Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Ed Reckoning

It's not often that I get a pleasant surprise looking through remaindered items in bookstores. Usually it is books that no sane person would ever buy: books on diets that will damage your body and possibly make you temporarily thin; books devoted to farting; autobiographies of whatever moron has just fallen out of the public eye.

There are few books that are so abysmal they will be remaindered. I mean to actually be so bad that the British reading public will give it a miss because their money will be better spent on the works of Jilly Cooper and Graham Norton. But I was delighted to see that Edward Lucas's book 'The New Cold War' has achieved just that. It's tough competition out there Ed, and you just can't compete with Katie Price's talents.

For those who don't know, Ed Lucas is a right wing scrawny slaphead, who writes non-stop drivel about Russia. He plugged this book in The Guardian, criticising Bad Vlad for supporting heartless capitalism. Then simultaneously he plugged it in The Times, criticising Bad Vlad for puting Mikhail 'Alexander Solzhenitsyn' Khodorkovsky in prison. I tried to follow Ed's arguments, but I lost touch when he got to comparing Vladimir Putin with Saruman (sorry, maybe it was 'Sauron', please forgive if I'm misrepresenting your arguments Eddie).

Anyway, I don't know if we Brits are ready to spend a large chunk of our GDP on antagonising Russia. But we evidently aren't prepared to shell out a tenner for the latest piece of Lucas drek.

We'll save it for the fifth volume of David Beckham's memoirs thank you very much.

(Given his sinister baldy head, I used Nosferatu for this, but if I see Anne Applebaum's works heading remainderwise, I'll try to get a picture of Nosferatu with his mouth open)


  1. Following Ed's arguments is fruitless. However I believe that there are bits within them that are a key to understanding the mindset of not just Ed but other Russophobes as well.

  2. 'I believe that there are bits within them that are a key to understanding the mindset of not just Ed but other Russophobes as well.'

    Thank you for your comment Leos, my disagreement though is that I don't actually see Lucas primarily as a 'Russophobe' (and am largely sceptical of the term) but as a devout neo-liberal.

    The very title of his book 'the new cold war' implies that the cold war stopped between 1991 and 2000, suggesting that the years between this were years of cooperation and liberalism in Russia.

    But this is the central paradox of neo-liberalism. The galloping inequality and instability that comes from market forces creates such dissatisfaction that authoritarianism usually comes into play.

    Most of the neo-liberals like Lucas seem to be open-mouthed fans of all Putin's enemies and to think that Boris Yeltsin was a viable leader which he was not.

    If their dreams came true and Garry Kasparov got more than 1% of the vote and continued to privatise, cut aid for the poor and kiss American* backside then they could depend on pro-Russian propaganda from Lucas and his ilk.

    *But the British wouldn't ask anyone to kiss British ass. We are ready to send our sons and daughters out to die and to cripple our economy for American Neo-Liberal imperialism. But we don't ask for anything but international unpopularity in return.

    Incidentally, this is one way in which modern Brits are following Churchill. He was treated with contempt by the American government when he was re-elected in the 1950s.

  3. I used the term Russophobe as nothing other than a way to describe someone who believes or trumpets up fears of Russia. The term is purely technical one, albeit imprecise.

    You have actually described what I myself think is the driving force behind creatures like Lucas. It is the conviction of the infallibility of their idea that they want to apply universally. If their ideas cause havoc in different parts of the world an explanaition has to be found without reflection on their own infallible beliefs.

    Lucas' and LaRussophobe's (and some other peoples') reaction to the failure of their own medicine is blaming the patient for self-recovery. The Kasparov scenario's possibility is so low because the neo-liberal ideal has been proven to be the false idol it really is.

    The world that Lucas' tried to create for themselves back in the nineties came crashing down on them and we should treat them as depressed individuals.

    On the other hand the ideas of Neo-Liberalism appeal to the British elites which fantasise about a world without borders where there is no Britain to channel the World's anger to.

  4. ‘Lucas' and LaRussophobe's (and some other peoples') reaction to the failure of their own medicine is blaming the patient for self-recovery’

    I would agree with you there. As Adam Curtis said in his superb documentary, The Trap, they increasingly use violence and repression to enforce a negative concept of liberty.

    Incidentally, your name seems to be Polish or at least Western Slavonic. If I am right about that, I wondered if you think Poles are becoming less Russophobic (I use this term more confidently here, because whilst I think Anglosphere leaders dislike ‘Putinism’ for ideological reasons, many central/ eastern Europeans do indeed have a dislike and fear of Russia)?

    I met a middle aged Pole who spouted hatred for Russia and said ‘I can’t understand how the British believe a word Putin says’. I pointed out that Blair himself has a fairly unparalleled track record of mendacity. Furthermore, I think more central Europeans are becoming wise to the ‘Faustian’ nature of neo-liberalism. As I said on Sublime Oblivion, the neo-liberals are a moderately more secular version of the fundamentalists who want Israel to expand so it will be incinerated at Armageddon.
    The Czechs are very upset about the ludicrous missile shield, and a famous Polish pianist publicly attacked the Americans for this ludicrous scheme (to ‘protect the world from Iran’, obvious really, given the geographical proximity of Iran to Central Europe). I think they’ve become wise to the way that the West may patronise them for loving freedom, but would happily sacrifice them for neo-liberalism.

