By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos (*)
Thank you very much for your kind invitation to participate in this very interesting, I would say even intriguing conference on Marx and Marxism, held in Beijing and coinciding with the celebration of the 200 years since the birth of Karl Merx, the thinker who has contributed as nobody else to demystifying our Social Being.
Thank you also for the opportunity you gave me to visit one more time your country, one of the epicenters of the transformation of our world, but also the cradle of an ancient and important civilization. I come also from a country which has been the birth place of such an ancient civilization, a civilization which had also a lasting influence on the evolution of human though and whose ideas have been one of the main sources of inspiration for Karl Marx himself.
To originate from a country with such a past does not mean to enjoy any privilege. At least in the Greek case, this is certain! But it should be an additional motivation to realize we should look to ourselves not as the owners, but rather as the carriers of life and civilization. There is nothing more important, no nobler ambition, than to contribute and help inherit to future generations a Society and a Planet, at least not worse than the ones we inherited from our ancestors, hopefully, a much better place.
I want to see in your decision to convene this conference a sign of continuing respect and interest for the ideas which inspired the Chinese Revolution and shaped to a considerable degree modern China, a sign of respect for your own past and History. Without deep respect, understanding and assimilation of History and of all the past, it is simply impossible to know what to keep and what to change out of the tradition, without their Memory, societies are condemned to remain unconscious hostages of their history, the same way very many people remain hostages of their childhood.
We Greeks we constructed our word for Truth as A-Lithia, No Oblivion. Truth means to remember, to be conscious of the important things (and of course to be able to forget in the same time, but not the important). And I think there is also a Chinese saying, suggesting that we should use our History as our mirror. I will also try to use this method. I will use the experience of the two last centuries to prove my thesis, on the impossibility for any nation, any country or region, however powerful they may be, to separate their destiny from the rest of the world. In the long run at least, our destiny will be common.
Coming here for this conference, I read somewhere that the Ideogram for ren, the “perfect humanity” of Confucius is composed by the ideogram for Human and the ideogram for the number 2. A human being cannot exist without other human beings, he needs at least another human being to be human. I think we have entered the era where we should generalize that into nations. No nation can exist by itself, it needs also other nations to exist.
I know you don’t like words like “miracle”. Still, I cannot find another one to describe the fantastic economic and technological rise of China you are now living inside. It is only human to wish for that rise to continue without any interference from the outside world and its problems. But the probability of this happening is very close to zero, for a number of reasons.
Speaking now about the situation of the world, I must remind you that Kassandra was not very popular, but she was not very popular not because she was wrong, but because she was right. For that reason you will permit me to disagree a little bit with the title in the session of today’s meeting about the “bright future of humanity. What I see examining the world situation as a whole, is not so much such a bright future, but rather a quite dark one, even the probability of no future at all.
I don’t say that such prospects are unavoidable. What I say is that they represent a very serious and high risk and only becoming conscious of that, only by struggling consciously for another world perspective, we will be able to avoid them.
By the way we are already witnessing that in the escalation of the crisis next to China, around North Korea. No sound person can have any doubt that behind imperialist maneuvers against North Korea, the real target is China and also Russia. And this is only the beginning. The election of Donald Trump as President of the USA seems to have given to the international Neocon Party of War full power in the US. For them, not only the existence of Syria and Iran as relatively independent states, but even the mere existence of Russia or China as a relatively independent, not vassal state, in strategic parity with the US is clearly unacceptable. The same is true for the further economic rise of China. It is equally unacceptable to Western Imperialism, to both its wings, the “domination through globalization” Fukuyama wing and the Neocon-Nationalist “domination through Wars and conflicting Nationalisms” Huntington wing.
They will do everything in their power to destroy Syria and Iran, to stop the military comeback of a relatively independent Russia and the rise of China, to encircle, to intimidate, to provoke regime change, to lure, to divide and subjugate their opponents and in fact they are already doing it. This is the logic behind direct or by proxy interventions in the Middle East, behind threats in Korea, behind interventions in the ex-Soviet Union, behind the new Cold War.
A quarter of a century after Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of History and the eternal triumph of Capitalism, History is back full speed, under its most ugly and dangerous face, threatening even the very existence of humanity, increasing the risk of its nuclear or ecological annihilation.
To believe Global Capitalism and Imperialism will not use all means at their disposal to attain their goals, including War, the threat of War and even Nuclear War, is a potentially fatal illusion. They are already experimenting with such means, testing the resoluteness of their opponents and studying in real conflict conditions they themselves are producing, be it in Ukraine or in Syria, their reactions. Russian and Chinese nuclear arms, the economic rise of China and part of global South, the demographic rise of the South, various resistances here or there, are precious elements of containment of the most dangerous tendencies of the Empire. They are necessary, but not sufficient counterbalancing forces. If Politics do not intervene, if people are not mobilized in both the Global South and the North, the Disaster will become unavoidable in the long run.
Human History is fundamentally different from all other forms of organic life or natural processes in that humans are thinking what they are doing. Their will is of decisive importance in the long run.
Many people do not like what I just said about where our world is heading. They prefer not to bother with such difficult problems and not to harm their partial interests to face them. Their ambition is no more than continue what they are doing, getting as much profit as they can out of it. This is especially true of pro-Western, pro-Capitalist forces inside the victims or potential victims of imperialist aggressions. The War threats themselves are calculated and calibrated in a way to help the emergence of such currents and thus to help pro-Western, pro-Capitalist regime change inside the opponents of the Empire.
