On January 8, 2023 the US has to release a federal prisoner who is known as one its most notable opponents of treatment of Cuba since its revolution. She is Ana Belén Montes, and she will be freed after over 21 years in a federal military prison.
She was a top official on Latin America in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who, solely out of moral conviction, gave Cuba information on top secret US military plans and operations. Unrepentant in her trial, she defended herself saying, “I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. … I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.”
Ana Belén is one of the many Americans who have taken a moral stance in opposition to the actions of their government, and who were subsequently hunted as traitors or spies. Edward Snowden was another such figure, having exposed how the National Security Agency’s spying on the US population and leaders of other countries. Rather than spend much of his life in a federal prison, Snowden has opted to live in exile in Russia.
While the US movement in defense of Cuba did not champion the case of Ana Belén as with the very similar situation of the Cuban Five, she is recognized as a hero in Cuba. In 2016, the famed Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez dedicated a song to her, explaining, “The prisoner I mentioned yesterday… is Ana Belén Montes and she was a high official of the US secret services. When she knew that they were going to do something bad to Cuba, she would pass on the information to us. That is why she is serving a sentence of decades…Much evil did not happen to us because of her. Freedom for her.”
Silvio Rodríguez le dedicó esta canción a la presa política del imperialismo Ana Belén Montes, quien saldrá libre este fin de semana después de pasar 20 años de prisión en aislamiento total #FreeAnaBelen #FreeLeonardPeltier #FreeJulianAssange #FreeAlexSaab pic.twitter.com/4OphzkUXVp
— Roi Lopez Rivas (@RoiLopezRivas) January 4, 2023
Ana Belén did not receive any money from Cuba for her 16 years of work. Knowing the dire risks she faced, she acted out of a belief in justice and solidarity with Cuba. For over 60 years, the country has suffered under a US blockade – repeatedly condemned by the United Nations – imposed in retaliation for choosing national sovereignty over continued neocolonial status. US supported terrorism against Cuba has killed 3,478 and caused 2,099 disabling injuries over the years.
One of the charges brought against Ana Belén was having helped assure Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that Cuba represented no military threat to the US, and therefore contributed to avoiding another US regime change war that would have meant the death of countless Cubans. She also acknowledged having revealed the identities of four American undercover intelligence officers working in Cuba.
“The Queen of Cuba” hailed from a family of feds
Born in West Germany on February 28, 1957, a Puerto Rican citizen of the United States, and a high official in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Belén was convicted as a spy for alerting Cuba to the interventionist plans that were being prepared against the Cuban people.
In 1984 while working as a clerk in the Department of Justice, Ana Belén initiated her relationship with Cuban security. She then applied for a job at the DIA, the agency responsible for foreign military intelligence to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The DIA employed her in 1985 until her arrest at work 16 years later. She became a specialist in Latin American military affairs, was the DIA’s principal analyst on El Salvador and Nicaragua, and later Cuba.
Because of her abilities, Ana Belén became known in US intelligence circles as “the Queen of Cuba”. Her work and contributions were so valued that she earned ten special recognitions, including Certificate of Distinction, the third highest national-level intelligence award. CIA Director George Tenet himself presented it to her in 1997.
“She gained access to hundreds of thousands of classified documents, typically taking lunch at her desk absorbed in quiet memorization of page after page of the latest briefings,” which she would later write down at home and convey to Cuba.
Avoiding capture through discretion, until the intercept came
On February 23, 1996, the Cuban Ministry of Defense asked visiting American Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll to warn off Miami Brothers to the Rescue planes that planned to again fly over Havana. Carroll immediately informed the State Department.
Instead of ending the provocations, the US let the planes fly, and two “Brothers to the Rescue” planes were shot down over Cuba the next day. The US exploited the flare-up to sabotage the growing campaign to moderate the US blockade of the island. The US official who arranged Admiral Carroll’s meeting was Ana Belén. Her explanation that the date was chosen only because it was a free date on the Admiral’s schedule was accepted.
Nevertheless, a DIA colleague reported to a security official that he felt Ana Belén might be under the influence of Cuban intelligence. He interviewed her, but she admitted nothing. She passed a polygraph test.
Ana Belén had access to practically everything the intelligence community collected on Cuba, and helped write final reports. Due to her rank, she was a member of the super-secret “inter-agency working group on Cuba”, which brings together the main analysts of federal agencies, such as the CIA, the Department of State, and the White House itself.
The Washington Post reported, “She was now briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council and even the president of Nicaragua about Cuban military capabilities. She helped draft a controversial Pentagon report stating that Cuba had a ‘limited capacity’ to harm the United States and could pose a danger to U.S. citizens only ‘under some circumstances.'”
Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a US agent in Cuba’s Ministry of Interior that Cuba had uncovered and imprisoned, was released and traded for three of the Cuban 5 in 2014. He had “provided critical information that led to the arrests of those known as the “Cuban Five;” of former State Department official Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers; and of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top Cuba analyst, Ana Belén Montes.”
In 1999 the National Security Agency intercepted a Cuban communication. It revealed a spy high in the hierarchy, who was associated with the DIA’s SAFE computer system. It meant the spy was likely on staff of the DIA. The suspect had also traveled to Guantánamo Bay in July 1996. Coincidentally, Ana Belén worked in the DIA and had traveled to the Bay on DIA business. The spy was using a Toshiba laptop, and it was discovered she had one. A decision was taken to break into her flat and copy the hard drive.
Since the case being put together indicated she was providing information to Cuba, she was arrested by FBI agents on September 21, 2001 while in her DIA office. She was charged with conspiracy to commit espionage for Cuba. “She told investigators after her arrest that a week earlier she had learned that she was under surveillance. She could have decided then to flee to Cuba, and probably would have made it there safely.” But her political commitment made her feel “she couldn’t give up on the people (she) was helping.”
Nigerian commentator Owei Lakemfa presented ten reasons he thought Ana Belén Montes avoided detection during her 16 years in the DIA. Among the most important was that she was extremely discreet and kept to herself. She lived alone in a simple apartment north of the US capital, and memorized documents, never taking any home. And she never received unexplainable funds.
Ironically, her brother was an FBI special agent, and her sister an FBI analyst who “played an important role in exposing the so-called Wasp Network of Cuban agents [the Cuban 5 and 7 others] operating in Florida.”
Ana Belén avoided the death penalty for high treason, highly likely in the post September 11 atmosphere, by pleading guilty before the US federal court handling her case. Since she acknowledged her conduct, and told the court how she worked, she was sentenced to “only” twenty-five years. However, she was imprisoned in conditions designed to destroy her, as the case with Julian Assange today. She was sent to special unit of a federal prison for violent offenders with psychiatric problems.
“I obeyed my conscience rather than the law”
In her October 16, 2002 trial statement, she declared that she obeyed her conscience:
“There is an Italian proverb that is perhaps the one that best describes what I believe: The whole world is one country. In that ‘world country’, the principle of loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself, is an essential guide for harmonious relations between all our ‘nation-neighborhoods’.
This principle implies tolerance and understanding for the different ways of others. It mandates that we treat other nations the way we wish to be treated – with respect and compassion. It is a principle that, unfortunately, I believe we have never applied to Cuba.
Your Honor, I got involved in the activity that has brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. Our government’s policy towards Cuba is cruel and unfair, deeply unfriendly; I feel morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.
We have displayed intolerance and contempt for Cuba for four decades. We have never respected Cuba’s right to make its own journey towards its own ideals of equality and justice. I do not understand how we continue to try to dictate how Cuba should select its leaders, who its leaders cannot be, and what laws are the most appropriate for that nation. Why don’t we let Cuba pursue its own internal journey, as the United States has been doing for more than two centuries?
My way of responding to our Cuba policy may have been morally wrong. Perhaps Cuba’s right to exist free of political and economic coercion did not justify giving the island classified information to help it defend itself. I can only say that I did what I thought right to counter a grave injustice.
My greatest wish would be to see a friendly relationship emerge between the United States and Cuba. I hope that my case in some way will encourage our government to abandon its hostility toward Cuba and work together with Havana in a spirit of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.
Today we see more clearly than ever that intolerance and hatred – by individuals or governments – only spreads pain and suffering. I hope that the United States develops a policy with Cuba based on love of neighbor, a policy that recognizes that Cuba, like any other nation, wants to be treated with dignity and not with contempt.
Such a policy would bring our government back in harmony with the compassion and generosity of the American people. It would allow Cubans and Americans to learn from and share with each other. It would enable Cuba to drop its defensive measures and experiment more easily with changes. And it would permit the two neighbors to work together and with other nations to promote tolerance and cooperation in our one ‘world-country,’ in our only world-homeland.”
Brutal prison conditions aimed to destroy Ana Belén
Jürgen Heiser of the German solidarity Netzwerk-Cuba reported that “Ana Belén has been isolated in conditions that the UN and international human rights organizations describe as ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ and torture. Her prison conditions were further exacerbated after her trial, when she was placed in the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, outside of Fort Worth, Texas. The FMC is located on a US marine compound and previously served as a military hospital… It includes a high security unit set aside for women of “special management concerns” that can hold up to twenty prisoners. A risk of “violence and/or escape” are specified as grounds for incarceration in the unit. This is where the “spy” Ana Belén is being held in isolation, in a single-person cell.”
Her cell neighbors have included one who strangled a pregnant woman to get her baby, a longtime nurse who killed four patients with massive injections of adrenaline, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Charles Manson follower who tried to assassinate President Ford.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram has regularly covered the abuses against the women inmates at Fort Carswell Carswell prison, which has also housed two other political prisoners Reality Winner and Aafia Siddiqui. Detainees have suffered gross violations of their human rights, including documented cases of police abuse, suspicious deaths where the investigations into them have been blatantly obstructed, deaths due to the denial of basic medical attention, rape of prisoners by guards, and exposure to toxic substances. In July 2020, 500 of the 1400 prisoners had Covid. The Star Telegram reported “the facility showed a systemic history of covering misconduct up and creating an atmosphere of secrecy and retaliation…”
Ana Belén wrote, “Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in, but some things in life are worth going to prison for, or worth doing and then killing yourself before you have to spend too much time in prison.”
She has been subjected to extreme conditions in that prison, akin to those imposed on Assange. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has reported that:
She can only have contact with her closest relatives, since her conviction is for espionage.
No one can inquire about her health or know why she is in a center for people with mental problems, when she does not suffer from them.
She cannot receive packages. When her defenders sent her a letter, it has been returned by certified mail.
Only people on a list (no more than 20 who have known her before her incarceration and have been approved by the FBI) can correspond, send books, and visit Ana. Few people have visited her besides her brother and niece.
She cannot interact with other detainees in jail, and was always alone in her cell.
She is not allowed to talk on the phone, except to her mother once a week for 15-20 minutes.
She could not receive newspapers, magazines or watch television. After a dozen years in prison, the restrictions were slightly relaxed.
Karen Lee Wald noted in 2012, “If she is taken out of her cell in the isolation unit for any reason, all other prisoners are locked in their cells so they cannot speak to her. Basically, she has been buried alive.”
David Kovics, the renowned leftist songwriter, was moved to pay tribute to her in song. Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was jailed by the US during his fight for Puerto Rican independence, said, “I think that every Puerto Rican who loves justice and freedom should be proud of Ana Belén. What she did was more than heroic. She did what every person who believes in peace, justice and freedom and in the right of every nation to govern itself in the best possible way and without the intervention or threat of anyone, would have done.”
NewsGuard, the media rating agency, alleges that Consortium News has published “false content” by reporting that there was a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 and that ne0-Nazis have significant influence in the country. NewsGuard took issue with a:
“February 2022 article ‘Ukraine: Guides to Reflection,’ [which] asserted, ‘Hence, the inflation of Russian behavior in Ukraine (where Washington organized a coup against a democratically elected government because we disliked its political complexion) … .’
It then wrote:
“The U.S. supported the Maidan revolution that ousted then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanikovych (sic) in 2014 — including a December 2013 visit by John McCain to Kyiv in support of protesters — but there is no evidence that the U.S. ‘organized’ a ‘coup.’ Instead, it has the markings of a popular uprising, precipitated by widely covered protests against Yanukovych’s decision to suspend preparations for the signing of an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union.”
Viktor Yanukovych was democratically elected as president of Ukraine in 2010 in an election certified by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a fact not mentioned in NewsGuard’s writings on the change of government in Ukraine. Even though Yanukovych agreed to an EU political settlement and early elections, violence forced him to flee from the capital on Feb. 21, 2014. Reporting that the neo-Nazi Right Sector was at the forefront of the violent overthrow, The New York Times (NewsGuard green check) wrote earlier that day:
“Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, a coalition of hard-line nationalist groups, reacted defiantly to news of the settlement, drawing more cheers from the crowd.
‘The agreements that were reached do not correspond to our aspirations,’ he said. ‘Right Sector will not lay down arms. Right Sector will not lift the blockade of a single administrative building until our main demand is met — the resignation of Yanukovych.’ He added that he and his supporters were ‘ready to take responsibility for the further development of the revolution.’ The crowd shouted: ‘Good! Good!’
A study on the violence used to overthrow the government, by Prof. Serhiy Kudelia, a political scientist at Baylor University, says the overthrow succeeded because of “the embeddedness of violent groups” in a non-violent protest. The violence began on Dec. 1, 2013 when these violent groups attacked police with “iron chains, flares, stones and petrol bombs” and tried to ram a bulldozer through police lines. The police viciously fought back that day.
As the International Business Times (IBT) (green check) wrote about these groups at the time:
“According to a member of anti-fascist Union Ukraine, a group that monitors and fights fascism in Ukraine, ‘There are lots of nationalists here [EuroMaidan] including Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.
Different groups [of anarchists] came together for a meeting on the Maidan. While they were meeting, a group of Nazis came in a larger group, they had axes and baseball bats and sticks, helmets, they said it was their territory. They called the anarchists things like Jews, blacks, communists. There weren’t even any communists, that was just an insult. The anarchists weren’t expecting this and they left. People with other political views can’t stay in certain places, they aren’t tolerated,’ a member of the group continued.”
The violence by far-right groups was evidently condoned by Sen. John McCain who expressed his support for the uprising by addressing the Maidan crowd later that month. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and then U.S. ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visited the square after the violence had broken out.
NewsGuard’s account of the events of Feb. 21, 2014 says that even though Yanukovych agreed to the early elections, “angry protestors demanded Yanukovych’s immediate resignation,” and he fled on that day after “hundreds of police guarding government buildings abandoned their posts.” NewsGuard then says “protestors took control of several government buildings the next day.”
Government Buildings Seized
Protestors occupied Kiev’s City Hall, replete with Confederate flag. (YouTube)
But protestors had already seized government buildings as early as December 2013. On Jan. 24 protestors broke into the Agriculture Ministry building in Kiev and occupied it. On the same day barricades were set up near the presidential headquarters. Government buildings in the west of the country had also been occupied. The Guardian (green check) reported on Jan. 24:
“There were dramatic developments in the west of the country on Thursday as hundreds of people forced their way into the office of the regional governor in the city of Lviv, and forced him to sign a resignation letter. Oleh Salo, a Yanukovych appointee in a city where support for the president is in the low single digits, later said he signed the letter under duress and was rescinding his resignation.
Thousands also stormed regional administration headquarters in Rivne on Thursday, breaking down doors and demanding the release of people detained in the unrest there, Unian news agency reported. In the town of Cherkasy, 125 miles south of Kiev, about 1,000 protesters took over the first two floors of the main administration building and lit fires outside the building.
Similar action took place in Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmelnytsky in western and central Ukraine, as well as parts of the north-east, the Party of the Regions said.”
Protestors had begun occupying Kiev City Hall in December, with a portrait of Ukraine’s World War II fascist leader Stepan Bandera hanging from the rafters. On the night of Feb. 21, the leader of the Neo-fascist Right Sector, Andriy Parubiy, announced that the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), the Presidential Administration, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Internal Affairs had all come under control of the protestors.
Therefore NewsGuard has published “false content” by reporting that government buildings were occupied the day after Yanukovych fled the capital. It should print a correction.
On the day after Yanukovych fled, the Rada voted without the presence of Yanukovych’s party — the largest in the country — to impeach him after the fact of his violent overthrow. NewsGuard omitted the key fact that the impeachment vote was tainted by the absence of Yanukovych’s party and that the impeachment became largely irrelevant after violence forced him to flee the capital.
Democratically-elected leaders are removed by electoral defeat, impeachment or votes of no confidence, not by violence. NewsGuard writes that “hundreds of police guarding government buildings abandoned their posts” on the day Yanukovych was forced out, but doesn’t say why. As Jacobin (NewsGuard green check) magazine reports:
“Whatever one thinks of the Maidan protests, the increasing violence of those involved was key to their ultimate victory. In response to a brutal police crackdown, protesters began fighting with chains, sticks, stones, petrol bombs, even a bulldozer — and, eventually, firearms, all culminating in what was effectively an armed battle in February, which left thirteen police officers and nearly fifty protesters dead. The police ‘could no longer defend themselves’ from protesters’ attacks,’ writes political scientist Sergiy Kudelia, causing them to retreat, and precipitating Yanukovych’s exit.”
NewsGuard calls the events a “revolution,” yet revolutions in history have typically been against monarchs or dictators, not against democratically-elected leaders. For instance, the 1776 American Revolution, the 1789 French Revolution, the 1917 Russian Revolution, the 1952 Egyptian Revolution, the 1979 Iranian Revolution and countless others were against monarchs. Coups have been against both elected and non-elected leaders. Revolutions change political systems, usually from monarchies to republics. Ukraine’s political system was not changed, only its leader.
As a reader, Adrian E.. commented below on this article:
“When a movement that is supported by about half the population and opposed by about half the population violently overthrows a democratically elected government, this may be given different names (e.g. coup), but it is certainly not a “popular revolution”.
The Maydan movement was never supported by more than about half the Ukrainian population. It was supported by a vast majority in Western Ukraine, by very few people in the East and South of the country, with people more evenly split in the center/North. This clearly was not a case of a government that had lost public support to such a degree that there was a general consensus that it should resign. It was the case of one political camp representing about half the country that had lost the last elections imposing its will with brutal deadly violence.”
By any measure, Yanukovych’s ouster was an unconstitutional change in government. His “impeachment” without his party present for the vote came after government buildings had been seized and after violence drove him from the capital.
McCain addressing crowd in Kiev, Dec. 15, 2013. (U.S. Senate/Office of Chris Murphy/Wikimedia Commons)
In its version of these events, NewsGuard only refers to circumstantial evidence of the coup, interpreting it as U.S. “support” for a “revolution” against a democratically-elected president.
NewsGuard fails to point out that McCain, Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) as well as Nuland appeared on stage in the Maidan with Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Neo-fascist Svoboda Party, formerly known as the Social National Party.
NewsGuard does not consider how such events would be seen in the United States if a senior Russian foreign ministry official, two leading Russian lawmakers and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. appeared on stage with a far-right American leader to address a crowd on the Washington Mall seeking to oust an elected U.S. president. If that president were overthrown violently, would Americans think it was a Russian-backed coup?
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NewsGuard discusses Nuland’s 2013 speech in which she revealed that since 1991 the U.S. had spent $5 billion to help bring about Ukraine’s “aspirations.” What it fails to point out is that U.S. aspirations were to turn Ukraine towards the West and away from Russia. And the U.S. had work to do.
In a 2008 poll, 17 years after this U.S. effort began, and the year in which the U.S. said Ukraine would one day join NATO, 50 percent of Ukrainians actually opposed NATO membership against just 24.3 percent who favored it. A 2010 Gallup poll showed that 40 percent of Ukrainians viewed NATO as more threat than protector. Just 17 percent had the opposite view. So building up civil society through U.S.-funded NGOs to favor the West was the U.S. challenge.
NewsGuard does not mention that part of the $5 billion the U.S. spent was to help organize protests. There was genuine popular dissatisfaction with Yanukovych that the NED nurtured and trained. Jacobin reported of the 2014 events:
“US officials, unhappy with the scuttled EU deal, saw a similar chance in the Maidan protests. Just two months before they broke out, the NED’s then president, pointing to Yanukovych’s European outreach, wrote that ‘the opportunities are considerable, and there are important ways Washington could help.’
In practice, this meant funding groups like New Citizen, which the Financial Times reported ‘played a big role in getting the protest up and running,’ led by a pro-EU opposition figure. Journalist Mark Ames discovered the organization had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from US democracy promotion initiatives.”
Writing in Consortium News six days after Yanukovych’s ouster, Parry reported that over the previous year, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which funds NGOs in countries the U.S. targets for regime change, had bankrolled 65 projects in Ukraine totaling more than $20 million. Parry called it “a shadow political structure of media and activist groups that could be deployed to stir up unrest when the Ukrainian government didn’t act as desired.”
The NED, on Feb. 25, the day after the Russian invasion, deleted all projects in Ukraine it funded, which are archived here. The NED meddled in Ukrainian politics in 2004 in the so-called Orange Revolution. The Washington Post (green check) wrote in 1991 that what the C.I.A. once did in secret — destabilizing and overthrowing regimes — the NED was now doing openly.
C.I.A. or NED-led coups are never made up out of whole cloth. The U.S. works with genuine opposition movements within a country, sometimes popular uprisings, to finance, train and direct them. The U.S. has a long history of overthrowing foreign governments, the most infamous examples being Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Chile in 1973.
In September 2013, before the Maidan uprising began, long-time NED head Carl Gerhsman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” in a Washington Post op-ed piece, and warned that “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
In 2016 he said the NED has been involved in Ukraine since the 1980s and he praised the “overthrow of Yanukovych.”
Nuland-Pyatt Tape Omitted
Most significantly, NewsGuard’s attempt to refute U.S. involvement in the coup omits the 2014 intercepted and leaked telephone call between Nuland and Pyatt, the then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in which the two discuss who will make up the new government weeks before Yanukovych was overthrown.
On the leaked tape, Nuland and Pyatt talk about “midwifing” a new government; Vice President Joe Biden’s role, and setting up meetings with Ukrainian politicians to make it happen. Nuland says the prime minister should be Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and indeed he became prime minister after the coup.
At the time, the BBC (green check) wrote of the leak: “The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that ‘ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future’. However this transcript suggests that the US has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals.”
The U.S. State Department never denied the authenticity of the video, and even issued an apology to the European Union after Nuland is heard on the tape saying, “Fuck the EU.” Mainstream media at the time focused almost exclusively on that off-color remark as a distraction from the greater significance of U.S. interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
Why did Nuland say, “Fuck the EU”? At the time she said it, France, Germany and Poland were working for the EU on a political settlement with Russia to the Maidan crisis that would leave Yanukovych in power.
Indeed the E.U. brokered a deal with Yanukovych, who agreed to early elections by December 2014, a restoration of the 2004 Constitution and an amnesty for all protestors, clearing the way for no one to be held responsible for the violent ouster. Yanukovych announced the agreement, with E.U. officials at his side in Kiev, on Feb. 21, 2014. Later that day he was violently driven from power.
Leaving the historic role of the NED and the essential Nuland-Pyatt conversation out of its reporting is an omission of evidence by NewsGuard, typical of corporate media. Omitting crucial elements of a story changes its meaning and in this case undermines NewsGuard’s account of the events of 2014.
This is an excellent example of why Parry started Consortium News: to report on crucial information that corporate media sometimes purposely and deceptively leave out to change the meaning of a story. NewsGuard should correct its story about the coup, not Consortium News. NewsGuard invites readers to request corrections by emailing them at email@example.com.
Likely Reasons for the Coup
U.S. enabled Yeltsin’s 1996 reelection.
Wall Street and Washington swept in after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 under a pliable Boris Yeltsin (who received direct U.S. help to win re-election in 1996) to asset-strip the formerly state-owned industries, enrich themselves and a new class of oligarchs and impoverish the former Soviet people.
The ascension of Vladimir Putin to power on New Year’s Eve 1999 gradually began to curb U.S. influence in post-Soviet Russia, especially after Putin’s 2007 Munich Security Conference speech, in which he blasted U.S. unilateral aggression, especially in Iraq.
Eventually Putin restored sovereignty over much of the Russian economy, turning Washington and Wall Street against him. (As President Joe Biden has now made clear on more than one occasion, the U.S. aim is to overthrow him.)
In his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, former U.S. national security adviser ZbigniewBrzezinski wrote:
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state.”
Thus U.S. “primacy,” or world dominance, which still drives Washington, is not possible without control of Eurasia, as Brzezinski argued, and that’s not possible without control of Ukraine by pushing Russia out (U.S. takeover of Ukraine in the 2014 coup) and dominating Moscow as it did when this was written in the 1990s.
Deep Western involvement in Ukrainian politics and economy never ended from those early post-Soviet days. When Yanukovych acted legally (the Rada authorized it) to reject the European Union association agreement in favor of a Russian economic package on better terms, it threatened to curtail Western economic involvement. Yanukovych became a marked man.
Yanukovych had already made Russian an official language, he had rejected NATO membership, and reversed his pro-Western predecessor’s move to glorify Nazi collaborators. Yanukovych’s predecessor, President Viktor Yuschenko, had made Ukraine’s World War II-era fascist leader Stepan Bandera a “Hero of Ukraine.”
There was genuine popular dissatisfaction among mostly Western Ukrainians with Yanukovych, which intensified and became violent after he rejected the EU deal. Within months he was overthrown.
After the Coup
The U.S.-installed government in Kiev outlawed political parties, including the Communist Party, and stripped Russian as an official language. Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions was banned in several oblasts and eventually collapsed. An American citizen became finance minister and Vice President Joe Biden became Barack Obama’s virtual viceroy in Ukraine.
Videos have emerged of Biden giving instructions to the nominal president at the time, Petro Poroshenko. By his own admission, Biden forced the resignation of Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s prosecutor general.
Shokin testified under oath that he was about to investigate Burisma Holdings, the company on which the vice president’s son was given a lucrative board membership just months after the U.S.-backed coup.
Biden, other U.S. officials, and the media at the time lied that Shokin was removed because he was corrupt. State Dept. memos released this year and published by Just the News (green-check) actually praise Shokin for his anti-corruption work. The question of whether the leader of a foreign nation has the right to remove another country’s prosecutor was buried.
Eight days after nearly 50 anti-coup protestors in Odessa were burned to death on May 2, 2014 by far-right counter-protestors dominated by Right Sector, the coup-resisting provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbass region declared independence from Ukraine. Russia began assisting them and, after a visit to Kiev by then C.I.A. Director John Brennan, Poroshenko launched a war against the separatists that lasted eight years, killing thousands of civilians, until Russia intervened in the civil conflict in February.
After the coup, NATO began arming, training and conducting exercises with the Ukrainian military, turning it into a de facto NATO member. These were not just the interests of part of Ukraine that were being served, but those of powerful foreign actors. It was akin to a 19th century-style colonial takeover of a country.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe
We are being rapidly transitioned into a new system of centralised, authoritarian global governance. This system is designed to be a technocracy, and, as such, it is truly totalitarian.
Totalitarianism is a form of government that attempts to assert total control over the lives of its citizens. It is characterized by strong central rule that attempts to control and direct all aspects of citizens’ lives through coercion and repression. It does not permit individual freedom. Traditional social institutions and organizations are discouraged and suppressed. As a result, citizens succumb to being merged into a single unified movement. Totalitarian states typically pursue a special goal to the exclusion of all other goals. They direct all resources toward the attainment of that goal, regardless of the cost.
In the case of today’s totalitarian system, technocracy, that “special” goal is called “sustainable development.” In the pursuit of that goal, no cost, either financial or humanitarian, is too great.
Technocrats insist that sustainable development is the way we can successfully tackle the alleged “climate crisis” facing our planet. In reality, their charge that humans are causing climate change is simply an excuse for implementing sustainable development. It is through the technocrats’ global policy commitment to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that technocracy is being installed.
A technocratic society is referred to as a “Technate.” In this two-part article, we will explore the world’s first Technate: China. We will look at how this system was constructed in China, who was behind it, and why technocracy is now being foisted upon all of humanity.
Global Technocratic Governance
In order for technocrats to roll out their vision of a global technocracy, they need to be in control of everything at the global level. In other words, authority has to be consolidated and centralized at the top of the pyramid of power. To achieve this goal, most of the world’s governments and intergovernmental organisations and multinational corporations have collaborated to form a global public-private partnership (G3P).
The G3P network has been knit together throughout the 20th and 21st centuries for the purpose of constructing a single system of global governance. For it is only through global governance that technocrats can distribute their influence worldwide. They count on the top government officials of each nation-state to convert their 17 SDGs into national policy commitments.
Many components of global technocratic governance have already been established.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) now delivers global governance of public health.
- The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) metes out global access to technological development.
- The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) coordinates economic policies between nation-states.
- The World Trade Organisation (WTO) monitors and controls global trade through the international agreements it oversees.
- The Bank For International Settlements (BIS) coordinates global monetary policy and the flow of capital.
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) steers the direction of education, academia, the sciences and cultural development.
- Other UN bodies are responsible for the seizure of the global commons and the “financialisation” of nature—through natural asset companies and other mechanisms. These goals are nearing completion.
The 17 SDGs are primarily controlled by the UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme—UNDP and UNEP, respectively.
Meanwhile, the necessary global scientific consensus on climate change is centrally administered—and the appropriate research funding streams allocated—by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The powerful individuals who are pushing the G3P project forward include a motley crew of mass polluters, robber barons, land grabbers and the world’s leading exponents of worker exploitation, market manipulation, monetary extortion (usury) and oppression. They form what would otherwise be considered a criminal cartel, but they have greenwashed their reputations through their publicly proclaimed commitment to so-called “sustainable development.”
Though often referred to as “the elite,” a more fitting description of this collection of thieves is “the parasite class.”
The G3P has managed to convince billions of citizens around the world that it is committed to sustainable, “net zero” environmentalism and that its foremost desire is to “save the planet.”
In truth, though, the G3P is all about empowering global governance and enforcing technocracy upon humanity through the SDGs and associated policy agendas.
Regardless of what you think about the causes of climate change or the level of risk climate change presents, SDGs do nothing to address it. Rather, they are designed to serve only the G3P partners and their selfish interests.
In order to requisition, commodify, audit and ultimately divide up the Earth’s resources among themselves, the stakeholder capitalists who are at the heart of the G3P also need technocratic control of humans everywhere. Thus, even when the bulk of humanity finally figures out what has happened, technocracy will enable the G3P to shut down all resistance through literal population control.
Under this control, every human being will be individually monitored by Artificial Intelligence (AI) networks that will punish or reward them, depending upon their behaviour.
“How will the G3P get away with taking away human rights worldwide?” you may ask. The justifications for our enslavement have already been set in place: Biosecurity risks and environmental devastation that will result if we don’t obey our global overlords are the two main excuses. We have already seen these two excuses used in the pseudopandemic and the fake climate scare.
Much like the quack pseudo-science of eugenics, which many G3P “thought leaders” seem to believe, Technocracy, Inc., a movement spawned in the early 1900s, was the social science certainty of its day. Although it subsequently faded from public consciousness, technocracy, like eugenics, it is still avidly pursued by the G3P’s hierarchy. Most people don’t recognize technocracy in their lives because it has been purposely compartamentalised—that is, kept out of sight.
In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor, who was arguably the world’s first management consultant, published The Principles of Scientific Management.
Taylor’s work came at the culmination of the Progressive Era in the United States. This was a period marked by political activism of the middle class, who sought to address the underlying social problems, as they saw them, of excessive industrialisation, immigration and political corruption. “Taylorism,” fixated on the imminent exhaustion of natural resources and advocating efficient “scientific management systems,” was in the spirit of the age.
In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first. [. . .] The best management is a true science, resting upon clearly defined laws, rules, and principles. [. . . ] The fundamental principles of scientific management are applicable to all kinds of human activities, from our simplest individual acts to the work of our great corporations.
Taylorism advocated science-driven efficiency reforms across society. An efficient system should not be run by politicians or religious leaders but by “experts,” such as engineers, scientists, logistical experts, economists and other academics. The focus, according to Taylorism, should always be on systemic efficiency and the proper use of precious resources, including labour.
Though Taylor was influenced by Social Darwinism, he was not a eugenicist. However, his ideas were adopted by eugenicists, for they “fitted” with eugenicists’ belief in their unassailable right to rule.
Just as eugenicists—who are inherently technocrats—could optimise and control the human population, so could they employ experts to make socioeconomic and industrial systems more efficient. They could promote these systems as beneficial to “the public good” while at the same time consolidating their own power and reaping a greater financial harvest from a more efficient industrialised society.
Taylor’s principles of scientific management chimed with the theories of economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen. The latter proposed that economic activity wasn’t just a function of supply and demand, utility, value and so forth, but that economic activity also evolved with society and was thus shaped by psychological, sociological and anthropological influences.
Both Taylor and Veblen focused upon improving the efficiency of industrial and manufacturing processes. But they also recognised that their theories could be extended to the wider social context. Not surprisingly, it was the more expansive application of their ideas that beguiled the parasite class.
Veblen famously spoke of “conspicuous consumption”—a description of how the affluent displayed their social standing through their ability to engage in pursuits and buy items that were essentially purposeless and wasteful. This “conspicuous leisure” and “consumption” cascaded down through the class structure, as those aspiring to signal their own status emulated the wealthy.
He argued that this excess was a major contributor to unacceptable resource waste and inefficiency. A consumer society, he thought, ultimately produced more goods and services than it needed simply to meet the artificial demand created by extravagant social climbers.
In short, Veblen was strongly opposed to this inefficient use of resources, which he blamed on the “business classes” and financiers. Though he valued their contribution to the industrial age, he felt they were no longer capable of managing modern industrial society.
Initially, Veblen argued that the workers must therefore be the architects of the necessary social change that would create economic and industrial reform. Later, in the Engineers and the Price System, he shifted his focus away from workers towards technocratic engineers as the drivers of change.
He called for a thorough analysis of the institutions that maintained social stability. Once that analysis was understood, he opined, those with technological expertise should reform the institutions and thereby engineer society and improve efficiency. Veblen referred to these social change agents as a “soviet of technicians.”
In 1919, Veblen became a co-founder of the John D. Rockefeller-funded private research university in New York called the New School for Social Research. From there he create the Technical Alliance, a fledgling technocratic organisation composed of scientists and engineers—including, notably, Howard Scott.
Scott didn’t like Veblen’s description of a “soviet of technicians” and reportedly called it “a cockeyed thing.” He saw that the term’s association with communism wasn’t welcome from a PR perspective and felt it undermined what he was trying to achieve with the technocracy movement.
Veblen’s involvement with the Technical Alliance was relatively brief, and some have suggested that his contribution to technocracy was minimal, accrediting Scott as the great mind behind it. Regardless of the extent of Veblen’s personal involvement in the movement, though, his socioeconomic theories permeate technocracy.
In 1933, the Technical Alliance reformed after an enforced hiatus that was prompted by Scott’s exposure as a fraudster (he had falsified his engineering credentials). The group renamed itself Technocracy Inc.
Despite his public humiliation, Scott was a skilled orator and remained the spokesman for Technocracy Inc. He worked with, among others, M. King Hubbert, who would later become globally renowned for his vague and generally inaccurate “peak oil” theory.
Scott and Hubbert collaborated to write The Technocracy Inc. study course, a formal introduction of technocracy to the world. At the time, their proposals were technologically impossible to achieve, so sounded crazy.
Technocracy finds that the production and distribution of an abundance of physical wealth on a Continental scale for the use of all Continental citizens can only be accomplished by a Continental technological control, a governance of function, a Technate.
There’s the word used in the opening of this article: Technate.
The Technate, to Hubbert and Scott, was a technocratic society envisaged to encompass the North American continent. It would be administered by a central planning body formed of scientists, engineers and other suitably qualified technocrats. They believed technocracy would require a new monetary system based upon a calculation of the Technate’s total energy usage. People would be allocated an equal share of the corresponding “energy certificates” (as a form of currency) denominated in units of energy (Joule or erg, etc.):
[I]ncome is granted to the public in the form of energy certificates. [. . .] They are issued individually to every adult of the entire population. [. . .] The record of one’s income and its rate of expenditure is kept by the Distribution Sequence, [the envisaged ledger of transactions] [. . .] so that it is a simple matter at any time for the Distribution Sequence to ascertain the state of an unknown customer’s balance. [. . .] Energy Certificates also contain the following additional information about the person to whom issued: whether he has not yet begun his period of service, is now performing service, or is retired [where service to the Technate is rewarded with Energy Certificates] [. . .] sex [that is, gender], [. . .] the geographical area in which he resides, and [. . .] job at which he works.
They envisioned a new price system, with all commodities and goods valued according to the energy cost of their production. Purchases made with “energy certificates” would then be reported back to the appropriate department of the technocratic central planning committee. The transactions would be catalogued and analysed, enabling the central planners to precisely calculate the rolling energy balance—the balance between energy production and consumption—for the entire Technate.
In order for this system to work, all consumers’ energy expenditure (including all daily transactions) would need to be recorded in real time; the national inventory of net energy production and consumption would have to be constantly updated, around the clock; and a registry of every commodity and product needed to be scrupulously maintained, with every individual living in the Technate allocated a personal energy account. This would be updated to record their energy usage and personal net energy balance.
We are being rapidly transitioned into a new system of centralised, authoritarian global governance. This system is designed to be a technocracy, and, as such, it is truly totalitarian.
Totalitarianism is a form of government that attempts to assert total control over the lives of its citizens. It is characterized by strong central rule that attempts to control and direct all aspects of citizens’ lives through coercion and repression. It does not permit individual freedom. Traditional social institutions and organizations are discouraged and suppressed. As a result, citizens succumb to being merged into a single unified movement. Totalitarian states typically pursue a special goal to the exclusion of all other goals. They direct all resources toward the attainment of that goal, regardless of the cost.
In the case of today’s totalitarian system, technocracy, that “special” goal is called “sustainable development.” In the pursuit of that goal, no cost, either financial or humanitarian, is too great.
Technocrats insist that sustainable development is the way we can successfully tackle the alleged “climate crisis” facing our planet. In reality, their charge that humans are causing climate change is simply an excuse for implementing sustainable development. It is through the technocrats’ global policy commitment to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that technocracy is being installed.
A technocratic society is referred to as a “Technate.” In this two-part article, we will explore the world’s first Technate: China. We will look at how this system was constructed in China, who was behind it, and why technocracy is now being foisted upon all of humanity.
Hubbert and Scott made it clear that, for technocracy to work, an all-pervasive energy surveillance grid would be required. All citizens would be individually identified on the grid and every aspect of their daily lives monitored and controlled by the technocratic central planners.
Technocracy, as we can see, is a totalitarian form of surveillance-based, centralised, authoritarian governance that abolishes national sovereignty and political parties. Freedoms and rights are replaced with a duty to behave in the interest of a common good, as defined by the technocrats. All decisions about production, allocation of resources, technological innovation and economic activity are controlled by a technocracy of experts (Veblen’s “soviet of technicians”).
In 1938, in Technocrat Magazine Vol. 3 No. 4 (to give its technocratic specification), technocracy was described as:
The science of social engineering, the scientific operation of the entire social mechanism to produce and distribute goods and services to the entire population.
For the parasite class and its G3P stakeholder partners, technocracy was obviously an irresistible idea. Technocracy potentially enables the precise engineering of society through the control of resources and energy through the mechanism of a linked, centrally planned and monitored economic and monetary system.
