Archives for category: authoritarianism

It had to do with FOCUS.

The answer, like always, is to be found inside the question which generates it.

“If socialism is so bad, how did the Soviet Union produce so many scientists.”

The key word here is ‘produce’.
First of all, Russia did have an important cultural and scientific tradition to start with.
Secondly, the communist leaders – mostly Lenin but more or less all of them, had a clear understanding of the literacy gap which separated Russia from the rest of the world. Filling that gap was the first step towards Russia/the Soviet Union becoming a First Tier country. Hence the ‘free, standard, universally available education’.

But there’s a caveat here.
When we’re speaking about education – in the West, we mean ‘everything already known to man’.
Students are allowed to read everything in the library – except for certain places in the US, but those are exceptions.
When we speak about the education in the Soviet Union we must remember that each of the ‘free, standard and universally available’ aspects had its own limitations.
It was free in the sense that everybody – well, almost – had the right to apply for it. Actually getting it was something else.
It was standard in the sense that it was standardized. Only what was deemed safe/useful was allowed to reach the students.
It was universally available in the sense that everybody was subjected to some form of education. Much of which was nothing more than indoctrination…

Finally, let’s remember that the Soviet Union was able to produce scientists only for so long. Until it collapsed under it’s own weight…

Moral of the story?

Producing scientists is not enough.
Science teaches you only how to do whatever you want to do.
What to want… that’s something else!

People who have never experienced communism speak freely about it.
Some are frightened by it – as they should be, while others are looking forward to it.

People who have no real idea about what fascism/nazism was about speak freely about it.
Some are frightened by it – as they should be, while others are looking forward to it.

While there is a consensus about communism being a ‘far left position’, fascism is usually – but not unanimously, considered to be ‘far right’. Some even speak about a ‘third position‘, whatever that might mean.


The way I see it, what we have experienced as fascism is what Marx had in mind when he wrote the Communist Manifesto.
According to Marx, at some point in what he hailed as ‘the future’, the middle class was going to become poorer and poorer. All the wealth generated by the capitalist economy and governed by the increasingly imperialist/monopolist states was going to be herded into fewer and fewer hands.

As a consequence, once impoverished, people until then belonging to the middle class were supposed to realize they had been duped and let themselves be led – out of misery – by the communists. ‘The most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country …’

What Marx was prophesying had soon enough come to be. The post WWI German and Italian peoples had lost their hopes and allowed themselves to be led by those who pretended to put ‘the best interests of the people’ above everything else.

Same thing happens whenever a crises is deep enough to impoverish a significant number of people. Who loose their hopes and allow callous political operators to advance closer and closer to power.

What we have experienced as ‘communism’ was a Leninist short-cut.
In Marx’s view, communism was going to happen after economically advanced societies had reached a certain pinnacle.
Lenin – and Mao, had introduced ‘socialism’ and ‘popular democracy’ as intermediary stages between their underdeveloped societies and what Marx had in mind.

So no, there is no such thing as a ‘third position’. We have democracy – where left and right cooperate towards the common good, and authoritarianism.
While democracy is clear and transparent, authoritarianism hides its true nature under a chameleonic cloak. Painted, by the spin doctors who run the show, in whatever hue happens to be more attractive to the masses which are about to be fooled.

Afterthought. I googled ‘third position’ and found out that:

“In the last few years of the 20th Century, according to an article by Chip Berlet, a new form of fascism emerged in a period of resurgent neo-fascism. Called the Third Position, it seeks to overthrow existing governments and replace them with monocultural nation states built around the idea of supremacist racial nationalism and/or supremacist religious nationalism.”

Footnotes:


https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf

For Mark Twain, things which didn’t make sense were ‘strange’.

For Tom Clancy, a mere hundred years later, they were only ‘different’.

Wanna make some sense out of this?

Do you believe that truth is stranger than fiction?
“Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction,” said Basil, placidly.
“For fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it.”

G.K. Chesterton, 1905

The difference between ‘strange’ and ‘different’ isn’t ‘menial’. Nor harmless.

Currently, we’re still allowed to frown upon things which are ‘strange’ but are insistently taught that ‘different’ is good.

Beyond ‘acceptable’. Actually good!

I’m different.
Noticeably different.
Different enough to know, first hand, how it feels to be frowned upon.
Also, different enough to figure out the difference between ‘acceptable’ and ‘good’.

More than two millennia ago, Protagoras opened up our eyes. Told us it was our job, and responsibility, to ‘measure accurately’.
More than a hundred years ago, Twain warned us. Told us to be careful of ‘well spun fictions’. Of stories too good to be true. Of the fact that in our quest for consistency we are prone to actually discard the uncomfortable truth.

