OK, so all this shit is going on with Russia right now.  It’s convoluted, complicated, multi-partied, multi-layered…. it’s definitely hard to understand who all the players are and what their interests are.  

So, to take a step back.  The “Cold War” was a “war” about control of markets, i.e., who gets to make all the money.  To Lenin and Stalin and those who came after them, a centralized government (using the rhetoric of “the people”  and “the workers”) deserved to reap the material gains of the planet and those who work socially.  To Washington and Smith and those who came after them, private enterprise and the owning class (using the rhetoric of “the people” and “freedom and liberty”) were the ones who deserved the spoils of  human-creativity.  It turns out that, as far as systems of exploitation and oppression go, both work pretty well, but utilized in conjunction with each other, work really fucking well; those in power become bat-shit wealthy.  But it took the Russians a bit longer to realize this, which is why in the late 80’s and early 90’s they went broke.  

But lets take an even further step back.  To move forward in this conversation, we all might do well to recognize that a State, or any function of bureaucratized, institutionalized authority, operates on essentially one premise: that they will provide security, safety, and stability to a given population of people.  That is the foundation of the relationship; either through controlled economic means, implied violence against outsiders, or social stability programs (or a combination of the three) a group of people/offices/Parties offers a larger body of people safety and security and stability (in this, a chaotic and  uncertain and dangerous world) and you have yourself the makings of a State.  This formula also gives you a street gang, neo-fascist club, a private corporation, anti-social youth clicks, and a number of other domination-based interactions that all serve to undermine our humanity, nature and liberty.

 

Yup, thats the Russian military parading through Red Square with the Soviet flag held high, just this past May

Yup, that's the Russian military parading through Red Square with the Soviet flag held high, just this past May

When the Soviet Union went broke, they lost the people’s trust that they could provide safety and stability, and so the system fell apart and as the press like to say, “capitalism won”.  But a funny thing happened then.  The the former pieces of the Soviet Union opened up to “free marketism”, and those who were the owning class (essentially the same people that were running the government of the USSR) made a shit load of money.  Incidentally, recognizing this immediately, China, in an almost identical but cleverly disguised and articulated manner, did the same thing- now China is rapidly growing rich and powerful and has come from relative economic obscurity to major global power.  Some of the elite’s in Russia and other former Soviet States were quite fond of the new arrangement and quickly decided to ally themselves with European and American interests.  But for Putin and others more closely aligned with the military elements intense nationalism and anti-Westernism is still the order of the day.  And so, over the past several years, we’ve seen the gradual State seizure of the most powerful and successful enterprises and the jailing or murder of anyone with wealth and power who wasn’t in on the game.

 

So while the first decade or so of post-Cold War was thought of as the Russian system being swallowed and integrated into the Western system, the view from 15-20 years out looks more like the Russians (and Chinese) played their hand masterfully.  The Russian’s ability to capitalize on Western investment in resource extraction (vast oil and natural gas reserves and pipelines), while simultaneously getting Europe addicted to their supplies has not only the Russian rulers very wealthy, but they now how leverage- fuel- over much of Europe.  China, mostly through purchasing U.S. debt and cheap manufacturing, has been able to position itself pretty much the same.

Now, I for one am no fan of capitalism (the U.S.’ “private” system or the Russian’s centralized State system).  I do have respect for Lenin’s military prowess, speaking simply in terms of raw strategy but ignoring of course his horrific and inhumane methods- but that’s an entirely different conversation.  But I will say this: the renewal of the “Cold War” (or whatever this will now be refered to; it’s not looking like it’s necessarily going to be so “cold”- Russia has said that if Poland moves forward with putting the U.S. missile system in place that they would be “100% likely to face a military strike”) affords a much more important and progressive national and global conversation than one about the “West versus Islam”.  At least to me.  Yes, religious questions are good and important too.  But mis-leading when we’re trying to talk about economics and governance and liberty.  And I’m talking about our conversations, not necessarily the one’s that the press or the ruling class are having.  But the people, day to day, on the ground.

And I think that faced with a renewed, real(ish) threat of war against such a powerful enemy, and with an ever weakening and globally subservient American economy, a funny thing may begin to develop (as, indeed, already has slowly been happening over the past 5-8 years): the sense (real or imagined) of safety, security, and stability enjoyed by the American people may wane, drastically.  This has the potential to have a weakening effect on the ruling class’s power and the populations sense of loyalty to them.  With a little bit of luck and some solid work on our parts, this may even lead to a strengthening of the public and our personal freedoms, humanity, and creativity.

Welcome back, comrades.

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