Sunday, 12 December 2010
Rats on the Sinking Ship
Neo-liberals tend to have a very limited number of historical reference points: Hitler and Stalin are pretty much the only historical figures to cut it, but boy, do they like using these metaphors. Chavez in Venezuela, Ahmedinjad in Iran, Putin in Russia: Hitlerstalins all of them.
The thing is there actually is a bloke in Russia who admires Nazism and Stalinism: his name is Eduard Limonov and Western neo-liberals are surprisingly indulgent towards him. His party's flag is on top of this page. Hardly something you'd imagine the self-righteous Putin-hating Graun to be very indulgent toward.
But just read this piece of drivel about the 'possible future leader of Russia' (who would be lucky to get 5% of the vote).
The interview was carried out by Marc Bennetts. I know very little about Marc Bennetts, but I do know he's the sort of person that makes me embarrassed to be British; a sub-David Mitchell awkward square, albeit one who desperately wants to show his street cred. In just a few paragraphs he writes: 'Limonov may insist that his pogo-ing days are far behind him, but when I ask him if he believes he has a real chance of becoming president there is something distinctly punk rock about his answer' and 'I can't help but point out.' Can't you actually? But don't worry Marc, you is one cool dude, what with your reference to
'Sex Pistol-era Johnny Rotten's use of the swastika to unnerve middle England also springs to mind, but neither musician has yet to enter politics'
Being honest, I actually felt modestly impressed by Limonov's dismissal of his 70s experience of New York popular culture. Perhaps, unlike many middle class squares in Britain, he realises that the days pop culture had any power to shock or rebel are long past. Just look at how his tirade affects a compatriot of The Beatles:
"In Russia, fortunately, the people still have some barbarian spirit. But Europeans and Americans are just dying, sick invalids." He looks across the table at me for a reaction. I sympathise with what he is saying: while life in Russia may not be easy, it is, at least, never dull. But something stops me agreeing with him, and instead I voice an ironic, "Thanks."
This really sets out the Jekyll and Hyde duality of our political class. On one hand, they are feeble and flinching, unable to offer more than weak sarcasm in response to a tirade. On the other hand, they seem to have a weakness for 'barbarians'. Just think of all the public schoolboys who fawned over 'macho' George W Bush because he lived on a farm and declared war on Iraq. By contrast most Russians are happier with their dwarfish lawyer President than with a Nazi-Bolshevik.
Perhaps the saddest thing is how Garry Kasparov's coalition which involves both Limonov and Yeltsin's crew of economy wreckers overshadows real dissent in Russia. According to some reports Anna Politkovskaya (a real heroic dissident) suspected that many of the liberals were actually in league with the Kremlin. If the United Russia party really wanted an ideal strawman, they couldn't do better than Limonov. But then, The Guardian would probably be kinder to the Fascist-Bolshevik strawman than to an authoritarian but popular and patriotic leadership, seeing him as 'Putin's worst enemy' rather than 'Putin's dream opponent'.