But it is becoming more and more unserious to claim that Western imperialism has any other intentions than the ones I already described, after having witnessed the destruction of Yugoslavia and half of the Middle East, its intervention deeply into the ex-Soviet Union, the continuous expansion of NATO, different countries of the world under threat of sanctions and invasion and even the threat of a nuclear conflict resuscitated. By abolishing the ABM Treaty, they themselves insisted on adopting in the past, the Unites States have already stated, in the most official way, that they envisage the possibility to launch and win a Nuclear World War. We cannot go on pretending that they cannot mean what they say, just because it looks mad to us! It is very difficult to launch a victorious nuclear war, but they are already threatening with it to realize their political aims. By doing that they increase considerably the probability of getting into situations where the nuclear players will feel they don’t have a way back and then they will trapped into a path leading to mutual annihilation.
It is true there are important differences from time to time inside the Western establishment and it would be only logical to try to exploit them in order to isolate the most extremist wing. Obama for example has to be credited with containing for a while Netanyahu and the main Neocon program of attacking Syria and Iran. The problem is the extremists have proven they dispose a coherent project and they master the massive support of the Empire of Finance, while their opponents are mainly protesting from time to time, without presenting much of a coherent alternative. The result is the extremist, radical faction, in spite of its setbacks, is winning more and more positions over the years.
By the way the theoreticians of Western Imperialism have told us what their intentions really are. Simply we try to pretend we don’t hear what they have said. In a paper written back in 1980 on the Israeli strategy for the ‘80s, Odet Yinon describes everything now happening in the Middle East, proving those wars correspond to a precise project and not to a series of accidents. Even more important, he is telling us that not only Socialism but also Humanism is already bankrupt, thus revealing in a negative way the kind of world dictatorship he is envisaging. For Huntington Democracy does not seem to have any future. But if it is so, then a planetary Dictatorship is the regime which has a future, even if he does not tell it openly. Huntington seems to believe that War is the normal state and the destiny of Humans. As for the American and Israeli Neocons they have already announced their intentions speaking of a new American Century, even if it would be more exact to speak of an Empire of Finance than of an American one. If a person like Graham Allison, one of the more important specialists on US Foreign Policy wrote a book to warn about the serious danger of a War between US and China, he did not do it because such a war is impossible. He knows too well why he had to write it.
When you see a nightmare while slipping, you wake up to stop unacceptable stress. The same thing is happening now with many people and many forces worldwide. The nightmare they see is not in their night dreams, it is in reality itself, so they tend to react to it by slipping, in order to avoid the stress. We need rather to wake up and react to what is happening in front of our eyes, with all the means we dispose, in particular political means, before it is too late. Unfortunately, the prevailing now international political atmosphere reminds us very much of the atmosphere prevailing in the wake of the First and the Second World Wars, when most capitals and most people did not really anticipate a war can happen. As for the existence of nuclear weapons, they represent maybe a very limited insurance against a global disaster, but, unfortunately, they also represent a way to realize it.
Nothing in the history of Capital Accumulation and Imperialist Expansion during five, if not ten centuries, permits to entertain the fatal illusion that Global Financial Capitalism will sit idle, just looking calm and peaceful to China becoming an economic superpower or Russia reclaiming even a part of the independence it had or the role it played during the Soviet era. We would not be Marxists to entertain such an illusion. In fact we don’t even need to be Marxists to refute such an illusion. It is enough to read systematically our newspapers nowadays and to use our mind and logic. And I don’t think there is much reason to insist more on Imperialism, speaking in a city with the history of Beijing.
Global Capitalism is responding now to its crisis by doing what it did during the 20th Century and what knows to do better than anything else: By producing totalitarianism inside its Metropoles, Wars outside them, using the crises as an opportunity to build a new Totalitarian Empire potentially aiming at englobing and controlling the whole World.
There is nothing surprising about that. The only astonishing thing is how easily we forget our own history and its lessons, when we don’t like them. Dismissing the lessons from our History, we condemn ourselves to repeat it.
The Heritage of the Chinese and the Russian Revolutions
Everyone can have an opinion and not necessarily the same one about the Chinese Revolution. Still, nobody can even imagine the tremendous, extraordinary, historically unprecedented progress China has made, since 1949, as far as it concerns education, economy, social achievements, without the degree of national sovereignty and independence of the State you acquired with this Revolution and without the influence of socialist ideas and of popular classes upon this State. This remark is also valid for the period of the Reforms, when your partial integration to world capitalist economy, to the extent such integration has taken place, has taken place under your national control, under the control of a power which was not the instrument of international capitalism or of a Chinese bourgeoisie. It is already a long time we know that a national bourgeoisie can hardly exist. By its very nature and role, such a bourgeoisie tends to become, now more than ever, a tool of Global Capitalism.
What I just said about the Chinese Revolution, it can be also stated about the Russian Revolution, which preceded and inspired yours. One may agree or disagree with many of the things Lenin and the Bolsheviks did, or the path the Soviet regime did choose in various historical moments. Still, it is simply inconceivable, impossible even to imagine, Russia industrializing and educating itself, winning over German Nazism in WWII and becoming a space, nuclear and “ideological” superpower without the regime it inherited from its revolution. Even nowadays, the capacity of Russia to claim strategic parity with the US and resist Western imperialist pressure is provided by the weapons and technologies, the personnel and the tradition of independence it inherited from its Soviet past.
One can be as critical as he desires judging the Soviet regime, its triumphs and its tragedies, some of which having constituted very heavy blows to the very idea of Socialism itself. Not only we can, we must compare reality to ideals. We must not use real difficulties as a pretext to justify unjustifiable action and policies, but, in the same time, we cannot judge human enterprises in nihilo, without taking into account the real historical context that shaped them.