Or, as the Technocracy Inc. Study Course puts it:
The significance of this, from the point of view of knowledge of what is going on in the social system, and of social control, can best be appreciated when one surveys the whole system in perspective. First, one single organization is manning and operating the whole social mechanism. This same organization not only produces but distributes all goods and services. Hence a uniform system of record-keeping exists for the entire social operation, and all records of production and distribution clear to one central headquarters.
To control everything, the only thing that members of the parasite class would need to do is whisper in the ear of a few hand-picked technocrats. There would be no need to corrupt politicians or orchestrate international crises anymore.
While in the 1930s the Technate was an impracticable proposition, it was still something to inspire the G3P and a goal toward which it has been assiduously working.
Scott Speaking at a Technocracy inc. Rally
The Technocratic Opportunity
Understanding that technological development would eventually enable the Technate to be realised, in 1970 Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928–2017) wrote Between Two Ages: America’s Role In The Technetronic Era. At the time, Brzezinski was a professor of political science at Columbia University, where Scott had first met Hubbert in 1932. He had already been an advisor to both the Kennedy and Johnson presidential campaigns and would later become National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981).
Brzezinski was a significant influence on late-20th-century US foreign policy, far beyond his years in the Carter administration. Though he was the Democrat counterpart to Republican Henry Kissinger, Brzezinski was a centrist whose deep dislike of the Soviet Union often placed him on the right of Kissinger on related issues. He supported the Vietnam War and was instrumental in “Operation Cyclone,” which saw the United States arm, train and equip Islamist extremists in Afghanistan.
He was a member of numerous policy think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Le Cercle. And he was a regular attendee at the annual parasite class soiree, the Bilderberg conference. In 1973, Brzezinski and David Rockefeller formed the Trilateral Commission, a policy think tank with members from the US, Europe and Japan.
In short, Brzezinski was very much part of the Deep State milieu and the G3P.
Zbigniew Brzezinski (March 28, 1928 – May 26, 2017)
Between Two Ages is a geopolitical analysis and practical set of policy recommendations born from Brzezinski’s view that digital technology would transform society, culture, politics and the global balance of political power. It also provides us with a clear view of the mindset of the parasite class.
Brzezinski didn’t reference technocracy directly. Perhaps he was wary of its rather sketchy reputation following Scott’s disgrace. However, he did describe it in detail throughout the book. For example, he wrote:
Technological adaptation would involve the transformation of the bureaucratic dogmatic party into a party of technocrats. Primary emphasis would be on scientific expertise, efficiency, and discipline. [. . .] [T]he party would be composed of scientific experts, trained in the latest techniques, capable of relying on cybernetics and computers for social control.
He theorised about what he called the “Technetronic Age” and offered a vision of the near future from the perspective of the 1970s. He predicted that the “Technetronic Age” would arise out of the Technetronic Revolution—the “Third Revolution” to follow the Industrial Revolution. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, would later call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Brzezinski also wrote:
The post industrial society is becoming a ‘technetronic’ society: a society that is shaped culturally, psychologically, socially, and economically by the impact of technology and electronics—particularly in the area of computers and communications.
He then went on to describe what he thought life in the Technetronic Age would be like for ordinary men, women and their families. He foretold how political and industrial control would be replaced by psychological control mechanisms, such as the cult of personality, and that these new control mechanisms would steer humans towards behaviour change. Our lives, he predicted, would be managed through computing power and, in the parlance of today, led by science:
Both the growing capacity for the instant calculation of the most complex interactions and the increasing availability of biochemical means of human control augment the potential scope of consciously chosen direction. [. . .] Masses are organized in the industrial society by trade unions and political parties and unified by relatively simple and somewhat ideological programs. [. . .] In the technetronic society the trend seems to be toward aggregating the individual support of millions of unorganized citizens, who are easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities, and effectively exploiting the latest communication techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.
He also explained how technology would enable extensive behaviour modification and manipulation of the population. He foresaw (suggested) how this modification and manipulation could be weaponised:
It may be possible—and tempting—to exploit for strategic political purposes the fruits of research on the brain and on human behavior. [. . .] [O]ne could develop a system that would seriously impair the brain performance of very large populations in selected regions over an extended period.
Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote enthusiastically, through a paper-thin veil of caution, about how a “global scientific elite” could not only use extreme, all-pervasive propaganda and economic and political manipulation to determine the direction of society but could also exploit technology and behavioural science to genetically alter and brainwash the population.
Describing the form of this society and the potential for technocratic control, he wrote:
Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control.
He claimed that the “Technetronic Age” he described was inevitable. Therefore, he asserted, the future of the United States (and the planet) must be centrally planned. These planners would eventually displace “the lawyer as the key social legislator and manipulator.”
Brzezinski warned that other nations—he meant the Soviet Union, which he hated—wouldn’t hesitate to embark on this dark social engineering path. Therefore, he urged, US geopolitical strategists needed to be the first to develop this network of planners—aka, technocracy. This would be done, Brzezinski wrote, by fusing government with academia and private corporations: the G3P.
His Between Two Ages made it clear that political parties would become increasingly irrelevant, replaced by regional structures pursuing “urban, professional, and other interests.” These could be used to “provide the focus for political action.” The author understood the potential for this localised, technocratic administrative system:
In the technetronic age the greater availability of means permits the definition of more attainable ends, thus making for a less doctrinaire and a more effective relationship between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be.’
He also suggested a redefinition of freedom. Liberty would be achieved through centrally planned public commitment to social and economic equality. The “public good” was thus defined by the technocrats.
The positive potential of the third American revolution lies in its promise to link liberty with equality, according to Brzezinski.
Brzezinski recognised that it would be impossible to impose world government directly. Rather it should be gradually constructed through a system of global governance comprised of treaties, bilateral agreements and intergovernmental organisations:
Though the objective of shaping a community of the developed nations is less ambitious than the goal of world government, it is more attainable. [. . .] It [global governance] attempts to create a new framework for international affairs not by exploiting these divisions [between nation-states] but rather by striving to preserve and create openings for reconciliation.
One “opening” that he was particularly interested in was China. Tensions between Russia and China had continued to rumble on, and, as Brzezinski wrote in Between Two Ages, they had spilled over into a border conflict. He saw that the Sino-Soviet split had created an opportunity to shape China’s modernisation:
In China the Sino Soviet conflict has already accelerated the inescapable Sinification of Chinese communism. That conflict shattered the revolution’s universal perspective and—perhaps even more important— detached Chinese modernization from its commitment to the Soviet model. Hence, whatever happens in the short run, in years to come Chinese development will probably increasingly share the experience of other nations in the process of modernization. This may both dilute the regime’s ideological tenacity and lead to more eclectic experimentation in shaping the Chinese road to modernity.
These ideas were firmly in Brzezinski’s mind when he and committed eugenicist David Rockefeller, whose family had been bankrolling technocratic initiatives for more than 50 years, first convened the Trilateral Commission. The two were eventually joined by other so-called “thought leaders”—namely, population control expert Henry Kissinger, Club of Rome environmentalist Gro Harlem Brundtland, US presidents (Bill Clinton, for one) and Council on Foreign Relations head Richard Haass, who more recently wrote World Order 2.0.
Rockefeller (left) and Brzezinski
Constructing The Technate In China
Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” saw 40 million people brutalised and starved to death in just three horrific years (1959–1961). Apologists claim this was all a terrible mistake. But it was nothing of the kind.
In the certain knowledge that food supplies were running out, in 1958 Mao insisted that “to distribute resources evenly will only ruin the Great Leap Forward.” Later the same year, he asserted:
When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half the people die so that others can eat their fill.
In his zeal to create a communist utopia, Mao presided over a system that seized food from starving millions and exported it to fund his political reforms and support his determination to rapidly industrialise the economy. It wasn’t an error or an unfortunate oversight. While many were so terrified that they submitted fake reports of surpluses that didn’t exist, it is clear that the leadership of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) knew exactly what the human costs were. They just didn’t care.
Mao and Rockefeller’s view of the Great Leap Forward
Nor did David Rockefeller, as evidenced by his 1973 op-ed for The New York Times. He and his Chase Group banking empire delegation had visited Maoist China. In his account of the trip, Rockefeller dismissed the mass murder of millions as “whatever.” It was only the product of genocide that Rockefeller was interested in:
One is impressed immediately by the sense of national harmony. [. . .] There is a very real and pervasive dedication to Chairman Mao and Maoist principles. Whatever the price of the Chinese revolution it has obviously succeeded, not only in producing a more efficient administration, but also in fostering. [. . .] a community of purpose.
The Trilateralist Rockefeller could see the opportunity the Chinese dictatorship presented the parasite class. In full agreement with Brzezinski, he wrote:
Too often the true significance and potential of our new relationship with China has been obscured. [. . .] In fact, of course, we are experiencing a much more fundamental phenomenon. [. . .] The Chinese, for their part, are faced with altering a primarily inward focus. [. . .] We, for our part, are faced with the realization that we have largely ignored a country with one-fourth of the world’s population.
The “we” Rockefeller referred to was not us. He meant the G3P and his fellow “stakeholder capitalists” and Trilateralists.
The totalitarian order he saw in China impressed him, as he had hoped it would. Not that Rockefeller was the only Trilateralist to see the technocratic possibilities in China. So did others, naturally, for the sheer scale of the market was an enticing prospect, and the promise of the “Technetronic Age” raised the real potential to build the world’s first Technate.
Completely discounting the appalling loss of human life, Rockefeller wrote:
The social experiment in China under Chairman Mao’s leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history. How extensively China opens up and how the world reacts to the social innovation [. . .] is certain to have a profound impact upon the future of many nations.
A look at the Great Leap Forward
The G3P’s task was to crack open the Chinese market while supporting the country’s ongoing totalitarian rule. China would need help with its economic development and technical support to build the technological infrastructure necessary for technocracy to work. This process had already begun, but with Rockefeller, Brzezinski, Kissinger and other Trilateralists committed to the cause, the target of constructing a Technate was firmly in the Trilateral Commission’s sights.
The Trilateralists set about assisting China to develop both economically and technologically, while remaining careful to avoid applying too much pressure for political reform. Totalitarianism was a system they supported and wanted to exploit. In their 1978 Paper No. 15 on East-West Relations, they suggested:
To grant China favourable conditions in economic relations is definitely in the political interest of the West. [. . .] [T]here seems to exist sufficient ways for aiding China in acceptable forms with advanced civilian technology.
In the same paper, the Trilateralists announced that they weren’t entirely averse to helping China modernise its military capability, though they stressed this should be only for defensive purposes.
They accepted that a modern, militarised China might turn to expansionism and seek to regain territory it historically claimed as its own—in particular, Taiwan. They judged this was a reasonable risk to take.
They were playing the great game. Human lives—except their own and the lives of their families, of course—were of no concern.
In Part 2 we will look at how they set about constructing the world’s first Technate in China.
Please note: This research is available in my book – Pseudopandemic
Platypus interview on The Destiny of Civilization
The destiny of civilization: An interview with Michael Hudson
On July 15, 2022, Platypus Affiliated Society member D. L. Jacobs interviewed Michael Hudson to discuss his new book, The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism (2022). An edited transcript follows.
D. L. Jacobs: Can tell us about your background regarding Marxism and how you came to political economy?
Michael Hudson: Well, I grew up in a Marxist household. My father was a political prisoner, one of the Minneapolis 17.1 Minneapolis was the only city in the world that was a Trotskyist city, and my parents worked with Trotsky in Mexico. So, I grew up not having any intention of going into economics. I wanted to be a musician, and when I was 21, I began writing a history of the connection between music, art, drama theory, and the Renaissance in the 19th century. But then I went to New York and went to work on Wall Street just to get a job. I met the translator of Marx’s Theories of Surplus Value, Terence McCarthy, who convinced me that economics was more interesting than anything else that was happening. He became my mentor, I took a PhD in economics, and that’s it.
DLJ: You begin The Destiny of Civilization by talking about how it was the historical task of both industrial capitalism and classical political economy to emancipate the economy from feudal rentiership. How was classical political economy revolutionary?
MH: Marx said that the role of industrial capitalism was to cut costs of production in order to compete with industrial capitalists in other countries. There are two ways of reducing the costs if you are a capitalist. One is to simply lower wages, but if you lower wages, you don’t get high productivity labor. The Americans, by the 19th century, realized that the higher the wage was, the higher the labor productivity, because productive labor was well-educated. well-fed, healthy labor. The idea of capitalism was, number one, to reduce the costs of production that were unnecessary. Namely, what did labor have to pay just to live that wasn’t really necessary. The biggest cost of labor was land rent — this paid for high food prices if there was agricultural protectionism, as in London, England until 1846 — and housing rent. The idea was that socialism would replace all landlords as rent recipients by either taxing away the land rent or nationalizing the land.
The state would be the landlord and that would be its source of fiscal funding. It didn’t have to tax labor, but would tax landlords. The other way that capitalism would reduce labor’s living costs was working to prevent monopolies, to prevent all forms of economic rent. That was revolutionary because feudalism was based on a hereditary landlord class: the heirs of the warlords, the Normans, who had conquered France, England, and the rest of the earth. The monopolies that had been privatized and created were largely by governments running into war debts. The bank of England was a monopoly created with £1.2 million to be paid and government debt. Many British trading companies and monopolies, like The South Sea Company of the South Sea Bubble, were created this way in order to finance their war debts.
Capitalism wanted to get rid of all of the economic overhead and to be a more efficient society. Instead of having private monopolies produce basic needs like health care, it will have public health care. Instead of monopolies providing communications, transportation, or telephone services, the government would have these basic needs provided either freely or subsidized so that labor wouldn’t require a high salary from its industrial employers to pay for its own education, health care, or the other basic needs. In the late-19th century, everybody thought that industrial capitalism was evolving into socialism of one kind or another: not only Marx, but a proliferation of socialists and books on socialism, e.g., John Stuart Mill, Christian socialists, libertarian socialists. The question was, what kind of socialism would everyone take? That made capitalism revolutionary, until the point that World War I broke out and changed the whole direction.
DLJ: You begin Chapter 5 of Destiny with, “[t]he 19th century’s fight to tax away land rents, nearly succeeded, but lost momentum after World War I.”2 Can you elaborate on this?
MH: In the late 1890’s, the rentiers began to fight back. In academia the real-estate interests and the banks got together and denied that there was any such thing as economic rent. Capitalism is revolutionary, because it wanted to bring market prices in line with the actual cost of production; economic rent was the excess of price over the intrinsic cost value. The idea was that economic rent was a free lunch. and that because it was an empty price, it was a price without a corresponding cost-value. In the U.S., John Bates Clark was saying, there’s no such thing as economic rent. The landlord actually provides a public service in deciding who to rent to and the banks provide a public service in deciding to whom they will make loans. Everybody deserves whatever they can make. This concept underlies today’s Gross National Product (GNP) accounting. If you look at America’s GNP accounting, you have a rent and interest included as a profit — not only interest, but bank penalties and fees.
A few years ago, I called up the Commerce Department that makes the national income and product accounts, and I said, “where do bank and credit card companies’ penalties and late fees occur?” I’d read that banks make even more money on late fees and penalties than they do on the enormous interest charges on their credit cards. And they said, “that’s financial services.” I asked, “how is that a financial service?” And they said, “that’s what banks do: they provide the service, and what they charged was the value of the service.” That’s not what the classical economists would have said. They would have said that what banks charge is an economic rent for the service, and this should be a subtraction from the national income and product accounts, not in addition to it.
I’m working with Dirk Bezemer and others on an article where we calculate how much of the GNP, the reported product, is actually overhead. In other words, what is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) without the FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate)? A strict classical economist would say, let’s take out the monopolist rent. How much of American industry’s reported profits, e.g., in healthcare, are really monopoly rent? The idea of industrial development today is to carve out a monopoly where there’s no competition and get super profits. This is a concept that has been dropped, really, ever since World War One, about a century ago. There’s no distinction between productive and unproductive labor, between wealth and overhead. John Bates Clark said that if somebody’s wealthy, they earned the wealth; there’s no such thing as unearned wealth. Today wealth is mainly achieved by asset-price inflation; by capital gains. You won’t find a single wealthy family that made money simply by saving up what they earned. They make money by increasing the price of their stocks and bonds and real estate holdings, not by saving up their earnings. Yet, capital gains, i.e., asset-price inflation, are left out of the statistics of almost every country. So it is very hard to explain how wealth is achieved, and yet that was the purpose of economics in the 19th century and centuries before. But suddenly the idea of wealth has been suppressed as sex was in the day of Sigmund Freud.
DLJ: In Destiny and your articles, you note how the classical conception of the free market has been inverted.3 I.e., it used to be freedom from rentiership, and now it is the freedom of rents. You made reference to GDP, and this goes back to Adam Smith and Ricardo’s distinction of productive and unproductive labor, or net revenue and gross revenue. But Smith also described the government officials as unproductive in that sense, and you can find it in Smith’s translators and Marx.4 In Destiny, you bring up Simon Patten talking about the “fourth factor of production.”5 How does that fourth factor relate to what Smith and Ricardo talk about regarding value? They would say the government officials are not productive labor, yet you’re discussing how they reduce costs by providing public infrastructure.
MH: From Antiquity up through Adam Smith’s time, the main government expense was war, e.g., ancient Rome. Almost all of the public budget was war-making and police, which Smith sees as the same thing. Government had not begun to provide many public needs by the late-19th century. Things that change there were basically from 1815 when the Napoleonic Wars ended outbreak of war in 1914. They call, that was almost a people. Call it a war free Century, despite the Crimean War, and the Civil War, but basically, there wasn’t a World War at that time. Increasingly more of the government budget was spent on public utilities as they were introducing the new industrial, transportation, and health technology.
After the Civil War, American students interested in economics mainly went to Germany to study, and they came back to the U.S. with an idea of Bismarckian state socialism. The chair of the first business school at Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania was Simon Patten, who said that land, labor, and capital all receive the respective forms of income, but there is a fourth factor of production: public infrastructure. Public infrastructure differs in that it’s not trying to make a profit or an economic rent. It sells at less than the cost of production, because it’s trying to subsidize the economy, and its productivity should be measured in principle by the degree to which it lowers the economy’s overall cost of production by providing subsidized or free public services.
That concept is antithetical to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who began privatizing these public utilities. The difference is that a privatized, public utility is going to use borrowed money usually — so you have interest charges — and it must make a profit — so you have profits added on the price. In fact, public utilities are natural monopolies, which is why they’re public in the first place. You have economic rent added on, along with other privatized costs that have to be covered. Government doesn’t have to cover the cost: that’s what the taxes are for. If the taxes are a public collection of rent, a rent tax, they’re not only preventing economic rent and lowering the whole economies close to production, but they’re funding public infrastructure to further lower the cost of production. That’s what helped the U.S. undersell Europe, especially England, and become the leading industrial power — by staying out of WWI, except to act as a creditor — emerging from WWI as by far the world’s major intergovernmental predator, to such an extent that it brought on the Great Depression and WWII to resolve the reparations and inter-allied debt problem from WWI.
DLJ: You mentioned Bismarck, and I think of the famous painting of the Battle of Sedan6 where he’s sitting with Louis Bonaparte, the other Bonaparte — to use this language in Europe at the time. Right after the 1848 revolutions, Louis Bonaparte invested in railroads and a lot of investment in Paris, and Marx refers to this as “Imperialist Socialism.”7 The state is stepping in but doing so in order to quell the class struggle. How do you see that then related to this question of government intervention? On the one hand we could say yes, lowering the cost, but on the other hand, isn’t it preserving the conditions that are giving rise to capitalist exploitation and production?
MH: The question is who’s going to control the state? Is the state going to be run by leaders who are engaged in long-term planning as to how to make the economy more productive and raise living standards, or is the state going to be taken over by a financial oligarchy that wants to increase the cost and deindustrialize?
Already 2,500 years ago, Aristotle said that many economies and constitutions that are thought of as being democracies are really oligarchies. That certainly is the case today. Oligarchies call themselves democracies. President Biden says, the world is dividing into two right now: democracy versus autocracy. The autocracy is in the U.S. That’s the oligarchy. Democracy is a confusing word. Political democracy has not been effective in checking economic oligarchy, because, as Aristotle said, democracies tend to evolve into oligarchies and they make themselves into hereditary aristocracies.
The only counter example in early history of what America calls autocracy or Karl Wittfogel called “Oriental Despotism” was the Near-East take off. Every Near-East, Mesopotamian, Egyptian ruler would begin their reign with a debt cancellation, a clean slate. They would free the indentured servants, cancel the debts, and return land that was forfeited to the former holders to prevent an oligarchy developing. Civilization in the 3rd–1st centuries BC — all non-Western cultures, going all the way to India and China — try to prevent a mercantile and financial oligarchy from developing.
The West didn’t do that. They had no tradition of royal clean slates, and when they did have their own revolutions in Greece, you had the so-called tyrants. I.e., reformers, who overthrew the closed aristocracy, canceled the debts and redistributed the land. They did just exactly what the Near East did and they catalyzed democracy in Greece. There was infrastructure spending in ancient Greece in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. By the 3rd and 2nd century BC the Greeks were saying that when the oligarchy had taken over, a reformer was someone seeking tyranny. That’s when tyranny took on a bad connotation, like “socialism” today.
The same thing happened in Rome. Rome began with kings trying to make Rome grow in a mosquito-laden, hilly area near the Tiber River. Rome began by offering land rights to fugitives fleeing debt bondage, and the neighboring towns of central Italy. The kings were overthrown in 509 BC, the oligarchy took over, and there were five centuries of revolts by the Romans: the secession of the plebs in the 490s BC, the second secession after 450, and then the many fights. The oligarchy accused any reformers urging alleviation, urging more equal distribution of “seeking kingship.” because there can’t be any state strong enough to check their ability to impose land rent and other forms of economic rent.
When President Biden juxtaposes democracy to autocracy, he wants America to fight against any country — Russia, China — that does not privatize its public domain like Thatcher and Reagan were doing. Biden defines an autocracy as a country that does not privatize and make a free market for the rentiers to take over. The ideal of American neoliberalism is what the Americans did to Russia under Boris Yeltsin: take all of the public assets, the nickel mines, oil, gas, and the land and give it to the managers to register in their own name. The result was that Russia lost more of its population as a result of neoliberal privatization than it had lost during WWII, as President Putin likes to say. This is the whole framework of Destiny, where I am trying to clarify, what is democracy, and what is autocracy, and what is socialism?
DLJ: You write that this is something Western civilization has never dealt with8 — even the political economy has shown it to be unproductive. Marx frequently makes reference to the debtor and creditor struggles in ancient Rome and he usually quotes Simone de Sismondi, who will say that whereas the ancient proletariat lived at the expense of society, modern society lives at the expense of the proletariat.9 Likewise, Smith in Wealth of Nations says that the modern representative institutions were unknown in ancient Rome.10 While there have been examples of debt cancellations today, wouldn’t one say that they also had a different organization of society, when a king would cancel debts in ancient traditional societies? To some degree, yes, we can do it today, but there are different institutions, and the bourgeois revolution might complicate the cancellation of debts, at least, creating a kind of political problem unknown in ancient Greece.
MH: They’re different kinds of debts, and canceling them requires different kinds of institutions. E.g., what’s most in the news these days is student loan debt and that it could be canceled by just an act of President Biden, which he won’t do, because he’s the person that sponsored the bankruptcy law.11 That law made it impossible to cancel student debts by bankruptcy laws. It could be done by a congressional law. The government has all sorts of regulatory agencies to handle corporate debt write-downs. Corporate write-downs in bankruptcy proceedings are a normal course, taking place almost continually, and we’re going to see that again. There are real estate debts.
When the junk mortgage frauds peaked in 2008, President Obama ran by promising to write-down the junk mortgage debts to the actual market value of the homes bought by the victims of bank fraud and to bring the mortgage payments in line with the current rent. As soon as he was elected, Obama invited the bankers to the White House and said, “don’t worry. I’m the only guy standing between you and the pitchforks. That was just to get elected. I’m on your side.” He proceeded to evict seven or eight million American families.
Not only did Obama not write-down the debts, but he started quantitative easing that has given nine trillion dollars to support the real estate market, the stock market, and the bond market, so that the banks and the wealthy rentier 10% of the American economy would not lose any money.
The result was that American home ownership rates have fallen from 69% and plunged into the 50s. America is being turned from a middle-class home ownership economy into a landlord economy. We’re regressing back towards the 19th century, including its legacy of feudalism. That’s what we’re moving toward, as official government policy. We still have a strong government, but the role of the government is now to enforce the debts, not to write them down, and the most serious debts in the news are actually international debts. And of course, international debts cannot be settled by one nation. What is the vehicle to cancel the debts of global South countries like Argentina, that is now in yet another crisis with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Argentinian crisis, Sri Lanka — all this will characterize the Global South by this fall as a result of rising energy prices for oil and gas, rising food prices, and capital flight to the U.S. as it raises its interest rate.
If countries have to pay more for food and energy, how can they afford to pay their foreign debts? It’s necessary to have a new international organization to sponsor this. That’s what both President Putin and President Xi have said: we’re going to create a BRICS12 bank as an alternative to the World Bank and the IMF and this will have to accompany a new world court. We are going to provide a different philosophy of operations for this bank: the principle is that no country should be obliged to lower its living standards, bankrupt itself, and privatize its public domain in order to pay foreign debts. If a country can’t pay its debt, it’s a bad loan, and just as individuals and corporations are allowed to declare bankruptcy, countries should be able to declare bankruptcy.
These are mainly dollarized debts. Even though they’re not owed to the U.S., they’re often owed to their own oligarchies. Most dollar debts in Brazil are owned by Brazilians. Most dollar debts of Argentina are owned by wealthy Argentines because no one else is going to take a risk that they won’t pay. But the Brazilians say, we run the presidency, the central banks, and most of all, we run the police: if someone wants to cancel the debts, we’ll just kill them.
Violence has always been hand-and-hand with a high finance ever since Rome, through the Spanish, English, and French empires. The advocates of debt cancellation, from Catiline to Julius Caesar, were assassinated. There were five centuries of assassinations of Roman senators and reformers wanting to alleviate the debt. The U.S. is engaged in similar practices today. So you are right to put the debt in the political context. What is the vehicle to oversee debt cancellation, when in almost every Western economy, the oligarchies — often creditor oligarchies — have taken control of the government, as in the U.S. via election funding and dominating policy. This is unique in Western Civilization.
There’s always been empires consolidated by extortion of colonies. Today, we don’t say that America is involved in colonialism; we say America is a leader of globalization, which is a euphemism for colonialism, specifically, financial colonialism that indebts other countries, using that as a lever to privatize their public domain, utilities, national resources, and their commanding heights.
DLJ: Returning to the 1890s, this is the period leading up to 1914, which is, as you put it, the turning point for the dollar creditocracy: the 1890s as the imperialist era, in the Second International and going into the Third International. I was thinking about Lenin’s view of the growth of finance and of how you had banks that were taking over different companies, that were maybe even competing with each other and/or different sectors. He saw this as an opportunity for socialism. In your text, you mention how finance capitalism has diverted from socialism, or inhibited or blocked that opportunity.13 I was thinking of Lenin’s famous line, “[w]ithout big banks socialism would be impossible.”14 This doesn’t mean that J. P. Morgan and Bank of America are socialist, but rather that they created the institutional apparatus that could be the transformation into a socialized society.
MH: In terms of how economies allocated their resources and how they were planned, this forward-planning was coordinated largely by banks, often in conjunction with the government. This occurred most clearly in Germany where the German government worked with the Reichsbahn and heavy industry, especially in the military field, to build warships and armaments. The idea was state capitalism in Germany: a three-way linkage between government, industry, and finance. In the U.S., these were separated: finance took the form of the mother of trusts. The Wall Street banks would create a steel trust, a copper trust, and they would integrate all the different companies in the field to create a monopoly. In this case they were the former planners trying to create monopolies, but there was the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and Teddy Roosevelt coming on as a trust-buster. Roosevelt tried to prevent finance acting as a promoter of the rentier class, as the monopoly class, to prevent industrial capitalism from being turned into monopoly capitalism. All of this momentum ended in the wake of WWI.
But there was this question of what kind of socialism are we going to have? What kind of government are we going to have? Are we going to have a government that is in charge of steering prosperity and raising living standards or a government by the 1%, the elite, who will impoverished societies? Two things happened in 1913 in the U.S.: first, income tax that only fell on the wealthiest 1% of Americans, mainly on monopoly rent and real estate. The other event of 1913, at the very end of the year, was the Federal Reserve was created to replace the Treasury and to take over the Treasury’s function, shift financial policy, moving away from Washington to Wall Street, and other financial centers, such as Philadelphia and Boston. This was the explicit aim.
The National Monetary Commission published a series after the 1906–07 crash: a wonderful set of volumes about reviewing the global financial situation all over the world. David Kinley wrote a book on the U.S Treasury, showing that essentially the Treasury was performing all of the functions that we now think of as part of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve has 12 districts, the Treasury had sub-Treasuries all over the country that were in charge of local development. All of this was privatized under the leadership of J.P. Morgan, who organized the Fed and sponsored President Wilson, who also got the country into war. The Democrats were, from the very beginning, the party of the rentiers, the anti-Labor party, as they are today. They were the sponsors of Wall Street as opposed to the Republicans, who until the 1970s and 80s, had represented industrial capitalism protecting itself from the rentiers.
Looking at the turn of the 20th century, you see the different roads that could have been taken, and you realize that there were many alternatives and that there’s nothing natural in the way that today’s economy is structured. Economists say this is the result of Darwinian struggle for existence, and that’s what the free market is, and there is no alternative as Thatcher said. But there were plenty of alternatives back in the 1890s, when the world seemed to be moving towards socialism of one form or another, especially the Marxian socialism dominated by the wage-earning class which was going to be democratic socialism.
Instead we have oligarchic socialism in the U.S. and oligarchic state capitalism really isn’t state capitalism. Think of America’s policy as state neo-feudalism, because the purpose of the state is to protect the rents of finance, real-estate, oil, mining, and natural resources. The idea of the Biden Administration — really of both the Republican and Democratic Parties — is that since America has moved its industry and manufacturing to Asia in order to lower the wages here, how can Americans continue to get high-living standards, if it doesn’t produce raw materials or manufacturers? How can it be a post-industrial society, getting rich on economic rents and interest on and profits paid by foreign countries? How can America get rich by being a parasite? That was a problem that the Roman Empire had, and we know what happened to the Roman Empire. It was a problem that the British Empire had, and we know what happened to that: it can’t be done.
This attempt to make America into a post-industrial society means a rent-seeking, neo-feudal society, treating the rest of the world as a colony under globalization. How can that work? Well, It’s not working. Biden’s war, the NATO war, against Russia in the Ukraine is the catalyst dividing the world into two. That’s why Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the Ukraine war is part of a process that will go on for at least two decades, because it takes time for the world to split away into a neo-feudal West and a productive, basically socialistic Asia, or industrial capitalist and socialist Asia, and Eurasia, along with much of the global South.
DLJ: You have an interesting history about Georgists, socialists, and the debates between them regarding the rent question, or the emphasis on capital and labor. Is the neo-feudalism or the new rentiership of the West bound up with a failure of socialism in some way? I.e., you discuss the manner in which mainstream socialists forgot the rent question or subordinated it to capital and labor.15
MH: Henry George was one of the first investigative reporters that exposed the inequity of rent-seekers. His first book was a wonderful exposé of how the railroads got land grants in order to develop the land, using the land grants to become highly exploitative landlords throughout the western states. This was impoverishing the farmers by siphoning farm income off in the form of land rent and railroad charges. George became popular in the large cities that were largely Irish — New York, and Boston — by writing a wonderful book on the Irish land question. His writings inspired a generation of journalists in the 1870s–90s, such as Ida B. Wells and Upton Sinclair. Many of these reformers had originally been supporters of George. When there was a New York City election, the socialists and the labor parties selected George to run as mayor, as a celebrity-candidate, because he had written Progress and Poverty (1879). It’s not a very good book, but it was very popular at the time.
George said he could only run if he could get rid of everything that the socialists had wanted; everything that the working-class had wanted. He said, “I have a panacea, it’ll solve everything: just tax the land. You don’t need control of landlords, you don’t need to make them have decent housing. All you need is land-rent.” The socialists said, “There’s much more to the economy than taxing the landlord; there’s a labor problem. There’s a financial problem. The banks seem to be running everything.” George said, “the enemy is big government.” The socialists replied, “you need a strong enough government to check the landlords, who are the strongest class in New York City which is largely a rental city?” So, George formed his own political party, expelling any socialists and he defended the banks.
Many bankers supported him because he called for the banks to remain in private hands. He said, “I can’t figure out a way to tax a bank interest, like you can tax land-rent.” He was criticized for that, the party didn’t go anywhere, and he ended up expelling his strongest supporters, who had joined him thinking that taxing the land was part of an overall social restructuring. The word panacea, sort of developed specifically because it went hand-in-hand with the name of the Georgists. George’s followers became libertarians and anti-socialist.
Followers of George and the socialists went all around the U.S., having debates, most of which were transcribed and published by Charles H. Kerr & Co., the socialist collective that published Marx’s Capital in English. The common theme of the debate was that society is going to go in one direction or another: either socialist or middle-class. The problem is that taxing the land rent doesn’t solve the labor problem. It doesn’t solve the tension between wage-earners and employers as to working conditions that they have. It doesn’t have anything to do with economic planning. George had actually become libertarian and anti-socialist, and his followers became so anti-socialist that in Europe they were the among the earliest supporters of the Nazis. In the U.S. they were noted Nazi sympathizers. Many of the leading Georgists were known for their anti-Semitism. When I went to the Henry George School Library in New York, I was amazed at all the anti-semitic books in their library. I knew a number of teachers there, and they said that because the school was supporting Germany early in WWII, most of the attendants were FBI agents. The head of the School told me that the number two guy at the Henry George School was part of the Nazi intelligence operation in the U.S. before escaping back to Germany.
I realized that a government strong enough to check the landlords has to be a socialist government. You can’t say, I’m a libertarian, I’m against strong government, and then hope that the landlords are going to end up being taxed. That’s an oxymoron.
DLJ: You write:
[i]t always should be borne in mind that solving the problem of finance capitalism and the rentier legacy of feudalism would still leave the class conflict of industrial capitalism in place. Freeing the economy from rentier overhead charges would not solve the problem of exploitation of labor by its employers. But taking the intermediate step of creating a classical economy free of rentier claims is a precondition before the labor/capital conflict can become the focal point of political reform, having finally freed capitalism from the rentier legacy of feudalism.16
It seems the socialists should have paid heed to this question of rentiership and that this was an opportunity missed at the turn of the 20th century. You’re saying that today financialization is a more immediate barrier rather than subordinating finance to the capital-labor relationship.
MH: This shows the role of personalities in history. The Georgists were so anti-socialist that the socialists left the rent issue to followers of George. That’s why it was Marxists and socialists who wrote about finance capitalism, whereas most of the society treated finance as if it were part of the industrial system, not extraneous to the industrial system.
So you’re right. The socialists after WWI didn’t focus highly on finance, but things changed quite a bit after WWII. The CIA put money into supporting progressive literary and cultural figures as leaders of the socialist movement, focussing on what the CIA called, “the mighty Wurlitzer,” to control public opinion concerning the socialist parties. This results in the British Labour Party having Tony Blair, who was to the Right of Thatcher, who identified Blair as her greatest legacy, in privatizing Britain’s railroads. The social democratic parties in Europe jumped on the neoliberal bandwagon largely because of the U.S. meddling in foreign politics, which pushed neoliberals and socialists to stop talking about economic issues.
In the U.S., there is identity politics, but the one kind of identity you don’t have is the identity of wage earners. That’s been stripped away from the socialist parties of the United States and Europe, and so the socialist parties are no longer socialist. The irony is that what people thought of as being a socialist in a sense of a more efficient economy, free of bad statism and free of war — the Republicans in the U.S. and the nationalists in France and Germany are against the war in Ukraine, the NATO War. The socialists, Bernie Sanders and AOC, voted for giving money to Ukraine. So the word socialism has changed quite a bit into the opposite. Almost the whole economic vocabulary that is used today is the opposite of what it meant a century ago, and that’s what my book, J is For Junk Economics is all about.17 That’s what I talk about when I’m in China.
DLJ: Do you see China as realizing the ideals of classical political economy better than the West? That might be a provocative statement because, for a lot of Americans, China means communism, and so it would mean the opposite of Adam Smith — at least that’s what we’ve been taught since the 20th century by something like the Adam Smith Institute, a neoliberal think-tank.
MH: The Adam Smith Institute hates everything that Adam Smith stood for. That’s why it’s called the Adam Smith Institute: to confuse people! Smith wanted to tax land-rent. The Adam Smith Institute wants to glorify the landlords, privatize public housing, and create a rentier and financial utopia for the 1%. There’s a reason why the economics curriculum in the U.S. no longer has the history of economic thought, because if you study the history of economic thought, which they taught when I was in school 60 years ago, you would know that when people talk about Adam Smith and free markets, it’s the exact opposite of the kind of free market that Smith talked about. What Marx described was capitalism. That’s why he called his book Capital, not Socialism.
What the Chinese government is trying to follow has been called a “state-capitalist society” or a “communist society”: the focus is on productive labor and productive investment. The most important feature of China is that it kept the banking sector and money creation in the public domain. In the West, commercial banks create credit against assets that are already in place. Mortgage loans are made against real estate in place. Corporate takeover loans are made to corporations in place. Government control of money, as it was in Germany in the late 19th century, created new means of production, especially public infrastructure.
China does not have its banks make loans for corporate takeovers, or for mergers and acquisitions. China makes them increase the means of production. In that sense they are following the industrial capitalist policy that evolves naturally into socialism, which is why they call themselves a socialist economy, and rightly so, because they’re not running the economy on behalf of the 1%. Obviously, by letting a hundred flowers bloom, they realized that the state cannot act as the Stalinist state did as a central planner. They need innovation, they need individual innovators to create market opportunities and new products and that’s been best done by letting market forces take place. But when somebody achieves such a hyper-billionaire level, as did Jack Ma with his phone payments company, they coordinate the private wealth that is created to serve the long-term public interest. That’s why there is a strong state.
The Communist Party of China is delegated to administer economic democracy, something that political democracy has not been able to do in the Western countries. You need a state to act as the agent of social planning, so that it’s not the banks and the rentier sector that does it, as occurred in the U.S. and Western Europe. Europe. China is doing what most of the world was doing before Western civilization took off and in an oligarchic form.
DLJ: Do you think the U.S. could do that? In many ways, China’s extraordinary growth, especially post-Deng Xiaoping reform era has presupposed the U.S.’s current account deficit; these “twin deficits” where the U.S. is this large importer from China. I’m thinking to what degree there’s also a mutual character to it as well. Maybe that has been in crisis. When Trump came to office – I’m not saying whether or not he was correct – he was expressing to some degree a process of deindustrialization in the U.S. that has turned the U.S. into a consumer nation without having any production. When I think of two nations having industrial production, I also think back to the end of the 19th century, what Karl Kautsky called the fall of the Manchester School: once one country begins to have state intervention, it encourages other nations to have state intervention. How do you see this working out, besides the more violent past? What do you think would be a more positive way of this working out?
MH: Technologically, of course, the U.S. could redevelop; it has developed before. But it can’t do so, because politically it’s controlled by the anti-labor party. Both Democrats and Republicans are controlled by the rentier interests that seek to increase corporate profits by looking around the world for the cheapest labor, which is not in the U.S.
