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Posts Tagged ‘Communists

China and its problems – two videos

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We hear the phrase about the 21st century being the Chinese Century that it can come as a bit of shock when this is not just questioned but attacked on it’s fundamental premises.

There are some negative projections of the nation that have not aged well, of which my well-thumbed copy of Gordon Chang’s, The Coming Collapse of China, published in 2001, is one. Like The Great Depression of 1990, Chang nailed a lot of China’s problems but extrapolated them too far. However, there have been many more books pushing equally silly boosterisms of China and they’re not looking too good either.

The current negative takes are not a shock to me because I’ve adhered to the phrase first coined by Mark Steyn (who takes a great interest in demographics) around 2005 that, “China will get old before it gets rich”.

However, there are always new surprises coming out about this and they’re explored in the following video from geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan. You can find a bullet point synopsis of it at the Battleswarm blog, of which the following three points are worth quoting:

  • They were going shrink in half by 2100. “Then they realized that they had been overcounting people for some time.” Then new data moved the date moved up to 2070. And now they’re saying it will be 2050. “For that to be true, the Chinese would have overcounted the population by 100 million.” And all of those missing people are of childbearing age. Their population actually peaked 15 years ago.
  • Xi’s instituted a cult of personality, and silenced anyone capable of independent thought. “He knows that the country’s current economic model has failed. And he knows he can’t guarantee economic growth, and he knows he can’t keep the lights on, and he knows he can’t win a war with the Americans.”
  • Xi’s solution? “Naked, blatant, ultra nationalism. Ethnocentric ultranationalism of the Nazi style.”

I don’t agree with all his points (I’ve always thought Stratfor, his former employer, is over-rated) but they’re interesting, and the increasingly extreme nationalism has been noted by everybody.

This second video focuses on that nationalism, especially in how China’s approach to the outside world has changed so dramatically from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Gamers to today. One of the strangest aspects has been Chinese diplomats the world over, hurling insults at their host countries, from Brazil, Canada, France, India and (of course) the USA. This is the exact opposite of what diplomats are supposed to do.

The video thinks it knows why and it’s summed up in three words, “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy”, designed to stir up nationalism as a way to control internal security problems. At the end it refers to the demographic problem – but also makes references to two other problems I was not aware of:

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UPDATE

Based on comments, and as a balance to the above there’s also this book mentioned in the latter video, China: The bubble that never pops.

The Chinese economy appears destined for failure, the financial bubble forever in peril of popping, the real estate sector doomed to collapse, the factories fated for bankruptcy.

Banks drowning in bad loans. An urban landscape littered with ghost towns of empty property. Industrial zones stalked by zombie firms. Trade tariffs blocking the path to global markets.

And yet, against the odds and against expectations, growth continues, wealth rises, international influence expands. The coming collapse of China is always coming, never arriving.

There’s also an interview with him on this subject:

Written by Tom Hunter

April 21, 2022 at 6:39 pm

Control your soul’s thirst for freedom

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Over the years I’ve read and seen a bunch of dystopian SF books and movies, stories that paint not a wonderful, sunny future enabled by miraculous technology, but a grim, dark, almost inhuman future where the technology oppresses us rather than freeing us.

Neuromancer, Bladerunner, Battlestar Gallactica (2003 reboot), Aliens, A.I., Gattica….

Yet somehow I never thought I’d get to see it.

That’s in Shanghai, one of the largest cities in the world: twenty five million people locked down by the Chinese government in pursuit of Covid Zero, which they still believe is possible even after two years of dealing with General Tso’s Syphilis. It feels like a repeat of the autistic focus on goals during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

Between that and drones flying around apartment buildings broadcasting warnings while people scream from their balconies for food, plus beating corgies to death in the street and wrapping up cats in mesh bags on the sidewalks where they are collected to be killed, it’s safe to say that China is not a place anybody would like to be – and absolutely not a society we want to emulate, even though we increasingly do, starting with the concept of lockdowns.

I’d already covered a story about the CCP’s approach to pets in Time ran out for Pudding, where a little boy in Hong Kong had to hand over his pet hamster to be killed by the authorities. The cats in bags is another echo of the recent Chinese past:

Even China’s feline population suffered as Red Guards tried to eliminate what they claimed was a symbol of “bourgeois decadence”. “Walking through the streets of the capital at the end of August [1966], people saw dead cats lying by the roadside with their front paws tied together”

If you wish you can find videos of the cats in bags but I found the images too upsetting to put here, despite being not gory.

It’s not just events like this that have made me doubt the claim that the 21st century will be China’s. For various fundamental reasons arising from China’s history and culture I’ve long held the opinion that the current CCP control of the nation differs little from other dynasties stretching back 3000 years. A massively centralised, technocratic State government under which peace and prosperity increase for the population for a long time – followed by a decline in competence due to that centralised technocracy having no governing checks and failing to be refreshed with new minds and ideas, in-turn followed by peasant rebellions, the rise of feudal states and war. In the past the periods of peace might last for centuries, and the decline too, but today’s world moves faster.

Some of these problems are outlined in this article, Red Dusk, which discusses the problems of a declining working age population, the lack of state institutions that address health and retirement, and the growth of class divisions. I was especially amused by this:

Communist officials have been put in the awkward position of cracking down on Marxist study groups at universities, whose working-class advocacy conflicts with the policies of the nominally socialist government.

For all the talk of what their centralised goverment can achieve (and has achieved) – admired by the likes of Bill Gates, Justin Trudeau and Paul Krugman, among many other of the West’s ruling class – I see no evidence that the CCP has real answers to any of those problems. Worse still, their economic success has seen a rise in the old chauvinism that it’s all down to their superior culture, ignoring the fact that as recently as the 17th century, Europe ranked below China in almost any measure of power, but that it was the Western culture of allowing a diversity of ideas across a range of culture, from art to business to politics, that enables Europe to rise in power far beyond China.

That has not changed, despite some pretty awful excesses that have developed recently in the West – excesses which mirror aspects of China under the CCP, primarily conformism and control. But those have their limits, as Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan, the USSR, Mao’s China and a host of smaller nations have found.