Are we going in the right direction?

In a sense, there isn’t much difference between Mark Twain’s and Tom Clancy’s words.
On the other hand, there is a huge difference between ‘strange’ and ‘different’.

Exactly the same difference which can be found between actual facts and alternative facts.
Exactly the same difference we pretend to not notice when we accept alternative facts as being true.
Well… not necessarily true… only comfortable enough to become acceptable…

Way more comfortable, a.k.a. ‘sensible’ – for us, than the naked truth.
Even if only for the shorter and shorter time frames…

War and chess have a lot in common.
Most strikingly, the different manners in which both of them end.

The king is captured.
Or the other side gives up.

A tie is nothing but the prelude for an encore, not a real end.

Even the roads to the end are very similar in both cases.
While at the start of the game/’joust’ everything is ‘possible’ – nobody knows what the other side might be doing next, as the end nears each of the combatants are more and more limited in their currently available choices by the consequences of their previous decisions. By the very path they had followed since the beginning. Which path becomes more and more evident for everybody present. Opponent as well as spectators.

Finally – but not the least important, the similarities go even further. Deeper?
The king is the most ‘important’ piece but not the most powerful. In fact, the king cannot do much by itself. It can help the other pieces achieve their common goal but when left alone it is basically powerless. The only thing it can do is run. But only as far as the board allows it to go…
A pawn, if it manages to reach the eight rank, gets to be promoted. To become the new ‘right hand’ of the king. The new ‘most powerful member of the team’.

‘OK. And the real point of your post is?’

Putin cannot win this war – cause war it is, by himself.
Hence he needs to preserve the loyalty of his henchmen, to instill enough fear into his opponents to make them quit and to convince the ‘spectators’ that their efforts to help Ukraine are too expensive.

Now!
Are we smart enough to understand that we, each of us, are ‘next’? That each time a bully gets his way, all other (would be) bullies present become even more bullish?
Are we smart enough to understand that the most meaningful thing we can do in this situation is to separate Putin from his power base? From the ordinary people who see no other alternative and from those who, for various reasons, continue to support Putin’s misconstrued ‘vision about the world’?
Are we smart enough to understand that no matter how hard it is for us, the Ukrainians have it ten times harder?

Democracy is about every body having the opportunity to speak up their minds.
To speak up their minds, not to kill their neighbors under the pretext that there is a difference of opinion between them!

“We didn’t invade Ukraine,” he claimed.
“We declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the West that dragging Ukraine into Nato was a criminal act.”
“Russia is not squeaky clean. Russia is what it is. And we are not ashamed of showing who we are.”

Are you trying to figure out what’s the real meaning of Lavrov’s words?
Let me translate for you this fine example of NewSpeak.

‘We – those who are currently running Russia, will do whatever we need to do in order to preserve our power.
In order to achieve that, we first and foremost need to convince the ordinary Russians to continue to obey our orders.
In order to achieve that, we need to convince the ordinary Russians that you are the enemy and that their only chance lies with us, their current masters.
Hence each time we destroy an Ukrainian apartment block and any of you says ‘Russians are savages’ we’re one step closer to our goal. Each and every time any of you declares ‘Russia has to pay for what it has done in Ukraine’ we tell them, the ordinary Russians, ‘See? This is what they plan to do to you once we’re are gone’.

WWI had lasted until 1945.
We have the opportunity to end the Cold War now.
The war in Ukraine will reach a conclusion. Let’s make it so that after the war will have ended, Russia will fold in the family of ‘civil’ nations.

Those nations that choose to live in peace!
Not because they cannot win wars but because they have learned that winning wars it’s not enough. Those nations which have learned, the hard way, that war has but one winner while for peace to last every body must be a winner.

We need to go forward.

Going back is not an option. If back were good enough, we wouldn’t have left it in the first place.

Many people believe we’re reliving the fall of Rome.
Contemporary with that fall was the advent of Christ’s teachings. The fact that, eventually, Christianity has altered his teachings to fit the needs of the christian hierarchy doesn’t demean any of what he taught us.

That people who treat each-other respectfully fare a lot better than those who allow the exploitation of the weak.

That people who live ‘together’ fare a lot better than those who keep forgetting that ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ are both relative and temporary.

That people who are convinced that ‘survival belongs to the fittest’ will eventually make place for those who understand that evolution is solely about the demise of the unfit.

