MAYBE KARL MARX WAS RIGHT AFTER ALL

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

Before Marx socialism was a sort of voluntary wish thing, no doubt growing out of Protestant fantasies of life in early Christianity when everything was supposedly shared. There were a few attempts at building Christian socialist communities and most of them had unhappy endings – the Munster Anabaptists’ ending especially so. Secular socialist communities – Robert Owens’ attempts for example – also came to little, albeit more peacefully.

Marx’s claim was that he made socialism scientific by which he meant that he believed he had discovered the mechanism that had driven society through history: he concluded that socialism was the inevitable next stage of evolution. He and his collaborator Engels laid out the theory in The Communist Manifesto in 1848 and Marx spent the rest of his life working out the details. Class struggle – the means of production – the triumph of the bourgeoisie in modern times – labour theory of value – surplus value – the more the bourgeoisie succeeds, the more it creates its destruction: “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” It’s a complete theory of history and society. The driving force of the coming socialist period is the emmiseration of the proletariat – as the owners of the means of production squeeze more surplus value out of the workers, they become more powerful and richer while the condition of the workers becomes worse:

The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth.

By the same process, more and more formerly rich capitalists are ruined and pushed into the ranks of the miserable workers (“One capitalist always kills many“) until – and the details are never really described – there are so few rich and so many poor that:

Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

The final stage doesn’t need to be especially violent: at the end point, there are so few super rich that whether they’re hanged from lampposts or pensioned off like the last emperor of China doesn’t make much difference in the great scheme of things.

Marx believed that he had discovered the laws, the processes, the machinery, that drove history and society: the way things are and will be, that must be: scientific. After Marx, socialism is no longer something to be wished for, something some rich benevolent owner might create if we asked him politely, an appeal to Christian conscience, but something that is the very mechanism of the way things are and the way they must develop. Socialism is hard-wired into history.

But, right away, there’s a contradiction: if it’s scientific, nothing you or I can do will make it come faster or slower so there’s no point in joining socialist parties: Newton’s laws of motion don’t care whether you or I create a society to proselytise for them. But if it’s important to work towards socialism – and Marx himself was closely involved in at least one effort to do so – then it’s not inevitable and, therefore, not scientific. This created two threads in Marxism – spontaneity (it is going to happen in its own time) and voluntarism (it has to be made to happen).

The scientific expectation that A leads to B and B to C came to a crisis in the late 1800s. Eduard Bernstein argued that things were not following the path that Marx had foreseen half a century before – ownership of capital was not concentrating in fewer and fewer hands, the conditions of the workers was not growing worse. In a word, political developments – the working class’s political power – were changing Marx’s laws. From this conflict of theory and observation was born the idea of what we now call social democracy. Socialists should work within the system to reduce working hours, break up monopolies, eliminate child labour, force up wages, support labour unions and so on: in Marxist terms, use political power to compel the owners to give up a significant portion of the surplus value. Social democracy could be harmonised with the idea of free enterprise by describing it as levelling the playing field. If the essence of the free market is competition, then who can disagree with the idea that labour’s demands should freely compete with capital’s in conditions where each is level; if competition in output is desirable then it is desirable in inputs as well. The mixed economy: the dynamism of the free market prevents the stagnation and bureaucracy of socialism and the power of labour prevented the crushing of the weak and the government is the enforcer of the balance.

Lenin hated Bernstein’s conclusions (“revisionism“) and in What is To Be Done? took a different course: an informed and disciplined few should drive development. And that led to the USSR and, at its flaccid end, the “developed socialism” of Brezhnev. (Parenthetical aside: Brezhnev is what Plato’s Philosopher King looks like when actual humans try it out in real time). Interesting to observe, however, that both Bernsteinism and Leninism were voluntaristic approaches: the future will be created by acts of will today. So much for scientific socialism.

