Category Archives: Politics

Homo Sapiens – a species too clever for its own good, but too stupid to do anything about it

Two prominent scholars, one physicist and one biologist, were asked the compulsory question: do you think there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? The physicist said yes: given the unimaginable number of galaxies and solar systems, there must be organisms with cognitive capacities somewhere, from pure statistical reasons.

Faithful to his experience regarding the conditions of life the biologist was more reluctant to conventional wisdom on the matter. He assumed that life can be suspected to follow the laws of evolution everywhere it exists. And evolution doesn’t further higher organisms; the simple ones are the most sustainable. Looked at it that way humankind on earth may exist in a unique and extremely short period in astronomical terms, sufficiently unique that it not necessarily occurs elsewhere right now.

I apologize for this depressing opening, but I’m about to try a rough thesis:

Homo Sapiens is a species too clever for its own good, but too stupid to do anything about it.

We could begin with the most obvious risk of total extermination, nuclear weapons. Sharp human brains have figured out how to exploit the energy inherent in the bonds between elementary particles in the nucleus of atoms. Savvy technicians used this knowledge to construct a bomb with monstrously explosive power. Then these devices were handed over to politicians and generals, usually not famous for their intellectual brilliance.

Maybe the balance of terror and the threat of total destruction have hindered the Third World War (and the definitely final one) so far, but it has been a close call several times. And the attempts to diminish the risks haven’t been overly impressive.

On the contrary, the United States enhanced the danger unilaterally by abandoning the ABM treaty in 2001. Russia was then still a harmless wreck, posing no threat. And anti-ballistic missiles are offensive, first strike weapons, in that they block an enemy from retaliating to a nuclear attack. The stupid part of the human nature accepted this unprovoked increase in the risk of total extermination without much debate. Today the US has installed ABMs in Poland and Czech Republic, obviously aimed at Russia. We can’t do much more than keep our fingers crossed.

A less stochastic menace to human survival than nuclear weapons is climate change. We can now be sure that this threat can’t be eliminated, only somewhat mitigated if we put all our efforts into doing so. But do we?

Let’s look at my country, Sweden, considered to be progressive in a number of ways. If you ask an average Swede what s/he first of all does to save the environment the answer most probably is: “I separate my household waste into different fractions, which I deliver at specific waste stations”. Anyone who knows fundamentals about waste realizes that such efforts don’t save any environment, rather the opposite. It just saves the conscience of a misinformed population.

The next thing a house-owning Swede may do is to drill a couple of hundred meters into the ground to capture somewhat warmer water, install an expensive heat pump and thus reduce the amount of electricity needed for heating his house (what he probably not reflects upon is that earth’s heat mainly comes from nuclear reactions). His reduced electricity bill may please him, but considering what he has to pay for investment, maintenance and repair, the bottom line is not overwhelming. And the effect on global warming is thus insignificant.

These everyday environmentalists are usually friends of wind and solar power but opposed to nuclear power. The most enthusiastic among them buy “wind power” from their power company, install solar cell panels on their roofs and vote for the Green Party. The effects of their conviction is not just to promote symbolic actions, but in fact counter-productive for reducing global warming.

Take solar energy. Happy headlines announced that electricity output from solar cells in Sweden had doubled two years in a row. What the news didn’t reveal was that the total output now amounts to 0.04 percent of the country’s energy demand (that is: equals zero with an error margin). To spend large amounts on meaningless investments affects indirectly also the environment.

And then the dedicated and hoodwinked Swede goes out to buy a car which has some kind of “environment certificate”, satisfied that he has contributed to save the world.

The only energy source capable of really reducing carbon emissions on a global scale is nuclear energy. Countries like China, India and Russia take this seriously and install new nuclear facilities. Russia is an important producer of plants, and even developing countries show great interest in nuclear energy. Is this where the future is built, while pampered and deluded western ideologues are reading the map upside down?