We need to uncouple ourselves from China, although economically that may not be possible because we’re too far gone ourselves. But perhaps just focus on nothing but economic trade with them and dump everything else about the “relationship”. Twenty years ago the Free Trade people argued that we would be exporting our values to Communist China (I was one of them), but it’s become obvious that we’re not and instead are importing their values into our society.

Perhaps I’m too pessimistic about the Chinese situation? In a small way the fact that the CCP is using a phrase that acknowledges the human soul’s desire for freedom is perhaps a tell. I don’t recall any Chinese communist campaign of the past that even used the word “freedom”, let alone the idea of it being tied to an individual human soul.

In other words I’d have expected the drones to be shouting communist boilerplate propaganda in commanding tones – “No person and no force can stop the march of the Chinese people toward better lives!“, or some such shite – rather than making what almost feels like a spiritual appeal to the people.

Written by Tom Hunter

April 14, 2022 at 8:50 am

Right and Left wing support for Putin

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One of the strangest aspects of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been the support given to it, or at least the excuses made for it, by elements of the Western Right wing.

This has been claimed as merely another example of the “Alt-Right” or “Far-Right” in action, although the former slur seems to have died away in the last couple of years, apparently having failed to have much impact, probably because it was never well-defined in the first place.

In an example of the classic donut representation of ideologies the Far Right appears to have matched up with the Far Left, at least on this issue, although the same observations have been made of the recent anti-mandate protests in Wellington. I’ve always thought the elements of the donut that would do so would be the various brands of Anarchism, with only a hair’s breadth difference between the Anarcho-Communists and Anarcho-Capitalists – a wide, deep canyon in other words.

But perhaps this meshing is based on a faith in a vast, centralised state? After all, Lefties like Chris Trotter have quite happily identified themselves as “tankies”, – a term of abuse apparently used within the Left, of which I was unaware until he used it a few weeks ago:

Tankie” is a pejorative label for communists, particularly Stalinists, who support the authoritarian tendencies of Marxism–Leninism…Specifically it was used to distinguish party members who spoke out defending Soviet use of tanks to crush the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and later the 1968 Prague Spring uprising, or more broadly, those who adhered to pro-Soviet positions in general.

As such Chris has often defended Putin’s Russia using all the now-standard arguments: the threat of NATO, the West in general and especially the USA, the corruption of Russia by capitalism, etc, etc, plus the massive propaganda war against Russia. He and others have also pointed out the hypocrisies and double standards involved when looking at events like the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the attack on Libya in 2011.

To be fair Chris has nevertheless condemned the latest Russian invasion as a crime.

But what of the Western Right who are defending Putin’s actions? A rather dejected sounding classical liberal from Britain, Daniel Hannan, someone whose arguments I’ve very much admired over the years, posed that question in The Examiner: How can any American patriot support Putin?

How can people who call themselves nationalists be so blasé about the asphyxiation of a nation whose sole offense has been to assert its independence?

But what is it that Trump and his followers see in Putin in the first place? This is where I start to worry. For a Reagan conservative, Putin’s flaws are obvious. He does not respect elections. He believes he can make up the rules as he goes along. He defines some of his people as “traitors” and encourages others to go after them. The sole principle of his foreign policy is Machtpolitik — let the stronger take from the weaker. He has replaced multiparty pluralism with a cult of personality. He can’t tolerate criticism.

Are Trumpsters as repelled by these things as Reaganites? Considering that list in an American context, I wonder. Things have changed since the Gipper’s time. In a polarized age, people are readier to overlook the shortcomings of politicians who specialize in “owning” the other side. Instead of wanting to limit the state as a general principle, modern conservatives are happy to make use of it when it suits their ends. And whereas they used to support candidates who shared their principles, they now tend to shift their principles whenever their champion does.

Unlike Hannan I’m well aware of plenty of Trump supporters who are very much against Putin’s invasion and wish to see him fail, including especially seeing the back of him as the leader of Russia. I did laugh at his take on Leftist support for Putin:

There is nothing surprising about dissent on the Left, chunks of which will align with any cause, however vile, provided it is sufficiently anti-American. If H.G. Wells’s novel came true tomorrow and Martian invaders launched their spaceships at Earth, there would be a New York Times op-ed arguing that the invasion was an understandable response to former President George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

But I don’t think it’s as simple as Hannan’s claim that it’s just siding with those who “own” their personal opposition, and a better answer may be found in this analysis of the apologetics for Putin, one that’s more subtle, and more disturbing:

“Both the liberal center-Left and the conservative center-Right are basically committed to upholding the global liberal order. Putin, by invading and attempting to conquer a sovereign state, challenges that order. If Putin succeeds, even modestly, it represents a failure for the U.S. establishment figures who tried to stop him. And establishment failures equal insurgent opportunities. Both the rightists and the leftists here are fighting against the Fukuyaman end-of-history idea that gives their own movements little space to move up.”

I think that’s it, but he’s also clinging to a very slim reed in thinking that these groups are frightened by the idea that the Fukuyamian world of the 1990’s is going to return, especially when he pinpoints its failures himself:

… the rightists and leftists must now see their shared nightmare unfolding before them — a great muddling-through, a slow revivification of the institutions that failed in Iraq and the Great Recession and the Trump Era. 

Ummm… No! The failures of the institutions that created the disasters of Iraq and the GFC, and before them the 9/11 attacks, are what led to the Trump era, and the continued public failure of them during Trump’s presidency – most vividly on show now with the slow revelation of coverups by none other than the CIA and FBI themselves, plus their handmaidens in Big Tech and the MSM in things like the Russia Collusion nonsense and Hunter Biden’s laptop of corruption, all working to bring Trump down – have only reduced public confidence in them further, worsened the situation and pulled us further away from that fabulous 90’s world that the author pines for.

He also doesn’t even mention the catastrophic Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan and the authoritarian over-reaction to the Chinese Lung Rot pandemic in almost all Western nations which saw our Public Health institutions and a good chunk of the public gleefully turning themselves into modern-day Stasi agents.

The End of History is dead and something new will take its place.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 25, 2022 at 10:22 am

The Samizdat remains the same

The failure of new generations of Leftists to actually build anything that could be described as Left-wing has started to be noticed by at least some Leftists.

