– or “what it means to ignore the lessons from history”Dec. 2009
“There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it”.
Lord Voldemort, 1997.
There are three concepts central to all human conflicts: Religion, Nationality and greed and all three can be bundled under one heading: Power! The Cold War is no different. Yet unravelling its causes is anything but simple. Once the historic 'truth' has become cemented into our brains, it is very difficult to correct misunderstandings. Even more difficult is it to eliminate the 'spin' of the past. Consider the English, who talk about “us” when they mean King Arthur and his knights, not realising that Arthur probably was a resistance fighter against “them” (the Anglo Saxons), who now are some of the real “us”.
Some people maintain that history doesn’t matter. But to understand the world of today one must open the eyes for the past and try to get rid of old prejudices. I find the last half of the 20th C deeply fascinating. It is the period of the Cold War and as it is so close to us in time, it shouldn't be too difficult find out what really happened, or why? Or is it?
No compassionate person in the ‘West’ wishes anyone to suffer in poverty.
Everyone wants a society that is fair and provides education and healthcare for all. People clearly disagree about the means to achieve this, but as the ultimate socialism (communism and collectivisation) proved itself to be a disaster everywhere in the world, there must be a hidden reason why many socialists in the West still find it attractive to schmooze with the far left. The collapse of the SSSR, hunger in North Korea, Mao’s copying of Stalin’s mistakes and the state lead madness in all communist countries – without exception! - prove more than many words the fallacy of this ideology. Communism seems to go hand in hand with oppression, censorship and general state-driven violence.
What is so ‘fair’ about that?
People tend to absorb political statements - and stay with them: 'The Americans saved the world from Nazism'; 'The Americans beat communism'. But if you agree to this, you have succumbed to platitudes and simplified spin. Even knowledge from the now accessible archives in both East and West and interviews with key protagonists don’t seem to help change the accepted opinion. It is “Saving Private Ryan” on a massive scale, which is both fascinating and frightening.
From the other side of the fence the far Left keeps harping about 'American colonialism' and that ‘the Americans have created a world that is more dangerous than ever’. Perhaps – or perhaps the cause is more complex? The Gulf wars, from 1990 and onwards, might have given substance to this statement and fired up the ire of Mohamed Atta, as he ploughed his plane into the World Trade Centre in New York. But he could also have blamed France and Great Britain, as they drew the straight lines defining the Middle East borders in the 1920s. Where is the limit in time that makes a historically based claim obsolete? Schleswig-Holstein and Norway returned to Denmark? Interpretation and appreciation of political causality hasn’t moved far since antiquity!
Normally the argument about the dangerous Americans is followed by: the Americans won the Cold War.
No they didn’t!!
If anyone did, it was General Marshall and his economic support-plan. It was definitely not a result of a measured American policy.
No one won the Cold War.
It petered out in the wake of a quiet revolution behind the old Iron Curtain, the consequence of a failed economic and social system that starved the East Block into a feeling of “what now?”, as the sudden ‘peace’ took everyone by surprise.There were millions of losers: the peoples of Russia, Ukraina, Belo-Russia and the Caucasian and Asiatic Republics, who had been fooled for 70 years by a murderous and incompetent system. Today the Old East Block that managed to join the EU are limping ahead towards a dubious prosperity, but the road is thorny. At least they have the option to create a society with the freedom to choose.
The truth about the ascent of the Cold War will always be tainted by people's political colour. This essay, therefore, is a layman’s attempt to paint a picture of the last half of the 20th century as I have seen it. I grew up in that period and have vivid memories of most of the key events. Today information is easily accessible from both East and West, a fact that may help debunk many of the myths and the more emotional arguments presented by all parties.
I recognise that the period since 9/11 2001 deserves a closer analysis, but the key changes in the world have their direct roots in the events of the 20th century, the most murderous of all centuries in the history of humanity! Apart from a few related comments that story must wait until some other time.
Propaganda cheated everyone on both sides of the Iron Curtain, but in the West, at least, we could talk about it. We could protest or applaud. Even the Communists could do so, proven by the tendency, even fashion, in the 60s and 70s to be ‘red’. No one caused us any harm for that, bar perhaps McCarthy in a culturally isolated and parochial USA. At the age of 16 I was painting anti-nuclear signs on walls and street signs in Denmark, putting up posters illustrating the dangers. I doubt I would have received more than a slightly rapped knuckle if apprehended, whilst a Polish friend of mine went to jail for innocently corresponding with the West – with me, for example! Conversely, my name was entered in a book listing “enemies of society/ traitors” by the left, simply because of my employment at the Danish Ministry of Defence in 1970. It makes you wonder what would have happened if the communists had taken over!
Paranoia reigned until Gorbachev’s Perestroika put a pin in the balloon in 1989. Watching people dancing on the falling Berlin wall in 1989, put up in 1961 by Walter Ulbricht’s government to protect the East from the ‘horrible’ West (= stem the flood of fleeing, disillusioned East Germans), was an event of unparalleled euphoric dimensions. Gorbachev may have had different objectives with his Perestroika, being a dyed-in-the-wool communist, but he was the first to show the courage to begin adding a human face to a regime that had killed millions of their own people – in peace time! Events simply overtook him, proving the power of the stemmed up forces that had been created by years of oppression and knowledge about what had been lost in all those years. The “Communication Society” finished off where Gorbachev left: it gave people the knowledge and the power to put an end to the lies.
Since then electronic communication, (email, blogs, internet) has proved to be an extremely sharp sword, e.g. in China during the 1989 uprising and in the flawed Iranian election in 2009.
Today ‘secret’ documents virtually fall out of the old KGB, NKVD and STASI archives. But has this helped people on the streets of the East Block to speak up openly? Yes, to a certain extent, but not totally! “We don’t like Gorbachev”, they say, “he destroyed our orderly way of life, to which we had become accustomed and he destroyed our economy”. But there is still a deeply rooted reluctance to discuss everything openly and publicly! It is true that the habit of picking up critics at 04.00 in the morning is less normal, but horror stories still abound. In Ukraine Georgyi Gongadze, an openly critical Ukrainian journalist, was found in a forest outside Kyiv, missing his head; two members of parliament, Shcherban and Hetman, were found murdered; even in 2009 there is an incredible and debilitating level of corruption in Ukrainian politics and murky business deals are the order of the day; murder accusations, involving President Leonid Kuchma and the ex Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who was indicted for money laundering in California, have never been properly investigated; etc.