Why the Chinese and Russian Revolutions
Since already some centuries, the dominating tendency of the world system is the increasing interdependence of all nations, states and regions of the world. The Chinese Revolution would not happen if this was not already a reality in the 19th and 20th centuries. The reason China had to choose the road of Revolution in the 20th century was the interrelationship of all nations in our world. This interrelationship made impossible for China to resist Western and Japanese Imperialism and exist as a modern state. Only by its Revolution, China was able to exist as a state. This Revolution was a national revolution, but a national revolution of any oppressed nation in our days, has to be also a social revolution, because only by mobilizing popular classes it is possible, in the long run, to resist Imperialism. The dominant, possessing classes cannot and rarely want to do it. This is also a great lesson, from the adventures of Kuomitang China to those of the Soviet or post-Soviet Bureaucracy!
It was not Mao who discovered China, it was China which discovered Mao and, with him and behind him, Lenin and Marx. China did that because otherwise it could not exist as a modern state. Before China, the same happened with Russia. It had to discover and it did discover Lenin and Marx behind him, not the other way around, because it was unable to face otherwise, with its previous regime, the pressure of the outside world. All three Russian Revolutions, in 1905 and 1917, have been the direct result of military defeats and the same is true of the Chinese Revolution. We find the influence of external factors also in your Reforms. I suppose one of the main reasons behind them, was the pressure felt by the productivity differential with Western, advanced capitalist economies.
This deep, accelerating, explosive in its consequences interrelationship which is characterizing our world is one main reason we need to examine everything proceeding from the general to the partial, from the Total to the Part.
Interacting with Global Capitalism
Some people will argue that the unprecedented economic rise of China during the last decades is due to the concessions you have done to the Foreign Capital. The Chinese reforms have been an object of many debates internationally and will remain such an object for a considerable time in the future. I am not a specialist on that subject, and I am here rather to learn than to lecture about your Reforms.
But even if one compares the economic performance of China and the performance of other countries in the region during the last economic crisis in Asia, at the end of the 20th century, it becomes clear where China could have been without the national control of your interaction with world’s economy and without the elements of planning that remained in place during the reforms, in spite of any so-called openings to the market. The fact is that international capital has invested in a number of peripheral countries during the last decades, but it was very rare for those countries to get some profit out of those investments, as China was able to do.
It is a huge mistake to identify the notion of planning, much more of socialism for that matter, with strict state, bureaucratic and hierarchical, top-down control of all economic activity. Especially in the light of the experience of supposed socialist construction in various countries of the world, we should now understand a transition to socialism, meaning the transition to a society ruling itself, as a long, contradictory process, subject to possible reversals, during which Market and Plan mechanisms, state, social and private forms of ownership coexist in perpetual antagonism. Even the Plan can implement its goals via market mechanisms.
Anyway, it is clear that without national control of your interaction with the world and without some important elements of planning, China would be a very different and much less successful country than it is. And if you had integrated financial globalization as Russia did and as the International Finance through Americans are pressing you to do, then you would be subject to much more stronger outside pressures and possible blackmails than you are now.
China and Russia: Two models of interaction with Capitalism
There is no more striking proof of everything I just said, than the comparison of China and Russia, a comparison of tremendous historical significance, not only for those two countries, but for the whole world, as both countries tried, but in very different ways, to interact with Western Capitalism, even to integrate it to some degree, during the last three decades. But while China has kept under its control this process, Russia delivered the control to the West. China did listen to Western advice as Russia did, but China applied only what it thought it had to apply.
Russian power under Gorbachev and even more under Yeltsin did a very different choice and followed a different path than China. Russian leaders used the IMF methods of capitalist “shock therapy”, they got rid of their state and of the social and national functions this state was performing, they lifted all barriers to the activity of foreign capital, they even gave more privileges to foreign than Russian capital was enjoying, they applied to the letter all Western economic advise. They became the best pupils of international Neoliberalism and Western Capitalism.
What happened as a result of all that? The ex-Soviet Union was dislocated into more than a dozen poor, weak and dependent states. Its GDP has fallen by 82% in just three years, from 1989 to 1992, or by 55% if measured in Power Purchasing Parity. To give a measure of the disaster, that is more than double the fall of the GDP of the USA during the Great Depression of 1929, the most important crisis in the history of the Industrial era.
The Soviet welfare state was nearly eliminated and with it the demographics of the ex-USSR, the male Russian population having lost approximatively one year of life expectancy for every year of the Yeltsin reforms. The ex-USSR has known about a dozen bloody conflicts and ten million people became refugees. An undeclared, still very real Civil War, between the new Rulers of the country and its people, has ravaged Soviet society.
It is only logical that very few people want to speak about that and nearly everybody prefers to forget it or blame communism and not its fall for what happened or present all that as the price of a so called Transition God knows where. Unfortunately, there has not been any Emile Zola in the ex-Soviet Union to describe the destruction of its society.
The sheer fact, proven by simple statistics, not by any ideologically oriented view, is that Russia and the other Soviet Republics have suffered, as a result of the massive, unhindered, full introduction of capitalist production relations, capitalist distribution relations and capitalist system of values, and of the strict application of Western economic, neoliberal dogmas and IMF and World Bank suggestions, by far one of the greatest, probably the greatest economic, social, demographic and cultural catastrophe in all world history of the Industrial era. It was in the ex-Soviet Union, as a result of the social catastrophe, that we have witnessed even the return of slavery in the white race.