Here in New Zealand the likes of “Bomber” Bradbury have been railing about the uselessness of Ardern’s Labour government to actually solve homelessness, and poverty, despite almost five years in power, the last two with an overwhelming majority in Parliament. Moreover “neo-liberal” capitalism is still here, smashing house prices through the roof and killing young people’s chances of home ownership – with all that implies for starting families.

Moreover, Bradbury notes that even as these failures pile up the fighting over woke politics grows ever more vicious:

I see a woke activist base who act more like a cult protecting dogma than agents of progressive change. I see a Green Party that is next to fucking hopeless on anything other than the delivery of woke empty gestures welded to their own middle class pretensions.

The material issues that truly matter have been dumped in favour of middle class identity politic virtue signals that are parroted by the Twitter mob and anyone who breathes differently gets cancelled.

But it’s a global phenomena. Environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, in his article, What happened to ‘Yes we can’?, bemoans what has happened to the dream of progressives on issue after issue:

For all of my adult life I have identified as a progressive. To me, being a progressive meant that I believed in empowerment…But now, on all the major issues of the day, the message from progressives is “No, you can’t.”

From climate change to drugs to homelessness and racism, Shellenberger sees what Bradbury sees, an ideological and political movement that has gone off the rails:

The reason progressives believe that “No one is safe,” when it comes to climate change, and that the drug-death “homelessness” crisis is unsolvable, is because they are in the grip of a victim ideology characterized by safetyism, learned helplessness, and disempowerment.

This isn’t really that new. Since the 1960s, the New Left has argued that we can’t solve any of our major problems until we overthrow our racist, sexist, and capitalistic system. But for most of my life, up through the election of Obama, there was still a New Deal, “Yes we can!” and “We can do it!” optimism that sat side-by-side with the New Left’s fundamentally disempowering critique of the ­system.

That’s all gone. On climate change, drug deaths, and cultural issues like racism, the message from progressives is that we are doomed unless we dismantle the institutions responsible for our oppressive, racist system. Those of us in Generation X who were raised to believe that racism was something we could overcome have been told in no uncertain terms that we were wrong. Racism is baked into our cultural DNA.

So too does the more hardline Leftist, Matt Taibbi in this article, The Vanishing Legacy of Barack Obama, which starts off in typical Taibbi fashion:

On the road from stirring symbol of hope and change to the Fat Elvis of neoliberalism, birthday-partying Barack Obama sold us all out

Ouch! It only gets nastier from there as he starts with Barack’s fabulous 60th birthday bash in his “Who’s Afraid of Climate Change” $12 million mansion in Martha’s Vineyard:

… advisers prevailed upon the 44th president to reconsider the bacchanal. But characteristically, hilariously, Obama didn’t cancel his party, he merely uninvited those he considered less important, who happened to be almost entirely his most trusted former aides.

There’s a glorious moment in the life of a certain kind of politician, when either because their careers are over, or because they’re so untouchable politically that it doesn’t matter anymore, that they finally get to remove the public mask, no pun intended. This Covid bash was Barack Obama’s “Fuck it!” moment.

I must admit that I laughed out loud at that last bit. Closer observers of Obama had already noticed that aspect of his personality years ago:

Obama was set up to be the greatest of American heroes, but proved to be a common swindler and one of the great political liars of all time — he fooled us all. Moreover, his remarkably vacuous post-presidency is proving true everything Trump said in 2016 about the grasping Washington politicians whose only motives are personal enrichment, and who’d do anything, even attend his wedding, for a buck.

Heh. Trump spoke a great many truths about The Establishment in D.C.

How do these Leftist betrayals keep happening? The thing that Taibbi, and the German Critical Theorists and Gramsci and all the rest of these fabulous Marxist theorists continue to miss is that no matter how you dress up the pig, it’s still a swine, as Tom Wolfe waspishly noted years ago in The Intelligent Co-Ed’s Guide to America, writing about Solzhenitsyn’s coming to America:

With the Hungarian uprising of 1956 and the invasion of Czechoslo­vakia in 1968 it had become clear to Mannerist Marxists such as Sartre that the Soviet Union was now an embarrassment. The fault, however, as tout le monde knew, was not with socialism but with Stalinism. Stalin was a madman and had taken socialism on a wrong turn. (Mis­takes happen.) Solzhenitsyn began speaking out as a dissident inside the Soviet Union in 1967. His complaints, his revelations, his struggles with Soviet authorities—they merely underscored just how wrong the Stalinist turn had been.

The publication of The Gulag Archipelago in 1973, however, was a wholly unexpected blow. No one was ready for the obscene horror and grotesque scale of what Solzhenitsyn called “Our Sewage Disposal System”—in which tens of millions were shipped in boxcars to con­centration camps all over the country, in which tens of millions died, in which entire races and national groups were liquidated, insofar as they had existed in the Soviet Union. Moreover, said Solzhenitsyn, the system had not begun with Stalin but with Lenin, who had im­mediately exterminated non-Bolshevik opponents of the old regime and especially the student factions. It was impossible any longer to distinguish the Communist liquidation apparatus from the Nazi.

I always have to laugh at the trajectory that Leftists follow in this descent. People like Gorbachev and Dmitry Volkogonov at least had the excuse of having grown up in a brainwashed system, but not their Western counterparts:

Yet Solzhenitsyn went still further. He said that not only Stalinism, not only Leninism, not only Communism — but socialism itself led to the concentration camps; and not only socialism, but Marxism; and not only Marxism but any ideology that sought to reorganize morality on an a priori basis. Sadder still, it was impossible to say that Soviet socialism was not “real socialism.” On the contrary — it was socialism done by experts!

Intellectuals in Europe and America were willing to forgive Solzhe­nitsyn a great deal. After all, he had been born and raised in the Soviet Union as a Marxist, he had fought in combat for his country, he was a great novelist, he had been in the camps for eight years, he had suf­fered. But for his insistence that the isms themselves led to the death camps — for this he was not likely to be forgiven soon. And in fact the campaign of antisepsis began soon after he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974. (“He suffered too much — he’s crazy.” “He’s a Christian zealot with a Christ complex.” “He’s an agrarian reaction­ary.” “He’s an egotist and a publicity junkie.”)