The mixed economy worked pretty well for a long time and social democracies in Europe delivered high standards of living and social justice across the board. Even the USA, with its hatred of “socialism”, delivered a fine standard of living to its “proletariat” thanks to the power of labour unions and majority voting. Rather than wretchedly existing at the edge of the commodity cost of labour like the protagonists of The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, a worker in the West could buy a house and support a family. Altogether, the generality could agree that a good balance had been struck and Marx’s predictions had been disproven. The collapse of the USSR and its satellites fired a nail gun into his coffin. Marxists turned into whiskery crazies shouting on street corners that it can’t have failed because it was never really tried!!!

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But that was then and this is now. What started me off on these thoughts was this headline: “The 3 Richest Americans Hold More Wealth Than Bottom 50% Of The Country, Study Finds“. That’s pretty astonishing: 3 people could buy out 160 million Americans: pay off their rents and mortgages, clear out their savings accounts, pocket their health plans, empty out their pension plans, throw their clothing into the Salvation Army box, pile their knick-knacks at the curb and cash out their tooth fillings. As to buying the other half, the only question is how many more billionaires would it take: a hundred, two hundred? How long before the three could buy up two-thirds of the population? (Last week, we’re told, one of the three added six billion to his kitty – that’s twelve of the latest Princess cruise ships or half a US aircraft carrier.) Before I heard about the big three I’d known of this study from 2014: “Researchers then concluded that U.S. policies are formed more by special interest groups than by politicians properly representing the will of the general people, including the lower-income class.” The two headlines are not, to put it mildly, unconnected.

Moving down to mere millions we learn that the “Ousted Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg left the company with stock options and other assets worth about $80 million, but did not receive severance as part of his departure from the embattled company, Boeing disclosed late Friday.” A gold-standard company, probably destroyed on his watch, and he pockets more moolah that you, I or all the readers of this piece will ever see. Meanwhile average wages haven’t changed much for 40 years in the USA. Rich getting richer, poor getting poorer.

What happened? Well, simply put, the rich grabbed hold of political power, took over the government and started to unlevel the playing field. Wherever they can exercise their power they do: executive salaries rise, university fees grow, parliamentarians grow richer, bureaucracies expand, government bailouts bail. None of this is new or unusual, of course: greed+power=more greed is an equation for all times and all places. But somewhere the West lost the countervailing forces that balanced the greed of the bosses with the greed of the unions. We see this throughout the West: super rich, enormous executive salaries, endless perqs for some; austerity for the rest. More dramatically in the USA, of course, because it is the West’s leader and its “early adopter”. Socialists and the institutions they encouraged provided a counterforce and brute power created a balance in which everybody got something. That counterforce disappeared somewhere.

*********************

So, in a way, what Marx foresaw 170 years ago has come to happen. Much later than he expected and much differently than he expected. His theory held that the owners of the means of production – Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers – would rule the world. But of the three Americans who, we are told, can buy half the population, one is an investor, another a software developer and the third the inventor of a mail order store. Where are the means of production? Well – another irony – they were sold to China.

So the super rich in the West own intangibles;

The communists in the East own the means of production:

Not exactly what Marx expected.

And yet: three people as rich as half a country? Legislatures that do what they’re told by their paymasters? That is rather like the late stage capitalism that Marx was talking about – a few, very few, super rich and a large number of emmiserated people.

As Marx might say today, opioids are the opium of the people.

So what happens next? COVID-19 is brutally exposing the fact that these Western societies aren’t actually very efficient. Is it significant that three quarters of the COVID-19 cases are in NATO countries? Only six months ago, they were supposed to be the best prepared. Endless wars go on endlessly, debt piles up, wealth gaps grow, austerity policies grind on. The propaganda of Western exceptionalism is still strong but weaker and less convincing with every failure.

The world is changing and Karl Marx doesn’t look as out of date as he did 50 years ago.

RUSSIAN RESHUFFLE

(Also published at Sic Semper Tyrannis, Strategic Culture Foundation, picked up by JRL, Technical Politics, The New Dark Age,

(Written on the evening of. So subject to reconsideration/revision/outright denial as we learn more.)

I didn’t expect any of it. Neither did anyone else, whatever the so-called experts outgassing on the US Garbage Media may be pretending. I don’t know what it all means. Neither does anyone else. (Well Putin & Co do, but they keep their cards close to their chests. As we’ve just seen.)