One must turn to the example of Germany in 1945, destroyed systematically by US and British air force or to that of some regions of Europe under German Nazi rule, to find something comparable to what happened in USSR after 1990. The geopolitical disaster President Putin has spoken about, referring to the dissolution of USSR, was to a great extent the result and subsequently it became also partly a reason of this unprecedented economic, social and cultural disaster, the economic-social catastrophe fueling the geopolitical one and vice-versa. The Soviet Union was built around the idea of Socialism and it had not any other legitimization basis or raison d’ etre. By quitting Socialism there was no logic in keeping USSR. And vice-versa in order to quit Socialism, USSR had to be dislocated.
To those, already absolutely catastrophic results of the dislocation of the Soviet system, one has to add the international repercussions of all that, the chain of catastrophic wars from Yugoslavia to Syria, or the reappearance of a major danger of nuclear conflict we are now witnessing, all of which would be inconceivable if the USSR would not collapse, or, to be more exact, if its regime did not decide to commit suicide and adhere to Western Capitalism, following to the letter its terms.
The culmination of this destructive process came in October 1993, when, upon incitement and suggestion by Washington, President Yeltsin has bombed his own Parliament, maybe the most democratically elected in all Russian History, thus creating the political conditions for the massive transfer of the property of the soviet and then Russian state to a handful of Oligarchs, of Russian nationality, but of dubious loyalty to their state and their nation. As a result, we had a huge “accumulation of Russian capital”, but not so much in Russia itself, as in Switzerland, Great Britain, Luxembourg and other places!
The enormous cost of transition to Capitalism
In a way, both Russia and China did the same thing, trying, during the last three decades, to interact more intensively and deeply with world capitalism. But Russia delivered the control of that process to world capitalism, while China kept it under its own control. China has kept a considerable degree of national control over any foreign dependence, a state and ideology reference to the social interests of the population and the goal of Socialism, some elements of planning mechanisms. Into the very kernel of the Chinese national ideology remained very much the memory of the “Enemy”, of the Western and Japanese Imperialism, occupying and burning the Palaces of your capital.
On the contrary, the Soviet and then the Russian Yeltsin regime made all possible concessions to Western capitalism, economic, geopolitical, cultural and ideological. In the process of capitalist restoration, they gave to Western Capitalism everything, even raising it into a beacon of civilization, thus indirectly admitting Russia was uncivilized. They had to do it and to be so radical in order to justify the plundering of Russian state and social property, the rise of a new possessing class, closely connected, and it could not be otherwise, with the main centers of Western Capitalism in USA, Western Europe and Israel. They also destroyed in the process the image of Imperialism as an enemy in the Russian national and state ideology. This did not happen by accident. It was necessary in order to complete capitalist restoration. They needed badly to present West as a model, in order to justify the creation of a new class of owners and to follow the method of neoliberal shock therapy. There was no other legitimization method. Forgetting the very reasons the Soviet Union came into existence, admiring blindly the West, Russian leaders promised to their population a ticket to Sweden, but their plane landed finally to Burkina Faso, because Capitalism is not only the club of a few privileged.
Gorbachev and Yeltsin did not bury Lenin himself, who is still lying outside the Kremlin, but they buried everything connected with him and all his ideas, in particular his analysis of Imperialism, the Last Stage of Capitalism, on which all his political action has been based and also the political action of the Chinese Communists after him. Now History, which has a very peculiar way to lough with Humans, is teaching Russia, in very practical and rather hard way, the veracity of nearly every phrase the founder of the Soviet state has written about Imperialism. It is doing this in Donbass, in Syria and in many, many other places. It is also doing that with the new Cold War and NATO expansion and in many other ways. The Kremlin leaders thought they would become part of the West by getting rid of Communism. Instead, Russia is now facing more and more aggressive NATO armies at the very heart of what was once the Soviet Union!
Rarely in History, there has been such a massive, overwhelming denial of strategic assumptions and political hopes, as the one which took place in the Soviet Union and then Russia, as a result of adopting blindly all western and neoliberal receipts.
Some conclusions of world significance
During the Soviet era, some people used to compare “really existing socialism” to “ideal socialism”. They had indeed a point. But if they want to be intellectually honest, they should now compare “really existing capitalism” and its results to the “ideal capitalism” our Neoliberal economists are describing.
Even if we accept the moto of capitalist propagandists and theoreticians after 1990 that “Socialism is not working”, we are in right to ask if “Capitalism is working”. And, if it is working, what exactly is it producing?
Capitalism is a global, world system and you cannot judge it otherwise. You cannot judge it by the living and consumption standards of Swiss or Swedish or Canadian middle classes, looking to its successes in one place but omitting its disasters in other ones. The prosperity of the very few is intrinsically linked to the misery of the vast majority of the human population and to the war and ecology problems this system is accumulating in our finite Earth. There can be no serious doubt that there has been a number of real and important achievements in the West, since Renaissance, the French and the other Democratic Revolution, including by the way the very idea of Socialism. It is true that, in the beginning, such achievements were favored by the development of capitalism, something which has ceased long ago to be true, but even then they have been essentially the result of struggles by popular classes and radical intellectuals, not an automatic result of the economic system. After 1917, the existence of the Soviet Union has also exercised a constant pressure on Western Capitalism to make concessions to its own popular classes, concessions it is trying now to get back in an accelerated pace.
We should not also forget that those Western achievements became possible in the context of a systematic transfer of nearly all surplus and all resources of the planet to the advanced western capitalist centers for at least 500 years, if not much more. It is utterly unserious to speak of the West and of Capitalism, without taking into account History and Geopolitics, like Neoliberals do.