    Still, whilst I do not defend the Russian Empire’s treatment of Poland, or the USSR (which was multiethnic) it does seem that a self-pitying narrative about Russia has been imposed throughout Central Europe when the circumstances were firstly more ambiguous and secondly, any such narrative is usually counterproductive anyway. It seems that it is even spreading with the holodomir myth (again, certainly I am not defending the terror famine, but the myth that it was a Great Russian conspiracy against the Ukrainians).

    It does seem to me that paradoxically the excellent education in central/ eastern Europe may undercut Russophobia because it seems that they are more sensitive to Russia’s cultural achievements than westerners are. Furthermore, many statistics show that young Poles are vastly more secular and liberal minded than their parents.

    If it is none of my business, or if I am wrong about your name, there is no need to respond, but I am curious as to any insights.

  5. It was Sauron. ;)

    An interesting though came up in one of the discussions at my site was what would happen if Kasparov came to power.

    The conclusion was that after a few years of (very costly) unilateral concessions - as happened during the 1989-1998 period, Kasparov will be either a) kicked out or b) will become a Russian nationalist (these extremist types tend to have pretty binaried personalities).

  6. I am half Czech, half Russian so I can tell you little about the climate in Poland. But I can tell you what the ordinary Czechs feel like.

    The issue of the missile shield is not very popular, I would say with at least 50%'s of the people (this is an estimate based on claims of both supporters and opponents of the missile shield) opposing it. The Czechs feel stongly about a presence of a foreign army but their politicians rarely care about the masses, just like when Britain invaded Iraq the Brits opposed it but Tony went ahead with what he believed was right.

    The Czech opposition is based on rational assessment of their current position as importers of hydro-carbons from Russia and some unease with the campaigns of NATO in Yugoslavia and Iraq which their leaders were supportive of and which many believe were unjust and unjustified. The Iran argument is ludicrous and the Czech spin doctors do not rattle it much, they speak of Russi instead and everyone knows it is against Russia anyway. However there is another camp of those who have bought into the neo-liberal and Russophobic propaganda in our media about bad dictators and resurgent Russians.

    Our media are full of Russia loathing which sometimes gets even more grotesque than what you may find in the English press. But what they talk about mostly about is the past mistreatment by the Soviet Union. The mythology is simple:

    'The Soviets cut us off from the West after the war and snuffed out our democratic attempt in 1968 and everything that comes from the East is bad, even the cold winter breeze.'

    On one hand this is a rather one sided view that is designed to justify membership in the EU and NATO. The real truth behind such myths, as that the Czechs voted to Communists Party in, or that Prague Spring was more an attempt to democratise the Communist regime than to install Western liberal democracy, or that the invading forces were not so much Russian as they were Soviet, and that other countries of the Warsaw pact participated in the operation, would of course destroy the argument. But this is not rearly put forward to the masses because it is too difficult to understand.

    But on the other hand this propaganda strategy works very well in favour of those champions of Lisbon treaty and NATO expanssion. Even the president got slapped with this argument recently for labeling Georgia as the agressor and opposing the Lisbon treaty. Some celebrities staged a protest infront of the Prague Castle which they named 'Pochemu?'(Russian for why?).

    I think many are fed up by these elites but many still buy their diatribes. And yet others may not like Russia but keep some common sense.

    On the issue of neo-liberal and fundamentalist American Christians I must say I have observed they often go hand in hand. Last year I was in South Korea and seen how the local mutations of American mega-church culture penetrated the society. When I searched for the answer to 'how this occurred?' I found out that the campaing for democracy there against the local junta regime was let by these groups and no doubt was supported from America.

    Neo-liberalism, the 'imperialism of human rights' is nothing but a new version of the 'white man's burden, a new universalist idea that would bring the light to the unfortunates of this world. The more 'the wretched of the world' resist these attempts the more agressive it gets. The idea is essentially Hegelian but Hegels idea is based on the univesalist nature of the Western Church.

    An idea may seem secular and not display any crazy elements like making Israel the herald of the Messiah it can nevertheless be quite religious in their proposals.

    Have you read Tariq Ali's 'Clash of Fundamentalisms' and John Gray's 'Black Mass'?

  7. @Anatoly

    Sloppy research on my part, I misunderstood the nuance of Eddie's thought. About Kasparov (and neo-liberals in general) I'm reminded a bit of that line in Buddha's Little Finger by Victor Pelevin where the drug addicted narrator perceives the Bolshevik star as a satanic symbol and says 'but they were too childish to be purposefully evil'. I don't know if Kasparov would have the Nietzschian urge to be a nationalist; neo-liberals are not so much 'Beyond Good and Evil' as they are beneath good and evil.


    Thank you for your interesting insight. I have a Czech aquaintance who is also deeply annoyed at the mendacity behind the 'missile shield' and who feels a strong affinity to Russian culture. This is a slight paradox I think; I could discuss Russian culture with someone whose country was under Soviet influence, but many neo-liberals (Andrew Sullivan and John Podhoretz to take the first examples that come into my head) are very puerile and uncultured. Whilst Pan-Slavism failed as a movement, I do think that there is a very loose 'Slavic' culture.

    I have read Black Mass; it is an excellent book. Whilst I am a Christian, I do not impose my views on anyone and John Gray seems to understand the apophatic tradition in some Christian denominations. Yet in Britain, there is a very strong anti-religious campaign.