I vividly recall that this was still the standard take on the man when I was at varsity in the 1980’s.

Solzhenitsyn’s tour of the United States in 1975 was like an enormous funeral procession that no one wanted to see. The White House wanted no part of him. The New York Times sought to bury his two major’ speeches, and only the moral pressure of a lone Times writer, Hilton Kramer, brought them any appreciable coverage at all. The major tele­vision networks declined to run the Solzhenitsyn interview that created such a stir in England earlier this year (it ran on some of the educa­tional channels).

And the literary world in general ignored him completely. In the huge unseen coffin that Solzhenitsyn towed behind him were not only the souls of the zeks who died in the Archipelago. No, the heartless bastard had also chucked in one of the last great visions: the intellec­tual as the Stainless Steel Socialist glistening against the bone heap of capitalism in its final, brutal, fascist phase. There was a bone heap, all right, and it was grisly beyond belief, but socialism had created it.

But the betrayals of Obama and Clinton and Blair and Brown and Ardern (“Wonder Woman”) and Clark and Lange and all the rest, don’t matter. The next leader of the Centre-Left parties will be hailed as the new saviour, and the entire hideous personality-cult-plus-central-control process will start all over again. These are the same people who will tell you earnestly to your face that there’s no way a modern Lenin, Stalin or Mao could arise because the Left would never make that mistake again.

The Zombie Returns

While the USSR collapsed in 1991 – fittingly on Christmas Day as if in a final tip-of-the-hat to the Christianity against which it had so long fought – and while this followed on from the collapse of all its little Mini-Me’s in Eastern Europe a couple of years earlier, there were still plenty of Marxists around, even if they seemed a little “off” from a traditional Marxist perspective:

Nominal communist regimes still exist, but they are knock-offs, systems determined to survive by being different. There is little Marx in China. Cuba also has gone to market to try to save itself. North Korea has enshrined Asian monarchy rather than European philosophy. But no one has attempted to remake Soviet communism.

Aside from those examples True Marxists (self-proclaimed) have soldiered on in the West, even gaining some traction with movements like Antifa and Burn Loot Murder, discontent with “neo-liberal capitalism” and certainly engaging in struggle sessions in many areas.

As this article, Zombie Marxism, makes clear, there’s a lot going on to once more modernise ancient Marxist ideas. That article looks at the two basic pathways to yet another socialist revolution: practical grassroots organising; and destroying a society’s ideas about itself. That last is mainly about Italian communist Antonio Gramsci:

Writing in the 1920s and ‘30s, after the failure by Italy’s workers to set up a communist state in 1918, Gramsci said the proletariat was consenting to his own enslavement. How so? He buys into the cultural trappings of his bourgeois oppressor—the church, the family, the nation-state, etc.

The communists at the turn of the 20th century had struck similar problems as the industrialised nations of Europe failed to undergo “natural” communist revolutions. Lenin’s answer was a Vanguard Party to lead the clueless workers. But Gramsci saw that outside of Russia that wasn’t working either. Something else was needed, and his key insight was that:

popular beliefs and similar ideas are themselves material forces.’ Gramsci upheld the assertion that a successful revolution would ultimately require the overthrow of the bourgeois state…However, because the capitalist hegemony does not function through state violence alone but that it also mobilizes civil society in order to promote oppressed peoples consent to and participation in the system, a successful revolutionary movement would first have to engage in a long-term effort to undermine that consent.

Screw economics in other words, the focus of Marx and Engels. Gramsci proposed that the things a civil society believes about itself, its culture, buttressed by its institutions, all the things that the oppressed foolishly believed in, would need to be torn down and rebuilt embedded with Marxist theory.

Which is where the German Critical Theorists come into the picture. They had the tools to enable the destruction, starting with the harmless, innocuous world of academic Western literature and then spreading beyond that to other parts of academia and from that into society, even into the ranks of the professional/managerial classes – with the NYT’s “educational 1619 Project, designed to tear down the myth of 1776 and replace it, being the most prominent example. As one modern Marxist, Harmony Goldberg, admiringly said:

Revolutionaries would themselves have to engage in the long-term battle of ideas in order to clarify the need for revolutionary transformation.” All-out ideological war is needed. A crisis can be used to overthrow a society, but the long-term subversion of a culture must come first.

Remember that when you strike idiot Right-Wing politicians who insist that “they don’t do culture wars”.

Aside from the ideas needed to destroy all those things there’s also the practical organising – which is where the likes of Burn Loot Murder come into the picture (and here you were thinking they were about Blacks being brutalised by the Police). The creators of BLM are people like Alicia Garza and Patrice Cullors:

 In 1996 Harmony Goldberg founded the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL). This is the same place where, seven years later, Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza, then 22, began her Marxist training [in “community organising”].

In Cullors’s case, the ideological mentor was Eric Mann. He is a former member of the Weather Underground who founded the Labor-Community Strategy Center in LA (which Mann jokingly calls “the University of Caracas Revolutionary Graduate School”).

These bastard organisations may die off, as the murderous Weather Underground did after the early 70’s, but their poison lives on to create new horrors like BLM. Mann had already developed the key insight that in America Gramsci’s cultural attack would work best if it was boiled down to racism, the great fault line in America. The training of Cullors, Garza and others like them would also focus on a group of people not necessarily “working class”:

Early on, Mann settled on Los Angeles bus riders as more easily organizable and indoctrinated than factory workers. They were more destitute, more black, Latino, and Asian, and more female, than the average worker. “At a time when many workplaces have 25 to 50 employees, an overcrowded bus has 43 people sitting and from 25 to 43 people standing,” he wrote. “Ten organizers on ten different buses can reach 1,000 or more people in a single afternoon,” That’s why his Center pioneered the creation of a Bus Riders Union.

Remember this also the next time you read the likes of old time Leftist Chris Trotter sneering about the mindless, lower-class of the “lumpenproletariat“, as he did about the Wellington protestors. By contrast Mann and company see such people as equally valuable for their revolution, perhaps more so than the Working Class that buys into the capitalist dream.

So far it’s been quite successful: Critical Theory has laid waste to academic fields, and the most prominent outcome of BLM has been the Defund the Police movement. The article also points out the MSM has been brought into the picture in just the last few years, with a tenfold increase in the use of CRT terms such as “White Privilege”, “Systemic Racism”, “Racial Privilege and so forth. How helpful!