The examination and the comparison of what happened during the last three decades in China and in Russia is important for another reason also, of global significance. If the triumphant Global Capitalism of 1990 has proven unable to raise the level of the ex-USSR, a region of very high education levels and very developed technologies, if, on the contrary, it has provoked such a catastrophe as it has, then what are the probabilities that this system will be able to address the problems of Africa, of Latin America and of the vast majority of the world? I am afraid very close to zero!
It is exactly because of its incapacity to address any of the main problems humanity is facing and exactly because it has not the slightest will to quit voluntary its dominant position, the still dominant system of World Capitalism is now transforming itself, in front of our eyes, more and more, into a system of generalized War: Wars against Syria, Iran, Russia, Global South, tomorrow against Korea and China, War against the popular classes inside the core Western countries and poor nations in the periphery, Wars against the human body and mind, the human culture and civilization, War against Nature itself.
Unable to produce Life, Global Capitalism is, more and more, producing Death. If you want to understand what History is now preparing in its sometimes terrible kitchens, examine carefully the moral, psychological and intellectual characteristics of President Trump and remember when and for what purposes History has been in need of such persons. Or look to young Americans getting mad and killing each other, look to the Israeli soldiers having a great fun shooting and killing unarmed Palestinians. It will help you more than any deep analysis to feel correctly the direction our World is taking, where it is led, if we don’t find a way to stop and change this process.
The collapse – suicide of the Soviet Union, in 1989-91, has been understood by billions of people around the world as the ultimate proof that socialism is not working, for some that it is even an evil system. Even those who had been, all their life, critical towards the Soviet regime from a leftist, progressive or socialist viewpoint concluded that nothing is possible, we are already living in the best possible world and the only thing we can do is to try to improve it slightly. Even now, to speak about Socialism, seems to many people at best as highly unrealistic and utopian, at worse as advocating a bad system. The shadow of this huge collapse – suicide remains very heavy on the consciousness and the morals of Humanity, undermining its belief Humans can become the subject of their History.
There is not deeper irony and contradiction than the fact than now, as Socialism looks dead to billions of people worldwide, we seem to need it more than ever! Any objective examination of the state of the world proves easily that it is exactly now that Humanity needs badly, more than at any other time in its History, a radically different and superior system of organization of its social and international relations, whatever you want to name it, Socialism or anything else. A system which will be accompanied and will incarnate a radically different paradigm as far as it concerns both relations with Nature and human culture and civilization. It needs it badly not for its freedom, happiness or prosperity but for its very survival!
Capitalism has delivered what it could. Now it seems able to produce only or mainly catastrophes. It is true that many people around the globe believe global socialism is unrealistic, that talk about it is, at best, a romantic exercise. But in reality, if there is something totally unrealistic and completely utopian is to hope that Humanity will be able to survive this century without inventing a radical new and human order. This is today much more clear than it was at the time Marx and Engels were writing their Communist Manifesto or Rosa Luxembourg was formulating her dilemma “Socialism or Barbarism”. And it is true for the whole world, not only for the Global South and West, but also for China, in spite of its tremendous achievements. It has become long ago impossible to separate the destiny of any state, country, nation, or continent, even of the strongest ones, from the destiny of the world.
Dependence and Independence: Soviet Russia before WWII and building Socialism in one country
The real choice nowadays, in reality since already some centuries, as the Russian and the Chinese Revolutions did prove, is not between dependence and independence. The real choice is between national and social control of the unavoidable dependence and interaction.
One of the reasons the Soviet leadership was so easily driven to the path of disaster trying to reform its system, lies with the theories developed by Soviet and western theoreticians about the convergence of the two systems, capitalist and socialist, in the period preceding the launching of Soviet Perestroika. Those theories were based on a number of real factors, but in the same time they underestimated the deep conflict between the two systems and the deep, organic tendency of Capitalism to monopolize both Capital and Power, which explains why it cannot accept even a capitalist Russia or why it turned most of the Western European states, after WWII, with the exception of France until the election of Sarkozy in 2008, into vassal states, as far as the great strategic questions are concerned.
Those theoretical errors and mistakes were not simple errors and mistakes. They reflected the psychology of Soviet bureaucracy, its latent wish to integrate the Western world, even if they would never admit this was their aim. As one Soviet diplomat put it once “there was not a more anti-communist place in the Soviet Union, than the apparat of the Secretariat of the Central Committee”.
When a country like Russia, China or the ex-colonies which gained their independence after WWII, make their revolutions, socialist or not, they enter into a long period of conflictual coexistence with the outside world and the dominant world system of Capitalism and Imperialism. The Bolsheviks were hoping for a quick expansion of their Revolution in both the West and the East, but this did not happen. In such conditions, the regime which was born out of a Revolution faces a number of hard choices. It may opt, under specific national and international conditions, for a prolonged period of coexistence with World Capitalism. But what can be fatal is to conclude, from the necessity of such coexistence, even for a long period, that there is no more the underlying conflictual character of the relationship. Because the conflict will be always present even in latent form and it is unavoidable that it will demonstrate itself at some point. It remains extremely illusory any effort to define a path for a country, a nation not taking into account what is going on in the outside world.
Soviet Russia did try to build its “socialism in one country” between 1924 and 1941, based on gravely falsely assumptions about the nature of both Western Capitalism and German Nazism. The result was that it was almost destroyed. It was able to stop the invading armies only some miles from the Kremlin, after having lost a large part of its territory and its population having suffered enormous sacrifices.
