Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts on the Latest News

A plane carrying much of Poland's political leadership, including its president, has crashed in Russia. It's a tragedy, of course, but while reading about it in the NY Times I couldn't help but be annoyed by this sentence:

"The two countries had been making strides in recent months to improve their ties, which had been strained since the days of communism, when Poland was a Soviet satellite."

It's amazing that somebody at the Times, somebody whose job is apparently to report on Poland, thinks or can get away with pretending to think, that the Russian-Polish rivalry dates to "the days of communism." Or that it ever had anything to do with communism.

Russia and Poland had been at war with each other in pretty much every century since the 11th. The two countries tried to swallow one another whole several times. For example, Russia's main state holiday, its rough equivalent of other nations' Independence Days, is the anniversary of the Russian popular uprising that chased Polish occupiers out of Moscow in 1612. Oh, you didn't know that the Polish army once occupied Moscow? Then you shouldn't be reporting on Poland for the New York freaking Times!

The article points out the irony of this tragedy occurring near the place in the Smolensk region where thousands of Polish officers were executed by the Soviets in 1940. But anyone who knows anything about the history of that region is more likely to remember that Russia and Poland fought several incredibly bloody wars for Smolensk in the 16th and 17th centuries. The human toll of every one of those wars surpassed that of the Katyn massacre many times over. Ethnically the Smolensk region was always Russian, so its repeated occupations by Poland could never be described as anything but foreign aggression.

What, you're saying that such imperialistic attitudes died centuries ago? Then obviously you are unfamiliar with the concept of Intermarum. Jozef Pilsudski, Poland's leader between 1926 and 1935, wanted Poland to once again run the entire area between the Baltic and the Black seas, calling it Międzymorze in Polish and Intermarum in Latin (both words translate as between-the-seas).

"Józef Piłsudski's strategic goal was to resurrect an updated form of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while working for the disintegration of the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union, into its ethnic constituents. (The latter was his Prometheist project.)"

You've got to give the guy credit for ballsiness. An attempt to put that project into practice would have rivaled WWII in scale. This map of it is nothing but insane. It shows Poland running an area with a population at least 5 times greater than its own. And the reason why guys like Pilsudki didn't just go for it was weakness, not humanitarianism or lack of desire.

Back to Communism:

In the 1920s and 1930s, while Soviet Communism still conformed to Marx's and Lenin's original direction, The New York Times was one of its biggest fans. But when after the war Stalin remade Soviet Communism into its polar opposite (Russian nationalism), the Times and similar organizations suddenly became anti-communist. Which is to say that they kept true to Marx's and Lenin's original conception of Communism, while Stalin severely deviated from it. But since he continued to call his government Communist, the New York Times, together with the US government, started calling themselves anti-communist in order to better express their disapproval of him. It's confusing, I know.

Polish nationalists, who understandably hated the Russian occupation of their country after WWII, started exploiting this change in terminology as soon as they caught on to it. Guys like Lech Walesa, to get sympathy from half a world away, portrayed the latest round in their millennial conflict with Russia as a struggle against communism, not as a struggle against Russians as an occupying people. Did he realize that actual Communism died in Eastern Europe in 1946 and that the guys whose help he was seeking against the Russians were actually Marx's primary political heirs? I'm sure he did.

The more you think about politics, the more you realize that all of the intelligent, pragmatic actors in it are moved by ethnocentrism, i.e. by Darwinian forces. Ideologies like communism, libertarianism, PC, anti-racism, feminism, Islamism, what have you, are for the most part ruses. The people who believe in them sincerely are chumps, losers, detritus lining history's road.

Not that mere observers like me, whose political involvement is limited to laughing at these ruses in private or on blogs that nobody reads, aren't losers ourselves. Of course we are. I'm not trying to get onto any high horses here. It's just an observation.

