Time

From Stalin to Putin with Love of France

My interview with Professor Vladimir Peftiev

Cross-posted on Medium

Russian professor of economics, Francophile, “four times twenty years” of age. Topics include the crisis in economics; pluralist economics education and its Russian equivalent, Integrated Knowledge; the end of neoliberalism; Trump and USA-Russia relations; French politics from de Gaulle to present; ethno-political conflict; hopes and risks for the European Union, with a view to the experience of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Filmed December 15, 2016 at Yaroslavl State Pedagogical University, Russia.

*****

TRANSCRIPT

Vladimir Ilyich Peftiev (VIP): About me: My name is Vladimir Peftiev.

I am a professor of economics at a provincial university. I was born in Donetsk, Donbass, Ukraine. I had five years of teaching experience in Africa and a little bit in Cuba.

My main sphere of interests: geoeconomics and geopolitics and some related topics which I hope to raise today.

I am fluent in French. I am a witness of a big period in Russia’s history, from Stalin to Putin. Hopefully I’ll still be around when the next president will be elected.

Colin McKay (CM): Vladimir Ilyich, let’s start with economic theory; I know it’s a favourite subject of yours. I think almost everyone agrees that mainstream economic theory completely failed to predict the financial crisis 2007–2008, and most would agree that it’s failed to provide any solutions to the economic crisis.

When we spoke earlier you said that “You cannot explain the economy with economics”, which I think is a very appropriate way of looking at things.

So, where to from here? Can we revise, can we build on any of the theories from the past? Is there any place still for the classical theories of Adam Smith, or the theories of John Maynard Keynes? Do we need a new approach to our understanding of economics?

VIP: These are all very serious challenges and the answers to these challenges may be different. However let’s start with stating the obvious.

Humankind is entering an epoch of big changes. Changes are always the responses to the questions of the time.

I want to specifically highlight one challenge and possibly an answer to it.

Neoliberalism is not the key doctrine any more. Economics is in the deepest crisis ever. But neo-protectionism isn’t always effective either.

That’s why economists will probably have to find a third way in the development of economic thought, and politics, accordingly.

It is difficult when it happens between two extremes but finding a third way is important. At first it may be perceived like a centaur, like eclecticism, but with time it will be possible to find a reasonable, satisfactory decision.

Who will be able to do this?

Definitely not Nobel laureates in economics. I respect them but they are too interested in mathematics, in theory, which is an abstraction of life, not life itself.

The shift to new possibilities and new ideas of economic thought will be possible thanks to extraordinary politicians. We are not talking about representatives of traditional political parties.

We have ready examples of such politicians — Donald Trump is a businessman, who knows about risks and bankruptcy. So in my mind he will be taking weighted decisions.

If he intends to keep his election campaign promises, he will have to do these three things: build a good, hard-working team (there are some questions about certain people); second, find a compromise with the congress and governors; third, build a close relationship with business but not with the financial sector, not with the old financial oligarchy.

Provided that is fulfilled, then we will see a result.

CM: Vladimir Ilyich, it seems that one of the biggest problems for economics is that most students are only educated in one theory or one way of looking at economics, and one way of looking at the economy. In the West that’s usually neoclassical theory; certainly that’s so in most if not all of the leading universities in the West, certainly as I understand it. Now lately, in recent years some universities have started offering a pluralist curriculum aiming to educate students in all the different economic theories; I understand, it’s understood in the West that there is around nine different schools of economic theory. I note that the Australian professor, Steve Keen, offers a pluralist curriculum at Kingston University, London; there are a handful of other universities as well in the UK that offer it, and some in the USA, France and Italy, but it’s still — in the greater context of economic education — it’s a very small component of total economics education in the West is pluralist.

Now, I understand that in Russia, as well, there is a counterpart to this pluralist approach, and it’s called “integrated knowledge”. I understand also that that in fact is what you teach your students is integrated knowledge.

Can you tell us a little bit more about it, how long integrated knowledge has been taught, or this manner of teaching economics has been taught. Just share with us what you can about integrated knowledge in Russia.

VIP: Pluralist way of teaching, or in other words integrated knowledge is a new trend but not without a history. In pre-revolutionary Russia, philosopher Vladimir Soloviev talked about integrated knowledge. In the 1930–40s there was a Polish economist and politician, Oskar Lange who was talking about the same issue.

