All aboard the stupid train! PART I

It’s been a pretty lucky week for me seeing as how just a few days after I posted an article about the popular Russian attitude toward dissent, I get a link to an article which so perfectly demonstrates the kind of hypocrisy I was trying to describe. I was pleased until roughly minutes later I discovered John McCain’s rambling, incoherent address to the Russian people.  On one hand I have to do twice as much work in the short term while the subject is still relevant. On the other hand, the two articles compared side-by-side do give the reader a good example of how idiotic the Russia vs. USA dichotomy really is.  What follows is my deconstruction of the the two articles, beginning with Mark Stolyar’s craptacular piece on Voice of Russia entitled “Classical US despocracy or democracy 2.0?”

Now be forewarned, if you’re a Team Russia supporter who can’t handle any criticism of your beloved adopted homeland(which you may never have actually been to) no matter how accurate or how qualified,  you might want to leave this blog and go back to your Russian porn or foreign bride sites until I post my critique of Senator McCain’s article. At least there’ll be some fap material for you in that.

Before I begin I have to make something absolutely clear.  I don’t believe that democracy, by definition, exists in the world today.  Liberal, representative democracy is not actual democracy because it runs up against the contradictions of capitalist society.  Since the interests of the capitalist and that of the workers are inherently opposed, one side must dominate the other.  While theoretically anyone can run for public office in a liberal democracy, it’s no coincidence that our “representatives” just happen to come from the upper classes of society. They tend to be former businessmen and lawyers, or in any case people with respectable stock portfolios and considerable personal assets. You don’t see them taking a second job delivering pizzas to supplement a meager income from the state.  Even if working people, being a majority, could somehow elect candidates which better represent their interests, so long as the state is organized on capitalist lines it would be forced by necessity to enact laws which benefit business.  Business after all means tax revenue, the lifeblood of the state.  The capitalist state, regardless of its organization, must choose between needs of workers and needs of businessmen, and it invariably sides with the latter unless forced to do otherwise by the former.  If Europe truly had democracy, “austerity” would have been driven from the public discourse years ago. The people would never willingly agree to sacrifice their own living standards to pay for the mistakes of a handful of businessmen who demand the preservation of their lavish lifestyles even after bankrupting their own countries.  Obviously I could write much more on this topic but for now this will suffice.

The reason I need to make my position on democracy so painfully clear is because when it comes to Russia the word gets thrown around so often it tends to lose its meaning.  In fact I have to lay the blame for this at the feet of Russia’s liberals and their supporters. Their rhetoric often implies that democracy is simply something which exists in Europe and the USA but not in Russia,  and therefore if Russia could just have that magical thing which allegedly exists in the West, Russia would be democratic.  From my class-based point of view, aspiring for Russia to be “democratic” in the Western sense is aiming low.  Liberal support for oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov’s political campaign only goes to prove my assertion that liberals would simply exchange one group of billionaires with another, the exact same thing Putin did when he came to power.  An end to the United Russia Putin-Medvedev “tandem” would only give us a wider variety of millionaires and billionaires running Russia, but those new faces would be every bit as disconnected and isolated from the citizenry as Putin and his cronies are now.  It’s worth remembering that all these villains and “heroes” share the same neighborhoods outside of Moscow.  Yet if we limit ourselves to the frame of bourgeois liberalism, we can judge Russia to be far less democratic than other industrialized nations. Therefore when I refute the author’s claims about Russian democracy I am purposely limiting myself to the liberal, bourgeois definition and not that which I believe is a more accurate definition of democracy.  You have been warned.

I don’t know much about Voice of Russia but with headlines like “Discovery of unmarked military base in Las Vegas sparks concerns over martial law coming to America” I don’t have high hopes.  Note to Russian journalists for future reference: We have had yahoos screaming about martial law being “just around the corner” for decades. It was always just after the next terrorist attack, the next mass shooting, the next natural disaster. Clearly something is holding up that arbitrary imposition of martial law, but I digress. The article in question begins with some poorly-constructed sentences and a little victory dance.

Mr. Putin’s article has voiced what millions of Americans secretly thought all this time. No, there is no mistake about the president’s surname. My feeling is that for the first time in US history a foreign president has beaten the American leader on his own turf. Barack Obama failed to convince his nation, letting his popularity slip even lower since the NSA surveillance outrage. Even his G20 trip to St. Petersburg passed unnoticed, indicating that a G20 summit without Obama would be just as successful. That was Russia’s big moment. And we made use of it to 150%.