To provoke a socialist change in Germany, between 1919 and 1933, was not that unrealistic as it may seem now, a posteriori. If Rosa Luxembourg and/or Lenin were alive I think it would be a very probable outcome of the crisis of the Weimar Republic. On the contrary, the German CP contributed in fact greatly to the rise of Nazism by its ultra-leftist, adventurous policy. As for the Kremlin, it reacted to the rise of Nazism, by trying essentially to appease Germany and even by trying to conclude an alliance with it, establishing a de facto condominium over Europe.
But Hitler did not represent just an extreme form of German Nationalism. By his ideology and social roots he represented a deeply pro-capitalist current, in spite of his anti-capitalist demagogy, a demagogy somehow similar to the one Trump has used before winning the elections, only to forget it altogether after them. His project was from the very beginning the expansion to the East, the Drang Nach Osten, for the simple reason there were no other regions to be colonized than the European East. He did not make any mistake on attacking the Soviet Union instead of Britain.
There is even more serious. The rise of Hitler to power was accepted by a large part of German and Western ruling classes, exactly because his project was the destruction of both the European workers movement and Soviet Russia and they needed badly both.
Here also there is a striking similarity with Trump. The US establishment and great Media, mostly controlled by the Empire of Finance, are attacking him all the time with extreme violence. But they stop doing that and they begin to praise him, every time he continues the Neocon project in the Middle East, by attacking Syria, threatening Iran, recognizing Jerusalem or praising Ben Salman of Saudi Arabia. They are also praising him every time he directs his aggression against Russia. Then, a miracle happens. The New York Times, which depict usually the President as a monster, something he is really is, they suddenly discover his leader charismas.
As long as Hitler was directing the power of German nation against the European workers and socialist movement and against Soviet Russia, he was accepted to an important extent by large sectors of the Western ruling classes. He stopped to be accepted mainly after the battle of Stalingrad, when it became clear he would lose the war, but even then and until the end of war, important segments of US and British establishments were preparing their “Plan B”, playing with the idea of changing alliances and waging a third WW against the Soviets. This plan was not realized because the political conditions, the political consciousness developed during the War in the West did not permit it.
It is only after the victory of Stalingrad, the United States begin to help the Soviet Union in a significant way, hoping by this alliance to contain the danger of a full domination of Soviets over all Europe and/or of a socialist revolution. Even then, they put as a condition to Moscow to dissolve the Komintern, which it did. The Americans opened a second front in Europe only in the last moment, after letting the Soviet Union pay the enormous price for winning over Nazism and only when not doing it, would mean letting all Europe to the Red Army. They even destroyed all German industrial centers, in a conventional equivalent of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not for any military reason, but to prevent a probable revolution in Germany they were afraid of, by destroying physically its potential subject, the German working class. Hitler and the Nazis were demonized only after losing the War, as for western allies, who occupied Germany, they preserved about 80% of the Nazi state apparatus, as they believed it was useful for their own purposes.
During nearly all its existence, the Soviet Union has incarnated an enormous contradiction between the very radical, revolutionary character of its ideology and the extreme conservatism of the country and its leaders, with the exception of the first generation of Bolsheviks. There was no domain where this was better reflected than Soviet foreign policy, when Moscow was searching, sometimes in a desperate way, to find allies inside the western establishment, not always paying due attention to its organic friends and allies, like popular classes in the West and national liberation movements in the South. Kissinger was much more important to Moscow than Allende, but Allende was the friend and Kissinger the foe. Russia did sacrifice the Greek communist resistance movement to its alliance with Churchill only to see the British politician launching the Cold War against Russia two years later. Russia did not want Greece inside its sphere of influence but it imposed to Poland such a choice this nation did not want, considering that necessary for the defense of Soviet Union. Finally, Poland not only did not help the Soviets defend themselves, it was from there the demise of the Soviet Union has begun. We would not be here now speaking about Marx, if Mao and the Chinese Communists had listened to the advice from Moscow to avoid a Revolution and instead make a compromise with Kuomitang.
In those contradictions characteristic of the Soviet Union and of its foreign policy, we can trace some of the long term tendencies, grown finally into the self-destructive processes of the ‘80s and leading to its demise.
The real, organic friends and allies of both Russia and China, to the extent they want to defend themselves against Western Imperialism, are the popular forces in the West and the South which want, for their own vital reasons, to resist also Imperialism. There are probably or they will be forces inside the western establishment which acquire a higher consciousness of general human interests, but it is always popular pressure which helps them gain more influence. Nobody was interested for the ideas of Keynes before Communism terrorized capitalist powers in the West. Charles de Gaulle would not exist if he did not incarnate the equilibrium between the French people and its bourgeoisie, between East and West, between Left and Right.
From Alcibiades to the Neocons
As we already said, Hitler’s rise to power was accepted, to the extent it was accepted by the German and western ruling classes, only as far as it was understood to correspond to what represented more general interests of the capitalist system, which was facing the huge crisis of 1929 (like it is now facing, in another form of course, the huge crisis begun in 2008, of comparable depth) and an external threat, in the form of the Soviet Russia (as it happens also today with the formidable rise of China and parts of the Global South, or the military-strategic comeback of Russia).
Hitler wanted to found his own German Empire. But all Empires, while they have usually an element of national domination, they need also an element of more general interest. In the case of the German Third Reich, it was its anti-bolshevism and anti-socialism. Hitler was facilitated into selling his particular branch of extreme German nationalism to world bourgeoisie, by presenting it as a policy contributing to its triumph over the Soviet Union and the workers movement.