What do we know? Putin gave his annual address to the Federal Council (Rus) (Eng) and started off with how important it was that the birthrate should be raised. Fair enough: he wants more Russians on the planet, the government’s programs have ensured that there will be quite a few more but there are still more to come. Many programs planned; some of which will work: after all, not everything works out as we hoped does it? He mentioned how dangerous the world is – especially the MENA – and said at least Russia is pretty secure (as indeed it is except against lunatics addicted to the Book of Revelation.)

Then the constitutional stuff. He believes the Constitution needs a few tweaks. Important officials should really be Russians and not people with a get-out-of-jail-card/alternate-loyalty-card in their vests. Reasonable enough: they should “inseparably connect their lives with Russia and the Russian people without any assumptions and allowances.” (Good idea actually. Can we in the West steal the idea? We vote for X but who does he vote for?) Russian law should take precedence over decrees contaminated by the “Rules-Based International Order” (“we make the rules, you follow our orders“). The PM should be named by the Duma. (A pretty big change, actually: let’s have more details on the division of labour please. In some countries the head of state is The Boss – USA, Russia (now), France – in others the head of government is The Boss – Germany, Canada, Denmark. There is a serious carve up of powers question here that has to be worked out in detail.) Constitutional changes should be approved in a referendum. The President either should or should not be bound by the no-three-terms-in-a-row-rule (I personally can’t figure out what “этим” refers to in “Не считаю, что этот вопрос принципиальный, но согласен с этим. Не считаю, что этот вопрос принципиальный, но согласен с этим.” But, no doubt we will soon learn.)

So, a somewhat less presidential republic. Details to be decided. Many details. But I’m confident that it’s been worked out and we will learn. Putin & Co have shown us over 20 years that they don’t make things up on the fly.

Then we learned that the entire government had resigned – but individuals to stay in place until replaced. Then we learned – a fast few hours indeed! – that Dmitri Medvedev was replaced by somebody that no one (other than Russian tax specialists) had ever heard of: Mikhail Vladimirovich Mishustin. (Russian Wiki entry – none in English so far.) Those cheering Medvedev’s dismissal (something predicted and hoped for by a sector of Russianologists) had to then swallow this: not tossed out into ignominy and shame, as they wanted, but something else. Putin says that there is a clear distinction between government and presidential concerns; defence and security are clearly in the latter. But Medvedev has always been closely following defence and security issues and it is suitable and appropriate that he continue to do so. So a new position, deputy heard of the security council, will be created for him. So what are we to make of this? Medvedev has been given the boot and a sinecure? Or he’s been given a crucial job in the new carve-up of responsibilities?

After all, Russia’s problems keep getting bigger but nobody is getting any younger. Especially the problems from outside. For some years Washington, an implacable enemy of Moscow, has been getting less and less predictable. Lavrov and Kerry spend hours locked up negotiating a deal in Syria; within a week the US military attacks a Syrian Army unit; “by mistake”. Who’s in charge? Now with the murder of Soleimani, possibly on a Washington-approved peace mission, Washington has moved to another level of lawlessness and is exploring the next depth as it defies Baghdad’s order to get out. A pirate power. The outside problems for Moscow aren’t getting smaller, are they? Washington is certainly недоговороспособны – it’s impossible to make an agreement with it and, if you should think you have done so, it will break it. A dangerous, uncontrollable madman, staggering around blowing everything up – is any foreign leader now to be assumed to be on Washington’s murder list? Surviving its decay is a big job indeed. The problems are getting bigger in the Final Days of the Imperium Americanum.

So, maybe Moscow needs more people on the job.

So are we looking at a new division of labour in Moscow as part of managing the Transition? (To say nothing of the – what’s the word? – Thucydides trap?). Mishustin looks after the nuts and bolt of Russia’s economy and internal management. Medvedev looks after defence and security – something not likely to get smaller — while Putin looks after the big picture?

But this is only the first step in The Transition and we will learn more soon.