An even more serious problem is that the rulings in the Supreme Court have turned America into a failed state, e.g., how the Supreme Court ruled that the existing anti-pollution laws, the environmental protection laws by the EPA were unconstitutional, because the government has no power over the states. Or when they say “we on the Supreme Court know that the Constitution was written by slave owners who wanted state power to be in the states, not the federal government, because they feared that if there were a federal government and the northern population wanted to abolish slavery, we could abolish it. Every state gets to go their own way.”
America is an evolved slave-owning state, even though there’s no more slavery, the fight against federal power has been adopted by rentier class. It’s literally a neo-feudalism class. If you cannot have the government, either Congress or the president impose basic environmental, social, educational, or any other social regulation, and if everything is deregulated state-by-state, you have a dissolution of the government and a paralysis. The U.S. now is in a state of political paralysis locking itself into the current status quo, which means that the U.S. cannot have any kind of an industrial recovery, because that requires a federal policy to check the overhead of the banking system, the real estate sector, and the insurance sector. You can’t have a Supreme Court that would prevent any kind of a public health system, a single-payer public health system, and yet 18% of America’s GDP is for medical care. America has priced its labor and its industry out of world markets by having to pay so much debt service, so much insurance for medical care, home insurance, and real estate rents. As long as this revenue is paid out in the form of rent, you’re not going to develop.
DLJ: It almost sounds like you’re pointing to the need for a political revolution. If the potential for development in the U.S. is checked by a rentier class, it is an infringement upon the people, from the perspective of classical bourgeois political theory.
MH: If other countries in the past had a problem like the U.S. now has with the Supreme Court, they would have had a revolution. A European prime minister would invite the court into the office and say, “I’m sorry but I’ve got to make a choice: either you resign or I’m going to have to either execute you or let the mob outside come in and lynch you.” Wouldn’t you rather resign? It would be settled by some kind of revolt like you’re seeing with the Yellow Vests in France or like you saw in the 1848 Revolutions throughout Europe. That’s not likely in America because there’s no real consciousness that there is an alternative.
There’s no group in America, no political party, that is offering an alternative to the current political and economic system in America. The fact that you have two parties in America that are really the same party, means that there’s no room for a new party to come and, as it would in Europe, get represented in Congress. In Europe, you can have any number of parties, and they would be represented in Parliament in proportion to their votes. A third party would be kept off the ballots in the U.S., and that’s why Bernie Sanders and others decided not to run as a third party; there’s no way we can meet the court challenges by the Republicans and the Democrats together. Sanders had to pretend to run as a Democrat. But we’ve seen that the Democrats don’t want any part of anything progressive. There’s an illusion that somehow the Democrats can be progressive because they have people who can’t find any alternative, who are running as a Democrat. Whereas in Europe, they are running as nationalists, as third parties, e.g., Alternative für Deutschland.
I just don’t see the political development in the U.S. that would be a precondition for an economic restructuring to get back on the pre-WWI track. There was anti-monopoly legislation that would be hard to impose. Biden talks as if he’s against monopolies. but he’s supporting the monopolies, e.g., for Pfizer with regard to the vaccines: the government does the research and gives it to Pfizer who makes huge monopoly rents protected by the Biden Administration. Large companies are able to buy control of the politicians by paying for their election contributions under the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling, and they do. They control the mainstream media. People just don’t have an idea that there is an economic alternative, which would not be the socialism that is represented by people who call themselves socialist, but are actually enable neoliberals.
DLJ: I’m trying to think about Destiny and its purpose. How could it raise consciousness in the U.S.? You mentioned going back to pre-WWI conditions. In the Communist Manifesto (1848) Marx and Engels speak of reactionary reformers who want to turn back the wheel.18 I.e., for Marx and Engels, it was always a question of how opportunities develop out of the present, rather than trying to clean the slate. The financialization in the United States, for them, poses the question of developing this neo-feudalism into socialism. In other words, we can’t go back to pre-1914. How does one find the opportunities in the present to even point towards alternatives within the U.S.?
MH: I have not found an alternative for the U.S., and so I can’t come up with a panacea. I remember Max Schachtman gave a speech in the late 1960s, where he asked, “what’s happened to all my old socialist friends? What happened to the socialists?” He said, they all went out West; they all withdrew. They thought, “we can just have community development,” and there were all sorts of ideas and utopian communities founded throughout the U.S.. There were French followers of Saint Simon attempting to make utopian communities, followers of Henry George, making utopian land-tax communities. They’re all middle-class bourgeois communities today. All the socialist communities were all very artsy: they’ve all become arts and crafts centers today. The last thing they want is a land tax that prevents their housing prices from going up.
I don’t see how things can be fixed in the U.S., which is why I’ve spent most of my time analyzing what’s happening in Asia and working primarily with countries from Asia and elsewhere, which seems to be where most of the flexibility and innovation resides. My idea is that if people see that what Asia is doing is quite simply what America could be doing and isn’t, it would be the only way to show them that there is an alternative. You can’t just draw an alternative and apply it as an idealistic application. You have to show that it’s working somewhere. I’m trying to explain why China was able to make its economy grow and raise the living, educational, and health standards for its population, and that the West hasn’t. And that is the path on which the West would have to develop, but it has not been able to check oligarchies.
Non-Western countries are able to do that, and that’s what the fight of global South reform is going to be by this fall when the grace of the debt crisis, really is the trigger for a restructure.
DLJ: Economies are interdependent. I.e., it would still be a question of the Chinese working class and the American working class building bonds across nations.
MH: The Democratic Party has produced such an anti-Asian, hate-filled racism, that I don’t think that can be. The Democratic Party has done everything it could to spur an ethnic war between the black and Asian populations. You see that here in New York by the attacks on the subways, on the street, mainly by blacks against Asians. The Democratic Party, by pushing this ethnic identity, has pushed ethnic hatred.
That’s why the Democrats are surprised that the Hispanics and Asians are moving towards the Republicans. The Hispanics and Asians realize that the Democrats have a race-hatred policy, much like the Nazis. I don’t believe that any political progress can be made in the U.S. until the Democratic Party, certainly the current leadership, is swept away. There cannot be any progress in America today led by the Democratic Party, which is today the ideologically Right-wing party that has turned what should be an economic problem into an ethnic and non-economic problem. It’s like the old industrial capitalist was supposed to have said, “if I can get half the working class fighting against the rest of the working class, then we have won.” That’s the Democratic Party. They asked, “how do we do it?” We divide the working class into ethnicities, ethnic identity, gender identity.
DLJ: You can have the working class cancel each other.
- Carlos Hudson. See Michael Hudson, “Dad’s Many Proverbs” (June 17, 2017), available online at https://michael-hudson.com/2017/06/dads-many-proverbs/;.
- Michael Hudson, The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism (Glashütte: ISLET-Verlag, 2022), 85.
- Hudson, Destiny, 165: “Reversing the tradition of classical value, price and rent theory, neoliberal economics teaches that all income is earned, and that all forms of economic rent are not merely transfer payments but contribute to output, as measured by neoliberal formulations and redefinition of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This inversion of classical logic is so far-reaching and censorial that it has influenced Chinese and Russian planning as well as that in the Western economies.”
- See Karl Marx, “Theories of Productive and Unproductive Labor,” in Theories of Surplus Values (1863), available online at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/ch04.htm;.
- Hudson, Destiny, 120: “China has invested in a vast public infrastructure network to facilitate its industrial production by minimizing the cost of living and doing business. This has saved employers from having to pay higher wages for labor to afford privatized education, health care, transportation and other essential services. These basic needs are provided by public infrastructure, which Simon Patten called a ‘fourth factor of production.’”
- Wilhelm Camphausen, “Napoleon III and Bismarck, on the morning after the Battle of Sedan” (1878).
- Karl Marx, “The French Crédit Mobilier,” The People’s Paper 214, June 7, 1856, available in Marx and Engels Collected Works, vol. 15, and online at http://marxengels.public-archive.net/en/ME0978en.html;.
- Hudson, Destiny, 270: “These redistributive and fiscal principles are the basis of modern socialism but not of Western economies. Ever since classical Greece and Rome stopped the Near Eastern practice of Clean Slates, Western economies have not been able to save themselves from polarizing between creditors and debtors, landlords and tenants, patrons and clients. Today, the neoliberal reaction against social democracy has ensured such polarization, first by letting debts grow faster than the ability to be paid and hence concentrating wealth in the hands of creditors, and second by advocating that basic public utilities be privatized and run by financial managers, not provided as a human right.”
- Karl Marx, Preface to the Second Edition (1869), in The Eighteenth Brumair of Louis Bonaparte (1852), available online at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/preface.htm;: “Lastly, I hope that my work . . . will contribute toward eliminating the school-taught phrase now current, particularly in Germany, of so-called Caesarism. In this superficial historical analogy the main point is forgotten, namely, that in ancient Rome the class struggle took place only within a privileged minority, between the free rich and the free poor, while the great productive mass of the population, the slaves, formed the purely passive pedestal for these combatants. People forget Sismondi’s significant saying: The Roman proletariat lived at the expense of society, while modern society lives at the expense of the proletariat. With so complete a difference between the material, economic conditions of the ancient and the modern class struggles, the political figures produced by them can likewise have no more in common with one another than the Archbishop of Canterbury has with the High Priest Samuel.”
- Adam Smith, “Book IV: On the Advantages which Europe has derived from the Discovery of America, and from that of a Passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope,” in Wealth of Nations (1776), available online at https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/smith-adam/works/wealth-of-nations/book04/ch07c-2.htm;: “The idea of representation was unknown in ancient times. When the people of one state were admitted to the right of citizenship in another, they had no other means of exercising that right but by coming in a body to vote and deliberate with the people of that other state. The admission of the greater part of the inhabitants of Italy to the privileges of Roman citizens completely ruined the Roman republic. It was no longer possible to distinguish between who was and who was not a Roman citizen. No tribe could know its own members. A rabble of any kind could be introduced into the assemblies of the people, could drive out the real citizens, and decide upon the affairs of the republic as if they themselves had been such. But though America were to send fifty or sixty new representatives to Parliament, the doorkeeper of the House of Commons could not find any great difficulty in distinguishing between who was and who was not a member. Though the Roman constitution, therefore, was necessarily ruined by the union of Rome with the allied states of Italy, there is not the least probability that the British constitution would be hurt by the union of Great Britain with her colonies. That constitution, on the contrary, would be completed by it, and seems to be imperfect without it. The assembly which deliberates and decides concerning the affairs of every part of the empire, in order to be properly informed, ought certainly to have representatives from every part of it That this union, however, could be easily effectuated, or that difficulties and great difficulties might not occur in the execution, I do not pretend. I have yet heard of none, however, which appear insurmountable. The principal perhaps arise, not from the nature of things, but from the prejudices and opinions of the people both on this and on the other side of the Atlantic.”
- Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
- Hudson, Destiny, 42: “Finance capitalism aims to avoid what Marx and indeed the majority of his contemporaries expected: that industrial capitalism would evolve towards socialism, peacefully or otherwise. By finding its main source of exploitation to be rent-seeking, not only from land and natural resources but increasingly from privatizing public investment in infrastructure and creating new monopolies, finance capitalism renders economies high cost. That prevents industrialists from underselling competitors in less rent-and- debt-strapped economies…That is why it seemed a century ago that the destiny of industrial capitalism was to evolve into socialism. Public education, health care, roads and basic infrastructure and pensions were coming to be provided by government at subsidized administered prices or freely. Industrial capital backed this policy as a means of shifting as many ‘external’ costs as possible onto the public sector. But that is not the way matters have turned out. And today’s victorious finance capitalism, centered in the United States, is trying to prevent its takeover of industrial economies from being rolled back. That means preventing such a rollback from occurring in other countries. It also requires overcoming other countries’ resistance to finance capital’s takeover of their economies.”
- V. I. Lenin, Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power? (October 1, 1917), available online at https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/oct/01.htm;: “Capitalism has created an accounting apparatus in the shape of the banks, syndicates, postal service, consumers’ societies, and office employees’ unions. Without big banks socialism would be impossible. The big banks are the ‘state apparatus’ which we need to bring about socialism, and which we take ready-made from capitalism; our task here is merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more democratic, even more comprehensive. Quantity will be transformed into quality. A single State Bank, the biggest of the big, with branches in every rural district, in every factory, will constitute as much as nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus. This will be country wide book-keeping, country-wide accounting of the production and distribution of goods, this will be, so to speak, some thing in the nature of the skeleton of socialist society. We can ‘lay hold of’ and ‘set in motion’ this ‘state apparatus’ (which is not fully a state apparatus under capitalism, but which will be so with us, under socialism) at one stroke, by a single decree, because the actual work of book-keeping, control, registering, accounting and counting is performed by employees, the majority of whom themselves lead a proletarian or semi-proletarian existence.”
- Hudson, Destiny, 162: “One of the most fateful byproducts of George’s defense of capital was to so repel socialists that they left the issue of land taxation to his followers — and in so doing, socialists drifted away from rent theory. The socialist mainstream treated classical land and rentier problems as subordinated to problems between labor and industrial capital.”
- Hudson, Destiny, 103–04.
- Michael Hudson, J is For Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception (Glashütte: ISLET-Verlag, 2017).
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels “Part 1: Bourgeois and Proletarians,” in The Communist Manifesto (1848), available online at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm.;
While we react with fear to the resurgence of fascist, Nazi or Japanese imperial groups, we fail to see that it was not these ideologies that provoked World War, but the alliance of rulers ready for the worst. The same configuration is about to be repeated with other groups. In a few months, if we do not react now, a Third World War may be possible.
The Second World War can serve as a lesson to us. It did not appear in a serene sky. It was not a battle of the Good guys against the Bad guys. It was just triggered by an unforeseen gathering of forces capable of destroying everything.
After the economic crisis of 1929, the whole world was convinced, and rightly so, that the capitalism of that time was over. The Soviet Union alone offered an alternative, Bolshevism. Soon the United States came up with a second alternative, the structural reforms of the New Deal, and then Italy promoted a third alternative, fascism. The great Anglo-Saxon capitalists chose to support a new regime, close to fascism, Nazism. They thought that Germany would attack the USSR, thus preserving their interests threatened by both Bolshevik collectivisations and US economic reforms. However, nothing worked out as planned, since Italy, Germany and Japan formed the Axis with their own logic and the war was not started against the Soviets, but against the great fortunes that prepared it.
In the collective imagination, we do not hold responsible the great Anglo-Saxon capitalists who supported Nazism at its beginning. On the contrary, we remember the British and American people as having participated in the victory.
From this experience we must learn that the most skilful plans can escape their promoters. Peace was threatened by the alliance of three very different regimes, Fascism, Nazism and Hakkō ichiu. None of the international relations scholars and other geopoliticians of the time foresaw this union. All of them, without exception, were wrong.
What these three ideologies had in common was that they wanted to change the world order without regard to the human consequences of their actions. This does not mean that their opponents were democratic and peaceful, far from it, but only that they refrained from exterminating entire peoples.
Let’s not mistake the adversary. We must be very vigilant, not to a particular type of political regime, but to the fact that states governed by men capable of the worst ever unite. The current danger is neither fascism, nor Nazism, nor Hakkō ichiu, three ideologies marked by their time and which do not correspond to anything today. What we must protect ourselves from, above all, is a global alliance between ideologies capable of the worst.
This is exactly what is about to happen: the current leaders of the US State Department, the government in Kiev and the next government in Tel Aviv have no limits. The union of the "Straussians", the Ukrainian "integral" nationalists and the Israeli "revisionist Zionists" can, without any qualms, plunge the world into a Third World War. Fortunately, the CIA does not share their ideas, the government in Kiev is constrained by Russian military intervention, and the Israeli Prime Minister’s coalition has not yet formed its government.
Professor Leo Strauss (1899-1973). Although he wrote extensively on natural law and Jewish philosophy, he left nothing about his political conceptions, which he reserved for certain of his students. Numerous testimonies have made his "oral" thought known to us.
The U.S. "Straussians”
This small group of about a hundred people controls the foreign policy of the United States, including the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, his deputy, Victoria Nuland, and the National Security Advisor, Jacob Sullivan.
It is in line with the thinking of the Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss "Russia declares war on the Straussians” for whom democracies showed their weaknesses during the 1930s. The only way to ensure that the next anti-Semitic regime does not massacre them is for the Jews to set up their own dictatorship; to be on the side of the hammer and not of the nail.
The "Straussians" have already shown what they are capable of by organizing the 9/11 attacks and by launching various wars to destroy the "wider Middle East".
It is amazing that, despite the controversies that tore the US ruling class apart during the Bush Jr. administration, most of today’s politicians are unaware of who the Straussians are.
The poet Dmytro Dontsov (1883-1973). He created a mythology that inspired millions of Ukrainians to fight the Russians. A secret agent of the Second and Third German Reichs, he participated in the supervision of the extermination of Jews and Gypsies in Europe as administrator of the Reinhard Heydrich Institute, before being whitewashed by the Anglo-Saxon secret services.
The Ukrainian "integral nationalists”
This is a group comprising hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions. It originated in the First World War, but solidified during the interwar period, the Second World War and the Cold War “Who are the Ukrainian integral nationalists ?”.
They identify with the poet and criminal against humanity Dmytro Dontsov. They see themselves as Vikings ready to fight the last battle against evil, that is, according to them, against Russian civilization.
The term "integral nationalist" should not be misleading. Dontsov chose it in reference to the thought of the Frenchman Charles Maurras. Dontsov was never a patriot, nor a nationalist in the classical sense. He never defended either the Ukrainian people or the Ukrainian land. On the contrary.
The Ukrainian "integral nationalists" have, since 1919, shown what they are capable of. They have murdered more than 4 million of their fellow citizens, including 1.6 million Jews. Since 2014, they have waged a civil war that has cost the lives of about 20,000 of their fellow citizens. They also, in 1921, amputated their land from Galicia and Volhynia to pay in advance the Polish army against the USSR.
They made an alliance with the Straussians, in 2000, during a big congress in Washington, where the Straussian Paul Wolfowitz was the guest of honor.
It is very dangerous to claim, as NATO does, that the "integral nationalists" are marginal in Ukraine. Certainly, in the spirit of this organization, it is only a question of discrediting Russia’s discourse and mobilizing for Ukraine. But these people are now murdering, without trial, those of their fellow citizens who find themselves in Russian culture.
It is particularly dangerous to participate in the delirium of the "integral nationalists" as the Bundestag has just done by adopting a resolution on the "Holodomor", i.e. the "genocide by hunger". The famine of 1932-33 was by no means caused by the Soviets in general, nor by Joseph Stalin in particular. It affected many other regions of the USSR than Ukraine. It is a climatic catastrophe. Moreover, in Ukraine itself, it did not affect the cities, but only the countryside because the Soviets decided to manage this shortage by feeding the workers rather than the peasants. To give credence to the myth of a planned genocide is to encourage anti-Russian hatred as the Nazis once encouraged anti-Jewish hatred.
Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940), founder of the Jewish Legion, then of the Irgun. He called for Israel to extend over the entire British Mandate territory, i.e. over the current State of Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the Kingdom of Jordan.
Israeli "revisionist Zionists”
The "revisionist Zionists" represent about 2 million Israelis. They have managed to form a parliamentary majority by uniting several political parties behind Benjamin Netanyahu.
They claim to be inspired by the Ukrainian Vladimir Jabotinsky, the man who claimed that Palestine is "a land without a people, for a people without a land". In other words, Palestinian Arabs do not exist. They have no rights and must be expelled from their homes.
In September 1921, Jabotinsky formed a secret alliance with the Ukrainian "integral nationalist" anti-Semites, the first link in the developing Axis. This union aroused the indignation of the entire Jewish diaspora and Jabotinsky was expelled from the World Zionist Organization. In October 1937, Jabotinsky formed a new alliance with the anti-Semites of Marshal Rydz-Smigly, number 2 in Poland behind Józef Piłsudski. He was again rejected by the Jewish diaspora.
At the very beginning of World War II, Jabotinsky chose Bension Netanyahu, Benjamin’s father, as his private secretary.
It is appalling that, 75 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, most people continue to lump together different, and often opposing, views solely on the basis of the religion of those who profess them.
Revisionist Zionism" is the opposite of the Zionism of Nahum Goldman and the World Jewish Congress. It has no concern for the Jewish people and has therefore not hesitated to form alliances with anti-Semitic armed forces.
The "revisionist Zionists", including Menahem Beguin and Ariel Sharon, have shown what they are capable of with the Nakba; the forced expulsion of the majority of the Arab population of Palestine in 1948. It is this crime, whose memory haunts both Arabs and Israelis, that makes peace in Palestine impossible to this day.
Benjamin Netanyahu formed an alliance with the Straussians in 2003 at a large closed-door congress in Jerusalem «Sommet historique pour sceller l’Alliance des guerriers de Dieu». Since the election of Volodymyr Zelensky, of whom he has become a personal friend, Netanyahu has also renewed Jabotinsky’s alliance with the "integral nationalists".
The Axis is constituted.
The common ideology of the new Axis
Just as Italian Fascism, German Nazism, and Japanese Hakkō ichiu had little to do with each other, so did the Straussians, the "integral nationalists," and the "revisionist Zionists" think differently and pursue distinct goals. Only the Nazis were so anti-Semitic as to seek to kill an entire people. The fascists despised the Jews, but did not seek to exterminate them. The Japanese never engaged in this hatred and even protected the Jews in their own country and in the territories they occupied. In the same way, today if the "integral nationalists" are obsessively against Russian culture and wish to kill all Russians, men, women and children, the Straussians despise them without wishing to exterminate them, and the "revisionist Zionists" pursue other objectives.
Each of these three isolated groups represents a danger to specific populations, but all three together threaten all of humanity. They share a cult of violence and power. They have shown that they can engage in wars of extermination. All three consider that their time has come. However, not only do they have to overcome their internal oppositions, but their axis is still uncertain. For example, the Straussians have just warned the "revisionist Zionists" about the possible expansion of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.
After the Second World War, modern international law was established with the idea of countering "war propaganda" United Nations General Assembly Resolution 110 of November 3, 1947 and Resolution 381 of November 17, 1950 “Condemnation of propaganda against peace”. International legislators, i.e. sovereign states, soon agreed that war could only be fought against by ensuring the "free flow of ideas" resolution 819 of 11 December 1954 “Strengthening of peace through the removal of barriers to free exchange of ideas".
In recent years, however, we have witnessed an extraordinary backsliding that deprives us of the thoughts of others, exposes us to war propaganda, and ultimately leads us to a global conflict.
This phenomenon began with the private censorship on social networks of the incumbent president of the United States, and continued with the public censorship of Russian media in the West. Now the thoughts of others are no longer seen as a tool to prevent wars, but as a poison that threatens us.
Western states are setting up bodies to "rectify" information that they consider falsified (Fake News)“The West renounces freedom of expression”, by Thierry Meyssan. NATO is considering the creation of a unit, called Information Ramstein, which will be responsible for censoring not Russian information sources, but Russian ideas within the 30 member states of the Atlantic Alliance "A ’Ministry of Truth’ soon to be created within NATO".
This is a complete reversal of the values of the Atlantic Alliance, which was founded in the wake of the Atlantic Charter, which incorporated President Franklin Roosevelt’s "four freedoms". The first of these freedoms was the freedom of expression.
However, before the invention of the Internet, when the United States and the Soviet Union had just guaranteed the "free circulation of ideas" with the Helsinki Agreements, the United Nations and more particularly its agency in this field, UNESCO, were worried about "information imperialism". The technical superiority of the West allowed them to impose their view of the facts on developing countries.
In 1976, during the Nairobi conference, the UN raised the question of the functioning of the media with regard to "the strengthening of peace and international understanding, the promotion of human rights and the fight against racism, apartheid and incitement to war.
Former Irish Foreign Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Seán MacBride formed a 16-member commission at Unesco. It included the Frenchman Hubert Beuve-Mery (founder of Le Monde), the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez (Nobel Prize for Literature) and the Canadian Marshall McLuhan (communication theorist). The United States was represented by Elie Abel, then dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, and Russia by the director of the Tass agency, Sergei Losev. Only the fifth and final part of the report (Communication Tomorrow) was the subject of a general debate. The MacBride commission discussed the draft of the other parts, but could not question their final wording. In any event, its report, issued in 1978, seemed to be a consensus.
In fact, by pointing out that the same facts can be perceived differently and by opening up the question of the means of the media of the North and those of the South, he was opening a Pandora’s box. At the same time, Unesco was confronted with the propaganda of the South African apartheid regime and the propaganda of Israel, which denies Muslim and Christian cultures. In the end, the United States and the United Kingdom ended the debate by withdrawing from Unesco. We know today that the British Empire had ensured its intellectual domination by creating news agencies. Whitehall closed the Information Research Department (IRD) just before the MacBride report was published "Britain’s secret propaganda war, Paul Lashmar & James Oliver, Sutton". But the war against Syria has shown that the whole system has been reconstituted in another form “The fabrication of the myth of the "Syrian revolution" by the United States. Westerners continue to falsify information at its source.
In forty years, the media landscape has been transformed: the emergence of international television news channels, websites and social networks. At the same time, there has been a huge concentration of media in the hands of a few owners. However, none of the problems listed in 1978 have changed. On the contrary, with the unipolar world, they have become worse.
The journalistic profession today consists of either writing agency reports or contextualizing the news for the media. News agencies are factual and unsourced, while the media offer commentary and analysis by referring to news agencies. Contextualization requires a great deal of historical, economic and other knowledge, which today’s journalists are largely lacking. The immediacy of radio and television does not give them the time to read books and even less to consult archives, except during in-depth investigations. Commentary and analysis have thus become considerably impoverished.
The dominant ideology in the West, which tends to become "global", has become a religion without God. There are now only two camps: that of the Good and that of the apostates. Truth is determined by a consensus among the elites, while the people reject it. Any criticism is considered blasphemous. There is no more room for debate and therefore for democracy.
The alternative press has become just as poor because it relies on the same data as the international media: news agency reports. It is indeed enough to control AFP, AP and Reuters to impose a vision of the facts on us. You can season it according to this or that tendency, Republican or Democrat, conservative or progressive, etc., but it will always be the same dish.
Since the September 11 attacks, those who challenge the official version of events have been called "conspiracy theorists ». Since the election of Donald Trump, those who contest the data of press agencies are accused of distorting reality and imagining Fake News. Journalists, after refraining from relaying the thoughts of "conspiracists", i.e. dissidents, try to correct Fake News with Checked News.
Yet, at the same time, belief in the versions of the mainstream media has collapsed. In the United States, the Gallup Institute has been measuring trust in the print media since 1973 and in the broadcast media since 1993. Trust in newspapers has fallen from 51 percent to 16 percent, and trust in radio and television has fallen from 46 percent to 11 percent.
The only solution is to increase the number of news agencies, i.e. the sources of information. Not to make them numerous, but diverse. Only then will we realize that the way an event is reported determines the way we think about it.
For example, today the three news agencies mentioned above present the conflict in Ukraine as a "Russian invasion". They claim that Moscow has not been able to take Kiev and overthrow President Zelenky, but commits war crimes every day. This is one way of looking at it. We don’t have the means to publish dispatches all the time, but we publish a weekly identical bulletin. Our criterion is different. We refer to "International Law" and not to Western "rules". Therefore, we describe the same conflict as the application of the Security Council resolution 2202 and the "responsibility to protect" the oppressed populations since 2014. The events are the same, but for some the way they tell them leads to think that the Russians are wrong, while ours leads to think that the Russian position is legal. To tell the truth, there is another difference: we interpret the facts over time. For us and for the Security Council, there has been a civil war in Ukraine for eight years with 20,000 deaths, the three major agencies pretend to ignore it. For us, the "integral nationalists" have a long criminal history, having cost the lives of 4 million of their fellow citizens, the Western agencies also pretend to ignore it “Who are the Ukrainian integral nationalists?”.
This difference can be applied to all subjects. For example, the major news agencies tell us that the West has imposed sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine. We do not read events in this way. Once again, referring to "International Law" and not to Western "rules", we note that the decisions of the Anglo-Saxons and the European Union violate the UN Charter. These are not "sanctions", since there has been no judgment, but economic weapons to wage war against Russia, just as castles were besieged in the past to starve those who had taken refuge there.
Each difference in the interpretation of events provokes another. For example, when we point out that the Western pseudo-sanctions have not been endorsed by the Security Council, we are told that this is quite normal since Russia has a veto right in the Council. This is to forget why the UN was organized the way it was. Its purpose is not to say what is right, but to prevent wars. This is precisely what allowed the Council to adopt resolution 2202 to resolve the civil war in Ukraine. However, the West, despite the commitment of Germany and France, did not apply it, forcing Russia to intervene.
We could go on endlessly with this double reading. The important thing to remember is that the presentation of the facts radically changes the way they are perceived. To conclude, I invite you to found news agencies that describe the facts in their own way and not in the way of our leaders. It is in this way and not by glossing over biased information that we will regain our lucidity.
Ukraine is turning into a significantly more homogeneous and far less culturally diverse country
In recent years, Ukraine has become the battleground for a 'war of monuments' waged among various political forces. In 2014, the process reached a peak during the mass demolition of statues of Vladimir Lenin and other Soviet politicians. These events fundamentally changed the symbolism and policy of the country's historical memory, paving the way to a reality in which any public speech must now be accompanied by the words 'Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!'
This was the slogan of Stepan Bandera's World War Two nationalist movement, which collaborated with Adolf Hitler's Nazis and took part in the Holocaust.
Although Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky's team initially tried to 'reset' the historical memory policy, radical nationalism got the upper hand in this symbolic battle. Following the start of Russia's military operation, this year, the so-called 'decommunization' policy became openly known as 'de-Russification' - even with over half of the population officially recognized as Russian-speaking.
After Russian troops entered Ukraine in February, many locals projected their hatred of Moscow onto objects of cultural and historical heritage that were in any way linked to the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, politicians actively supported such sentiment, using it as a cheap way to boost their personal ratings.
Over the past months, the number of initiatives aimed at the cultural and historical 'de-Russification' of Ukraine have ballooned. Examples abound. The Kiev City Council recently renamed 11 streets having any reference to Russia (Lomonosov, Magnitogorsk, and Belomorskaya streets, among others). It also completely excluded the Russian language from the curricula of the capital's kindergartens and schools. The decision was supported by 64 out of 120 deputies. Vadim Vasilchuk, head of the Standing Committee on Education, Science, Family, Youth and Sports of the body, commented that teaching Russian in the current situation is "inappropriate." In fact, Kiev's educational institutions stopped teaching the language in any shape or form (including as electives) at the beginning of the academic year.
Meanwhile, other Ukrainian cities saw a wave of 'de-Pushkinization' sweep through. In November, monuments to the great Russian poet were toppled in Kharkov and Zhitomir, while the monument in Odessa was painted over with the inscription 'Get out!' In Kiev, one of the oldest monuments to the bard had been taken down a few weeks earlier.
The demolition of monuments to Russian and Soviet statesmen has continued as well. The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture's expert council on 'overcoming the consequences of Russification and totalitarianism' decided to demolish monuments to Soviet military commanders Nikolay Vatutin and Nikolay Shchors (even though Leonid Kravchuk - a student at the time and later the first president of Ukraine - posed for the Shchors monument).
A memorial to Soviet soldiers erected on May 8, 1970 on the 25th anniversary of victory in WWII was demolished in Uzhgorod in November. The decision dates back to October 13. In its place, Kiev proposed a memorial to the soldiers of the 128th separate mountain assault brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine - a military unit that took an active part in the Donbass war unleashed by Kiev in 2014.
The story of one monument
Perhaps the most dramatic case of 'de-Russification' unfolded in the port city of Odessa. The city's history dates back to the end of the 18th century, when the Russian Empire colonized the northern Black Sea region. In November, Odessa's mayor, Gennady Trukhanov, announced the impending demolition of one of the historical city symbols - a monument to its founders that shows Catherine the Great and her associates, thanks to whom the city became the southern capital of the Russian Empire by the end of the 19th century.
Just a few months back, the same official had opposed the initiative. Trukhanov wrote:
"I'm not in favor of taking down statues. We may remove the monuments, but history will not change. I know that a petition has been signed by 25,000 people, but I'm going to wait. After all, should I also remove the monument to [Alexander] Pushkin or [Yuri] Gagarin? It doesn't make sense."
However, activists soon sent a petition to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who instructed the police to investigate the mayor's activities.
Ukraine's Ministry of Culture supported the idea of taking down the monument to Catherine the Great, but according to the ministry's head, Aleksandr Tkachenko, the decision was to be made by local deputies, the official said. Finally, following numerous vandalism attacks on the monument (it was doused with paint, covered with inscriptions, and a red 'executioner's' hat was placed on Catherine the Great's head), the Odessa City Council decided to conduct an electronic survey to decide on its fate.
Trukhanov hastened to change his mind and said he would vote to transfer the monument to a "park of the imperial and Soviet past" that he proposed to create. Meanwhile, the deputy mayor of Odessa, Oleg Bryndak, offered to immediately install a fountain on the site.
An online vote was held in the shortest possible time. As a result, out of Odessa's population of about a million people, 2,900 residents voted for the demolition and 2,251 opposed it. The rest (i.e., over 990,000 people) abstained from the vote. Despite this, the public vote was recognized as legitimate. The city council is yet to make a final decision, but the outcome is not hard to predict. According to an announcement affixed to the wooden protective case now enclosing the bronze monument, preparations for its dismantling and transfer are already underway.
History repeats itself
Ironically, Catherine Square in central Odessa perfectly illustrates the shifts in historical heritage policies during critical periods for Ukraine. When the square was initially built, a public garden was laid out in its center. In 1873, the city's central water supply began functioning and the authorities installed a fountain on the spot. In 1891, the Odessa City Duma decided to build a monument honoring the centenary of the city's foundation. On the eve of the anniversary, a competition was held to decide on the best design project and finally in August 1894, construction officially began. The opening of the monument took place on May 6, 1900 and was timed to coincide with the centenary of the death of one of the city fathers, commander Alexander Suvorov. At an architectural conference one year later, Catherine Square with its monument to the city founders was recognized as the best integral architectural complex in Europe.
The monument was unveiled twice - first on May 6, 1900, and then on October 27, 2007. During the Russian Revolution, when the city was constantly changing hands, the authorities covered the monument and intended to take it down. Nobe**l Prize-winning author Ivan Bunin, who was in Odessa in 1919, wrote in _'The Cursed Days'_ [his diaries of the Revolution]:**
"Visited Catherine Square before dusk. Everything is gloomy and wet. The monument to Catherine the Great is wrapped from head to toe, bandaged with dirty, wet rags, entwined with ropes and plastered with red wooden stars. Opposite the monument is the Emergency Commission [the Provincial Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-revolution, Speculation, Sabotage, and Crimes of Office, known as the Odessa CHEKA - RT]. Red flags droop from the rain, their reflections flowing like blood in the wet asphalt."
Speculation on whether to keep the monument or not had given the authorities no peace since the 1917 Revolution, and as a result it was transferred to the Petrograd Art Commission. In May 1920, when Soviet power was established in Odessa, the monument was finally dismantled, leaving a bare round column and pedestal. The figures of Catherine the Great and her associates eventually ended up in the courtyard of the Museum of Local Lore thanks to the intercession of the writer Maksim Gorky.
In the 1920s, Catherine Square and street were renamed after Karl Marx. For the next two decades, the pedestal housed a sculpture of the famed 'Das Kapital' author. At one point, the authorities replaced the bust with a new, life-size monument. However, the statue fell during a sudden storm, supposedly due to the poor quality of the materials used in its construction (or so reads the official version). In 1931, a sculptural composition with the symbols of the proletariat - a hammer and sickle - was temporarily installed on the spot.
During the occupation of Odessa by Romanian troops during World War II, Romanian Prime Minister Ion Antonescu hastened to rename the square and street after Adolf Hitler, though this time without any monument. In the 1950s, the pedestal was removed from the square and once again replaced with a public garden. In 1965, on the day marking the 60th anniversary of the uprising on the battleship Potemkin, a bronze monument to the sailors was unveiled on the square. This monument stood for 42 years. Finally, in 2007, as part of a project to recreate the historical appearance of Odessa's city center, the 'Monument to the Founders of Odessa', an exact replica of the original, was returned to Catherine Square. And now the square is in for new changes as the political winds have shifted again.
A political pendulum
The fact that nationalism comprises the essence of cultural memory in many Eastern European countries and, as a result, the nation becomes its own victim, is once again confirmed by the changes across Ukraine's cultural and historical landscape. Moreover, Russia, which is being cast as a threat to independence and territorial integrity, is thus becoming a key element in the mechanism of collective memory and identity. In other words, the model of a suffering nation and the motif of an existential threat have prevailed, and it is the image of Russia's past and present that will be used in forming Ukrainian identity.
How has this become possible? When Ukraine gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its political (electoral) geography acquired stable borders and became integrated into the self-consciousness of the country's two parts. In fact, several population groups with powerful national identities emerged at the time: Ukrainian-speaking (mostly living in the western and central regions, and professing a purely ethnic narrative), Russian-speaking (mostly living in the center, south and east, for whom Russians were not 'strangers' or 'enemies'), and actual Russians.
These groups, particularly the Ukrainian speakers and Russian speakers, long had their own heritage, language, and political representation. Recall the Orange Revolution of 2004 or the Euromaidan of 2014, during which the 'pro-Ukrainian' part of society opposed the 'pro-Russian' leader Viktor Yanukovych. Who, in reality, had spent years negotiating with the EU about eventual Ukrainian membership.
Despite certain similarities between the groups, their differences were so strong that even prior to Ukraine's independence, the authorities viewed any federalization attempts as ruinous for the nation at large.
For many years, Ukraine had existed thanks to a political pendulum between its south, east and west. A sense of unity depended on two conditions: the internal and external. The internal condition was that the political elite coming to power from any part of the country would express the interests of the entire population. The external condition was to keep the country balanced between the main centers of power. Both conditions turned out to be fragile. The former depended on how Ukraine's domestic political projects were pursued, while the latter reflected the country's ability to pursue a multi-vector policy in relations with Russia and the European Union.
2014 saw the collapse of both conditions. Prior to Euromaidan, the reunification of Crimea with Russia, and the outbreak of the armed conflict in Donbass, the disagreements about the historical narrative had been moderate. This delicate balance was upset by a policy in favor of actively building a nation state. The pendulum swung violently and suddenly the whole system lost balance.
Local elites reacted in different ways. Some emigrated fearing persecution (such as former deputy of the Odessa City Council Aleksandr Vasiliev), and others became part of a nationally-minded elite (as the aforementioned mayor of Odessa, Trukhanov, who in late 2013 to early 2014 repeatedly spoke at pro-Russian rallies).
At the same time, the main battle unfolded for the loyalty of Ukraine's so-called 'moderate' residents - i.e., the Russian-speaking Ukrainians (or Russian Ukrainians, as the renowned political scientist and Kiev resident Mikhail Pogrebinsky calls himself). This group has always been the middle ground. Having much in common with the two groups, it stood apart from both. And following the start of the conflict in 2014, the attitude of this cohort towards Russia and its culture became a key point of Ukrainian politics.
A Russian east?
Most Russian-speaking Ukrainians did not consider themselves of 'different nationality' and did not propose alternative national projects (for example, a unique regional identity associated with Ukraine's southern and eastern regions as a former part of the historical cultural region of Novorossiya). Such 'denationalization' was a result of Russia's limited foreign policy in the 1990s to early 2000s and the overall socio-economic situation.
