Meta-Politics, Geo-Politics, and Foolishness
I have talked to everyone from die-hard Eurasian (read: Russian) Nationalists, who seem to the think Putin is the walking manifestation of a meritocratic Russian nationalism that will one day rule of Europe and Asia. Frankly, given the massive capital flight out of Russia, this seems like dreaming for a second coming of Stalin. I suppose one knows the future by its wish fulfillment. As I write this there is almost monarchical pomp over Putin’s reassumption of power, and protests in the streets. RT, which I call Radio Free US, has some great programming, but it is a Putin-friendly arm of Russian state and it good not to forget that. Sadly, the same is true for most of the UK, and so the recent debacle involving Assuange’s show is met with the liberal critique of tepid variety:
US cables released by WikiLeaks in December 2010 paint a dismal picture of Putin’s Russia as a “virtual mafia state”. Has Assange read them? It seems extraordinary that Assange – described by RT as the world’s most famous whistleblower – should team up with an opaque regime where investigative journalists are shot dead (16 unsolved murders) and human rights activists kidnapped and executed, especially in Chechnya and other southern Muslim republics. Strange and obscene.
There is a long dishonourable tradition of western intellectuals who have been duped by Moscow. The list includes Bernard Shaw, the Webbs, HG Wells and André Gide. So Assange – whether for idealistic reasons, or simply out of necessity, given his legal bills and fight against extradition to Sweden – isn’t the first. But The World Tomorrow confirms he is no fearless revolutionary. Instead he is a useful idiot.
But like the the Eurasian nationalists and Putin apologists that Luke Harding cannot stomach, he ultimately sees things in same jilted hope for a Cold War area unipolar world. So why do so many leftists take the enemy of my enemy is my friend approach to politics? It’s hard to say, but it is a simpletons move. Still, this is what shows you who is serious in politics: the left is not neither is the right, because you see simple platitudes and not facts being marshalled for decision making. We live in a broadly liberal movement, but not liberal-left in the way American’s understand it. Chomsky is right to point out that if you Foreign Policy, The Financial Times, The Economist, the Wall Street Journal (prior to Murdock), you got honest news and detailed specifics because those who are in power need that in way those who merely dream of power don’t.
NPR is an example of this: It is liberal media in both senses: in the sense that it serves soft capitalist interests and that it placates the sensibilities of the center-to-center-left liberal. It is mid-brow/mid-cult capriciousness consumption plus decent news with a milder (but still dangerous) US-tinged corporate slant. In coverage of the French elections and the Greek elections, one could hear defenses of Sarkozy passed off as impartial: the American left always secretly wants to be the European center right–capitalism with a human face. Although if one actually knew the rhetoric of in Sarkozy in daily life, or if one took time to see how religious the rhetoric of David Cameron was, the vapidity of the American left is the European center-right meme would be apparent.
Still, an example of the good news “liberals” give to themselves: Take the Planet Money podcast In A Leaderless World, Who Wins?, which is based on Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini‘s notion that “even is America is not declining, we aren’t a hegemon anymore, and despite word to contrary, it is unlikely that Russia or China will be it either as both have serious issues that largely unaddressed, and I’ll quote here instead of paraphrase:
This is not a G-20 world. Over the past several months, the expanded group of leading economies has gone from a would-be concert of nations to a cacophony of competing voices as the urgency of the financial crisis has waned and the diversity of political and economic values within the group has asserted itself. Nor is there a viable G-2 — a U.S.-Chinese solution for pressing transnational problems — because Beijing has no interest in accepting the burdens that come with international leadership. Nor is there a G-3 alternative, a grouping of the United States, Europe, and Japan that might ride to the rescue.
Today, the United States lacks the resources to continue as the primary provider of global public goods. Europe is fully occupied for the moment with saving the eurozone. Japan is likewise tied down with complex political and economic problems at home. None of these powers’ governments has the time, resources, or domestic political capital needed for a new bout of international heavy lifting. Meanwhile, there are no credible answers to transnational challenges without the direct involvement of emerging powers such as Brazil, China, and India. Yet these countries are far too focused on domestic development to welcome the burdens that come with new responsibilities abroad.
We are now living in a G-Zero world, one in which no single country or bloc of countries has the political and economic leverage — or the will — to drive a truly international agenda. The result will be intensified conflict on the international stage over vitally important issues, such as international macroeconomic coordination, financial regulatory reform, trade policy, and climate change. This new order has far-reaching implications for the global economy, as companies around the world sit on enormous stockpiles of cash, waiting for the current era of political and economic uncertainty to pass. Many of them can expect an extended wait.
