
How the Clinton-Era Roadless Rules Aid and Abet LoggingROMANA RUBEO – RAMZY BAROUD
Zionist War on Palestinian Festival in Rome is Ominous Sign of Things to ComeLAWRENCE DAVIDSON
American Jewish Progressives Declared IrrelevantTHOMAS KLIKAUER
Profits über Alles – MBAs in GermanySARAH ANDERSON
Farmers and Meatpackers Are Teaming UpBINOY KAMPMARK
Dropped Prosecutions: The Afghan Files, Public Interest Journalism and Dan OakesDAN BACHER
Karuk Tribe Leads Effort to Fight Racism and Climate Change with FireDENNIS BERNSTEIN
Structural Racism in Liberal Armor: Newsome’s Veto Domestic Workers’ Rights BillTED RALL
After The Donald, The Deluge?JAMES A HAUGHT
Trust ScienceRON JACOBS
Based in EmpireNICKY REID
AMERIKA!: The Horror StoryJENNIFER ROBIN – PHIL ROCKSTROH – KENN ORPHAN
And who will join this standing up: A Poetic Response to Empire, BurningK.J. NOH
The US is Set on a Path to War with China. What Is to be Done?NICK PEMBERTON
Pro-Life is a Pedophilic PositionSTEVEN HILL
Latest Election Stunt Proves Uber and Lyft are Their Own Worst Political EnemiesROB OKUN
Not Proud, BoysJILL RICHARDSON
Voter Suppression in a Pandemic ElectionCHRIS WRIGHT
The Revolutionary BeethovenTHOMAS KNAPP
Tucker Carlson and the Cult of the CourtLAWRENCE WITTNER
Memories of Voter SuppressionJONAH RASKIN
Tragedy or Farce? Reflections on Aaron Sorkin’s “Trial of the Chicago 7”EVAGGELOS VALLIANATOS
Hellas Reborn?MICHAEL DOLINER
I Accept the NominationDANIEL HUNTER
Ten Things to Know About Stopping a CoupCHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI
The Hallmark of TrumpDESIREE HELLEGERS
Why I Hate Mad Men  DAVID YEARSLEY

Weekly China Newsbrief and Sitrep

Weekly China Newsbrief and Sitrep

September 16, 2020

By Godfree Roberts selected from his extensive weekly newsletter : Here Comes China

This week’s selection includes a separate explanation on just how the Chinese Communist Party and Government operates.  For those that visit these weekly Sitreps to learn, this may put an end to the regular discussion items of just how bad the CCP is.  You did know that China has six political parties, did you?  The people that I’ve consulted say the following:  China’s system works for China.  We do not suggest you adopt our system, so, there is no reason for you to insist we adopt yours.

From a regular Twitter Feed by ShangaiPanda, here is how it actually works, by meritocracy.  What this means is that Xi Jinping for example already had 40 years experience in governing, before he was both selected, and elected to his position.

From Godfree’s newsletter which is just brimming with interesting items this week, we’ve selected items about:

  • space,
  • Islam, communism and the BRI,
  • trade war and trade deficit,
  • and a highly educational piece by ‘Chairman Rabbit’, who analyses America from a Chinese perspective.

On studying China it is good to remember that unlike many other countries, China as a country holds together from two perspectives, a long lasting civilizational unity, as well as a sovereign state.


 Space – high technology that is green technology

China has safely landed a reusable spacecraft which it claims will provide a “convenient and inexpensive” method of getting to and from space. The craft launched on September 4th and landed on September 6th after spending two days in orbit, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Very little is known about the spacecraft, including even its basic design. There are no picture or renders of the craft, but there have been rumors it is a spaceplane similar to the Air Force’s X-37B. A Chinese military source told the South China Morning Post they could not provide details on the mission but that “maybe you can take a look at the US X-37B.”[MORE]

Islam, Communism and the BRI

The significance of having 52 Muslim countries (37.6%) that comprise 87.5 per cent of World Muslims in the BRI alliance, is not lost on the United States and its allies who are not particularly pro-Islam, which may explain their sudden interest to ‘care’ about the plight of Muslims in Xinjiang! Soon after the Bolshevik uprisings, Communism and Islam seemed destined to liberate the Muslim world from European Imperialism, but that was not to be due to their ideological differences. This presented an opportunity to the United States and its allies, where they coopted anti-Communist Jihadism to disrupt Communism.  This had the unintended consequence of being the impetus for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which presented the U.S. and its allies with new challenges.

Soon after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Communism and Islam were the impetus for revolutions against European imperialism in Egypt, Iraq, India, Caucasus and Central Asia, and the Indonesian Archipelago. However, divergent views about Communism proved divisive among Muslims (who are also quite divergent in their theological interpretations of Islam) and this quasi- ideological alliance was all over by the onset of the Cold War.  Those irrevocable divisions may have been due to the essence of Islam’s socio-economic and political system.  It is more consultative (‘Shoura’ or democratic theocracy) and entrepreneurial in nature, which is more compatible with social democracy and capitalism, than with communism’s autocratic state planned economy.

The other reason for such failure is the proactive role of the United States (and some Western Europeans, like Britain and France) in using Christian missionaries and NGOs in intelligence gathering while spreading Christianity in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. In the 1970s, it was revealed that the CIA sponsored missionaries in Kerala and Nagaland to not only block the advance of Communism in India, but also to establish sufficient tensions between India and China and prevent any regional stability that continues to our present day.

In the 1980s, the CIA’s material support to the Afghan Mujahideen (and by default the Afghan Arabs, like Osama Bin Laden and his followers, who were rounded up from the different Arab and Muslim countries by their intelligence services and sent to Afghanistan, via Pakistan for their paramilitary training by the ISI, in the hope that they would never come back) only exacerbated extremist violence ever since. In the 1990s, the predominantly Muslim former Soviet Republics of Central Asia; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and other Islamic countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan opened their doors to Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi Islam (probably with the ‘blessings’ of the CIA).

This resulted in an upsurge of Islamist fundamentalism and separatist movements in central Asia, like al-Qaeda affiliated Turkestan Islamic Party(TIP), Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), which have presented a challenge to China and others in the region. Since the rise of anti-Communist Jihadism in the 1980s and its coopetition by the Anglo-Americans to disrupting Communism ever since may have been the impetus for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The $8 trillion investment by China in its bold, innovative and strategic Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) alliances with 138 countries comprising 51.7% of world GDP offers an infrastructure backbone of maritime, land and digital trade alliances. The BRI alliances represent 4.8 billion people (61.7%) of the world population.  Of which an estimated 1.4 billion (29.2%) identify as Muslim and are part of the 52 member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), including all 22 Arab countries.

China’s BRI strategic alliances with Arabic and Muslim countries can only help neutralise the existential threat of global Islamist fundamentalism in the long-term by spreading economic prosperity and alleviating poverty. Also, it will not only bring prosperity and stability to China’s underdeveloped north-western part (Xinjiang holds 1.33% of China’s population and contributes 1.35% to China’s GDP), but also to (its ideological partner in the new world order) Russia, and other BRI partners on its western border.

Coupled with technological innovations in global cross-border trade and finance, the BRI projects would no doubt accelerate global economic growth and revive China’s historical legacy in boosting entrepreneurships without compromising necessary protections of the weak. Those infrastructure-driven alliances are building a global community with a shared future for mankind.  This is so important at a time when our world is divided by poverty, crippling national debts and the rise of ultra-nationalism.

The clash of civilizations, anti-(Muslim)-refugees’ sentiment and Islamophobia are just symptoms of the rise in white supremacism and alt-right extremism sweeping the Anglo-American and European nations. Those groups subscribe to a conspiracy theory of cultural and population replacement or nativism, where white European populations are being replaced with non-Europeans (predominantly Muslim Arabs from Syria and elsewhere) due to the complicity of ‘replacist’ elites.

For example, the ‘Génération Identitaire’ (GI) movement in France, which considers itself a ‘defender’ of the European civilization has affiliated youth groups in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.  This heightened sense of ultra-nationalism is driving Western democratic politics away from economic concerns, in favour of issues related to culture and identity. No doubt, Anglo-American and European anxieties about China’s technological, economic and geopolitical dominance may be rooted in their innate fears about being displaced by an Asian culture and the potential spread of Socialism with Chinese characteristics to the 138 countries that joined the BRI alliances, after having spent a good part of over 70 years fighting Communism.

America’s continued rise as a world power—from the 1890s through the Cold War—and its bid to extend its hegemony deep into the twenty-first century through a fusion of cyberwar, space warfare, trade pacts, and military alliances – is now limited by the reality that it has to dismantle China’s BRI alliances as it did to the USSR. This is why the ‘five eyes’ alliance is going on the offensive with (a) sanctions and visa restrictions for Chinese officials, (b) bans on China’s technological 5G innovations (Huawei, Tik Tok and WeChat under the guise of ‘National Security’ concerns), (c) tariffs trade wars, and (d) a particular focus on ‘human rights’ in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The significance of having 52 Muslim countries (37.6%) that comprise 87.5 per cent of World Muslims in the BRI alliance, is not lost on the United States and its allies who are not particularly pro-Islam, which may explain their sudden interest to ‘care’ about the plight of Muslims in Xinjiang! Thus, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the sole purpose of those disruptive policies by the “five-eyes” alliance is to intensify the global anti-China sentiment that is already aggravated due to COVID-19, and to inflame Muslim sentiment in particular, so as to torpedo China’s largest economic and geopolitical Belt and Road alliances.[MORE] [George Mickhail is an LSE trained academic and a geopolitical risk analyst with 30 years’ experience in major global accounting firms and business schools.]

Trade War and Trade Deficit

The US trade deficit with China widened in July – an embarrassing situation for President Trump, who Taiwan’s Liberty Times said had been left  with a ‘green face’ (a crude expression that makes plain this is a bad outcome for him). When the US President campaigned four years ago, he strongly accused China of seizing American wealth in what he hailed as “the biggest theft in history.” After his election, he maintained this position against China. However, the latest data will hardly please him. The United States had a $31.6 billion trade deficit with China in July, which was an 11.5% increase from June. The paper noted that before the outbreak of the coronavirus, the US trade deficit with China was narrowing, but it has gradually expanded since the epidemic spread. Data released by the US Census Bureau on Thursday showed that the trade deficit with China in Q2 increased by 36.8% compared to Q1. The deficit in July was 4.36% larger than that in July 2016.[MORE]

‘Chairman Rabbit’ Analyzes America

Editor’s Note: Tu Zhuxi (Chairman Rabbit) is the nom de plume of Ren Yi, a Harvard-educated Chinese blogger who has amassed more than 1.6 million followers on Weibo who seek out his political commentary, much of which falls under a genre we might facetiously call “America-watching.” 

Today, I scrolled through the interview Professor Ezra Feivel Vogel gave with the Global Times: “90 year-old Professor Vogel: Unfortunately, there is a possibility of armed confrontation between the United States and China.” The veteran professor—who has researched China and East Asia all his life and promoted the development of ties between the United States and China—conveyed intense unease after witnessing two years of sharp downturn in Sino-U.S. relations under the Trump Administration. He could not bear not to air his concerns. 

This interview comes at an opportune time. As you can see, I have excerpted a short comment from the interview. This excerpt perfectly echoes the content I have wanted to expand on these last two days:

Vogel: There is a new article in the Atlantic magazine by James Fallows that gives the most comprehensive explanation of what has happened. And it clearly is the Trump administration.