In those years, there had been no interethnic or intercultural conflicts in Ukraine because it wasn't divided between 'Russians' and 'Ukrainians'. The eventual split occurred between those who took on Ukrainian national identity and those who didn't. In other words, following the status quo change in 2014, the southern and eastern regions became a conglomerate of territories insufficiently involved in the construction of the Ukrainian nation. While the region questioned its Ukrainian identity, it also couldn't follow the example of Donbass, which proclaimed the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) - a unique model that couldn't be applied to the rest of the south and east.
Following the start of Moscow's military operation, dissociation from Russian culture and language became inevitable. At the same time, the national identity of Russian-speaking Ukrainians has also undergone major changes. What used to be a compromise that encouraged a multiethnic and multicultural model of national development became a transitional model towards acquiring a totally Ukrainian identity - both language- and culture-wise.
A few years ago, residents of Ukraine's south and east spoke Russian while recognizing themselves as Ukrainians. Now, the Russian language and its cultural and historical symbols are undergoing irreversible changes and becoming a marker of political affiliation - namely, of being pro-Russian.
Conscious of this, the authorities are striving to gain control over historical heritage and memory policies and expect to win this battle for public opinion. The current southern and eastern regions are turning into a testing ground for experimental nation-building. Their political self-determination fully depends on the historical memory and language policies. Meanwhile, nationalism offers all the necessary tools for constructing a cohesive socio-political community. That is why such a striking 'de-Russification' initiative as the demolition of the monument to Catherine the Great in Odessa will not be the last.
For many years, the main political and cultural debate in Ukrainian society has revolved around the question of preserving or eradicating its Russian and Soviet cultural heritage. In the present situation of armed conflict, supporters of the latter skillfully use public outrage to achieve their aims. Should the process continue (and there's little reason to think it won't), in a few years Ukraine will turn into a significantly more homogeneous and far less culturally diverse country - one that has willingly renounced a major part of its heritage.
About the Author:
Alexander Nepogodin is an Odessa-born political journalist, an expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union.
The German agent, thinker of Ukrainian “integral nationalism” and criminal against humanity, Dmytro Dontsov (Metipol 1883, Montreal 1973).
Like most Western political analysts and commentators, I was unaware of the existence of Ukrainian neo-Nazis until 2014. When the president-elect was overthrown, I was living in Syria at the time and thought they were violent groupings that had burst onto the public scene to assist pro-European elements. However, since the Russian military intervention, I have gradually discovered a lot of documents and information on this political movement which, in 2021, represented one third of the Ukrainian armed forces. This article presents a synthesis of it.
At the very beginning of this story, that is to say before the First World War, Ukraine was a large plain which had always been tossed between German and Russian influences. At the time, it was not an independent state, but a province of the tsarist empire. It was populated by Germans, Bulgarians, Greeks, Poles, Rumanians, Russians, Czechs, Tatars and a very large Jewish minority supposedly descended from the ancient Khazar people.
A young poet, Dmytro Dontsov, was fascinated by the avant-garde artistic movements, believing that they would help his country to escape from its social backwardness. Since the Tsarist Empire had been immobile since the death of Catherine the Great, while the German Empire was the scientific center of the West, Dontsov chose Berlin over Moscow.
When the Great War broke out, he became an agent of the German secret service. He emigrated to Switzerland, where he published, on behalf of his masters, the Bulletin of the Nationalities of Russia in several languages, calling for the uprising of the ethnic minorities of the Tsarist Empire in order to bring about its defeat. This model was chosen by the Western secret services to organize the "Forum of Free Peoples of Russia" this summer in Prague .
In 1917, the Bolshevik revolution turned the tables. Dontsov’s friends supported the Russian revolution, but he remained pro-German. In the anarchy that followed, Ukraine was divided de facto by three different regimes: the nationalists of Symon Petliura (who imposed themselves in the area held today by the Zelensky administration), the anarchists of Nestor Makhno (who organized themselves in Novorosssia, the land that had been developed by Prince Potemkin and that had never known serfdom), and the Bolsheviks (especially in the Donbass). The war cry of Petliura’s followers was "Death to the Jews and Bolsheviks". They perpetrated numerous murderous pogroms.
Dmytro Dontsov returned to Ukraine before the German defeat and became the protégé of Symon Petliura. He participated briefly in the Paris peace conference but, for some unknown reason, did not remain in his delegation. In Ukraine, he helped Petliura to ally with Poland to crush the anarchists and Bolsheviks. After the capture of Kiev by the Bolsheviks, Petliura and Dontsov negotiated the Treaty of Warsaw (April 22, 1920): the Polish army undertook to push back the Bolsheviks and to liberate Ukraine in exchange for Galicia and Volhynia (exactly as the Zelensky administration is negotiating today the entry of Poland into the war against the same lands ). This new war was a fiasco.
Vladimir Jabotinsky, born in Odessa, thinker of "revisionist Zionism". For him Israel was "a land without a people, for a People without a land">.
To strengthen his side, Petliura secretly negotiated with the founder of the Jewish battalions in the British army (the "Jewish Legion") and now administrator of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), Vladimir Jabotinsky. In September 1921, the two men agreed to unite against the Bolsheviks in exchange for Petliura’s commitment to forbid his troops to continue their pogroms. The Jewish Legion was to become the "Jewish Gendarmerie. However, despite his efforts, Petliura did not succeed in pacifying his troops, especially as his close collaborator Dontsov was still encouraging the massacre of Jews. Finally, when the agreement was revealed, the World Zionist Organization rebelled against the Petliura regime. On January 17, 1923, the WZO set up a commission to investigate Jabotinsky’s activities. Jabotinsky refused to come and explain himself and resigned from his position.
Simon Petliura took over northern Ukraine. Protector of the "integral nationalists", he sacrificed Galicia and Volhynia to fight the Russians.
Petliura fled to Poland and then to France, where he was murdered by a Jewish anarchist from Bessarabia (now Transnistria). During the trial, the latter assumed his crime and pleaded to have avenged the hundreds of thousands of Jews murdered by the troops of Petliura and Dontsov. The trial had a great impact. The court acquitted the murderer. The League against Pogroms, later Licra (International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism), was founded on this occasion.
Not only were the nationalists defeated, but the anarchists as well. Everywhere the Bolsheviks triumphed and chose, not without debate, to join the Soviet Union.
Dmytro Dontsov published literary magazines that fascinated the youth. He continued to promote a Central Europe dominated by Germany and became closer to Nazism as it rose. He soon referred to his doctrine as Ukrainian "integral nationalism ". In doing so, he referred to the French poet, Charles Maurras. Indeed, the logic of both men was initially identical: they sought in their own culture the means to affirm a modern nationalism. However, Maurras was a Germanophobe, while Dontsov was a Germanophile. The expression "integral nationalism" is still claimed today by Dontov’s followers, who, after the fall of the Third Reich, are careful to refute the term "Nazism" with which the Russians describe it, not without reason.
According to him, "Ukrainian nationalism" is characterized by:
"the affirmation of the will to live, power, expansion" (it promotes "The right of strong races to organize peoples and nations to strengthen the existing culture and civilization")
"the desire to fight and the awareness of its extremity" (he praises the "creative violence of the initiative minority").
Its qualities are:
Finally, turning his back on his past, Dontsov became an unconditional admirer of the Führer, Adolf Hitler. His followers had founded, in 1929, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) around Colonel Yevhen Konovalets. Konovalets called Dontsov "the spiritual dictator of the youth of Galicia". However, a quarrel arose between Dontsov and another intellectual about his extremism that led to war against all, when Konovalets was suddenly murdered. The OUN (financed by the German secret service) then split in two. The "integral nationalists" reserved for themselves the OUN-B, named after Dontsov’s favorite disciple, Stepan Bandera.
In 1932-33, the Bolshevik political commissars, who were mostly Jewish, levied a tax on crops, as in other regions of the Soviet Union. Combined with significant and unpredictable climatic hazards, this policy caused a huge famine in several regions of the USSR, including the Ukraine. It is known as "Holodomor". Contrary to what the nationalist historian Lev Dobrianski says, it was not a plan for the extermination of Ukrainians by the Russians, since other Soviet regions suffered, but an inadequate management of public resources in times of climate change. Lev Dobrianski’s daughter, Paula Dobrianski, became one of President George W. Bush’s aides. She led a merciless struggle to have historians who did not adhere to her father’s propaganda excluded from Western universities .
In 1934, Bandera organized, as a member of the Nazi secret service and head of the OUN-B, the assassination of the Polish Minister of the Interior, Bronisław Pieracki.
From 1939, members of the OUN-B, forming a military organization, the UPA, were trained in Germany by the German army, and then still in Germany, but by their Japanese allies. Stepan Bandera offered Dmytro Dontsov to become the leader of their organization, but the intellectual refused, preferring to play the role of a leader rather than an operational commander.
The "integral nationalists" admired the invasion of Poland, in application of the German-Soviet pact. As Henry Kissinger, who could not be suspected of pro-Sovietism, demonstrated, it was not a question of the USSR annexing Poland, but of neutralizing part of it in order to prepare for the confrontation with the Reich. On the contrary, for Chancellor Hitler, it was a question of beginning the conquest of a "vital space" in Central Europe.
From the beginning of the Second World War, under the guidance of Dmytro Dontsov, the OUN-B fought alongside the Nazi armies against the Jews and the Soviets.
The collaboration between the Ukrainian "integral nationalists" and the Nazis continued with constant massacres of the majority of the Ukrainian population, accused of being Jews or Communists, until the "liberation" of Ukraine by the Third Reich in the summer of 1941 to the cry of "Slava Ukraїni!" (Glory to Ukraine), the war cry used today by the Zelensky administration and the US Democrats. At that time, the "integral nationalists" proclaimed "independence" from the Soviet Union in the presence of Nazi representatives and Greek Orthodox clergy, not in Kiev, but in Lviv, on the model of the Hlinka Guard in Slovakia and the Ustasha in Croatia. They formed a government under the leadership of Providnyk (guide) Stepan Bandera, whose friend Yaroslav Stetsko was Prime Minister. Their support in Ukraine is estimated at 1.5 million people. That is, the "integral nationalists" have always been in the minority.
Celebration of independent Ukraine with Nazi dignitaries. Behind the speakers, the three portraits displayed are those of Stepan Bandera, Adolf Hitler and Yevhen Konovalets.
The Nazis were divided between the Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine, Erich Koch, for whom the Ukrainians were subhuman, and the Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Alfred Rosenberg, for whom the "integral nationalists" were true allies. Finally, on July 5, 1941, Bandera was deported to Berlin and placed under Ehrenhaft (honorable captivity), i.e., under house arrest as a high-ranking official. However, after the members of OUN-B murdered the leaders of the rival faction, OUN-M, the Nazis sanctioned Stepan Bandera and his organization on September 13, 1941. 48 of their leaders were deported to a prison camp in Auschwitz (which was not yet an extermination camp, but only a prison). The OUN-B was reorganized under German command. At that time all Ukrainian nationalists took the following oath: "Faithful son of my Fatherland, I voluntarily join the ranks of the Ukrainian Liberation Army, and with joy I swear that I will faithfully fight Bolshevism for the honor of the people. This fight we are waging together with Germany and its allies against a common enemy. With loyalty and unconditional submission I believe in Adolf Hitler as the leader and supreme commander of the Liberation Army. At any time I am prepared to give my life for the truth.
The oath of loyalty to Führer Adolf Hitler by members of the OUN.
The Nazis announced that many bodies had been discovered in the prisons, victims of "Bolshevik Jews. So the "integral nationalists" celebrated their "independence" by murdering more than 30,000 Jews and actively participating in the roundup of Jews from Kiev to Babi Yar, where 33,771 of them were shot in two days, on September 29 and 30, 1941, by the Einsatzgruppen of SS Reinhard Heydrich.
In this tumult, Dmytro Dontsov disappeared. In reality, he had gone to Prague and placed himself at the service of the architect of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich, who had just been appointed vice-governor of Bohemia-Moravia. Heydrich organized the Wannsee Conference, which planned the "Final Solution of the Jewish and Gypsy Questions" . He then created the Reinard Heydrich Institute in Prague to coordinate the systematic extermination of all these populations in Europe. The Ukrainian Dontsov, who now lived in Prague in great luxury, immediately became its administrator. He was one of the main architects of the largest massacre in history. Heydrich was assassinated in June 1942, but Dontsov retained his functions and privileges.
Reinhard Heydrich speaking at Prague Castle. He was in charge of managing Bohemia-Moravia. However, his real function was to coordinate the "final solution" of Jewish and Gypsy questions. Dmytro Dontsov joined his team in 1942 and oversaw massacres across Europe until the fall of the Reich. Prague Castle was the scene of the meeting of the European Political Community against Russia last October.
Stepan Bandera and his deputy Yaroslav Stetsko were placed under house arrest at the headquarters of the General Inspectorate of Concentration Camps in Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen (30 km from Berlin). They wrote letters to their supporters and to the Reich leadership in complete freedom and were not deprived of anything. In September 1944, as the Reich army retreated and Bandera’s followers began to rebel against it, the two leaders were released by the Nazis and reinstated in their previous positions. Bandera and Stetsko resumed the armed struggle, among the Nazis, against the Jews and the Bolsheviks.
Centuria Integral Nationalist Order Ceremony. According to George Washington University, by 2021 it had already penetrated the main NATO armies.
But it was already too late. The Reich collapsed. The Anglo-Saxons got Dontsov, Bandera and Stetsko. The theorist of integral nationalism was transferred to Canada, while the two practitioners of mass murder were transferred to Germany. MI6 and the OSS (predecessor of the CIA) rewrote their biographies, making their Nazi involvement and responsibility for the "Final Solution" disappear.
Stepan Bandera during his exile, celebrating the memory of Yevhen Konovalets.
Bandera and Stetsko were installed in Munich to organize the Anglo-Saxon stay-behind networks in the Soviet Union. From 1950 onwards, they had an important radio station, Radio Free Europe, which they shared with the Muslim Brotherhood of Said Ramadan (the father of Tariq Ramadan). The radio station was sponsored by the National Committee for a Free Europe, a CIA offshoot of which its director Alan Dulles was a member, as well as future president Dwight Eisenhower, newspaper magnate Henry Luce and film director Cecil B. DeMilles. Psychological warfare specialist and future patron of the Straussians, Charles D. Jackson, was chairman.
Vladimir Jabotinsky, for his part, after living in Palestine, took refuge in New York. He was joined by Benzion Netanyahu (the father of the current Israeli Prime Minister). The two men wrote the doctrinal texts of "revisionist Zionism" and the Jewish Encyclopedia.
Bandera and Stetsko moved around a lot. They organized sabotage operations throughout the Soviet Union, particularly in the Ukraine, and parachuted leaflets. For this purpose, they created the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), which brought together their Central European counterparts . The British double agent, Kim Philby, informed the Soviets in advance about the actions of the Bandera. Bandera met with Dontsov in Canada and asked him to take the lead in the struggle. Once again, the intellectual refused, preferring to devote himself to his writing. He then drifted into a mystical delirium inspired by Viking myths. He announced the final battle of the Ukrainian knights against the Russian dragon. As for Bandera, he allied himself with the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek whom he met in 1958. But he was assassinated the following year by the KGB in Munich.
Funeral of Criminal Against Humanity, Stepan Bandera.
Chiang Kai-Shek and Yaroslav Stetsko at the founding of the World Anti-Communist League.
Yaroslav Stetsko continued the struggle through Radio Free Europe and the ABN. He went to the United States to testify before Senator Joseph MacCarthy’s Commission on Un-American Activities. In 1967, he and Chiang Kai-shek founded the World Anti-Communist League . The League included many pro-US dictators from around the world and two schools of torture, in Panama and Taiwan. Klaus Barbie, who assassinated Jean Moulin in France and Che Guevara in Bolivia, was a member. In 1983, Stetsko was received at the White House by President Ronald Reagan and participated, along with Vice President George Bush Sr., in Lev Dobrianski’s "Captive Nations" (i.e., peoples occupied by the Soviets) ceremonies. He finally died in 1986.
But the story does not end there. His wife, Slava Stetsko, took over the leadership of these organizations. She too travelled the world to support any fight against the "communists", or rather, if we refer to Dontsov’s writings, against the Russians and the Chinese. When the USSR was dissolved, Mrs. Stetsko simply changed the title of the League to the World League for Freedom and Democracy, a name it still has today. She then devoted herself to regaining a foothold in Ukraine.
Slava Stetsko ran in the first elections of the independent Ukraine in 1994. She was elected to the Verkhovna Rada, but having been stripped of her nationality by the Soviets, she could not sit. However, she brought the Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma, to the CIA offices in Munich and dictated parts of the new constitution to him. Even today, Article 16 of the new constitution states: "Preserving the genetic heritage of the Ukrainian people is the responsibility of the state. Thus, Nazi racial discrimination is still proclaimed by modern Ukraine as in the worst moments of World War II.
Slava Stetsko opening the 2002 session of the Verkhovna Rada.
Slava Stetsko was re-elected at the next two sessions. She solemnly presided over the opening sessions on March 19, 1998 and on May 14, 2002.
In 2000, Lev Dobriansky organized a large symposium in Washington with many Ukrainian officials. He invited Straussian Paul Wolfowitz (a former collaborator of Charles D. Jackson). During this meeting, the "integral nationalists" put themselves at the service of the Straussians to destroy Russia .
Dmitro Yarosh when founding the Anti-Imperialist Front against Russia with the jihadists. He is now special adviser to the head of the Ukrainian armies.
On May 8, 2007, in Ternopol, on the initiative of the CIA, the "integral nationalists" of the Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense and Islamists created an anti-Russian "Anti-Imperialist Front" under the joint chairmanship of the Emir of Itchkeria, Dokka Umarov, and Dmytro Yarosh (the current special adviser to the head of the Ukrainian army). The meeting was attended by organizations from Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Russia, including Islamist separatists from Crimea, Adygea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Ossetia and Chechnya. Dokka Umarov, who was unable to go there due to international sanctions, had his contribution read out. In retrospect, the Crimean Tatars are unable to explain their presence at this meeting, if not their past service to the CIA against the Soviets.
The pro-US president, Viktor Yushchenko, created a Dmytro Dontsov Institute, following the "Orange Revolution". Yushchenko is an example of Anglo-Saxon whitewashing. He has always claimed to have no connection with the mainstream nationalists, but his father, Andrei, was a guard in a Nazi extermination camp . The Dmytro Dontsov Institute would be closed in 2010, and then reopened after the 2014 coup.
President Viktor Yushchenko, shortly before the end of his term of office, elevated the criminal against humanity Stepan Bandera to the title of "Hero of the Nation".
In 2011, the mainstream nationalists succeeded in passing a law banning the commemoration of the end of World War II because it was won by the Soviets and lost by the Banderists. But President Viktor Yanukovych refused to enact it. Enraged, the "integral nationalists" attacked the procession of Red Army veterans, beating up old men. Two years later, the cities of Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk abolished the Victory Day ceremonies and banned all manifestations of joy.
In 2014, Ukrainians in Crimea and Donbass refused to recognize the coup government. Crimea, which had declared itself independent before the rest of Ukraine, reaffirmed its independence a second time and joined the Russian Federation. The Donbass sought a compromise. The "Ukrainian nationalists," led by President Petro Poroshenko, stopped providing public services there and bombed its population. In eight years, they murdered at least 16,000 of their fellow citizens in general indifference.
It was also from the 2014 coup that the full nationalist militias were incorporated into the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In their internal regulations, they enjoin each fighter to read the works of Dmytro Dontsov, including his master book, Націоналізм (Nationalism).
In April 2015, the Verkhovna Rada declared members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) "independence fighters." The law was enacted, in December 2018, by President Poroshenko. Former Waffen SS were retrospectively entitled to a pension and all sorts of benefits. The same law criminalized any claim that OUN militants and UPA fighters collaborated with the Nazis and practiced ethnic cleansing of Jews and Poles. Published in Ukraine, this article would send me to jail for writing it and you for reading it.
Inauguration of a commemorative plaque of the Criminal Against Humanity Dmytro Dontsov on the facade of the state news agency Ukrinform. During the ceremony, the general director of Ukrinform assured that Dontsov had founded, in 1918, the first Ukrainian press agency, UTA, of which Ukrinform is the successor.
On July 1, 2021, President Volodymyr Zelenski enacted the Law "On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine" which places them under the protection of Human Rights. By default, citizens of Russian origin can no longer invoke them in court.
In February 2022, the "full nationalist" militias, which made up one-third of the country’s armed forces, planned a coordinated invasion of Crimea and the Donbass. They were stopped by the Russian military operation to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2202 to end the suffering of the people of Donbass.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland demonstrates her support for President Zelensky with members of the Canadian branch of the OUN. Today, Ms. Freeland is a candidate for the General Secretariat of NATO.
In March 2022, Israeli Prime Minister Nafatali Bennett, breaking with the "revisionist Zionism" of Benjamin Netanyahu (the son of Jabotinsky’s secretary), suggested to President Volodymyr Zelensky that he should agree with Russian demands and denazify his country . Emboldened by this unexpected support, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dared to mention the case of the Jewish Ukrainian president, saying: "The Jewish people in their wisdom have said that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews. Every family has its black sheep, as they say." This was too much for the Israelis, who always worry when someone tries to divide them. His counterpart at the time, Yair Lapid, recalled that the Jews themselves never organized the Holocaust of which they were victims. Caught between its conscience and its alliances, the Hebrew state repeated its support for Ukraine, but refused to send it any weapons. In the end, the General Staff decided and the Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, closed any possibility of support to the successors of the mass murderers of Jews.
Ukrainians are the only nationalists who are not fighting for their people or their land, but for one idea: to annihilate the Jews and the Russians.
– Ukrainian Nationalism in the age of extremes. An intllectual biography of Dmytro Dontsov, Trevor Erlacher, Harvard University Press (2021).
– Stepan Bandera, The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist. Fascism, Genocide, and Cult, Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, Ibidem (2014).
titre documents joints
Selon le rapport de l’IERES de l’Université George Washington (2021), l’Ordre Centuria a déjà pénétré les armées en Allemagne, au Canada, en France, en Pologne, au Royaume-Uni et aux États-Unis
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Intellectual curiosity can takes us in unexpected directions. This particular journey started with my learning that the word “Cajun” is a contraction of “Canadian”.
Nine years after Culloden, 300 British troops under Lt Col John Winslow entered the town of Grand Pre in Acadia, Nova Scotia. They constructed a palisade fort which enclosed both the church and cemetery. They then summoned all males aged ten and over to the church to hear a proclamation. Disarmed and surrounded, the Acadians were all registered, then told they were to be deported immediately.
Here is that register. Remember many of these were children as young as ten years old. About a quarter did not survive the brutal deportation.
[788 names listed]
In the next year 40% of the 15,000 population of Acadia were forcefully deported, deliberately dispersed to British colonies around the globe, in such dreadful conditions that over 1,200 died on the journeys. Males over ten, and females and small children, were bundled into separated random groups and those groups sent off to different destinations.
In Grand Pre itself, the British troops burnt down the church and destroyed the homes, and then smashed the system of dykes and sluices that the Acadians had built for their highly productive agricultural system.
Almost all of the remaining Acadians were dispersed over the next few years. Traveling through the wilds, some who left “voluntarily” eventually found their way to Louisiana. Hence “Cajun”. In 1758 it was made illegal in Nova Scotia for Catholics to own land. In 1759 a further Act was passed:
“An Act for the Quieting of Possessions to the Protestant Grantees of the Lands, formerly occupied by the French Inhabitants, and for preventing vexatious Actions relating to the same.” The legislation prohibited “any troublesome or vexatious Suits of Law” by Acadians trying to recover their lands and made it illegal for any courts in the province to hear cases brought “for the Recovery of any Lands” by “the former French Inhabitants.”
The preamble to Act recounted the “Manifest Treasons and Rebellions” of the Acadians against a British crown to which they had never in truth had the slightest duty of allegiance.
The Acadians had arrived in modern Nova Scotia from 1608. There were three unusual things about them.
i) From the start they had been focused on land reclamation in the coastal marshlands, rather than moving inland cutting down forests for agricultural land as was the prevalent pattern across North America. Historians have calculated they reclaimed in total 5,261 hectares of land. Their achievements in land reclamation were quite startling, especially as in the Grand Pre marsh they were dealing with tidal flows in the Bay of Fundy of over 15 metres, said to be the world’s highest.
Acadian reclaimed marshland at the town of Saint Pre
Modern scholarship has emphasised that their land reclamation skills were brought with then from the Western French seaboard, and then developed in a local vernacular. The unique feature of Acadian land reclamation, as opposed to French or Dutch, is that it was a communal effort and not dependent on central finance and hierarchical organisation. That is because of their second special feature:
ii) The Acadians arrived as individuals or families with no hierarchy. They acknowledged no nobility and crucially they did not acknowledge any Crown. Occasionally they were obliged temporarily to pay lip service to the French or British crown when military forces passed through, but until their deportation they were never successfully subjected to any central authority.
iii) They enjoyed consistently friendly relationships with the local Mik’maq nation and intermarried without apparent prejudice on either side, developing a large Creole component. Historians have generally explained this as due to Acadian agriculture being on reclaimed land and thus not competing for resources. However that ignores the fact the salt marshes they were reclaiming were themselves a very valuable source of food for the Mik’maq – birds and eggs, fish shellfish and crustaceans, samphire etc.
I rather tend to the view that it was the lack of hierarchy and crown allegiance that also led to good relationships with the native people. The Acadians made no claim to conquer the land, impose a new king or create a state. They were just settling non-aggressive farming communities.
Historians are at pains to counter the idyllic portrait of the Acadians. We are told they were very poor, lived in squalid conditions, tended to inbreed, left no cultural legacy and were often led by their Catholic priests. There is validity in all those points, but in the historical context such criticisms cannot help but come over badly. The imperfections of a society do not justify genocide.
In reading about the Acadians, I was struck by this passage:
“When the first New England colonists came to Nova Scotia five years after the Acadians were expelled, they encountered a landscape littered with bleached bones of livestock and burned ruins of houses.”
Anyone who has hill walked in the Highlands of Scotland knows just how frequently you come across the low walls of the base of old homes, often grouped together in small settlements, and sometimes in desolate moor many miles from the nearest habitation or cultivated land. These of course date from the Highland Clearances, some contemporary with the genocide of the Acadians.
One obvious fact had leapt out at me since childhood. The depopulation of the Highlands was a political choice, and the vast managed hunting estates were perfectly capable of supporting large populations through livestock and arable in the past. The notion they can only sustain grouse and small numbers of deer is evidently nonsense.
I am currently researching a biography of the Jacobite General George Murray, and was looking at a journey he took from Blair Atholl to Braemar. There is absolutely no public road there any more – not within twenty miles of most of his route – and the places he stayed including manses seem to be wiped from the map. There was a population – indeed he later raised troops there.
Go to google maps, trace a straight line Blair Atholl to Braemar (yes, obviously you can get there the long way round) and see what you can find today in the middle. But this is not wilderness, it is completely habitable and was populated.
I could recount a thousand or more atrocities across the history of the British Empire as bad as the Acadian genocide. Many are completely forgotten, like the massacre of the Murree tribe in Balochistan under a flag of truce, or the Sierra Leone Hut Tax war. Some are startlingly recent, like the Chagos Islands. But I recount the Acadian story because of its resonance to the Scottish Highlands, with that justification of treason and rebellion, and because of the furious denial in recent days after Scottish colonisation was asserted in the House of Commons.
The tone of much of that reaction is essentially that white people were not the victims of Empire. Well, I give you the Acadians. It is also worth pointing out the very basic fact that there was never the kind of expulsion and depopulation anywhere in England that occurred in both Scotland and Ireland. What happened to the Gael was much worse than effects of agricultural enclosure.
It is Armistice Day today and Remembrance Sunday shortly. What was in my childhood an occasion for reflection, grief and thanksgiving for peace has been turned into an orgy of militarism.
We are supposed to think of those who “gloriously” gave their lives for Britain, perhaps while shooting up Afghan civilians in a village or destroying the infrastructure of Iraq. Have a look through that list of names from the town of Grand Pre, and wonder which ones were ten year old boys separated from their mothers. Ponder which died on their hideous deportation journeys. The victims of Empire deserve remembrance too.
Please read this story, and note your reaction. Then read Expulsion of the Acadians - Wikipedia; Does knowing more context affect your judgment of these events?
Propaganda makes you stupid. We know that the Ukrainian integral nationalists have committed abominable massacres, especially during the Second World War. But we don’t know what they have been doing on our doorstep for the last thirty years, including the civil war they have been waging for the last eight years. Our own stupidity allows us to endure the war cries of our political leaders on the side of these criminals.
Voltaire Network | Paris (France) | 27 October 2022
Slava Stetsko, the widow of Nazi Prime Minister Yaroslav Stetsko, opened the 1998 and 2002 sessions of the Verkhovna Rada.
When war comes, governments always believe that they must boost the morale of their people by showering them with propaganda. The stakes are so high, life and death, that debates get tougher and extremist positions become popular. This is exactly what we are witnessing, or rather how we are being transformed. In this game, the ideas defended by some and others have nothing to do with their ideological presuppositions, but with their proximity to power
In the etymological sense, propaganda is just the art of convincing, of propagating ideas. But in modern times, it is an art that aims at reconstructing reality in order to denigrate the adversary and magnify one’s own troops.
Contrary to a widespread idea in the West, it was not the Nazis or the Soviets who invented it, but the British and the Americans during the First World War 1.
Today, Nato coordinates efforts in this area from its Strategic Communication Centre in Riga, Latvia 2. It identifies the points on which it wants to act and organizes international programs to carry them out.
For example, NATO has identified Israel as a weak point: while former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a personal friend of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his successor, Naftali Bennett, recognized the validity of Russian policy. He even advised the return of Crimea and Donbass and, above all, the denazification of Ukraine. The current Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, is more hesitant. He does not want to support the fundamentalist nationalists who massacred a million Jews shortly before and during the Second World War. But he also wants to stay on good terms with the West.
To bring Israel back into line, Nato is trying to persuade Tel Aviv that in case of a Russian victory, Israel would lose its position in the Middle East 3. To this end, it is spreading the lie that Iran is Russia’s military ally as widely as possible. The international press is constantly claiming that Russian drones are Iranian on the battlefield, and soon the medium-range missiles will be too. Yet Moscow knows how to manufacture these weapons and has never asked Tehran for them. Russia and Iran have repeatedly denied these allegations. But Western politicians, relying on the press and not on mere reflection, have already imposed sanctions on Iranian arms dealers. Soon Yair Lapid, son of the president of the Yad Vashem memorial, will be surrounded and forced to side with the criminals.
The British, on the other hand, traditionally excel in activating networked media and enlisting artists. MI6 relies on a group of 150 news agencies working within the PR Network 4. They convince all these companies to take up their imputations and slogans.
The founder of Ukrainian integral nationalism, Dmytro Dontsov, had an obsessive hatred of Jews and Gypsies. During the World War, he left Ukraine to become a director of the Reinhard Heydrich Institute. It was this institution, based in Czechoslovakia, that was responsible for planning the extermination of all Jews and Gypsies at the Wannsee Conference. He ended his days peacefully in the United States.
They are the ones who successively convinced you that President Vladimir Putin was dying, then that he had gone mad, or that he was facing strong opposition at home and that he would be overthrown by a coup. Their work continues today with cross interviews with soldiers in Ukraine. You hear Ukrainian soldiers say they are nationalists and Russian soldiers say they are afraid but must defend Russia. You hear that Ukrainians are not Nazis and that Russians, living under a dictatorship, are forced to fight. In reality, most Ukrainian soldiers are not "nationalists" in the sense of defenders of their homeland, but "integral nationalists" in the sense of two poets, Charles Maurras and Dmytro Dontsov 5. This is not the same thing at all.
It was only in 1925 that Pope Pius XI condemned "integral nationalism". At that time Dontsov had already written his Націоналізм (Nationalism) (1921). Maurras and Dontsov defined the nation as a tradition and thought their nationalism against others (Maurras against Germans and Dontsov against Russians). Both abhorred the French Revolution, the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and denounced Jews and Freemasons relentlessly. They consider religion as useful for the organization of society, but seem agnostic. These positions lead Maurras to become a Petainist and Dontsov a Hitlerian. The latter will sink into a varègue (Swedish Viking) mystical delirium. The next pope, Pius XII, repealed the condemnation of his predecessor, just before the war broke out. At the liberation, Maurras was condemned for intelligence with the enemy (he was a Germanophobe), but Dontsov was recuperated by the Anglo-Saxon secret services and exiled to Canada, then to the USA.
As for the Russian soldiers we see interviewed on our TV news, they do not tell us that they are forced to fight, but, unlike the integral nationalists, they are not fanatics. For them, war, even when defending their own, is always a horror. It is because we are repeatedly told that Russia is a dictatorship that we understand something else. We do not accept that Russia is a democracy because, for us, a democracy cannot be an authoritarian regime. Yet, for example, the Second French Republic (1848-1852) was both a democracy and an authoritarian regime.
We are easy to convince because we know nothing about Ukrainian history and culture. The most we know is that Novorossia was ruled by a French aristocrat, Armand-Emmanuel du Plessis de Richelieu, a personal friend of Tsar Alexander I. He continued the work of the Prince of Ukraine. He continued the work of Prince Grigori Potemkin who wanted to build this region on the model of Athens and Rome, which explains why today Novorossia is still of Russian culture (and not Ukrainian) without ever having known serfdom.
The Bibi Yar memorial in Kiev. 33 771 Jewish Ukrainians were shot in two days, on September 29 and 30, 1941, by the Ukrainian Waffen SS and Reinhard Heydrich’s Einsatzgruppen. This massacre was celebrated as a victory by the mainstream nationalists. Today, the Ukrainian government has named the main avenue leading to it after the integral nationalist Stepan Bandera, "in honor" of the greatest criminal in its history.
A few months after his election, on May 6, 1995, Leonid Kushma, the second president of the new Ukraine, went to Munich to meet with Slava Stetsko, the widow of the Ukrainian Nazi prime minister. He agreed to the introduction of an explicit reference to Nazism in the new constitution: "preserving the genetic heritage of the Ukrainian people is the responsibility of the state" (sic).
We are unaware of the atrocities in Ukraine of the interwar period and the Second World War, and have a vague idea of the violence of the USSR. We ignore that the theoretician Dontsov and his disciple Stepan Bandera did not hesitate to massacre all those who did not correspond to their "integral nationalism", first the Jews in this Khazar country, then the Russians and the Communists, the anarchists of Nestor Makhno, and many others. The "integral nationalists", who had become admirers of the Führer and deeply racist, returned to the forefront with the dissolution of the USSR 6. On May 6, 1995, President Leonid Kuchma went to Munich (to the CIA offices) to meet with the leader of the integral nationalists, Steva Stesko, the widow of the Nazi prime minister. She had just been elected to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament), but had not been able to take her seat because she had been stripped of her Ukrainian citizenship. A month later, Ukraine adopted its current constitution, which states in its Article 16 that "preserving the genetic heritage of the Ukrainian people is the responsibility of the state" (sic). Subsequently, the same Steva Stetsko twice opened the session of the Rada, concluding her speeches with the war cry of the integral nationalists: "Glory to Ukraine!
Modern Ukraine has patiently built its Nazi regime. After proclaiming the "genetic heritage of the Ukrainian people", it enacted various laws. The first one grants the benefit of human rights by the state only to Ukrainians, not to foreigners. The second defines who the majority of Ukrainians are, and the third (enacted by President Zelensky) who the minorities are. The trick is that no law speaks about Russian speakers. Therefore, by default, the courts do not recognize them the benefit of human rights.
Since 2014, a civil war has pitted the integral nationalists against the Russian-speaking populations, mainly those of Crimea and Donbass. 20,000 deaths later, the Russian Federation, applying its "responsibility to protect," launched a special military operation to implement Security Council Resolution 2202 (Minsk Agreements) and end the martyrdom of Russian speakers.
President Zelensky and his friend, Benjamin Netanyahu. The latter is now making support for Ukraine his main election campaign theme. Netanyahu is the son of the private secretary of Zeev Jabotinsky, a Ukrainian figure who allied with the mainstream nationalists against the Bolsheviks. He tried to put the Ukrainian Jewish community at the service of these anti-Semites, but was unanimously denounced within the World Zionist Organization, of which he became a director.
Nato propaganda tells us about the real sufferings of the Ukrainians, but it does not mention the eight years of torture, murder and massacres that preceded it. It talks about "our common values with Ukrainian democracy", but what values do we share with the integral nationalists and where is the democracy in Ukraine?
We do not have to choose between one or the other, but only to defend peace and therefore the Minsk Agreements and resolution 2202.
War drives us crazy. There is a reversal of values. The most extremist triumph. Some of our ministers speak of "stifling Russia" (sic). We do not see that we are supporting the very ideas we believe we are fighting against.
The U.S. and North Korea are on the brink of hostilities that if begun would almost certainly lead to a nuclear exchange. This is the expressed judgment of most competent observers. They differ over the causes of this confrontation and over the size, range and impact of the weapons that would be fired, but no one can doubt that even a “limited” nuclear exchange would have horrifying effects throughout much of the world including North America.
A Korean girl carries her brother on her back, trudging past a stalled M-26 tank, at Haengju, Korea., June 9, 1951. (U.S. military photo)
So how did we get to this point, what are we now doing and what could be done to avoid what would almost certainly be the disastrous consequences of even a “limited” nuclear war?
The media is replete with accounts of the latest pronouncements and events, but both in my personal experience in the closest we ever came to a nuclear disaster, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and from studying many other “flash points,” I have learned that failure to appreciate the background and sequence of events makes one incapable of understanding the present and so is apt to lead to self-defeating actions. With this warning in mind, I will recount in Part 1 how we and the Koreans got to where we are. Then in Part 2, I will address how we might go to war, what that would mean and what we can do to stay alive.
Throughout most of its history, Korea regarded China as its teacher. It borrowed from China Confucianism, its concepts of law, its canons of art and its method of writing. For these, it usually paid tribute to the Chinese emperor.
With Japan, relations were different. Armed with the then weapon of mass destruction, the musket, Japan invaded Korea in 1592 and occupied it with more than a quarter of a million soldiers. The Koreans, armed only with bows and arrows, were beaten into submission. But, because of events in Japan, and particularly the decision to give up the gun, the Japanese withdrew in less than a decade and left Korea on its own.
Nominally unified under one kingdom, Korean society was already divided between the Puk-in or “people of the North” and the Nam-in or “people of the South.” How significant this division was in practical politics is unclear, but apparently it played a role in thwarting attempts at reform and in keeping the country isolated from outside influences. It also weakened the country and facilitated the second intrusion of the Japanese. In search of iron ore for their nascent industry, they “opened” the country in 1876. Hot on the Japanese trail came the Americans who established diplomatic relations with the Korean court in 1882.
American missionaries, most of whom doubled as merchants, followed the flag. Christianity often came in the guise of commerce. Missionary-merchants lived apart from Koreans in segregated American-style towns, much as the British had done in India earlier in the century. They seldom met with the natives except to trade. Unlike their counterparts in the Middle East, the Americans were not noted for “good works.” They spent more time selling goods than teaching English, repairing bodies or proselytizing; so while Koreans admired their wares all but a few clung to Confucian ways.