Where do begin with this abortion of a paragraph?  So as to save time I’ll ignore the bizarre red herring sentence about the president’s surname and focus on the idiotic claim that Putin voiced what Americans “secretly thought.”  Polls show that the idea of war with Syria was ridiculously unpopular among Americans even prior to the alleged chemical attack which prompted the recent diplomatic clusterfuck.  But if that didn’t convince you, perhaps you should read about the anti-war protesters besieging John Kerry’s house or the 60 activists who stormed senator Bill Nelson’s Jacksonville office to demand he renounce his militant stance on Syria. The former occurred on 2 September, nearly ten days before Putin’s op-ed in the NY Times appeared.  The latter occurred on the 12th, but seeing as how protests like this are planned in advance it would be nothing short of idiocy to imagine that these people’s actions were somehow inspired by the words of Putin. In fact, nobody in the US media, including the pro-war side, seems to be suggesting that the anti-war opposition is taking its line from Putin.

Another thing that’s worth noting when looking at these anti-war demonstrations is the stark difference they bear compared to Russian opposition protests.  Here is a mob outside John Kerry’s house, and you can’t see any police. I think we can safely surmise that no permit was required for this action, unlike in Russia where permits are strictly controlled, and as far as I could find nobody was arrested despite the fact that demonstrators actually knocked on the door and pounded on the windows.   Unsanctioned protests are routinely broken up by police in Russia and anyone attempting to do something like this would risk getting shot long before they ever approached the walls of a Russian politician’s Rublevka compound.

Americans, secretly thinking about opposing military action in Syria and hoping that Vladimir Putin will make it safe for them to voice their thoughts.

Americans, secretly thinking about opposing military action in Syria and hoping that Vladimir Putin will make it safe for them to voice their thoughts.

Numerous organizations in the US representing a wide variety of different political views have been expressing their opposition to Western support of the Syrian rebels for almost as long as this conflict has been going on.  Mark is on Team Russia, however, so he has no respect for those people, nor does he attempt to understand why they so freely express their opposition to the government on foreign policy matters.  He refers to the Russian government as “we” in the same way a football fan talks about his team. It’s clear he doesn’t have a shred of respect or sympathy for the anti-war protesters in the US. Let us move on.

The Russian leader and Russian diplomacy should be applauded for this fine game they played in the Syrian conflict. Apparently, the solution to it was there all this time, but Obama’s tough talk left him no leeway. At one point he realized that any word or action of his would only backfire. And it did. The political ball is in the Russian court, despite John Kerry’s claims or Mr. McCain’s taunting remarks on Twitter.

This kind of writing reminds me of something I might have written back when I was 19 and firmly on Team Russia. If Putin truly had a solution to this crisis what was stopping him from bringing it up months ago?  What stopped him from taking any action to protect Gaddafi in Libya?  The truth is that nothing is in Russia’s court because it cannot really do anything if NATO decides to attack, even at present.  In fact, Russia’s solution entails disarming Syria and leaving it more or less open to the prying eyes of foreign nations, some of which may be members of NATO or friendly to NATO countries.  Regardless of how one feels about chemical weapons, they are Syria’s only deterrent against a massive conventional invasion aimed at regime change.  Now Russia is working with the US to take that away, all the while posing as the hero.  This has worked out so well for Putin, who just last year had been facing unprecedented opposition in the streets, that one could reasonably suggest that the whole deal might have been arranged to come out exactly as it did.  Obama takes a dive but gets Syria disarmed, Putin gains popularity and silences opposition with the patriotism card, and thus the US and Europe maintain the regime which gives them stability in Russia.

It is now obvious that the very “reset,” which the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made such a show of last year, has finally taken its course, though it came not from above, as Clinton’s PR campaign, but from the grassroots level as could be seen in Twitter and Facebook messages of many common Americans.

There’s not much I have to say about this except that when Russians complain about the government or when there are literally thousands of reports of suspicious behavior during elections, Team Russia pundits will insist that these are all lies made up by the CIA or that the complainers are just liberal traitors.  Yet if Americans voice opposition to their government, something which pretty much happens all the time, suddenly Team Russia is on their side.  See what I mean by patronizing?  Remember he said that it was Vladimir Putin that gave a voice to Americans who were keeping their thoughts on the matter secret.  People like these in Los Angeles, or maybe these people in Washington. Oh…Wait…No. Those actions both occurred prior to the appearance of Putin’s op-ed, the one that was supposed to give them a voice and let them express their thoughts in public.