Before the coronavirus, there had been plans in earlier administrations for dealing with an epidemic. We had a good overall plan. Trump did not use those plans at all. He even acted when he first heard about the coronavirus pandemic as if there was not a big problem. So things were delayed. It clearly is Trump’s responsibility.

At the time of writing, the United States has around 3.8 million confirmed cumulative cases, 140,000 deaths, and a daily increase of about 64 thousand cases. The diagnosis of experts and intellectuals around the United States: this is all due to the Trump Administration.

First of all, the United States’ so-called “good overall plan” for epidemic response was targeted towards a type of infectious disease that resembles the flu in infectiousness, hazard, and lethality. The United States after all has quite a few documentaries and special television programming about pandemics, and every year in every corner of the country drills are held about pandemics, but all of these were with the assumptions of a flu-like disease. COVID-19 was not within the expectations of an American plan for epidemic response, and indeed was beyond the response plan of every country in regard to an infectious disease with respiratory transmission. COVID-19 is an especially potent epidemic, a disease with an extraordinarily high death rate. The epidemic response plan that the United States currently had in place was entirely insufficient for COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci brought up this topic several times in the last few months, especially in the early stages of the epidemic: the American system and design is either insufficient or entirely ineffectual against COVID-19. Dr. Fauci was speaking only from the standpoint of public hygiene and healthcare system and his analysis did not broaden past these considerations.

I have been following the news, media, and commentaries of the U.S. right and left. Criticisms of the epidemic response have generally been from Democratic Party, anti-Trump, and/or liberal-aligned intellectuals. Even after several months, I have rarely encountered essays or discussions that analyze in-depth the full extent of the difficulties facing the U.S. COVID-19 response by synthesizing broader observations on the nation’s political system, society, governance, culture, and economy.

Basically, all the analyses have taken the question and subsumed it under the issue of “political leadership”—usually pointing towards the President, the White House, and state governors. The majority of these analyses lay blame onto the very person of Trump.

Basically, all the analyses have taken the question and subsumed it under the issue of “political leadership”—usually pointing towards the President, the White House, and state governors. The majority of these analyses lay blame onto the very person of Trump.

According to this logic, the reason for the U.S.’s weak response to the epidemic is Trump and Trump alone. If only there was only another person in charge, the U.S. could have defeated COVID-19.

Readers who follow me should know my methods well: I have always begun my analyses from a sociological point of view. How could the U.S. use influenza as the primary lens to understand COVID-19, and how did this understanding influence the U.S.’s subsequent responsive actions? I have since wrote many essays on this topic, for example my April 1st, 2020 essay: “Can the United States Shut Down Entire Cities and Thoroughly Practice Social Distancing Like China? A Discussion of American Exceptionalism” (link in Chinese).

In that piece, I argue that due to the U.S. political and legal system, enacting a comprehensive and stringent social distancing program, including measures such as quarantining cities, is simply not possible.

In the next few months, I will continue my analysis and extend towards the political level. Not too long ago, I collected a few writings into this listicle: “13 Reasons for the Ineffectual Response towards COVID-19 of the United States and ‘Society Construction’ During an Epidemic” (link in Chinese).

I summarized thirteen reasons for the U.S.’s weak response to the epidemic:

  1. Government system: the separation of powers between the federal, state, and local governments
  2. Government system: the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judiciary bodies
  3. Wide racial and class disparities
  4. A culture that understands individualism as a cardinal virtue, even to the point of opposing social or collective interests
  5. An overwhelmingly one-sided emphasis on political and civil rights
  6. “Gun culture”: the spirit of Manifest Destiny, rugged individualism, and militarism
  7. “Bible culture” and anti-intellectualism
  8. A pluralistic society without common understanding or consensuses
  9. A government and media that intensifies rather than ameliorates social tensions
  10. A values system that does not respect the elderly and does not assign elders special protections
  11. Family structures which are not suited to fighting against COVID-19
  12. The precarious economic situation of the United States’ middle and lower classes (like walking on a tightrope, i.e. living from paycheck to paycheck or credit problems)
  13. Other cultural factors, such as resistance against wearing masks

There are certainly many more reasons than the ones I have listed. But what I wish to express is that the U.S.’s weak response to the epidemic is the combined result of political, legal, social, cultural, economic, and other factors. The White House, as one of the holders of broad public authority (the executive section of the federal government), has in fact significantly limited power over this broader structural context.

The U.S. cannot manage stringent social distancing, large-scale quarantines of cities, nor restrictions on interstate travel. Health QR codes on mobile devices are entirely impossible with citizens’ insistence on privacy protections. A vast society led primarily by individualism and anti-intellectualism can hardly speak of epidemic management. These factors are not problems that can be resolved with the changing of a president. I believe that even if it were Obama, Hillary, or Biden as president, they would not be able to reverse the tide of the battle against COVID-19, even if they would be slightly more effective—for instance if they had taken the initiative and emphasized the importance of masks. This is because fighting an epidemic does not depend on the lobbying or practices of a president, but rather on the public health and prevention system of an entire country, one which from top to bottom must act in unity and move together. Public authority must comprehensively, effectively, and consistently implement policies (such that each locality will not have its own variant policies), and also cannot allow any level of the judiciary to interfere in the problems of any level of government. On the balance between citizen and society, preparations must absolutely be made to cede rights to the collective. “Political and civil rights” must in these times yield way.

The very design of U.S. political and legal institutions is meant to inhibit collective rights. Balance of powers is at the core of American governance. Political and civil rights are the bedrock of American political values. To deny these values equates to the very denial of the U.S.’s fundamental being.

The very design of U.S. political and legal institutions is meant to inhibit collective rights.

Therefore, to take the U.S.’s weak response to the epidemic and shove it at “political leadership” and at the feet of Trump is not merely skin-deep, but avoids the real problem and focuses on easy answers. It is simply not looking at the substance of the situation.

For several months I have followed U.S. political commentaries on the left and right, and I can confirm I have not seen any analysis of depth. The overwhelming majority of analyses are overly narrow and concrete, pointing at an individual perhaps. Rare is the person who can leap outside the U.S. political structure and carry out a detailed assessment from a third point-of-view. Why? I summarize two reasons:

(1) Americans are sort of like the baffled participant in a game; sometimes the onlookers see more of the game than the players. Americans honestly believe that the American system is exceptional, the best in the world. This is an earnest and steadfast faith, an authentic “self-confidence in path, self-confidence in principles, self-confidence in system, self-confidence in culture” [the “Four Self-Confidences” of Xi Jinping Thought]. They simply cannot bring themselves to doubt or oppose the American system. Since the American system is perfect, once the epidemic creates problems, by the process of elimination, Americans reason that the problem must stem only from electing the right or wrong politician. From this line of thought, pick out the one who has the most power: this is Trump’s fault. After him, perhaps we blame the governor of Florida, DeSantis. This is about as deep as the majority of Americans introspect.

(2) Criticizing the American system is a serious political error. It’s taboo. This is because it is anti-American, “unpatriotic,” “un-American.” It is a stance that doubts the very foundations of the United States. So when there is an elephant in the room in regards to the American system, everybody can see it but dare not speak up. I believe that the majority of people do not even see this elephant in the room because they have been so thoroughly brainwashed by the perfection of the American system. It is only a minority of people who can see this. These people very well could be Democrats or liberal intellectuals. This small number of people aware of reality cannot point out the elephant, however, even if they can see it. This is because pointing it out cannot change the situation on the ground, yet will still result in censure and criticism. One would rather polish a cannonball and lob it at Trump.

In summary, if we compare China with the United States, we would discover an interesting phenomenon.

When Chinese people criticize, they are accustomed to focusing criticisms on the system. “Systemic problem.” “Systemic-ism .” Even though there are indeed problems at the individual level, these problems are thoroughly rooted in the larger system. “Because the system produced this type of person,” “because the system could not restrain or check this particular person.” At any rate, any analysis fundamentally leads back to systemic problems.

When American people criticize, it is focusing the problem onto the physical body of an individual politician. It is not the system at fault, because the system is already perfect or close to perfect, so it can only be a problem birthed from the politician: this pundit’s personality is bad, their abilities did not cut it. All criticisms are of this sort. With that, if an impotent pundit is continuously elected or re-elected—for instance if Trump is re-elected, then this is a problem of the voters. But at this time, the analysis simply cannot proceed further. In the calculus of American political values, the political values of every person are equal: one cannot belittle the voters. In 2016 during the presidential race, Hillary Clinton belittled Trump’s supporters and faced an overwhelmingly negative backlash, costing her the ultimate price (this could perhaps be why she lost the presidential race). What is left then is to criticize the political influence of the media, campaign funding, and interest groups. But even here the analysis must end. Within the proscribed limits of the dialogue, it is easy to enter into another level of analysis—for example, could it be that the U.S. electoral system has fundamental faults? If one gets to this level, it touches upon the very body of U.S. democracy and its electoral system. One would be entering a live mine zone, teetering on the edge of political error.

In this sort of environment, Americans naturally will avoid hard problems and search for easy answers. They will not explore systemic problems, but rather focus their entire attention on electoral solutions.

Under this existing electoral process, one can only, perhaps, push their preferred candidate onto the political stage and wish only for their own candidate to ascend to the office, so that in the next few years that candidate can advance their own political programs and thereby protect the interests of the candidate’s supporters. In this sort of environment, Americans naturally will avoid hard problems and search for easy answers. They will not explore systemic problems, but rather focus their entire attention on electoral solutions.

Therefore, American politics are entirely driven by the short-term. They will look at long-term problems as a certainty before avoiding them, exerting only in order to resolve short-term problems. Even though there are scholars and intellectuals who can produce long-term analyses of wide historical and societal scale, this sort of analysis remains locked in the library and Ivory Towers, away from the stain of political practice.

The American “Revolution”

In the week after the conclusion of the 2016 election in the United States, Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders published his book Our Revolution. As everybody knows, 2016 was the contest between Trump and Clinton. Yet Bernie Sanders was the more extreme, more left (called a “socialist”) candidate of the Democratic Party, who was ultimately knocked out by the mainstream Clinton in the primaries. But he retains many fans among the Democratic Party’s “progressive wing”, including many youth. In his book, he introduced his thoughts as well as his explanations and analyses on all sorts of issues of the day, including the wealth gap, race relations, environmental problems, healthcare problems, the problem of media and interest groups binding politics, gender pay disparity, and the problem of Wall Street and big corporations.

Sanders’ diagnosis of American problems intersects with Trump: it is only that while Sander’s target audience was quite broad (for example, minorities, vulnerable groups, and women), Trump’s was much more parochial. On similar problems, Trump would provide right-wing resolutions to his limited audience of voters, but Sanders provided left-wing resolutions to his broad audiences—because of this, he was smeared as a “socialist”. Of course, during Sander’s entire campaign, there remained an unspeakable doubt: that is, can a big-city Jewish American ‘elite’ from Brooklyn, New York actually win the votes to be elected as President of the United States? This same problem may apply to Michael Bloomberg. To date, it seems this question answers in the negative.

But I do not wish to talk about Sanders’ propositions or ethnicity, but rather his slogan: “Our Revolution”.

“Our Revolution” has now become a left-wing action organization with roots in the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, and it continues to organize movements within the Democratic Party and in other broader social contexts.

“Our Revolution” has three key actions: “Win on our issues,” “Transform the Democratic Party,” and “Elect progressives up and down the ballot.”