NOTE 16 January. The Presidential website now has the actual words on the issue of defence and security:

There is a clear-cut presidential block of issues, and there is a Government block of issues, even though the President, of course, is responsible for everything, but the presidential block includes primarily matters of security, defence and the like.

Mr Medvedev has always been in charge of these matters. [Дмитрий Анатольевич всегда занимался этими вопросами}. From the point of view of increasing our defence capability and security, I consider it possible and have asked him to deal with these matters in the future. I consider it possible and will, in the near future, introduce the position of Deputy Chairman of the Security Council. As you are aware, the President is its Chairman.

WHY YOU HAVE RETIRE TO SEE REALITY

(I wrote this under a pseudonym three years ago today and we still see it all the time.)

Ex-President Sarkozy of France is recently quoted as saying two things: “Nous avons une civilisation en commun avec la Russie. Les intérêts des Américains avec les Russes, ce ne sont pas les intérêts de l’Europe avec la Russie”. Europe has a common civilization with Russia and our interests are not the same as Americans’. “La Crimée a choisi la Russie, on ne peut pas le lui reprocher”. Crimea chose Russia and you can’t blame it.

In doing so, he has added his name to a long list of ex-officials who contradict the official line on the Ukrainian catastrophe that we see promulgated by virtually all present office-holders.

Many people have noticed this and speculate why former office holders should have such different opinions from present office holders. One common theory is that they are blackmailed into obedience by Washington. Another, which we can see in Hungary and the Czech Republic today, is that speaking out of line can bring sudden “spontaneous protests” supported by the local American Ambassador and people who have some (later revealed) connection with USAID or the NED. “Exes” aren’t as vulnerable to blackmail or a Washington-orchestrated regime change as “presents”.

While I do not rule either of these explanations out – how could I? we know that Washington spies on everybody and we know that these “spontaneous” protests are nothing of the sort – I have been wondering and I believe there is a simpler cause that also operates.

I worked in a bureaucracy for several decades. Bureaucracies are pyramids. Most occupants – many think of little else – wish to rise and the easiest way to rise is by attracting the benevolent attention of a higher up. This leads to what might be called “schedule flooding” as people compete for the boss’s time. And so, the higher ups have almost no unscheduled moments. The only case in which a higher up would have any free time is when he has a truly powerful will and intellect to carve out that free time. But such individuals are not common; too many, in fact, are von Moltke’s stupid and industrious.

So let us imagine President Smith of Yourland and his daily schedule. At the top of the pyramid of pyramids, thousands of underlings seek a few of the 1440 minutes a day he, and every other mortal, has. His schedule is filled with meetings and briefings for months in advance. And that’s just the expected meetings – inevitably some crisis will pack the schedule even tighter.

Very few of these people seizing some of Smith’s 1440 minutes will tell him he’s not doing a very good job or that the Conventional View of Things is defective. That would not attract his patronage.

Assuming Smith is intelligent, wise, a good manager, industrious, well-educated, knowledgeable, a good character judge with a strong sense of reality, he will just be able to keep his head above water and drive ahead the two or three issues that he really takes an interest in. Fortunately, in contrast with less-favored parts of the world, the electoral system in Western countries produces leaders who are all of these things and we never have to fear that schedule flooding will drown a stupid, incompetent, foolish, lazy, ignorant narcissist.

What happens when President Smith leaves office? I recommend this anecdote of former British Prime Minister Macmillan – The Telephone is immediately disconnected. Yesterday every minute of his time was competed for, today none is. He’s dug a hole in water.

But now he has some time to think quietly and some actually do think. Some, as Sarkozy apparently has, think their way to an understanding that Europe is being ruined in service to Washington and that it’s perfectly natural that Crimeans should want to get out of the Ukrainian catastrophe and return home.

So, one reason the exes outnumber the presents in this case is that they have the opportunity to contemplate the forest because they no longer have every minute occupied by people telling them how important the bark on their favorite tree is.