Next he goes on to cherry-pick some random things posted by random people on Facebook, but then follows it up with this gem:

The other side of the coin is critical responses about Vladimir Putin’s meddling with “our American business.” There is, of course, a place for nationalism and blind patriotism in any country, as well as people who fall for every word of their leader.

Of course. This guy wouldn’t know anything about nationalism, blind patriotism, or slavishly following some leader. What he also probably didn’t note was that many people expressing anger about this war also have no love for Putin whatsoever, particularly since he approved a number of ridiculously backward laws since late last year.  Apparently they’re right when their opinions align with that of the Russian government, but they must be totally insane to criticize Putin over his internal policies.  Totally oblivious this one is.  The idea that someone could agree with one policy while opposing them on other issues is totally lost on Team Russia.

The massive interest that Putin’s article evoked and its appeal to the common public instead of sulky, nerdy pundits, mean that Vladimir Putin told the Americans as much as they felt deep in their hearts. Naturally, some of them have been irked to hear the words they expected from their own president coming from a foreign leader (“Who does he think he is to write about us?”). On the contrary, others came to realize they are an integral part of the world community that is larger than the US Empire, proving that a different opinion can yet crack the shell of American propaganda.

This mess of gibberish is difficult to untangle, but it is clear that Mark really has no understanding whatsoever of US politics or the American people.  First a minor point.  I generally hate all pundits but nerdy and sulky tends to best describe American members of Team Russia, particularly those who haven’t even visited the country.  The truth is that Putin didn’t “tell” Americans anything. I was involved in anti-war protests going back to 2003 just before the beginning of the war against Iraq.  I got into shouting matches with counter-protesters who were sponsored by the local conservative talk radio station and who called us “traitors.”  For years people like me endured every jingoistic cliche you can imagine.  Love it or leave it.  The troops are dying for your right of free speech so don’t use it.  You’re protesting for Saddam. Why do you hate America?  We encountered that because after 9/11 the media scared half the population out of their wits.  Logic went out the window and many people who had previously had the privilege of ignoring world events suddenly couldn’t feel safe unless America was bombing someone.  As Bush’s second term came to an end things started to change. More people calmed down and started to look at the war rationally.  That’s why this current drive to war failed so spectacularly among both conservatives and liberals as opposed to the fringes of politics.  Nobody needed Putin’s approval to think for themselves.

The US is starting to lose its leverage as the global policeman and its standing as a world power, not because the world’s biggest economy is in tatters and it cannot print out some more dollars, but because the times have changed. The Syrian crisis has shown that the US can’t just ignore the UN and strike at Syria, even after coercing its fund-addicted allies into backing it.

Here it’s pretty clear that the author isn’t opposed to world powers which dominate other countries via military force but rather just world powers that aren’t Russia.  Also the problems with the American economy really depend on which perspective you view it from. If you’re an investor or CEO the US economy is doing wonderfully.  If you’re a worker, well…

The reason for it lies inside America. Your own people don’t share your viewpoint, Mr. Obama! It is they who averted your warheads from Syria.

As is typical the author expresses no solidarity with the American opposition but rather seems to be mocking Obama for their failure to support him.  This is what I was alluding to in my other article on dissent.  When discussing these matters with most Russians you will always feel this strong vibe that they view Americans who protest against the government as defective traitors to their own government.  The author treats Obama’s failure to rally the American people behind the war as though it were a case of erectile dysfunction, and embarrassment.  I’ve never been an Obama supporter but the guy’s slick marketing campaign managed to gather a very effective movement around him in the past, one far larger than Putin’s fan club and which doesn’t need to be paid to appear at public rallies.  Compare the photos of Putin’s last inauguration with those of Obama’s.

It was not all thanks to Vladimir Putin’s article in The New York Times that only served as a catalyst for the public outcry. Did you catch a glimpse of half America taking to the streets when you looked through the window at your White House residence, Mr. Obama? Remember those rallies spreading across all major cities? Remember when your police taught Occupy Wall Street protesters democracy with the help of fists and batons?

Finally he admits that Putin didn’t mobilize the American people, yet still insists on calling it a catalyst for public outcry.  That is an impressive catalyst indeed, considering it managed to cause massive reactions long before it even existed.  As for the comments about Occupy Wall Street well, how did Occupy Moscow work out?  Oh…Right.  Permits had to be obtained to have demonstrations. The city gets to decide where the protest can take place.  Most often this was Bolotnaya square, away from the center, Red Square, and Tverskaya where it would be more noticeable.  Often right outside the metro the streets are lined with riot police which stretch all the way to the meeting place and surround the entire perimeter.  You cannot cross the line and you must move like a herd of cattle through a handful of metal detectors.  When it’s time to leave you force your way back.  I wasn’t at Occupy Wall Street though I’m very familiar with police brutality and abuse connected with Occupy but as I have alluded to above, protesting is far easier in the United States. Most of the time you don’t even need a permit and usually people are free to walk in and out of the protest area as they please.  This is why massive police brutality or lock-downs such as that which occurred in Chicago during the NATO conference are so shocking to Americans.