The demise of two of Putin’s critics, Anna Politkovskaja (shot in the lift when she left her flat), the dramatic polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London and the less than transparent tax-case against Khorderkhovskij prove that old ways die slowly. The list is long and indicate that a different order of the day has taken over from the strongly controlled communist days: political crime is now well and truly mixed with classic organised crime.
Where money rules, everything is possible.
THE CHAMPAGNE SOCIALISTS, HITLER AND STALIN
My thoughts were set in motion one evening after a discussion with a couple of people, who for me represent what I call “Champagne Socialists”. The French have their own argot for this: “Gauche caviar”. These people are typically well educated and have spent their life in secure, well-off societies. They have interesting and reasonably well paid jobs and are allowed to air even the most radical theories without being afraid of being picked up and receive the treatment described by one Ukrainian person: it was quite common to have our fingers caught between the door and the frame when we visited the KGB office.
The media would have classified them as “the Intelligentsia” or “Students”. I always thought this to be a contradiction of terms, but of course, there are many types of intelligence. Theirs seems to be coloured by naivety and a deliberate ignorance of the realities of life at the receiving end of Leninism!
When I happened to express my opinion “Stalin was much worse than Hitler” to my friends,
the answer came as an explosion:
- Stalin had no concentration camps and didn’t have a systematic extinction policy of specific people(s) like Hitler had. He was an idealist and people always oppose idealists. He didn’t kill nearly as many people as Hitler. Therefore he was not (as) bad.
- If the Americans would have dropped their aggressive presence around the world in the past 50 years, there would have been no cold war and the world today would be a safer place.
What planet did these guys live on? Perhaps we now have proof of a parallel universe linked by wormholes?
STALINAccepting Stalin as an idealist seems the most dangerous statement to me. It virtually legalises the transgressions perpetrated by people like Milosevich, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin and Pol Pot as it flies in the face of well-known facts. There are still people who firmly maintain the absence of the Holocaust, relegating it to the realm of fantasy and propaganda – the actor Mel Gibson’s family, for example. A few politically naïve and misled people seem to cling on to such nonsense. The leap to ignore the Gulags and mass murder of civilians is very small, but clearly nurtured by a huge number of old and new communists. So what’s the difference? Today we know all about it if we care to look, so how come that it is easier to exhibit tolerance for Stalin’s atrocities? Why is it so important to be in downright denial? Is it to do with the recognition that a lifetime of firmly held beliefs suddenly prove false?
KGB and NKVD documents describe in no uncertain terms what was going on in the 1930s until Stalin’s death in 1953 – and onwards. How can anyone then keep maintaining that Stalin worked in the best interests of the Motherland and forgive him for incredible atrocities and mass murder? Many supposedly intelligent, educated West European people, who live in a society with the opportunity to investigate and speak up freely, still propagate such beliefs in earnest! Many East-Europeans, who now in principle are as well informed as the West, look back at the Stalin days with sentimental longing!
I found a possible explanation for this paradox recently. It is an illustrative example from the logging industry in Omsk: lowly paid (or sometimes unpaid!) loggers still tapped Russia’s enormous forest resources, in 2004, in all kinds of weather, bringing the felled trees to the saw mill for processing – and that’s where it ends. In the Communist era the mill produced stacks of furniture that no one bought, but both loggers and the mill were paid from the central administration in Moscow, despite the obvious business flaws. Loggers and sawmill workers had a life. Left on their own they had not learnt to live and manage in a free market economy and are now consequently threatened with ruin and closure. So they all want the old system to return! It seems easier to continue with an illusion than try to adapt to a new and unknown way of life! Some of them even say: bring Stalin back, let him recreate the Gulags and put the Oligarchs in as prisoners! They may have a point in this case, but the argument to re-introduce Communism and collectivism is, of course, totally flawed. These feelings are representative for most of the country from the Ural to Vladivostok, also amongst young people, who maintain that “democracy does not work, but represents a huge step backwards”.
The Omsk model shows why.
So, how did Stalin manage to create a positive myth and even cause people to want him back 55 years after his death?
Russia is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of its natural resources: Oil, gold, steel, coal, forests and arable soil. You name it, Russia has it! Central administration of the whole economy was an essential part of the policy and it gave the administrators unprecedented power! Today we know how enormously wasteful and ineffective it was. Funds to run the empire centrally were available with no limits to the cost of a still rural and terribly poor population. These enormous riches were what the oligarchs grabbed when privatisation became possible: a collapsed central government and the uneducated, lethargic Russians made it child’s play for smart business people to buy up immense public assets for a song.
Stalin managed this mammoth task through implementing a ruthless process of using people, reorganising the country’s infrastructure, stealing and re-allocating people’s property and their means of sustaining their own lives! I don’t think that we will ever be able to count exactly how many people he got rid of, but official Russian estimates of 20-25 million dead, either in Gulags or during various political campaigns through murder and starvation, is an almost incomprehensible, but probably correct number.
Gulags played an important role in the taming of resistance, so if the Gulags were not concentration camps, what were they then? And if the wholesale, systematic and thoroughly planned extinction of peoples in the Ukraina-Caucasus arena was not comparable to Hitler’s paranoia with Gypsies and Jews, what was it then?
An example was the Kalmyks.
They were a leftover from the ‘Golden Horde’, concentrated in a small republic north of the Caspian Sea, squeezed in between Kazakhstan and Russia. The Kalmyks were Buddhists, a fact that in Stalin’s mind didn’t provide them with much incentive to join the communist plans for a social reorganisation and elimination of religious activities. He therefore moved in a many thousand strong ‘research-team’ from NKVD, who for several months systematically located every single Kalmyk by name, age, sex and address. In 1944 came the classic 04.00 in the morning knock on the door. They got 10 minutes to pack, healthy, sick, women and children alike, followed by an inhuman transport to Siberia, from where the majority never returned. Local Russians were left untouched and others were moved in taking over the Kalmyk property. The NKVD also knew the exact whereabouts of the Kalmyk officers, active in the Red Army and still fighting the retreating Germans. None of them were spared. They were all hauled away and either executed or sent off. KGB documents and interviews with old NKVD officers and survivors confirm this in frightening detail.
The same fate befell the Crimean Tartars, another Golden Horde residue and the populations of the ethnically rich cities on the Black Sea coast, encompassing Jews, Polish/ Lithuanians, Volga Germans and Pontic Greeks in addition to the Russians and Ukrainians. Everywhere Russians moved in taking possession of the suddenly vacant property. So where is the difference from Hitler’s taking over Jewish homes, handing them over to party-loyals?