HOW I GOT HERE

Reprints

      http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/10/how-i-got-here.html

      http://russia-insider.com/en/how-i-became-kremlin-troll-patrick-armstrong/ri21379

(Now that the book is out I publish my entry. Most of the people who wrote their “how I got here” sections were awakened by the relentlessly one-sided coverage of Russia by the MSM: they suspected that it couldn’t possibly be that one-sided and started looking.

Putin’s Praetorians: Confessions of the Top Kremlin Trolls Kindle Edition; Phil Butler (Author), Patricia Revita (Illustrator), Pepe Escobar (Foreword)

I started work for the Canadian Department of National Defence in 1977 in the Directorate of Land Operational Research of the Operational Research and Analysis Establishment. I participated in many training games in real time and research games in very slow time. The scenarios were always the same: we (Canada had a brigade group in West Germany) were defending against an attack by the Soviet/Warsaw Pact side. In those days NATO was a defensive organisation and, as we later found out, so was the other side: each was awaiting the other to attack. Which, come to think of it, is probably why we’re all here today.

I enjoyed my six years, often as the only civilian in a sea of uniforms, but I realised that a history PhD stood no change of running the directorate so, when the slot opened, I contrived to switch to the Directorate of Strategic Analysis as the USSR guy. I should say straight off that I have never taken a university course on Russia or the USSR. And, in retrospect, I think that was fortunate because in much of the English-speaking world the field seems to be dominated by Balts, Poles or Ukrainians who hate Russia. So I avoided that “Russians are the enemy, whatever flag they fly” indoctrination: I always thought the Russians were just as much the victims of the ideology as any one else and am amused how the others have airbrushed their Bolsheviks out of their pictures just as determinedly as Stalin removed “unpersons” from his.

That was November 1984 and Chernenko was GenSek and, when he died in March 1985, Gorbachev succeeded. While I didn’t think the USSR was all that healthy or successful an enterprise, I did expect it to last a lot longer and when Gorbachev started talking about glasnost and perestroyka I thought back to the 20th Party Congress, the Lieberman reforms, Andropov’s reforms and didn’t expect much.

In 1987 two things made me think again. I attended a Wilton Park conference (the first of many) attended by Dr Leonid Abalkin. He took the conference over and, with the patient interpretation of someone from the Embassy, talked for hours. The Soviet economy was a failure and couldn’t be reformed. That was something different. Then, on the front page of Pravda, appeared a short essay with the title “A New Philosophy of Foreign Policy” by Yevgeniy Primakov. I pricked up my ears: a new philosophy? But surely good old Marxism-Leninism is valid for all times and places. As I read on, I realised that this was also something new: the author was bluntly saying that Soviet foreign policy had been a failure, it was ruining the country and creating enemies. These two were telling us that the USSR just didn’t work. As Putin told Stone, “it was not efficient in its roots”.

These things convinced me that real change was being attempted. Not just fiddling around at the edges but something that would end the whole Marxist-Leninist construct. As far as I was concerned, it had been the communist system that was our enemy and, if it was thrown off, we should be happy. Sometime around then I was interviewed for a job at NATO and the question was what, with all these changes, was NATO’s future. I said it should become an alliance of the civilised countries against whatever dangers were out there: the present members of course, but also the USSR, Japan and so on.

Well, that didn’t happen did it? I remember a very knowledgeable boss assuring me that NATO expansion was such a stupid idea that it would never happen. He was wrong too.

In 1814 the victors – Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria – sat down in Vienna, with France, to re-design the world. They were wise enough to understood that a settlement that excluded France wouldn’t last. In 1919 this was forgotten and the settlement – and short-lived it was – excluded the loser. In 1945 Japan and Germany were included in the winners’ circle. At the end of the Cold War, repeating the Versailles mistake, we excluded Russia. It was soon obvious, whatever meretricious platitudes stumbled from the lips of wooden-faced stooges, that NATO was an anti-Russia organisation of the “winners”.

But I retained hope. I think my most reprinted piece has been “The Third Turn” of November 2010 and in it I argued that Russia had passed through two periods in the Western imagination: first as the Little Brother then as the Assertive Enemy but that we were now approaching a time in which it would be seen as a normal country.