The thing is that the likes of Lenin, while they may not have been as focused on this stuff as a primary driver of revolution, effectively ended up doing the same thing after the revolution, as a rather surprising modern political figure confirms:

Cambodia’s Year Zero was not new or unique.

As much of a concern as these efforts are in their trashing of our Western civilisation, they’ve also turned out to be almost as much of a disappointment as their forebears in building the new Heaven On Earth, luckily without as much blood being split. For example the Defund The Police movement is rapidly collapsing as frightened Democrats back away from the massive surges in crime that have resulted in cities stupid enough to follow the advice of BLM, and US university enrolments are in long-term decline in areas such as English, Sociology, and History where Critical Theory has dominated.

But like old Communism, even as they fail they can be incredibly damaging. In the article Confessions of a student Marxist, we get some insight into this wasteland, as described a man who spent his teenage years “immersed in Marxist and anarchist circles and literature”, before getting to Cambridge University where he’s thrilled to discover others like himself and it all gets very exciting – for a while:

The college was a bucket of crabs and happiness itself suspect, a mark of privilege, as with the rugby lads who had the audacity to actually enjoy themselves. When there was laughter it was heavy and jarring, filled with irony and bitterness, never light or free. …Though we were aware of our enormous privilege we contrived to see our time at Cambridge as some grim fate foisted upon us.

Unhappiness brings with it power over others. Where compassion is the highest virtue, this power is almost limitless. Misery also provides the motive to wield this power, and mental blindness to one’s own culpability in its exercise. 

Eternally oppressed victims. There can be no uglier oppressors. He writes about seeing clips of people expressing their mental distress of oppression – “They are there in the voice, constantly on the point of breaking, in the incredulous, widening eyes, and in the earnestly furrowed brow” – and that when he sees BLM using the same “therapeutic language”, it makes his skin crawl.

Social theorist Mark Fisher described from first-hand experience the manipulation of this scene as a Vampire Castle which “feeds on the energy and anxieties and vulnerabilities of young students, but most of all it lives by converting the suffering of particular groups — the more marginal, the better — into academic capital. The most lauded figures in the Vampire Castle are those who have spotted a new market in suffering — those who can find a group more oppressed and subjugated than any previously exploited will find themselves promoted through the ranks very quickly.” The Vampire Castle recruits on the promise of community and self-healing. The reality is an ouroboros of emotional manipulation…

Emotional manipulation has become the primary, in some ways the only, driver of our politics: Jacinda Ardern is a leading example, including the fact that she is a wealthy, Middle-Class person:

The emotional manipulation developed in elite institutions has developed a motte-and-bailey style of argument (superbly analysed by Jacob Siegel) which is impossible to push back against without seeming callous. And every institution, public or private, has simply buckled.

the embrace of this movement by the rich, and the profound philosophical break it represents with the old order, suggests it has a logic and a momentum of its own and its potential is without limit. It is a politics of negation and renunciation and there is no end-point. There is always more work to be done.

That part about the rich jumping onboard with the bullshit shows both its danger to Western society as well as it weakness. Critical Theory and all the Gramscian stuff is doing a great job of tearing things down, but when it comes time for building they’re still stuck with Marxism, which only builds vast systems of centralised command and control that degenerate and then collapse.

But in this case, the approach has also produced, not a generation of hardened revolutionaries but a bunch of privileged cry-bullies: emotionally fragile people who, like their theories, can tear down but not build.

Seemingly on the cusp of victory (Defund the Police) they crap out in the face of reality (increased crime), and in the case of even the trained Marxists, it turns out that they love money and owning houses, having bought into the cultural trappings of their bourgeois oppressors.


Written by Tom Hunter

March 17, 2022 at 6:00 am

Russia’s strange demons

A lot of people have spent years trying to figure out what makes Vladimir Putin tick. How much is explained by his KGB past? How much by the scars of the collapse of the USSR? How much by a sense of Russian history, the future of Russia and how he sees himself in forming that future.

I saw one of these attempts the other day, where some bright young scholar talks about the possible influence of one Alexander Dugin, leader of the National Bolshevik Party:

Dugin is a relativist who claims that concepts of liberalism, freedom and democracy are alien to Russian culture, and that the exact sciences of chemistry and physics are demonic Western influences. He believes that Russia is culturally closer to Asia than to Europe, and espouses an ultranationalist, neo-fascist ideology based on his idea of Neo-Eurasianism.

A good synopsis of his thoughts:

That discussion is from 2014, but it reminded me of this essay published in NY Books in 2018 about another Russian philosopher from the early and mid-20th century, who appears to have had much the same thoughts, but who does not appear on Dugin’s Wiki page. The article is long but worth your time, Ivan Ilyin, Putin’s Philosopher of Russian Fascism. Here are some excerpts, following this precise synopsis:

The article draws quite the contrast between Lenin’s atheist take on a war of social classes, The Masses and forth – and Ilyin’s take:

What Ilyin would call “the abyss of atheism” of the new [Soviet] regime was the final confirmation of the flaws of the world, and of the power of modern ideas to reinforce them.

After he departed Russia, Ilyin would maintain that humanity needed heroes, outsized characters from beyond history, capable of willing themselves to power. In his dissertation, this politics was implicit in the longing for a missing totality [wholeness] and the suggestion that the nation might begin its restoration. It was an ideology awaiting a form and a name.

But if you think Ilyin was “godly” you should be prepared for his very strange take on God. The article uses the example of Jesus’s saying,  “Judge not, that ye not be judged.”:

For Ilyin, these were the words of a failed God with a doomed Son. In fact, a righteous man did not reflect upon his own deeds or attempt to see the perspective of another; he contemplated, recognized absolute good and evil, and named the enemies to be destroyed. The proper interpretation of the “judge not” passage [by Ilyin] was that every day was judgment day, and that men would be judged for not killing God’s enemies when they had the chance. In God’s absence, Ilyin determined who those enemies were.

Obviously you can also forget about the central Christian tenet of loving your enemies.