Many of the peoples under the Soviet boot had co-operated with the Germans in the initial phases of the war, clearly spotting a chance of relief and freedom: Belo Russians, Ukrainians, Tartars and ostensibly there were 3 Kalmyk regiments under German military command in 1942. Stalin, being no master in the art of compromise, took that as wholesale treason and punished the entire Kalmyk nation.
More pertinent to today’s political situation in the Caucasus, it must not be forgotten that Stalin deported a large part of the Chechen population as well, but it was only after Perestroika that the Chechen revolution began. It is therefore hard to blame Stalin for the Chechen uprising, which probably is more to do with the changed world-order, Muslim brotherhood and importance of oil. In 1943 oil was also the object of Hitler’s frantic run towards Caucasus and his subsequent defeat.
We understand more of Stalin’s motives today, but I don’t think we will ever understand his mind in full. Perhaps there is nothing uniquely secret to understand. Milosevich and Pinochet seem to have had no moral scruples when recruiting people who were capable of unspeakable cruelty. People, who suddenly get into power positions and who clearly see the dangers if they fail (death, for example!) can be brought to do almost anything, but the really scary fact is that often the torturers don’t need to be threatened. The prospect of power seems to suffice. When at the same time the perpetrators are given access to food in severe hunger situations, such as in Ukraina in 1932-33, it is all too easy to understand why there was no dearth of Communist Commissars willing to execute the unspeakable.
But how about Stalin himself?
Firstly, he was afraid of dissent, way beyond paranoia, and he had a model!!
We know that he admired Ivan the Terrible (Ivan Groszhny) and for example involved himself in Eisenstein’s famous film about Ivan. Stalin even paralleled Ivan’s request to Elizabeth I for possible asylum, ‘just in case’, by suggesting a secret peace deal with the Germans - against passing Ukraine over to the Germans! The world might have looked quite differently if Hitler had been less insane and accepted!
Ivan’s terror-war against the Muslim Tartars in the 1560s no doubt provided great inspiration for Stalin when he wiped out the Kalmyks and the remaining Krim-Tartars in the 1940s. Ivan, like Stalin, tortured and killed both his Boyars and ordinary people in a frenzied 10-year period around 1560-70 that horrified contemporary Europe. Ostensibly the objective was to create, grow and anchor the fledgling Russian state and to that end both religion and murder went hand in hand as fully acceptable partners – as they always had. Ivan’s “Opritchniki” (killer-monks) must have been a great inspiration for Stalin’s NKVD. Curiously enough, even today many people believe that Ivan did the right thing. Some, especially the church (!), say “we need another Ivan to come and save our country”, an interesting statement, considering that Stalin destroyed numerous Russian and Ukrainian churches. In Lviv the impressive Dominican Cathedral was made into a “museum of atheism” and the St. Anna Church was made into a shoe factory. Most of these century-old churches are now rebuilt or restored to their former glory.
But while Ivan repented and still has weekly mass said for him today, paid at the time for all eternity, Stalin never did!
Secondly, Stalin more than proved that he was an incredibly power thirsty, ruthless, self-serving person, who had no regard for human life and who had no inhibitions whatsoever in terms of getting rid of his (mostly imagined) opponents. Like Ivan Grozshny, who personally supervised the torture and killing of people who happened to be at the wrong spot at the wrong time, Stalin ordered his ‘enemies’ tortured and killed, although he didn’t have Ivan’s desire to supervise it in person. In contrast to Hitler, and while Ivan used religion, Stalin didn’t need to create a new philosophy and felt no inclination to convince other people about his motivations. A convenient political theory that served his purpose already existed. The strange thing is that he killed communists and non-communists alike, just as he pleased: commissars; party members; local followers; etc. This is still being denied or ignored by many, despite both written and spoken proof! Ivan, at least, could say that the Boyars had poisoned his wife, Anastasia (which they probably did!). To Stalin it was all part of the power-game and for personal gain only.
But does it really matter whether the number of direct victims amounts to 1 million or 20 million? Or whether it was based on a political philosophy, however twisted, or a personal madness? Isn’t that just semantics?
So, let’s “nail the jelly to the wall”: was it acceptable for Stalin to pursue the collective, communist society and create the “new man” despite being fully aware of the heavy costs?
In my view the answer is, and always has been, an unmitigated ‘NO’.
What the Champagne Socialists so elegantly ignore is the global cruelty of the Communist collectivisation-principle and Stalin’s (and Mao’s) use of it.
Stalin reportedly quoted Lenin’s expression that ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking the eggs’. Let’s for argument’s sake go along with this concept as an essential part of the communist philosophy. Like many other political ideas it is impossible to talk about whether it is good or bad, right or wrong – it is a choice and will always have to be viewed through the glasses of history and our own beliefs and values. The question is how willing we are to accept the consequences in order to achieve our stated goals within our accepted moral codex. Were the Mayas and Aztecs wrong in their practice of human sacrifice? It didn’t seem to help! Was it wrong of the Khmer Rouge to execute half the population in Kampuchea? Should Mao have had more qualms about the process when he forced the relocation of farmers, a process that ostensibly cost 30 million lives? These are basic, philosophical questions, but some of us believe that the human voyage from surviving in the wilderness to living in civilised societies must be based on the respect for human life and a responsible attitude to our environment.
The omelette parable is false. It represents an unacceptable, intellectualised legalisation of thirst for power and use of violence.
Stalin was fully informed about the collectivisation horrors. I do not believe the goal was anything but a strengthening of his total power, using a convenient political theory as an excuse and the success of an ancestor as a model. His treatment of post-war Europe is proof enough of this statement. If the ideal were a society with equal rights and happiness for everyone, how come he would torture and kill untold numbers of the very object of this purpose: the people? Even Ivan Grozshny realised in the end that it was weakening the State and repented after accidentally killing his own son!
Hitler was in a way much easier to understand in all his madness. His three-pronged programme was clear: Lebensraum, communist extinction and a ‘clean’ society (i.e. kill the Jews, gypsies, handicapped etc.). But Hitler was but a war-monger like so many in history before him, consumed by the same anger that we unfortunately find in ultra right-wing societies in Europe today.
Both Hitler and Stalin had it in for the Ukrainians, albeit for different reasons. Hitler’s failing to realise the strategic advantage of using the Ukrainians in support of his Russian campaign is now recognised as a major mistake that probably cost him a victory.