In the interview, Bremmer talks about how the Chinese growth model must change, not be based on 21th century mercentilism, and raise net-GDP which makes it far more unstable than it appears now. He points the contradictions exposed in the Bo Xilai, which of course is painted in the liberal media as a story of ruthlessness (I saw this headline in HuffPo, NYTimes, etc) and fails to mention Bo’s popularity among the Chinese Left, the fact that Aei Wei and other luminaries praised him. But the liberal reformers (in both the positive and negative sense) have used this to push for change in China, against both the Dengish middle and the Maoists left, or at least that is what is passed along in the media in South Korea. Bremmer has a point: there is a fundamental problem to the paradoxes of PRC’s strange blend of New Confucianism, Legalism, and Maoism with mercentilism-esque State Capitalism. Although as the London Review of books point it, it also points out that there is a move to try re-centralize as Maoism is beginning to start on a public now see the benefits:
In Chongqing there was more emphasis than in some other places on redistribution, justice and equality, and because the province was already highly industrialised, state-owned enterprises were important to its model. Chongqing’s experiment with inexpensive rented housing, its experiment with land trading certificates, its strategy of encouraging enterprises to go global: all these, under the rubric ‘the state sector progresses, the private sector progresses,’ contributed to society’s debate. Chongqing may not have offered a perfect blueprint, and it’s hard to know whether Bo himself was corrupt, but its architects stressed the importance of equality and common prosperity, and tried to work towards them.
The Chongqing experiment, launched in 2007, coincided with the global financial crisis, which made a new generation feel less confident of the benefits of free-market ideology. The policies followed in Chongqing demonstrated a move away from neoliberalism at a time when the national leadership was finding it harder to continue with its neoliberal reforms. What the Chongqing incident now offers the authorities is an opportunity to resume its neoliberal programme. Just after Bo was sacked the State Council’s Development and Research Centre held a forum in Beijing at which the most prominent neoliberals in China, including the economists Wu Jinglian and Zhang Weiying, announced their programme: privatisation of state enterprises, privatisation of land and liberalisation of the financial sector. At almost the same time, on 18 March, the National Development and Reform Commission issued a report on ‘Important Points and Perspectives on the Deepening of Economic Structural Reform Priorities’. It contained plans for the privatisation of large sections of the railways, education, healthcare, communications, energy resources and so on. The tide of neoliberalism is rising again. But it won’t go unchallenged, even when left-wing websites have been closed down. In the past ten days both the People’s Daily and the Guangming Dailyhave devoted several pages to the achievements of state-owned enterprises and the argument against privatisation.
According to several reports, Bo and Zhou had been plotting a smear campaign against future Chinese leader Xi Jinping, while planning to install Bo as a high-level official.
So who knows if all those liberals know they are spreading p.r. related to the PRC’s politoburo. I guess one can say that Assuage is not the only useful idiot. But there this big trouble in big China, and the signal to move investment into India and Brazil as well as Latin America is telling. Canada’s turning to China is telling too, but perhaps short-sited ultimately. The one thing is true: The 1%, to use Occupy’s somewhat vapid term, thinks in global terms in ways Occupiers, despite all their rhetoric, don’t comprehend.
While I am endorsing “Liberal” media for news, let me point you to a serious liberal podcast that I have come to like for its honest wonkiness: Bruno and the Professor is good, honest liberal Keynesianism. That has all the weaknesses that Keynesianism does: It ignores that stagflation, not just neo-liberalization, was part of why things were abandoned: Neo-liberalization was a political project empowered by stagflation, and as Bruno and Professor point out, was often started by Carter, not Reagan. Anyway, their analysis of the brain-drain in Southern Europe to Germany, explains, for the first time, what the ECB could be doing, no order explanation of the sado-monetarism adopted by the Germans was really that coherent.
Now, before you critique me with “Why are you endorsing managerialism and the state?” Who says I am, but to change the world, you must see the world as it is. The abstractions, hypotheses, and refusal to understand managerial logic and the flows of capital that under-grid it is a refusal to be able to offer a real counter-point. To have a theory of what politics should be, one must see what politics is.
Posted on May 8, 2012, in endorsements and reviews, ideology, Logic, Media, news, Philosophy and Politics, Polemics and tagged China, Europe, Geo-politics, politics, Russia, US, western intellectuals. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.