Ilyin died in Switzerland in 1954 and was forgotten to history. Then Putin arrived and in 2005 began quoting him, as well as reinterring his remains to Russia, a huge symbolic move. Other Russian politicians, even in the Opposition parties, followed, as did patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

But Putin took it further:

In late 2011 and early 2012, Putin made public a new ideology, based in Ilyin, defining Russia in opposition to [the EU] model of Europe. In an article in Izvestiia on October 3, 2011, Putin announced a rival Eurasian Union that would unite states that had failed to establish the rule of law. In Nezavisimaia Gazeta on January 23, 2012, Putin, citing Ilyin, presented integration among states as a matter of virtue rather than achievement. The rule of law was not a universal aspiration, but part of an alien Western civilization; Russian culture, meanwhile, united Russia with post-Soviet states such as Ukraine.

The rule of law is an alien Western concept! Yes, well there have been more than a few civilisations that thought the same, but I thought the last 200 years had put that to bed – or a thousand if you want to go back to Magna Carta where the first chinks were made in the armour of Kingly authority.

But you can see the common path from those articles and speeches of Putin and today’s invasion of Ukraine, together with the propaganda / belief that Ukraine has never been a seperate nation from Mother Russia and never will be considered so.

As soldiers received their mobilization orders for the invasion of the Ukraine’s Crimean province in January 2014, all of Russia’s high-ranking bureaucrats and regional governors were sent a copy of Ilyin’s Our Tasks. After Russian troops occupied Crimea and the Russian parliament voted for annexation, Putin cited Ilyin again as justification. 

Ilyin’s ideas on sexual decadence and the “decadence” of democracy also lead directly to Russian attacks on those features of the West.

First, Ilyin called Russia homosexual, then underwent therapy with his girlfriend, then blamed God. Putin first submitted to years of shirtless fur-and-feather photoshoots, then divorced his wife, then blamed the European Union for Russian homosexuality. Ilyin sexualized what he experienced as foreign threats. Jazz, for example, was a plot to induce premature ejaculation. When Ukrainians began in late 2013 to assemble in favor of a European future for their country, the Russian media raised the specter of a “homodictatorship.”

As opposed to kneeling to Russian kleptocracy, of which Putin is the supreme example.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 9, 2022 at 6:38 am

Time ran out for Pudding

The Four Pests Campaign of 1958-1962 was insane enough, even if most of the birds were not pets. Mao and the other Central Planners and Controllers had decided that there were too many birds in the country, and their numbers needed to be greatly reduced so that The Masses could be fed:

Sparrows were suspected of consuming approximately four pounds of grain per sparrow per year. Sparrow nests were destroyed, eggs were broken, and chicks were killed. Millions of people organized into groups, and hit noisy pots and pans to prevent sparrows from resting in their nests, with the goal of causing them to drop dead from exhaustion.In addition to these tactics, citizens also simply shot the birds down from the sky. The campaign depleted the sparrow population, pushing it to near extinction.

It takes something pretty extraordinary to drive sparrows, of all birds, close to extinction, but if you have enough fanatics it’s doable. The result was entirely predictable: with the sparrows who ate the insects gone, the numbers of insects exploded, ravaging crops. It was a contributing factor to the Great Chinese Famine. Warnings from ornithologists (or anyone else) that this might happen counted for little against a government that had mobilised the people to march towards a public health goal that could be defined in one sentence.

And so we come to this sad story out of Hong Kong:

Time was running out for Pudding.

The hamster, a new addition to the Hau family, was to be given up to Hong Kong authorities for culling after rodents in a pet shop tested positive for coronavirus — leaving Pudding’s 10-year-old owner wailing in grief.

“I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” the boy cried, his head buried in his hands as he crouched next to Pudding’s pink cage, according to a video shown to AFP by his father.

But the older Hau, who would only provide his last name, said he was worried about his elderly family members who live in the same household.

“I have no choice — the government made it sound so serious,” he told AFP, shortly before entering a government-run animal management centre to submit Pudding.

Hamsters and Guinea Pigs are frail little creatures at the best of times and not long-lived, and as a meat eater I’m obviously not averse to killing animals, but that little boy will remember his pet being taken away for the rest of his life, and all for nothing.

I could understand if there were any serious evidence that the cull would achieve anything for humans. But there is none and in any case evidence and science is not really the point here, any more than it was during the great bird kill campaign.

No, as then there is a single policy goal. A healthcare policy goal: Zero Covid, and nothing was going to be allowed to stand in the way of progress towards that goal. In fact, now that the PRC has dropped the bullshit of “One country, two systems” with regard to Hong Kong, it’s entirely desirable that the people of Hong Kong be made aware, down to the smallest details of their lives, that their new masters are in total control. That little boy will know for the rest of his life, what his masters are capable of: let him and other children cry, so long as they know themselves to be powerless. That perfect state.

Actually it’s not the first time that the communists have made it clear what they think of such Western-influenced bourgeois sentimentality:

Even China’s feline population suffered as Red Guards tried to eliminate what they claimed was a symbol of “bourgeois decadence”. “Walking through the streets of the capital at the end of August [1966], people saw dead cats lying by the roadside with their front paws tied together”

The less contact we have with these bastards the better. We already imported the idea of “Lockdown” from them so who knows what’s possible tomorrow.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 18, 2022 at 8:53 am

A perfect example of the USSR

Let’s have a big round of applause for government incompetence.

Had I been aware of it I would have included the following essay in my post a few days ago, Karl Marx’s Christmas Present, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union.

The essay is a review of a recently published book, Collapse: The Fall Of The Soviet Union by Vladislav M. Zubok. That book tries to explain why the USSR collapsed so fast and argues that although the nation was in a lot of trouble and its leaders had known that for at least a decade, the collapse was not foreordained and the final result depended on a lot of turning points and personalities.

However the essay (Russian Bear Market), while praising the book’s details and accepting the main argument that collapse was not inevitable, argues that even had the 1991 coup against Gorbachev succeeded the new leaders would have faced all the same problems that could no longer be solved by Stalinist bloodshed alone, even had that been possible in the late USSR.