There is, however a major difference between Hitler’s and Stalin’s impact on the world. Hitler’s elimination of ‘sub-human’ people and Stalin’s paranoia about control and consequent broad scale elimination and execution of millions of Ukrainians, Kalmyks, Tartars, Chechens and Russians may look like parallels, and the number of dead alone create some stark contrasts.
Ukraine recorded a documented loss of more than 7 million civilians during the requisition years. It is still not clear how many Russians, Tartars, Kalmyks, etc. died – before WWII had even started - but the number hovers around 15-20 million. This number of civilian dead tops Hitler’s murders by far. The important difference between them, however, must be sought in the impact on global society, the East-West confrontation and the still rumbling negative effect on millions of CIS-peoples. Using just casualty-lists as an argument for ‘who was worse than who’ doesn’t lead to any conclusion, although the 20 million Russian war-dead in WW II, topping the American official number of 291,000 does make the mind boggle.
The world without Hitler fell back to a status quo like so many times before: smashed lives and nations, but also an opportunity to rebuild power and wealth. Europe has been on that rollercoaster for 2000 years.
Stalin, in contrast, created a world that would never be the same again.
UKRAINA, THE KHOLKHOS AND COLLECTIVISATION
Let us have a closer look at a major event in 1932, known as the ‘Holodomor’.
Collectivisation in Russia and Ukraina was a main objective, forced through three devices:
a) requisition, b) deportation and c) murder.
Stalin’s representatives would turn up, make an inventory of your possessions (corn, livestock, food) and take it away. If you resisted, you’d be sent away in trainloads, reportedly so closely packed that you could only stand up. The lucky ones would be sent to collective farms, others to Siberia where they would be off-loaded to fend for themselves, i.e. not always in Gulags. Or you’d be shot. The latter was all too common and easier to administer. But wouldn’t that beat the purpose of manning the ‘Kholkhos’-farms? Several mass-graves have been found in Ukraine containing in excess of 100,000 bodies and there are bound to be more in Russia.
At the time Ukraina was the most agriculturally organised state in the East. Countless small farms existed in reasonable, albeit old fashioned, wealth. This meant that the smallholders had absolutely no motivation to give up their property. It fed their families! To push his purpose Stalin therefore resorted to violence. The question is: why this extreme? There is no doubt that agricultural reform was needed and to some it might have turned out less than advantageous, but murder, depravation, rape and plunder?
Perhaps the most important, reason for Stalin’s harsh focus on Ukraine was its history and drive for a sovereign state, which made it necessary - and opportune – for him to break their back once and for all! The Ivan-model. To push the process forward, Moscow issued a number of chilling decrees that called for the death penalty for resistance to collectivisation and for possessing food!! Considering that a large part of the population was self-supplying, taking away food and prohibiting possession caused the biggest man-made famine in the history of Europe (1932-33).
Simultaneously Stalin targeted the intelligentsia in Ukraine in order to minimise resistance, a process copied later in both Kampuchea and China.
The estimated casualty number is well in excess of 6 million Ukrainians, deliberately killed one way or another – in peacetime! Between 1930 and 1945 the estimated loss of Ukrainian lives exceeds 15 million people out of a population of less than 50 million.
Stalin knew exactly what was going on. Nevertheless, he persisted and even accelerated the process. Some of his commissars, who were concerned about the loss of life and filed a protest were summarily executed. Fabricated reports about the system’s success were produced instead. No wonder that later estimates produced numbers more to Stalin’s liking! Khrushchev, a Ukrainian himself, even admitted: no one cared; we stopped counting.
If collectivisation had proven successful, one could perhaps use the omelette argument, but it was a massive failure everywhere and the process was so filled with atrocities, rape, murder and human depravation that it defeats description – and hence probably belief! Several intellectuals, such as the novelist Romain Rolland, who called the secret police chief Henrik Yagoda “sensitive and intellectual” and H.G.Wells, who totally fell for Stalin’s charm in 1933, as well as contemporary Western journalists travelling in Russia and Ukraina, reported ‘no abnormalities’. Most of the so-called liberals of the time drooled over the Soviet state’s success, the “New Civilisation”, completely blinded and ignorant of the show Stalin put up during their visits. This would include elaborate caviar and champagne dinners, performing peasants in idyllic settings (after which the actors would be kicked back to their misery) and even a completely reconstructed Gulag, manned with tanned, well fed NKVD people! The American William Duranty even received the Pulitzer Prize for his “objective, authoritative and sensitive” description, a scandal that quietly has been hushed up in stark contrast to the initial tumultuous applause at the prize-party. Ostensibly it was the weight that tipped the scale for Roosevelt to grant the Soviet Union diplomatic recognition. This part of the Ukrainian history is still a little taboo for my Ukrainian friends. For some reason they feel uncomfortable talking about it. I am not sure why, but it could be to do with a level of shame about their past, where during WW II at least two Ukrainian freedom-groups fought with each other, with the Germans, with the Russians – and with other Ukrainians.
Ukraina is anything but a united entity – and never was!
Looking at the chaos today, perhaps it never will be.
Stalin’s power-paranoia made him summarily execute several thousand army officers (some say the majority!) before 1941, because he feared their power. This created a headless fighting force that only came into its own a couple of years into the war (1942-43), where battle experience began to count. If this was not paranoia, what was it then?
Zhukov and the Soviet Marine- and Air-Force generals only survived after 1945 because of their hugely popular status, but it didn’t prevent Stalin from demoting and deporting them to insignificant positions after the war, as he feared their execution could have destabilised his power.
THE CHAMPAGNE SOCIALIST PSYCHOLOGY – AND THE KGB
The psychological blind spot that helps glossing over Stalin’s atrocities must cover a fairly large area in some people’s retina: they simply don’t want to know. Would it hurt their self-esteem knowing what horrors they indirectly supported? Do they feel a level of shame, having enjoyed a lifetime’s safety and freedom to speak, never being hungry, never having feared the 4 a.m. knock on the door and not having a faint memory of relatives who were shot because they were caught trying to find food for their children? Or is there a psychological explanation in the fact, that if it is difficult to attack a failed system, in which you have expressed an open belief, then at least you can attack those who opposed it? Is this what America-bashing is about today? If you have seen your idols and ideas falling apart, people often turn to heavy criticism of their own environment.