Well, that didn’t happen did it?

And so the great opportunity to integrate Russia into the winners’ circle was thrown away.

For a long time I thought it was stupidity and ignorance. I knew the implacably hostile were out there: Brzezinski and the legions of “think” tanks (my website has a collection of anti-Russia quotations I’ve collected over the years) but I greatly underestimated their persistence. Stupidity and ignorance; you can argue with those (or hope to). But you can’t argue with the anti-Russians. Russia wants to re-conquer the empire so it invaded Georgia. But it didn’t hold on to it, did it? No but that’s because we stopped it. Putin kills reporters. Name one. You know, whatshername. Provocative exercises on NATO’s borders. But NATO keeps moving closer to Russia. Irrelevant, NATO’s peaceful. Putin is the richest thief in the world. Says who? Everybody. Putin hacked the US election. How? Somehow.

I quoted Hanlan’s razor a lot – “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. And, stupidity and ignorance there were (a favourite being John McCain’s notion that the appropriate venue for a response to a Putin piece in the NYT was Pravda. And then he picked the wrong Pravda! (But he won’t hate Russia or Putin any the less if he were told that, would he?) At some point I came to understand that malice was the real driver.

I suppose it grew on me bit by bit – all the stupidity converged on the same point and it never stopped; but real stupidity and ignorance don’t work that way: people learn, however slowly. I think the change for me was Libya. I started out thinking stupidity but, as it piled up, it became clear that it was malice. I’d seen lies in the Kosovo war but it was Libya that convinced me that it wasn’t just a few lies, it was all lies. (My guess is that Libya was an important development in Putin’s view of NATO/US too.)

Naive perhaps but, for most of history stupidity has adequately explained things and malice is, after all, a species of stupidity.

So what’s the point of writing? I’ll never convince the Russia haters, and there’s little chance of getting through to the stupid and ignorant. And most people aren’t very interested anyway.

Well, this is where malice meets stupidity. If we consider the Project for a New American Century, the neocon game plan “to promote American global leadership”, what do we see twenty years later? Brzezinski laid out the strategy in The Grand Chessboard at the same time. What today? Well, last year he had to admit that the “era” of US dominance, he was so confident of twenty years earlier, was over. There’s no need to belabour the point: while the US by most measures is still the world’s dominant power, its mighty military is defeated everywhere and doesn’t realise it, its manufacturing capacity has been mostly outsourced to China, domestic politics and stability degenerate while we watch and there’s opioids, spectacular debt levels, incarceration, infant mortality, недоговороспособны and on and on. Donald Trump was elected on the promise to Make America Great…. Again. Hardly the hyperpower to lead the globe is it?

The Twentieth Century was the “American Century” thanks to limitless manufacturing capacity allied to great inventiveness anchored on a stable political base. What is left of these three in 2017? Can America be made “great” again? And wars: wars everywhere and everywhere the same. And what other than malice has brought it to this state? Malice has become stupidity: the neocons, Brzezinskis, the Russia haters, the Exceptionalists, scheming “to promote American global leadership”, have weakened the USA. Perhaps irreparably.

So, who’s the audience today? The converted and people at the point when a little push can break their conditioning have always been there. But now there is a potentially huge audience for our efforts: the audience of the awakening.

Which brings me back to where I started. Except that it’s the USA this time:

IT’S NOT WORKING

We’re here and we’re waiting for you: you’ve been lied to but that doesn’t mean that everything is a lie.

After the Trumpquake — Что делать?

http://us-russia.org/4507-coming-together-to-generate-ideas-for-a-new-foreign-policy-agenda.html

Question: (Coming together to generate ideas for a new foreign policy agenda). In the end, the 2016 US presidential campaign did what democracies are supposed to do: it gave the electorate a clear choice between two different visions of the country’s future and the policies each party proposed to take us there.  When faced with the prospect of “more of the same,” meaning more impoverishment of the middle and lower classes, more risks of new wars:  it ‘threw the bums out.”

Unfortunately, on the way to this happy outcome the level of political culture on display by the presidential candidates and their campaign staffs sank to unprecedented lows and vicious personal attacks on each other often obscured the policy differences between the candidates.