It is of note that Sanders is the most mainstream American politician to date to support the idea of a revolution. However, what I wish to point out to Chinese readers is that this concept of “revolution” is nothing more than propagating his own thoughts and policy proposals to a wider audience, in order to get his own people elected and achieve electoral success himself.

People more familiar with Chinese political discourse should know the difference between “revolution” and “reform.”

Revolution is overturning and starting over again: toppling the old system and the old order, and constructing a new system. Revolution is often violent, of great force, compelled, and refuses to abide by the present system. From the standpoint of Marxism, revolution is class struggle, a fiery worker’s movement. From the standpoint of Leninism, it is a violent movement. From the standpoint of Mao Zedong:

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

In the Chinese context, and indeed in the majority of cultural and social contexts, “revolution” is an intense action: revolution demands the overthrowing of the present system. Abiding by the present system, or moving within the current system and order, can only be reform.

But it is different in the United States. In the United States, challenging and overthrowing the system is taboo. It is simply impossible. This is because the American system is considered sacred, perfect. It is only particular individuals who have problems, only particular problems that cannot be handled well. The system itself has no problems. Therefore, all actions can only be carried out within the purview of what the system allows. The only path is by election—use a successful election to construct the starting point and foundations of societal change.

The American system is considered sacred, perfect. It is only particular individuals who have problems, only particular problems that cannot be handled well. The system itself has no problems.

Because of this, in the political rhetoric of Bernie Sanders, we see not a radical revolution or transformation, but a complete obedience to the American system. Due to the American people’s 100% approval and obedience to the system, any possibilities that people may have substantive critique or doubts vis-à-vis the system are cut off, and no action can be taken. The American system has completely limited their space for movement. Even “radicals” similarly can only raise high the banner of the American system, and can only work and influence society within designated limits: by pushing their own candidates in elections.

A few weeks ago, the police brutality case of George Floyd caused massive numbers of Americans to take to the streets and protest without ceasing.

Yet have we seen any protestor put out protest against the very structure of America’s political system, institutions, and government? Will there be any person who comes and burn the Constitution? Burn the American flag? Will there be any person who will put forth concrete plans of actions towards subversion?

There wasn’t any. The protestors could only protest a few “conditions.” Each path towards resolution is diverted back into elections.

The United States uses the separation of powers mechanism to spread the vast majority of social contradictions among the politicians of the various local jurisdictions. Through the possibility of election, in order to resolve these contradictions, the people complain while pointing at the politicians, not the institutions themselves. In the end, the people believe they hold the power and can influence politics through the vote, carrying on their lives under this sort of hope.

The most awe-inspiring politics indeed is this: one in which people believe they have the power and thus maintain steadfast hope in the future, while at the same time changing nothing about the current situation.

A few weeks ago, when riots erupted all around the United States, Secretary of State Pompeo could still proudly boast and simultaneously demean China: Wehave freedom of assembly, expression, and freedom to protest.

The American system has already developed to this point: simply give the people freedom of expression and freedom to protest so that they can feel themselves righteous and superior, after which they may do as they wish.

I have before written an essay “From ‘Moral Licensing’ and ‘black-clad warriors’ to the ‘Sick People of Hong Kong’” in which I explained the concept of moral licensing:

“People believe that if they had prior done something good, they can then possibly condone themselves (or even indulge themselves) when in the future they do something not as good (even actions that do not conform to one’s own or the public’s moral standards).”

The circumstances surrounding the system of the U.S. are such: if we allow people expression, allow them to freely scold the government, this grants the people “political and civil rights.” This itself grants the American system moral superiority; it is the ends not the means. Afterwards, the government need not do anything further: “half-heartedly listen yet decide to do nothing.” That there have been so many racial conflicts and riots in the past few decades demonstrates that this kind of “expression” does not bring any substantive political transformation. American society has not experienced any fundamental changes. The people who can bear it no more cannot help but take to the streets after many a hard years.

The U.S.’s electoral system is a systemic, national form of “moral licensing”:

First, it grants people the right to vote, grants people a few nominal political and civil rights, allowing the people to feel that they have power and agency and thereby perceive moral self-satisfaction.

Afterwards, the politicians and elites can recount the greatness and glory of the system, right and proper as it is. “We allow African Americans to go out on the streets! So our system is progressive.” “We had Obama as president, how can our society be discriminatory against African Americans?”

The first stage of American politics is taking “the right to express concerns” and equating it with “measures to resolve the problem.” I allowed you to express your opinion, so all is well.

The second stage of American politics is taking “the right to express concerns” and using it as legitimization for “tacit allowance of the bad.” I allowed you to express your opinion, and I even allowed a black president, so what are you babbling about?

As one can see, the separation of powers and electoral system in the United States has created a perfect “cognitive trap” — people believe that this system can endlessly empower individuals and provide limitless potential and possibilities, that it can change anything. This system is in fact like a black hole, taking all the potential and sucking it in and dispelling it — even if it means there will be no changes in reality.

This system is in fact like a black hole, taking all the potential and sucking it in and dispelling it — even if it means there will be no changes in reality.

I believe that there will not be an insurrection in the U.S. because there is no power in the U.S. that can overturn or transform the American system. The American system is too powerful, it can already change the meaning of words: turning “revolution” into reforms hemmed in by the limits of the electoral system. This is indeed an extraordinarily powerful system.

Only an enormous outside pressure can cause the United States to change.

China is just such a pressure currently placed on the United States. In the beginning, the pressure was indistinct, unclear, but now it grows more apparent as China continues its rise.

Why Can’t America Criticize Its Own System?

Apart from “empowering” people, giving them the fantastic illusion of grasping political power and being able to influence it, the American electoral system is also importantly related to the system’s construction of an American person’s identity.

As I have written two days prior in the essay “Why the United States Does Not Understand China — From the Original Intention of the Communist Party of China, to European Civilization, to American Politics”, the United States is an multi-national country, assimilating many people from different ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, and societies. To bind these people together, a country cannot rely on blood ties, shared ethnicity, or shared culture, but instead on shared political values—the approval of the Constitution of the United States, and the approval of the foundational political values of the United States.

Political values and the American system: these two formulate the “national identity” of the United States.

Disavowing the American system is tantamount to disavowing the American national identity, necessarily meaning being anti-American.

Every civilization must construct its own foundations for national identity.

The national identities of European countries lay upon race, blood, and land, and, after, language and culture. Denying one’s race, blood, land, and language is to go against one’s own national character, and is hardly acceptable.

China is also multi-national, its national identity based more on culture and language; one able to integrate into the Chinese nation is one who can be accepted. Land is secondary, and ethnicity and blood ties may also be factors. But in summary, the inclusiveness of the Chinese people is quite potent, with ethnicity, blood ties, and other such factors relatively weak considerations. From the point-of-view of Chinese people, disavowing Chinese culture, history, tradition, or the perception of China’s territory and borders, is what it takes to disavow or be disloyal to China.

From the standpoint of the United States, ethnicity, blood, land, language, culture, and history are not key factors; only political values are. To disavow the American system is to disavow the American “nation.”

From the standpoint of any nationality, for one to deny their own national character is very much unacceptable, no matter if it is Europe, China, or the United States. The distinction from Europe and China is that the American nationality is built on the foundation of a political system and values.

In what circumstances then does a society or a nationality go against and disavow their own nationality?

I am currently of the belief that it is only in a cross-ethnic or transnational international setting where one could find serious frustrations which could produce such a self-disavowal.

Only in facing an enormous failure can there possibly be a self-disavowal, even a “self-hatred”.

China’s concept of nationality is built on culture and civilization. In the past two hundred years or so, China has suffered foreign invasion and bullying, thoroughly fell behind and received thrashings, and as a result came to doubt much of its own system and culture. This type of self-doubt and self-disavowal has persisted onto the present day. Chinese people tend to search for their own “inherent weaknesses” among their traditional culture.

Once the Chinese economy grew, and subsequently once its global standing rose, people began to change, becoming self-confident, and more were able to see the good aspects of Chinese traditional culture and contemporary societal practices.

The U.S. is similar. The American concept of national character is its own system and political value. Nothing short of a severe frustration of the American system, perhaps by China comprehensively catching up to or surpassing the United States, perhaps even failing in a competition or struggle with China, would possibly wake up the Americans to their senses. The basis for the United States’ own “four self-confidences” is its absolute leading role in the world for the past close to a century. The U.S.’s strength made people believe that the American system must be superior, and based on this they came to believe that America’s national character must be superior. The U.S. vigilantly guards against and attacks any other country that could challenge its national might, because any challenge would undermine the supposed superiority of the U.S.’s national character.

The U.S. vigilantly guards against and attacks any other country that could challenge its national might, because any challenge would undermine the supposed superiority of the U.S.’s national character.

If China one day rises and is to enter conflict with the United States and comes to outdo the American system, then for certain it would deal a huge blow to the self-confidence of the American people.

Only in such a time may the American people perhaps engage in deeper introspections on their system and models, and thereby possibly search for and implement necessary reforms.

I believe that American politics and society have extraordinarily powerful inertia and cannot initiate any self-led, self-directed adjustments in the short-term, unless there is outside pressure.

China’s rise is by now inevitable and will come to pressure the U.S. more as time goes on. At a certain point, the U.S. will be forced to confront and rethink their own system, to seek more changes and reforms. This is precisely like the period at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s, in which the U.S. confronted the rise of Japan in industrial and commercial matters. Thus, the U.S. increasingly scrutinizing China is only a matter of time.

As China continues to grow stronger, its influence on international affairs will naturally grow larger as well. At the same time, the United States will experience a relative decline, its soft power and political influence around the world will face relative decline as well. China can indeed throw out or act as a challenge, check, or supplement (the terminology is not important) to the American model in the future, and proceed on a path distinct from that of the West.

The path China takes will also influence the course of human development in the future, and indeed may be a course we will get to see in our lifetimes.

Finally, if there is a lesson that China must draw from the U.S. concerning principles of political systems, it must be that we must constantly remember to remain humble. Under no circumstances can we allow ourselves to become complacent and lose our vigilance. We must constantly look at our shortcomings, search for reforms and improvements, and consistently upgrade ourselves. “Four self-confidences” of course is vitally important, but we must at the same time retain our characteristically Chinese low-key, pragmatic, cautious, modest, and moderate dispositions.

We must never emulate the Americans in their blindness, arrogance and self-importance, lack of introspection, or their coarse self-confidence.[MORE]

Translated by Sean Haoqin Kang. The original Wechat blogpost, “American ‘Revolution’: The ‘Systemic Trap’ and the Lessons China Must Draw” can be found here (link in Chinese).


Selections by Amarynth

Is there any possibility of diffusing Sino-US tension?

Source

Is there any possibility of diffusing Sino-US tension?

July 14, 2020

by Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Sino-US tension is growing to a dangerous level, what will be the consequences? Who will suffer more? And who will be benefitted? Is there any simple solution? Is anyone willing to rectify things? What will be the role of the UN and International Community, in case of an armed conflict? What will be the future of the World? Etc. Many similar questions are rising in our minds. Hope the serious thinkers and intellectuals may come out with do-able recommendations to avert any big disaster to humanity.

The US was the leader of Western Style Democracy and opposing Communism since the end of World War II. That is why, the US was siding with the ruling party – Guo Ming Dang (Nationalist Party) of China before 1949. But the Communist Party of China (CPC) won the war and gained power in China. The US was opposing the newly established CPC government in China and did every possible thing to harm CPC and end communist rule in China. Either it was sanctions, economic blockade, isolation, media war, or any other form of coercion. But could not succeed.