6 comments:

  1. Great post.

    "In the 1920s and 1930s, while Soviet Communism still conformed to Marx's and Lenin's original direction"

    Really? Marx predicted that the overthrow of capitalism would first occur in the most advanced economies. Instead it occurred in agrarian countries with tiny proletariats. Was it Lenin who said that because Russia had no proletariat he would have to give it one?

    Wouldn't Lenin have been to the right of Stalin? What about the NEP?

    The purges started in earnest in 1933 and reached their height in 1938. Was this part of Marx's and Lenin's original direction?

    Have you confused nationalism with the purging of Jews from the party? Only Kaganovich remained. The Soviet Union supported revolutions around the world after WW II.

    Of course I, who you may dismiss as a white trash moron, would have commented on the killing of Terreblanche.

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  2. Original Communism, just like modern PC, denied ethnicity's role in history. Instead it explained all political conflicts through class struggle. At least in theory, Communism was against any and all nationalisms. In practice in Russia it fought against Russian nationalism.

    Even though Stalin himself wasn't Russian, he started making some appeals to Russian nationalism during WWII. Then after the war he reoriented all internal policy in a Russian nationalistic direction. At the same time he adopted conservative cultural attitudes, banning things like abstract art and anything that was sexually libertine in entertainment.

    This stuff - Russian nationalism, cultural conservatism - caused his split with the West in 1946. I believe it was the cause of the Cold War.

    After Stalin's death Beria wanted to go back to real, lefty Communism, and to make peace with the West, but he was outmaneuvered and eliminated by Khruschov, who continued going in the Russian nationalistic direction. Brezhnev went the same way as Khruschov.

    You're right when you say that in foreign policy post-WWII USSR continued to behave in a lefty, Marxist way. Why? I don't know. They supported Fidel, who really is a leftist, they supported the Algerians against the French, they opposed the Apartheid in South Africa, etc.

    Perhaps this was simple inertia. I guess it would have been embarrassing for them to turn away people who claimed to be Communists and who asked for their help. On paper Khruschov and Brezhnev were still Communists.

    Also, I don't think they knew much or cared much about the countries whose leftist movements always begged them for money. I don't think international Communism was a big priority to the USSR after WWII. Though yes, the old USSR did help foreign leftists.

    "Wouldn't Lenin have been to the right of Stalin? What about the NEP?"

    State management of the economy is not necessarily incompatible with Russian nationalism or with any nationalism. None of the czars was a libertarian. Nationalism comes into the equation only if the state manages the economy in such a way that some ethnicities become winners and others become losers. But post-WWII USSR tried to avoid any of that. There was no sense there that anybody was subsidizing anybody else.

    There was another feature of late Soviet economics that clashed with leftist ideas: everybody had to work. Refusing to work while being healthy was a crime.

    "The purges started in earnest in 1933 and reached their height in 1938."

    Just internal Communist squabbling.

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  3. "Then you shouldn't be reporting on Poland for the New York freaking Times!"

    Don't be surprised at this. As far as NYTs journalists are concerned if it isn't American history or if it doesn't support American ideology it didn't happen.

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  4. "... ethnocentrism, i.e. by Darwinian forces." Ethnocentrism trumps ideology in terms of Darwinism, but the selfish gene trumps ethnocentrism. Both Hitler and Stalin threatened the families of individuals as an expedient tactic. Mafia crime families show that family loyalty trumps ethnocentrism (which generally trumps ideology). Americans are notoriously monolingual and ignorant of history (and almost 50% think that Darwin was wrong).

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  5. Anonymous, you're right. I against my brothers, my brothers and I against our cousins, my brothers and cousins and I against the world.

    This even works on the interspecies level. I've never seen anyone try to pet a non-mammal. We feel closer to mammals than to birds ans lizards, closer to lizards and other vertebrates than to jellyfish, and so on.

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  6. Which rich countries have the least income inequality? The homogeneous ones of Scandinavia and Japan.

    The more your fellow citizen is like you the less tolerable inequality is.

    It is too bad that the prevailing American-Neo-Liberal-Jewish ideology insists that Communism and National Socialism are polar opposites.

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