It was to China rather than to America that Koreans turned for protection against the Japanese “rising sun.” As they grew more powerful and began their outward thrust, the Japanese moved to end the Korean relationship to China. In 1894, the Japanese invaded Korea, captured its king and installed a “friendly” government. Then, as a sort of byproduct of their 1904-1905 war with Russia, the Japanese seized control, and, in accord with the policies of all Western governments, they took up “the White Man’s burden.” American politicians and statesmen, led by Theodore Roosevelt, found it both inevitable and beneficial that Japan turned Korea into a colony. For the next 35 years, the Japanese ruled Korea much as the British ruled India and the French ruled Algeria.
A map of the Korean Peninsula showing the 38th Parallel where the DMZ was established in 1953. (Wikipedia)
If the Japanese were brutal, as they certainly were, and exploitive, as they also were, so were the other colonial powers. And, like other colonial peoples, as they gradually became politically sensitive, the Koreans began to react. Over time, they saw the Japanese intruders not as the carriers of the “white man’s burden” but as themselves the burden. Some Koreans reacted by fleeing.
Best known among them was Syngman Rhee. Converted to Christianity by American missionaries, he went to the West. After a torturous career as an exile, he was allowed by the American military authorities at the end of the Second World War to become (South) Korea’s first president.
But most of those who fled the Japanese found havens in Russian-influenced Manchuria. The best known of these “Eastern” exiles, Kim Il-sung, became an anti-Japanese guerrilla and joined the Communist Party. At the same time Syngman Rhee arrived in the American-controlled South, Kim Il-sung became the leader of the Soviet-supported North. There he founded the ruling “dynasty” of which his grandson Kim Jong-un is the current leader.
During the 35 years of Japanese occupation, no one in the West paid much attention to Syngman Rhee or his hopes for the future of Korea, but the Soviet government was more attentive to Kim Il-Sung. While distant Britain, France and America played no active role, the near-by Soviet Union, with a long frontier with Japanese-held territory, had to concern itself with Korea.
It was not so much from strategy or the perception of danger that Western policy (and Soviet acquiescence to it) evolved. Driven in part by sentiment, America forced a change in the tone of relations with the colonial world during the Second World War and, driven by the need to appease America, Britain and France acquiesced. It was the tide of war, rather than any preconceived plan, that swept Korea into the widely scattered and ill-defined group of “emerging” nations.
As heir to the dreams of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed that colonial peoples deserved to be free. Korea was to benefit from the great liberation of the Second World War. So it was that on December 1, 1943, the United States, Britain and (then Nationalist) China agreed at the Cairo Conference to apply the revolutionary words of the 1941 Atlantic Charter: “Mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea,” Roosevelt and a reluctant Churchill proclaimed, they “are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.”
At the April-June 1945 San Francisco conference, where the United Nations was founded, Korea got little attention, but a vague arrangement was envisaged in which Korea would be put under a four-power (American, British, Chinese and Soviet) trusteeship. This policy was later affirmed at the Potsdam Conference on July 26, 1945, and was agreed to by the Soviet Union on August 8 when it declared war on Japan. Two days later Russian troops fanned out over the northern area. It was not until almost a month later, on September 8, that the first contingents of the U.S. Army arrived.
Aftermath of War
Up to that point, most Koreans could do little to effect their own liberation: those inside Korea were either in prison, lived in terror that they soon would be arrested or collaborated with the Japanese. The few who had reached havens in the West, like Syngman Rhee, found that while they were allowed to speak, no one with the power to help them listened to their voices. They were to be liberated but not helped to liberate themselves. It was only the small groups of Korean exiles in Soviet-controlled areas who actually fought their Japanese tormentors. Thus it was that the Communist-led Korean guerrilla movement began to play a role similar to insurgencies in Indochina, the Philippines and Indonesia.
As they prepared to invade Korea, neither the Americans nor the Russians evinced any notion of the difference between the Puk-in or “people of the North” and the Nam-in or “people of the South.” They were initially concerned, as least in their agreements with one another as they had been in Germany, by the need to prevent the collision of their advancing armed forces. The Japanese, however, treated the two zones that had been created by this ad hoc military decision separately.
As a Soviet army advanced, the Japanese realized that they could not resist, but they destroyed as much of the infrastructure of the north as they could while fleeing to the south. On reaching the south, both the soldiers and the civil servants cooperated at least initially with the incoming American forces. Their divergent actions suited both the Russians and the Americans — the Russians were intent on driving out the Japanese while the Americans were already beginning the process of forgiving them. What happened in this confused period set much of the shape of Korea down to the present day.
The Russians appear to have had a long-range policy toward Korea and the Communist-led insurgent force to implement it, but it was only slowly, and reluctantly, that the Americans developed a coherent plan for “their” Korea and found natives who could implement it. What happened was partly ideological and partly circumstantial. It is useful and perhaps important to emphasize the main points:
The first point is that the initial steps of what became the Cold War had already been taken and were quickly reinforced. Although the Yalta Conference included the agreement that Japan would be forced to surrender to all the allies, not just to the United States and China, President Truman set out a different American policy without consulting Stalin.
Buoyed by the success of the test of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, he decided that America would set the terms of the Pacific war unilaterally; Stalin reacted by speeding up his army’s attack on Japanese-held Korea and Manchuria. He was intent on creating “facts on the ground.” Thus it was that the events of July and August 1945 anchored the policies – and the interpretations of the war – of each great power. They shaped today’s Korea.
Arguments ever since have focused on the justifications for the policies of each Power. For many years, Americans have argued that it was the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, not the threat or actuality of the Soviet invasion, that forced the Japanese to surrender.
Spoils of War
In the official American view, it was America that won the war in the Pacific. Island by island from Guadalcanal, American soldiers had marched, sailed and flown toward the final island, Japan. From nearby islands and from aircraft carriers, American planes bombed and burned its cities and factories. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the final blows in a long, painful and costly process.
The mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.
Truman held that the Russians appeared only after the Japanese were defeated. Thus, he felt justified – and empowered – to act alone on Japan. So when General Douglas MacArthur arranged the ceremony of surrender on September 2, he sidelined the Russians. The procedure took place on an American battleship under an American flag. A decade was to pass before the USSR formally ended its war with Japan.
The second crucial point is what was happening on the peninsula of Korea. There a powerful Russian army was present in the North and an American army was in control of the South. The decisions of Cairo, San Francisco and Potsdam were as far from Korea as the high-flown sentiments of the statesmen were from the realities, dangers and opportunities on the scene. What America and the Soviet Union did on the ground was crucial for an understanding of Korea today.
As the Dutch set about doing in Indonesia, the French were doing in Indochina and the Americans were doing in the Philippines, the American military authorities in their part of Korea pushed aside the nationalist leaders (whom the Japanese had just released from prison) and insisted on retaining all power in their own (military) government. They knew almost nothing about (but were inherently suspicious of) the anti-Japanese Koreans who set themselves up as the “People’s Republic.” On behalf of the U.S., General John Hodge rejected the self-proclaimed national government and declared that the military government was the only authority in the American-controlled zone.
Hodge also announced that the “existing Japanese administration would continue in office temporarily to facilitate the occupation” just as the Dutch in Indonesia continued to use Japanese troops to control the Indonesian public. But the Americans quickly realized how unpopular this arrangement was and by January 1946 they had dismantled the Japanese regime.
In the ensuing chaos dozens of groups with real but often vague differences formed themselves into parties and began to demand a role in Korean affairs. This development alarmed the American military governor. Hodge’s objective, understandably, was order and security. The local politicians appeared unable to offer either, and in those years, the American military government imprisoned tens of thousands of political activists.
Cold War in Vitro
Although not so evident in the public announcements, the Americans were already motivated by fear of the Russians and their actual or possible local sympathizers and Communists. Here again, Korea reminds one of Indochina, the Philippines and Indonesia. Wartime allies became peacetime enemies. At least in vitro, the Cold War had already begun.
At just the right moment, virtually as a deux ex machina, Syngman Rhee appeared on the scene. Reliably and vocally anti-Communist, American-oriented, and, although far out of touch with Korean affairs, ethnically Korean, he was just what the American authorities wanted. He gathered the rightist groups into a virtual government that was to grow into an actual government under the U.S. aegis.
Meanwhile, the Soviet authorities faced no similar political or administrative problems. They had available the prototype of a Korean government. This government-to-become already had a history: thousands of Koreans had fled to Manchuria to escape Japanese rule and, when Japan carried the war to them by forming the puppet state they called Manchukuo in 1932, some of the refugees banded together to launch a guerrilla war. The Communist Party inspired and assumed leadership of this insurgency. Then as all insurgents – from Tito to Ho Chi-minh to Sukarno – did, they proclaimed themselves a government-in-exile.
The Korean group was ready, when the Soviet invasion made it possible, to become the nucleus of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The USSR recognized it as the sole government of (all) Korea in September 1948. And, despite its crude and often brutal method of rule, it acquired a patina of legitimacy by its years of armed struggle against the Japanese.
Both the USSR and the U.S. viewed Korea as their outposts. They first tried to work out a deal to divide authority among themselves. But they admitted failure on December 2, 1945. The Russians appeared to expect the failure and hardly reacted, but the Americans sought the help of the United Nations in formalizing their position in Korea. At their behest, the U.N. formed the “Temporary Commission on Korea.” It was supposed to operate in all of Korea, but the Russians regarded it as an American operation and excluded it from the North. After a laborious campaign, it managed to supervise elections but only in the south, in May 1948.
The elections resulted in the formation on August 15 of a government led by Syngman Rhee. In response, a month later on September 9, the former guerrilla leader, Communist and Soviet ally Kim Il-sung, proclaimed the state of North Korea. Thus, the ad hoc arrangement to prevent the collision of two armies morphed into two states.
The USSR had a long history with Kim Il-sung and the leadership of the North. It had discreetly supported the guerrilla movement in Manchukuo (aka Manchuria) and presumably had vetted the Communist leadership through the purges of the 1930s and closely observed them during the war. The survivors were, by Soviet criteria, reliable men. So it was possible for the Russians to take a low profile in North Korean affairs. Unlike the Americans, they felt able to withdraw their army in 1946. Meanwhile, of course, their attention was focused on the much more massive tide of the revolution in China. Korea must have seemed something of a sideshow.
The position of the United States was different in almost every aspect. First, there was no long-standing, pro-American or ideologically democratic cadre in the South.
The Rise of Rhee
The leading figure, as I have mentioned, was Syngman Rhee. While Kim Il-sung was a dedicated Communist, Rhee was certainly not a believer in democracy. But ideology aside, Rhee was deeply influenced by contacts with Americans. Missionaries saved his eyesight (after smallpox), gave him a basic Western-style education, employed him and converted him to Christianity. Probably also influenced by them, as a young man he had involved himself in protests against Korean backwardness, corruption and failure to resist Japanese colonialism. His activities landed him in prison when he was 22 years of age. After four years of what appears to have been a severe regime, he was released and in 1904 made his way into exile in America.
South Korean leader Syngman Rhee
Remarkably for a young man of no particular distinction – although he was proud of a distant relationship to the Korean royal family – he was at least received if not listened to by President Theodore Roosevelt. Ceremonial or perfunctory meetings with other American leaders followed over the years. The American leaders with whom he met did not consider Korea of much importance and even if they had so considered it, Rhee had nothing to offer them. So I infer that his 40-year wanderings from one university to the next (BA in George Washington University, MA in Harvard and PhD in Princeton) and work in the YMCA and other organizations were a litany of frustrations.
It was America’s entry into the war in 1941 that gave Rhee the opportunity he had long sought: he convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to espouse at least nominally the cause of Korean independence. Roosevelt’s kind words probably would have little effect — as Rhee apparently realized. To give them substance, he worked closely with the OSS (the ancestor of the CIA) and developed contacts with the American military chiefs. Two months after the Japanese surrender in 1945, he was flown back to Korea at the order of General Douglas MacArthur.
Establishing himself in Seoul, he led groups of right-wing Koreans to oppose every attempt at cooperation with the Soviet Union and particularly focused on opposition to the creation of a state of North Korea. For those more familiar with European history, he might be considered to have aspired to the role played in Germany by Konrad Adenauer. To play a similar role, Rhee made himself “America’s man.” But he was not able to do what Adenauer could do in Germany nor could he provide for America: an ideologically controlled society and the makings of a unified state like Kim Il-sung was able to give the Soviet Union. But, backed by the American military government and overtly using democratic forms, Rhee was elected on a suspicious return of 92.3 percent of the vote to be president of the newly proclaimed Republic of Korea.
Rhee’s weakness relative to Kim had two effects: the first was that while Soviet forces could be withdrawn from the North in 1946, America felt unable to withdraw its forces from the South. They have remained ever since. And the second effect was that while Rhee tried to impose upon his society an authoritarian regime, similar to the one imposed on the North, he was unable to do so effectively and at acceptable cost.
The administration he partly inherited was largely dependent upon men who had served the Japanese as soldiers and police. He was tarred with their brush. It put aside the positive call of nationalism for the negative warning of anti-Communism. Instead of leadership, it relied on repression. Indeed, it engaged in a brutal repression, which resembled that of North Korea but which, unlike the North Korean tyranny, was widely publicized. Resentment in South Korea against Rhee and his regime soon grew to the level of a virtual insurgency. Rhee may have been the darling of America but he was unloved in Korea. That was the situation when the Korean War began.
Resumption of War
The Korean War technically began on June 25, 1950, but of course the process began before the first shots were fired. Both Syngman Rhee and Kim Il-sung were determined to reunite Korea, each on his own terms. Rhee had publicly spoken on the “need” to invade the North to reunify the peninsula; the Communist government didn’t need to make public pronouncements, but events on the ground must have convinced Kim Il-sung that the war had already begun. Along the dividing line, according to one American scholar of Korea, Professor John Merrill, large numbers of Koreans had already been wounded or killed before the “war” began.
In this July 1950 U.S. Army file photograph once classified “top secret,” South Korean soldiers walk among some of the thousands of South Korean political prisoners shot at Taejon, South Korea, early in the Korean War. (AP Photo/National Archives, Major Abbott/U.S. Army, File)
The event that appears to have precipitated the full-scale war was the declaration by Syngman Rhee’s government of the independence of the South. If allowed to stand, that action as Kim Il-sung clearly understood, would have prevented unification. He regarded it as an act of war. He was ready for war. He had used his years in power to build one of the largest armies in the world whereas the army of the South had been bled by the Southern rulers.
Kim Il-sung must have known in detail the corruption, disorganization and weakness of Rhee’s administration. As the English journalist and commentator on Korea Max Hastings reported, Rhee’s entourage was engaged in a massive theft of public resources and revenues. Money intended by the foreign donors to build a modern state was siphoned off to foreign bank accounts; “ghost soldiers,” the military equivalent of Gogol’s Dead Souls, who existed only on army records, were paid salaries which the senior officers pocketed while the relatively few actual soldiers went unpaid and even unclothed, unarmed and unfed. Bluntly put, Rhee offered Kim an opportunity he could not refuse.
We now know, but then did not, that Stalin was not in favor of the attack by the North and agreed to it only if China, by then a fellow Communist-led state, took responsibility. What “responsibility” really meant was not clear, but it proved sufficient to tip Kim Il-sung into action. He ordered his army to invade the South. Quickly crossing the demarcation line, his soldiers pushed south. Far better disciplined and motivated, they took Seoul within three days, on June 28.
Syngman Rhee proclaimed a fight to the death but, in fact, he and his inner circle had already fled. They were quickly followed by thousands of soldiers of the Southern army. Many of those who did not flee, defected to the North.
Organized by the United States, the United Nations Security Council – taking advantage of the absence of the Soviet delegation – voted on June 27, just before the fall of Seoul, to create a force to protect the South. Some 21 countries led by the United States furnished about three million soldiers to defend the South. They were countries like Thailand, South Vietnam and Turkey with their own problems of insurgency, but most of the fighting was done by American forces. They were driven south and nearly off the Korean peninsula by Kim Il-sung’s army. The American troops were ill-equipped and nearly always outnumbered. The fighting was bitter and casualties were high. By late August, they held only a tenth of what had been the Republic of Korea, just the southern province around the city of Pusan.
The Chinese Prepare
Wisely analyzing the actual imbalance of the American-backed southern forces and the apparently victorious forces commanded by Kim Il-sung, the Chinese statesman Zhou Enlai ordered his military staff to guess what the Americans could be expected to do: negotiate, withdraw or try to break out of their foothold at Pusan. The staff reported that the Americans would certainly mobilize their superior potential power to counterattack.
Seriously wounded North Korean soldiers lie where they fell and wait for medical attention by Navy hospital corpsmen accompanying the Marines in their advance. September 15, 1950. (Photo by Sgt. Frank Kerr, USMC)
To guard against intrusion into China, Zhou convinced his colleagues to move military forces up to the Chinese-Korean frontier and convinced the Soviet government to give the North Koreans air support. What was remarkable was that Zhou’s staff exactly predicted what the Americans would do and where they would do it. Led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Americans made a skillful and bold counterattack. Landing at Inchon on September 15, they cut the bulk of the Northern army off from their bases. The operation was a brilliant military success.
But, like many brilliant military actions, it developed a life of its own. MacArthur, backed by American Secretary of State Dean Acheson and General George Marshall — and ordered by President Truman — decided to move north to implement Syngman Rhee’s program to unify Korea. Beginning on September 25, American forces recaptured Seoul, virtually destroyed the surrounded North Korean army and on October 1 crossed the 38th parallel. With little to stop them, they then pushed ahead toward the Yalu river on the Chinese frontier. That move frightened both the Soviet and Chinese governments which feared that the wave of victory would carry the American into their territories. Stalin held back, refusing to commit Soviet forces, but he reminded the Chinese of their “responsibility” for Korea.
In response, the Chinese hit on a novel ploy. They sent a huge armed force, some 300,000 men to stop the Americans but, to avoid at least formally and directly a clash with America, they categorized it as an irregular group of volunteers — the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.” Beginning on October 25. the lightly armed Chinese virtually annihilated what remained of the South Korean army and drove the Americans out of North Korea.
Astonished by the collapse of what had seemed a definitive victory, President Truman declared a national emergency, and General MacArthur urged the use of 50 nuclear bombs to stop the Chinese. What would have happened then is a matter of speculation, but what did happen was that MacArthur was replaced by General Matthew Ridgeway who restored the balance of conventional forces. Drearily, the war rolled on.
During this period and for the next two years, the American air force carried out massive bombing sorties. Some of the bombing was meant to destroy the Chinese and North Korean ability to keep fighting, but Korea is a small territory and what began as “surgical strikes” grew into carpet-bombing. (Such bombing would be considered a war crime as of the 1977 Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions).
The attacks were enormous. About 635,000 tons of high explosives and chemical weapons were dropped – that was far more than was used against the Japanese in the Second World War. As historian Bruce Cumings has pointed out, the U.S. Air Force found that “three years of ‘rain and ruin’” had inflicted greater damage on Korean cities “than German and Japanese cities firebombed during World War II.” The North Korean capital Pyongyang was razed and General Curtis LeMay thought American bombings caused the deaths of about 20 percent — one in five — North Koreans.
Carpet-Bombing the North
LeMay’s figure, horrifying as it is, needs to be borne in mind today. Start with the probability that it is understated. Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky has written that LeMay’s estimate of 20 percent should be revised to nearly 33 percent or roughly one Korean in three killed. He goes on to point to a remarkable comparison: in the Second World War, the British had lost less than 1 percent of their population, France lost 1.35 percent, China lost 1.89 percent and the U.S. only a third of 1 percent. Put another way, Korea proportionally suffered roughly 30 times as many people killed in 37 months of American carpet-bombing as these other countries lost in all the years of the Second World War.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay
In all, 8 million to 9 million Koreans were killed. Whole families were wiped out and practically no families alive in Korea today are without close relatives who perished. Virtually every building in the North was destroyed. What General LeMay said in another context – “bombing them back to the Stone Age” – was literally effected in Korea. The only survivors were those who holed up in caves and tunnels.
Memories of those horrible days, weeks and months of fear, pain and death seared the memories of the survivors, and according to most observers they constitute the underlying mindset of hatred and fear so evident among North Koreans today. They will condition whatever negotiations America attempts with the North.
Finally, after protracted battles on the ground and daily or hourly assaults from the sky, the North Koreans agreed to negotiate a ceasefire. Actually achieving it took two years.
The most significant points in the agreement were that (first) there would be two Koreas divided by a demilitarized zone essentially on what had been the line drawn along the 38th parallel to keep the invading Soviet and American armies from colliding and (second) article 13(d) of the agreement specified that no new weapons other than replacements would be introduced on the peninsula. That meant that all parties agreed not to introduce nuclear and other “advanced” weapons.
What needs to be remembered in order to understand future events is that, in effect, the ceasefire created not two but three Koreas: North, South, and the American military bases.
The North set about recovering from devastation. It had to dig out from under the rubble and it chose to continue to be a garrison state. It was certainly a dictatorship, like the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam and Indonesia, but close observers thought that the regime was supported by the people. Most observers found that the memory of the war, and particularly of the constant bombing, created a sense of embattlement that unified the country against the Americans and the regime of the South. Kim Il-sung was able to stifle such dissent as arose. He did so brutally. No one can judge for certain, but there is reason to believe that a sense of embattled patriotism remains alive today.
South’s Military Dictatorships
The South was much less harmed by the war than the North and, with large injections of aid and investment from Japan and America, it started on the road to a remarkable prosperity. Perhaps in part because of these two factors – relatively little damage from the war and growing prosperity – its politics was volatile.
To contain it and stay in power, Syngman Rhee’s government imposed martial law, altered the constitution, rigged elections, opened fire on demonstrators and even executed leaders of the opposing party. We rightly deplore the oppression of the North, but humanitarian rights investigations showed little difference between the Communist/Confucian North and the Capitalist/Christian South. Syngman Rhee’s tactics were not less brutal than those of Kim Il-sung.
Employing them, Rhee managed another electoral victory in 1952 and a third in 1960. He won the 1960 election with a favorable vote officially registered to be 90 percent. Not surprisingly, he was accused of fraud. The student organizations regarded his manipulation as the “last straw” and, having no other recourse, took to the streets. Just ahead of a mob converging on his palace — much like the last day of the government of South Vietnam a few years later — he was hustled out of Seoul by the CIA to an exile in Honolulu.
The third Korea, the American “Korea,” would have been only notional except for the facts that it occupied a part of the South (the southern perimeter of the demilitarized zone and various bases elsewhere), had ultimate control of the military forces of the South (it was authorized to take command of them in the event of war) and, as the British had done in Egypt, Iraq and India, it “guided” the native government it had fostered. Its military forces guaranteed the independence of the South and at least initially, the United States paid about half the costs of the government and sustained its economy.
At the same time, the United States sought to weaken the North by imposing embargos. It kept the North on edge by carrying what the North regarded as threatening maneuvers on its frontier and, from time to time, as President Bill Clinton did in 1994 (and President Donald Trump is now doing), threatened a devastating preemptive strike. The Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff also developed OPLN 5015, one of a succession of secret plans whose intent, in the words of commentator Michael Peck, was “to destroy North Korea.”
And, in light of America’s worry about nuclear weapons in Korea, we have to confront the fact that it was America that introduced them. In June 1957, the U.S. informed the North Koreans that it would no longer abide by Paragraph 13(d) of the armistice agreement that forbade the introduction of new weapons. A few months later, in January 1958, it set up nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching Moscow and Peking. The U.S. kept them there until 1991. It wanted to reintroduce them in 2013 but the then South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won refused.
As I will later mention, South Korea joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1975, and North Korea joined in 1985. But South Korea covertly violated it from 1982 to 2000 and North Korea first violated the provisions in 1993 and then withdrew from it in 2003. North Korea conducted its first underground nuclear test in 2006.
There is little moral high ground for any one of the “three Koreas.”
South Korean leader Park Chung-hee
South Korean leader Park Chung Hee
New elections were held in the South and what was known as the Second Republic was created in 1960 under what had been the opposition party. It let loose the pent-up anger over the tyranny and corruption of Syngman Rhee’s government and moved to purge the army and security forces. Some 4,000 men lost their jobs and many were indicted for crimes. Fearing for their jobs and their lives, they found a savior in General Park Chung-hee who led the military to a coup d’état on May 16, 1961.
General Park was best known for having fought the guerrillas led by Kim Il-sung as an officer in the Japanese “pacification force” in Manchukuo. During that period of his life, he even replaced his Korean name with a Japanese name. As president, he courted Japan. Restoring diplomatic relations, he also promoted the massive Japanese investment that jump-started Korean economic development. With America he was even more forthcoming. In return for aid, and possibly because of his close involvement with the American military – he studied at the Command and General Staff school at Fort Sill – he sent a quarter of a million South Korean troops to fight under American command in Vietnam.
Not less oppressive than Rhee’s government, Park’s government was a dictatorship. To protect his rule, he replaced civilian officials by military officers. Additionally, he formed a secret government within the formal government; known as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, it operated like the Gestapo. It routinely arrested, imprisoned and tortured Koreans suspected of opposition. And, in October 1972, Park rewrote the constitution to give himself virtual perpetual power. He remained in office for 16 years. In response to oppression and despite the atmosphere of fear, large-scale protests broke out against his rule. It was not, however, a public uprising that ended his rule: his chief of intelligence assassinated him in 1979.
An attempt to return to civilian rule was blocked within a week by a new military coup d’état. The protests that followed were quickly put down and thousands more were arrested. A confused scramble for power then ensued out of which in 1987 a Sixth Republic was announced and one of the members of the previous military junta became president.
The new president Roh Tae-woo undertook a policy of conciliation with the North and under the warming of relations both North and South joined the U.N. in September 1991. They also agreed to denuclearization of the peninsula. But, as often happens, the easing of suppressive rule caused the “reformer” to fall. Roh and another former president were arrested, tried and sentenced to prison for a variety of crimes — but not for their role in anti-democratic politics. Koreans remained little motivated by more than the overt forms of democracy.
Relations between the North and the South over the next few years bounced from finger on the trigger to hand outstretched. The final attempt to bring order to the South came when Park Geun-hye was elected in 2013, She was the daughter of General Park Chung-hee who, as we have seen, had seized power in a coup d’état 1963 and was president of South Korea for 16 years. Park Geun-hye, was the first women to become head of a state in east Asia. A true daughter of her father, she ruled with an iron hand, but like other members of the ruling group, she far overplayed her hand and was convicted of malfeasance and forced out of office in March 2017.
The Kim Dynasty
Meanwhile in the North, as Communist Party head, Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and president from 1972 to his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung ruled North Korea for nearly half a century. His policy for his nation was a sort of throw-back to the ancient Korean ideal of isolation. Known as juche, it emphasized self-reliance. The North was essentially an agrarian society and, unlike the South, which from the 1980s welcomed foreign investment and aid, it remained closed. Initially, this policy worked well: up to the end of the 1970s, North Korea was relatively richer than the South, but then the South raced ahead with what amounted to an industrial revolution.
North Korean leader Kim Il-sung
Surprisingly, Kim Il-sung shared with Syngman Rhee a Protestant Christian youth; indeed, Kim said that his grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. But the more important influence on his life was the brutal Japanese occupation. Such information as we have is shaped by official pronouncements and amount to a paean. But, probably, like many of the Asian nationalists, as a very young man he took part in demonstrations against the occupying power. According to the official account, by the time he was 17, he had spent time in a Japanese prison.
At 19, in 1931, he joined the Chinese Communist Party and a few years later became a member of its Manchurian fighting group. Hunted down by the Japanese and such of their Korean collaborators as Park Chung-hee, Kim crossed into Russian territory and was inducted into the Soviet army in which he served until the end of the Second World War. Then, as the Americans did with Syngman Rhee, the Russians installed him as head of the provisional government.
From the first days of his coming to power, Kim Il-sung focused on the acquisition of military power. Understandably from his own experience, he emphasized training it in informal tactics, but as the Soviet Union began to provide heavy equipment, he pushed his officers into conventional military training under Russian drillmasters. By the time he had decided to invade South Korea, the army was massive, armed on a European standard and well organized. Almost every adult Korean man was or had been serving in it.
The army had virtually become the state. This allocation of resources, as the Korean War made clear, resulted in a powerful striking force but a weakened economy. It also caused Kim’s Chinese supporters to decide to push him aside. How he survived his temporary demotion is not known, but in the aftermath of the ceasefire, he was again seen to be firmly in control of the Communist Party and the North Korean state.
The North Korean state, as we have seen, had virtually ceased to exist under the bombing attack. Kim could hope for little help to rebuild it from abroad and sought even less. His policy of self-reliance and militarization were imposed on the country. On the Soviet model of the 1930s, he launched a draconian five-year plan in which virtually all economic resources were nationalized. In the much-publicized Sino-Soviet split, he first sided with the Chinese but, disturbed by the Chinese Cultural Revolution, he swung back to closer relations with the Soviet Union.
In effect, the two neighboring powers had to be his poles. His policy of independence was influential but could not be decisive. To underpin his rule and presumably in part to build the sense of independence of his people, he developed an elaborate personality cult. That propaganda cult survived him. When he died in 1994 at 82 years of age, his body was preserved in a glass case where it became the object of something like a pilgrimage.
Unusual for a Communist regime, Kim Il-sung was followed by his son Kim Jong-Il. Kim Jong-Il continued most of his father’s policies, which toward the end of his life, had moved haltingly toward a partial accommodation with South Korea and the United States. He was faced with a devastating drought in 2001 and sequential famine that was said to have starved some 3 million people. Perhaps seeking to disguise the impact of this famine, he abrogated the armistice and sent troops into the demilitarized zone. However, intermittent moves including creating a partly extra-territorialized industrial enclave for foreign trade, were made to better relations with the South.
Then, in January 2002, President George Bush made his “Axis of Evil Speech” in which he demonized North Korea. Thereafter, North Korea withdrew from the 1992 agreement with the South to ban nuclear weapons and announced that it had enough weapons-grade plutonium to make about 5 or 6 nuclear weapons. Although he was probably incapacitated by a stroke in August 2008, his condition was hidden as long as possible while preparations were made for succession. He died in December 2011 and was followed by his son Kim Jong-un.
With this thumbnail sketch of events up to the coming to power of Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, I will turn in Part 2 of this essay to the dangerous situation in which our governments – and all of us individually – find ourselves today.
William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.
When Putin in his ideological salvo that preceded the actual war in Ukraine placed the blame for the existence of the Ukraine within its current borders on Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev, he not only opened up the Pandora’s box of borders, but led to the renewed discussion of the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in December 1922. (Putin’s blaming of the three Soviet leaders was as follows: Lenin for ignoring the Russian majority population in the Donbass and thus “giving” the Donbass to Ukraine; Stalin for “giving” the eastern part of Poland after World War II to Ukraine, and Khrushchev who “for whatever reasons” decided in 1954 to transfer the Crimea to the Ukraine.)
There is often very little understanding among many, especially young, people about the ideology behind the creation of the Soviet Union. In an otherwise good article recently published in the “National Interest”, Mark Katz rejects Putin’s critique of Lenin by arguing that “instead of blaming Lenin, Putin should draw lessons from Lenin’s realization that a more accommodative approach toward Ukrainian nationalism would better serve Russia’s long-term interests”.
This point however shows marked lack of understanding by Katz of the forces that led to the creation of the Soviet Union, in addition to imputing Lenin to have been concerned with “Russia’s [sic!] long-term interest” - a statement that only people unfamiliar with Lenin’s ideology and writings could make. But let us go back to the creation of the Soviet Union. The most important person behind the creation of the Union was Stalin, not Lenin. Stalin, as is well known was the People’s Commissar for Nationalities, and was, within the Bolshevik leadership the person in charge of nationality questions, including obviously the creation of a new Union composed of ethnically-based republics. (At the creation there were six republics: RSFSR, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Transcaucasian Federation composed of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.) Here is what Stalin said about the creation of the Union:
Finally, there is a third group of facts, which also call for union and which are associated with the structure of the Soviet regime, with the class nature of the Soviet regime. The Soviet regime is so constructed that, being international in its intrinsic nature, it in every way fosters the idea of union among the masses and itself impels them to take the path of union. Whereas capital, private property and exploitation disunite people, split them into mutually hostile camps, examples of which are provided by Great Britain, France and even small multi-national states like Poland and Yugoslavia with their irreconcilable internal national contradictions which corrode the very foundations of these states** whereas, I say, over there, in the West, where capitalist democracy reigns and where the states are based on private property, the very basis of the state fosters national bickering, conflicts and struggle, here, in the world of Soviets, where the regime is based not on capital but on labour, where the regime is based not on private property, but on collective property, where the regime is based not on the exploitation of man by man, but on the struggle against such exploitation, here, on the contrary, the very nature of the regime fosters among the laboring masses a natural striving towards union in a single socialist family. (my emphasis)
Very similar statements are repeated in several publications, speeches and interviews that Stalin gave at that time. The links are here and I would suggest that people read at least some of them. For my purpose here, the key thing to understand is that the ideology behind the creation of the Union was not whether that Union, with the Ukraine defined one way or another, would be more or less stable at Katz implies, but that the Union is simply the reflection of the end of national and class contradictions that come with the socialist revolution. It is thus a “natural” striving of peoples liberated from under the rule of capital, and the most important point it is therefore open for all other parts of the world that, sooner or later, may also become free. The USSR was envisaged not as a finished state, but as an open-ended state that would grow as socialism spreads to the extent of including within it all European, and perhaps even all countries in the world.
To make this union more attractive, the open-endedness was not only in accepting the new countries, but in allowing those that are included to leave. Thus “the character of the union should be voluntary, exclusively voluntary, and every national republic should retain the right to secede from the Union. Thus, the voluntary principle must be made the basis of the Treaty on the Formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”. Here the point is made by Stalin, but Lenin, as is well-known, insisted on that double open-endedness even more.
Consequently, it is not the political stability of what then constituted the USSR that was of paramount importance to its Bolshevik founding fathers but its openness. This is a point on which Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the entire leadership were in full agreement. The new federated Soviet Union was not the end- formation, but the beginning-formation. The Bolsheviks expected the success of the revolution in Germany, Austria and Hungary any time. Thus they expected that these new Soviet republics (as they indeed called themselves) would ultimately join them in a federated state even if they were defeated for now. It is notable that the USSR has no geographical denomination in its name. When the United States of America were created (in a somewhat similar fashion like the USSR) the founding fathers did include a geographical limit in its name. Not so the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
It is then fully understandable that Mao Zedong proposed in 1949 to Stalin that China join the USSR (Stalin, after some reflection, rejected the idea). It was a “normal” view entertained by many communists world-wide. When the communist revolution won in Yugoslavia, many people there thought that the next step would be the accession to the Soviet Union. I recall my father’s friends in 1960s in their conversations talking of believing in the 1940s that Yugoslavia would immediately apply to become another republic of the USSR.
Perhaps for today’s generations that know very little about the communist ideology and the forces that led to the creation of the USSR, this may be difficult to grasp, but it would help to think by analogy: if instead of the USSR they think of the European Union. The EU is a similar supra-national and ideological creation, and it is at present thought “natural” in many parts of Europe to believe that countries will ultimately “accede” to that Union. It was likewise thought “natural” among the communists that, as individual countries became free, they would “accede” to the Soviet Union.
One can think of at least two other historical precedents when ideological homogeneity was thought sufficient to trump over all other allegiances including national. The first precedent is the Christian empire that was thought indissoluble and one. The emperor in Constantinople was thus shocked when the Pope decided to bestow the crown on Charlemagne and create yet the second Christian emperor. It was thought inconceivable that Christians would have two different empires since they were all just that: Christians. Another example is Islam where too, at the origin, it was believed that all Muslims, anywhere in the world, would be united into a single political union, the khalifate. That too rather quickly evaporated. But as in the case of communism and the Soviet Union, it is important to understand the ideological motives of the founders and not to ascribe to them the goals that seem reasonable to us now, but that they simply did not have at the time.
Part one: counter-revolutionary backstop
Originally published in Counterpunch magazine, 2021
The death of Elizabeth Windsor’s husband Philip Mountbatten earlier this year prompted an establishment-led frenzy of monarchism across Britain, with wall-to-wall sycophantic TV and radio coverage and Covid public information boards replaced with Philip’s portrait. The standard view of the British monarchy is that they are no more than symbolic figureheads lacking any real power; mere ornaments adorning the British political system. But the truth is that Philip and his family were and are crucial pillars in the maintenance of the class power of the British imperialist bourgeoisie, both domestically and globally.
To begin with, the Sovereign still has a significant place in the British political system. The government is still known as ‘her majesty’s government,’ there to govern on her behalf. It is she who appoints the prime minister, not just in the UK, but in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and twelve other countries. And it is only by convention that she appoints the leader of the winning party following an election – as Gough Whitlam discovered in 1975 when the monarch’s representative in Australia dismissed him from office, despite his party having won the previous year’s elections, and appointed in his place the leader of the losing party, deeming the winners too radical. In the UK, she has weekly meetings with the prime minister to discuss government business, and her approval is required before any legislation passed by parliament can become law. Whilst it is true that this approval – known as Royal Assent – has been granted to all Acts of Parliament since 1707, what is more commonly withheld is the lesser known ‘Queen’s Consent.’ For bills affecting the Queen’s private interests, as well as those impinging on the royal prerogative powers (executive powers which can be used without consulting parliament), the Queen’s permission must be granted before it can be put to parliament. Such ‘Queen’s Consent’ (or ‘Prince’s Consent’ in the case of bills affecting the Prince of Wales’ private interests) was sought 146 times between 1970 and 2013 according to former government minister Norman Baker. Any bill that might affect the income from the monarch and her son’s private estates, for example (the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster, comprising some of the most lucrative real estate in the London, the Strand, as well as Balmoral and Sandringham) is subject to veto by the Crown. And here, unlike for Royal Assent, the Queen is neither obliged by convention to give her consent, nor to act in accordance with advice from her ministers – she is free to use her discretion. All laws affecting income or land tax, for example, or employment rights, require Queen’s Consent, as did the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, because it granted inspectors the right to go onto private estates to investigate claims of animal abuse. To prevent the bill being vetoed by the Crown, the Labour government agreed that the Windsors’ private estates would be exempt from the legislation – literally putting them above the law. Queen’s Consent even had to be sought for the 2008 Child Maintenance Act as it affected payments to the Queen’s private staff. And the Queen is uniquely exempt from a 1973 Act of Parliament requiring shareholders to identify themselves, allowing her to anonymously hold shares in companies of dubious repute. This exemption may well have been a condition for giving consent to the bill in the first place – we cannot know for sure, because no record is kept of when and how Queen’s Consent is used, and the negotiations go on behind closed doors before the first draft of the bill is ever published.
‘Queen’s Consent’ is not only a tool for the personal enrichment of the Windsors, however. Bills which affect the Royal Prerogative powers (powers exercised on behalf of the monarch by government ministers) also require Queen’s Consent, and in this case, unlike in the case of bills where her personal interests are involved, the Queen will simply give or withhold consent according to advice from her ministers. This allows the government to use the Queen to prevent certain private members’ bills, for example, from even being discussed in parliament. Norman Baker’s excellent book on royal powers, “And What Do You Do?”, from which much of the material for this article was garnered, notes that the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill in 1999 was blocked after the Queen withheld her consent, as was the 1964 Titles (Abolition) Bill and the 1969 Rhodesia Independence Bill, amongst others.