What the climate issue – and thus human survival – really needs is for us to adopt an entirely new lifestyle, which most likely requires a completely different economic system. There will be no room for brainless consumerism generated by perverted profit-hunting. Instead we have to see genuine solidarity among entire populations.

In short: the intelligent side of our human nature has to take command over the emotional (stupid) side.

Refugees rightfully gets attention – causes though neglected

To its credit our main daily – Dagens Nyheter – has engaged in the refugee crisis on a large scale (just like many media in Europe). The now famous picture of the dead child increased the engagement manyfold for a disaster with hundreds of dead refugees going on for months. (There are other, even more horrible pictures of drowned children to be found on the Internet, but this particular one made it through the mainstream filter.)

DN focuses on the humanitarian aspect, urging their readers to be more open to immigration and to support charity organizations. They have opened a hashtag (#jagdelar) on social media and engaged celebrities for a campaign in favor of the refugees. It’s almost a total commitment on a large part of the staff.

Implicitly this campaign also points at the Sweden Democrats, a rapidly growing, semi-fascist party which recently became the largest one among Swedish men in polls. Historically the party has a Nazi background, but some smarter leaders realized the benefits of putting on a blazer and a tie and let their shaved sculls regain some hair. But they are still haunted by their history and one or other racist roughneck stepping out of line has to be excluded now and then.

The Sweden Democrats is based on the one single issue of eliminating immigration, sold to the public with untimely nationalistic rhetoric. Its success originates undoubtedly from a decade of right-wing government politics which worsened living conditions for unemployed, sick and other people in need, without reducing unemployment, especially not for the young. A wave of privatizations of schools, hospitals, pharmacies and many other institutions delivered few benefits but the more of scandals, such as mismanagement from greed, outright fraud and enormous private profits. This created the fertile soil of discontent on which the Sweden Democrats grew like mushrooms.

To the refugee disaster charity is the one thing individuals can contribute to at present, and must be endorsed. But the prospect of changing the wide-spread popular sentiments towards immigration through media propaganda is probably meager. An important newspaper, however, should also analyze the events that caused the need for people to flee their countries, to find out what should be done now to put out the fire, and what should be avoided in the future.

It’s an obvious truism that the violent turbulence in the Middle East area derives directly from brutal western activities in the region, starting (this time) with the wars of aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq, reinforced with violent interference in a number of other countries.

The first step that we in the West should take is self evident: Stop all our own military activities, use western overwhelming might to force all militant parties into peace negotiations and funnel a part of our wealth to humanitarian aid. We must simply realize that our military power no longer is a working means of dominating the world, if it ever really were. Apart from everything else, the violent counter-forces are becoming too strong.

Ruling elites are of course aware of these conditions, they are not stupid, but they simply don’t care. Destruction of the world, especially other people’s world, has no priority over short term profit or other gains. But WE, the people, must use our democratic power to MAKE THEM realize our priorities.

How? Well, that’s just the good question!

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.

My collected reader’s comments to NYT articles

Follows a collection of commentaries I’ve made in the New York Times Reader’s Comments section on different articles (mostly for me keeping track of them myself). They’ll be accessible as long as NYT keeps the links alive, I suppose.

31 January 2015. A comment on the vaccine debate that followed the recent outbreak of measles in U.S.:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/us/as-measles-spreads-in-us-so-does-anxiety.html?comments#permid=13989276
-.-.-.-

25 March 2015. On signs of increasing poverty albeit growing wealth in the society (Sweden) as a whole:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/opinion/how-poor-are-the-poor.html?comments#permid=14521337
-.-.-.-

30 March 2015. On the horrific number of deaths in China during the Mao era, which we constantly are reminded of, compared to the even larger mortality caused by capitalism in India – which we very seldom hear of:

http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/30/cambodian-historians-call-for-china-to-confront-its-own-past/?comments#permid=14562852:14581199
-.-.-.-

3 April 2015. Another complete imbalance in our fields of interest: our laser-like scrutiny of terrorism carried out by others, compared to the forbearance with our own, much graver and deadlier terrorist activities:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/03/world/africa/garissa-university-college-shooting-in-kenya.html?comments#permid=14598017:14604023
-.-.-.-