Today it is still not the main approach. Most still traditionally stick to one theory, it isn’t very effective or constructive.

It is necessary to teach at universities to give students at least an overview of all approaches and demonstrate practical conclusions of each theory, and to look for reasonable similarities.

Scientists too should be in constant dialogue with each other. I am aware of the difficulties standing in the way, but the dialogue is necessary.

In modern Russia there is a confrontation of different schools, starting with neo-Marxism. There are neo-Keynesians. There are neo-institutionalists. There is a certain fermentation but I do not foresee that there is likely to be any agreement yet.

Personally in my teaching course for humanitarians, not for economists — I am not directly involved for economists—but for humanitarians, I try to give them the whole view and present different concepts. I even include road maps so that they can have better understanding.

Pluralist approach is our future but with great complications. Professors who offer pluralist approach are the minority.

CM: Why is it important, do you think, to offer pluralism or a pluralist education — to offer integrated knowledge, as a way of understanding economics — to the economists of tomorrow?

VIP: To put it briefly, there will be balanced decisions.

I am convinced that in different concepts, in different ideas we can find something rational but there should be dialogue, long contacts, weighing down the practical decisions. It is a difficult path but it is the most promising one.

It is also due to the historic conflict and opposition between the West and the East; Russia, Europe and the United States.

It is the most promising path. It isn’t easy, it’s very difficult and exhausting for the generation of economists who were brought up in a specific ideology, those who were tied to one particular doctrine. Something will have to be denied and it’s painful.

One needs to reach biblical age and adopt a certain style of life and character for such ideas.

That will be a new generation of students, new generation of professors, and a new generation of politicians. That is what is needed: a new generation of politicians.

Then they will give an impulse to reform the system of education and build a constructive dialogue.

CM: In the years since the financial crisis there’s been a lot of discussion about neoliberalism and the crisis of globalisation. The recent populist wave in elections across the Western world, it’s portrayed as threat not only to globalisation but also to the dominance of liberal democracy, the post-World War 2 dominance of liberal democracy, throughout the Western world. Can you talk a little bit about why you think populist and ‘Right’ parties are suddenly gaining so much power?

VIP: Crisis of globalisation is obvious. How can we detect it?

Globalisation undermines the nation’s self-identity, it doesn’t give a chance to a citizen to express an opinion.

There is an institutional crisis too: world organisations like the WTO and IMF aren’t coping with their responsibilities. They are either too politicised or they take belated decisions.

Crises are many and the world is tired of crises. Russia is even more so than other countries. That is why the silent majority, philistines, as we may call them, demand positive changes.

The results of the past and the coming elections are a protest of the majority against the ruling elite; old and mainly aristocratic, successive. It’s a protest against the existing order. There is perceived tiredness of the majority in Europe and possibly in the whole world.

A protest of a citizen, of a philistine — I am using the word philistine in a good sense — isn’t always rational, it is mostly emotional, impulsive but the decisions should be rational and weighed.

It’s a great tragedy that populism is starting to dominate.

Traditional parties don’t cope with their responsibilities. Trade unions are silent. They seem to occupy themselves with purely economic problems.

There is no big idea that would unify nations and the entire world. First of all it’s a creative crisis. No one is offering rational ideas that would unite and not separate humankind.

CM: Do you have any thoughts as to what kind of an idea could serve the purpose of resolving this problem — the absence of a unifying idea — on a transnational, on a global level?

VIP: First of all: security, elimination of any danger of war, including nuclear war or a long-term war, and humanitarian problems: poverty, education, medicine, cultural exchange.

These are traditional topics but they should have new content to be discussed in a widening circle of members, a necessarily widening circle of members.

Security remains the first priority.

It’s important to settle ethno-political conflicts, which are bloody and long-lasting.

To all that there must be a solution and this solution must be a political one.

CM: Does the introduction of mass muslim migration pose any risks for the EU? Do you see any similarities to the ethno-political conflicts that occurred in the USSR? Do you think history will repeat itself?

VIP: Yes, and no. In modern Russia the migration from former soviet republics had certain difficulties and positive moments too.