There’s some juicy stuff here in the details but this opening paragraph cracked me up and reminded me very much of the final confrontation between the Chief of the KGB and Professor Legasov in the TV mini-series Chernobyl:

When the KGB chief Yuri Andropov became the Soviet leader in 1982, candidates for office besieged him. Whenever someone began, “Let me tell you about myself,” Andropov replied: “What makes you think you know more about yourself than I know about you?”

Brilliant. The whole shitty system in a nutshell. If we know everything about everybody (and everything) we can run this system.

Other interesting bits include this on Ukraine.

Yeltsin soon discovered that republics demanding the right to separate would not consider giving the same right to their own provinces. Reading Zubok’s account, I was struck by the fact that Crimea, which President Putin invaded in 2014, already posed an issue as the USSR was falling apart. With a population overwhelmingly Russian, it had been ceded to Ukraine by the Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. The Donbass, the predominantly Russian area of Eastern Ukraine that is now the scene of armed conflict, also posed an issue as the country was breaking up. Would Ukraine have been better off had it not insisted on retaining these undigestible parts?

I’ve got a fair amount of time for Gorbachev so the following nugget is disappointing, even if it had been typical of such leaders for decades:

Even those familiar with the opulence in which the leaders of the world’s first socialist state lived will be shocked by Zubok’s description of the vacation villa Gorbachev had built in 1988. It cost one billion rubles at a time when the Soviet defense budget, which Zubok believes was fifteen per cent of gdp, was seventy-seven billion rubles. Today, the U.S. defense budget is about $750 billion, which would make the cost of an equivalent villa $9.75 billion. That doesn’t include the upkeep and endless staff, such as the scuba divers making sure no one could infiltrate by water. Given the country’s fiscal crisis, one can’t help but recall the extravagance of Louis XVI.

I recall that the coup seemed very incompetent, a result of a degrading system producing degraded and mediocre leaders, but I had no idea how incompetent they were:

It was a Keystone coup. Right after the organizing meeting of the plotters’ Emergency Committee, Zubok explains, “some members went home and succumbed to various illnesses. Boldin was already suffering from high blood pressure; he went to a hospital. Pavlov . . . tried to control his emotions and stress with a disastrous mixture of sedatives and alcohol. At daybreak, his bodyguard summoned medical help, as Pavlov was incapable of functioning.” Pavlov later took some more medicine to control his nerves and “had a second breakdown that incapacitated him for days.”

So incompetent were they that they did not bother to turn off Yeltsin’s phone or prevent him from organizing opposition. One of Yeltsin’s supporters was able to fly to Paris, denounce the coup, and prepare, if necessary, to set up a government in exile. Opposition news sources, who knew what was happening better than the coup leaders themselves, continued their broadcasts to the West. “The situation was unbelievable,” one KGB general recalled. KGB analysts were learning about a crisis “in the capital of our Motherland from American sources.” When Margaret Thatcher accepted advice to telephone Yeltsin, she recalled, “to my astonishment I was put through.”

Let’s have a big round of applause for government incompetence.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 4, 2022 at 11:36 am

Bureaucracy vs. Robber Barrons

“When propaganda is the goal, accuracy is the victim.”

I recently came across two articles from past years that I’ve had bookmarked and which I’ve enjoyed reading again over this summer.

First up is some humour that author J K Rowling may be treating more seriously in her ongoing fight with the Trans community, especially after getting her name removed from the Harry Potter movie franchise by Warner Brothers as they launch a 20th anniversary celebration of the first HP movie.

The humour comes from an essay written in 2006 for the Michigan Law Review, which analyses what Rowling is effectively saying in her HP books about bureaucracy, government and the media, Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy:

The critique is even more devastating because the governmental actors and actions in the book look and feel so authentic and familiar. Cornelius Fudge, the original Minister of Magic, perfectly fits our notion of a bumbling politician just trying to hang onto his job. Delores Umbridge is the classic small-minded bureaucrat who only cares about rules, discipline, and her own power… The Ministry itself is made up of various sub-ministries with goofy names (e.g., The Goblin Liaison Office or the Ludicrous Patents Office) enforcing silly sounding regulations (e.g., The Decree for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans or The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery).

Rowling even eliminates the free press as a check on government power. The wizarding newspaper, The Daily Prophet, is depicted as a puppet to the whims of Ministry of Magic.

Sounds appropriate for our times. I don’t know how many of you have read the series, likely to your kids or even grandkids, or perhaps a guilty pleasure for yourself, but you may recognise some of this from the abstract.

I did not have to re-read the books to see all this, as it had jumped out at me when I read them originally, even if it went over the heads of my kids. I was hardly the only parent who speculated on what Rowling’s experience with government and bureaucrats had been in real life as she wrote her novels in poverty. Having said that it seems that Gen Z kids themselves continue to re-read the books now as they age into their twenties and thirties, where they likely also draw similar parallels:

it seems likely that we will see a continuing uptick in distrust of government and libertarianism as the Harry Potter generation reaches adulthood.

One can only hope. Which brings me to the next article, about a world almost completely at odds with the first, the Gilded Age of America, otherwise known as the time of The Robber Barrons.

More accurately The Myth of the ‘Robber Barons’. It turns out that it was created less at the time (despite cartoons such as the one above) than in the 1930’s, just when it was needed by the US Left, as described by historian Burton W. Folsom in his book about the subject.

It will surprise nobody to find that Far Lefters were behind it and that they were very ignorant about economics – and many other things. The main culprit was one Matthew Josephson, who quite literally wrote the best-selling book, The Robber Barons, after being inspired by Charles Beard, America’s foremost progressive historian, first at varsity and then years later during the Great Depression:

Josephson, the son of a Jewish banker, grew up in New York and graduated from Columbia University, where he was inspired in the classroom by Charles Beard, America’s foremost progressive historian—and a man sympathetic to socialism…“Oh! those respectable ones,” Beard said of America’s capitalists, “oh! their temples of respectability—how I detest them, how I would love to pull them all down!” Happily for Beard, Josephson was handy to do the job for him. Josephson dedicated The Robber Barons to Beard, the historian most responsible for the book’s contents.

Writing in the inspiring times of 1932 Josephson reached back fifty years in time to explain it all, but the following comments provide a clear idea of the quality of “analysis” he brought to the subject:

In a written interview for Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, Josephson said he enjoyed watching “the breakdown of our cult of business success and optimism.” He added, “The freedom of the U.S.S.R. from our cycles of insanity is the strongest argument in the world for the reconstruction of our society in a new form that is as highly centralized as Russia’s. . . .”