If Germany became to some extent the vanguard of world capitalism and imperialism and this made Nazis acceptable by at least parts of the Western elite at that time, the same is happening now with the international Neocon Party of War. This Party is organized around a network of think tanks and its origins can be traced in Cold War extremist western currents, like the one organized around the US review Commentary. Neocon geopolitical ideas about the Middle East bear, by the way, a striking similarity to the geopolitical ideas of Haushofer which shaped Nazi strategic thinking.
Its announced program is the change of nearly all regimes in the wider Middle East and North Korea. Its chosen method is the Balkanization of the Middle East. The first experimentation field was Yugoslavia, as Margaret Thatcher herself admits in her Memoirs and Yugoslavia has served somehow as a fractal of what was coming.
The regional aim is the destruction of any Arab and Muslim regime potentially able to put any challenge to Israel and that, in the mind of Israeli strategists, meant any of the organized states we know like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, but in different time frames.
It was not the classic Imperialism of the Conquest. It proved to be the Imperialism of Demolition of countries and the application of a Strategy of Chaos. It was more about destroying, than about conquering countries.
It was proposed from the very beginning as a world project, aiming at securing the establishment of the “New American Century” and the inclusion of North Korea in it was anything but accidental.
It was aiming directly to the Arab and the Muslim world, but, indirectly, was an exercise in Imperial Power, aiming at Russia, China and even Europe. With us or against us, declared George Bush, not so much a President of the USA as a marionette of Neocons.
An imperial project from its very inception, it had also to be by its very nature, as it would provoke world reactions. Already in 2008, the Neocons staged the war in Georgia, in order to prevent Russia from providing Iran with S300 missiles, to warn it not to meddle with their own affairs and to begin demonizing it and laying the foundations for the Cold War we are now witnessing.
Yugoslavia has been a kind of “fractal” for all the Middle East, the Middle East was supposed to be the “fractal” for the whole world.
To implement the program Neocons had to take power in the US and they took it with the election of the tandem Bush-Cheney. There had to be a great shock, like Pearl Harbor, and it has been such a shock with 9/11. Based on those two facts, the Neocons were able to put the United States and Britain in the path of launching the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which changed abruptly all the world situation. But it was only the beginning.
By its reckless, extremely radical character, such a project could not but find serious resistances inside the western establishment and it did. The Neocons pushed their agenda through a gigantic conspiracy, so big and powerful most people and analysts do not even want to speak about it. Their main weapon was the entryism and the occupation of most decision making and media-intellectual power points not only of the US but of many countries. Facing the Obama’s hesitations about Libya, the Neocons, who had assured already determining influence in France, after the election of Sarkozy, used Paris and Clinton to overcome Obama’s hesitation and get NATO into the operation of attack and subsequent destruction of Libya.
Such a gigantic conspiracy could not succeed if it had not strong support, in spite of possible reservations, by the Empire of Finance, exercising already a historically unprecedented control over western media and political power structures. It could not also succeed if it was not presented as a project of more general western interest (like establishing the “new American Century”).
An indirect confirmation of that lies in the fact that the main resistance from inside the establishment to the Neocon planning came from two sources. First the French Gaullist tradition, represented by Chirac and Villepin, closely connected to the idea of the nation-state. Second, from the Pentagon and the US secret services, which were more difficult to be controlled by the Empire of Finance, because both of their structure and of their role, connected with the logic of their nation-state, even if this nation-state was an Empire.
In 2006, Seymour Hersh has already revealed the existence of plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in the context of a war against Iran. This publication is an indication of opposition inside the US military to such plans. Two years later, all the US secret services deliver a report to Bush which is served to deter him from launching a war against Iran, before leaving office. US secret services refuse to confirm to Obama that Assad used chemical arms in 2003, thus stopping at the last moment a US invasion of Syria. Last month, the US Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, is the only one opposing strikes in Syria.
Normally, armed forces and secret services use to be the more haukish in any imperialist expansion. During the Cold War, that was the case, with the Pentagon always very reticent towards any kind of supposed concession to the Soviets or to the idea of arms control agreements. If US military are suddenly more reserved it is happening probably because of two reasons. The first is they sense the project is not obeying the logic of the US Empire they serve. The second is that the US Empire, as imperialistic as it may be, it still bears some elements of the democratic tradition of the USA and of the culture of productive capitalism of the past, they don’t like the irrationalism of the Finance, whose representatives seem more detached from human society than ever in history and more keen to adopt a culture of Death.
I suppose this is also the reason we have not seen much more serious, supposedly terrorist attacks in the West up to now. There are enough military and secret services officials to oppose such ideas and they know better than anybody else about the possible element of provocation inside the supposed Islamic terrorism. Of course, as the western system is getting more and more out of control and of rationality, we should be prepared to see more of all that. The staged chemical attacks in Syria, the Skrypal affair, the strange anthrax affair in 2001, are very dangerous examples of going out of the accepted context of behavior in the context of a Cold War.
Neocons were probably hoping that by invading and occupying Iraq quickly, they would terrorize everybody in the world and they would win 80% of the world war they are planning without actually fighting it. It did not happen like that. France, Germany, Russia and a huge protest, anti-war movement delegitimized politically the invasion, even if dissident powers got subsequently panicked by their own courage and retreated. The Iraqi Sunnis have opposed a heroic resistance to the invading forces. David Ignatius, a very important and very serious conservative commentator in America, explained, in an article published in Washington Post, the reason for their military difficulties. All people, he wrote, including Arabs and Muslims, need a sense of dignity. This is an extremely important lesson, confirming that the maxim of Clausevitz is still valid: “War is the continuation of politics with other means”. You may accuse Trotsky of everything you want, but he knew what he was saying when he stated that “A revolution wins not because the revolted have more weapons, but because they are ready to die”. The victories of the Russian and the Chinese Red Armies cannot be explained by the correlation of material forces. Even if altered in the era of nuclear weapons, even as the Empire tries desperately to inverse this maxim and to make politics the continuation of war, by introducing its devastating military and other forms of power into the equation, the Clausevitch formula remains valid for the time being. Ideas can win on Matter, even if Matter matters.
