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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII - Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Russia and Putin

One Party Management in the name of 'Democracy'

by StFerdIII

Putin and the current Russian government have decided that a return to Tsarist rule over a diverse amalgamation of peoples and territory is the only efficacious form of governing an unruly empire. As the recent liberation of the Ukraine through the ‘Orange Revolution’ indicates such a philosophy is doomed to eventual oblivion. Yet Putin and his coterie are simply following the oldest form of Russian realism – and ignoring their suffering population. Throughout a long history of oppression the Russian people have been led to believe that an all knowing central power is vital to develop the country into a great power and to fabricate a robust and safe Russia. Historically Russia is just another failed example of Oriental despotism. Such an Orientalism, which is directly opposed to the Western Enlightenment tradition, has been fused with the Orthodox Church to create a special mixture of Russian nationalism. The Russian national character is an expression of exceptionalism – epitomized by the despotic and eastern facing capital of Moscow, and by the ‘Third Rome’ spirituality of the Russian Orthodox church, supported by the spread of an illiberal set of values and regimes over a massive region of EurAsia comprising dozens of nationalities and languages.

The long suffering Russian people in the main do not know nor care about the various Western revolutions of the mind, spirit and economy.
Russia and its EurAsian satellites have never known the various upheavals that have developed the Judeo-Western Culture taken for granted now in the West as historical inevitability. There was certainly nothing inevitable about Western world domination. Russia never generated nor truly accepted the concepts that emanated from the West and which allowed the West to control world history. A long list of cultural and economic developments from the philosophical and political innovations of the Jews and Greeks; to the constitutional, architectural, military and legal traditions of the Romans; through to the calibrated advances during the middle ages in scientific and agricultural development; to the reformation of the Church and the separation of Church and state; to the various enlightenment and intellectual revolutions of the early modern period; to the creation of market based economies and the scientific method – none of these had much of an impression on Mother Russia and none were replicated en masse and with widespread support, within her various empires.

Given this long history of mass indifference and selective usage of Western concepts the Russian state naturally developed along an Oriental – despotic line. No Tsar or monarch in Russian history has been truly a reformer for the mass, the peasantry or for the common citizen. Reforms were elitist and directed towards militarism. Centralized militarism has a long pedigree in
Russia dating from at least the creation of the Russian empire 700 years ago which was born out of opposition to the Orientalist Mongols and the Golden Horde. Russia only achieved independence from Mongol hegemony in the 14th century and then embarked on a program of expansionism in the 15th and 16th centuries under Tsars Ivan III and Ivan the IV [the Terrible]. A strong Tsar with centralized control, a strong military, secret police and which used the offices, the spiritual power and money of the Orthodox Church to control the peasant masses was de facto policy for Russian rulers in both the pre-modern and modern eras. Diffuse nationalities, and numerous enemies obstructed the creation of a society in which intellectual or economic enlightenment could take root. In fact such practices were dangerous to the control of the Russian elite since it would cause untold social and political problems and pose challenges to a unified form of rule with military and foreign policy implications.

The 2 major exceptions to Orientalism rule were the regimes of Peter the Great [late 17th C] and Catherine the Great [Mid 18th C] – who ruled 150 years apart and each of whom greatly expanded the power of the Russian state and military as they successfully increased the territory of their empire. Yet even the ‘Greats’ were only sporadic reformers. Peter was vital to bring Western military methods, social ideas, and economic structuring to his empire but centralized control, corruption, and monopolies were never jeopardized. In fact under Peter such patronage flourished. Social reform, peasant status, land, democratic and intellectual reforms were never seriously implemented or even attempted during either of the ‘Greats’ regimes. Catherine though she herself was educated, enlightened and full of reformist ideals, never had the temerity to remake the Russian state in the image of European idealism. This was especially true after the eruption of the French Revolution and the guillotining of Louis the XVI. The terror of the French Revolution convinced many a monarch that any reform which truly freed the peasant was too dangerous to contemplate.

Such an ideal remains valid in
Russia today. The lack of reforms under the Romanovs and elitist corruption certainly led to the Russian revolution. But popular reforms were never truly contemplated. It was no mistake that Lenin upon seizing power in 1917 moved the Russian capital from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Lenin knew that the Europeanized former capital on the Baltic was too dangerous a place in which to consolidate power and Orientalism. Moscow, never a city to accept Western ideals, was far better suited to non-democratic governance and despotism. Deep in the EurAsian heartland and devoid of Russians who had been contaminated with the virus of Europeanization in St. Petersburg, Lenin had a natural audience which could accept his dream of Russian exceptionalism and the ‘workers paradise’ of communitarian comradeship based on state control and ownership. Such concepts would never have flowered in St. Petersburg Russia’s only European city, full of foreigners and strange western concepts and books.

Now with Putin and the KGB in full control of
Russia’s political system the same Leninist philosophy is at work. Tepid reforms in the 1990s on political freedom, political party creationism, private market initiatives, and government transparency are being rolled back. Putin has decided that the Oligarchs who illegally took control of state assets and enriched themselves and then decided to enter into politics, as well as journalists and political enemies, must be purged either through jail terms, exile or ‘car accidents’. Russia is thus embarking on its version of the ‘China policy’ so aped by many developing and third world states. Its basic tenets are one party rule, complete political conformity, limited economic liberalization, technology transfers from the West, selective Western direct investments, national control of most key industries and state owned mass media.