Regarding the collapse of the USSR: yes, ethno-political conflicts possibly played the decisive role in the collapse of a superpower.

Ethno-political conflicts were bloody in Caucasus, Fergana and some other regions. Back at the time authorities weren’t able to either foresee the spreading of these conflicts or take action; not forceful action. They should have made agreements with leaders of the republics and addressed the population. That never happened back then.

Second reason for the collapse was the cunning of President Reagan who drew Soviet authorities into the arms race. The arms race always means extreme weakening of resources. We would not like that arms race in Russia now. Russia’s military budget should be held within reasonable limits.

But I don’t exclude the possibility of ethno-political conflicts appearing again some day. We can only hope they will not be bloody conflicts. That is extremely dangerous and the history of the Soviet Union only proves that.

There is no direct relation or analogy — times have simply changed. To the EU it’s a lasting problem.

The pressure of immigration flow can be released by achieving better circumstances of life for the immigrants. At the same time immigrants should integrate themselves into economics and culture and the humanitarian sphere of the receiving country. Not everything here is done well by the immigrants themselves.

CM: Vladimir Ilyich, you are — to use the French expression — “four times twenty years” of age. You’ve lived through, personally experienced some of the most tumultuous, rapid changes to national, geopolitical and economic orders in all of world history. You’ve lived through, personally experienced the collapse of the USSR. Can you see any common features with the present day EU?

VIP: There are three parts in your question. Let’s start with the first part.

My formation passed through certain stages: my mother’s tales of the holodomor in the beginning of 1930s, my father’s tales of war, the occupation of Donbass by the German, Italian and Romanian troops. It was a true horror.

That was followed by my education at the Kiev University. I was taught by the pre-revolutionary professors, a unique class of intelligentsia. Those were unique professors, each of them was a true talent.

That was followed by living in Africa and partly Cuba.

Somehow I missed “Perestroika” because most of what was happening at the time was known to me decades before.

The 1990s were the hardest and the most interesting years. I was torn apart between science — because I had to write my PhD — and journalism. Later I published a big book with 100 of my articles that were previously published in local newspapers.

In the following decades I became mostly an observer, not a participant. A lot of what’s happening now is interesting to me.

Now let’s talk about the EU. It’s a wonderful project, I think it will be implemented.

However right now there is a deep crisis within the EU. I think it’s not so much caused by the debts or the Brexit but mostly by the absence of strategic ideas. Europe, the EU has lost its initiative.

In the end of 1940s and the beginning of 1950s there was a reasonable idea of restoring peace between the nations that had a war between each other, create a union, not only for business or for political reasons but for citizens as well. The free movement of the citizens is a great achievement but it’s not fully implemented because of the routine behaviour of the European elite.

Right now there is no big idea and there are no big leaders.

François Fillon, who positions himself as a new Gaullist, will possibly achieve something, but he is a new Gaullist of modest proportions. We need leaders like de Gaulle but there are none yet.

I don’t see any particular collapse of the EU in the foreseeable future. The EU will still exist but in a different form, maybe with a reduced number of members. Maybe they will find ways of providing economic growth and dealing with internal conflicts.

And naturally the EU must become an independent political player, just like the USA and Japan. I have certain hopes for the premier minister of Japan.

I wish to see these three macro regions make an agreement but not against Russia. Sanctions and Russophobia is a strategic and psychological mistake.

Russia will respond to challenges which undermine its status, politely, brutally, and hybridly. Examples are many and there will be even more. Russia shall never be derided.

Now let’s talk about Marxism. I have received Marxist education. I was taught Marxism and Leninism and cannot hide from that but doubts about these doctrines arose already in the 1960s, after having read vast sources in French.

The main events that shaped me were Budapest 1956, Prague 1968, and many others.

It took me almost half a century in total to say goodbye to Marxism. It was a difficult path. I don’t renounce Marx and Engels and Lenin. Some of them proposed great theories, and I think Lenin was a great politician.

Lenin was a very difficult politician but since it’s a part of Russian history, I can’t get away from that.

But I am not a dissident, I am not anti-Marxist.

Marxism is one of the streams of political thought and it’s very interesting. Maybe it will have a future but with different participants.

I am very critical about new-Marxists of modern Russia, very critical. There is no constructive programme.