9 May 2015. This article appeared simultaneously in NYT and Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), not surprisingly. It’s that kind of text our propaganda model loves: a Russian author who more or less regrets that his country defeated Nazi Germany in WWII. He just thinks that one oppression was replaces by another, obviously unaware of the Nazi’s Generalplan Ost which aimed at exterminating most people in Russia and enslaving the rest. This was not some high-flying Nazi plan or empty threat, it was implemented from day one of the German invasion. The existence of the special Sonderkommando with the explicit task to exterminate Jews, Communists and other unwanted humans was the terrible evidence of that reality.

One could have hoped that NYT and DN had been kind enough to save the poor ignorant (or just propagandistic) author from his embarrassment, but the temptation to publish his sentimental excesses was maybe to overwhelming. As some Readers’ Comments point out, the article was also a slap in the face on Putin and Russia, on the very day, sacred for Russians, of commemorating the death of 27 million people which Russia had to sacrifice to defeat the most atrocious and inhuman ideology in all history: Nazism.

An interesting difference: Dagens Nyheter didn’t open its comment section on this article, as opposed to New York Times. This is one reflection on the difference in effective freedom of expression which is taken much more seriously in the U.S. than in Europe. My comment, like some other critical ones, was listed as “NYT Pick” by the editor, another sign of openness for critique. But on the other hand: the propaganda gain was taken home by the printed article. (I suppose that the reader’s comments are mostly read by the commentators themselves.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/09/opinion/mikhail-shishkin-how-russians-lost-the-war.html?comments#permid=14915384
-.-.-.-

11 May 2015. A comment on one of Paul Krugman’s many enlightened columns in NYT.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/11/opinion/paul-krugman-wall-street-vampires.html#permid=14932711
-.-.-

17 May 2015. An article on the prospects for western economy after the last collapse, with discussions about singularities, neglecting the overall picture.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/upshot/dont-be-so-sure-the-economy-will-return-to-normal.html?comments#permid=14975427

Circle of violence – is it eternal?

One week in 1988 I happened to be in New York. This was the year of the 350th anniversary of the first Swedish colonizers landing in Wilmington, Delaware. As part of the celebrations the Swedish Royal Couple held a luncheon in Waldorf Astoria for prominent Americans with some connections to Sweden.

By coincidence I stayed at the same hotel that day, now waiting in the lobby for a friend who had attended the Royal lunch. When the doors opened a stream of celebrities walked by, among them Henry Kissinger with a newspaper stuck under his arm. He walked in a relaxed manner straight on to Park Avenue, catching a regular yellow cab. No lifeguards, no company whatsoever.

My first reflection was how things can change in politics. Kissinger was a key player in Nixon’s administration when the tensions with Sweden were the gravest ever. Olof Palme had expressed intense critique of USA regarding the Vietnam War, and had gained support from people all around the world. Now Kissinger had become a guest of honor to a country once treated almost like an enemy.

My second reflection was naturally how this man could move around without protection; he was after all by many considered one of the most culpable war criminals alive. One could expect there to be millions of people in Indochina with a fair reason to revenge the death of innocent relatives or friends. All it would take had been for a single one of those to be on Park Avenue with a gun at the right time.

Naturally this came to mind again after 9/11. USA had challenged countries and people for decades, relying on its strength for protection. At the same time it had been an open society vulnerable for all kinds of attacks. The question was rather why it had taken so many years for an atrocity like 9/11 to happen, than why it had happened at all.

Since 2001 security has been upgraded considerably in the West, but there is no ultimate protection in societies like ours. We are reminded of this by an article in New York Times yesterday, reporting about an online threat by the Islamic State to kill 100 US service members whose names, photos and purported addresses are posted on its website. Knowing that ISIS is recruiting fighters in countries all around the world, also in the West, threats like these are obviously not to take easily.

