Friday, June 8, 2007

Putin, Paris Hilton, and GW Bush

I was going to write a piece for the Blog about Bush lecturing Putin on "democracy," on the failure of "democratic reforms" over the last few days in his trip to Moscow. Not that I hold any brief for the
anti-Communist government of Putin and "New Russia," where the champions of "free markets" and "liberal reforms" have about as much to do with liberalism by even 19th century definitions as Al Capone, who defended the write of both the manufacturer to produce and the citizen to purchase alcoholic beverages of in the face of tyrannical government regulation. Given the role of former black marketeers and contemporary gangsters among the new Russian "Oligarchs" (which is what the Russian people generally and this even these gangster capitalist call themselves) any comparison to Al Capone seems appropriate.

But who is Bush to lecture anyone on "democratic reformers?" Lest we forget, as he and the whole capitalist class, including many of his opponents would like us to, he came to power in 2000 in one of the two
most corrupt presidential elections in U.S. history. He lost the popular vote, only one of the four presidents starting with George Washington who did in what is now the two hundred and eighteen year old history of the Constitutional Republic. And in reality he lost the electoral vote, only one of the two presidents in both categories (the other was Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican whom a Presidential Commission with Eight Republicans and Seven Democrats declared president, after the decided against all reliable evidence that he had won the electoral votes of three Southern States, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida.

The vote interesting enough was eight to seven.

Bush reached the presidency only after the Supreme Court voted five to four against all reliable evidence to prematurely end a recount in votes in Florida, after his "lead" had dropped to less than two hundred out of ten million, a profoundly undemocratic and historically unprecedented act.Two "regular Republicans" joined three ultra-right Repulicans to make Bush president, against four liberal and centrist judges.

Many believe that Bush also lost Ohio and the electoral vote in 2004 through Republican policies of systematically challenging (purging is a better term) the qualifications of those registered voters who statistically are most likely to vote against him, which resulted in the de facto disenfranchisement of thousands of voters.

If the "New Russian" government had an iota of the "spunk" of the old Soviet government, they would have seized upon Bush's comments to tell him things like this and stick it to him--to condemn his crude imperialist interventionism in Iraq and many other places, to point to the violation of the Geneva Rules of War at Guantanamo and in other places, and perhaps even to point to the "oligarchs" of Enron, Halliburton, and Big Texas Oil who have grown spectatularly rich during his administration(not that they were having any real problems when Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton and Boris Yeltsin in 1993 was "defending new Russian democracy" by using the military to brutally suppress his elected opponents in the Russian Duma.

But no one should expect Putin to speak like Molotov or Mikoyan, Soviet foreign ministers of the past. No one should even expect him to show the wit of Maxim Litvinoff, the Soviet foreign minister and champion of anti-fascist collective security in the 1930s, who, when Franklin Roosevelt in a light-hearted way suggested that the Soviet Union would do better with a two a party system, answered that "Mr. President. In the Soviet Union we have one party, the Communist Party, that represents one class, the working class. In the United States you have two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, who represent one class, the capitalist class."

Putin's anti-Communist government is very weak. The Russian army is not the revolutionary Red army of the past which defeated the Hitlerite Wehrmacht and its legions of fascist allies and literally saved humanity from a world where racism and militarism in the service of global imperialism would be "normal" and genocide would be both practiced and accepted as a necessity of modern life.

His government cannot control the "oligarchs" and his military forces cannot even protect the territory of the Russian federation from "insurgents" in Chechnya, where the brutal acts of his predecessor, Yetsin, and support from the same right-wing Muslim elements who Reagan and Bush's father built up in Afghanistan has produced a nightmare for both ethnic Russians and Chechens.

Instead, Putin proposed an "alternate plan" of missile defense, which included both Turkey and territory of what was formerly the Soviet Union, where the U.S. has established military bases and where, in reality, the "New Russia" faces a geopolitical encirclement greater than anything that Czarist Russia confronted, much less the "capitalist encirclement" that Joseph Stalin sought to defeat through building Soviet power, establishing defensive "buffer states," and out-maneuvering the Soviet Union's capitalist enemies (saying that of course doesn't make me a "Stalinist," however anyone might define that, no more than the anti-Communism of Yeltsin and his successor Putin make them into "democrats" however anyone might define that).