CM: Ok, you’ve just mentioned François Fillon. I should mention for the benefit of our viewers that you are a lifelong student of French history and literature. You are fluent in French. And I know that you follow French politics very closely. In fact you wrote a paper recently on the French mainstream media and blogosphere’s responses to Brexit. Can you perhaps expand a little more for us on your views about the political situation in France and the upcoming presidential election? Tell us a little bit more.

VIP: France of president Hollande didn’t solve many problems. Many urgent problems. François Hollande proved himself as a weak politician. People’s opinion and polls only prove that.

Maybe the problem is the eclectic politics of the French socialist party. Hollande’s programme “49 alterations” was segmentary, lacking a core, going against social opinions: such as single sex marriages, preliminary labour code, things that vexed the majority in the country. This is first.

Secondly, France is losing its economic potential compared to Germany and yet they should be equal in this. France should be an independent economic power.

Here is what a new president of France will have to do — restore economic competitiveness of France in the EU and in the world. There are certain chances.

Thirdly, France’s greatness (and I would love to see France as a superpower) whether it’s economic, cultural or political, is impossible without a close partnership with Russia. It is my deep conviction.

CM: Vladimir Ilyich, you’re obviously a Francophile. I gather that you are an admirer of Charles de Gaulle?

VIP: Yes, without any doubt!

CM: Ok, since I’m sure that many of our viewers weren’t even born when Charles de Gaulle left office and passed away in 1970, can you briefly explain for us what were the key aspects of his “Politics of Grandeur”?

VIP: de Gaulle was great, with extraordinary things he did.

First: he started the resistance after France surrendered to the nazis in 1940. That was a strange war. And de Gaulle was involved in active resistance.

Second: he solved a very difficult conflict between France and Algeria; not without hesitations and not without doubts, but the satisfactory solution was found. That obviously didn’t please everyone.

Third: he attempted to have a dialogue, asymmetric and not quite equal with the former colonies, including New Guinea. But that didn’t work. The project of the constitution of 1958 was discarded by New Guinea’s president Sékou Touré. It’s because of that conflict that I found myself in Africa.

Fourth: a decision to be independent in nuclear forces.

Last: he foresaw that the dollar would create problems and had to be defied; he knew it would bring difficulties. He was one of the first to exchange American dollars for gold. That caused a clear protest of the United States, the exchange of paper to gold. It was a classy and excellent operation realised by president de Gaulle.

CM: You’ve just mentioned Charles de Gaulle’s resisting US dollar hegemony. Obviously the situation is little changed; the US took the dollar off the gold standard and is continuing to, in many respects, dominate the world through its ability to print essentially unlimited amounts of US dollars as the world reserve currency. Do you see any change in that situation, particularly now with Trump’s election and his inclination towards, perhaps, a form of neo-protectionism — do you see any changes at all in the dominance of the world by the United States having its currency as the world reserve currency?

VIP: The leadership of the dollar is unquestionable, it’s a fact. But the strengthening of the dollar has negative aspects too. There are risks, including the risks for American exporters.

Another tendency is the multitude of currencies. There are many aspirants if not for the world leadership but at least for regional leadership.

The multitude of currencies creates chaos. How can we manage this chaos? Who will do that? Donald Trump or the IMF?

If Trump puts an accent on his internal politics then of course he will “let things slide”. The IMF will have to conduct long-awaited reforms.

A lot here is uncertain but there is a chaos. Right now chaos is a benefit for a leader but with time it may turn into a weakness.

The world will slowly distance itself from the American dollar. There will be a return to the use of national currencies. However it’s a step backwards, it’s archaic.

CM: With Trump’s election and his protectionist tendency it appears that he’ll not continue pushing the unipolar world order that has been dominated by America over the past 25 years. In a recent interview Vladimir Putin stated that the unipolar world order has failed — he made that statement outright. For the first time since the collapse of the USSR it appears we’re at a stage where perhaps a multipolar world may be shaping up. Vladimir Ilyich, in your opinion, has the unipolar world order ever really existed?

VIP: A unipolar world is an ambition and if it ever existed, it was only temporary after the end of world wars.

