Monthly Archives: August 2015

Putin – “the new Stalin” – to build a museum denouncing the former Stalin

When a licensed hawk like Dr. Henry Kissinger persistently argues that the present demonizing of Vladimir Putin in the West is not just bad policy, but even lack of policy, one could expect that at least those less right-wing than him had taken some notice. And when he with the same determination claims that Russia’s security interests near its borders must be recognized by USA and EU, he cannot be suspected to be Putin’s tool. A plausible conclusion is instead that western conservatives and liberals along the line have run amok in Russophobe frenzy.

The uniform narrative on the Russian issue, spread all over western mainstream media, is embarrassingly ignorant and naïve or – more exactly – mostly outright stupid. It’s as if the old format from the blatant anti-communist propaganda in the first cold war has been recovered from the archives and recycled. It’s not just one-sided, like all propaganda, it’s also deliberately misleading (or, as Paul Craig Roberts would say: it’s all lies).

(One hour ago I heard a segment in the Swedish public service radio, to take just a minuscule example. It has been reported today that Poroshenko will put forward new legislation that will permit some kind of autonomy for the break-away regions in eastern Ukraine. The “public service” reporter supposes that Poroshenko is under pressure from Germany and France (to get financial support), and then he devotes most of the time to an interview with some unknown Ukrainian nationalist who is allowed to thoroughly describe his opposition to the legislation. Not a word is said about the central fact: that the autonomy in question is a fundamental clause in the Minsk accords.)

According to our propaganda the civil war in Ukraine is “Putin’s war” although Russia had pushed harder than anyone else for a negotiated solution. “Putin wants to conquer Ukraine” (a lie by Yatsenjuk and others) although Russia has put forward a resolution to the UN Security Council, guaranteeing Ukraine’s integrity and secure borders. “Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union” (McCain et.al.), “Putin is a new Hitler” (Clinton) etcetera.

A completely different event concerning Putin has been announced by Professor Stephen Cohen in The Nation recently. No president in Russia before Putin has managed to push through the establishment of a museum commemorating all the victims of Stalin’s reign of terror. Now he has done that, probably in defiance of a large part of Russians that consider Stalin to be a great nation builder and a war-winning marshal. We now just have to wait and see how our media will distort the building of this museum to match the demonizing of Putin (if they can’t manage that, they can be expected to be dead silent). The museum will be inaugurated in October this year.

More about this issue can be listened to via The Nation’s web edition where Stephen Cohen discusses with John Batchelor.

McCain’s perpetual wars, and Swedish naivety

Last week John McCain visited Sweden in his official capacity as a US congressman. (Whenever he visits Ukraine the slaughtering of civilians by the Nazi battalions intensifies afterwards; interesting to see what his visit here will imply, hmmm…) He was greeted very respectfully as Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, and taken care of by the Swedish Minister of Defense, a Social Democrat by the way. No impertinent questions have been asked, no demonstrations rallied, everything just peaceful and quite.

The important US guest gave an improvised press conference on his way to a helicopter, during which he stressed that Vladimir Putin is aggressive, and therefore a danger to surrounding countries. This said by certainly one of the most aggressive politicians from undoubtedly the most aggressive nation on earth the last 70 years. Our brain washing works so well that no one even hears the screaming hypocrisy.

Swedish politicians use deceitful tactics when they lure their countrymen into NATO. They know that Swedes at heart don’t want to see a full membership, so the process proceeds incrementally. During a former Social Democratic government we suddenly found Swedish combat troops engaged in the Afghan war. Without any debate a 200 years long era of peace had been broken furtively.

Recently we welcomed NATO troops to a large joint exercise in the northern parts of the country and similar cooperation in the whole area has become more or less a routine procedure. And all of it takes place without much public debate or (as far as I know) decisions in parliament.

It’s significant to contrast the reverent reception of McCain by Swedish media with the scornful treatment of him by American comedians. He advocates violent solutions to nearly every conflict on earth, and want his country engaged actively in spite of the embarrassing failures of the two last wars (as well as most previous ones).