A U-turn was witnessed in the US policy, from hostile to friendship, since 1971. “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” sign of warming relations between Washington and Beijing, China’s ping-pong team invites members of the U.S. team to China on April 6, 1971. Journalists accompanying the U.S. players are among the first Americans allowed to enter China since 1949. In July of 1971, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger makes a secret trip to China. Shortly thereafter, the United Nations recognizes the People’s Republic of China, endowing it with the permanent Security Council seat that had been held by the Chiang Kai-shek’s (Nationalist Party) Republic of China on Taiwan since 1945.

Followed by President Richard Nixon’s eight-days long visit to China in February 1972, during which he met Chairman Mao Zedong and signs the Shanghai Communiqué with Premier Zhou Enlai.

In 1979, a big development was seen, when U.S. President Jimmy Carter grants China full diplomatic recognition while acknowledging mainland China’s One China principle. Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, who leads China through major economic reforms, visits the United States shortly thereafter.

However, President Regan’s era was not so friendly for Sino-US relations as his pro-Taiwan policies. Later President Reagan visited China in April 1984 and as an outcome of his visit, the U.S. government permitted Beijing to make purchases of U.S. Defense equipment.

The unfortunate incident of Tian-an-Men Square happened in 1989, created more complications. Chinese crackdown on dissents was also a negative impact on Sino-US relations. The Pro-Independence President Lee Lee Teng-hui in Taiwan also affected the relations adversely. Mistakenly bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, also set-back in bilateral relation.

Since 2000, the trade was dominating Sin-US relations. President Bill Clinton signed a trade agreement with China, which boosted the trade between two nations from US Dollars 5 Billion to US Dollars 231 Billion. China officially joined WTO in 2001, open avenues of more trade, investment, and cooperation on the economic front. It facilitated the rapid development of China and China surpassed the German Economy in 2006, while the trouble started in 2010, when China became a second-largest economy after surpassing the Japanese economy. It has alerted US policymakers and there was a strong fear that China might surpass the American Economy in 2027.

The sharp rise of the Trade deficit in Chinese favor worried the policymakers in the US. President Barak Obama took few measures to address the trade imbalance but was more polite and soft. However, since President Donald Trump, became President in 2016, a visible change was seen in the US toward Sino-US relations. President Trump initiated Trade war and imposed heavy tariffs on Chinese products, banned Huawei Chinese telecommunication giant, etc. The outbreak of COVID-19 has a catalyst in creating tension to its current height. Where the US is the worst-hit country, with the highest number of infections and the highest death toll in the world.

I was educated in China, and have served in China as Diplomat, I have lived in China for 13 years, but having interaction with China for almost 4 decades. I know the Chinese language, culture, politics, and enjoys deep penetration into Chinese society. Based on my personal assessment, China was never competing in the US or challenging the hegemony of the US as a superpower. Common people in China used to praise America and almost every Chinese especially the youth have a dream to travel to America. The common man loves America and dream to visit or live in America. The number of Chinese traveling to America are out-numbered and kept on increasing gradually. Similarly, a huge number of Americans are living or traveling into China for business, jobs, or study purposes. China was the most favorite destination for Americans for traveling, hunting jobs, business, etc. In a matter of fact, the law and order situation in China was excellent, the job market was huge, business opportunities were unlimited, which were the major reasons to attract Americans. This was vice-versa, Chinese people love to study in America, Tourism in America, Business in America, even migrate or settle down in America. There were no symptoms of anti-America sentiments in China.

China is a very old civilization and has been passing through several ups and downs in history. But in the last two centuries, China has been the victim of the Western world and its aggressive policies and colonization. The Suffering of Chinese during the last two centuries has taught bitter lessons and China has become a mature nation. The Centries old wisdom and bitter lesson of two centuries made China, humble, submissive, hard-working, and united. Even more wise!

China tried its best to avoid confrontation with the US, either it was an economic war, or sanctions, or direct threat, but China acted with maximum constraint and patience. Most of the time, China ignored the American rough attitude and overlooked American behavior. Americans used impolite and non-diplomatic language, but China did not lose temper and never issued any statement below standard. Chinese lenient attitude should not be considered its weakness but should be appreciated as its maturity, responsibility, and greatness.

In fact, It was aligned with the Chinese philosophy of peace, stability, and development. China wanted to improve its economy, eradicate poverty, improve its health care system, improve its technology, modernize its Industry, and defense. China invested heavily in its education sector, the S&T sector, and wanted to focus on Innovation and Hi-tech, which any other country can desire too. China has set its own goals, like zero poverty, etc, and was religiously moving ahead to achieve its goals. There were no visible political objectives in Chinese society, and there was no intention to counter America or replace America. China was not ready for any conflict with America or with any other country. Contrarily, China was ignoring its genuine disputes with others and was focusing only on its own development. In 2017, there was a serious stand-off with India at Doklam, but China compromised and resolved amicably. China has disputes withy many other countries, but was never willing to flare-up or use force to resolve its disputes. Taiwan is a good example, where China can invade conveniently and no one can resist China, but the Chinese opted for peaceful reunification and working hard in this direction – one country two systems. China has the capability to crush the demonstrations in Hong Kong by force, yet, China observes a lot of constraints, patience, and giving unlimited space to the demonstrators to settle down.

It is visible that the US is opting for an aggressive, threatening, and coercive attitude toward China. The US is re-aligning its allies to punish China. Definitely, China will try its best to avert any misadventure, however, if a war is imposed, China deserves the right to self-defense and retaliate reciprocate. This might lead the world to a much bigger disaster. Who ill suffer? It is humankind, irrespective of American or Chinese, irrespective of Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, or any other religion, irrespective of race, color, or ethnicity, it is human lives at stake. Can we think at this level, respect human lives, human lives are the most precious thing in this unive5rsrse, all lives matter.

I am sure, many of my readers might differ from my views, but hopefully, it will open debate for policymakers and decision-makers. The scholars, intellectuals, think tanks, and individuals with human consciousness may come up with some kind of recommendations or solutions to avert any big disaster. Please do educate me!


.Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.

Gosplan: The God that failed

June 04, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

Gosplan: The God that failed

Between 1989 and 1992 Soviet GDP per head fell by approximately 40 per cent. What happened?

The short century of the Soviet Union which began in 1917 reached its nemesis in 1989. The great experiment was, to all intents and purposes, over. Symbolically this was occasioned by the fall of the Berlin wall when huge crowds of East Germans simply strolled, unmolested by the Volkspolizei, into the western sector of the City. Moreover this historical watershed was to become highly infectious and led to a succession of Potemkin states in the rest of Eastern Europe going their own way (with a little encouragement from the west of course). These monumental events represented an unexpected application of the American ‘domino theory’.

It would be wrong, however, to understate the achievements of Soviet communism. No political/economic system is all bad; name one which is? Russia and its periphery were transformed from rural backwardness into an industrial and military super-power, albeit at a tremendous cost of civil wars and the great purges of the 1930s. That being said the modernization of the USSR enabled it to defeat the Wehrmacht in the Great Patriotic War 1941-45. In Winston Churchill’s words the Red Army had ‘torn the guts’ out of the once mighty German military machine in titanic battles most critical of which were Stalingrad and Kursk – but at a huge cost both economic and human.

On the more positive side the system introduced mass education and welfare systems which provided social security for its citizens. However, all this was achieved at a terrible cost in human lives, economic and social mayhem, including famine in the Ukraine, and absurd and inquisitorial show trials, and the mass destruction and near extinction of the country resulting from its ill-preparedness for war. But the USSR survived and counter-attacked.

As the Red Army went on the offensive and rolled forward into Eastern Europe after Kursk (1943) Soviet client regimes in eastern Europe were created in the Soviet image with the imposition of the Stalinist political and economic system. This was essentially a setting up of puppet states, but almost certainly a mistake as many of these regimes had been former enemies including Romania, Hungary and Slovakia who were integrated into the Soviet bloc with their own little marionette leaders such as Ceaucescu in Romania. Unfortunately, this was accompanied with an unprepossessing and macabre parody of the Great Terror of the 1930s ‘Yezhovschina’ – accompanied by the sinister pantomime of show trials and summary ‘liquidations’.

Moreover, armed insurrections against the regimes in both East Germany 1953 and Hungary 1956 were brutally suppressed. The system became a little more tolerant after the 1960s but never really lost its essentially totalitarian character. This was unquestionably a rigidly hierarchical society and, contrary to its claims, never in any sense egalitarian. However, unlike capitalism where power was in the hands of the owners of the means of production and their political apologists, power in these societies was concentrated in the state bureaucracy which included most importantly the communist party and the secret police.

It is in the nature of things that wherever societal scarcity exists – and this includes just about all societies – inequalities will arise. In this respect communism was no different to capitalism. The prominent East German dissident, Rudolf Bahro drew attention to this in 1978 as follows. ‘’ … Individual opportunity in our society – the DDR – is on the whole just as unequally distributed as in late capitalist society.’’ (1)

However it was the structural anomalies internal to the system rather than individual shortcomings of particular party officials such as Stalin and Ceaucescu, although these certainly played a key role. No, the problem was ultimately systemic, and it was this which eventuated in the final collapse. These internal structural weaknesses – which incidentally were just as applicable to capitalism and communism, given that the nature of these fault-lines and the dates were different – gave rise to inertia, and stagnation. The crisis became unavoidable.

This situation was in the fullness of time to become common knowledge as early as 1960. Disturbing reports from Soviet economists showed slowing rates of growth particularly in agriculture and manufacturing, in addition the poor quality of many goods and the most backward industry in the modern world. In particular there was criminal wastage in production ranging from timber to steel. Among the workforce there was widespread absenteeism and alienation. By 1980 the situation had reached critical levels. Gorbachov’s perestroika and Glasnost reforms were too little, too late, since by this time the entire system was beyond reform.

Various reasons have been put forward to explain this collapse. What gave rise to this systemic failure of communism and the command economy? The short answer was a lack of understanding of economic policy based upon a system of central planning and the role of the market mechanism. In a market economy price signals tells producers what, how, and when to produce. Take away this mechanism and decisions of these types are left to the planners. This is not to say that a market mechanism cannot be part of an integrated system of overall economic planning. Models of economic integration based upon markets and planning have been part of state-capitalist and social-democratic economic systems for at least a century and perhaps more. But the Gosplan model was characterised by the almost total exclusion of the market mechanism from economic policy. Instead of which various ministries were set up with a brief to oversee the establishment and implementation of what turned out to be policies with which none had any experience of the business end of economics whatsoever. Ministries responsible for the production of goods were not joined up to other ministries responsible for packaging, production and distribution. The situation was frankly amateurish, and the lack of overall coordination was built into the system from the outset.

Then there were also additional problems of accountability. These unwieldly and unresponsive bureaucracies, which were becoming increasingly parasitic and self-serving had little idea of what to produce and how much. In a market system a product which is shoddy will often fail as consumers turn to other producers to spend their hard-earned cash. In a command economy firms which do not deliver the goods go bust. But this was not a market economy; it was a centrally planned economy which could not go bust and there was insufficient incentive to maintain standards of excellence. In defence of a command economy it could be argued that it is good for producing T34 tanks, but the war was over and economic diversification was conspicuous by its absence.

Certainly efforts at quality control were attempted but none of them worked satisfactorily. Planners would specify a number of tractors to be produced by tonnage and the response of the local manager was to weld steel plates to each tractor as it moved off the assembly line. Tonnage quotas were thus being duly met and even over-fulfilled.