If one wants a definition of a vicious circle it must be this: Imperialist violence created violent resistance, generating even more repressive violence, boosting more counter violence etc., on an ever growing scale. When will we ever learn that the only way to break this circle is to cut it off? And that we are the once obliged to initiate the peaceful way? (Provided the masters of mankind really want the violence stopped, which regrettably can be put in question.)

 

Syriza and Podemos – steps on the road

First Syriza in Greece and now Podemos in Spain. Citizens take to the streets for serious efforts to exchange the neoliberal political paradigm for a policy obviously aimed at relieving ordinary people’s grievances. The only thing one likes to ask is: what took them so long?

The answer is not too far fetched. It’s obvious that austerity measures can be pushed quite extensively in time and in suffering before people walk out in protest. Bourgeoisie politics protecting the banks and supporting the rich relies on a middle class, also hurt but not as bad as those below them, but nonetheless defending what they got by sticking to those above. And the enormous propaganda machine to beat is overwhelming.

For us who were young in the 1960s the developments in Greece and Spain evoke memories, and thus also hope for a change of direction. We know from experience that a lot can be achieved. During the 60s the traditional masters of mankind where on the defensive. In Sweden the basis was laid and laws enacted for much improved workers rights, for publicly driven child care to facilitate women’s liberation, for upgrading workers protection, for strengthening job security and for many other progressive measures. NGOs engaged in numerous different topics were growing like mushrooms and it was a vibrant atmosphere of freedom and hope for the future.

Well, the real masters didn’t wear their swords in vain. They made use of their economic power and stroke back, successfully. The period of remarkable liberation was cut rather short. As a Swedish poet and newspaper man said when the defeat seemed inevitable: now it all depends on how the left deals with its disappointment.

Well, the left didn’t deal with anything; they were overpowered by neoliberal forces mobilized among politicians, economic “scientists”, journalists and other pillars of society prepared to fight for the only ones that really profited from it all: the minuscule percentage of the rich that really owned a lot, and ended up owning almost everything. But: not all the gains were lost, the ground level was raised.

Setbacks also this time shouldn’t discourage anyone. The underlying progression is there; the human brain will in the long run prohibit unreasonable developments. We need only to look back and compare our time with any other human era to find evidence for such a trend. But with every battle new territory is gained, and the important thing is to not lose all of it in the next counterattack.

There Is No Alternative: reason will prevail!

Four more years of roughly the same – election anti-climax

There was a parliamentary election in Sweden last Sunday with an almost undecided outcome.

Eight years of center-right, neoliberal governance have lead to deterioration of living standards, not just for unemployed, sick and retired, but also for low-income and half-time workers. Poor relief, intended as the last resort, is increasingly being paid to working people not able to survive on their wages, something never heard of in the welfare country we used to have. On the other hand the well-offs have gained substantially, as in most of the world.

The fabricated motive for the austerity measures was to “create jobs” (the real one to create greater profits), so unemployment consequently is higher today than in 2006 when this government took office. The neoliberal fingerprints were spread all over the place: more schools being owned by private equity firms making quick and large profits while PISA-results plummeted in record speed; scandals in private nursing homes with grave maltreatment of the elderly; municipalities giving away daycare centers and hospitals for pennies, making a few lucky people millionaires; neglected railway maintenance resulting in numerous disturbances in railway traffic – all the usual neoliberal failures familiar in other countries blessed with the same market dogmatism.

This government was close to the exit door in the last election in 2010. Their harsh and very un-Swedish new rules for sick and unemployed had made people furious. The sentiments were symbolized by a highlighted case in which a woman dying from cancer had to report for work at the State employment office in order to get her allowances, so that she could get some food for the time she had left. Less than two years prior to the elections the opposition had a lead by almost 20 percent units ahead of the government, a record difference in Swedish politics. Still the government survived the elections.

