A lot of folks seem to appreciate my tough love for Russia. Specifically, when I point out that the negative attitude many countries have towards Russia and the preference its neighbors have towards the West isn’t in fact due to some kind of American mind-control conspiracy but rather the behavior of the Russian government and the society it has built over the years. Essentially it’s a matter of projection- they can’t face their own problems so they imagine that they must be coming from outside. Well guess what, me hearties- this doesn’t just apply to Russia.
Today’s one of those days when I have to write a post that gives you an idea as to why I’m not getting invitations to speak at conferences. Honestly I’ve been trying to write this post for some time now, ever since Brexit. I’ve written about Brexit before, but I wanted to go beyond that particular event and tackle the Chicken Littles clucking about how the “liberal order” is being destroyed and of course it’s all Putin’s fault. For all you defenders of the “international liberal order” out there let me dump the bucket of ice water on your head. Your liberal order is failing because quite frankly, it sucks, and people are getting tired of it. Even its many accomplishments are negated by the fact that many in your societies can’t even appreciate and enjoy them, and this is largely due to your corporate-dominated, largely unregulated, for-profit media.
The reason I’ve been holding off on this article for a while is because I was reading a lot of other articles for inspiration and I couldn’t decide which one or ones to comment on. Luckily, this week I found one that seems to fit the bill perfectly. The headline says it all- the EU had it coming. Sure, you can blame it on right-wing nationalism and xenophobia; It’s a step in the right direction as opposed to blaming Putin. But did it ever occur to anyone to ask why nationalism and xenophobia were on the rise in the first place?
Sure, in a modern capitalist society people want a sense of identity, to be a part of something like a nation. But there’s a much more important factor I believe- nationalism implies, if not flat out declares, that members of the “nation” will get preferential treatment. Resources, jobs, social spending, they’ll all be spent on members of the nation instead of immigrants or foreign superstates. This is has serious appeal, regardless of whether or not right-wing demagogues ever deliver on their promises or have any actual coherent plan at all (HINT: They don’t). Take it from my personal experience- people don’t become far-rightists overnight. It starts with alienation, lack of purpose and hope for the future, and most of all, the idea that other, undeserving people are getting something that “should” be rightfully yours. It comes from a desire to avoid being on the bottom of society, incidentally the part of society many liberal pundits have no connection to.
Alas, the “end of history” crowd, the capitalists, the investors, the politicians, and the professionals who served them were not concerned about this social phenomenon. Indeed many of them at one time or another dabbled in racism, xenophobia, nationalism, or right-wing populism of some sort. As far as they were concerned, there was no alternative to their enlightened, perpetual rule, and because modern globalization was good for them they assumed it must be good for everybody.Much like American Democrats in the early 90’s, they seem to have decided that the working classes would have no choice but to accept them regardless of their platform.
And speaking of working classes. I also find it rather amusing that around the time of the economic crisis it really seemed to me that the European ruling class in particular embarked upon a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria rivaling that of the Cold War if not exceeding it at times. I’m not sure what the exact motives were here, but there is great irony in watching their liberal order get assailed not by leftist and Communists, but rather by far right-wing extremists who mouth the same arguments and liken the EU to the Soviet Union.
Speaking from a materialist point of view, I acknowledge the superiority of the liberal order, or at least the ideal version of it that its advocates put forth. I will not deny any of its real accomplishments. Nor will I deny its superiority to the non-alternatives we’ve seen so far. That being said, it is a highly flawed system and it is starting to crack under the weight of its own contradictions. If you are unable to convince large swaths of your own population that your system is superior to the alternatives, that’s your failure. You need to own it and stop blaming Putin like some kind of Eurovatnik.
Personally I don’t think you can ultimately resolve those contradictions. I think the whole system needs to change. If we don’t build a real alternative, then a continent of corrupt kleptocracies and national rivalries might just be the outcome. Sure, Mr. Putin and his gang of thieves, should they still be around at the time, will certainly take advantage of the opportunities such an outcome would provide. But they won’t be able to claim credit for destroying the EU. Only Europeans are capable of doing that.