Three years after the Iraqi invasion, Israeli Army was essentially defeated in Lebanon. At the end of Bush presence in the office the US secret services, in alliance with reasonable IDF generals and Mossad commanders, long ago replaced by Netanyahu and Lieberman, have impeded the generalization of the conflict in the Middle East with a war against Iran, a war which would most probably lead to the use of tactical nuclear weapons and to unpredictable consequences. Obama was elected in the USA, representing somehow the opposition to Neocon extremism. We must credit him with avoiding, at the last moment, a new invasion of Syria, similar to the one in Iraq and also his nuclear deal with Teheran. He is of course responsible for allowing Neocons in his government provoke the coup in Kiev, still he contained the most radical ideas about escalating the conflict. But even Obama could not do much more.
Facing great opposition inside the Western establishment, Neocons are able to use the anti-Russian feelings of their opponents inside the West, to unite them around their project, using the Ukrainian affair. It is quite revealing that clearly Nazi forces were used in Ukraine, without this fact provoking any serious protest from AIPAC or the World Jewish Congress, ready to find and persecute any small trace of real of invented Antisemitism around the globe. In the case of Ukraine they remained in near-complete silence. At about the same time, Netanyahu is approaching all the main currents of European Far Right, who were real and strong anti-Semites all their political life. They replace Jews with Islam in their hating list and suddenly they become acceptable by Israel, itself in an internal totalitarian transformation.
The whole maneuver seems quite simple. By helping Trump elected in the USA or Le Pen in France, you are using the anti-globalization, diffuse protest feelings of the Western populations and their desire to defend their nations from the invisible forces of Finance dominating their lives to bring new political subjects in power in key Western countries, in order to launch the War of Civilizations in an even more extreme form. Maybe I am wrong in what I have just said. But if I am, then find a more plausible explanation why veterans of fascism or semi-fascism, all their life accusing Jewish bankers for all the evils of the world, they became suddenly friends of Israel and for what reason Israel wanted them as friends.
We don’t claim that Trump is the Hitler of our times. What we say is that he and the European far right try to find a way to perform the function German National Socialism had performed in pre-War Europe, that is to express the dissatisfaction and the protest of the masses, unable to find a credible leftist alternative, and then put this political force at the service of the most extremist forces inside the establishment.
In the ‘30s, that happened by real politicians and real mass movements. Now, one has the impression that the Empire has qualitatively increased possibilities to use political leaders and identities in a way opposite to what they normally represent (SYRIZA in Greece) or even to invent them from scratch (Trump). They are seem able even to create not only fake news, but whole fake political realities, like Cambridge Analytica, present in the US electoral campaign but also in Ukraine, has proven it can do.
The most striking of all is how they have staged a situation where Trump is supposed to be a friend of Russia and the Russians accused of his election. Again we see the repetition of the ‘30s, when Hitler has pretended to be a friend of Moscow, until he launched his surprise attack against Russia. I suggest that you go and read the pages of the Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov, where he describes his telephone call to the Kremlin the day Germans attacked the Soviet Union, to get a firsthand idea of the surprise of the Soviet leadership at that time.
The Empire of Finance is controlling the Money of the world, so it can acquire also all its ideas. During the Cold War, the CPSU had forbidden any serious discussion about the Soviet Union itself out of fear of destabilizing the Soviet regime. Imperial forces did use Marxism and the knowledge of the real history of the Soviet Union, transmitted through leftist intellectuals and it could use that knowledge in the War against USSR, which provided the West with a huge strategic advantage. They study History and they find their inspiration and ideas.
Conspiracies are like microbes or viruses. To lead to illnesses or even death, the organism has to be ready for them, there has to be an objective condition for them to act. As I said above, it is impossible for any minority, however powerful and rich it may be, to impose its will, if it does not present a kind of rational or pseudo-rational argument. Neocons are not strong only because of their decisive action, only because of their conspiracies or even because of the great support they get from the Empire of Finance. They can impose their will because they are able to put the West in front of a serious question, we could try to summarize as follows:
“Ok, we understand your reservations. But are you ready to accept China becoming the economic superpower of the planet? Are you ready to see Russia recreating a sort of Soviet Union? Are you ready to lose the gains from our victory of 1989-91? Are you ready to accept Iran dominating half of the Middle East? Are you ready to begin distributing a part of your wealth and power to the five continents? Do you have an alternative to what we propose.
No. You are not ready to accept all that. No you don’t have an alternative. So let us free to do the job that is needed to be done”.
This was the way Alcibiades persuaded his fellow citizens to launch their Sicilian expedition which sealed the end of the glory of Athens and of its democratic experiment, until now nowhere surpassed. A difference with the present situation is that neither Athenians at that time or Hitler during WWII had nuclear weapons. Another one is Cambridge Analytica.
It is the first time Humanity has produces the scientific and technological means to create a Totalitarianism which will make Hitler look like an Alchemist compared to a Chemist.
(To be continued)
(*) This is the first in a series of three articles, which retake the report the writer delivered to the 2nd international Congress on Marx and Marxism, held at the Beijing University on the 5th and 6th of last May
Also read Political Persecutions in Eastern Europe to prepare War with Russia (and a note on Hungary, Trump and the refugees)