One simple explanation to this seemingly odd outcome is that the bourgeoisie parties have almost monopoly support by private media. The Social Democrats have a lesser number of minor newspapers, most of them published in small towns away from Stockholm. Public service radio and television have instructions to be neutral, but in a forest where all but a few small trees are deeply leaning the same way, “neutral” means leaning quite a bit too. Anyway, the opposition didn’t respond to the widespread discontent among a majority, perhaps in fear of being killed by the media.

The situation was somewhat similar this time. Swedish schools have continued to deteriorate considerably; senior citizens are appalled by their tax rates, which are higher than those paid by working people; unemployment among the young is record high, and they cannot afford to acquire own apartments; in short: many people are not content at all (though people with good jobs get along pretty well, and the rich still prosper enormously). Thus the opposition this time had a lead by 10 percentage points for a long time prior to the elections. And like the last time the difference shrunk to almost nil, though the opposition finally got a slight upper hand. There will thus be a change of government, but its prospects of survival are not hilarious.

One key issue in these elections was about profits earned by private welfare companies. Two opinion polls have shown that only 10 percent of Swedes accept the present state of affairs in which those companies can pay arbitrary dividends to their owners (apart from manipulating the tax system, moving to tax havens etc.). The 90 percent want either dividends prohibited or profits completely banned. Among those voting for the Social Democrats only one (1) percent is comfortable with the present situation. In complete defiance of 99 percent of his own voters the party’s chairman, Stefan Lofven, when he took office, openly declared that he had no intention to change any of the conditions for the school and welfare businesses. Again: maybe he was afraid of being killed by the media. Only a short time before the elections, when time restricted media’s ability to act, he did make vague promises to somewhat revise the system. That’s “democracy” western style!

When people are dissatisfied for reasons concerning their important living conditions and no party stands up to offer solutions – then there is room for parties of discontent who give simple answers, genuinely beside the point for certain, but attracting people since nobody provides the right answers. Here that party is Sweden Democrats, with its roots in fascist circles, but nowadays housebroken and dressed up in suites and ties. Their answer is: if we stop immigration then all important problems will be solved. This party is kingmaker until the next election.

The Sweden Democrats doubled its share of the votes to become the third largest party in the parliament. It’s true that Sweden has one of the most liberal asylum and immigration policies, certainly in Europe. It’s also true that no other party has immigration restrictions on their programs. But those parties had every possibility to stop the neoliberal austerity measures that are the real underlying reasons for the discontent, in Sweden as well as in other countries. One has to be completely void of even the shallowest knowledge in history, not to see this obvious correlation. The most crying example is of course the birth of German Nazism in the aftermath of the economic breakdown in the Weimar Republic.

New York Times have by chance an article in today’s issue about the differences in immigration and asylum policies between Sweden on one side and Norway/Denmark on the other (they could have added Finland to the latter). Both Denmark and Norway have, or have had, openly xenophobic parties in their governments. In Sweden it’s most improper in the mainstream to even mention restrictions on immigration. But since Swedes aren’t more altruistic by nature than their neighbors the problems with relatively large-scale and increasing immigration was bound to surface sooner or later. For that moment to arrive when no party seem to do anything at all to address people’s real interests, problems or grievances is in no way surprising.

It’s true that the Swedish economy came through the 2008 financial crisis in a fairly good shape (on average that is; distribution as mentioned much skewed). Austerity measures and an attractive product catalog for strong markets like China played their parts, but the question is which role a gigantic private loan bubble has had. Demand has been doped with 200 billion SEK each year in private loans for a decade, mostly fictitious money with no foundation in the real economy,  and money which still has to be paid back in real life (1 USD = 7 SEK). No one knows which effect this enormous stimulus package with imaginary money really has had since economists doesn’t deal with the question, as least not as noticed by accessible media.

Our politicians got the Parliament they deserve, and people were fooled to vote for a government they don’t want; a government not interested in solving people’s really important problems.