Our modern world is still multipolar. Players in world politics have different statuses. There is no full equality between countries, it’s an aspiration. For now the world is hierarchic and yet it’s multipolar.

In the foreseeable future the West should dismiss the sanctions and stop the Russophobia.

It is important to think about creating two global coalitions: the USA, the EU and Japan from one side. These countries should agree on their positions on key questions of today. The other troika is China, Russia and India, with the help of other regional powers.

The dialogue of two global troikas is the matter of a distant future. Agenda may be different but it has to be specific, moving with small steps.

There is an example that gives hope: Russia and Japan can make a peaceful agreement about the status of the Kuril Islands as Russian sovereign territory. Different options are possible here. It includes a programme of vast trade and economic partnership.

This way, step by step, we can start a dialogue, a partners dialogue.

That’s going to happen in future, not today. I may sound a bit pessimistic here.

CM: Vladimir Ilyich Peftiev, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you so much for sharing your four-times-twenty years of wisdom and insights with us. (in Russian) Thank you very much.

VIP: (in French) Thank you, our conversation was interesting, insightful and friendly. To me it’s a great pleasure and a unique chance to talk to a foreign journalist.

(in Russian) Thank you very much to you and signora Anna.

*****

Colin McKay with Professor Vladimir Ilyich Peftiev

Translator: Anna Novikova; author, writer for Russia Beyond The Headlines, Our Russia — contact annanvkva [at] gmail [dot] com, @anna_novikova

Special thanks: Professor Mikhail Vasilyevich Novikov and Yaroslavl State Pedagogical University

Professor Peftiev’s books and papers (Russian) available: enquiries please email colin [dot] mckay [at] protonmail [dot] ch

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Time

A Cooperative Capitalism: The Russian Idea

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This article by request for Renegade Inc – For Those Who Think Differently

 

“It’s Trump!”

As the election results poured in, usually dour Russians sat in their favourite cafes, beaming smiles, shaking hands, and cheerfully buying each other coffees, united by a common feeling of relief and celebration.

“Ok, so Hillary won’t nuke us after all.”

America’s new President-elect had pledged to “get along great” with Russia. To cooperate, rather than compete. To trade, not fight.

To Russian ears these words were music to rival Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Russians wanted Trump, because they do not want war.

Renegade economist Sergei Glazyev aptly described Hillary Clinton as a symbol of war, reflecting that “Americans had two choices: World War Three, or multilateral peace.”

Behind the hand-wringing cries of a “shocked” western Establishment, one can almost hear the sounds of the US neocon warmongers’ Project For A New American Century beginning to rattle in its own death throes, and a new New World Order being born. As professor of political economy Mark Blyth observed, “The era of neoliberalism is over. The era of neo-nationalism has just begun.”

In the week since, more “Russia-friendly” presidents have been elected in Moldova and NATO member Bulgaria. Expectations are rising that so-called “populist”, “nationalist”, and “pro-Russian” parties and presidents may well be elected in the Netherlands, Italy, France, and Germany. The very heart of Western Europe — that of ordinary people — appears to be turning to Moscow.

Prompted by the election of “drain the swamp” Donald Trump, in Russia too a long-awaited “purge” of powerful comprador elite neoliberals — the “Fifth Column” in Vladimir Putin’s government — may now be on the horizon. Minister of the Economy Alexei Ulyukaev has just been detained, subject to an investigation on serious bribery charges. Rumours are flying that more will be arrested or removed from high office shortly*. In a radio interview on Tuesday, economist and former government advisor Mikhail Khazin implied that other high flyers likely to fall include Dmitry Medvedev’s Deputy PM, Arkady Dvorkovich.

Former politician and director of the Problems issued by Globalization institute (IPROG), the economist Mikhail Delyagin says that with the election of Donald Trump, the “liberal clan” formed within Russia’s elite during Bill Clinton’s 1993-2001 presidency has now lost its western backing. Like Sergei Glazyev (A Genocide: Russia and The New World Order), he argues that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new Russian Federation formed a hybrid state, in which foreign and internal policies are “largely” patriotic but socio-economic policy (under the powerful neoliberal elite faction) has been a “national treason”. Delyagin predicts that the Minister of Finance, Anton Siluanov, and the head of Russia’s Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, will also lose their jobs.