Sandra Kalniete, a Lithuanian who helped fight for freedom in the 1980s and who was the first appointed Lithuanian commissioner to the EU, recently said that she wished her Grand Parents had been alive today so they could see how far the world had come; they spent their adult lives in a Gulag and Sandra herself was born in Siberia. Still she says: perhaps the suffering was worth the fight.
Try that one out for size, red brigade!
A scary TV-feature in 2003 showed a film of Saddam Hussein presiding over a meeting, where 25 opponents were pointed out by him, taken out of the room and shot there and then. Stalin did the same and Hitler had films made of the death throes of Stauffenberg et al. when they were strung up by piano wires from butcher’s hooks after the 20 July 1944 plot.
My point is: while I can understand the present dissatisfaction of the people in Omsk or Vladivostok, where water and electricity supply are lucky occasional events, it is an enigma how Stalin can continue to generate any sort of sentimental followership, let alone how anyone can play down his atrocities. It is completely beyond me, even if we assume it is based on an alleged idealism. Compare this to events in Iraq, where a Kurdish doctor recently said: “how can all these righteous people in Germany, France and England protest against the forceful removal of a genocidal killer, when they know how much the people in Iraq and Kurdistan have suffered? What right have they got to even speak up about my people when they chose to do nothing? In the face of murder, doing nothing is also a choice!”
We haven’t developed much since 1933.
It is interesting that Khrushchev, who himself had shown no mercy during the Ukrainian requisitions, tried to break with Stalinism. But it was too early. Brezhnjev and Andropov made sure that the ‘old’ values stayed put.
Andropov was of relatively little direct significance as General Secretary due to a short ‘reign’, from 1982-84, but he had a major influence on how KGB operated since his appointment as head in 1967, a job from which he resigned only in 1982 when to everyone’s surprise he succeeded Brezhnjev. It is only as of late that the West has recognised how successful KGB was in infiltrating national security organs – and, in particular, performing industrial espionage. The Russian archivist and KGB officer Metrokin painstakingly collected a vast library of KGB documents in a 20-year period until his retirement in 1985. This huge archive has now been ‘retrieved’ from under his dacha, where he hid it out of fear for his life. His documents confirm suspicions that have either been ignored by MI5 and the CIA, or that couldn’t be verified. A particular juicy bit is the revelation of “Tina”, a UK KGB-agent, whose identity only became known after publication of Metrokin’s documents. She was a ‘mere’ secretary, living quietly in South London in 2004, where she refused an interview with the BBC – but in the period just after the war she had access to virtually all documents relating to the English nuclear programme. Supplying this material to the Russians she is now recognised as the most important accelerator of the Russian programme to create the atom bomb! When Russia in September 1949 were counting down to the first A-bomb explosion, a US-report still estimated it would take them another 4-5 years to have one of their own. I tend to believe that if Tina had not been so successful, the allied would have dropped a couple of A-bombs on North Korea or even China during the Korean War and changed the map of the world dramatically.
Why did Metrokin enter into this almost obsessive activity of unmasking the KGB? In his own words it was “to document the activities of a mean, inhumane and terror-driven organisation that had lost its original track of protecting the Motherland“. Metrokin observed how KGB developed cells of activity that had nothing to do with its stated objectives. Some of these activities horrified Metrokin to the extent that he felt someone had to write it down and document it. He never thought he would see the day where his work would be published! One particularly horrific activity was the KGB’s self-driven creation of ‘Civil unrest’ cells. KGB was ostensibly responsible for the first book on the Kennedy murder ‘mystery’. They also created animosity between Jews and Blacks in the USA, causing for example bombings of black colleges and claiming Jewish responsibility. The infamous rabbi, Meir Kahane, took the bait and formed the Jewish Defence League (JDL) in 1968 – to the joy of KGB. Another activity started by KGB was the creation of operational cells that would start civil war action and terrorism against Western targets: power stations, railroad centres, radio stations etc. Apparently they believed they could undermine and destabilise the West without using the nuclear threat! To this end they had hundreds of secret weapon and explosives supply dumps dug down all over Europe, in forests, at the beach etc. Many of these were booby-trapped and only few have been excavated and made safe. Those that have been found have all been unveiled by Metrokin’s material!
KGB, led by Andropov, prepared all this. It is therefore strange to observe the emergence of an ‘Andropov Cult’ that maintains that Andropov was considerably more ‘humane’ than Brezhnjev. Perhaps it is because Andropov was the person who found and promoted Gorbachov, the founder of Perestroika? Perhaps Andropov’s focus on a powerful KGB was fuelled by the experience during his presence in Budapest, where he was instrumental in crushing the Hungarian uprising in 1956? Who knows? Did Andropov have anything to do with the incredibly cool-blooded execution on the 18th birthday of a group of teenage participants in the ’56 revolution, who could not be tried in 56 or 57 because they were too young according to the prevailing law? What kind of degraded human brain could even consider this and how inhumane can one become due to a political/ social conviction? At any rate there is an emergence of glorifying Andropov literature in the market today – followed by theories and hypothesises on “what would have happened to the Soviet Union if Andropov hadn’t been ill and died in 1984”. Ostensibly he did try to reduce corruption and start economic reforms, but his time was marred by ill health, the Afghan war, KGB intrigues, the shooting down of a civilian Airliner over Sakhalin and deadlock in the US/SSSR relationship.
There is also a simple explanation for the adulation: There is no logic in human behaviour when dealing with politics.
The above mentioned Police Chief, Yagoda, was as cruel and cold as they come, despite being described as charming. He was executed, begging for his life.
In modern day UK, 2009, a powerful, but unelected figure like Mandelsohn, controls the prime minister Gordon Brown, also unelected, like a puppet on a string, while playing a dubious game on the world scene with oligarchs like Deripaska. Such people put meat on the old political bone: “Politicians are interested in people. Not that this is always a virtue. Fleas are interested in dogs."
Brezhnjev, a Ukrainian from Kamenskoye, was a totally different man. He is still looked upon as a man who created stability in the SSSR. He was the most influential political figure in the SSSR between 1964 and 1982 and people cried when he died. He is not normally considered as a particularly great statesman by western standards, and he no doubt caused economic stagnation; reforms were simply put on hold. But under his huge Russian frame and bushy eyebrows, he may have represented the first hint of a looming departure from the anti-religious communism: when he signed the SALT-II agreement, he apparently said “God will not forgive us if we don’t do this” – to which Mikoyan looked into the ceiling and raised his hands in disbelief! A communist?
Obviously some twisted level of humour did survive the political chill!