Another interesting comparison can be made between McCain’s ideal USA and the competing Chinese power. When USA spends (printed) money on perpetual wars, the Chinese conquers the world with giant infrastructural projects in developing countries, financed through aid and trade. These massive civilian campaigns serve as antidotes to war in that they tie countries together in fruitful dependencies (just like the idea behind EU).

When will we realize that wars are obsolete means to achieve world dominance? Do we have to wait until China has taken the definite economic lead, and the dollar is rejected as reserve currency? In that case: let’s just hope that the world exists by then.

Left and Right – once more

In one of Woody Allen’s more casual movies, Everyone Says I Love You, a New York liberal, played by Alan Alda (of course), has a teenage son with reactionary republican ideas, driving his father wild. In a short scene late in the film, almost as slapstick, it’s revealed that the son had an innate illness affecting his brain, and when cured from that he’s converted into a normal liberal, to everyone’s happiness.

Woody Allen is in my view one of the American gifts to the world. In the many of his movies I’ve watched there were, to my recollection, scarcely any outright political themes. So when he in this movie, as script writer, deliberately equates right wing politics with brain injury, it seems as if he just want to state that some kind of liberalism is obvious for “normal” people.

The rift between left and right, liberals and conservatives, workers and bourgeoisie propagates around the globe. It’s like two different worlds each with its own cognition, logic and ethics, making intelligent communication difficult, if not impossible. A recent illustration was given in the reactions to the Greek financial problems and their solutions.

On those articles on the subject in the New York Times where the comment’s section was opened, the readers’ comments where divided into two distinct groups. Around half of the entries pointed (sometimes fiercely) at the Greek’s bad habit too live beyond their means, their governments granting them too generous pensions and allowances, their notorious tax evasions and other misdemeanors. The usual conclusion in those posts was that the Greek had to pay their debts, and if they happened to suffer it was their own fault.

The other group of readers focused instead on the role of the banks that had poured loans over a country that everyone knew was in bad economic shape, and that capitalism requires that banks, like other companies, bear the consequences of their risk-taking, for which they are paid interest. One could often read that the much debated bailouts in fact were the European governments (primarily the German) making their tax payers save their own countries’ banks from losses on Greek loans, and that very little of the bailout money really helped the afflicted Greeks. This group found it unreasonable that the fairly innocent Greek people should be forced to bear the burden of problems caused by others, who enjoyed impunity.

Right and Left are obviously two entirely different ways of viewing human beings and society, naturally based on material interest, social heritage and other such environmental factors, but in part going deeper, so that the divide also has to do with morality and the way we look at other people, factors that probably are engraved in more fundamental biological structures.

Right-wing thinking entails disregarding others, more or less blatantly. It’s everyone for himself, in full compliance with the egoism and even narcissism that is considered a basis for human nature in these circles. Sophisticated studies of things like reciprocal altruism don’t appeal to this group. (It’s not surprising that we often find a capability of utter contempt for human life among right-wing extremists.)

But why care about other people? Noam Chomsky was once asked why he had sacrificed even greater scientific achievements, plus a peaceful family life, to man the barricades in the fight for a better world. He answered that on the day he died he wanted to be able to answer the question: Why did I bother living for at all?

We dwell in a world where right-wing policies has ruined the conditions for the life of millions of people, kept surviving poor in a miserable state, upheld the threat of total destruction through either nuclear weapons or environmental breakdown. There are all reasons in the world to oppose these forces and to fight for human decency aiming at solidarity with others. It’s as simple as that, as I see it.

Left and Right – Good and Wrong?

The old divide in politics between Left and Right can easily be condensed into the dichotomy: Left is altruism and Right is egoism. Translated into universal moral code it would be: Left is good, Right is bad.

There is on the other hand an old aphorism, which I suppose is international and goes like this:  If you are young and not a socialist you don’t have a heart; if you are old and not a conservative you don’t have a brain.