Given the distance between the planners and the local managers the imposition of production targets by the former tended always to be overoptimistic and politically driven. It became a pretend game. Everything was fine and dandy and nobody wanted to rock the boat. This was eerily similar to the current situation of western capitalism in 2008 and 2020. A much vaunted but totally overblown, western economic model – wholly deregulated, privatised and liberalised and based upon ‘pretend and extend’ gimmicks as well as other exotic variations of a Ponzi scheme whereby existing (record) debt levels are serviced by newer injections of debt.

But let’s get back to the USSR (courtesy) of the Beatles. This lack of economic realism was mirrored on the part of the local managers. These functionaries had a vested interest in keeping the production figures low and exaggerate the need for as much as possible in terms of resource allocation. So from the outset the information flow from managers to planners was invariably mendacious and distorted. Resources required would always be overstated, capacity underestimated and hoarded resources undeclared. This of course resulted in a gross misallocation of resources. Colossal waste was also a feature of this system since there was no incentive to reduce costs.

The system was to become ossified with the final nail in the coffin, being the Soviet economy’s inability to integrate the new technologies – which were just coming on stream in the 1970s and 1980s – into its production methods. A writer at the time noted that ‘’ … the most telling evidence of the command economy’s failure … was its inability to absorb and apply the latest developments in science and technology to the Soviet economy.’’ The book further quotes Gorbachov as saying: ‘‘At a time when the western countries started a large-scale restructuring of their economies with the emphasis on resource saving and the latest science and state-of-the-art technology, scientific progress slowed down (in the Soviet Union) mostly because the economy was not responsive to change.’’ (2)

This was hardly surprising given the universal nature of bureaucracy (the ‘Iron Cage’ as the great social theorist Max Weber 1864-1920 had called it) and its tendency toward routine and inertia. Like it or not this is a universal drift in the modern age. For those pursuing career paths within the organization, it became no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself. In sociological jargon this is known as ‘’goal displacement’’, This is explained as follows:

‘Initiative within a bureaucracy is always restricted and discouraged … not so much by getting the initiator into trouble … but rather by the experience of the fruitlessness of personal investment in any affair which oversteps one’s realm of competence. As far as careers are concerned … a progressive image is far more useful than any genuine activity, which disturbs the ‘’normal functioning’’ and may always be inconvenient, for whatever reason. The purpose of rivalry between employees who wish to get ahead can only ever be to present a ‘’positive appearance’’ to those above. The incentive to conform is thus built into the initiative mechanism from the outset … Bureaucracy, as the dominant form of management and work organization produces a specific human type of conservative mediocrity.’ (3)

By the 1980s the USSR was lagging badly behind the capitalist west in the development and application of computer technology, cybernetics, robotization, new energy sources, chemically-created construction materials, biotechnology and the like. Military spending was double that of the US from an economy half its size. What had become known was that ‘actually existing socialism’ was losing and eventually lost the economic cold war with western capitalism.

By 1990/91 the jig was up. The end of the Soviet system had sealed the initial, and I emphasise ‘’initial’’, triumph of globalization. The country was then thrown open to the vagaries of unrestricted competition both internal and external. The Soviet Union was fragmented into a number of smaller quasi-states with Russia being stripped of its industries. This involved the giving away of most massive of former state enterprises for pennies in the pound to ex-communist technocrats and secret service thugs. Russia was left with 70% of its economy in the hands of thirty-six corporations. That is to say, 36 men. It had been converted from a highly centralised public system into the most concentrated private sector of the world’s big economies. This was the beginning of the Yeltsin catastrophe: privatisation, liberalisation and free-trade became the new orthodoxy; about which the less said the better. It took Putin to stop the rot in 2000 but the struggle between the Atlantic integrationists and Eurasian Sovereignists – continues and is far from over.

The damage done during the Yeltsin period set back Russia and its economy to a semi-peripheral status. Trade policy became a case in point. It shouldn’t be a secret to anybody with a rudimentary understanding of international trade relations that when developed nations trade with developing nations most of the trade advantages accrue to the developed nations. This is due to the formers lower cost structures, higher levels of productivity, and comparative advantages in higher, value-added, research-intensive goods in the secondary product markets. However, the peripheral economies tend to produce primary goods – predominantly agriculture, raw materials, and plantation fruits.

As income rises expenditure on these income-inelastic primary goods stays static, or actually falls; contrariwise the demand for secondary goods, which are income-elastic – predominantly cars, computers, IPhones, etc. – rises in line with rises in incomes. From this it follows that primary exporting states need to sell more of their goods to developed states because the ‘Terms of Trade’ (see below fn 4) have a tendency to move in favour of the developed economies and against the developing states. It is argued that contemporary Russia is in international terms a semi-peripheral economy.

It has been particularly difficult for Russia to break out of this straight-jacket since Russian leaders have been seriously handicapped by the need to struggle against this internal corporate/criminal power structure. And it is a struggle which continues. Underdeveloped or semi-developed economies will not ascend the ladder of economic growth by relying on the production of primary goods. A policy of free-trade (actually there is no such thing, but let that pass) was rejected in the 19th century by the United States – under the influence of Alexander Hamilton, and in Germany by Friedrich List. The object of their mercantilist strategic trade policy was to catch up and pass Britain during the course of the 19th century, which they did. Russia would do well to note this.

Summing up: The development of the USSR so long as the economic goals were simple and could be calibrated quantitatively – tons of steel, kilowatts of electricity, or numbers of tractors produced – centralised planning worked relatively well. Alec Nove, probably the most objective analyst of the Soviet economy over the years said.

‘’Planning worked in those sectors to which the state gave priority and whose needs could easily be quantified. This applied first and foremost to armaments, but also to electrical energy, where the product is homogeneous and thus readily ‘plannable’. It also applied to the production of oil and gas, and to the construction of a network of pipelines. In each of these fields the Soviet Union made impressive gains.’’ (5)

However as the Soviet economy became more complex, as the number and variety of products expanded, and it became increasingly obliged to measure its performance against that of advanced capitalism the systems inherent limitations and negative aspects were revealed.

‘’The plan as it turned out, was not really a plan at all. Simply at the technical level the central apparatus had no way to process – let alone to absorb and evaluate – all the necessary information on resources, performance, transportation, warehousing, technology, consumer needs, and so on that would have to go into developing a realistic plan. (Since computers might have made at least the gathering and processing of such information possible, the fact that the Soviet planners never managed to ensure the full development and employment of computer technology is itself highly suggestive of the plans arbitrary character and the systems inherent inertia.) (6)

The Soviet Union and the other command economies stagnated and collapsed due to their general backwardness and involving inter alia the absence of any reliable method of resource allocation and quality control. The absence of the market mechanism in this respect left production and allocation decisions dependent on the subjective judgements of the planners as well as those nefarious semi-criminal activities cited above. This resulted in a misallocation of resources on a gigantic scale as well as inferior quality goods

However, it should be noted that the collapse of the command economies in Eastern Europe did not herald the beginning of any capitalist nirvana – quite the contrary. If anything the post-communist societies all experienced a catastrophic fall in production, living standards and most seriously of all depopulation. Some have now recovered but many are still worse off than before the fall of communism, and many are nostalgic for the old days of communist rule. The move from the command economy to the most extreme form of capitalism was in fact a jump out of the frying pan into the fire for some.

Thus by way of conclusion we may say that in contemporary society any viable economic system must include both planning and market/price mechanisms. Heeding the lessons of history it can clearly be discerned – unless we are ideologically blinkered – that both pure free markets (if they ever really existed) and command economies simply do not work in the narrower sense and record; the first because it is based upon totally unrealistic assumptions and works with timeless and purely formal categories of value, price and efficiency; these categories have little or no relation to the real world of actually existing capitalism, devoid as they are of any human or empirical dimensions; and the latter because it is simply too rigid and unresponsive to change and innovation which, because of its essential characteristics, it will tend to stifle and suffocate.

Markets are a good servant but a bad master. A system of regulated markets – this regulation being particularly rigorous in the case of financial markets – and economic planning are essential to any economic system since it is necessary to combine innovation and dynamism with stability and continuity. It is to be hoped perhaps some time in the future economists will remember these lessons when attempting to construct any social and economic orders.

(1) Rudolf Bahro – The Alternative in Eastern Europe – 1987

(2) Irwin Silber – Socialism: What Went Wrong? – 1996.

(3) Bahro – Ibid

(4) Terms of Trade. The main theory for the declining commodity terms of trade is known as the Prebisch-Singer thesis, after two development economists who explored its implications in the 1950s. They argued that there was and would continue to be a secular decline in the terms of trade of primary commodity exporters due to a combination of low income and price elasticities of demand. This decline would result in an ongoing transfer of income from poor to rich countries would only be combated only by the efforts to protect domestic manufacturing industries through a process that has become to be known as import substitution. But as well as this growth and modernisation can and has been achieved by export driven growth characteristic of East Asian countries. It could be argued that this problem of primary producing countries is not dissimilar to the position of Russia. It was argued that,

‘’After the Soviet Union collapsed, its former constituent republics embarked on the transition to capitalism. But this was not, and could not be, a transition to the highly developed capitalism of the global centre … within the framework of the world capitalist system, these newly converted states could only occupy a place in the backward and dependent periphery … The share in exports represented by products of manufacturing industry is very low … (Moreover) the data shows that the net outflow of private capital is a persistent tendency of the Russian economy. In the crisis of 2014-15, alone, it exceeded $210 billion. This huge amount could have been used to increased wages and investment and overcome the slump.’’ See Semi-Peripheral Russia and the Ukraine Crisis, Ruslan Dzarasov – Department of Political Economy, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow.

(5) Abraham Brumberg – Chronicle of a Revolution – 1990 – p.54)

(6) Irwin Silber – Actually Existing Socialism – Socialism: What went wrong. pp,124/125 – Pluto Press 1994

The unbearable lightness of China

April 26, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Kishore-Mahbubani-300x198.jpg
Singaporean ex-diplomat and author Kishore Mahbubani speaks at an Asia Society event in a file photo. Photo: Flickr Commons

As a living embodiment of how East and West shall meet, Mahbubani is immeasurably more capable to talk about Chinese-linked intricacies than shallow, self-described Western “experts” on Asia and China.

Especially now when demonization-heavy hybrid war 2.0 against China is practiced by most factions of the US government, the Deep State and the East Coast establishment.

Distinguished fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, former president of the UN Security Council (from 2001 to 2002) and the founding dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (2004-2017), Mahbubani is the quintessential Asian diplomat.

Ruffling feathers is not his business. On the contrary, he always deploys infinite patience – and insider knowledge – when trying to explain especially to Americans what makes the Chinese civilization-state tick.

All through a book elegantly argued and crammed with persuasive facts, it feels like Mahbubani is applying the Tao. Be like water. Let it flow. He floats like a butterfly reaching beyond his own “paradoxical conclusion”: “A major geopolitical contest between America and China is both inevitable and avoidable.” He centers on the paths towards the “avoidable.”

The contrast with the confrontational, stale and irrelevant Thucydides Trap mindset prevalent in the US could not be starker. It’s quite enlightening to observe the contrast between Mahbubani and Harvard University’s Graham Allison – who seem to admire each other – at a China Institute debate.