THE CONSEQUENCE OF THE COLD WARMy conclusion of all these facts is succinct: Stalin’s perpetrations and his legacy had a much more long-term negative impact on the world of today than Hitler’s!
Hitler caused a large-scale war and a lot of deaths in a limited time frame. He did not change the West European map at all. He arguably precipitated huge East European turmoil, but this was not more than an extension of the suffering during, for example, the religious wars of the 17th century and the upheavals during the first World War that saw an end to the almost 1000 year old Habsburg empire.
In contrast, Stalin’s atrocities and the consequences of implementing communism, fuelling the 45 year long Cold War, changed the world fundamentally and left Eastern Europe, all the way to Kamchatka, in a physical and social mess, which is something the C.I.S. states still have great trouble dealing with! The Baltic States, Poland, the Czech republic (that by the way before 1939 was one of the 6 richest nations in the world) and Hungary are increasingly looking like any other West European state due to the opening of information, free move of people and knowledge and acceptance of a free market and a free political system. Krakow, Poland’s old capital, for example, resembles any well-off restored German Medieval City. Poland produces quality products, has a tremendously improved quality of life and is on a fast move to a Western standard of living. It may, however, take another generation before the feeling has become culture. When a Polish member of parliament was critically questioned about his programme, his answer was: “kiss my ass”. The balance is still fragile!
For Russia, Ukraine, Belo-Russia and the Caucasus republics there is a direct link back in history to a completely failed system, economic blood sucking, suppression and paranoia.
Stalin was more 'successful' in his large-scale infliction of human and economic misery than Hitler ever was. The total cost of his atrocities and their consequences by far exceed the costs of Hitler’s, both in number of deaths and in long-term social misery for millions.
THE UGLY AMERICANNow let’s have a look at the claim that the American presence outside of the USA was the direct cause of the Cold War and a threat to world peace today, as claimed by the leftists!
I think there is a very simple explanation.
It is like with strategy; you can only see the effect in the long term. An American friend once said to me: ” If a new president is successful, you have to thank the previous one”.
The Cold War’s cloak-and-dagger game provided the foundation for the 007-legend, the Pelican-Brief, the Ipcress File and other spy-thrillers with which Fleming, Forsyth, Bond and Caine entertained us, but reality exceeds the nightmares of fiction.
State infiltrations, murder, untraceable transfers of money and implementation of the rule: “any friend of our enemy is our enemy”, did more to damage the reputation on both sides than anything else.
This caused otherwise religiously well balanced states like Indonesia to grow radical Muslim factions, in this case led by the previous Indonesian Head of Intelligence, who during the Cold War worked for the Americans! His programme for the 2004 elections was 90% based on anti-American statements. Asked what his grudge against the Americans might be, he offers no other explanation than “American Colonialism”.
He has a point – the Cold War was based on a principle of obtaining as much power elsewhere, i.e. outside of Europe, as you could! And the means were not always peaceful.
The answer from the American ambassador to Jakarta was quite clear: “the rules of engagement have changed. We may have done things 20 years ago, which would be inconceivable today. Everybody did! We are different now and more open”.
It may take another generation of Indonesians to discover this! On the other hand, if they have all turned radical Muslims in 20 years, their receptacles may have closed down completely. Change creates change creates change - -
The end of the Cold War left America as the only superpower, but nobody likes it when someone else has complete power – even if it were a “gentle bully”. Total power is dangerous in more ways than the immediately evident: it tends to create an arrogance that slowly corrupts attitudes, visions and actions. The opinion of friends doesn’t count any more when it deviates from the “bully’s” view. Over time the ‘gentle bully’ may undergo almost imperceptible changes and slowly become the really bad guy on the block.
Bush examplifies this model all too well.
However, before Iraq and Abu Ghraib, I have a hard time seeing where the American ‘bully’ has transgressed in a major way, different from what we now know was the norm of the day at KGB. Taking out terrorist camps in Afghanistan has – or definitely should have - the free world’s total support.
This gets pretty close to explaining my point.
During the Cold War the Americans by and large had the upper hand. They were richer, had more resources and were considerably better organised than the East. Hence they had a potentially stronger impact in the target states where the Cold War could be fought.
This seems to have laid the foundation for the animosity some people feel today.
Iran and Iraq are good examples. The Iran-revolution in 1979 caused a previously well-supplied ally of America to change allegiance. The siege and hostage taking of 52 Americans for more than a year at the American embassy in Teheran and the intense verbal abuse, sent in the American direction, created strong feelings and adversary positions. During the Iran-Iraq conflict it was therefore natural for the Americans to supply Iraq with weapons, according to the friend/enemy principle – only to be caught out in the Iraq-Kuwait conflict in 1992.
When we today blame the Americans for having supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons we therefore demonstrate our capacity for forgetting history. We also forget that Saddam’s weapons were obtained from Western and non-Western countries alike, e.g. France and communist China!
Both presidents Bush have quite simply made a complete mess out of the Mid-Eastern situation.
The Israel/Palestinian problem also has direct links back home for the Americans because of a large, influential Jewish community in the USA. The Arab-Israeli wars did nothing to soften the feelings against the Americans in the Arabian world. With Chile, Nicaragua and the Cuban Bay of Pigs behind them the ugly American was born.
Most of the people that today are so anti-American live in states that can best be described as ‘less developed’. Here education and State communication is streamlined and indoctrinated. In the West, however, we have spent several hundred years gaining the freedom of thought, from Galileo’s mumbling under his breath that ‘it does move around the Sun anyway’ to our present day’s secular states with democracy, legal representation of many religions and a reasonably open education system, where few things are taboo. Even extreme religious sects, usually muslim such as Hizb-Ut-Tahir, are allowed under our misunderstood umbrella of political correctness.
This freedom is the spoils of our millennium long battle of the minds, a battle that had many martyrs before we achieved our present level of tolerance! However, From the 1960s and onwards generations of Near, Middle and Far East peoples have grown up being indoctrinated with hate against the Americans. This clearly rubbed off on the followers of socialism and Communism in the West (your enemy is my enemy). It is, therefore, upsetting to many of us to watch a return to fundamentalism. It is less obvious that it is happening in the USA, as it unfolds right under our nose and in small steps: creationism, evangelical orthodoxy and growing intolerance. In the rest of the world there is the march of the Muslims, where faith and state are becoming inextricably connected. The Koran dictates a law that totally integrates secular and religious life, virtually unchanged from the conditions of a 7th C. society. There is no space for any other religion. This is a fundamental difference from the values of a free choice that most Westerners, including our ‘local communists’, have come to cherish. It is often ignored, but it is bound to create conflict, especially when the Muslim point is injected into our midst by extremists and by the fact that Muslim couples in Europe today (2009) have 3.1 children on average, the rest of us 1.4. The most frequently chosen name in Brussels today is Mohamed and it is estimated that by 2030 there could be a Muslim government majority in France. In the post Cold War period the Muslim faith is indeed on a very successful march into Western societies, often carried by old animosities from the 1940-80s and from colonial days. Unfortunately it is becoming difficult to distinguish between radical Muslims and other terrorists, a concept that is skilfully used by some to call the ‘war on terror’ a ‘war on Muslims’ - clearly a muddle used for political purposes.