Nevertheless now that the outgoing President Obama and the incoming President Trump have shaken hands at their first transition meeting in the White House, it is time for the rest of us to make our peace with one another.  This, however, should not mean ending our differences of opinion on policies.  On the contrary, what the country needs now is a good dose of debate and in particular partisan, as opposed to nonpartisan discussion of our foreign policy issues, since we have for the past 4 years at least been stumbling into a very dangerous confrontation with both Russia and China without the benefit of free public discussion of our options.

What concretely can we all do to force the media, the foreign policy establishment to ‘come out and play’ now rather than sulk and spit venom at the victorious Trump team?

The encouraging truth is that reality eventually triumphs; the discouraging truth is that it only does so over a long and painful time. Trump’s victory is, in its way, a victory for reality but a mighty effort remains.

What can we do in forums like this one? Keep talking about reality I suppose: the reality that the neocon domination of Washington has failed in every way possible; the reality that Washington’s endless wars have been failures; the reality that every failed war has planted the seeds of the next; the reality that a extraordinary opportunity was squandered in the 1990s; the reality that making Russia into an enemy is stupid, unnecessary and extremely dangerous; the reality that “exceptionalism” is exceptionally dangerous, destructive and stupid; the reality that the MSM is lying about Syria, about Russia, about Ukraine and about almost everything else; the reality that Putin is not a “thug” determined to re-create the USSR; the reality that Russia is not “isolated”, in “economic freefall” or on the edge of “regime change”; the reality that “The West” has been on the wrong course for two decades. The reality that the neocon/liberal interventionist route leads to destruction.

We may eventually hope that our little drops of water wear away the stone. Perhaps some of us have had an effect on Trump’s thinking, or Flynn’s thinking, or Bannon’s thinking. But we will probably never know and, in truth, it’s almost impossible to work out the influence.

But if Trump can get the Russia relationship right, then a great number of Washington’s international entanglements will be easier to remedy. And he does seem to be interested in getting that right.

But I think, in the last analysis, we have to agree with the great physicist Max Planck:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

In short, a new foreign policy for the USA will have to advance, to paraphrase Planck again, “one political funeral at a time”.

But it’s encouraging that Trump’s election has produced so many political funerals.

Today’s Putin Quotation

Only a strong – effective, in case someone does not like the word strong – effective democratic state is able to protect civil, political and economic freedoms and to create the conditions for a good life for the people and the prospering of our native land. (только сильное, эффективное, если кому-то не нравится слово “сильное”, скажем эффективное государство и демократическое государство в состоянии защитить гражданские, политические, экономические свободы, способно создать условия для благополучной жизни людей и для процветания нашей Родины.)

Putin address to Federal Assembly, 8 July 2000

Today’s Putin Quotation

They [the oligarchs] see the mass media as their chief instrument of influence over the state. They have all become accustomed, especially recently, to getting everything they want from the state and using it as they want. They don’t want to live in accordance with the law, and I don’t think that’s right.

Putin interview in Globe and Mail, Geoffrey York and Chrystia Freeland, “We are not looking for enemies”, 14 Dec 2000

I Wasn’t Really Wrong When I Said Putin Would Retire: Here’s my rationalisation

http://russia-insider.com/en/i-wasnt-really-wrong-when-i-said-putin-would-retire/ri10223

I did not expect Putin to return for a third term and on August 2011 I said he would not. In September (that’s fast!!) I had to eat my words. But I wasn’t happy to: while I thought Putin was a pretty effective leader – maybe the best Russia has ever had, in the last thousand years, anyway – every leader (and everything else) has a “best before” date. There’s a time when a leader runs out of ideas and creativity, a time when the sycophants figure out what buttons to push (“I know you don’t like flattery boss; that’s one of the things I admire about you”), a time when subordinates start plotting, a time when the Old Guy’s past it and it’s time to think about our futures and so on. Putin’s not there by a long shot, but it will come one day. Better to leave at the top of your game.