Such a policy is not new nor is it truly a ‘
China’ policy. It is a very old set of programs that hearkens back to the Cold War era when the Soviets tried doing much the same during the late 70s and 80s to prop up their failing empire. The selective liberation of certain economic sectors and perhaps socio-political areas to generate firstly economic power and secondly to give outlets to political expressions and frustrations was tried for instance by Gorbachev. Gorbachev’s original intention as a believer in Communism and one party state rule was precisely that a selective opening of economic and political opportunity would allow the Communist state to survive by creating jobs and give some outlet to political frustrations. Faced with an economy in ruins, a bankrupt military sector that was operated as a separate economy and relied exclusively on the theft of western technology to stay afloat and the shortage of consumer items, jobs and wealth creation, and importantly a Western embargo on trade and technology transfer implemented by Reagan and NATO that stopped Soviet importation of western monies and technologies, Gorbachev had no choice but to try to reform his system. The fact that this avid communist failed to achieve his objectives has not deterred an adoring western media from assigning him saintly status. One might as well ascribe to Mao the same reverence. Gorbachev never intended to dismantle his empire but only to prolong communist rule and by extension communist misery on 300 million people.

The Western media also has given Putin a free ride until now. Putin’s clownish and failed intervention in the Ukrainian election; his incompetent policy of obliteration in Chechnya; nationalization of oil assets; one party rule; non-transparency in government; and total disregard for true economic reforms has led many to conclude that his regime is not only illiberal but anti-Western. Russian control of energy supplies to Eastern Europe [almost 100 %], and to a far smaller degree Western Europe, and its massive oil and natural gas potential make Russia a major factor in the geo-political chess game of energy sourcing vs. national state foreign policy preferences. No doubt Putin feels that he is in quite a strong position given
Russia’s increasing revenue base as oil prices stay above $40 and his complete political and media control. Combined with a GDP growth of 7 % per year, stable and low inflation, a more effective banking sector, a stable ruble, a tepid but still prevalent foreign investment, and a ‘crackdown’ on the hated Oligarchs which pleases public opinion, Putin seems to have a good story to tell his people. Indeed he enjoys approval ratings of well over 70 %.

Yet in reality
Russia is underperforming and will experience future chaos. Even disavowing the political change that the Ukrainian election should engender in Russian politics, there are good reasons to be skeptical regarding Russia’s future. GDP growth for example is truly hard to gauge given the unreliability of Russian economic and social data. Nevertheless it is clear that the Russian economy is still 1/3 smaller in size than it was 15 years ago and is barely the size of the Benelux economies. Its military is decrepit and can find no better way to end the Chechnyan war then to bomb Grozny and other villages into rubble. This war costs Russia money and lives that it can ill afford to squander. Russian oil revenues while impressive will come under pressure as other non Russian sources will be developed and the price per barrel inevitably drops towards $30 – this will certainly happen once OPEC is broken through the US backed Iraqi government. State revenues so reliant on oil prices, and compromised by a lax and inefficient tax collection system will increasingly come under strain. Tax collections will need to rise, tax rates may have to be increased, spending cuts might need to be enacted or new revenues sources found, or a combination of all the preceding, in order for Russia to pay its obligations, develop some form of welfare for its citizens and ensure proper infrastructure development. This financial dependency on oil puts Russia in a precarious position. As well the Russian banking sector after the appropriation of savings in 2000 is not trusted, capital markets are small and illiquid, and business is controlled by mafia and government ministers and in some cases by government ministries [for instance in Telecoms]. These financial constraints need immediate redress to allow Russia to grow its economy and many are linked to political reform which under a Putinista government will never occur.

Outside of financial issues there exist even more obvious social-economic clues which point to Russian decrepitude. The Russian people live in housing that would be condemned in most western cities, the average salary for a lucky worker in
Moscow might about $800 US per month and families shack up together in small, fetid apartments to allow economies. Infrastructure development in most areas vital to economic and job creationism are lacking as is a modern, hospital and health system. Education certificates, driver’s licenses, and official papers of all varieties are regularly ‘bought’. Due processes are not followed, an independent legal system is a dream, corruption is endemic, state owned media blare nationalist pulp for the consuming masses, wherein even Soviet greatness with nary a reference to purges, famines, 30 million dead, and widespread socio-environmental destruction is trumpeted. Virulent anti-Americanism is blasted forth from Kremlin controlled presses and TV stations, even maintaining that the US government is really just a collection of mafia interests. The combination of these economic and social factors has a decisive warping effect on the mind of the average Russian citizen. Many of the young exposed to the West with trips to Europe and the US might reject their poverty, their lack of infrastructure and jobs opportunities in Russia and they might even feel revulsion for the nationalist Russian media, but these fortunate few constitute a distinct minority within Russia.

It is little wonder then that when talking to the average Russian you have a sense that they come from a different world. They share nothing in common with the Western experience. Whatever the various failings of Western practices, and there are quite a few, it is an experience in virtual reality manipulation to transpose the disaster that is modern
Russia onto Western nation states or to ascribe to the West the ills that plague Russia. Yet from such a place and mentality the rule of a Putin is not only possible but inevitable. From such a history Orientalism is guaranteed. Putin personalities do not spring from unploughed earth, they simply grow from prepared soil. For the long suffering people of Russia, who have never experienced the traditions that have shaped the West and allowed freedom and wealth to blossom, they can perhaps find solace, direction and information from the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. In a former Soviet satellite another group of people, a conscious majority, with a long history of oppression and destruction, have chosen for freedom and reform and have rejected the Russian-Putinista model. Maybe the Ukrainians should export their ideas, organization and Orange colored material to Mother Russia. Maybe this time, Russia and its elite will actually listen. But don’t bet on it. Expect Russia to remain a poor second world country, despotic, Oriental, unpredictable, untrustworthy, using the United Nations to constrain US power and acting in ways entirely based on the preferences of its autocratic and corrupt elite.

Then pity the Russian people.


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