One is tempted to snigger but today we live with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Occasional-Cortex, who believe the same shite about socialism and its Siamese Twin, giant centralised government.

He did little research and mainly used secondary sources that supported his Marxist viewpoint. As he had written in the New Republic, “Far from shunning propaganda, we must use it more nobly, more skillfully than our predecessors, and speak through it in the local language and slogans.” Thus he wrote The Robber Barons with dramatic stories, anecdotes, and innuendos that demeaned corporate America and made the case for massive government intervention.

Ah yes. As with today’s “journalists” the Narrative is everything and is best supported by dramatic stories. As Folsom points out in the article, that means there are lots of mistakes: “On page 14 alone, Josephson makes at least a dozen errors in his account of Vanderbilt and the steamships.” As Folsom says, “When propaganda is the goal, accuracy is the victim.”

But the main error – actually showing up on that page – is that Josephson never differentiated between market entrepreneurs like Vanderbilt, Hill, and Rockefeller and political entrepreneurs (i.e. government subsidy harvesters) like Collins, Villard, and Gould, even as he was honest enough to praise aspects of the former and lash the latter:

He quotes “one authority” on the railroads as saying, “The Federal government seems . . . to have assumed the major portion of the risk and the Associates seem to have derived the profits”—but Josephson never pursues the implication of that passage.

While the book hit the best-seller lists for six months Josephson was running around Russia praising bloody Stalin and his system. He missed the gulags, the farm collectivisations and all their horrors, especially in the Ukraine, and saw only the factories and other “glamorous” things:

He attended official dinners and even talked with select Russian writers and artists. He was ecstatic. The Soviet Union, Josephson said, “seemed like the hope of the world—the only large nation run by men of reason.” … Josephson also never realized that the Soviet factories he saw were often directly copied from Western capitalist factories—and were funded by Stalin’s confiscatory taxation. Instead, Josephson thought he had stumbled into a workers’ paradise, the logical result of central planning and superior leaders.

This book would go on to be more than just a best-seller: it had huge influence in the worlds of high schools, academia and journalism for decades:

Historian Thomas Brewer, who in 1970 edited The Robber Barons: Saints or Sinners? observed that the majority of writers “still adhere to the ‘robber baron’ interpretation.” Historian David Shi agrees: “For well over a generation, The Robber Barons remained the standard work in its field.” For many textbook writers, it still is. In the main study guide for the Advanced Placement U.S. history exam for 2015, the writers say:

America [1877-1900] looked to have entered a period of prosperity with a handful of families having amassed unprecedented wealth, but the affluence of the few was built on the poverty of many.

2015 FFS? It’s a wonder that Silicon Valley exists at all with this sort of high school education, though perhaps it wasn’t as bad when the likes of Zuckerburg, Gates, Bezos and Steve Jobs were passing through it, and of course Musk was educated in South Africa.

Folsom explains that this success, despite all the sloppy errors in the book, comes down to two reasons.

First, it was tailor-made for the Progressives of the 1930’s eager to blame the new generation of robber barons for the Great Depression. I always laugh at those Lefties who claim that Righties pined for President Herbert Hoover: it’s even in the opening song for All In The Family because of course it is. See how this cultural shit works? In fact:

Those harmful federal policies include the Federal Reserve’s untimely raising of interest rates, making it harder to borrow money; President Hoover’s blundering Farm Board; his signing of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the highest in U.S. history; and his disastrous Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which dispensed massive corporate bailouts to political entrepreneurs. Finally, Hoover muzzled investment by repealing the Mellon tax cuts and promoting a huge tax hike.

Including income tax rates that went up to 70%, which FDR criticised, but which he cunningly kept after getting elected. Oh yeah, we Righties love that Herbert Hoover. Actually the admiration is for “Silent Cal” Coolidge, his predecessor, who could have run for office again in 1928 and would have handled all of the above very differently (of Hoover he said, “That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad.”)

The second reason is that a bunch of Marxist historians who influenced a lot of the post-WWII historical profession, loved the book and made sure it was embedded in the curriculums of their students, starting with Richard Hofstadter:

“My fundamental reason for joining [the Communist Party],” Hofstadter said, “is that I don’t like capitalism and want to get rid of it.”

He still desired that after quitting the Party. He’s also the guy who wrote the nasty little polemic about the US Right-Wing, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Great guys communists, whatever profession they are they’re still communists, with all the toxic nastiness and fanaticism involved.

Folsum’s book, The Myth of The Robber Barrons
Also, The Forgotten Man

Written by Tom Hunter

January 4, 2022 at 6:00 am

We can ignore their criticisms of Communist China

Australia and Holland that is, given how they’ve reacted to the Chinese Lung Snot virus in 2021 and now. Australia has perhaps been the most visible example, with numerous viral videos showing police viciously beating people for transgressions as small as not wearing a mask in public. Then there are the COVID concentration camps where people are forced into multi-week confinement — even if they aren’t positive for the virus.

But Holland’s not far behind:

You’d think it was filmed in mid-’30s Germany or perhaps Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. It comes from Amsterdam, and involves police assaulting people and attacking them with dogs. All because they’re protesting new government lockdowns as Holland’s C-19 case numbers exploded again with the arrival of the terrifying Omicron variant. Never mind the vaccination rates or the medical evidence from these cases around the world showing that it’s barely able to get people sick, let alone being kill them. Such things do not matter to “democratic” authorities who have the authoritarian bit between their teeth.

Sweden by the way has none of this.

There was some good news from the benighted nation of dikes and windmills:

Plus this news about the Dutch protests:

The demonstration came on the same day Dutch police said they would take action to protest the increasing demands of their work. Union representatives have said riot police would continue to work, if necessary.

Heh. Just wear down the cops. I’ve long thought that the way to really do civil disobedience is just to overwhelm the system with numbers. No fighting, just force the cops into 24/7 arrests, fill the jails and courts to the brim.

There’s always voting of course, but as in China, it appears to make no difference.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 3, 2022 at 3:15 pm