An important clue to his approach is when Mahbubani tells us how his Hindu mother used to take him to Hindu and Buddhist temples in Singapore – even as in the island-state most Buddhist monks were actually Chinese. Here we find encapsulated the key cultural/philosophical India-China crossover that defines “deep” East Asia, linking Confucianism, Buddhism and the Tao.

All about the US dollar 

For Asia hands, and for those, as in my case, who have actually lived in Singapore, it’s always fascinating to see how Mahbubani is the quintessential Lee Kuan Yew disciple, though without the haughtiness. As much as his effort to understand China from the inside, across the spectrum, for decades, is more than visible, he’s far from being a disciple of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

And he stresses the point in myriad ways, showing how, in the party slogan, “Chinese” is way more important than “Communist”: “Unlike the Soviet Communist Party, [the CCP] is not riding on an ideological wave; it is riding the wave of a resurgent civilization … the strongest and most resilient civilization in history.”

Inescapably, Mahbubani outlines both Chinese and American geopolitical and geo-economic challenges and shortcomings. And that leads us to arguably the key argument in the book: how he explains to Americans the recent erosion of global trust in the former “indispensable nation,” and how the US dollar is its Achilles’ heel.

So once again we have to wallow in the interminable mire of reserve currency status; its “exorbitant privilege,” the recent all-out weaponization of the US dollar and – inevitably – the counterpunch: those “influential voices” now working to stop using the US dollar as reserve currency.

Enter blockchain technology and the Chinese drive to set up an alternative currency based on blockchain. Mahbubani takes us to a China Finance 40 Forum in August last year, when the deputy director of the People’s Bank of China, Mu Changchun, said the PBOC was “close” to issuing its own cryptocurrency.

Two months later, President Xi announced that blockchain would become a “high priority” and a matter of long-term national strategy.  It’s happening now. The digital yuan – as in a “sovereign blockchain” – is imminent.

And that leads us to the role of the US dollar in financing global trade. Mahbubani correctly analyzes that once this is over, “the complex international system based on the US dollar could come tumbling down, rapidly or slowly.” China’s master plan is to accelerate the process by connecting its digital platforms – Alipay, WeChat Pay – into one global system.

Asian Century 

As Mahbubani carefully explains, “while Chinese leaders want to rejuvenate Chinese civilization, they have no missionary impulse to take over the world and make everyone Chinese.” And still, “America convinced itself that China has become an existential threat.”

The best and the brightest across Asia, Mahbubani included, never cease to be amazed at the American system’s total inability to “make strategic adjustments to this new phase in history.” Mahbubani dedicates a whole chapter – “Can America make U-turns?” – to the quandary.

In the appendix he even adds a text by Stephen Walt debunking “the myth of American exceptionalism.” There’s no evidence the Exceptionalistan ethos is being seriously contested.

A recent McKinsey report  analyzes whether the “next normal” will emerge from Asia, and some of its conclusions are inevitable: “The future global story starts in Asia.” It goes way beyond prosaic numbers stating that in 20 years, by 2040, “Asia is expected to represent 40% of global consumption and 52% of GDP.”

The report argues that, “we may look back on this pandemic as the tipping point when the Asian Century truly began.”

In 1997, during the same week when I was covering the Hong Kong handover, I published a book in Brazil whose translated title was 21st: The Asian Century (excerpts from a few chapters may be found here). By that time I had already lived in Asia for three years, and learned quite a few important lessons from Mahbubani’s Singapore.

China then was still a distant player on the new horizon. Now it’s a completely different ball game. The Asian Century – actually Eurasian Century – is already on, as Eurasia integration develops driven by hard-working acronyms (BRI, AIIB, SCO, EAEU) and the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Mahbubani’s book, capturing the elusive, unbearable lightness of China, is the latest illustration of this inexorable flow of history.

Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy (Kishore Mahbubani), published by Public Affairs (US$19.89).

The AngloZionists are launching a strategic PSYOP against China

THE SAKER • APRIL 22, 2020 

Maybe the “the Russians did it” narrative is getting stale. Or maybe the leaders of the Empire have finally figured out that China is even more dangerous to the Empire than Russia. But my personal gut feeling is simply that the AngloZionists are freaking out about the “full-spectrum” loss of face they suffered with their massive mishandling (medically and, even more so, politically!) of this pandemic-induced socio-economic crisis and that they now are pointing fingers pretty much at everybody (including each other).

Russia did play a crucial role here, since it was in its informational war against Russia that the leaders of the Empire came up with what I now call the “Skripal rules of evidence” aka “highly likely”. This latest principle being subserviently accepted by all Europeans in the name of “solidarity” (solidarity with what exactly is rarely specified), it was, shall we say, “naively reasonable” that it would work this time around again. Again, I am personally not so sure about that at all. Much has changed over the past two years: not only did the Europeans eventually find out how utterly stupid and incredible the entire Skripal fairy tale was, but the level of disgust and even hatred with Trump and the US has sharply gone up. Furthermore, China has a lot more to offer to Europe, than the disintegrating (dis-)United States – so why side with the losing party? Last, but most certainly not least, the Europeans will find out (and some already have), that the US literally does not give a damn about not only regular Europeans, but even about the European ruling classes.

A quick study of history shows that when exploiting elites are doing great, they all faithfully support each other, but when things start to go south, they immediately turn on each other. The best recent example of this phenomenon is the schism in the US ruling elites who, since the election of Trump, have immediately turned on each other and are now viciously fighting like “spiders in a can” (to use a Russian expression). In fact, this is so true that it can even be used as a very reliable diagnostic tool: when your enemies are all united, then they are probably confident in their victory, but as soon as they turn on each other, you *know* that things are looking very bad for your opponents. Likewise, we now see how southern Europeans are getting really angry with their northern “EU allies” (Macron seems to be falling in line behind Trump even if he uses a more careful and diplomatic language). Finally, the way the US CIA has one foreign policy, the Pentagon another and Foggy Bottom one of its own (even if limited to sanctions and finger-pointing) tells you pretty much all you need to know to see how deep the systemic crisis of the Empire has become.

While there are very few truly intelligent people left in the US government, there are still plenty of “horizontally clever” ones and it did not take them long to find out that this pandemic gave then a golden opportunity to pin all their own failures and mistakes on China. The elements? Simple really:

  1. Anti-Chinese propaganda has a long history in the US and it was really easy to re-kindle it.
  2. Most Americans have a completely irrational reaction to the word “Communist” so it is really easy for any US propaganda outlet to mention the CCP and “lies” in the same sentence and sound credible, irrespective of what else the sentence claims (like, say, factual evidence).
  3. The US plutocracy is terrified of the Chinese economic and industrial power, hence the vilification of companies like Huawei or DJI which are declared a national security threat to the US. Blame everything on the Chinese and the US oligarchs will love it!
  4. China and Russia are in a relationship which is even far deeper than an alliance. I call it a “symbiosis” while the Chinese speak of a “Strategic comprehensive partnership of coordination for the new era” while the Russians speak of a “crucial alliance”. The terms don’t really matter here, what matters is that Russia and China are standing together ( that is what they mean by “coordinating”) against the Empire and that the (admittedly few and clumsy) US attempts are breaking this alliance have totally failed.
  5. As with any new pandemic, it did take China time to figure out the nature of what was happening and it was extremely easy to accuse China of deliberate obfuscation (while keeping the fact that China did inform the world as early as December 31st is, obviously omitted, as is the presence of a multi-national WHO delegation to investigate this issue. In reality, one might as well accuse China of being TOO open, and allowing various estimates and hypotheses to circulate even before the Chinese government had all the facts established. It is a perfect case of dammed if you do and damned if you don’t.
  6. The US political culture is that 99.99% of Americans will believe literally ANY lie, no matter how self-evidently stupid, about the rest of the world rather than accepting any unpleasant truth about the US. So scapegoating another power, especially a Communist one, gets a knee-jerk reaction of approval from the overwhelming majority of Americans.
  7. When the WHO clearly did not buy into the US propaganda, it was a great move for Trump to defund it. Not only did the US already owe the WHO millions of dollars (50-200, depending on who you ask), so the easy pretext not to pay was to accuse it of being pro-Chinese. It is obvious that Trump has no use for the UN other than as a whipping boy, and this was a prefect way to target it again.
  8. As with any scary event, a true tsunami of completely unsubstantiated and outright silly rumors began as soon as it was clear that this was a major event and all the US propaganda machine had to do was to speak in serious tones about some of these rumors and to make it appear that the media was “just reporting” rather than planting stories.
  9. China is also a major threat to US interests in Asia, and this pandemic provided a perfect opportunity for the US to present reports from Taiwan as reports from China (that is an old trick). As for the Taiwanese government, they were more than happy to find yet another pretext to hate on China, nothing new here either.
  10. Finally, US economists did not take long to figure out that this pandemic would have devastating effect on the “best economy in the history of the galaxy” so preemptively blaming it all on China is the perfect way for Trump and his Neocon masters to deflect the blame from them.

The stories which were then planted were truly magnificent. Here are a few of my personal favorites

There are many more, I am sure that you have seen them too.

Eventually, and inevitably, this strategic PSYOP upped the ante and FOXnews (logically) aired this true masterpiece: “Sen. Hawley: Let coronavirus victims sue Chinese Communist Party“. Truly, this is brilliant. “I lost my job, let the evil Chinese commies pay me back” is music to the ears of most Americans.

Right now, most of the US statements are simply lies, but as China will, with time, eventually release more corrected and accurate information, these corrected/updated statistics will immediately be interpreted as the proof that initially the Chinese were deliberately lying and not as the effect of the Chinese themselves gradually getting a better picture of what actually happened. Again, this is the typical case of dammed if you don’t and dammed if you do.

I should mention that there is another reason which might contribute to the decision of the US to blame it all on China: it is still not clear where this virus came from, but one possibility is that it originated in the US and was brought to China by Americans (whether deliberately or not is not the issue here). As for the reports which claim that the US is deliberately covering up the real magnitude of the disaster in the US, they are ignored.

Furthermore, it is now painfully obvious that the US politicians totally misread the situation and began by saying either that it was a Chinese problem or that it was “no worse than the seasonal flu”, or both. This is just the latest case of what I call the “US narcissistic messianism” leading US leaders to believe in their own propaganda only to find out that reality still exists out there and that it is dramatically different from the delusions held by most Americans.

Now all these US politicians (the Republicrats as much as the Demoblicans) all have to run and cover their collective butts. What better way to achieve that than to blame it all on China?

As I said above, this his clever, but definitely not very intelligent.

The US is already locked in an unwinnable war against Russia (as I always remind everybody, this war is 80% informational, 15% economic and only 5% kinetic). To open a full-scale “second front” makes sense in terms of short term political expediency, especially in an election year, but in the long term it is self-defeating and disastrous. In fact, if there is anything history teaches us, is that opening a second front when you can’t even handle the first one is suicidal. But who cares about history, especially in the “United States of Amnesia”? And, besides, when you are both totally exceptional and totally superior, why would you care about the history of the common “deplorable” people and nations out there? Just call them “shit holes” and wave your (Chinese made) flag. That is what passes for “looking Presidential” these days…

Regardless of anything said above, the momentum of this sinophobic campaign is too big to be reversed or stopped. And since most of the US political class supports it, this will probably continue even after the US Presidential election (assuming it takes place).

Still, all this begs the question: what did really happen? What is the truth?