While still invisible to many, Trump’s election marked what was so necessary for humanity; a turning point. A deeper reason for change. It coincided with the revival of “The Russian idea”.

Known to everyone who ever read Fyodor Dostoevsky, this idea became the case study for Russian philosophers such as Nikolai Berdyaev and Ivan Ilyin (a favourite of Vladimir Putin). “The Russian idea” offers a unique way of peaceful co-existence between different nationalities and cultures. It is an idea of higher unity that until today had only existed in the hearts and souls of Russian people. But now, it appears, it may become key to the salvation of us all.

The Russian idea holds no room for the radical individualism of the West, or such notions as an “indispensable nation” or “God’s chosen people”. There is no hierarchy or separation between “us” and “them”. One cannot be happy unless the whole of humanity is saved. Viewed in cosmic unity each person should be concerned for the well-being of every other. The same with nations.

The enormous land mass of Russia, so rich in natural resources — and so inviting for foreign invaders — forms a kind of world bridge between the West and the East. So too the Russian people embody a natural, human bridge between cultures. Many famed philosophers, historians, saints and seers — and not only Russian ones (e.g., Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West) — have long predicted that this is precisely the role that Mother Russia and her people will play in the future of our world.

In a vast country containing multiple nationalities, and united by state-endorsed Orthodox Christianity for over 1000 years — 74 years of revolutionary communism a mere aberration — Russians possess a characteristic openness and tolerance toward all peoples, religions and cultures. Even more so, a desire to understand them and have a dialogue with them. That’s where you meet Dostoevsky’s famous idea of the “Russian soul” having a generosity and sensitivity to everyone – an ability to live someone else’s tragedy and joy like your own; to let it inside oneself.

This might help explain why countless thousands of Russian people prayed for the salvation of America on Election Day last week. “Russians are responsible for everyone”, Berdyaev used to say.

Highly educated — the policy of free education up to and including university remains from Soviet days — and deeply aware of their country’s tragic history, ordinary Russians can often be heard expressing a genuine empathy for the struggles of ordinary people in the West. The memory of the horrors of the 1990s — rightly blamed on their own comprador elites rushing to adopt the “Shock Therapy” economic policies recommended by their US neoliberal “advisors” — remains painfully vivid.

To many Westerners it may come as a revelation to discover that beneath the unsmiling facade, Russians are eternal optimists. Theirs is a unique, culturally-embedded optimism, born of centuries of adversity; indeed, of simply surviving.

“We can survive anything. Only we have this thing, that we can resist anything.”

The Russian people see themselves as ultimately unbeatable in the basic fight for life. This humble form of national self-belief comes from having survived everything that external invaders and those they see as internal enemies have thrown at them over centuries; from Napoleon to Lenin, Hitler, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin.

According to Ilyin, Russia is a child of historic catastrophes. Wars were brought on Russia ceaselessly. Moscow was burnt by the Tatars, Poles and the French. Soviet Russia repelled Nazi Germany at a cost of 27 million souls. But each time Russia rose back to her feet like a Phoenix, and she flourishes again. The Russian idea of everyone’s salvation was born from her catastrophic past.

Today the whole world — despite its appearance of material well-being and technological progress — is being pushed toward a catastrophe. That is why Russia’s experience in overcoming adversity offers an important example for everyone.

As the Western powers have first encircled Russia through relentless expansion of NATO, and then imposed economic sanctions in retaliation for her entirely justified (and remarkably restrained) moves to simply defend herself and protect her “soft underbelly” — those vital, historic spheres of influence on and near to the Black Sea and Caucasus — the Russian government under President Putin has responded in a very Russian way; with flair, speed, creativity, flexibility, and adaptation.

Standing ever politely (Putin: “our Western partners”) yet resolutely against an Anglo-US -centric western world that is once again, a la the 1930s, suffering the consequences of another boom-bust debt deflation, and is, once again, being driven by elite vested interests towards the creative/destructive ‘growth’ solution of another world war, since 2014’s US-sponsored ‘colour revolution’ coup d’etat in brother nation Ukraine the Russian government has calmly shifted its primary focus away from trying (as ever) to befriend the West as respectful equals, and towards increasing self-reliance and cooperation with the East.