Now brace yourself…

We are so used to talking about America’s “classical democracy” that we hardly ever give a second thought to what it really means.

Indeed, though I rarely hear people speak of America’s “classical democracy.”  One would think that is a more appropriate label for Athenian democracy.  If we limit ourselves to the bourgeois definition of democracy, America’s system could be considered fairly weak.  It is still more democratic than post-Soviet Russia.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006), “democracy,” or the rule of people, is a political system based on collective decision-making with an equal impact of all its participants on the outcome or on its main stages. In a nutshell, the people are entitled to choose their own leaders that are to protect their interests, and everyone has a say. Could it be that the Americans have forgotten about it? Or is it the US leadership that is trying to narrow the concept of democracy?

Does this describe Russia? Is Russia ruled by the people? Are the people entitled to choose their own leaders and do they protect their interests?   See usually when this issue comes up I find myself tangling with Team West and Russian liberals.  They say they want democracy in Russia and they assume that European countries or the United States have democracy.  I am trying to convince them that this is not a worthy goal and that they should strive for a system more democratic than what exists in the world today, especially in the United States.  Having said that, since no actual democracy exists in the world it isn’t a stretch to point out that Russia is not a democracy by any stretch of the imagination.

The Syrian case was a wake-up call for the US government that suddenly realized that the people behind them may have their own opinion.

Again there’s that passive-aggressive, “HA HA! YOU’RE PEOPLE ARE DEFECTIVE AND DON’T DO WHAT YOU SAY!”  So were the protests in late 2011 and 2012 against corruption in elections also a sign of Russians forming their own opinion about their government? Of course not! It was a CIA-backed “Orange revolution” to replace Putin with a pro-Western candidate who didn’t really exist.

Over the past 50 years, the goals of American presidents and their administrations have boiled down to pursuing their money interests at the expense of their nation. The “Emperors” soon felt constrained by the boundaries of North America as they were driven them further on.

Clearly this guy needs to read up on his history. If you don’t count Manifest Destiny itself as an example of American imperialism, the United States more or less “officially” became an empire after the Spanish American War. Last time I checked, the Philippines were beyond the boundaries of North America.  America quickly jettisoned old school European colonialism in favor of neo-colonialism, a remarkable innovation whereby the people you’re exploiting, should they rebel, end up killing their own people rather than yours.   It should be noted that during this same time, Russia was an empire, similarly expanding its borders into Central Asia at the expense of millions of illiterate, impoverished people.  During the post-Stalin Soviet era the USSR began to act like its opponent and impose its will on other countries.  Typically the Soviets offered their support with strings attached, and while they were usually backing regimes which were progressive in contrast to those backed by the West, imperialism is imperialism.  Those regimes all floundered with the collapse of the USSR.

The central truth, however, is that all capitalist governments uphold “money interests” at the expense of the majority.  Russia is no different from this.  Putin doesn’t care about the Syrian people any more than Obama or Kerry does.

Were airstrikes against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan in the interests of grassroots Americans? Would any sane American truly wish death to men and women, children and the elderly that fell victim to political and military ambitions of a hundred senators?

Were the two Chechen wars in the interests of Russians?  Is that ridiculous money hole in Sochi in the interests of millions of people who don’t even have the opportunity to visit Sochi at any time?  See sycophants like Mark like these questions if Americans are asking them. If Russians ask they are treasonous liberals.

So much for “classical democracy.” Is that is the kind of cookie-cutter “democracy” the US intends to plant worldwide, I doubt that anyone including me would want it that way.

It is clear that America does not spread its own form of “democracy” around the world because governments like that of Afghanistan and Iraq do not resemble the American system at all.  Our politicians, however cynical they may be, would never be so stupid as to tell Iraqis that they should have an electoral college so as to eventually limit their government to exactly two parties.

The post-Soviet Russia has a long way before it. Our democracy is still young, but it is a totally new kind of democracy, Democracy v2.0, which relies on the people and protecting the sovereignty of those who don’t have enough weapons to stand up to an aggressor, not on money and military lobbyists. This is our democracy and our duty. Do you have a problem with that, Mr. Obama?