The Soviet Union developed great military power in order to survive.It also developed great ideological and moral power, whatever its contradictions, as the first socialist state in human history, the first major power to implement rather than simply talk about an anti-imperialist policy, and the state that served to deter the fascist Axis during WWII and the U.S. NATO bloc after it, providing major material assistance to many nations, from the socialist revolutionaries in Cuba to the anti-apartheid fighters of the African National Congress.

The anti-Communist government of "New Russia," has nuclear overkill and oil money to squander and nothing else. No ideological power. No overall military power short of its nuclear arsenals. No moral power to influence progressive people through the world. And of course, no effective power to protect its citizens from the depredations of "oligarchs," street criminals, and corrupt officials who constitute the sad state of affairs that anti-Communists call freedom and democracy in Russia today.

But that nuclear overkill remains enormously important and dangerous, along with the now much greater strategic U.S. nuclear overkill, for the whole world. So this is an important story which deserves analysis.

So what has this to do with Paris Hilton, the cartoonish sex object from the Hilton Hotel money whose scandals fill both the print and electronic tabloid media and all other mass media, which increasingly are difficult to differentiate from the tabloid media.

Paris is going back to jail(this was announced an hour ago) to serve out the rest of her 45 day jail sentence for violating the terms of her parole for a previous drunk driving conviction. This follows a storm of protest in the tabloid and electonic media after she was released for unspecified "medical reasons" after serving five days.

Los Angeles community activists have come forward with statements that there are thousands of in-mates of the LA County jails with AIDS and other serious illnesses and don't get released, which of course is true through the country. There is a general consensus across most of the political spectrum that the rich and famous get special treatment, even the "undeserving rich" like Paris Hilton who doesn't appear to have any "redeeming social value"(in the late 19th century, Victorian liberals tried to distinguish between the "deserving poor," the honest working people, and the "undeserving poor,"their criminal compatriots, while liberal reformers tried to get rid of the Robber Barons whom Theodore Roosevelt later called "malefactors of great wealth" while protecting those capitalist they claimed contributed to prosperity).

For George Bush there is not now nor has there ever been "deserving poor" or "undeserving rich."

Whatever Putin thinks doesn't really matter so much given the weakness of his government.

Whether Paris Hilton joins or doesn't join the more than two million Americans today in jails and prisons for the next month or so has no meaning except as an escapist tabloid story, unless of course, we take the understanding that most people have of the role of class privilege in this absurd case and apply it to the larger criminal justice system where low income people are imprisoned for minor offenses because they fail to pay fines, many more, particularly minority people, are sent to jail for drug offenses while non-minority people receive suspended sentences and counseling.

I can hear the voice of an old Soviet foreign minister or UN ambassador making those points, as the Soviets used to mention the oppression of both African-Americans throughout U.S. and the sordid history of the U.S. government toward Native peoples in response to U.S. attacks on Soviet policies.

But of course, you won't here that from Putin or his "new Russian" backers, or even from Pravda, the old Bolshevik newspaper which V.M. Molotov edited at the time of the revolution, which today, from my looking at its internet English edition, emphasizes the sort of sex and scandal stories that highlight people like Paris Hilton---an very sad example of how far "New Russia" has fallen from the days of Soviet Union.

One of the Soviet Union's least acknowledged accomplishments was to scare capitalists into a greater willingness to accept democratic reforms because of their fears of Soviet supported social revolutionaries. That fear is gone. We will have to act to put that fear back into the minds of the capitalist class.

A pro labor priest in the U.S. was reputed to have said during the Great Depression, "we need the Communists to put the fear of God into these millionaires."

While that "fear" is not the issue, fear of and respect for working class militancy and unity among the capitalist is necessary to advance "democratic reform" in the United States.

Norman Markowitz

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