Sweden preparing for World War III

Not least through our country’s Foreign minister Carl Bildt we have long been active in provoking tensions in Ukraine, as well as in other parts of former Soviet Union. The obvious purpose has been to expand Western power at the expense of Russian influence, under the pretext of democracy promotion. In accordance with this pretext we supported and immediately accepted the overthrow of a democratically elected president in Ukraine.

Mr. Bildt’s interest in democracy for other countries cannot possibly be much more than hypocritical demagogy. He has had a long political career during which western powers, lead by USA, have performed or supported the overthrow of not so few democratic leaders and replaced them with sometimes murderous dictators, without Bildt having any complaints. His ambition is obviously to serve as a lieutenant, loyal to the superpower (whatever reward he hopes to acquire by that).

Democracy seems to be something that hypocrites demand in enemy countries and try to circumvent at home.

A natural step in the new Cold War has been to vilify Russia and demonize Vladimir Putin, and here Bildt is accompanied by Sweden’s mainstream press and television. This process has borrowed features from fairytales for children, with their naïve black and white worldview. It has now reached a fantasy level where media and the government are preparing for the next war. Gotland, a large island in the Baltic Sea, has to be rearmed, editors scream; Sweden’s defense budget will be increased substantially, says the Prime Minister in an op-ed in the main newspaper.

We are back again to the old days when “Soviet Communism threatened to conquer the whole world”, thus providing motives to uphold a substantial military budget in Sweden. Our air force was one of the strongest in the world, and our weapons industry impressive (and still quite remarkable for a small, peaceful country). No sane person could foresee a scenario where Soviet troops actually would invade Sweden, but demagogy outplays intellectual sanity in questions like these.

To extrapolate from events in Crimea to a Russian military threat towards Sweden today is naturally even more fanciful. The best thing our government could do to preserve peace would be to order Carl Bildt to return from his never-ending flying trip, and lock him up in his Stockholm office. The next step could be to regard Russia in a realistic manner; not as a defeated enemy who has to obey orders, but as the world’s largest country with legitimate interests to safeguard its borders.

The provocations, broken promises and deceitful behavior that western powers have subjected Russia to since 1989 would not have been accepted by any other country, least of all USA. And the important question is what to be gained from this game of Russian roulette we have forced onto the world. Are there profits to be made from World War III?

What did we do to encourage Russia’s grabbing of Crimea?

When John Kerry refers to international law in his condemnation of Russia for the Crimea secession it’s of course more hilarious than anything that George Orwell could have conjured up. For a country that consistently defies international law when confronted with it by others it’s not just hypocrisy to its nth degree, but politics devoid of all logic. One just has to imagine US being in Russia’s position. Had bombing of Kiev then been a surprise? Hardly.

When Putin says that a spring tightened too hard eventually will snap back, it’s not a far fetched metaphor. He has lived through the largest secession operation in modern history: the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. To top it all he had to watch Boris Yeltsin invite “economic experts” from western countries (among the “experts” a notorious Swede) who manage to engineer the worst social catastrophe in memory, pulverizing half of the Russian industrial capacity and in a decade driving 10 million people to a premature death, mostly men in productive age. (The total Russian death toll in WW2 was just twice as high.)

The guilty advisors creating this virtual genocide have not been held responsible for anything, and Yeltsin was sober enough to demand immunity when he retired as president. (The Swedish hero in that process is today cited as an expert on Ukraine.) The man who put an end to the death epidemic was Vladimir Putin. Just as the millions of dead are unknown to us, Putin’s role in ending the catastrophe is just as concealed. That’s a tribute to our well-educated journalists trained not to disclose the wrong things. In that self censorship lays also an explanation to our surprise that Putin, with all his shortcomings, is reelected time and again.

And it didn’t stop there as we know. The leftovers from the Russian scramble were readily taken care of by western powers under the usual pretext: “democracy and human rights” (if that includes overthrowing of democratically elected governments is of no interest; that just follows a very common procedure). In blunt violation of unambiguous (but vocal) promises to Gorbachev, NATO immediately started to expand eastwards. All in all it was a demonstration of power with no other reasonable aim than to subdue and contain Russia as much as possible.