The reason for the Muslim success may be found in ourselves! The strength of the enemy can also be measured in our own weakness. The Western societies have degraded into materialism and individualism, both of which have had a devastating effect on the family structure. It is becoming increasingly difficult to see what it is that holds our society together, as our social cohesion disintegrates. When I compare this to the level of family-feeling in e.g. Ukraina, there is a world of difference. In this atmosphere a country like Afghanistan proved to be an ideal breeding ground for modern day religious terrorism. Afghanistan was always a ‘wild’ country that the British colonialists couldn’t tame in the 19th Century as little as the Russians in the 20th. The intolerant Taliban regime, with its 7th Century view of society and a vital poppy-economy, provides an ideal greenhouse for nurturing anti-American factions, such as Al Quaeda. The Afghanistan/ Iraq/ Iran/ Pakistan cluster has become a furnace of negative feelings towards the West in general and Uncle Sam in particular.
PROLIFERATION: WHO IS THE ENEMY AND WHO IS THE FRIEND?
An intelligent observer can only come to one conclusion about the dangers in the post Cold War world. It can be summarised in one word: “Proliferation”.
Previously conflicts were focused on geographically, or nationally, limited areas. It was nation against nation. Countries had assets that could be destroyed, or conquered, and economies that were generated in a national context, determining their capability to manage the process of conflict.
Conflict today is more than ever an emotional and often undefined issue, without geographical limitations and carried out by people of no specific nationality. Access to weapons is easy. Kalashnikovs, for example, kill ½ million civilians every year world-wide and any child can find a recipe for a bomb on the Internet! These are the true weapons of mass destruction. Small arms (and perhaps nuclear devices!) are obtainable as leftovers from countries that don’t need them any more – or from countries that produce them for economic gain. America, France and England are as bad in this sense as Russia, Serbia and China. I do not think we need to harbour any illusions about who is worst; the international arms market is a very scary place!
The admission of Abd El Kahn, a senior Pakistani scientist, who sold vital knowledge about his country’s nuclear know-how to Iran, Libya and North Korea, demonstrates how dangerous the world has become without even mentioning the USA. When Benazir Bhutto was prime Minister she repeatedly rejected requests of commercialising this knowledge, proving how little money could be made and focusing on the moral issue. It is interesting to observe how even Ghaddaffi backed down from his isolationist stand when this information was leaked, causing him to open his country for nuclear arms inspection. Did he watch Iraq and draw his own conclusions about risk?
Today many of the organisations that receive weapons and training in using them have no geographical or national anchor. They may have a religion that they feel worth fighting for, or they may have been brought up with a grudge or focus of hatred against ‘someone’, often against America as explained above. This upbringing has more often than not been emotional and irrational, using intense brainwashing on children from the earliest of ages. In this respect the Chinese, the Iranians, North Koreans and the Palestinians have been very effective.
When people are kept at a low level of education in intolerant and corrupt state-systems that either severely punishes aberrant behaviour or where the system has plainly broken down, then it is easy to make them believe that it is good, honourable or even a religious duty to die for the cause that their leaders chose to pound into their childhood brains. One only needs to look at the conflict in Sri Lanka, where an otherwise peaceful existence for hundreds of years between Tamils and Singhalese suddenly turned into 30 years of misery, poverty and killing due to a Tamil leadership totally off the track.
Goering said that “it is easy to take people to war; you just have to convince them they are under attack”! This explains in simple words Jaruzelski’s bellicose attitude, which was born out of a deeply lodged fear that Germany would challenge the Oder-Neisse border! It was a fear injected in his mind as a young officer under influence of the Russian occupancy of Poland and a good example of seeing the tree far away, but not the forest in front of him.
Stateless terrorism, aimed at well-established existing states, is as difficult to fight as guerrilla warfare, perhaps even impossible. Terrorists today don’t even need to use bombs! A telephone will do. They can paralyse a major airport and international traffic by merely threatening with an attack. Easy and cheap, just like the bully on my block who many years ago when I was 12 years old forced me to read books for 7 days in a row because he had promised me a beating if I went out playing.
The ‘Fight against Terrorism’, as declared by the American-UK alliance, with half-hearted support from a few other states, is bound to fail if the rules of engagement are not radically changed. The problem is that we don’t really know what the new rules should be. More stick? More carrot? Something else? We don’t even know exactly who the enemy is, we don’t understand his motivations, we have no clue about the most effective approach and sometimes we don’t even know how far our ‘friends’ will support us, chillingly demonstrated by France during the Iraq conflict in 2003, where they chose their own narrow, but massive, economic interests above the interests of the world community.
Perhaps most poignantly, the bombings in Madrid 11 March 2004 illustrate our world of today: the senselessness, the disregard for human values, the ruthless and cruel targeting of civilians. The alleged uncertainty of who perpetrated this atrocity and for what purpose is the trademark of ‘Proliferation’. The reaction of the Spanish population in general, was one of the most dignified reactions I have ever seen in response to an act that could have created counter-terror in all directions. They even saw through the government’s attempt to hide the Muslim origin of the terror in the ETA camp – telling Aznar through the ballot box what they thought about such political distortion 3 days later. Perhaps our best weapon against terrorism is this ability to stand together, proving how far our civilised societies and minds have come and refuse people with medieval attitudes to prosper. I wish that the screaming hordes, who prefer to storm screaming and flagellating through their cities in Muslim countries, would take the time to watch how a whole country like Spain can pour to the streets and stand still in solidarity, respect and remembrance of their dead!
How I prefer to live in this part of the world - - - - -
This new danger, proliferation, is nevertheless something we may have to learn living with for several years to come. It was by and large forged during the Cold War – and here’s the link back to Hitler, who rubbed the lamp long enough to force Stalin to start the Cold War with all its consequences.