“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

How many times have these words been invoked? By people who use them to divide? To carve a follow-ship? A follow-ship for them to lead…

How many times have these words been invoked? By individuals cocky enough to pretend they are speaking for Christ? Cocky enough to pretend they are able to fill Christ’s shoes…

Does it really matter?

Both fascism and communism appear when enough people are fed up. Really fed up.
So fed up that they have become gullible enough to accept the lies promised by those who want to get ‘at the top’, in the given circumstances.
The difference between fascism and communism, the only one, being the exact conditions which had caused the ire of the people.
Communism can, and will presently be, presented as the only possible alternative to those confronted by a ‘black ceiling’.
Fascism, on the other hand, can, and will presently be, presented as the only possible alternative to those confronted by a ‘glass ceiling’.
The always poor who have no chance of improving their lot will accept the lies promised by the communists. They don’t know any better so they believe those lies are possible.
The impoverished who have no chance of returning to their former situation will accept the lies professed by the fascists. They know what they have lost and need to find a culprit to blame for what had happened.

In a sense you can identify fascism with the right and communism with the left.
In reality, fascism and communism are the two ugly faces of the same fake coin.

For the outsiders, it seems like Gorbachev ‘made’ Putin.
Gorbachev had destroyed the Soviet Union and, thus, had set the scene for Putin to take over.

I’m afraid things are a little more complicated than that.

Gorbachev – at that time, the best informed decision maker in the whole USSR – had been smart enough to understand that no matter what he might had tried to do, the corpse was already rotten.
That everything but a major ‘upheaval’ could not accomplish anything more than prolong the agony. What he had done was nothing more than allowed the things to happen according to their nature.

I’ll make a short break here and remind you that all ‘imperium’ had eventually ended in failure. The tighter the control exercised by the ruler, the more abject the eventual failure. Check your history book.

So. Gorbachev had taken the appropriate steps. What he had done was in step with the natural flow of history.

Eltsin and Putin, on the other hand, had done the exact opposite.
Eltsin had tried and Putin had succeeded in regaining the ‘reins’ of the government. The reins, the whip, ever stronger control over the barn where the whole stash of hay is deposited…

Why things had unfolded like this?
Because they – Eltsin and Putin, had chosen this venue and because nobody else had been able to do anything about it.

OK, Gorbachev, Eltsin and Putin had made their respective calls in basically the same social and political environments. The economic situations were ‘somewhat’ different but this doesn’t change what I want to stress out. Each of them had done what had crossed each of their individual minds.
Each had been able to do whatever each of them had wanted because…
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ allows the ruler to make whatever decisions they may see fit.
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ – dictatorship, no matter how much window-dressing had been slapped on it, allows the person who happens to clamber ‘on top’ to keep making mistakes until the whole ‘carriage’ disintegrates.

Until we learn this lesson…

There is an old Romanian saying which goes like this:

A bat is all you need to break a wagon-full of pottery.

When it comes to splitting fire-wood, things are no longer that simple.
Using the same blunt force approach, even if theoretically possible, would yield disappointing results.
‘Destroying’ has nothing to do with ‘re-shaping’.

Hence ‘wedge’.

On the other hand, a wedge can accomplish the same results as a bat by using a lot less brute force.
Simply because the wedge concentrates more effectively, and in a more precise manner, the available energy in a very small area.

But the more important difference is the fact that using a wedge demands a way more skilled operator than a ‘mere’ bat.

‘Why don’t you cut the crap and just spill out what you have brewed in that twisted mind of yours?’

Darius, Alexander, Genghis, Napoleon, Hitler.
All of them had started their campaigns in a very successful manner. Two of them had even ended their careers that way. Undefeated.
The fact that all of them, including the successful ones, had been nothing but tyrants is irrelevant here.

And where is the difference?

Darius, Napoleon and Hitler had been, eventually, defeated. Each of them by a coalition.

Alexander had basically vanquished one enemy. Which was already past its prime.
And Genghis had successively conquered a long list of ‘unrelated’ targets.
In both cases it was more about blunt force being applied in a more or less skillful manner and nothing about splitting anything. Except for some skulls…

Each of Darius, Napoleon and Hitler had been successful at first. They had started as skillful splitters of coalitions. But each of them had been eventually bogged down. In their own respective successes…

You see, a bat remains a bat. You have to shatter a huge amount of pottery before the bat wears down.
In fact, most of the times the batter goes out before the bat…

When it comes to wedging…
While pottery is ‘consistent’ – equally fragile, ceteris paribus, no two logs had ever been created equal. Furthermore, even when dealing with a single log, some sections may be easily split apart while others may so ‘tough’ that it’s easier to ‘destroy’ them than to use a wedge on them.
In these situations, being a skillful splitter means being able to recognize which sections should be left alone….
But which would-be emperor has ever been able to let somebody else be? Live in peace…

If they live long enough, all emperors will eventually ‘attempt’ an impossible-to-split coalition!