But this use of Queen’s Consent is just one way in which the residual powers of the monarch are used by the government to avoid public or parliamentary debate and scrutiny. The Royal Prerogative powers, exercised by government ministers on behalf of the monarch, mainly pertain to foreign relations, and can be exercised without the consultation of parliament. This allows the prime minister to deploy troops and agree treaties without even informing, let alone consulting, parliament. The use of the Royal Prerogative occurs through the Privy Council, a group of current and former members of the government, senior members of the opposition, and senior members of the royal family, including the Queen. Members are sworn to secrecy, and the body has the power to secretly create legislation, known as ‘Orders of Council’. In the first half of 2000, over 250 such Orders were issued, around ten per week – including, says Baker (who was made a Privy Councillor by virtue of his position a junior minister in the Conservative-Liberal Coalition government) “an Order relating to the Saint Helena Act 1833, an amendment to a naval pension scheme, an Order relating to sanctions on Yemen – the sort of thing thing that the Commons ought to have had the chance to debate – and an amendment to the misuse of drugs act 1971, which I knew nothing about despite having been the drugs minister for a year until shortly before.” And these were just those passed in one meeting. Baker broke his oath to reveal this information, but such revelations are highly unusual, and the passage of such laws willo rarely reach the public domain.
Yet the most important aspect of monarchical power in British politics is not the Windsors’ role in day-to-day government so much as their function as a kind of ‘counter-revolutionary backstop’. Globally, this is an ongoing and active role, as will be explored in part two of this series. In the domestic arena, however, it is more as a potential, a ‘force of last resort,’ should popular unrest ever get seriously out of hand.
Of fundamental importance here is the oath of loyalty sworn by members of the armed forces. This oath commits them to the defence, not of the constitution or the elected parliament, but of the monarch and her successors, and to do so “against all enemies,” including, therefore, domestic enemies – such as, for example, any future parliament that attempted to abolish them. It also commits them to “obey all orders of her majesty, her heirs and successors.” Were, for example, a genuinely radical parliament to be elected in Britain, the armed forces would be a priori committed to support an armed overthrow of such a parliament should the monarch command them to do so. Baker suggests that we “suppose Hitler had invaded England, and suppose Edward the Eighth, with his Nazi sympathies, were restored to the throne as a sort of puppet, a scenario that certainly existed in Hitler’s mind. If the restored Edward the Eighth had called on the armed forces to lay down their weapons and accept a sort of Vichy Britain with him at the head, they may well have done so, whatever the elected government may have thought. I know members of the armed forces who take their oath to the Queen very seriously, and for them this allegiance trumps any democratic considerations. The fact that members of the royal family occupy senior positions right across the military only reinforces this.”
Nor is it only the armed forces who are made to swear such an oath – it is also a condition of entry into the British police force, judiciary, and parliament, as well as (since 2003) British citizenship itself, for those applying for it. This means that when (and it is indeed a matter of when, not if) the proverbial shit hits the fan in the UK, should the ruling class feel the need to impose military rule and rule by diktat, this oath ensures the army, the police and the entire criminal justice system, will be committed in advance to support such a measure, so long as the Windsors are on board. As Baker has noted, “the Queen herself on her accession took an oath to govern the country and uphold the rights of bishops. Parliamentarians take an oath to the Queen. Nobody takes an oath to uphold democracy.”
The key to understanding the role of the monarchy in a bourgeois society like Britain is to go back to its origins, which lie, not deep in antiquity, but in the tumultuous events of the seventeenth century. There has not been seamless continuity or evolution when it comes to royal power, but rather three distinct major monarchical epochs, separated by violent upheavals. First was the feudal monarchy that existed prior to 1485, in which the monarchy was the head of an aristocratic-ruled state. Second was the monarchy that was established under Henry the Seventh in 1485, at the head of an alliance between the aristocracy and the rising bourgeoisie, an era that was decisively ended with the execution of Charles I and the creation of the English republic in 1649. Our current monarchy, under bourgeois domination, took shape between 1660 and 1689, and though it was ushered in with the so-called ‘Restoration’ of Stuart power, when the deposed Charles’ son, Charles II, was invited to take the throne, it was in reality an entirely new institution (as Charles’ brother James II learnt to his cost when he attempted to challenge the new dispensation and was swiftly replaced). The question is – why did this third epoch of monarchism even come about? When the bourgeoisie had so decisively defeated the aristocratic power that the monarchy represents, why did they then re-create the institution? And the answer is – the fear of popular revolution.
Cromwell had mobilised the masses in his war against Charles I, but their demands – as exploited, land hungry, peasants, and even as small traders and artisans – went far beyond his as a merchant landowner. What Cromwell sought was not the abolition of exploitation, but the extension of the absolute right to exploit, from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie, via an end to the aristocratic monopolies on foreign trade and land ownership. Radical trends within the republican movement, however – including, crucially, within Cromwell’s army itself, such as the Levellers – sought genuine social equality – equal access to land, political participation, and a toppling of the very hierarchical pyramid that Cromwell had been fighting for the right to ascend. Cromwell had their leaders executed but the fear of a resurgence remained – and in the late 1650s, when rising prices were leading to growing unrest and agitation, the bourgeoisie reasoned that, though their power seemed secure for now, the time may yet come when they would need to call on the defeated aristocracy to help suppress a renewed popular uprising. And this is what the current British monarchy is: the artificial keeping alive of feudal remnants (along with their symbolic counterpart in the human psyche) as a potential counter-revolutionary ally of an insecure bourgeoisie.
That this is so can be seen clearly in the waxing and waning of royal privilege over the years. Here, a clear pattern emerges whereby, in periods where the bourgeoisie feel more secure, and less in need of their feudal allies, royal privileges are limited or revoked; whilst in periods of real or potential unrest, they are extended. If the army are loyal to the monarch, the ruling class need to be sure that the monarch is willing to do its bidding. And that costs money.
In the years following the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution,’ however – when, in 1688, Parliament called on the Dutch King William of Orange to depose King James II and take the crown for himself, on the strict understanding that his position would be subordinate to Parliament – bourgeois rule seemed impregnable. The 1690s saw the formation of the Bank of England, the tearing up of the Royal trading monopolies – heralding a commercial frenzy, especially in the trafficking of kidnapped Africans – and the dispossession of Ireland. With the English merchant class triumphant, they had little need to make concessions to a monarchy that, after all, they themselves had placed into position, and was effectively their mouthpiece. Thus, in 1697, did the Crown agree to surrender even the income it gained from the Duchy of Cornwall.
This era of untrammelled security did not last long, however. The failure of William and Mary, as well as her sister Anne, to produce any surviving offspring, had led Parliament to pass the Act of Settlement in 1701, decreeing that the Crown would pass to the (Protestant) Hanoverians. Their claim to the throne by virtue of royal bloodline was shaky to say the least – but the newly empowered merchant class were determined to prevent a Catholic restoration, with all the resultant continental political realignments and reversals that would entail. This seemingly arbitrary passing around of the Crown for political convenience was a step too far for many, however, and the Jacobite movement – which called for the continuation of the Stuart monarchy, in line with established hereditary principles – was born. Thus it was in 1721, two years after the third major Jacobite rising, at a time when the schemes of the government were under serious threat from inter-ruling class rivalry, that the mechanism of ‘King’s Consent’ – whereby the monarch gets veto power on any bill affecting his private interests – was introduced.
Once the threat dissipated, however, the monarch’s fortunes were reversed. In 1745, the Jacobite movement was decisively defeated, and the bourgeois ascendancy seemed, once again, triumphant – and in no need of feudal backup. Thus, in 1760, did the entirety of the Crown estates (with the supposed exception of the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster) pass into the hands of the state, finally stripping the king of his position as ‘landowner-in-chief,’ the basic tenet of monarchical power since 1066. It was not without some benefit for the monarch, as, along with the estates, he also gave up responsibility for funding the growing costs of the state, which would now be taken on by the government directly. The king also negotiated a hefty annual subsidy from the state coffers, set initially at £800,000 per year and still in operation today, known as the ‘civil list.’ Yet the ban on the monarch’s ownership of private property that accompanied the deal was, by any standards, a reduction in power. It was not to last.
The earth shattering events of the 1790s – in France and Haiti primarily, but with planet-wide reverberations that continue to this day – struck terror once again into the hearts of the English ruling class, and over the decades that followed, various forms of emergency rule and suspension of liberties became the norm. Lacking the legitimising cloak of liberal niceties, the legitimising cloak of regal bullshit took on a new importance for government. The monarch’s value to the imperilled bureaucracy grew, and the ban on his ownership of private property was lifted. And not only that – an argument was made that the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall were already private estates of the monarch, exempt from the 1760 agreement that surrendered the rest of the Crown estates. The reasoning? They had not been explicitly mentioned in that agreement, and were therefore not covered by them. The compelling legal argument that this was so precisely because, since 1697, the Duchies were already understood to be public assets (their income streams having been handed over at that date) was trampled underfoot by the cavalry charge of the counter-revolutionary war and its need for maximum unity against the Jacobins. Two hundred years later, the income streams from this desperate act of political expediency remain exceptionally lucrative: the holdings of the Duchy of Lancaster alone amount to over half a billion pounds, with annual profits reaching £20 million in 2018, and the Duchy of Cornwall not far behind, including a particular bonanza in 2012 from the auctioning of tungsten and iridium mining rights on Duchy land.
The pattern continued throughout the nineteenth century. As tumult grew in Ireland, Jamaica and both rural and urban Britain between 1829 and 1831 – resulting in major concessions on all three islands – the Duchy of Lancaster was, in 1830, again exempted from a bill formalising the government takeover of royal income streams. As Baker noted, “with the great reform bill on the stocks, the government did not want to alienate the king unnecessarily.” The same year, the two Duchies also secured an exemption – alone in the country – from the abolition of the feudal practice of landowners taking over the estates of anyone who dies on their land without relatives. This would prove particularly lucrative for George VI, who got a bonanza from all those killed on Duchy land during World War Two, and continues to bring in additional income for the Windsors to this day.
The Great Reform Act was eventually passed in 1832, successfully breaking the middle class-working class alliance that had shaken the country in previous years. The wealthier middle classes had been enfranchised by the Act, and now happily supported the repression of their erstwhile proletarian comrades. Bourgeois rule was secure, and again the need to buy royal favour declined. In 1842, income tax was introduced for the first time, and the monarch was not exempt. From now on, taxes would be paid not only on royal income – including on the civil list subsidy, and on Duchy profits – but on royal land and property also. This was confirmed in the Crown Private Estates Act of 1862 (during another period when the British ruling class were feeling secure, when the country’s industrial monopoly had birthed a labour aristocracy following the defeat of the Chartists). The Act was unambiguous: “The private estates of her majesty,her heirs or successors, shall be subject to all such rates, duties, assessments, and other impositions, parliamentary and parochial, as the same would have been subject to if the same had been the property of any subject of the realm.”
Yet even during this period, royal privileges ebbed and flowed in line with the degree of feared unrest. In 1848, proletarian revolution broke out across the continent, and the Chartists planned a march on London. Although the demonstration was ultimately outnumbered by pro-government volunteers, the state took no chances, and shored up its favour with the King through the establishment of ‘Prince’s consent’, extending the existing veto rights over legislation affecting the King’s private interests to his eldest son. No legal justification for this anti-democratic provision was even attempted; threat of revolt demanded royal concessions, the practice was established, and that was that. Again, it is a practice that continues until today.
In the period 1865-7, near-simultaneous risings again broke out again across Jamaica, England and Ireland. Then, In 1873, the great economic boom which had begun in the 1850s ground decisively to a halt, just when Britain had lost its industrial monopoly to Germany and the USA. The depression lasted until 1896, and a new wave of militant trade unionism amongst the lowest paid broke out. Foreseeing a time when the monarch’s collaboration in the suspension of civil government might be required, the government during this period ramped up the civil list payments, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Writes Baker, “As a result of Albert’s pleadings of poverty they [Victoria and Albert] were given more than they needed to enable Victoria to carry our her constitutional duties, but then hung onto the cash which had been obtained under false pretences and invested it in property.” In 1889, a parliamentary select committee noted that Victoria had siphoned off almost £1 million from her civil list ‘expenses,’ which had been used to purchase the private estates of Balmoral, Sandringham and Osborne (in the Isle of Wight). Philip Hall, in his book Royal Fortune, estimates that a total of £67million has been saved by the monarch from civil list payments over the last five reigns, making the MPs’ expenses scandal look like a parking violation. But the point is, this subsidy has been willingly granted by an insecure ruling class as an insurance policy against (so-called) democracy.
In the years before the First World War, this insecurity went into overdrive – and so too did the ‘insurance payments’ to the royals. Revolutionary trade unionism was spreading like wildfire across Britain, with major strikes taking place in key industries such as minings, docking, building and transport, many of them successful. The ruling class were terrified: Conservative cabinet minister Leo Amery recorded in his diary at the time that he went to purchase a revolver to arm himself against the revolutionary threat, but found they had all sold out. The value – and so the price – of royal backup thus increased again; already by 1903, Edward VII had wrangled his way out of paying income tax on his civil list payments (despite the existence of very clear laws on the matter), and in 1910 prime minister Lloyd George agreed to exempt the monarch from paying income tax at all. In 1913, this tax exemption was extended to the Duchy of Cornwall. Says Baker, “Despite the fact that the inland revenue had gone into the matter of the Duchy’s status quite exhaustively and concluded there was no case for its exemption from taxes, the government’s law officers, in a very short ruling, and one without any explanatory arguments, disagreed, and that was that.” In 1911, another unprecedented – and legally indefensible – ruling exempted royal wills from public scrutiny. To this day, royal wills are the only wills that can be kept private, enabling the extent of royal wealth to remain forever secret. This means that the amount of wealth stolen from civil list payments can be kept hidden, as can the extent of ‘gifts’ – which must, by law, be turned over to the state when given in connection with public duties – amassed by the monarch and her family. Says Baker, “if it became publicly known how much had been bequeathed, the public might begin to question afresh the level of taxpayers’ support the royal family benefits from, or indeed begin asking how it was possible to accumulate such wealth in their lifetimes without seemingly having any external means to do so.” The 1911 ruling thus effectively sanctioned the siphoning off of civil list payments for private gain, giving legal cover to what had already become standard practice. Thus, by the time of Elizabeth Windsor’s sister Margaret’s death in 2002, she was believed to have amassed a fortune of £20 million. “Where did Princess Margaret get £20 million from?,” asks Norman Baker, “Even the generous largesses provided by taxpayers through the civil list cannot explain that.” Elizabeth’s mother, meanwhile, is believed to have left a fortune of £70 million, well beyond what she is believed to have inherited herself. And yet her spending far exceeded the £634,000 per year she received from the civil list, her private staff wage bill alone coming to £1.5 million per year. Comments Baker, “What is certain is that the sealing of royal wills does not allow the proper checks to be made to ensure that what properly belongs to the state has not slipped across into private property [of the Windsors].”
Popular unrest did not cease in the years after the war, and there was genuine fear of Bolshevism spreading throughout Europe following the epic events in Russia. 1919 saw a police strike in Liverpool, the growth of the militant ‘tripartite’ alliance between the dockers, railwaymen and miners’ unions, and the establishment of a workers’ Soviet in Glasgow, prompting Lloyd George to send in the tanks. The price of royal backup appreciated further. In 1921, just as the ‘Geddes Axe’ fell, decimating public services, the Prince of Wales was granted further tax concessions, enabling him to stash away £1million by the time he became King Edward VIII in 1936. In the 1930s, too, as the Great Depression took hold, King George V stopped paying tax on Duchy of Lancaster profits, with his entire tax levy dropped in 1937. Writes Baker, “Overall in the interwar period, royal taxes dropped while those for everyone else rose. This dichotomy became even more pronounced during World War Two.”
The end of the Second World War saw Soviet prestige at an all time high, a powerful workers’ movement (with military experience) across Europe, and anti-colonial insurgencies across the globe, a situation that largely pertained until well into the 1960s. In 1952, when Elizabeth Windsor took the throne, the civil list payments were extended from the monarch and her spouse to their entire extended family, today covering over 40 people. At the same time, the monarch was no longer required to pay tax on her investments. Up until George VI, monarchs had always paid such taxes, although George began the dubious practice of reclaiming it. In 2001, it was calculated that the Treasury had lost out an estimated £1 billion revenue in lost payments on the £200million stock market investment made by the Queen in 1952 alone. Also in 1952, it was agreed that the wages of workers employed on the upkeep of the palaces should be transferred from the monarch to the Ministry of Works, as well as further tax exemptions such as taxes on agricultural profits, a major windfall for the Duchies.
The era of neoliberalism, however, saw a reversal of workers’ power, and, especially after the defeat of the miners in 1985 and the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, bourgeois supremacy once again seemed guaranteed. The need for a royal coup seemed far off, and the period saw a corresponding limitation of handouts to the monarchy. In 1992, following a major fire at Windsor castle, the royals were left to fork out their own cash for the repairs, and a year later, Charles and Elizabeth actually started to pay income tax, including on their investment income. The Memorandum of Understanding that initiated this spelt out that this was a purely voluntary arrangement that the could rescind whenever they chose, but nevertheless, the fact it was agreed at all suggested that the royals had become aware that their financial privileges were now at risk. In 2000, the civil list payments were frozen for a period of ten years, with some expenditure previously paid for by government departments now to come out of those payments. This amounted to a real-terms cut, the closest the list had ever come to an actual cut.
The ‘neoliberal (domestic) peace’ did not last. The buildup to the war on Iraq would ultimately lead to the biggest ever demonstrations in British history, and the biggest backbench rebellion for 150 years. Luckily for the Blair government, the colonial left leadership of the Stop the War movement prevented this anger from being channelled into effective resistance, but such resistance had been a real possibility. Had even a fraction of the crowds that amassed in 2003 stayed for ongoing protest outside parliament, or heeded the anarchists’ calls for direct action at airbases, the situation could have quickly got out of hand. Thus in 2002, the era of containment of royal finances came to an end, and the convention banning the public from viewing royal wills was secretly – and without legal precedent or justification – made into law. Also during this period, some very dubious accounting practices – such as including the wages of 28 members of Charles’ personal staff, along with the jewellery, clothes, horses and bodyguards of his mistress Camilla, as tax deductible – were discretely ‘overlooked’ by the inland revenue. The result was that, by 2012, Charles was paying less than half a million pounds tax on £18 million of Duchy profits; the 1993 Memorandum of Understanding had now been virtually revoked in all but name.
The 2007-8 financial crisis was the biggest financial crash since the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and triggered a global slump from which the world has still not recovered. The danger of mass unrest suddenly became very real. To add to the fears, the election of 2010 was indecisive, threatening political stability just as economic and social stability was already on a knife-edge. The coalition government that emerged took the opportunity to restore owning-class fortunes through a massive attack on public spending through their flagship policy of ‘austerity.’ Cuts led to riots in 2010 and in 2011 following the police execution of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, at the same time as uprisings across the Gulf threatened the ruling families placed in power by the British. The threat to bourgeois order was as high as it had been at any time since the miners’ strike. Emergency powers suddenly did not seem so unthinkable.
Thus in 2011 was royal collaboration with such a path ensured by the biggest hike in royal finances since at least 1952. The Sovereign Grant Act finally overturned the 1760 deal with George III entirely, ushering in a massive and ongoing hike in taxpayer payments to the royals. For the first time since that deal, the link between royal fortunes and the Crown Estates was reestablished, with the civil list payments no longer based on an estimate (however fraudulent) of the legitimate expenses of the royals, but instead calculated as a proportion (15%, later increased to 25%) of the income from the (former) ‘Crown Estates’ that had been in effective public ownership since 1760, a massively retrograde step at a time of deepening mass poverty. In the first year – a time of severe wage cuts for the population at large – the civil list payments rose by well over 50% from just under £8million to almost £14 million. Similar rises followed year on year, taking the payment to a staggering £82.8 million by 2019, a more than tenfold increase from the pre-austerity amount. Furthermore, it was written into the Act that these payments could never be reduced, making permanent any temporary good fortune in the value of their estates, and immunising the royals against any collapse in the value of British real estate. The forthcoming auction of windfarm sites on Crown Estate land (which covers hundreds of miles of coastline) alone is likely to produce a windfall of hundreds of millions for the royals.
Since the bourgeois monarchy was first established in 1660, then, the pattern has been clear: when the capitalist order is under threat, the stock of the royals – as the ultimate counter-revolutionary backstop and ‘legitimising’ force for the imposition of rule by decree – increases. When the order is secure, it declines. The fact that royal handouts have increased tenfold in recent years, then, should be seen as a sign not so much of a ruling class so powerful it can plunder public funds with impunity, but of one with a desperate fear of the future, and of the masses, and with a total lack of faith in its own ability to rule by consent. Either way, the case for republicanism has never been clearer.
- Nazi “hero” of Ukrainian nationalists murdered 100,000 Poles
- The Banderites’ unspeakable torture and mass murder of civilians
- US supports neo-Nazis resurrecting Bandera’s reign of terror
“The Snake From His Lair.” Ukrainian poem. Photo credit: Public domain
**“The Snake from his Lair”
Do you recognize this snake?
The bloody devouring beast is crawling.
His protection is a spidery sign,
His name is Stepan Bandera.
His name is Judas, Cain.
These are the deeds of his snaky hands:
Fires and blazes over our land,
The spilled blood of innocent children.
And the people stood up to defend.
The country gave its verdict:
To crush the serpent in his lair
And pull out his sting and fangs.**
The above poem, written in Ukrainian on a poster in the years following World War Two, provides only dark glimpses of a time many in this age appear to have forgotten.
Generations after the end of that bloody war, which claimed an estimated 27 million Soviet lives, the fangs of the murderous Nazi, Stepan (or Stefan, or Stephan) Bandera maintain their venomous grip on Ukraine.
Even Bandera’s Wikipedia page, at the time of this writing, still notes that Bandera, a leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), was a mass murderer, though his devotees, the Banderites, seem to be doing all they can to scrub information about his pogroms from the internet.
Screen-print of Stepan Bandera’s Wikipedia page.
Indeed, today Bandera is practically worshipped by Ukrainian nationalists, who have named streets after him and erected statues in his honor, in some cases on the very pedestals where statues once memorialized the Soviets who gave their lives driving the Nazis back to Berlin. Bandera’s cold eyes even gaze out from Ukrainian postage stamps, a fact not missed by purveyors of internet memes.
Ukrainian postage stamp featuring Bandera, used in a meme.
Statue of Bandera in Ukraine. Photo Credit: The Times of Israel
This may not mean much to you if you are American or even western European. But to those in many former Soviet republics whose grandparents and great-grandparents sacrificed everything to rid the land of Bandera’s ilk, and to Jewish descendants of Holocaust survivors, the honoring of this Nazi collaborator said to be responsible for the mass murder of 100,000 people in Poland is offensive beyond words.
The poorly-reasoned argument that “Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is a Jew, so how can he be a Nazi,” is a figurative slap in the face of Jews outraged about the resurrection of Nazi heroes in Ukraine. A simple cursory search on Google reveals reams of horrified headlines in Israeli media concerning the rise of nationalism in Ukraine and the honoring of Bandera and other Nazi leaders.
In 1941, Bandera mobilized Ukrainian troops, outfitted them in standard Wehrmacht infantry uniforms with the blue and yellow ribbon of Ukraine on their shoulders, and followed them as they rolled into Poland on June 22, 1941, launching Operation Barbarossa.
And that was only the beginning of Bandera’s reign of terror.
Polish victims of a massacre committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the village of Lipniki, Wołyń, 1943. Photo credit: Public domain
Between 1943 and 1945, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (abbreviated UPA in Ukrainian) slaughtered thousands of Poles in towns and villages throughout Wołyń, a region in Nazi-occupied Poland that is now part of present-day Ukraine.
It’s estimated that during this period, more than 100,000 Poles died at the hands of radical Ukrainian separatists, members of Bandera’s OUN and its military arm, the UPA. Their goal was simple: Eradicate all non-Ukrainians from future Ukrainian lands.
On June 16th, 1944, the UPA attacked a train carrying women and children. Few survived. Photo credit: IPN
Victims of the train attack taken away to be buried. Photo credit: KARTA Center
The most horrific genocidal massacre, known as “Bloody Sunday,” was carried out on July 11, 1943 when right at dawn, Ukrainian insurgent detachments, aided by local Ukrainians, simultaneously surrounded and attacked 99 Polish villages in the Kowel, Włodzimierz Wołyński, Horochów and Łuck districts. They brutally slaughtered Polish civilians and destroyed their homes.
Whole villages were burned to the ground and property was looted. Investigators estimate that as many as 8,000 people — mostly women, children, and elderly — were killed on that day alone.
Their remains are still being found today.
The remains of an estimated 300 people were found by archaeologists in 2011 at a mass grave in the village of Ostówek in Ukraine where they were massacred in 1943 by the UPA. Photo credit: Darek Delmanowicz/PAP
And it didn’t end there.
It didn’t even end when Hitler’s armies withdrew in 1944.
The mass murders continued. Between 1943 and 1945, Poles were murdered in 1,865 different places in the Wołyń region. Hundreds of Poles were murdered in each of the communities of Wola Ostrowiecka, Gaj, Ostrówki and Kolodno.
The murders were carried out with shocking brutality. People were burned alive or thrown into wells. Axes, pitchforks, scythes, knives and other farming tools were used instead of guns to make the massacres look like spontaneous peasant uprisings.
The Ukrainians tortured their victims with a cruelty scarcely imaginable. People were scalped. Their noses, lips and ears were chopped off. Their eyes were gouged out, hands cut off, heads squashed in vices. Women’s breasts were sliced off and pregnant women were bayonetted in the belly. Men’s genitals were cruelly hacked off with sickles.
The Polish “Association of Memory of Victims of Crimes of Ukrainian Nationalists” (SUOZUN) is putting together a forensic reconstruction of the events surrounding the Wołyń Massacre. The evidence they have collected is shocking, revealing children that were run through with stakes, people’s throats sliced open, their tongues pulled out through their necks. People sawn in half with a carpenter’s saw. A child nailed to a door.
One woman, in an advanced stage of pregnancy, had her abdomen cut open, the fetus removed and replaced with a live cat, which was sewn inside of her. Another pregnant woman’s uterus was cut open and filled with broken glass.
According to some Polish historians, even the German butchers were shocked by these atrocities and began to protect the Poles from the Ukrainian “axe.”
The bloody frenzy of torture and murder continued well after the Nazis had left the region, only now the Ukrainian militants attacked citizens of Soviet Ukraine, specialists such as agronomists, engineers, doctors, and teachers sent in by the government to restore the republic after the war. Though the majority of these people were ethnic Ukrainians, the nationalists killed them and any villagers who cooperated with them.
These atrocities were ordered by the head of the UPA, a former Wehrmacht captain named Roman Shukhevich, who is now idolized by many Ukrainians. “The OUN should act so that all those who recognized the Soviet government are destroyed. Not intimidated, but physically destroyed! Do not be afraid that people will curse us for cruelty. Let half of the 40 million Ukrainian population remain — there is nothing terrible in this,” he wrote.
Wołyń is a region that was once part of Nazi-occupied Poland and is now part of present-day Ukraine. Photo credit: Public domain
Stepan Bandera. Photo Credit: Public domain
Polish President Andrzej Duda lays a wreath at the Wołyń Massacre memorial in Warsaw, 2019. Photo credit: Tomasz Gzell/PAP
In July of 2019, Polish President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath at the Wołyń Massacre memorial in Warsaw and gave a speech about the future of Polish-Ukrainian relations:
“If we are talking today about the building of relations between our nations, between the Polish and Ukrainian people, between our states — and let me stress here, that we want […] these to be the best possible relations — there is one thing known for sure. We need remembrance so that what happened then, will never repeat itself between our nations and our people.”
He added: “The Ukrainian side should permit the exhumations, which are necessary to mark the graves, so that the descendants [of victims] can know the places, where they can go to light a candle. And this is the condition under which the massacre could be commemorated in Wołyń.”
Bandera’s Vile Legacy Continues
Ukrainian nationalists today are not exhuming the victims of Bandera, they are resurrecting Bandera himself, perpetuating his sadistic crimes upon the blood-stained fields and communities of Eastern Ukraine.
Russian media and independent journalists have reported a wide range of atrocities committed against Russian-speaking civilians and Roma people as well as the tortures inflicted upon Russian prisoners of war.
There is video evidence of Russian captives screaming in pain as they are shot in the legs and left to bleed out and die with no medical assistance. One Russian soldier was crucified and then burned alive. The luckier ones have returned to Russian-controlled lands bearing the scars of their torture, like swastikas carved or burned into their flesh, and nightmarish memories which will never fully fade away.
The footage of these atrocities is only shocking to those unfamiliar with the brutal and inhumane tactics of the Banderites, who are picking up from where they left off in the 1950’s after the Soviet occupation of Ukraine forced their movement underground.
Civilians in the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk have been struggling for independence from their Banderite overlords since 2014, when the coup known as Maidan tore Ukraine apart. The Russian-speaking population which makes up the majority in the region known as the Donbas, in Eastern Ukraine, have been under attack for eight years by the neo-Nazis in Western Ukraine, who spread the ideology of Bandera and the Nazis, with support from the United States and other NATO countries.
If you want evidence of US involvement, there is no lack of that to be found. You can begin with the leaked conversation, intercepted by Russian intelligence, of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, where they plan the Maidan coup as casually as you might plan a dinner party.
Western media reacted to Victoria’s explosive comment, “Fuck the EU,” but ignored the real meat of the conversation, which was the naming of the puppet leaders subsequently installed in Kiev.
And there was certainly nothing casual about the bloodletting inflicted on minorities of Ukraine once the Banderites seized power.
Anti-government protesters clash with police at Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev. Photo credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
The initial Maidan protests were violent and terrifying. Video footage and photographs from the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” show police bullied and attacked, in some cases shielded by medics who were trying to prevent the mob from massacring them. A TV channel captured another medic, a supporter of the revolutionaries, refusing to allow people to call an ambulance for a police officer who had lost an eye in the fighting.
Kiev journalist Sergey Rulev described his brutal torture at the hands of the Banderites:
“Four people beat me. There was a woman in a headscarf with them, who kicked me in the groin without saying a word. Then they dragged me to the occupied Ministry of Agriculture, where they searched me, took away my documents, a press pass, accreditation to the Verkhovna Rada, business cards, two phones, and two cameras. When they dragged me back to Khreshchatyk, I started screaming and calling for help. I fell to the ground and was kicked again, but no one reacted. At about noon, I was dragged into the burned-out House of Trade Unions. In the lobby, I was immediately beaten up. In the courtyard, unknown people in camouflage fatigues bound my hands, stripped me to my underwear, and continued to beat me… After that, the four of them pinned me to the floor, injected something into my arm again, and said, ‘Now you’re going to talk to us, bitch! Which special services do you work for?’”
While he was tied up, a woman began ripping out Sergey’s nails with pliers. He later identified her as Amina Okuyeva, a medic in the “Eighth Hundred” who was later awarded the title “People’s Hero of Ukraine,” after she joined what Ukrainian nationalists refer to as the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and fought for the neo-Nazi Kiev-2 and Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalions.
Young people take part in a nationalist march on Stepan Bandera’s 109th birthday, in Lvov. Photo Credit: Sputnik/Stringer
From the first days of its existence, horror stories emerged about the so-called “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and atrocities committed by the Banderites in Donbas. Though authorities and media ignored these stories at first, eventually the cries of international human rights organizations could no longer be silenced and some of the most egregious cases had reached the courts.
Though there were some convictions in those days, a lot of people got away with serious crimes on the grounds that they were “Patriots of Ukraine.” For example, a “Right Sector” nationalist named Sergey Sternenko who was convicted of abducting one man and killing another, had his seven-year sentence reduced to one year probation on the merits of his “patriotism.”
Given this climate, it’s not surprising that 48 people were burned alive in the Trade Union Building in Odessa in May of 2014. And those responsible still await justice.
Perhaps the most horrifying crime committed by the Banderites was the creation of a “prison” in the refrigerator of the airport in Mariupol in June of 2014, which jailers referred to as “the library.” Inside, residents of Mariupol were raped, beaten or tortured to death if they were suspected of harboring any sympathies for Russia or the unrecognized republics in Donbas. The “library” was run by members of “Right Sector” and “Svoboda” (Freedom) party. One of them named Yuri Mikhalchishin, a nationalist who goes by the pseudonym “Nahtigal88” (referring to the letters “HH,” denoting Heil Hitler), openly asserts that he has followed the teachings of Mein Kampf since he was 16.
The United States’ decades-long support of the Banderites
The US political agenda in Ukraine is no secret. You can read all about it in a study produced by RAND Corporation, a DC think-tank which explored how NATO could over-extend Russia by applying economic sanctions and using Ukraine, Syria and other countries to stage proxy wars. You can download the extensive 354-page study for free, directly from RAND Corp’s site, or you can download the 12-page briefing here.
Cover of the RAND Corporation briefing “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia.” Photo credit: RAND Corp.
An excerpt from the RAND Corporation briefing “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia.” Photo credit: RAND Corp.
Bear in mind that this study was published in 2019, well before Russia began its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine in February of this year, and yet it explores the possibilities of providing lethal aid to Ukraine.
But US support of neo-Nazis in Ukraine goes back much further, to the years following World War Two. And you can find the evidence of that on the CIA’s own website.
Secret documents declassified in 2007 tell of the Banderites’ association with the CIA in the years following the war, of the CIA’s early interest in retaining Bandera as an asset followed by their eventual discard. His followers’ blatant loyalty to the recently-defeated Nazis of the Third Reich was a political millstone around the CIA’s neck, which in those days was not as robust and muscular as it is now, to brazenly support neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
The entire sordid story of the CIA’s affair with Bandera is encapsulated in a thirty-three-page “draft working paper,” which is great late-night reading if you enjoy having nightmares about Nazis.
I leave you with the following screen prints taken from that document, and I will continue this investigative report on Stepan Bandera in my next article.
To be continued…
About the author:
Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.
The Nightingale’s Bloody Roost
- The wanton atrocities of Bandera and Shukhevich
- Bandera’s assassination by a love-torn KGB spy
Ukrainian auxiliary police execute a mother and child in Miropol, USSR, 1941. Photo credit: static01/nyt.com
“The OUN values the life of its members, values it highly; but — our idea in our understanding is so grand, that when we talk about its realization, not single individuals, nor hundreds, but millions of victims have to be sacrificed in order to realize it.”
— Stepan Bandera
In part one of this investigative report, we took a look at just some of the atrocities committed by Stepan Bandera and his followers — Nazi collaborators who tried to purge all Jews, Romani, Poles and Russians from future Ukrainian lands.
There was, as you saw, no crime too vile for the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists — the OUN. The sheer brutality of these crimes cannot be over-emphasized, and bodies are still being dug up today.
Exhumed remains of OUN victims, Poland, 1990s. Photo credit: kresky.pl
One of the most comprehensive articles I came across while researching Bandera was published by Covert Action Magazine, in three parts. I highly recommend this article, written by Evan Reif, to anyone who is serious about understanding these dark chapters of Ukraine’s history. Much of the information to follow was gleaned from this seminal work. Reif’s article delves more deeply into the origins and history of the OUN, which I will summarize here.
The OUN was founded in 1929 from the ashes of the Ukrainian Military Organization, the UVO. The UVO was formed in 1920 by right-wing Austro-Hungarian veterans of the First World War. The UVO waged a terrorist campaign against the Soviets and the Poles, operating primarily in western Ukraine, which was occupied by Poland in those days.
The Polish government at that time was an unpopular far-right regime which implemented land reform and language laws. However, it was not the government which the UVO primarily targeted, but civilians. The Ukrainian militants worked like bandits, hitting villages, towns, and small farming communities. They tortured, raped, killed, looted, burned everything to the ground, and moved on. They knew better than to attack the military or police, which might have decimated their numbers. They were a scourge on the countryside, waging a war on farmers and peasants — men, women and children of all ages.
It was in the early 1920’s when the UVO began its official collaboration with the Germans. From 1921 until 1928, the UVO received millions of marks in aid from Germany. Due to pressure from the Soviet and Polish governments, the leaders of the UVO were eventually moved to Berlin and when the Nazis came to power, the collaboration continued.
As the years went by, the OUN took center stage, led by ever-younger, more radical members, and the UVO fell to the wayside, its role diminished. One of those young leaders was Stepan Bandera, a fascist since childhood. Bandera was born on January 1, 1909 to a Greek Catholic family, the son of a priest.
Bandera in his Plast uniform. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Original “Plast” symbol. Photo credit: Livejournal
As a child, Bandera was a member of “Plast,” a fascist youth group. That group has been reestablished in recent times, though its webpage makes it appear friendly enough, with wholesome pictures of children learning scouting skills, canoeing, and performing good deeds for the community. The same symbol appears on Plast uniforms today, only without the swastika of old. But the topic of fascist indoctrination of children in Ukraine will have to be reserved for another article.
As a young adult, Bandera moved up quickly in the ranks of the OUN, first serving as the chief propaganda officer in 1931, at the age of 22. He quickly became the second in command of the OUN in Galicia 1932 and was named head of the OUN National Executive in 1933.
Bandera was a rabid fascist who despised Jews, communists, Gypsies, Hungarians, Poles and Russians. He wanted to reclaim lands which had not been Ukrainian for centuries and violently purge all non-Ukrainians from the territory. Bandera radicalized the OUN, adding to its membership, making it larger and more efficient. In 1934, members of the OUN-B (the B denoting Bandera’s leadership) assassinated Polish foreign minister Bronisław Pieracki by shooting him at close range with a pistol.
Bandera was captured by Polish authorities and sentenced to die with other OUN leaders, but the death sentence was commuted to life and when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Bandera was released. The Nazi Abwehr, German intelligence, employed Bandera and the OUN in 1940 and began preparing for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR.
Bandera and the OUN were chosen by the highest-ranking German officers including Adolf Hitler, who instructed them to carry out brutal reprisals and terrorism against civilians in the Soviet Union. General Erwin von Lahousen testified about this at the Nuremburg trials.
But Bandera’s antagonistic personality style and his demands for Ukrainian independence at any cost split the OUN in two, with Bandera leading the OUN-B, and Andriy Melnyk, who favored a more subservient role with the Nazis, leading OUN-M.
The rift between the two groups became violent. The most radical members joined with Bandera and launched terrorist attacks against the elderly Melnyk’s group. Though OUN-M survived the war, it was clear that Bandera, and not Melnyk, now controlled the Ukrainian fascist movement.
Under the leadership of the Wehrmacht, two OUN units were formed, code-named “Roland” and “Nightingale,” led by Roman Shukhevych, a mass murderer commemorated on Ukrainian postage stamps in 2007. The two units, alongside Nazi forces, were sent to Lvov in 1941.
Roman Shukhevich on a Ukrainian postage stamp in 2007. Photo credit: Wikimedia
The Nightingale’s Bloody Roost in Lvov
Under specific orders to slaughter Jews, Poles and Russians, Nightingale entered the city of Lvov in 1943. It was a city of about 500,000 people, more than half of them Polish Catholics, with a Jewish population that had swollen to as much as 160,000 as refugees flooded in from Nazi-occupied Europe. Only twenty percent of the city was Ukrainian.