I have to admit I like the way the author seems to save his most idiotic statement for the end. It’s like a grand finale of stupid.  Where to begin? Oh right. Russia is not a democracy. Not by my definition, not by the liberal definition, not by any definition of the word which has any basis in reality. Even if one insists that Putin was fairly elected one would have to justify him running a third time, and possibly a for a fourth.  See in the US we might have this ridiculous system of two parties which exchange power every few years but at least they have to keep finding new people to run.  If Putin and Medvedev don’t see any need for having an undue amount of power they should nominate new candidates.  Putin could replace Medvedev with another person as prime minister.  If this is a democracy and there is no need for keeping an iron grip on power what difference would it make?  Of course the truth is that Russia isn’t a democracy, even by the liberal definition, and Putin and Medvedev maintain each other in power because if they lose it they’re afraid whoever takes their place might turn on them, even if he’s a member of their party.

Moreover, how would Russia’s alleged “democracy 2.0” AKA “the shitty, not-real democracy” be defined by standing up for some other country’s sovereignty?  Was this author not concerned about the original definition of democracy? Since when did foreign policy have anything to do with internal democracy?  And if the Russian government is so concerned with national sovereignty why does it hand out passports like candy to people living in unrecognized countries?  Here’s a hint: It’s not because the government truly cares about the self-determination of Abkhazians or Ossetians.  In fact if they really believed in that they’d push for recognition of those countries and not issue Russian passports to people in such territories.  This whole paragraph almost seems like some kind of Freudian slip, whereby the author nearly admits that Russian foreign policy is connected to the question of democracy in Russia.  Specifically, foreign policy circuses like this one are used to force Russians to direct their attention outward and rally to the colors.  So far it seems to be working.

So there you have it. I’m not crazy after all.  These people really don’t respect Americans who protest against their own government.  There’s no solidarity, no principle, no attempt to build understanding.  Some might argue otherwise but I think they are mistaken as I once was.  They mistake the welcome they get for their opinions in Russia as true solidarity when in fact their hosts are just treating them like useful idiots.  

No doubt this has probably left a fair deal of Team Russia fans with a serious case of butt-devastation.  Stay tuned though, because very soon I’m going to give John McCain the same treatment.


3 thoughts on “All aboard the stupid train! PART I

  1. Chris

    The Second Chechen War was absolutely in the interests of most Russians. Whether Sochi was or not depends on your standards. Most Russians thought it was. But I suppose that their opinions don’t matter; only your definition of what makes something worthwhile (= has economic benefit) counts. Your position on democracy is actually self-contradictory, arguably, as what democracy is supposed to consist in is determined by you, and not by a country’s actual polity. If they prefer festival and pangeant to economic benefits, that must be false consciousness or something leading the astray from the truth.

    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      No, it was not in the benefit of most Russians, particularly those who were forced to fight it, received wounds, and languished away after they were sent home. It doesn’t matter what “most Russians” think, all that matters is objective reality. Most Americans supported the Iraq war initially, and for quite some time after that. I don’t think opinion started to shift against it until about 2005, maybe 2004 at the earliest.

      As for what is worthwhile, economic benefit is a bit more important than you realize. While I’m sure you skip over the business section in favor of the comics, it is there that our world is shaped. Unfortunately economics as a science these days has become so detached from reality that people tend to look at economic issues as little more than math and models which are relevant mostly to businessmen. In the real world, the economy is what governs our lives, especially in a capitalist system which is itself governed by the market. Objectively, the Russian people would have been far better served with more hospitals, kindergartens, roads, or whatever, rather than a one-time pageant in a city which is inaccessible to most Russians. This isn’t a matter up for debate, and as a Reuters investigation recently found, the government utterly failed to provide a promised number of new hospitals while going $700 million over budget on the project.

      As for your comments about democracy they are irrelevant because the two issues you are comparing were never put to a vote. It’s also important to remember that the cost of the Sochi games were originally far lower than the estimated $51 billion which was ultimately spent. The Russian people were never asked and allowed to vote on whether they wanted $51 billion to go into a one-time Olympic games or a bunch of modern facilities in cities outside of Moscow. I guarantee you they would have chosen the latter. Moreover, the very fact that corruption is such a problem here proves that people put economic benefits above other things. It’s a survival tactic.

    2. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      And let me make another suggestion. Next time, before you dismiss “economic benefit” so easily, re-phrase economic benefit to “food, shelter, adequate infrastructure, etc.” because that’s exactly what economic benefit refers to.


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