In my world this must have been concocted by an old reactionary, since it puts things on the head. If anything, conservative ideology is impregnated with emotion as opposed to cognition, whilst altruism requires ability to abstract thinking and conscious understanding, such as to identify oneself with other human beings with different backgrounds and traits.

As a slowly maturing child I had some vague political ideas of what we call here bourgeoisie character. In other words: as long as the naive boy was ignorant and immature he was politically a sloppy egoist (maybe evolution’s first choice). Then when he reached 20 in came the 1960s, and a whole new world opened to the post-teen as if he just had learned how to read. It was a revelation, never possible to rescind after that. Now as a rather old man his eyes are more open than ever.

People on the right-wing, if their thinking is not totally petrified, surely are aware of their ideology’s egoistic element. To comfort those people’s conscience there are a number of defense inventions made. On the economic front the most famous is the “Adam Smith gambit”. In short it says that prosperity for all will reach its optimum if everyone just strives for his own personal well-being, after which the famous “invisible hand” automatically will create a divine equilibrium, giving everyone his fair share.

To refute this gambit one just has to take a look at the world, and find – among many other deficiencies in the equilibrium – some three million small children dying each year from uncomplicated illnesses that would have cost us in the rich part of the world a pittance to cure. Empirically it’s thus obvious that the “perfect market hypothesis” has serious shortcomings. To Adam Smith’s honor it should be said that he is not at all so naïve in his main work Wealth of Nations as his right-wing interpreters want us to believe.

Smith was not just an economist but also a moral philosopher, and as such he had serious objections regarding capitalism, the way it functioned already in his days. He never used the term “invisible hand”, except one single time in the whole book, and then in a completely different context. He described how division of labor increased productivity, but at the same time denounced the kind of society it would create. He had not much sympathy for “the masters of mankind” as he called the capitalists of his time. To make Adam Smith a right-wing icon requires thus a very selective reading of his works.

That a socialized economy can function without central planning was not Adam Smith’s “discovery”, contrary to conservative idolizing. Mankind had presumably found that out on the shores of Africa a long time ago. It’s not much of a mystery either, rather a capability naturally produced by evolution. To take a really micro example: in my days we could be some twenty kids coming together on a grass field, one of us owning a football (“soccer” ball) – no parental supervision. In a moment we organized – democratically – two teams and started playing, each of us filling his specific role in the game. It required no planning whatsoever.

Since Left means good, and thus honest, we shall not overlook the benefits of market principles based on the “economic man” assumption (i.e. egoism). It’s obvious that we normally are more ingenious and work harder when we profit from the enterprise ourselves. But the profit mustn’t be in the form of money. The most decisive discoveries and inventions have been made by scientists and engineers who didn’t get a penny of the eventual billion dollar profits that could be the end result. They were happy with their professional achievement, which also is a benefit (but at the same time reveals the fraudulent money principles of capitalism, favoring the unworthy over the worthy).

Today’s China is held up as a triumph for market principles. Without diminishing the Chinese feat that example could require some analyzing. Indeed, a number of billionaires have emerged and a middle class of white color workers have prospered, but for the hundreds of millions on the impoverished countryside the outcome is more debatable. Before the capitalist era China was a much better place for the simple farmers than comparable countries such as India. Now the situation is more complicated.

The most abhorrent aspect of right-wing policy is the “winner takes it all” mentality, emphasized since the neoliberal seizure of dominance some 35 years ago. With just slightly less greed it would have been no big deal to eliminate the conspicuous manifestations of capitalism resulting in suffering for billions of people.

Worst of all is that our mentality has hit the rest of the world in the form of bombs and bullets, in short: with murder. But that’s another story.

An excuse for absence

Summer means vacation, which for retired people with families, like me, means a lot of social and domestic duties.

I have in no way lost interest in social and political issues, and my silence is involuntary. But with upcoming working season a will have more free time for my personal interests.

So: see you, if you wish!