Hitlists in hand, the OUN began its bloody harvest on June 30th, abducting Polish professors suspected of harboring “anti-Nazi views” and torturing them in dorm-rooms for hours before executing them and raiding their apartments, which were then taken over by SS and OUN officers.
And that was only the first blood.
Next, Nightingale began a holocaust which lasted over a month. The group seized a castle on a hilltop overlooking Lvov and set up its “roost” there, rounding up Jews and ordering them to clear the streets of corpses and debris from bombs. That very first night there were random murders of Jews and the looting of their homes and property.
In the days before the attack, the OUN had circulated leaflets in Lvov telling the residents “Don’t throw away your weapons yet. Take them up. Destroy the enemy… Moscow, the Hungarians, the Jews — these are your enemies. Destroy them.”
A woman desperately attempts to flee attackers in Lvov. Photo credit: Wikipedia
The more bloodthirsty and criminal members of the population apparently took the advice to heart, and in the bloody weeks that followed, thousands of Jews were terrorized throughout the city. Women were driven into the streets where they were stripped, raped and murdered. Men were kicked and beaten with fists and clubs. Throngs of nationalists threw trash at them as Nazi photographers went around gleefully filming the horror.
The Wehrmacht was eager to document these atrocities which were published in newspapers or shown in news reels back in Germany, to prove that the Nazis were serious about their plans to exterminate the untermenschen — the undesirables.
On that first bloody day alone, up to 5,000 Jews were massacred by the OUN, the Nazis and those who supported them.
Nazi photographers document atrocities in Lvov. Photo credit: Vintag.
Jewish man attacked in the street in Lvov. Photo credit: Wikipedia
The Einsatzgruppen came next. These were “professional” killers. Nazis who had already “cleansed” many villages, towns and cities in Poland and the USSR. They went door to door, dragged out their targets, marched them to pits which had already been prepared, forced them to their knees and executed them with bullets to the head. Nightingale and the OUN militias assisted them every step of the way, loading Jews onto trucks, then driving them to stadiums and executing them en masse with machine guns.
The Nazis stole everything of value, down to the gold fillings in their victims’ teeth, and sent it back to Germany where the money was used to fund industrialists who made enormous profits from Nazi extermination programs.
Thousands of people were slaughtered each day as Nightingale’s bloody talons tore into Lvov. As leaders of the OUN, including Shukhevich and Bandera, reigned in their high castle above the city, making their plans for an independent, Nazi-aligned Ukraine, the streets of Lvov and the surrounding region flowed with blood. By the time the Red Army arrived to liberate Lvov in 1944, only around 150,000 people remained and only 800 of them were Jews. The rest were either murdered or shipped off to the Belzec concentration camp, a slaughter-house so efficient that fewer than a dozen survivors were ever found.
The First Deputy Chief of the OUN under Stepan Bandera was Yaroslav Stetsko, who was named the first prime minister of the short-lived “Independent State of Ukraine” in 1941. In his “Act of Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood,” he wrote:
“The newly-formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian People to free itself from Muscovite occupation.”
Photo credit: Twitter
But…but… Bandera was sent to a concentration camp, so he couldn’t be bad!
Though the establishment of an independent Ukraine angered the OUN’s Nazi allies, who did not agree to it, it is grossly inaccurate to proclaim the OUN innocent of wrongdoing or to claim it was not a fascist organization. Even if the group had never collaborated with the Nazis, which it did, the OUN is guilty of enough atrocities against Jews, Poles, Russians, communists and Romani people to blacken its name forever in history as a brutal fascist organization.
In part one of this article, we looked at what the OUN did in Wołyń, where at least 100,000 people were massacred, most of them women and children. This was how the OUN operated. With brutality and hatred and no mercy whatsoever. They were violent fascists in their own right even if they had not collaborated with the Nazis. But of course, they did.
A Ukrainian Jew named Moshe Maltz wrote in his journal, later published as a memoir, while he was hiding from the Banderites:
_“Bandera men … are not discriminating about who they kill; they are gunning down the populations of entire villages.… Since there are hardly any Jews left to kill, the Bandera gangs have turned on the Poles. They are literally hacking Poles to pieces. Every day … you can see the bodies of Poles, with wires around their necks, floating down the river Bug.”
_After the declaration of Ukrainian independence, tensions rose until the Nazis arrested Bandera, Stetsko and other leaders of the OUN, and sent them to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1943.
Bandera, however, was not treated like a Jew, a Russian or any other untermensch. He was given a two-room suite with paintings and rugs and was not forced to perform any labor. He wore no uniform, ate with the guards and did not even lock his cell door at night. And he was allowed to have conjugal visits with his wife.
After less than a year, in 1944, Bandera was released and the Nazis recruited him, along with Stetsko, to carry out terrorist acts against the Red Army, which was now advancing on Germany.
The OUN did take minor retaliatory action against the Nazis in 1943, but it was slight compared to the campaign of terror the organization had previously waged against the Poles, Jews, Romani and other minorities.
Once again, it was civilians who bore the brunt of the OUN’s cruelty. In 1943, the Ukrainian nationalists killed around 12,000 “Germans” — mostly farmers and peasants under Nazi control. Only around 1,000 of these victims were actual Wehrmacht. Indeed, Soviet partisans reported that the OUN only engaged with Germans when the Germans mocked or attacked Ukrainians.
The Nazis handled this by simply transferring the more expendable Polish collaborators to the region to fight the OUN. And following the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, the OUN renewed its pact with the Nazis and reaffirmed the Soviets as their common enemy. There were little skirmishes between Nazis and OUN after that, but they were insignificant in the overall scope of their greater collaboration.
In 1943, the SS formed its Galicia Division, which incorporated members of the OUN. Modern Ukrainians have attempted to whitewash Galicia’s reputation, and marches in honor of this SS unit are a common sight in western Ukraine today.
Ukrainian youth marching with the banner of the Galicia SS in 2018. Photo credit: RIA Novosti
_“Russian Ukraine cannot be compared to Austrian Galicia… The Austrian-Galician Ruthenians are closely intertwined with the Austrian state. Therefore, in Galicia it is possible to allow the SS to form one division from the local population.”
— Adolf Hitler, 1942.
_The OUN continued its terrorist rampage in western Ukraine until Soviet occupation of the region drove the fascist movement underground. In 1944, the OUN merged with other nationalist groups to form the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council, the UHVR, headed by Ivan Hrinioch, who had previously served as a chaplain in the Nightingale unit. Roman Shukhevich was killed in a raid by Soviet forces in 1950, bringing an end to the UPA for all intents and purposes.
But there always seem to be willing sponsors available to support Ukrainian fascists. If not overtly, then covertly.
Mykola Lebed became the foreign minister for the UHVR. As head of the OUN secret police, he was a known sadist and collaborator of the Germans, according to the US army. He later became a collaborator of the CIA, according to 1953 documents declassified in 2007.
But Bandera’s antagonism and volatility split the UHVR just as it had split the OUN previously. In 1947 Bandera and Stetsko fought with Lebed and Hrinioch over the issue of the largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. Bandera demanded a purely Ukrainian state, purged of all Russian influence. Lebed and Hrinioch insisted that the help of eastern Ukrainians was needed for the success of the movement. Bandera expelled them in 1948, which led to the breakup of his brief courtship by the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA.
It was not long after the war when US Army Counterintelligence found Bandera in the American occupation zone, hiding from the Soviets who wanted him to face trial for his crimes. In 1946, the Soviets made a failed attempt to capture him in Munich, where he was working under the protection of Reinhard Gehlen, a Nazi spy-turned-CIA agent. Gehlen helped countless Nazis to escape justice, including Adolf Eichmann, with the full support and backing of the CIA. In 1946, he was paid $3.5 million and he had 50 employees including 40 former SS. The CIA, in turn, used the Nazis as assets.
Bandera and the OUN secret police, the SB, formed by Lebed, served as assassins for MI6 as part of “Operation Ohio,” as it was codenamed. They hunted the refugee camps in post-war Germany for their targets, which included thousands of communists and anyone who might know too much about the OUN’s brutal reign of terror. Their terrifying reputation as hitmen earned Lebed the codename “Devil.”
The CIA valued Bandera as a potential asset because of the respect he commanded among the fascist underground. But he was far too extreme, unruly, and downright dangerous to work with, as he was uncooperative and often refused to use encrypted communications. He was just too much of a risk for the CIA to gamble with.
By 1954, the CIA forced MI6 to stop working with Bandera. That same year, Bandera was finally removed from OUN leadership. However, the CIA and the Germans continued to protect him from assassination attempts. He was guarded by Gehlen’s SS, the CIA, and the US Army Counterintelligence Corps.
The Soviets, meanwhile, had made repeated attempts to extradite Bandera so he could face trial for his war crimes. Every attempt was refused, so the KGB tried on several occasions to assassinate him, in 1947, 1948, 1952 and 1959.
Bandera continued his work for Gehlen for the remainder of his life, which ended in 1959 when a KGB agent named Bohdan Stashinsky finally succeeded in killing him. Stashinsky was an experienced assassin who had infiltrated the Bandera group in 1957 as a “German” and had already eliminated another leader of the OUN, Lev Rebet, using the same technique he was about to use on Bandera.
On October 15th, he followed Bandera to his home at Kristmanstrasse 7 in Munich where the mass-murderer was living under a false name. As his target reached the porch, Stashinsky quickly swallowed an antidote, then approached Bandera, who was struggling with the lock on the door. He asked his quarry if the key was working alright, and when Bandera raised his head to answer, Stashinsky blasted him in the face with a double-barreled cylinder loaded with ampoules of potassium cyanide. The instant he pressed the trigger, the powder charge broke the ampoules and the poison flew out. Bandera inhaled the toxic mist, causing his heart to stop. He collapsed, blood pouring from his mouth, and cracked his skull on the stairs.
The antidote protected Stashinsky, who quickly walked out of the entryway and disappeared into the night.
Initially, the cause of Bandera’s death was believed to be a stroke, which had caused him to fall. But investigators later discovered the traces of potassium cyanide in his system. The name of his assassin was unknown until 1961, when love led Stashinsky to his eventual capture.
Bohdan Stashinsky, upper right, and a diagram of the specially-made poison gun he used to kill Bandera. Photo credit: RBTH
Cupid’s arrow captures a spy
In Moscow, Bohdan Stashinsky was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. His handlers at the KGB, against their better judgment, also gave him permission to marry Inga Pol, an East German who had strong anti-communist leanings.
The couple settled in Moscow, but Inga returned to Germany to give birth to their son. Only four months later, their infant son died, and Stashinsky was allowed to go to the funeral in Germany. But he used the opportunity to flee to the west, instead.
On August 13, 1961, Stashinsky and his wife sneaked out of their house, leaving behind an unburied coffin containing their dead son. The smitten Stashinsky had confessed to his wife, against KGB instructions, of his involvement in the assassination of Bandera. Inga feared for her husband’s safety and convinced him to flee.
Stashinsky gave himself up to police in West Germany and was handed over to the CIA. He gave them detailed information about his activities in the KGB including the assassination of Stepan Bandera. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and Inga divorced him in 1964.
After his release in 1967, Stashinsky disappeared. Some sources claimed he stayed in the US and others claimed he fled to South Africa, perhaps changing his appearance with plastic surgery.
But no one knows if the man who killed Bandera is still alive today.
Bohdan Stashinsky and his wife, Inga. Photo source: RBTH
About the author:
Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.
Russia’s war with Ukraine is first and foremost a tragedy for the people of both countries, especially those who live—and die—in the battle zones. The priority for humanity, though apparently not for the political class, is to encourage Moscow and Kyiv to stop killing men, women and children and negotiate a peace deal.
Beyond the immediate confines of the conflict, the war is also seen by some as representative of an alleged clash between great powers and, perhaps, between civilisations. All wars are momentous, but the ramifications of Ukrainian war are already global.
Consequently, there is a perception that it is the focal point of a confrontation between two distinct models of global governance. The NATO-led alliance of the Western nations continues to push the unipolar, G7, international rules-based order (IRBO). It is opposed, some say, by the Russian and Chinese-led BRICS and the G20-based multipolar world order.
In this 3 part series we will explore these issues and consider if it is tenable to place our faith in the emerging multipolar world order.
There are very few redeeming features of the unipolar world order, that’s for sure. It is a system that overwhelmingly serves capital and few people other than a “parasite class” of stakeholder capitalist eugenicists. This has led many disaffected Westerners to invest their hopes in the promise of the multipolar world order:
Many have increasingly come to terms with the reality that today’s multipolar system led by Russia and China has premised itself upon the defense of international law and national sovereignty as outlined in the UN Charter. [. . .] Putin and Xi Jinping have [. . .] made their choice to stand for win-win cooperation over Hobbesian Zero Sum thinking. [. . .] [T]heir entire strategy is premised upon the UN Charter.
If only that were so! Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be the case. But even if it were true, Putin and Xi Jinping basing “their entire strategy” upon the UN Charter, would be cause for concern, not relief.
For the globalist forces that see nation-states as squares on the grand chessboard and that regard leaders like Putin, Biden and Xi Jinping as accomplices, the multipolar world order is manna from heaven. They have spent more than a century trying to centralise global power. The power of individual nation-states at least presents the possibility of some decentralisation. The multipolar world order finally ends all national sovereignty and delivers true global governance.
We need to distinguish between the ideological concept of “world order” and the reality. This will help us identify where “world order” is an artificially imposed construct.
Authoritarian power, wielded over populations, territory and resources, restricted by physical and political geography, dictates the “world order.” The present order is largely the product of hard-nosed geopolitics, but it also reflects the various attempts to impose a global order.
The struggle to manage and mitigate the consequences of geopolitics is evident in the history of international relations. For nearly 500 years nation-states have sought to co-exist as sovereign entities. Numerous systems have been devised to seize control of what would otherwise be anarchy. It is very much to the detriment of humanity that anarchy has not been allowed to flourish.
In 1648, the two bilateral treaties that formed the Peace of Westphalia concluded the 30 Years War (or Wars). Those negotiated settlements arguably established the precept of the territorial sovereignty within the borders of the nation-state.
This reduced, but did not end, the centralised authoritarian power of the Holy Roman Empire (HRE). Britannica notes:
The Peace of Westphalia recognized the full territorial sovereignty of the member states of the empire.
This isn’t entirely accurate. That so-called “full territorial sovereignty” delineated regional power within Europe and the HRE, but full sovereignty wasn’t established.
The Westphalian treaties created hundreds of principalities that were formerly controlled by the central legislature of the HRE, the Diet. These new, effectively federalised principalities still paid taxes to the emperor and, crucially, religious observance remained a matter for the empire to decide. The treaties also consolidated the regional power of the Danish, Swedish, and French states but the Empire itself remained intact and dominant.
It is more accurate to say that the Peace of Westphalia somewhat curtailed the authoritarian power of the HRE and defined the physical borders of some nation states. During the 20th century, this led to the popular interpretation of the nation-state as a bulwark against international hegemonic power, despite that never having been entirely true.
Consequently, the so-called “Westphalian model” is largely based upon a myth. It represents an idealised version of the world order, suggesting how it could operate rather than describing how it does.
Signing of the Peace of Westphalia, in Münster 1648, painting by Gerard Ter Borch
If nation-states really were sovereign and if their territorial integrity were genuinely respected, then the Westphalian world order would be pure anarchy. This is the ideal upon which the UN is supposedly founded because, contrary to another ubiquitous popular myth, anarchy does not mean “chaos.” Quite the opposite.
Anarchy is exemplified by Article 2.1 of the UN Charter:
The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
The word “anarchy” is an abstraction of the classical Greek “anarkhos,” meaning “rulerless.” This is derived from the privative prefix “an” (without) in conjunction with “arkhos” (leader or ruler). Literally translated, “anarchy” means “without rulers”—what the UN calls “sovereign equality.”
A Westphalian world order of sovereign nation-states, each observing the “equality” of all others while adhering to the non-aggression principle, is a system of global, political anarchy. Unfortunately, that is not the way the current UN “world order” functions, nor has there ever been any attempt to construct such an order. What a shame.
Within the League of Nations and subsequent UN system of practical “world order,”—a world order allegedly built upon the sovereignty of nations—equality exists in theory only. Through empire, colonialism, neocolonialism—that is, through economic, military, financial and monetary conquest, coupled with the debt obligations imposed upon targeted nations—global powers have always been able to dominate and control lesser ones.
National governments, if defined in purely political terms, have never been the only source of authority behind the efforts to construct world order. As revealed by Antony C. Sutton and others, private corporate power has aided national governments in shaping “world order.”
Neither Hitler’s rise to power nor the Bolshevik Revolution would have occurred as they did, if at all, without the guidance of the Wall Street financiers. The bankers’ global financial institutions and extensive international espionage networks were instrumental in shifting global political power.
These private-sector “partners” of government are the “stakeholders” we constantly hear about today. The most powerful among them are fully engaged in “the game” described by Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard.
Brzezinski recognised that the continental landmass of Eurasia was the key to genuine global hegemony:
This huge, oddly shaped Eurasian chess board—extending from Lisbon to Vladivostok—provides the setting for “the game.” [. . .] [I]f the middle space rebuffs the West, becomes an assertive single entity [. . .] then America’s primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically. [. . .] That mega-continent is just too large, too populous, culturally too varied, and composed of too many historically ambitious and politically energetic states to be compliant toward even the most economically successful and politically pre-eminent global power. [. . .] Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. [. . .] [I]t would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state.
The “unipolar world order” favoured by the Western powers, often referred to as the “international rules-based order” or the “international rules-based system,” is another attempt to impose order. This “unipolar” model enables the US and its European partners to exploit the UN system to claim legitimacy for their games of empire. Through it, the transatlantic alliance has used its economic, military and financial power to try to establish global hegemony.
In 2016, Stewart Patrick, writing for the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a foreign policy think tank, published World Order: What, Exactly, are the Rules? He described the post-WWII “international rules-based order” (IRBO):
What sets the post-1945 Western order apart is that it was shaped overwhelmingly by a single power [a unipolarity], the United States. Operating within the broader context of strategic bipolarity, it constructed, managed, and defended the regimes of the capitalist world economy. [. . .] In the trade sphere, the hegemon presses for liberalization and maintains an open market; in the monetary sphere, it supplies a freely convertible international currency, manages exchange rates, provides liquidity, and serves as a lender of last resort; and in the financial sphere, it serves as a source of international investment and development.
The idea that the aggressive market acquisition of crony capitalism somehow represents the “open markets” of the “capitalist world economy” is risible. It is about as far removed from free market capitalism as it is possible to be. Under crony capitalism, the US dollar, as the preferred global reserve currency, is not “freely convertible.” Exchange rates are manipulated and liquidity is debt for nearly everyone except the lender. “Investment and development” by the hegemon means more profits and control for the hegemon.
The notion that a political leader, or anyone for that matter, is entirely bad or good, is puerile. The same consideration can be given to nation-states, political systems or even models of world order. The character of a human being, a nation or a system of global governance is better judged by their or its totality of actions.
Whatever we consider to be the source of “good” and “evil,” it exists in all of us at either ends of a spectrum. Some people exhibit extreme levels of psychopathy, which can lead them to commit acts that are judged to be “evil.” But even Hitler, for example, showed physical courage, devotion, compassion for some, and other qualities we might consider “good.”
Nation-states and global governance structures, though immensely complex, are formed and led by people. They are influenced by a multitude of forces. Given the added complications of chance and unforeseen events, it is unrealistic to expect any form of “order” to be either entirely good or entirely bad.
That being said, if that “order” is iniquitous and causes appreciable harm to people, then it is important to identify to whom that “order” provides advantage. Their potential individual and collective guilt should be investigated.
This does not imply that those who benefit are automatically culpable, nor that they are “bad” or “evil,” though they may be, only that they have a conflict of interests in maintaining their “order” despite the harm it causes. Equally, where systemic harm is evident, it is irrational to absolve the actions of the people who lead and benefit from that system without first ruling out their possible guilt.
Since WWII, millions of innocents have been murdered by the US, its international allies and its corporate partners, all of whom have thrown their military, economic and financial weight around the world. The Western “parasite class” has sought to assert its IRBO by any means necessary— sanctions, debt slavery or outright slavery, physical, economic or psychological warfare. The grasping desire for more power and control has exposed the very worst of human nature. Repeatedly and ad nauseam.
Of course, resistance to this kind of global tyranny is understandable. The question is: Does imposition of the multipolar model offer anything different?
Signing the UN Charter – 1948
Most recently, the “unipolar world order” has been embodied by the World Economic Forum’s inappropriately named Great Reset. It is so malignant and forbidding that some consider the emerging “multipolar world order” salvation. They have even heaped praise upon the likely leaders of the new multipolar world:
It is [. . .] strength of purpose and character that has defined Putin’s two decades in power. [. . .] Russia is committed to the process of finding solutions to all people benefiting from the future, not just a few thousand holier-than-thou oligarchs. [. . .] Together [Russia and China] told the WEF to stuff the Great Reset back into the hole in which it was conceived. [. . .] Putin told Klaus Schwab and the WEF that their entire idea of the Great Reset is not only doomed to failure but runs counter to everything modern leadership should be pursuing.
Sadly, it seems this hope is also misplaced.
While Putin did much to rid Russia of the CIA-run, Western-backed oligarchs who were systematically destroying the Russian Federation during the 1990s, they have subsequently been replaced by another band of oligarchs with closer links to the current Russian government. Something we will explore in Part 3.
Yes, it is certainly true that the Russian government, led by Putin and his power bloc, has improved the incomes and life opportunities for the majority of Russians. Putin’s government has also significantly reduced chronic poverty in Russia over the last two decades.
Wealth in Russia, measured as the market value of financial and non-financial assets, has remained concentrated in the hands of the top 1% of the population. This pooling of wealth among the top percentile is itself stratified and is overwhelmingly held by the top 1% of the 1%. For example, in 2017, 56% of Russian wealth was controlled by 1% of the population. The pseudopandemic of 2020–2022 particularly benefitted Russian billionnaires—as it did the billionaires of every other developed economy.
According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2021, wealth inequality in Russia, measured using the Gini coefficient, was 87.8 in 2020. The only other major economy with a greater disparity between the wealthy and the rest of the population was Brazil. Just behind Brazil and Russia on the wealth inequality scale was the US, whose Gini coefficient stood at 85.
In terms of wealth concentration however, the situation in Russia was the worst by a considerable margin. In 2020 the top 1% owned 58.2% of Russia’s wealth. This was more than 8 percentage points higher than Brazil’s wealth concentration, and significantly worse than wealth concentration in the US, which stood at 35.2% in 2020.
Such disproportionate wealth distribution is conducive to creating and empowering oligarchs. But wealth alone doesn’t determine whether one is an oligarch. Wealth needs to be converted into political power for the term “oligarch” to be applicable. An oligarchy is defined as “a form of government in which supreme power is vested in a small exclusive class.”
Members of this dominant class are installed through a variety of mechanisms. The British establishment, and particularly its political class, is dominated by men and women who were educated at Eton, Roedean, Harrow and St. Pauls, etc. This “small exclusive class” arguably constitutes a British oligarchy. The UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has been heralded by some because she is not a graduate of one of these select public schools.
Educational privilege aside, though, the use of the word “oligarch” in the West more commonly refers to an internationalist class of globalists whose individual wealth sets them apart and who use that wealth to influence policy decisions.
Bill Gates is a prime example of an oligarch. The former advisor to the UK Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, said as much during his testimony to a parliamentary committee on May 2021 (go to 14:02:35). As Cummings put it, Bill Gates and “that kind of network” had directed the UK government’s response to the supposed COVID-19 pandemic.
Gates’ immense wealth has bought him direct access to political power beyond national borders. He has no public mandate in either the US or the UK. He is an oligarch—one of the more well known but far from the only one.
CFR member David Rothkopf described these people as a “Superclass” with the ability to “influence the lives of millions across borders on a regular basis.” They do this, he said, by using their globalist “networks.” Those networks, as described by Antony C. Sutton, Dominic Cummings and others, act as “the force multiplier in any kind of power structure.”
This “small exclusive class” use their wealth to control resources and thus policy. Political decisions, policy, court rulings and more are made at their behest. This point was highlighted in the joint letter sent by the Attorneys General (AGs) of 19 US states to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.
The AGs observed that BlackRock was essentially using its investment strategy to pursue a political agenda:
The Senators elected by the citizens of this country determine which international agreements have the force of law, not BlackRock.
Their letter describes the theoretical model of representative democracy. Representative democracy is not a true democracy—which decentralises political power to the individual citizen—but is rather a system designed to centralise political control and authority. Inevitably, “representative democracy” leads to the consolidation of power in the hands of the so-called “Superclass” described by Rothkopf.
There is nothing “super” about them. They are ordinary people who have acquired wealth primarily through conquest, usury, market rigging, political manipulation and slavery. “Parasite class” is a more befitting description.
Not only do global investment firms like BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street use their immense resources to steer public policy, but their major shareholders include the very oligarchs who, via their contribution to various think tanks, create the global political agendas that determine policy in the first place. There is no space in this system of alleged “world order” for any genuine democratic oversight.
As we shall see in Part 3, the levers of control are exerted to achieve exactly the same effect in Russia and China. Both countries have a gaggle of oligarchs whose objectives are firmly aligned with the WEF’s Great Reset agenda. They too work with their national government “partners” to ensure that they all arrive at the “right” policy decisions.
US President Joe Biden, left, and CFR President Richard N. Haass, right.
The United Nations’ Model of National Sovereignty
Any bloc of nations that bids for dominance within the United Nations is seeking global hegemony. The UN enables global governance and centralises global political power and authority. In so doing, the UN empowers the international oligarchy.
As noted previously, Article 2 of the United Nations Charter declares that the UN is “based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” The Charter then goes on to list the numerous ways in which nation-states are not equal. It also clarifies how they are all subservient to the UN Security Council.
Despite all the UN’s claims of lofty principles—respect for national sovereignty and for alleged human rights—Article 2 declares that no nation-state can receive any assistance from another as long as the UN Security Council is forcing that nation-state to comply with its edicts. Even non-member states must abide by the Charter, whether they like it or not, by decree of the United Nations.
The UN Charter is a paradox. Article 2.7 asserts that “nothing in the Charter” permits the UN to infringe the sovereignty of a nation-state—except when it does so through UN “enforcement measures.” The Charter states, apparently without reason, that all nation-states are “equal.” However, some nation-states are empowered by the Charter to be far more equal than others.
While the UN’s General Assembly is supposedly a decision-making forum comprised of “equal” sovereign nations, Article 11 affords the General Assembly only the power to discuss “the general principles of co-operation.” In other words, it has no power to make any significant decisions.
Article 12 dictates that the General Assembly can only resolve disputes if instructed to do so by the Security Council. The most important function of the UN, “the maintenance of international peace and security,” can only be dealt with by the Security Council. What the other members of the General Assembly think about the Security Council’s global “security” decisions is a practical irrelevance.
Article 23 lays out which nation-states form the Security Council:
The Security Council shall consist of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [Russian Federation], the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America shall be permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly shall elect ten other Members of the United Nations to be non-permanent members of the Security Council. [. . .] The non-permanent members of the Security Council shall be elected for a term of two years.
The General Assembly is allowed to elect “non-permanent” members to the Security Council based upon criteria stipulated by the Security Council. Currently the “non-permanent” members are Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway and the United Arab Emirates.
Article 24 proclaims that the Security Council has “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” and that all other nations agree that “the Security Council acts on their behalf.” The Security Council investigates and defines all alleged threats and recommends the procedures and adjustments for the supposed remedy. The Security Council dictates what further action, such as sanctions or the use of military force, shall be taken against any nation-state it considers to be a problem.
Article 27 decrees that at least 9 of the 15 member states must be in agreement for a Security Council resolution to be enforced. All of the 5 permanent members must concur, and each has the power of veto. Any Security Council member, including permanent members, shall be excluded from the vote or use of its veto if they are party to the dispute in question.
UN member states, by virtue of agreeing to the Charter, must provide armed forces at the Security Council’s request. In accordance with Article 47, military planning and operational objectives are the sole remit of the permanent Security Council members through their exclusive Military Staff Committee. If the permanent members are interested in the opinion of any other “sovereign” nation, they’ll ask it to provide one.
The inequality inherent in the Charter could not be clearer. Article 44 notes that “when the Security Council has decided to use force” its only consultative obligation to the wider UN is to discuss the use of another member state’s armed forces where the Security Council has ordered that nation to fight. For a country that is a current member of the Security Council, use of its armed forces by the Military Staff Committee is a prerequisite for Council membership.
The UN Secretary-General, identified as the “chief administrative officer” in the Charter, oversees the UN Secretariat. The Secretariat commissions, investigates and produces the reports that allegedly inform UN decision-making. The Secretariat staff members are appointed by the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is “appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.”
Under the UN Charter, then, the Security Council is made king. This arrangement affords the governments of its permanent members—China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—considerable additional authority. There is nothing egalitarian about the UN Charter.
The suggestion that the UN Charter constitutes a “defence” of “national sovereignty” is ridiculous. The UN Charter is the embodiment of the centralisation of global power and authority.
UN Headquarters New York – Land Donated by the Rockefellers
The United Nations’ Global Public-Private Partnership
The UN was created, in no small measure, through the efforts of the private sector Rockefeller Foundation (RF). In particular, the RF’s comprehensive financial and operational support for the Economic, Financial and Transit Department (EFTD) of the League of Nations (LoN), and its considerable influence upon the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), made the RF the key player in the transformation of the LoN into the UN.
The UN came into being as a result of public-private partnership. Since then, especially with regard to defence, financing, global health care and sustainable development, public-private partnerships have become dominant within the UN system. The UN is no longer an intergovernmental organisation, if it ever was one. It is a global collaboration between governments and a multinational infra-governmental network of private “stakeholders.”
In 1998, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the World Economic Forum’s Davos symposium that a “quiet revolution” had occurred in the UN during the 1990s:
[T]he United Nations has been transformed since we last met here in Davos. The Organization has undergone a complete overhaul that I have described as a “quiet revolution”. [. . .] [W]e are in a stronger position to work with business and industry. [. . .] The business of the United Nations involves the businesses of the world. [. . .] We also promote private sector development and foreign direct investment. We help countries to join the international trading system and enact business-friendly legislation.
In 2005, the World Health Organisation (WHO), a specialised agency of the UN, published a report on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in healthcare titled Connecting for Health. Speaking about how “stakeholders” could introduce ICT healthcare solutions globally, the WHO noted:
Governments can create an enabling environment, and invest in equity, access and innovation.
The 2015, Adis Ababa Action Agenda conference on “financing for development” clarified the nature of an “enabling environment.” National governments from 193 UN nation-states committed their respective populations to funding public-private partnerships for sustainable development by collectively agreeing to create “an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development;” and “to further strengthen the framework to finance sustainable development.”
In 2017, UN General Assembly Resolution 70/224 (A/Res/70/224) compelled UN member states to implement “concrete policies” that “enable” sustainable development. A/Res/70/224 added that the UN:
[. . .] reaffirms the strong political commitment to address the challenge of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development [—] particularly with regard to developing partnerships through the provision of greater opportunities to the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society in general.
In short, the “enabling environment” is a government, and therefore taxpayer, funding commitment to create markets for the private sector. Over the last few decades, successive Secretary-Generals have overseen the UN’s formal transition into a global public-private partnership (G3P).
Nation-states do not have sovereignty over public-private partnerships. Sustainable development formally relegates government to the role of an “enabling” partner within a global network comprised of multinational corporations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations and other actors. The “other actors” are predominantly the philanthropic foundations of individual billionaires and immensely wealthy family dynasties—that is, oligarchs.
Effectively, then, the UN serves the interests of capital. Not only is it a mechanism for the centralisation of global political authority, it is committed to the development of global policy agendas that are “business-friendly.” That means Big Business-friendly. Such agendas may happen to coincide with the best interests of humanity, but where they don’t—which is largely the case—well, that’s just too bad for humanity.
Kofi Annan (8 April 1938 – 18 August 2018)
On the 4th February 2022, a little less then three weeks prior to Russia launching its “special military operation” in Ukraine, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping issued an important joint statement:
The sides [Russian Federation and Chinese People’s Republic] strongly support the development of international cooperation and exchanges [. . .], actively participating in the relevant global governance process, [. . .] to ensure sustainable global development. [. . .] The international community should actively engage in global governance[.] [. . .] The sides reaffirmed their intention to strengthen foreign policy coordination, pursue true multilateralism, strengthen cooperation on multilateral platforms, defend common interests, support the international and regional balance of power, and improve global governance. [. . .] The sides call on all States [. . .] to protect the United Nations-driven international architecture and the international law-based world order, seek genuine multipolarity with the United Nations and its Security Council playing a central and coordinating role, promote more democratic international relations, and ensure peace, stability and sustainable development across the world.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) defined “global governance” in its 2014 publication Global Governance and the Global Rules For Development in the Post 2015 Era:
Global governance encompasses the totality of institutions, policies, norms, procedures and initiatives through which States and their citizens try to bring more predictability, stability and order to their responses to transnational challenges.
Global governance centralises control over the entire sphere of international relations. It inevitably erodes a nation’s ability to set foreign policy. As a theoretical protection against global instability, this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but in practice it neither enhances nor “protects” national sovereignty.
Domination of the global governance system by one group of powerful nation-states represents possibly the most dangerous and destabilising force of all. It allows those nations to act with impunity, regardless of any pretensions about honouring alleged “international law.”
Global governance also significantly curtails the independence of a nation-state’s domestic policy. For example, the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda 21, with the near-time Agenda 2030 serving as a waypoint, impacts nearly all national domestic policy—even setting the course for most domestic policy—in every country.
National electorates’ oversight of this “totality” of UN policies is weak to nonexistent. Global governance renders so-called “representative democracy” little more than a vacuous sound-bite.
As the UN is a global public-private partnership (UN-G3P), global governance allows the “multi-stakeholder partnership”—and therefore oligarchs—significant influence over member nation-states’ domestic and foreign policy. Set in this context, the UN-DESA report (see above) provides a frank appraisal of the true nature of UN-G3P global governance:
Current approaches to global governance and global rules have led to a greater shrinking of policy space for national Governments [. . . ]; this also impedes the reduction of inequalities within countries. [. . .] Global governance has become a domain with many different players including: multilateral organizations; [. . .] elite multilateral groupings such as the Group of Eight (G8) and the Group of Twenty (G20) [and] different coalitions relevant to specific policy subjects[.] [. . .] Also included are activities of the private sector (e.g., the Global Compact) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and large philanthropic foundations (e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Turner Foundation) and associated global funds to address particular issues[.] [. . .] The representativeness, opportunities for participation, and transparency of many of the main actors are open to question. [. . .] NGOs [. . .] often have governance structures that are not subject to open and democratic accountability. The lack of representativeness, accountability and transparency of corporations is even more important as corporations have more power and are currently promoting multi-stakeholder governance with a leading role for the private sector. [. . .] Currently, it seems that the United Nations has not been able to provide direction in the solution of global governance problems—perhaps lacking appropriate resources or authority, or both. United Nations bodies, with the exception of the Security Council, cannot make binding decisions.
A/Res/73/254 declares that the UN Global Compact Office plays a vital role in “strengthening the capacity of the United Nations to partner strategically with the private sector.” It adds:
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges that the implementation of sustainable development will depend on the active engagement of both the public and private sectors[.]
While the Attorneys General of 19 states might rail against BlackRock for usurping the political authority of US senators, BlackRock is simply exercising its power as valued a “public-private partner” of the US government. Such is the nature of global governance. Given that this system has been constructed over the last 80 years, it’s a bit too late for 19 state AGs to complain about it now. What have they been doing for the last eight decades?
The governmental “partners” of the UN-G3P lack “authority” because the UN was created, largely by the Rockefellers, as a public-private partnership. The intergovernmental structure is the partner of the infra-governmental network of private stakeholders. In terms of resources, the power of the private sector “partners” dwarfs that of their government counterparts.
Corporate fiefdoms are not limited by national borders. BlackRock alone currently holds $9.5 trillion of assets under management. This is more than five times the size of the total GDP of UN Security Council permanent member Russia and nearly four times the GDP of the UK.
So-called sovereign countries are not sovereign over their own central banks nor are they “sovereign” over international financial institutions like the IMF, the New Development Bank (NDB), the World Bank or the Bank for International Settlements. The notion that any nation state or intergovernmental organisation is capable of bringing the global network of private capital to heel is farcical.
At the COP26 Conference in Glasgow in 2021, King Charles III—then Prince Charles—prepared the conference to endorse the forthcoming announcement of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). He made it abundantly clear who was in charge and, in keeping with UN objectives, clarified national governments role as “enabling partners”:
The scale and scope of the threat we face call for a global systems level solution based on radically transforming our current fossil fuel based economy. [. . .] So ladies and gentleman, my plea today is for countries to come together to create the environment that enables every sector of industry to take the action required. We know this will take trillions, not billions of dollars. [. . .] [W]e need a vast military style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at [its] disposal far beyond global GDP, and with the greatest respect, beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders. It offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.
Unless Putin and Xi Jinping intend to completely restructure the United Nations, including all of its institutions and specialised agencies, their objective of protecting “the United Nations-driven international architecture” appears to be nothing more than a bid to cement their status as the nominal leaders of the UN-G3P. As pointed out by UN-DESA, through the UN-G3P, that claim to political authority is extremely limited. Global corporations dominate and are currently further consolidating their global power through “multi-stakeholder governance.”
Whether unipolar or multipolar, the so-called “world order” is the system of global governance led by the private sector—the oligarchs. Nation-states, including Russia and China, have already agreed to follow global priorities determined at the global governance level. The question is not which model of the global public-private “world order” we should accept, but rather why we would ever accept any such “world order” at all.
This, then, is the context within which we can explore the alleged advantages of a “multipolar world order” led by China, Russia and increasingly India. Is it an attempt, as claimed by some, to reinvigorate the United Nations and create a more just and equitable system of global governance? Or is it merely the next phase in the construction of what many refer to as the “New World Order”?
The pdf will be available after publication of Part 3.
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Who Are The New World Order – A Brief History The New World Order And the European Union Is It Joe Biden’s New World Order? Putin’s False Flag
It may seem strange to invite an economist to give a keynote speech to a conference of the social sciences. Economists have been characterized as autistic and anti-social in the popular press for good reason. They are trained to think abstractly and use a priori deduction – based on how they think societies should develop. Today’s mainstream economists look at neoliberal privatization and free-market ideals as leading society’s income and wealth to settle at an optimum equilibrium without any need for government regulation – especially not of credit and debt.
The only role acknowledged for government is to enforce the “sanctity of contracts” and “security of property.” By this they mean the enforcement of debt contracts, even when their enforcement expropriates large numbers of indebted homeowners and other property owners. That is the history of Rome. We are seeing the same debt dynamic at work today. Yet this basic approach has led mainstream economists to insist that civilization could and should have followed this pro-creditor policy from the very beginning.
The reality is that civilization could never have taken off if some free-market economist had got into a time machine and travelled back in time five thousand years to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Suppose that he would have convinced ancient chieftains or rulers how to organize their trade, money and land tenure on the basis of “greed is good” and any public regulation is bad.
If some Milton Friedman or Margaret Thatcher had persuaded Sumerian, Babylonian or other ancient rulers to follow today’s neoliberal philosophy, civilization could not have developed. Economies would have polarized – as Rome did, and as today’s Western economies are doing. The citizens would have run away, or else backed a local reformer or revolutionist to overthrow the ruler who listened to such economic advice. Or, they would have defected to rival attackers who promised to cancel their debts, liberate the bondservants and redistribute the land.