This has proven remarkably successful to date. Russia’s economy, though struggling, has not succumbed to the West’s economic sanctions. Unsurprisingly, neither has her people responded to their renewed economic difficulties by losing faith and moving to overthrow their government (as hoped by US neocons).

On the contrary, it is the EU nations, compelled by their dominant NATO ‘ally’ across the Atlantic to impose sanctions that appear to be suffering more. Numerous regions and opposition parties within the EU (e.g., France, Germany, and northern Italy) have begun to break ranks, visiting ‘annexed’ Crimea, and calling for restoration of normal trade and economic relations with Moscow. Importantly, Russia has succeeded in establishing ever stronger economic cooperation ties with the still rapidly-growing China, along with other Eurasian, African and South American nations.

The western Establishment’s now failing economic model has striven to dominate a unipolar world order through deregulated ‘free’ (i.e., increasingly rigged) market, dog-eat-dog competition – a kind of neo-Darwinian, brutal, amoral and unconscionable “survival only of the strongest” and most corrupt.

In sharp contrast both to neoliberal globalist capitalism, and to the lebensraum (“living space”) -seeking national socialism (“nazism”) of the 1930s, the Russian way is not expansionist. Instead, it strives to survive and thrive in the spirit of prince Pyotr Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor Of Evolution – through cooperation, and avoidance of confrontation wherever possible, in a mutually respectful, diverse, multipolar world order.

As the global balance of economic power continues to shift from the West to the East, it is the “Russian idea” and this, traditionally Russian approach to basic survival that may well come to serve as the world’s leading light, and the key to the salvation of us all.

 

* UPDATE 17 November: More Russian Officials Detained As Nationwide Anti-Corruption Drive Gains Momentum

 

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Nature

Oceans of the heart

“Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninov, possibly the greatest composer of the 20th century, created the impossible, and what later was considered ‘superhuman’ – he captured the whole scale of human emotions in music. And while there is no question about the effect his music produces on us, there is a bigger question that startles us: if his music is only a transposition of his deeper emotions on paper, then how can anything of that scale, anything as big as an ocean find room in a man’s heart, and most importantly, what natural force could ever cause his soul to stir so much?”

~ Anna Novikova, Rachmaninov’s Little Russia in the Alps,
‘Our Russia’ magazine

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Mysticism

Hear hear, Vladimir

“Today, many nations are revising their moral values and ethical norms, eroding ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures. Society is now required not only to recognise everyone’s right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil, strange as it seems, concepts that are opposite in meaning. This destruction of traditional values from above not only leads to negative consequences for society, but is also essentially anti-democratic, since it is carried out on the basis of abstract, speculative ideas, contrary to the will of the majority, which does not accept the changes occurring or the proposed revision of values.”

— Vladimir Putin, Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, December 12, 2013

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“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in them both, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it (…) To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality.”

— George Orwell, defining “doublethink”, 1984

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Uncategorized

Love your enemies, or go to hell

Russophobia Gets Christians In Hot Water

 

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of millions of self-identified “Christians” in America today, who fear their enemies.

Many would even like to do grievous bodily harm to their enemies. Or rather, they would like to see others (say, their government) do harm to their enemies — preemptively — on their behalf.

But in matter of fact, it is much worse than that.

Today, hundreds of millions of “Christians” fear and would do harm to those who they are only led to believe are their enemies, but who are not their enemies at all.

If Jesus were still in his grave, I imagine he would feel like rolling over about now.

Remember, this is the same Jesus who expressly commanded his followers not to fear death, or hate their enemies, but on the contrary, to love, bless, pray for, and do good to their enemies.

According to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study by Pew Research Center, a clear majority (70.6%) of Americans still self-identify as “Christian”.

And yet, you could be forgiven for thinking that a majority of those (roughly extrapolated) 225 million self-identifying “Christian” citizens of the U.S.A. either have not heard, or, have not taken into their hearts, the clear commandment of Jesus most famously taught in his magisterial Sermon on the Mount.

Because according to a 2014 Global Attitudes Survey*, also by Pew Research Center, some 72% of Americans have an “Unfavorable View” of Russia. Indeed, according to a recent Gallup poll, Americans now consider Russia to be their “greatest enemy”, with 49% of survey respondents considering its military power to be a “critical threat”.