The truth is that nobody really knows. It will probably take years to get the full picture and, even more so, the correct numbers. What correct numbers? Well, ALL of them: carriers, resistance, age groups, comorbidity, the exact characteristics of this virus (and of its various mutations), how effective the various tests are, which antiviral medication might help, its side effects, whether the BCG vaccine somehow helps the body to fight off the virus, etc.

Right now, I don’t believe that anybody really knows, even the percentage of asymptomatic carriers changes by an order of magnitude depending on whom you ask. Sure, some guesses are closer to the truth than others, by definition, but which ones are closer is still very hard to ascertain.

They key thing to keep in mind now is that most of what we see now has very little in common with any scientific investigation. What we see is an attempt to use this pandemic for political, financial and geostrategic purposes.

And please don’t think that it is only Trump! Just remember what Pelosi was saying as late as February!

https://youtu.be/eFCzoXhNM6c (video to be embedded)

That was almost two months after China had warned the WHO that there was a major crisis developing!

But Pelosi, just like Trump, only thinks about power, money and influence, not the safety of the “deplorables” which the Dems hate so much (as do the Republicans, of course, they just don’t say so openly like Hillary did; but just Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” says all you need to know about his true respect for his fellow human beings!).

Then there is another very real risk: as the situation gets worse and worse for the US and, specifically, for Trump’s reelection, he might well decide to do what many politicians do in such a situation: start a big war. Before the pandemic, the US clearly had no stomach to start a war with Iran, but now that the pandemic is crippling the world economy and that all the ugly sides of the transnational capitalist system are becoming obvious, I would not put it past Trump to start a war with Iran just to deflect the many accusations against him. The Idiot-in-Chief has now ordered USN forces off the coast of Iran to, I kid you not, “shoot down & destroy” any Iranian gunboat which would “harass” the USN. Apparently, he still cannot understand that should any USN ship execute any such order it would soon find itself dealing with a swarm of Iranian anti-shipping missiles. Clearly, messianic narcissism and a rabid megalomania simply don’t allow Trump to understand that the Iranians are for real, that they absolutely mean business and that they, unlike the US, have carefully modeled the consequences of any war between Iran and the US and while they won’t deliberately provoke such a war, they will fight it if needed, with infinitely more staying power than the US.

Like a typical US flag-waving politician, Trump probably thinks that if all goes to hell, the US can nuke Iran and prevail. He is right about the former, but oh SO wrong about the latter. If nukes are used against Iran, then there will be a total and long war to kick both the US and the Zionist entity out of the Middle-East. But that is a topic for another day.

A new mascot for both US parties?

A new mascot for both US parties?

US politicians remind me of a person living in a arctic cabin who decide to burn down the cabin to get much needed heat: sure, this strategy will work, for a while, but only at the cost of a much bigger disaster down the road. This is what pretty much ALL US politicians did with this pandemic, and this is why they will never ever accept any responsibility for anything.

Check out this cute little donkey on the right.

Would he not make the perfect mascot and symbol for both US political parties and for the many US politicians who can think of nothing else than covering him?

There is one more thing I would like to mention here: there are a lot of folks out there who like to carefully note all the instances when somebody predicted that this pandemic would happen. They take these warning statements as evidence of a conspiracy. The truth is that the scientific community and even the general public (at least those few who still read books) fully knew that it was just a matter of time before such a pandemic would happen, because our society made such an event inevitable. Just one example:

In distant 1995 the US journalist Lorrie Garrett published an excellent book called “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance” in which she explained why and even how a global pandemic would naturally emerge due to the very nature of our modern society. I highly recommend this book in spite of the fact that it is now a quarter of a century old: it is very well written, easy to read, and it makes a very strong case that such pandemics were inevitable (and with no need to appeal to unsubstantiated biowarfare theories).

History will show that we all, our entire planet, did not take this and many other warnings seriously. Ask yourself, what is easier for a politician: to accept that our entire socio-political order is unsustainable and outright dangerous (or “out of balance” to use Garrett’s expression), or to blame it all on the Chinese commies and their “secret biowarfare program”?

I think that the answer is self-evident.

Full speech about Imam Mahdi and the West’s moral failure against coronavirus

Full speech about Imam Mahdi and the West’s moral failure against coronavirus

source 

April 14, 2020

The following is the full text of a televised speech delivered on April 9, 2020 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, on the occasion of the 15th of Sha’ban.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and greetings be upon our Master Muhammad, and upon his pure household

May the auspicious 15th of Sha’ban be a blessed eid for all you dear brothers and sisters, the entire Iranian nation and all Muslims and all liberated people in the world. Unfortunately, I do not have the opportunity to meet with you up close and I have to speak to you from a distance, but this is an experience in itself. Today, I will say a few things about the Imam of the Age- may our souls be sacrificed for his sake- and I will raise a few points about the current issue of the country, but first of all, let us send greetings to the Imam of the Age:

Greetings be upon you Imam of the Age, greetings be upon you God’s firm pledge, greetings be upon you God’s promise – such promise whose fulfillment He guaranteed – greetings be upon you the hoisted flag, and you the manifestation of knowledge, of protection, of vast mercy and of inviolable promises.”

The following section of the holy ziyarah “Al-e Yasin” is full of love: “Our greetings be upon you when you rise and re-appear at the behest of God and when you put on the veil of disappearance. Our greetings be upon you when you engage in recitation and tafsir.”

Perhaps, there have been few historic eras during which humanity was in as much need as the present time for the existence of a savior. This holds true for both elites who feel this need consciously and the masses of the people who feel the need as well, but unconsciously. Everyone feels the need for a savior, a Mahdi. Everyone feels the need for the hand of divine power, for an infallible Imam, for purity and for divine guidance. We know of few historic eras during which there was so much need for this lofty truth.

Today, after having experienced various schools of thought and various philosophies – ranging from communism, western liberal democracy to the current form of democracy in the world, with the oversized claims that they make – humanity does not feel at ease. Despite all the astonishing scientific breakthroughs which have completely changed the way of life, humanity does not feel happy. Humanity suffers from poverty, disease, perversion and sins. It is afflicted with injustice, inequality and deep and growing class rifts. Humanity is subject to the abuse of power at the hands of big powers. They abuse science and natural discoveries, the capabilities discovered in nature. Humanity is faced with all these. These things have caused humans, throughout the world, to feel exhausted and to feel the need for a liberating hand.

Billions of people throughout the world are suffering. Some people might have prosperity, but they are not really tranquil. Humanity suffers from anxiety, and scientific breakthroughs and various developments have not managed to bestow bliss on humanity. Of course, human intellect is a great blessing. Similarly, experience is a valuable blessing. These are God’s blessings and they can solve many problems in life, but there are some knots that cannot be untied with these tools.

An example is justice. The issue of justice cannot be resolved with today’s advanced science and technology. Its knot cannot be untied with them. Today, injustice is fed by science. In other words, advanced science is at the service of injustice and warmongering. It is at the service of occupying others’ lands and of dominating nations. So, science cannot untie such knots. These things require a spiritual and divine hand and the powerful hand of an infallible Imam. It is he who can do these things. Therefore, his great mission is to administer justice. This has been pointed out in many prayers and ziyarahs.

The administration of justice is something that cannot be achieved by anyone other than the hand of divine power which is manifested by the Imam of the Age. And the kind of justice that Hazrat is expected to administer is not particular to one specific area, rather it covers all aspects of life:  Justice in power, wealth, health, human dignity, social status, spirituality, the possibility for growth and in all other dimensions of life. These are the things that are expected to be established by the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) and by Allah’s favor, this will happen. All people- including elites and those who can understand events and the masses of the people some of whom might be preoccupied with their daily life and therefore are unaware of the developments in the world– have this need, either consciously or unconsciously.

All religions have promised a big “faraj” and a great divine movement at the end of history, which is of course not the end of history. When the era of the Imam of the Age begins, the real world and the real life of humanity begins to take shape. However, all religions have promised an end to the current condition of life that we have today. Therefore, this is a need, but in order to channel this need and render it fruitful, we have been asked in Islam to anticipate his re-appearance. This “anticipation” is beyond a mere sense of need. They have said that we should anticipate. Anticipation means hope. It means believing in a definite future. So, it is not just a mere belief. Anticipation is constructive. Therefore, in our narrations and teachings, the anticipation for this big faraj enjoys a high position. Later on, I will expand on this anticipation.

In a towqi’ [holy edict] of the Imam of the Age to Ibn Babawayh– Ali ibn Babawayh– he quotes the Holy Prophet (God’s greetings be upon him and his household) as saying “The best action that my Ummah can take is to anticipate the faraj.” There is a narration by Imam Musa ibn Ja’far which says, “After knowledge and understanding, the best course of action is anticipation for the faraj.” The Arabic word “ma’rifah” means monotheism and understanding divine truths. The Commander of the Faithful (greetings be upon him) says, “Anticipate the faraj and do not lose hope in the spirit of God.” It says that we should anticipate and we should not lose hope of divine spirit, mercy and assistance.

So in anticipating the faraj, there is dynamism and action. Well, this has been said about anticipating the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age. It is evident that anticipating the faraj means anticipating the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age. However, this is one manifestation of the anticipation. When the Holy Prophet says, “The best action that my Ummah can take is to anticipate the faraj” this reflects on all the problems that might occur to us in life. We should not become disappointed when confronting problems and we should anticipate a faraj, knowing for certain that it will materialize. The anticipation for the faraj is a faraj in itself. There is a narration by Hazrat Musa ibn Ja’far which says, “You should know that the anticipation for the faraj is a faraj in itself.” So, the anticipation for the faraj is a kind of opening for us as it liberates us from a state of despair and desperation which might force one into doing strange things. Well, this is what it means.

When the Holy Prophet and the Imams said this, it means that Mohammad’s (God’s greetings be upon him and his household) Ummah never becomes disappointed at any incident in life and that it always waits for the faraj. Well, anticipation does not mean sitting idle and fixating one’s eyes at the door, rather it means preparing oneself, taking action and feeling that there is an end that can be achieved and for that, one should work hard. We who anticipate the faraj and the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) should work to that end. We should work hard on the path of establishing a Mahdawi society. We should get close to the Mahdawi society as much as we can because the Mahdawi society is the society of justice, spirituality, understanding, brotherhood, camaraderie, science and dignity.

There is one point about the anticipation: anticipating the faraj is different from showing impatience and setting a timeline – for example by saying to ourselves that such and such an incident and difficulty should come to an end at such and such a time or that Hazrat should re-appear in such and such a day. This anticipation for the faraj does not mean showing impatience and being restless.

This anticipation means preparing oneself. Showing impatience and being in a rush are among the forbidden things. There is a narration which says, “God will not hurry up if His servants hurry up.” If you are in a rush, this does not mean that God will make hasty decisions because of you. No, there is a time and a reason for everything and things will be done based on divine providence. As I mentioned before, the anticipation for the faraj means both the re-appearance of the Hazrat and the opening after big difficulties: the opening after difficult incidents that involve everyone such as the incidents that occur today in the world which disappoint many and force others into suicide. However, when there is the anticipation for the big opening, this will not happen as one knows that such incidents will surely come to an end.

Well, there is another point here: the tranquility resulting from the anticipation and one’s self-confidence – as a result of which individuals feel calm and undisturbed – could be strengthened with prayers, with supplication and by speaking to God. “For without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction” [The Holy Quran, 13: 28]. Now, we are in the month of Sha’ban and after that, we have the month of Ramadan. There are numerous duas and various prayers and speaking to God without any interceder is very valuable. And speaking to the infallible Imams (greetings be upon them), who are the closest people in the whole world to Allah the Exalted, will give one tranquility and peace of mind. Remembrance of Allah the Exalted opens our path, gives us joy and attracts divine mercy.