Yet many generations of linguists, historians and even anthropologists have absorbed the economic discipline’s anti-social individualistic world view and imagine that the world must always have been this way. Many of these non-economists have unwittingly adopt their prejudices and approach ancient as well as modern history with a bias. Our daily discourse is so bombarded with the insistence by recent American politicians that the world is dividing between “democracy” with “free markets” and “autocracy” with public regulation that there is much fantasy at work about early civilization.
David Graeber and I have sought to expand the consciousness of how different the world was before Western Civilization took the Roman track of pro-creditor oligarchies instead of palatial economies protecting the interests of the indebted population at large. At the time he published his Debt: The First Five Thousand Years in 2011, my Harvard group of assyriologists, Egyptologists and archaeologists was still in the process of writing the economic history of the ancient Near East in a way that was radically different from how most of the public imagined it to have occurred. David’s and my emphasis on how royal Clean Slate proclamations cancelling debts, liberating bond-servants and redistributing the land were a normal and expected role of Mesopotamian rulers and Egyptian pharaohs was still not believed at that time. It seemed impossible that such Clean Slates were what preserved liberty for the citizenry.
David Graeber’s book summarized my survey of royal debt cancellation in the ancient Near East to show that interest-bearing debt originally was adopted with checks and balances to prevent it from polarizing society between creditors and debtors. In fact, he pointed out that the strains created by the emergence of monetary wealth in personal hands led to an economic and social crisis that shaped the emergence of the great religious and social reformers.
As he summarized “the core period of Jasper’s Axial age … corresponds almost exactly to the period in which coinage was invented. What’s more, the three parts of the world where coins were first invented were also the very parts of the world where those sages lived; in fact, they became the epicenters of Axial Age religious and philosophical creativity.” Buddha, Lao-Tzu and Confucius all sought to create a social context in which to embed the economy. There was no concept of letting “markets work” to allocate wealth and income without any idea of how wealth and income would be spent.
All ancient societies had a mistrust of wealth, above all monetary and financial wealth in creditor hands, because it generally tended to be accumulated at the expense of society at large. Anthropologists have found this to be a characteristic of low-income societies in general.
Toynbee characterized history as a long unfolding dynamic of challenges and responses to the central concerns that shape civilizations. The major challenge has been economic in character: who would benefit from the surpluses gained as trade and production increase in scale and become increasingly specialized and monetized. Above all, how would society organize the credit and debt that was necessary for specialization of economic activities to occur – and between “public” and “private” functions?
Nearly all early societies had a central authority in charge of distributing how the surplus was invested in a way that promoted overall economic welfare. The great challenge was to prevent credit leading to debts being paid in a way that impoverished the citizenry, e.g., through personal debt and usury – and more than temporary loss of freedom (from bondage or exile) or land tenure rights.
The great problem that the Bronze Age Near East solved – but classical antiquity and Western civilization have not solved – was how to cope with debts being paid – especially at interest without polarizing economies between creditors and debtors, and ultimately impoverishing the economy by reducing most of the population to debt dependency. Merchants engaged in trade, both for themselves and as agents for palace rulers. Who would get the profits? And how would credit be provided but kept in line with the ability to be paid?
Public vs. private theories of how land tenure originated
Ancient societies rested on an agricultural base. The first and most basic problem for society to solve was how to assign land tenure. Even families who lived in towns that were being built up around temples and civic ceremonial and administrative centers were allocated self-support land – much like Russians have dachas, where most of their food was grown in Soviet times.
In analyzing the origins of land tenure, like every economic phenomenon, we find two approaches. On the one hand is a scenario where land is allocated by the community in exchange for corvée labor obligations and service in the military. On the other hand is an individualistic scenario in which land tenure originated by individuals acting spontaneously by themselves clearing land, make it their own property and producing handicrafts or other products (even metal to use as money!) to exchange with each other.
This latter individualistic view of land tenure has been popularized ever since John Locke imagined individuals setting out to clear the land – apparently vacant wooded land – with their own labor (and presumably that of their wives). That effort established their ownership to it and its crop yield. Some families would have more land than others, either because they were stronger at clearing it or had a larger family to help them. And there was enough land for everyone to clear ground for planting crops.
In this view there is no need for any community to be involved, not even to protect themselves from miliary attack – or for mutual aid in times of flood or other problems. And there is no need for credit to be involved – although in antiquity that was the main lever distorting the distribution of land by transferring its ownership to wealthy creditors
At some point in history, to be sure, this theory sees governments enter the picture. Perhaps they took the form of invading armies, which is how the Norman ancestors of landlords in John Locke’s day acquired English land. And as in England, the rulers would have forced landholders to pay part of their crops in taxes and provide military service. In any case, the role of government was recognized only as “interfering” with the cultivator’s right to use the crop as he saw fit – presumably to trade for things that he needed, made by families in their own workshops.
My Harvard-sponsored group of assyriologists, Egyptologists and archaeologists have found an entirely different genesis of land tenure. Land rights seem to have been assigned in standardized plots in terms of their crop yield. To provide food for these community members, late Neolithic and early Bronze Age communities from Mesopotamia to Egypt allocated land to families in proportion to what they needed to live on and how much they could turn over to the palace authorities.
This tax yield turned over to palace collectors was the original economic rent. Land tenure came as part of a quid pro quo – with a fiscal obligation to provide labor services at designated times of the year, and to serve in the military. It thus was taxation that created land-tenure rights, not the other way around. Land was social in character, not individualistic. And government’s role was that of coordinator, organizer and forward planner, not merely predatory and extractive.
Public vs. private origins of money
How did early societies organize the exchange of crops for products – and most important, to pay taxes and debts? Was it simply a spontaneous world of individuals “trucking and bartering,” as Adam Smith put it? Prices no doubt would have varied radically as individuals had no basic reference to cost of production or degrees of need. What happened as some individuals became traders, taking what they produced (or other peoples’ products on consignment) to make a profit. If they traveled large distances, were caravans or ships needed – and the protection of large groups? Would such groups have been protected by their communities? Did supply and demand play a role? And most important, how did money emerge as a common denominator to set prices for what was traded – or paid in taxes and to settle debts?
A century after Adam Smith, the Austrian economist Anton Menger developed a fantasy about how and why ancient individuals may have preferred to hold their savings in the form of metals – mainly silver but also copper, bronze or gold. The advantage of metal was said to be that it did not spoil (in contrast to grain carried around in one’s pocket, for instance). It also was assumed to be of uniform quality. So pieces of metal money gradually became the medium by which other products came to be measured as they were bartered in exchange – in markets in which governments played no role at all!
The fact that this Austrian theory has been taught now for nearly a century and a half is an indication of how gullible economists are willing to accept a fantasy at odds with all historical records from everywhere in recorded world history. To start with, silver and other metals are not at all of uniform quality. Counterfeiting is age-old, but individualist theories ignore the role of fraud – and hence, the need for public authority to prevent it. That blind spot is why U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was so unprepared to cope with the massive junk-mortgage bank crisis peaking in 2008. Wherever money is involved, fraud is omnipresent.
That’s what happens in unregulated markets – as we can see from today’s bank frauds, tax evasion and crime that pays very, very well. Without a strong government to protect society against fraud, lawbreaking, the use of force and exploitation, societies will polarize and become poorer. For obvious reasons the beneficiaries of these grabs seek to weaken regulatory power and the ability to prevent such grabitization.
To avoid monetary fraud, silver and subsequently gold coinage from Bronze Age Mesopotamia down through classical Greece and Rome was minted in temples to sanctify their standardized quality. That is why our word for money comes from Rome’s temple of Juno Moneta, where Rome’s coinage was struck. Thousands of years before bullion was coined, it was provided in metal strips, bracelets and other forms minted in temples, at standardized alloy proportions.
Purity of metals is not the only problem with using bullion money. The immediate problem that would have confronted anyone exchanging products for silver is how to weigh and measure what was being bought and sold – and also to pay taxes and debts. From Babylonia to the Bible we find denunciations against merchants using false weights and measures. Taxes involve a role of government, and in all archaic societies it was the temples that oversaw weights and measures as well as the purity of metallic metals. And the denomination of weights and measures indicate their origin in the public sector: fractions divided into 60ths in Mesopotamia, and 12ths in Rome.
Trade in basic essentials had standardized customary prices or payments to the palaces or temples. Taxes and debts were the most important used for money. That reflects the fact that “money” in the form of designated commodities was needed mainly to pay taxes or buy products from the palaces or temples and, at the end of the harvesting season, to pay debts to settle such purchases.
Today’s neoliberal economic mainstream has created a fairy tale about civilization existing without any regulatory oversight or productive role for government, and without any need to levy taxes to provide basic social services such as public construction or even service in the military. There is no need to prevent fraud, or violent seizure of property – or the forfeiture of land tenure rights to creditors as a result of debts. But as Balzac noted, most great family fortunes have been the result of some great theft, lost in the mists of time and legitimized over the centuries, as if it were all natural.
These blind spots are necessary to defend the idea of “free markets” controlled by the wealthy, above all by creditors. This is claimed to be for the best, and how society should be run. That is why today’s New Cold War is being fought by neoliberals against socialism – fought with violence, and by excluding the study of history from the academic economics curriculum and hence from the consciousness of the public at large. As Rosa Luxemburg put it, the fight is between socialism and barbarism.
Public vs. private origins of interest-bearing debt
Interest rates were regulated and stable for many centuries on end. The key was ease of calculation: 10th, 12th or 60th.
Babylonian scribes were trained to calculate any rate of interest as a doubling time. Debts grew exponentially; but scribal students also were taught that herds of cattle and other material economic output tapered off in an S-curve. That is why compound interest was prohibited. It also was why it was necessary to cancel debts periodically.
If rulers had not cancelled debts, the ancient world’s takeoff would have prematurely suffered the kind of decline and fall that impoverished Rome’s citizenry and led to the decline and fall of its Republic – leaving a legal system of pro-creditor laws to shape subsequent Western civilization.
What makes Western civilization distinctly Western? Has it all been a detour?
Civilization could not have developed if a modern Milton Friedman or kindred Economics Nobel Prize winner had gone back in time and convinced Hammurabi or the Egyptian pharaoh to just let individuals act by themselves and let wealthy creditors reduce debtors to bondage – and then to use their labor as an army to overthrow the kings and take over government for themselves, creating a Roman-style oligarchy. That is what Byzantine families tried to do in the 9th and 10th centuries.
If the “free enterprise” boys had their way there would have been no temple coinage or oversight of weights and measures. Land would belong to whomever could grab, foreclose on or conquer it. Interest would have reflected whatever a wealthy merchant could force a needy cultivator to pay. But to economists, everything that occurs is a matter of “choice.” As if there is no outright need – to eat or to pay.
An economic Nobel Prize was awarded to Douglass North for claiming that economic progress today and indeed throughout all history has been based on the “security of contracts” and property rights. By this he means the priority of creditor claims to foreclose on the property of debtors. These are the property rights to create latifundia and reduce populations to debt peonage.
No archaic civilization could have survived for long by following this path. And Rome did not survive by instituting what has become the distinguishing feature of Western Civilization: giving control of government and its lawmaking to a wealthy creditor class monopolizing the land and property.
If an ancient society had done this, economic life would have been impoverished. Most of the population would have run away. Or else, the Thatcherite/Chicago School elite would have been overthrown. The wealthy families that sponsored this grabitization would have been exiled, as occurred in many Greek cities in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Or, discontented populations would have walked out and/or threatened to defect to foreign troops promising to free the bondservants, cancel their debts and redistribute the land, as occurred with Rome’s Secessions of the Plebs in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
So we are brought back to David Graeber’s point that the great reformers of Eurasia rose at the same time that economies were becoming monetized and increasingly privatized – an epoch in which wealthy families were increasing their influence over how city-states were run. Not only the great religious reformers but the leading Greek philosophers, poets and dramatists explained how wealth is addictive, and leads to hubris that leads them to seek wealth in ways that injure others.
Looking over the sweep of ancient history, we can see that the main objective of rulers from Babylonia to South Asia and East Asia was to prevent a mercantile and creditor oligarchy from emerging and concentrating ownership of land in their own hands. Their implicit business plan was to reduce the population at large to clientage, debt bondage and serfdom.
That is what occurred in the West, in Rome. And we are still living in the aftermath. Throughout the West today, our legal system remains pro-creditor, not in favor of the indebted population at large. That is why personal debts, corporate debts, public debts and the international debts of Global South countries have mounted up to crisis conditions threatening to lock economies into a prolonged debt deflation and depression.
It was to protest this that David helped organize Occupy Wall Street. It is obvious that we are dealing not only with an increasingly aggressive financial sector, but that it has created a false history, a false consciousness designed to deter revolt by claiming that There Is No Alternative (TINA).
Where Western civilization went wrong
We have two diametrically opposed scenarios depicting how the most basic economic relationships came into being. On the one hand, we see Near Eastern and Asian societies organized to maintaining social balance by keeping debt relations and mercantile wealth subordinate to the public welfare. That aim characterized archaic society and non-Western societies.
But the Western periphery, in the Aegean and Mediterranean, lacked the Near Eastern tradition of “divine kingship” and Asian religious traditions. This vacuum enabled a wealthy creditor oligarchy to take power and concentrate land and property ownership in its own hands. For public relations purposes, it claimed to be a “democracy” – and denounced any protective government regulation as being, by definition, “autocracy.”
Western tradition indeed lacks a policy subordinating wealth to overall economic growth. The West has no strong government checks to prevent a wealth-addicted oligarchy from emerging to make itself into a hereditary aristocracy. Making debtors and clients into a hereditary class, dependent on wealthy creditors, is what todays economists call a “free market.” It is one without public checks and balances against inequality, fraud or privatization of the public domain.
It may seem amazing to some future historian that the political and intellectual leaders of today’s world hold such individualistic neoliberal fantasies that archaic society “should” have developed in this way – without recognizing that this is how Rome’s oligarchic Republic did indeed develop, leading to its inevitable decline and fall.
Bronze Age debt cancellations and modern cognitive dissonance
So we are led back to why I was invited to speak here today. David Graeber wrote in his Debt book that he was seeking to popularize my Harvard group’s documentation that debt cancellations did indeed exist and were not simply literary utopian exercises. His book helped make debt a public issue, as did his efforts in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The Obama administration backed police breaking up the OWS encampments and did everything possible to destroy awareness of the debt problems plaguing the U.S. and foreign economies. And not only the mainstream media but also academic orthodoxy circled their wagons against even the thought that debts could be written down and indeed needed to be written down to prevent economies from falling into depression.
That neoliberal pro-creditor ethic is the root of today’s New Cold War. When President Biden describes this great world conflict aimed at isolating China, Russia, India, Iran and their Eurasian trading partners, he characterizes this as an existential struggle between “democracy” and “autocracy.”
By “democracy” he means oligarchy. And by “autocracy” he means any government strong enough to prevent a financial oligarchy from taking over government and society and imposing neoliberal rules – by force. The ideal is to make the rest of the world look like Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, where American neoliberals had a free hand in stripping away all public ownership of land, mineral rights and basic public utilities.
An interpretation of Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes, Celts who lived in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion (Image by Kate Spitzmiller). She lived at the same time as the more commonly remembered Queen Boudica, who fought the Romans. Cartimandua, instead, was what we would call today a "collaborationist". You might also call her a traitoress of her people, but so goes history. Can we learn something from the way the Romans subdued the Britons and incorporated them into their empire? As usual, history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot.
Martys' Mac argues in a recent post that the American Empire had some special characteristics that make it different from other empires, especially the Soviet one. According to him, the US has been more benign, more open, more willing to let its client states develop independently, both economically and culturally.
Marty's Mac is a sharp observer but, in this case, I think he missed some basic points. Empires (and states, as well) are all very similar to each other, and the US and the USSR are not exceptions, as noted for instance by Dmitry Orlov. Not that I pretend to know more than anyone else about the old Soviet Union, but I suggest caution when discussing such wide-ranging issues. The Soviet Union was a complex reality that, in the West, remained largely unknown, shadowed by a barrier of language and propaganda. And we must be careful about falling into the trap of thinking that anything real looks in any significant way like the portrait that propaganda paints of it.
This said, let's discuss Marty Mac's position. He starts with:
A traditional empire does not seek to enter into mutually beneficial economic arrangements with its neighbors, but to suck up neighboring resources for its own benefit.
Which is, by all means, true. But it describes not just empires, but also states and kingdoms. There is a general law called "the rich get richer" that creates a centralization phenomenon. In all states, resources move from the periphery to the center. Think about France, which is not an Empire, but where the size of the capital, Paris, is so much larger than any other French city that it is outside the normally used statistical models. To the point that a specific term has been invented for it, "The Dragon King."
The argument Marty Mac's makes is mostly based on a comparison between the Marshall plan that the US enacted after WW2 was over, with the equivalent for the Soviet Union, the less well-known Molotov plan.
The Soviet Union imposed severe reparations on its conquered territories. Romania was obligated to pay $300 million (in 1938 dollars, i.e., prior to war inflation) to its new Soviet masters; Hungary was also obligated to pay $300 million (200 to the USSR and 100 to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia). The on-paper equivalent of the Marshall Plan within the Soviet sphere was the Molotov Plan, which officially offered aid to conquered Eastern European nations. However, this assistance was meager at best (nations like Romania and Hungary still suffered under their war debts), and could reasonably be understood as a public relations effort at countering the Marshall Plan.
It is true that the Soviet Union was considerably more stingy toward its client states than the United States with theirs. But why did the two empires behave so differently? We could argue that it was because of some ideological differences, but also, more simply, structural ones. The Soviet Union was a rival of the American Empire, but it was also smaller and poorer. The population of the Warsaw Pact countries (Soviet Union+allies) was around 400 million, that of the NATO alliance (US+allies) was over 600 million. Then, in terms of GDP and expenses, I wrote in a previous post that,
...in order to survive, the Soviet Empire had to match the rival Western Empire in military terms. But the Soviet economy was much smaller: we can roughly estimate that it always was no more than about 40% of the US economy, alone. To match the huge Western economic and military machine, the Soviet Union needed to dedicate a large fraction of its economic output into the military system. Measuring this fraction has never been easy, but we can say that in absolute terms the Soviet military expenses nearly matched those of the US, although still remaining well below those of the NATO block. Another rough estimate is that during the cold war the Soviet Union spent about 20% of its gross domestic product on its military. Compare with the US: after WW2, military spending went gradually down from about 10% to the current value of about 2.4%. In relative terms, during the cold war, the USSR would normally spend at least four times more than the US for its military.
In short, the Soviet Union just could not afford costs equivalent to the Marshall plan. So, the behavior of the US empire was, and remains, dictated by practical factors rather than ideological ones. When the US had a considerable surplus, it could afford an extravaganza such as the Marshall plan. Not just an extravaganza, though. It was also a good investment since the European states were a much better barrier against a possible Soviet attack if they were economically strong. Note also that the economic aid of the Marshall plan didn't come without strings attached. To have the money, the Western European states had to cut all ties with the Soviet Union and with the states of the Warsaw Pact. And the local communist parties, at that time still relatively strong, were to be kept outside government coalitions.
Now, of course, things have changed a lot. In the grip of a terrible crisis, probably in its last gasps, the US empire can't even remotely conceive a new Marshall plan. On the contrary, it is behaving like the old Soviet Empire. The whole West is turning into a police state, where the government controls all the media and criminalizes dissent. Then, it is not surprising that the imperial center is extracting resources from its client states in Western Europe to the point of beggaring them.
The discussion could be long and detailed, and Marty's Mac post is much more detailed than the few concepts I have reported here. But I think that, as usual, we can find much food for thought in the behavior of past empires. In particular, I think that a good illustration of the behavior of empires is given by how the Romans dealt with the Britons during the period that goes from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD. We see how the annexation of the Britons was only in part obtained by a military invasion. Mostly, it was a question of assimilation. The Romans "romanized" the Britons, making them appreciate such things as Roman money and the luxury items that money could buy. Then, they tricked them into borrowing money from Rome and, finally, when they could not repay the debt, they used that as an excuse to seize their assets and their lands. The similarities between the behavior of the US empire with Western Europe are evident. First, they offered money to the Europeans to rebuild their economy, and now they are squeezing Europe dry.
It is the typical way of Empires: they work like pushers. First, they offer you cheap drugs, then if you don't pay for more doses, they may beat the pants off you, or kill you. In this, they are helped by the traitors that they can place at the top of the states they want to incorporate. Also here, we have an example in the story of Britannia, with Queen Cartimandua as a symmetric equivalent of Queen Boudicca. Whereas Boudicca is seen as a heroine who rebelled against the Romans, Cartimandua allied herself with them. History, as usual, rhymes. A modern incarnation of the collaborationist (or traitoress) Queen Cartimandua could be found in Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
Below, a post that I published about Queen Boudica that illustrates the mechanism of corruption and assimilation that the Romans used to incorporate Britannia into their Empire.
The Queen and the Philosopher: War, Money, and Metals in Roman Britain
We know very little about _Queen Boudica of the Iceni (20 AD (?) - 61 AD) and most of what we know is probably deformed by Roman propaganda. But we may still be able to put together the main elements of her story and how it was that she almost threw the mighty Roman Legions out of Britain. Above, a fantasy interpretation of the Celtic Queen from "galleryhip.com" (This post was inspired by a note from Mireille Martini)_
You probably know the story of Queen Boudica. Tall, strong, and terrible, she was the embodiment of the fierce warrioress who fought - bravely but unsuccessfully - to defend her people from the oppression of an evil empire, that the Romans. It all happened during the reign of Emperor Nero, 1st century AD.
The passage of time has turned these events into legends, deformed by the lens of propaganda. But maybe we can still discern the reasons for Boudica's rebellion and learn something relevant for our times. As it often happens in history, to understand why something happens, you only need to follow the money. In this particular case, it is curious that the money that triggered the war may have been provided by no one else than Lucius Annaeus Seneca, yes, the Stoic philosopher. But it is a story that needs to be told from the beginning.
First of all, why were the Romans in Britain at the time of Queen Boudica? Simple: because of the British mineral resources. Britain had a long story of mining that went back to the Bronze Age and to even earlier times. The British mines could provide copper, tin, iron, lead, and even precious metals: gold and silver. These were all vital resources for the Roman Empire which used precious metals for coinage and all sort of metals for its various technologies.
The Romans already set foot in Britain at the time of Julius Caesar, in 55 BC. They set up a full-fledged invasion only in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius. But even before invading, according to Strabo's Geography, there was a brisk commercial network that connected Rome to Britain. The Britons exported metals and imported luxury goods of all sorts, silk, olive oil, food, slaves, and more.
It was all part of the way the Romans managed their empire. Their expansion was not simply a question of a blitzkrieg war machine. Invading a foreign kingdom was preceded by a long period of cultural and commercial assimilation and it was attempted only when it could provide a financial return. That required a certain degree of economic development of the regions being assimilated. It didn't work with the Germans, who had no mines and only a relatively primitive economy. And they were also a tough military force, able to defeat even the mighty Roman war machine - they did that at Teutoburg, in 9 AD. So, the Romans shifted their attention to the wealthier and metal-rich Britain. It worked: the invasion of 43 AD was relatively easy in military terms. Afterward, the mines increased their production by means of Roman technology, commerce boomed, new Roman settlements were built, and Britain started being romanized.
But something went badly wrong in 60 AD, when the Romans suddenly faced a major rebellion of the Iceni people living in Eastern England, led by their redoubtable queen, Boudica. At the end of this post, you can read the details of the story as we know it, told by Jason Porath in a light-hearted style. Summarizing, when Boudica's husband, King Prasotagus, died, the Romans intervened, seized his lands, had his widow flogged, and his daughters raped. The queen was not amused and the rebellion started with all the associated atrocities. Eventually, the Romans managed to get the upper hand and Boudica killed herself.
But what made the Romans behave in a way that was nearly sure to spark a rebellion? Maybe it was just their lust for power, but there is a detail told by Dio Cassius (vol VIII, Cassius Dio, Roman History, 62.2) that can help us understand what happened. Cassius says that Seneca (yes, he was a philosopher, but also a rich man) had lent to the Iceni a large sum of money and that the Iceni were unable to return it. That suggests that the key to the story was money.
According to Dio Cassius, we are talking of 40 million sesterces. What kind of money is that? It is not so easy for us to visualize this sum, but we know that in those times a Roman legionary was paid nine hundred sestertii per annum. So, 40 million sesterces could pay some 50 thousand troops for a year - a large military force for the time. From this and other data, we could say - very roughly - that the value of a sesterce was of the order of 50 dollars. So, 40 million sesterces could be compared to some two billion dollars today. Clearly, we are discussing of a large sum for a small economy such as that of the Iceni tribe had to be.
We don't know what King Prasotagus had in mind to do with that money, but we know that something went wrong. Dio Cassius faults Seneca himself for having precipitated the rebellion by insisting to have his money back. That Seneca did that out of personal greed seems to be unlikely, as discussed by Grimal. Cassius was writing more than a century after the events and he may have wanted to cast Seneca in a bad light for ideological reasons. But that's just a detail, what matters is that the Iceni (or, better said, the Iceni elite) defaulted on a large debt they had with the Romans.
In ancient times, defaulting on one's debt was a serious crime, so much that the early Roman laws punished it by having the debtor drawn and quartered. In Imperial times, there were considerably more lenient laws - but these laws very valid only for Roman citizens and Boudica was not one. In this light, flogging doesn't sound like an exaggerated punishment for defaulting on a large debt (2 billion dollars!). Even the rape of her daughters was not something unusual as a punishment for non-Roman citizens in those times. In any case, it is likely that the Romans didn't do what they did because they enjoyed torturing and raping women -- they used the default as an excuse to seize the Iceni kingdom. We can't even exclude that the loan was engineered from the beginning with the idea of annexing the kingdom to the Roman Empire.
Be it as it may, at this point, the Iceni elite had little choice: either lose everything or rebel against the largest military power of their time. Neither looked like a good choice, but they chose the one that turned out to be truly disastrous.
All that happened afterward was already written in the book of destiny - the archeological records tell us of cities burned to the ground, confirming the reports of initial Iceni victories told to us by Roman historians. Standard propaganda techniques probably caused the Romans to exaggerate the atrocities performed by the Iceni, just as the number of their fighters in order to highlight their own military prowess. Even Boudica herself was portrayed as a larger-than-life warrioress, but we can't even be completely sure that she actually existed. In any case, the revolt was bound to fail, and it did. In a few centuries, Boudica was forgotten by her own people: we have no mentions of her in the records from Celtic Britain. The Roman Empire faded, but the Roman influence on British customs and language remains visible to this day (and the ghost of the old queen may be pleased by the Brexit!).
What's most interesting in this story is the light it sheds on the inner workings of Empires. We tend to think that Empires exist because of their mighty armies - which is true, in part - but armies are not everything and in any case, the soldiers must be paid. Empires exist because they can control money, (or capital if you prefer). That's the real tool that builds empires: No money - no empire!
And that takes us to the current empire, the one we call the "American Empire" or "the "Western Empire." It does have mighty armies but, really, the grip it has on the world is all based on money. Without the mighty dollar, it is hard to think that the large military and commercial network we call "globalization" could exist.
So, can we think of a modern equivalent of the Iceni rebellion? Surely we can: think of the end of the Soviet Union. It was brought down in 1991 not by military means but by financial ones. The debt the Soviet Union had with the West is estimated at US$ 70 billion, in relative terms probably not far from the 40 million sesterces the Iceni owed to the Romans. Unable to repay this debt, the Soviet elites had only two choices: dissolve or fight. They made an attempt to fight with the "August Putsch" in 1991, but it rapidly fizzled out. There was no chance for the Soviet Communists to make a mistake similar to the one Queen Boudica made, that is starting a full-fledged military rebellion against a much more powerful enemy. That was good for everybody on this planet since the Soviet Union had nuclear warheads which might have been used in desperation. Fortunately, history doesn't always repeat itself!
But, if history doesn't repeat itself, at least it rhymes and the ability of the Western Empire to use financial means to bring countries into submission is well documented. Another, more recent, case, is that of Greece: again a nation that couldn't give back the money it owed to the imperial powers. For a short moment, in 2015, it looked like the Greeks had decided to rebel against the empire but, in the end, the Greek elites chose to submit. The punishment for the Greek citizens has been harsh but, at least, their country was not bombed and destroyed, as it happens rather often nowadays when the Imperial Powers that Be become angry.
But for how long will the Western Empire remain powerful? Just like for the Roman Empire, its destiny seems to be a cycle of growth and decline - and the decline may have already started as shown by the failure of the attempt of bankrupting the heir of the Soviet Union, Russia (again, fortunately for everybody, because Russia has nuclear weapons). The globalized empire seems to be getting weaker and weaker every day. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, only time will tell.
There can be few leaders whose reputation at home differs so widely from his reputation abroad as the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev, who died on Monday aged 91. Hailed as a hero in the West for ending the Cold War, liberating the people of Eastern Europe, and bringing democracy and freedom to the nations of the former Soviet Union, he is reviled in Russia as a man who inherited a superpower and then destroyed it, leaving it dismembered and impoverished.
Of peasant stock, Gorbachev grew up in the Stavropol region of Southern Russia and aged only 17 won the Order of the Red Banner of Labour for his success in harvesting grain with his father. A clever and hard working student, he won a place at Moscow State University where he studied law before taking up a career in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). He then rose rapidly up the party’s ranks until in 1985 he assumed the position of General Secretary and as such become the Soviet Union’s de facto leader.
In all these ways, he was a typical party functionary. He differed, though, from the generation of leaders who had gone before him, all of whom had had direct experience of the revolutions of 1917 and of the Second World War. Gorbachev was one of those who were called “Children of the Twentieth Party Congress”—that is to say, communists whose view of the world was shaped by the party congress of 1956 at which Nikita Khrushchev delivered his famous ‘Secret Speech’ denouncing Stalin.
The Children of the Twentieth Party Congress believed in communism—in state control of the means of production, in central economic planning, in the social guarantees granted by the Soviet constitution, in the Soviet Union as a genuine ‘brotherhood of nations,’ and so on. But at the same time, they felt that the system was not living up to its promise. They believed that Stalinism had over-centralized and over-bureaucratized Soviet society, stifling initiative, breeding corruption, and creating a severe disconnect between the claims of Soviet propaganda and the realities on the ground. The solution, they felt, was to return to “Leninist norms,” whatever those might be, and thereby put the USSR back on track to a bright communist future.
On reaching the pinnacle of Soviet power, Gorbachev thus sought not to dismantle the system but to make it function more efficiently. As he told the 27th Congress of the CPSU in 1986, “Our goal is to realize the full potential of socialism. Those in the West who expect us to renounce socialism will be disappointed. We’re not going to give up on socialism. On the contrary, we need more socialism.”
Gorbachev’s problem was that he had very little idea how to do this as well as a faulty understanding of the underlying causes of the USSR’s social and economic difficulties.
In particular, Gorbachev’s grasp of economics was sketchy. He firmly believed in the communist economic model, writing in his 1987 book Perestroika that “Socialism and public ownership, on which it is based, hold out virtually unlimited possibilities for progressive economic processes.” He was therefore unwilling to touch the fundamentals of the Soviet system – state ownership and central planning. Instead, he tinkered with the economy by attempting to meld state planning with certain attributes of free markets in accordance with the ideas of what was called “market socialism.” In this, state ownership and the plan were retained, but enterprises gained more autonomy to determine production and were allowed to keep and reinvest some of their profits.
Market socialism proved a disaster. Instead of making enterprises more efficient, the introduction of market elements simply undermined the few advantages that planning provided. Given the failure of this policy, there were two options left: give up and go back, or press on and move towards a free market economy, or at least some sort of mixed market system. Gorbachev did neither. Going backwards would have been an admission of failure. Moving forward was ideologically beyond him. Instead, he dithered while the economy gradually collapsed around him.
As this happened, Gorbachev looked for someone to blame and his gaze fell upon conservative members of the CPSU, who he believed were deliberately sabotaging his reforms. In typical Russian fashion, his solution to this was to centralize authority in his own hands. This he did by stripping the CPSU of its power and concentrating it in a newly created executive position, that of President of the USSR, a position that Gorbachev then occupied.
Arguably, Gorbachev’s attacks on the party made things worse rather than better, for the party was the primary mechanism that kept the Soviet system functioning more or less smoothly. The more Gorbachev bypassed and undermined the party, the more authority it lost, the less people did as the plan demanded, and the more the system unraveled into anarchy.
In all this, Gorbachev revealed a considerable naivety. To accompany political and economic reform, which went by the name perestroika, he declared a need for more openness (glasnost). Censorship was relaxed and eventually abolished. It would appear that Gorbachev sincerely believed that if given their freedom, the Soviet people would use it in a constructive way, helpfully pointing out problems so that they could be addressed, but not challenging the authorities in the process. This is not what happened. Instead of constructive suggestions, the Soviet people used their new found freedom to publish revelations of the past crimes of the communist state, to attack the country’s leaders, and to demand ever more radical change. The more people learnt about their country’s past and about enormous social problems it was experiencing in the present, the more the system lost its legitimacy. Rather than strengthening the state, glasnost fatally weakened it.
Another failing was that Gorbachev totally misread the mood of many of the minority nationalities within the Soviet Union. In a 1987 speech marking the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution, he declared the nationalities problem “solved.” Nothing was further from the truth. Soviet peoples used the freedom Gorbachev gave them to demand more national autonomy and in the case of the three Baltic states to demand independence. In other cases, minority nationalities sought to increase their own power and territory at the expense of other minorities. Visiting Armenia following a devastating earthquake in December 1988, Gorbachev was shocked to find that locals wanted to speak not about the earthquake but about the status of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (under Azeri control, but claimed by the Armenians). By the time Gorbachev woke up to the seriousness of the Soviet Union’s ethno-national problems it was too late. As central authority collapsed, local elites decided that the best way of preserving their authority was to leap on the nationalist bandwagon. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the eyes of Westerners, Gorbachev’s greatest achievement was to bring an end to the Cold War. The Soviet leader believed that successful reform at home was impossible as long as the USSR was locked in an existential geopolitical struggle with the West. It was therefore necessary to make peace. To this end, he made it clear that the Soviet army would not intervene to prop up the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, each of which fell in turn in rapid succession in 1989. Beyond that, Gorbachev agreed to accept German reunification and to withdraw the Soviet army from Eastern Europe. With this, Soviet-Western relations quickly changed from mutual hostility to something akin to friendship.
More than anything else, this explains the adulation Gorbachev received in the West. Many Russians, though, view the matter very differently, asking themselves what Gorbachev got in exchange for surrendering the Soviet’s empire in Eastern Europe. Most importantly, they note that he failed to get a written guarantee that NATO would not expand eastwards. Historians disagree as to whether NATO leaders gave verbal promises in this regard, but it is certain that nothing was ever put on paper. Rarely has somebody given up so much and got so little in return. The sense of bitterness that resulted has soured Russian-Western relations ever since.
Here again, Gorbachev’s naivety reveals itself. Gorbachev spoke of “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals,” and commented that “Europe is our common home.” But his vision was never that the Soviet Union, or later Russia, should be reduced to a subordinate status within a Europe dominated by NATO. Rather, he envisioned NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact disappearing and being replaced by a new security architecture in which the Soviet Union and Western states would be equal partners. Gorbachev seems to have imagined that if the Soviets dismantled their Cold War infrastructure, the West would do the same. But the West never had any intention of doing such a thing. In the eyes of Gorbachev’s Russian critics, he was, simply put, a dupe.
Mikhail Gorbachev meant well. An idealist, he believed in communism’s humanist potential. Realizing that communism’s practice fell short of its promise, he sought to do something about it. In the process, he unleashed hidden forces that destroyed the system he hoped to revive. For better or for worse, we are still living with the consequences today.
Paul Robinson is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy. He is the author of numerous works on Russian and Soviet history, including Russian Conservatism, published by Northern Illinois University Press in 2019.
When I received a call this morning from Turkish public television TRT asking that I comment on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev in a live broadcast, the first thought which came to mind was the ironic remark of Soviet intellectuals on the place of leading personalities in history: “there is nothing as changeable and unpredictable as the past.”
Of course, this notion is applicable everywhere, not just to Soviet history and personalities. Indeed, history is always being reinterpreted in light of current developments. As I commented in my interview, the achievements and failures of Gorbachev in power must now be reevaluated in light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is the largest and most dangerous military conflict on the European continent since 1945.
This war follows directly from the break-up of the Soviet Union, which Gorbachev failed to prevent, though he did his best. Indeed, in the spring of 1991 he oversaw a referendum on the issue and won support from the population for continuation of the USSR. However, his playing off the right and left forces within the Politburo and within the Party at large over a number of years, the deceptions he practiced to get his way, finally caught up with him and laid the way in the summer of 1991 for the Putsch by rightists intent on restoring Soviet orthodoxy, which in turn so weakened Gorbachev that he was easily pushed aside by Boris Yeltsin. Destruction of the Union was Yeltsin’s instrument for achieving the complete removal of Gorbachev from power and setting out on a course of economic reform and de-Communization that was anathema to the leaders of the more conservative Soviet republics.
As we now know, the break-up of the USSR released pent-up animosities within and between the successor states, which had in each substantial ethnic minorities, in particular Russian-speakers, who numbered more than 25 million outside the boundaries of the Russian Federation in 1991. This was the largest such dispossessed ethnic community from the disintegration of empire in history, and its existence did not augur well for tranquility in Eurasia, from the Baltics, to the Caucasus, to Central Asia.
The collapse of the Soviet Union also touched off a very unhealthy wave of national excitement in the United States. It was now the sole surviving superpower, unchecked by any rivals. Fueled by hubris, Washington elites set course on remaking the world through a succession of military interventions and full-fledged wars abroad that has gone on for close to 30 years. Failures in these military missions led to ever greater concern to “contain” any and all possible competitors on the world stage. In practice, this meant containment first and foremost of Russia as it recovered economically and politically in the first decade of the new millennium. And this, expressed in terms of NATO expansion, is what brought us to the present conflict over Ukraine.
In that regard, I direct attention to Gorbachev’s greatest failure which resulted not from the conspiracies of his compatriots but from his own peculiar naivete in his dealings with the United States, meaning with Reagan, with Bush and their minions. The man who had shown such cunning in outfoxing his Politburo colleagues was completely outfoxed by his American and European interlocutors. Had he been more cautious to protect Soviet-Russian interests, he would have demanded and likely received much better terms of compensation for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from all of Eastern Europe and disbanding the Warsaw Pact. Had he been less gullible and more realistic, he would have demanded written treaties setting in concrete the prohibition of NATO expansion to the East and, or, he would have left Soviet garrisons in each of these states to ensure compliance. As it was, the Americans who gave him verbal assurances knew full well that they were meaningless and were perplexed at the Kremlin’s failure to defend strategic national interests.
These are the sins which patriotic Russians hold against Gorbachev today, even as they acknowledge his astonishing feats in freeing Soviet citizens from the totalitarian yoke of the past through glasnost and perestroika.
Of course, it is an open question whether a democratic Soviet Union could have long survived. The economy was hopelessly mismanaged and the entire legacy of Soviet legislation rendered it virtually impossible to escape from violence or the threat of violence to make things work. This is a point over which historical debate will continue for many decades to come.
For today’s interview, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVz4QGouoFQ