Western powers have certainly tightened the spring, and now it has snapped back. Provocations are no excuse for a misdemeanor, nor are they an excuse for the actions of the provocateurs. And since the leaders of the western powers are responsible for the provocations, we are responsible for letting our leaders get away with that. The price we pay is an increasing risk of a dangerous war.

(For an enlightening inquiry of the capitalist death crisis in Russia 1990-2000, see for instance David Stuckler & Sanjay Basu The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills (Basic Books 2013)).

Russia: a ghost to scare Swedes with – since centuries

For at least one of our Swedish politicians the Crimea incident has come about particularly handy. I’m thinking of our Foreign minister Carl Bildt, by an American politician portrayed as “a small dog barking like a big dog”. He is supposed to lead our Department of Foreign Affairs, but is usually crisscrossing around the world in airplanes, supposedly working to create some lasting impression of his own person.

Carl Bildt was born with glasses and a right wing manifesto in his hand, from infancy anxious to surpass a string of prominent conservative ancestors. One of his main tools in politics has always been to promote Russophobia. Not that he necessarily is afraid himself, but he knows that Swedes for centuries have been susceptible to this irrational scare of the Russians. And of course he is clever enough to know that one of the simplest and cheapest ways to control people is to alarm them.

It started right off with a Soviet submarine stranded on an islet in southern Sweden in 1981. Bildt was then 29 years old and already a shrewd politician who thus was served an issue that he could profit on many years to come (and still does).

The submarine – U 137 – had gone 8 knots on surface with rumbling diesel engines, heard far away by witnesses, right into a narrow strait too shallow for the submarine to hide in, and impossible to escape from. The speed and the fact that U 137 hadn’t gone by electric motors should be enough to reveal that they had no idea where they were. The best guess would then be that they were incompetent or drunk.

But Bildt, and others who thought they could profit from a different idea, maintained that U 137 had been on a deliberate spying mission. The fact that the crew in such a case must have been not just drunk but complete lunatics has not bothered Bildt & Co.

Given U 137 it was no surprise that a submarine frenzy broke out in Sweden and particularly in the Stockholm archipelago. During the 1980s some 4,000 observations of various kinds were made. It was taken for granted that all of them were about Soviet submarines. The navy and coastal defense gladly participated in the hunting of what some called “budget submarines”. No real object was ever caught on film and the evidences were overall of a circumstantial type. People naturally saw a lot of things that looked like submarines. Eventually it was confirmed that a sound captured by the coastal defense with acoustic equipment, and long presented as evidence, derived from swimming minks.

A first commission to investigate the submarine question issued its report in 1983. It concluded that there was sufficient evidence for submarine intrusion into Swedish waters, and that the Soviet Union was the perpetrator. A second commission stated in 1995 that possibly eight maybe more intrusions had been made, but found no evidence for any specific nationality of the submarines. A third investigation in 2001 claimed with certainty that four intrusions had been made. An investigation team set up by Swedish Television held that the intrusions observed since U 137 were made by NATO submarines.

Regardless of commissions Bildt withheld the politically correct opinion for him, namely that Soviet had offended Swedish waters. As Prime Minister in 1994 he wrote an impertinent letter to President Yeltsin of Russia with this accusation, at first kept secret at home, but eventually disclosed by his Social Democrat successor causing turbulence.

Since 1990 Bildt has been busy trying hard to extract the new eastern European nations from Russian influence and draw them into the EU sphere. The pre-1990 hostility towards the Russians had consequently very little to do with (so called) communism. It’s just a power game on a larger scale and Bildt is more than happy to function as a minor lieutenant in service of the real masters of mankind.

Is Russia breaking international law in Crimea? Definitely! Carl Bildt was a member of a support group for the US war of aggression against Iraq. A war of aggression is the ultimate international crime which entails responsibility “for all the evil that follows” (Nuremberg), i.e. the murderous attacks going on in Iraq right now. Shouldn’t Bildt be put under sanctions?