And, I have to admit, there was some personal embarrassment on my part – a US Congressman was ranting to me about how Putin was just power-hungry and I stopped him by saying: then why isn’t he president right now? Well, the last laugh’s on me, isn’t it? He’s president again and maybe he never really stopped being the real boss.

So why did he come back? Why does he risk becoming the Turkmenbashi of Russia?

I prefer to think that he’s not just the power-crazed dictator that the US Congressman thinks he is. And so fearlessly risking another episode of logophagy, I offer another theory which allows me to preserve my August 2011 idea and pretend to have been right all along while actually having been wrong. (A bit like being an op-ed writer, in fact. It’s nice to have a rolling memory that forgets when you were wrong. Take, for example, Der Spiegel, which now blames Merkel for the whole sorry mess in Ukraine without ever admitting its own responsibility for whipping up the hysteria. But I, unlike Official Journalists©, know that the Internet Never Forgets.)

So, why did Putin not take my advice and return to the presidency?

Libya, in a word. Consumers of Western media outlets who can still remember the dim, distant days of March 2011 will recall that Qaddafi “was bombing his own people”. First appearing, I think, on Al Jazeera, the story spread everywhere and was amplified by the West’s pet “human rights” N”G”Os. There doesn’t appear to have been any evidence that he was – and a later report concluded that he wasn’t – but this was the mantra. And, it’s important to remember, “humanitarian bombing” episodes are always preceded by unanimity in the media; we’ve seen it in Kosovo and Syria and more recently in Ukraine – every news outlet saying exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.

“Bombing your own people” is a terrible, terrible thing and “something must be done”. (or, rather, it was then: not so important today in Ukraine). The US and its allies went to the UN and secured a resolution to create a “no fly zone” so as to stop Libyan government aircraft from “bombing his own people”. Russia (and China) abstained rather than veto.

To make a long story short, NATO paid no attention to the text of the resolution. They bombed everything, then they supplied weapons, then special forces trainers, then forward air controllers. At the end, after seven (seven!) months, Qaddafi was run to ground and brutally killed. Hillary Clinton’s cackle should not be forgotten.

All appearances suggest that Washington and those NATO members who participated lied from start to finish: they never meant the “no fly zone” stuff and they always intended to overthrow Qaddafi. They played Moscow and Beijing for suckers.

Well, my guess is that Putin is tired of Russia being played for a sucker, tired of Washington & Co bombing everyone it wants to whatever pretext it invents (is Russia on the list?). My guess is that President Xi agrees with him (could China be on the list?) In fact he/they is/are thinking some unthinkable thoughts. I suspect they may be entertaining the notions that, under present management:

  • Washington is a force for chaos in the world.
  • Washington cannot be trusted.
  • Agreements with Washington are worthless.
  • Washington cannot be dealt with.

There is no honour, no consistency, nothing to be trusted in Washington. And, worst of all, pace Palmerston, they don’t even know their own interests (Stupidity is very frightening when combined with Washington’s military power).

Washington is, and will be, Russia’s (and China’s) enemy.

And that is why I think he came back. He foresaw, thanks to the US/NATO deception on Libya, that hard times were coming for Russia. Only he had the necessary muscle to both over-awe the contending factions in Russia and, at the same time, stand tough against the threats.

And the Ukraine nightmare has shown he was right. In the eleven month period from delaying the EU agreement (v2013) to delaying the EU agreement (v2014), Russia has been ceaselessly calumniated and provoked. Putin, leading and controlling his team, has proved cooler, calmer and cleverer than his enemies.

There is nothing about US actions in Syria that will make him think differently.

What did we hear in his 2014 address to the Russian parliament? – a speech, you may be sure, in which every word is tried out, tested and tasted.

Back then, we realised that the more ground we give and the more excuses we make, the more our opponents become brazen and the more cynical and aggressive their demeanour becomes.

Could anything be plainer than that? We tried, they rejected us; we tried again, they spat again. One last attempt… That’s it. It’s over. He’s come to the end, past the end, of the rope. So, altogether, Putin read the tea leaves and I did not.