Surely, the millions of hands that were raised last night will bear fruits. Last night, millions of people succeeded in familiarizing their hearts with God, in connecting with Him, in holding up one’s hands and in speaking to Him. Without any doubt, the results of this action will show themselves both in individuals themselves and in the whole society and many blessings will ensue. These were the points that I wished to discuss about the issue of the re-appearance, the faraj and the uprising of the Imam of the Age. Of course, many things can be said in this regard, but for today, this much is enough.

As for the current issue of the country – the coronavirus outbreak – well, this is an epidemic and a test. It is a test for the whole world: for both governments and nations. Governments are tested in this incident and so are nations. It is indeed a very strange test. Of course, enough has been said about the statistics, the very good measures that have been adopted and the recommendations of officials. The IRIB has also had a good performance, to be fair, in this regard. I do not want to speak about these matters, but I have certain other points to raise:

One point is that the Iranian nation has had a brilliant performance in this test. During the coronavirus test and during this pandemic, is modern pandemic, the Iranian nation shone brightly. First of all, the peak of this national glory belongs to the medical staff of the country. I have spoken many times and I would like to reiterate again the significance of their work and the value of their self-sacrifice, including that of physicians, nurses, laboratory experts, radiologists, medical assistants in health centers, public services divisions, the sections in charge of research, and management inside the Ministry of Health and outside it – the managers active in this area. The peak of this glory belongs to them. They placed their lives and their health at the service of the people. This is very significant and magnificent.

They endured the pain of being away from their family. Many of them did not see their family even during Nowruz holidays and they suffered from sleeplessness and psychological pressures resulting from treating patients in a critical state. They welcomed all these things and therefore, a good memory of the medical staff and system of the country will be engraved in the minds of the Iranian nation. This is a good and happy memory left behind at this point in time by the medical, nursing and treatment society of the country.

As well as them, we should mention volunteers: those who were not part of the medical staff, but who entered the arena voluntarily. Jihadi clergy and students, thousands of diligent basijis throughout the country and the masses of the people presented such valuable services that are beyond description. On the one hand, such services make one really happy and on the other hand, they make one feel grateful.

We should mention the Armed Forces as well. The Armed Forces truly utilized all their power of construction and creativity. They placed all their resources at the service of the task which even included scientific resources, scientific discoveries and the manufacture of medical instruments and medical equipment for hospitals and clinics as well as other goods and instruments which were at the disposal of the Armed Forces. They did their best to utilize their power of construction and creativeness in the area of science and pragmatism.

Later on, new capacities were discovered and it became clear that there are numerous capacities inside and outside the Armed Forces while we had been unaware of them beforehand. Youth appear on television and explain the things that they have built, but we did not know of them before. These are the new discovered capacities.

The people’s cooperation has also created beautiful, fascinating and astonishing scenes and they can be seen everywhere. I would like to cite instances of this popular cooperation. Of course, these are not all the cases, rather these are the ones that have been reported to me: in Sabzevar, for example, they have launched the plan “A sacrifice for every neighborhood”: the people in the neighborhood gather together, sacrifice an animal and give the meat to the needy in that neighborhood. This is a very essential, important and interesting plan for feeding the needy. In Yazd, the mother of a martyr has enlisted the help of several ladies in order to turn their houses into sewing workshops with the purpose of producing masks and giving them to the people for free. In Nahavand, a group of ladies who used to bake bread and send it to the frontlines during the Sacred Defense Era have become active again in order to control the disease and help fight it. In Khuzestan, the clergy have set up groups to disinfect the people’s houses. In Shiraz, local well-established personalities speak to the owners of different properties – such as the owners of houses and shops – so that they will not receive their rent or give a discount and delay the payments during the outbreak, thus helping local shopkeepers. In Tabriz, the head of the seminary has entered the arena on the ground to offer help. In another city, a hezbollahi candidate for the parliamentary elections, who was not elected, has decided not to close down his committee so that he can organize activists at the service of a jihadi movement and of fighting the coronavirus.

Of course, these examples are based on a few reports available to me, otherwise, there are hundreds or rather thousands of examples like this in different shapes throughout the country, some of which I have also cited in my previous speeches. It is important to pay attention that these are signs of the depth and the influence of Islamic culture in the hearts of our people. This is contrary to the claim of those who unfortunately tried to humiliate Iranian culture– Islamic-Iranian culture– in the past two decades in order to divert the attention of the people towards the western lifestyle. However, despite their wishes, this is not the case. Fortunately, this feeling of Islamic thinking and Islamic culture is a very strong and firm feeling in our people.

Western culture and civilization showed their mettle as well! Well, our national television showed some of the things that happened in western countries, in Europe and in the US, but some of them were not broadcast because this is the information that we receive and therefore, we are aware of it. The west displayed its cultural products as well. In some western countries– in Europe and the US– it so happened that governments confiscated masks and gloves belonging to another government while they were being transferred in order to use them for themselves. This happened in European and American governments. And the people there emptied the stores in a short time, in the space of one, two hours- as they were anxious to fill their fridges and they emptied the shops. They showed the whole world on television the empty shelves in the stores. Our television showed it as well. And there were some people who fought with one another over toilet paper. There were also long rows of people trying to buy guns. It was broadcast on television that the people were lining up to buy guns because they felt insecure and felt the need to buy guns in this sensitive period of time. We can also refer to their prioritization of patients: their preference not to treat the elderly. They said, “It is not necessary for us to bother treating the elderly, the disabled and the like who suffer from various conditions and ailments considering the restrictions that we have.” These are the things that have happened there.

Some people in those countries have committed suicide out of fear of the coronavirus and of death. This is the conduct that some western nations have shown. Of course, this is a logical and natural consequence of the philosophy ruling over the western civilization, which is an individualistic, materialistic and secular philosophy. Even if there is belief in God in that philosophy, it is not based on correct, towhidi and deep tenets. This is another issue.

I would like to add that a western official said a few days ago that the “Wild West” has been revived. This is what they say. When we say that there is a spirit of wildness in the west which is not incompatible with their perfumed and neat appearances, some people express their surprise and deny it. Now, they themselves are saying this! They say that such behavior is a symbol of the Wild West being revived.

Another dimension of this issue is the public behavior of our dear nation in acting on the recommendations. One can see that the people are really acting on what the National Anti-Corona Headquarters announces in a definite manner. Of course, they might announce something while they have doubts and the people might conclude that it is not necessary to do it, but when something is announced in a definite manner and they feel that they should do something, they cooperate with officials on the recommendations that they issue.

One example is this year’s “sizde-bedar” ceremony. Nobody would have believed that the people would cancel it, but they did. The people did not attend sizde-bedar. This shows that the people have accepted public discipline in confronting this disease in the true sense of the word. Of course, this should continue. This public discipline should continue to exist and the decisions announced by the National Anti-Corona Headquarters – as the Headquarters is the first-tier organization in charge of this task – should be taken seriously and acted upon.

Another dimension of the issue is that coronavirus is clearly a grave problem for today’s humanity. It is a big and dangerous outbreak that has occurred to humanity, but compared to other problems, it is a relatively small matter. We have been witness to many problems in the world and in our own country, which were not less important, rather more important than this recent malady, including the fact that Saddam’s planes dumped chemicals on our country 32 years ago– on exactly the same days that coronavirus has now entered our country. They killed thousands of people in our cities and in their own cities and they did so with mustard gas and the like. This happened and of course, all big powers in the world supported and helped Saddam on that day. Some of these so-called civilized and advanced countries gave him chemical substances and weapons and until today, none of them has answered for the crimes that they committed back then.

And that criminal Saddam, behaved towards our people and his own people in Halabja in the same manner, because he felt that the people of Halabja might be cooperating with the soldiers of the Islamic Republic, he killed them on the streets in a brutal manner. Well, these things have happened. During the two world wars, millions of people were killed as well. In the case of the coronavirus, it is said that one million-plus individuals have been infected and some have lost their lives. However, in the first and second world wars which occurred in Europe with an interval of about 20 years, several million people were killed. I do not remember exactly how many, but I know that tens of millions of people were killed during those wars.

During the Vietnam War too, which was waged by the US, many people were killed and the same is true of other wars. Just recently, many people were killed and martyred during the attack that the US and others launched in Iraq. These cases have been frequent. Therefore, when we think about the recent matter, we should not ignore the other important incidents that have always occurred in the world and we should know that at the very moment, millions of people are under the pressure of oppression at the hands of big powers and enemies in the world and they are deeply suffering. The people in Yemen, Palestine and many other parts of the world are under pressure. Therefore, the issue of coronavirus should not make us forgetful of the plots of enemies and of arrogance and we should know that the enmity of arrogance is based on the essence of the Islamic Republic.

If someone thinks that we should not show enmity so that they will not show us enmity either, this is not true. The essence of the Islamic Republic is the principle of Islamic democracy and this is not acceptable, understandable and tolerable to them! This is another point.

I will tell you that officials in the National Anti-Corona Headquarters are working seriously. We receive the reports in this regard and we are aware of their activities. They have also come up with certain plans for underprivileged classes, but I wish to stress and recommend that executive officials should implement the plans for helping these classes as soon as possible and in the best way they can, God willing.

However, the people are also responsible. There are some people who really find it very hard to make ends meet and they cannot manage their daily affairs. The people whose hands are open and who are financially well-off should begin extensive activities in this regard.

We read in the holy dua “Shajarat-un Nubuwwa”: “Feed me so that I can help- by means of what you bestowed on me with Your Grace- those who are deprived of your bounties and blessings to a large part, as you provided me with Your shelter.” This is one of the necessary tasks that should be carried out, in particular because the month of Ramadan is imminent. The month of Ramadan is the month of giving alms, making sacrifice and helping the needy. It will be such an excellent move to launch a big movement in the country for charitable purposes and offering pious help to the needy and the poor. If this happens, there will be a good memory of this year in the minds of the people.

In order to prove our love for the Imam of the Age, we should create scenes and reflections of the Mahdawi society. As I mentioned before, the Mahdawi society is the society of justice, dignity, knowledge and assistance. We should realize these things within the scope of our capability in our life. This will help us get closer to that ideal society.

The last point that I would like to raise is that in the absence of public meetings in the month of Ramadan – as this year, we are deprived of these very valuable public meetings which are places for making dua, speaking to one another and supplicating to God – we should not forget about acts of worship, praying and showing humility towards God. We can do the same things and show the same humility in our own homes, when we are alone or when we are among our family members and our children. Of course, there will be some television programs as well which can be benefitted from. And we are obliged to do so.

I also have one word of advice for officials and for young activists in the arena of science and technology. Two things should not be forgotten: one is the issue of “surge in production” which is vital for the country. We should pursue the issue of production in the country at any cost and we should help production witness a surge in the true sense of the word. And another is the issue of manufacturing the many things that we need and doing laboratory wok. By Allah’s favor, the youth in laboratory sections will pursue this matter.

I ask Allah the Exalted to bestow salvation on the Iranian nation. May God gladden the immaculate soul of our magnanimous Imam, that He associates the pure souls of our dear martyrs with the Holy Prophet, that He will realize the big dreams of the Iranian nation and that He hastens the re-appearance of the Imam of the Age- may our souls be sacrificed for his sake- God willing.

Greetings be upon you and Allah’s mercy and blessings

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