But when has a would-be emperor been born wise enough to recognize such a situation?!?
Or every one of them, to date, have seen each coalition they happened to encounter as an opportunity?
As a log waiting to be split?

Which makes me wonder…
Why are would-be emperors so blind when it comes to reading history?
And how about their courtiers? Also ‘blind’?

Bonus reading. An excellent piece by Cynthia Calhoun.

How to split logs for firewood by hand.

“When you can’t split a log, do one of two things: give up and throw it in the pile or use a chainsaw.”

Interesting enough.

And yes, what you think about me is more about you than about the real me.

Nevertheless, the point of this post is:

For me,

You are what I think you are!

Quite a large number of people are complaining about how hot it is nowadays.
So uncomfortably hot that they have to stay indoors until late in the evening.

And no, they are not pensioners.
They work from home, earning enough money to be able to have everything delivered to them.

Which reminds me of my first job, right out of university.
A big factory building where water almost froze in winter and temperatures rose to 41-42 degrees Celsius in August.
Inside that building were, among other ‘run of the mill’ machine-tools, 3 top of the art automated Czech-built lathes.
This story goes back to 1986 and happened in communist Romania.
The lathes were very precise but couldn’t be used all the time. In winter they stopped working altogether and in summer they faltered. No amount of fine tuning could bring them back to yielding usable parts.
It took a few years for the brass to figure-out what was going on. The lathes were designed to work in a ‘controlled environment’. The temperature was supposed to hover between 15 and 25 degrees for the lathes to function normally.
Hence the lathes were ‘sheltered’ in an auxiliary building. A shed built inside the factory. And provided with efficient enough ‘temperature control’.

We, the people, had been left on the outside. Outside the shed but still inside the factory…. freezing in winter and sweat-drenched in summer. Still working, because we were sturdier than the top of the line machinery…

This morning I came across a FB post.

This brought about another memory.

Sometime in 1990-1991 I happened to lay my hands on a Newsweek magazine. Or a the Economist… I don’t remember exactly. Anyway… the article I was going to discuss with you was about the hard life endured by the American poor people. And was illustrated with a color picture.
I’m going to make a small break here and inform you that in the 1990 Romania colored magazines – let alone glossy, were hard to get by.
That picture, taken somewhere in the Bronx, contained a color TV and three pre-teen kids. All of them clad in blue-jeans and wearing ‘sports shoes’. You know, the likes of Puma/Adidas/ you name it.
In those times, in Romania, bluejeans or ‘sports-shoes’ could be had mostly on the black market. Where you had to fork out the wage earned in a whole month if you wanted to buy a pair of each. Or you could buy them in a brand store. For twice the price….

You see, the communist regimes have crumbled because the leaders had lost contact with reality.
The brass in the factory where I had started working couldn’t figure out – nor really cared about, the reason for which those lathes didn’t work properly.
And didn’t care about the fact that the workers had a very hard life. On the factory floor and outside its premises.

The liberal-democratic and capitalist regime has created huge opportunities. People used to live incomparably better there than in the rest of the world. And continue to do so.
On the other hand, in many of the ‘affluent’ countries people have lost contact with each other. The haves have no idea about how the poor live. Nor the poor have any idea about what it means to be rich.

We live in different worlds. In different realities.

Each of us on their own ‘tin roof’.

The problem being that all of them are becoming increasingly ‘hot’.
And I’m not thinking ‘global warming’ now…

Communism had crumbled because the rulers couldn’t understand what was going on. Couldn’t react efficient enough to changes brought about by normal evolution. Because the rulers had gradually lost contact with reality. Which inevitably happens in all authoritarian settings.

We are currently living in different realities. In ‘bubbles’. For now, these bubble still have something in common. We are still able to talk to each other. Sometimes we have a hard time understanding what the other has to say – or don’t really care, but the dialog is still possible.

I’m afraid of the day when the dialog will no longer be possible.

The guys in the pan are so obsessed about the taxes they have to fork out that they actually don’t pay attention to anything else.
The guys attempting to collect those taxes are so obsessed about what they want to do with the money that they actually don’t pay attention to anything else.

Meanwhile, the world is growing apart. The bubbles lose contact with each other. And with the hard core reality…

The cats can always jump down from the roof. Whenever it grows too hot or too cold.
Where are those two frogs going to jump when things will become uncomfortable?

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