The monopolarist recession

For a while now I’ve had a private theory about the way our world used to work. It goes like this: although communism may have been bad for the people of Russia (and of the Soviet satellite states), it did a useful job in keeping the west honest through negative example. Free speech? Yes, we in the west have that. Imprisonment without trial? No, that would be evil and wrong. Peace through international treaties? Naturally. As long as communism was going on, a sense that it would be better to be on the side of the angels permeated western society, its institutions, and its way of conducting relations abroad.

Anyway, I don’t expect that this suggestion won’t be falsified through multiple counter-example, and all to the muffled sound of laughter. But I thought it might give some colour to the background of this week’s events. For one, we have the French president in Moscow, brokering some sort of deal in which the Russians agree to (mostly) stop moving their tanks in the direction of the Georgian capital. Today we have the German chancellor meeting Medvedev in Sochin. And Condoleeza Rice, the US foreign policy chief, is in Tbilisi to show the Aghmashenebeli the surrender document he doesn’t know he’s already signed. It looks more like peer cooperation to me, and not so much like the dismal, chauvinist picture of a monopolar world that kept getting pushed our way circa Iraq.

9 thoughts on “The monopolarist recession

  1. Interesting article. Interesting remember when the wall in Berlin came down thinking that a fuse leading to the next global war had been lit. The lack of counter balance is clearly seen in US economic policy. This has been a catastrophe since the end of the cold war. I expect that in the neocon world global war is the ultimate profit center.

  2. actually I think a good case can be made that US behavior has been far BETTER since 1989 than before. Look at africa, where instead of propping up Mobutos as alternatives to Soviet power, we actually push for reform. Or Latin America, where we leave leftist leaders virtually alone, in the understanding that without back up, they are no threat. Contrast that to the cold war years.

    And yeah, if you remember the 1950s, Id think youd realize that free speech thrives here far more than during the cold war.

    As for what Rice and Sarkozy are doing, Im not sure what else they could do, in the absence of actual leverage. In 1968 we didnt bother trying to find a deal Dubcek could agree to – we sat and watched as he was sent to a labor camp.

    as for bill in Pitt, I dont know what he is talking about. I am no neocon, and increasingly believe that the need to counter the neoauthoritarians in Russia, China, and Iran makes teh election of Obama a GOOD idea, to reunite the West.

  3. and dont expect Hezbollah to help. Leaving politics aside, theyve only managed to win against a nation that acts with restraint, that is timid before world opinion, and that lacks a veto at the UNSC.

    Anyone thinking Russia is in any way like Israel is deeply out of tough with the realities of world affairs.

  4. Communism may have been bad but it did a useful job in keeping the West honest? Thanks. I will suggest to my Czech friends that on the 21st of August they should spare a thought for our contribution to the honesty of Western politics.

    It’s good to know that our lack of free speech and other democratic institutions benefited *someone*. I guess we deserve a medal then.

  5. No crisis – no progress. Stressed guinea pig become smarter than her researcher. Negative experience is still valuable experience.

    Useless slogans, if you ask me.

  6. I would say, rather, that Communism’s most important contribution was keeping capitalism honest. Now that there is no operable alternative to capitalism, the capitalists have returned to the same sorts of behaviors that Karl Marx decried. Workers have become expendable and disposable units rather than human beings, working conditions and the incomes and well-being of working people are declining in pretty much every place on the planet except perhaps the EU. Capitalists knew that if they treated their workers too badly, there was the chance of a Communist revolution in their country. Thus they allowed FDR to be elected in the United States, for example, because the alternative to his liberal reforms to the capitalist system was a Communist revolution. Today, someone like FDR would be considered a dangerous radical and would have no chance of being elected because the capitalist-owned media would immediately tar him as a “left-wing kook” and deprive him of the media coverage needed to win (other than perhaps a small snippet here or there to show folks how “bizarre” he is).

    Whether this justifies the decades of suffering of those who lived under Communist regimes… well. That’s a question historians will be arguing over for many years, methinks.

  7. I dunno. Red scare? Guatemala? Cointelpro? Seems to me that you can make an argument that /real/ threats produce even greater security reactions than not-quite-as-real ones.

    Just a thought.

  8. Badtux has expressed something I have been thinking for a long time. I also think it is the American capitalists who have such a poor historical education that they appear to have forgotten that there were once Marxist revolutions. Even though Marxism may be utterly discredited in their eyes, there will be revolutions again if they continue to treat their workers like dirt. European politicians and business people appear to have retained more human decency in this respect, whether out of historical memory or because the positive aspects of socialism have been more thoroughly assismilated in European society.

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