Incongruently for a purportedly “Christian” nation, some 54% of Americans believe that the U.S. is not being “tough enough” with Russia, according to another Pew Research Center study whose findings were published last month.

Apparently, having their government exercise their nation’s power to force other nations to support the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia — with a deliberate intent to cause suffering for her people, in hope of prompting them to rise up and overthrow their government — is not “tough enough” for America’s “Christian” believers.

In Europe, this incongruity between proclaimed “Christian” beliefs and manifested un-Christ-like behaviour is even more marked.

According to a 2011 National Survey, some 87.5% of people in Poland claim to be Christian; in Pew Research Center’s 2014 Global Attitudes Survey, 81% of Poles held an unfavorable view of Russia. So much so, that the Polish government has “embarked on a lavish defence spending spree to buy new heavy arms and equipment”, and passed legislation with a view to compulsory military training for all able-bodied men.

Other “Christian”-majority nations of the European Union such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Germany display similar trends; indeed, three out of four of these majority “Christian” Western European nations exhibit a stronger “unfavorable view” of Russia than does France, arguably the most secular nation in Europe.

So what terrible thing, exactly, has Russia done to the people of the U.S.A., U.K., Poland, Italy, Spain, and Germany, that might justify their many hundreds of millions of “Christians” holding such an overwhelmingly “unfavorable view” of her, much less labelling her their “greatest enemy”?

Let us imagine for a moment, that all of the things the “Christians” of the West have been told about Russia are in fact true. Let us imagine that Russia did annex the Crimean Peninsula. Invaded Eastern Ukraine. Provided East Ukrainians with a missile launcher, that was used to shoot down an airliner. Let us imagine too, that Russia’s overwhelmingly popular leader does aspire to recreate the Soviet Union.

Even if all of this were true — a gentle hint, none of it is — would it relieve a true Christian of their divine duty to “fear not them which kill the body…”? Would it relieve them of their divine imperative to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”?

The next time a “Christian” in the Western world experiences a feeling of fear while watching a “world leader”, government official, “expert” “analyst”, or TV news anchor “reporting” on Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, or any other supposed boogeyman in a far-away land, they might do well for the future of their immortal soul to consider something else that Jesus Christ had to say:

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

 

 

* Pew Research Center is “a nonpartisan American think tank based in Washington, D.C., that provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends shaping the United States and the world”.

In light of this, thinking readers will find it noteworthy that “(N)early all interviews were conducted after Putin’s statement on March 18th that Russia would annex Crimea. A majority of interviews in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom were completed within a week of the announcement”. How convenient.

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I am a “lone wolf” motorcyclist.

A mystic biker.

It has always been this way.

To ride, is to escape.

To find solace, in solitude.

To be alone, with one’s own.

Solitary soul.

And yet, the times they are a-changin’.

For if ever there was a brotherhood of men.

One whom I would wish to befriend.

It seems to me that this would be them.

 

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Roaring through Moscow after dark with their big bikes, long hair and leather jackets, the Night Wolves could be Russia’s answer to the Hell’s Angels. But these are riders with a cause, and that cause is the motherland.

“Our values are quite simple: love your country, have faith and don’t use or sell drugs” summed up Alexander Benish, second in command of the powerful motorcycle club whose members President Vladimir Putin calls his “brothers”.

They may share a passion for the open road, but the Night Wolves — “Nochnye Volki” in Russian — reject the American biker label altogether.

 

The Night Wolves say they welcome members from across the former Soviet Union, regardless of their religious beliefs – and count Muslims in their ranks, alongside the Orthodox Christian majority.

Likewise its riders come from varied social backgrounds, from car mechanics, to businessmen — even a few monks.

“Everyone is free to join — except for women. ‘No woman no cry,” joked Benish in a play on the Bob Marley lyric.

“Years ago when it was founded, the club was a kind of symbol of virility, of what it means to be a man.”

 

Alongside the tough-guy routine, the riders also play what they see as a pastoral role, striving for “the moral and spiritual development of the young generation based on patriotism and traditions.”

“The words of Saint Augustine could sum up the philosophy of the Night Wolves,” said Benish, quoting the words of the medieval theologian: ‘In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.'”

 

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