The Americans, like all warring nations, are no doubt guilty of appalling acts that cannot be defended, e.g. senseless civilian strafing at No Gun Ri in 1950, the May Lai massacre, spraying of Agent Orange, etc., but to declare that it is just the ugly Americans who created a dangerous world through their mere presence is naïve, bordering on stupidity. The scandal of the Abu Ghraib prison and the indefensible mistreatment of prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay have not helped either! There is, however, a much wider and more systemic picture to understand. In time - and if we open our minds - it will help us unravel the various correlations. Through education and international collaboration we can help generate the tolerance that probably is the only way ahead. Bill Clinton has clearly expressed the American unilateral bullying as a huge mistake and Kofi Anan, the ex Secretary General of an otherwise impotent UN, seems to project exactly that line of thought.
THE AMERICANS, THEIR VIEW OF THE WORLD – AND HOW THEY ARE LOOKED UPON
When I saw people, many of whom probably meant well, in their ignorance and historical blindness like a bunch of emotionally under-developed teenagers jump up and down on Bush statues, burning American flags in London’s Trafalgar square, I could understand some of the emotional reasons, but something stinks. None of them demonstrated in front of the Iraqi embassy when Saddam gassed 1000s of Kurds, drained the wetlands in Southern Iraq, destroyed people’s livelihood and killing 100.000s of its inhabitants? Do we all remember that the West European protesters continued to demand the Allied forces to pull out while this was going on? Did this have an impact on the politically acceptable fact the Allied coalition held back their forces, passively watching Saddam crushing the Southern Iraq uprising and gassing the Kurds, while taking plenty of videos for the home cinema. Asked whether he won the battle but lost the war, Norman Schwartzkopf says “Rubbish. We fulfilled our mission”.
Did he really?
About ½ million bodies have been uncovered in Iraq so far, buried in mass graves, all killed by Saddam. Another ½ million are simply missing – most killed after Swartzkopf’s ‘success’. How did the demonstrators react to this?
Harbouring an unbiased view is a virtual impossibility. I am neither pro nor against the Americans. I am as critical as many Americans are themselves and I constantly try to find the checks and balances in life – and I change my opinion as facts demand a review. But what is a total enigma to me is why the so-called ‘left’ is unable to do the same and why they all have pre-fabricated opinions that you will find replicated wherever you go and talk to ‘leftists’, almost like dogmas in a religion.
It is true that Americans have a terrible tendency to be their own worst enemies in their lack of willingness to accept and understand other opinions and cultures. Their track-record shows that the USA is frighteningly able to transgress their own stated values. Les Spero, the CEO of SMG, a Philadelphia Consulting group, where I worked some years ago, wrote the following, in response to an e-mail from me. I had complained about their grossly violating our contract, something they regularly did, believing money and ownership put them beyond ethical behaviour. They had contracted with a customer in my territory without telling me and used resources promised to me, with the result that we lost a Swedish contract to the tune of $½ mill (our turnover was $1 mill. at the time). He unwittingly illustrated the worst of the American parochial, culturally ignorant and righteous attitude that many so much dislike:
You sounded disturbed by not being more deeply involved with this client.
Do not patronize yanks.
We have a far higher standard of living
We clearly have more freedoms
We have lower employment, higher labor force participation rates, greater cultural facilities, a more beautiful country.
We know we bailed you guys out twice from world wars, defeated communism. Do not patronize us. We are better than you. More important than that, do not in any way intimate to us that you are better than we.”
He could, to put it mildly, have been a bit more eloquent and thereby have had the cat by the tail. America is a rich, powerful and beautiful country that unfortunately, and too often, doesn’t feel the need to understand some of the more diverse opinions in the world – a 100 year old inheritance, exacerbated by the Cold War, and a result of state-introversion and having financial muscle! But the notion that “we defeated communism” has a wrong ring to it. As a system it defeated itself. If anyone defeated communism, it must have been General Marshall! (see below). But if you consider the unruly world of today, no one won the Cold War. It fizzled out with no winners, only losers.
America’s entry into the 1st and the 2nd WW was not a question of ‘bailing anyone out’. There was no white horse knight attitude about it. It took dramatic and hurtful events for them to wake up: repeated U-boat attacks led them to enter WW I only in April 1917 and WW II through the Japanes attack on Pearl Harbour 7 Dec. 1941. Nevertheless, they did come to their senses (although forced) and later had the power and will to do something about Milosevich (when invited by the Europeans) and people like Saddam Hussein and his gangsters in 2003! But they had to be stirred enough to get moving. Let’s not forget that they were very close to let Europe bleed to death in WW2 and even more so with the late entry in WW1 - and they plainly sacrificed Poland and the other previously sovereign states to Russia at Yalta in 1945. Even their entry into the Cold War was precipitated through a major scare: communism.
However, I definitely prefer the American “ignorance, domination and colonisation” (as mentioned by the Indonesian politician), to being suppressed by a Stalin, a Ceausescu, a Saddam, a Milosevich and others of their ilk. The champagne-socialists should thank their God (or the Americans, British and Russians) that they live in free countries today, where they are allowed to demonstrate without having to swing from one of Saddam’s ropes or Hitler’s piano-strings. I suppose that my personal feeling of security and comfort is buried in the fact that the USA was founded on the ‘Declaration of Independence and Human Rights’ in 1776. It is still a moral beacon despite actions regularly deviating from the text. This is why we can even begin to argue whether Kissinger was a war criminal or a great statesman.
In a global world the rules have changed dramatically and none of the type of dictators like the above mentioned should be accepted by the world community. None! The danger, of course, is that we get one of them in the White House one day, but at least there is a congress and a senate as counter weights. (Some say we already have one there – and my favourite Italian champagne-socialist friend has him marked in his book as a ‘cretino’!!). The red neck camps in South Virginia or mad religious fanatics, also found in the USA (ref. Parochialism, creationism and naivety) are unlikely ever to gain complete power, although they can cause a lot of damage. Ask, for example, the question: ”what on earth do religious missionaries do in Iraq today, where the emphasis should be on establishing a well functioning democracy?” Three of them were killed in 2004, but in my opinion, to allow such activity is an insult showing a total lack of respect for the locals. However, in the West we can still sleep at night, a luxury not allowed people in the DDR with diverging opinions in the 60s and 70s. But maybe I should keep just one eye open in case the US electoral system deteriorates even further than we saw in Florida between Bush and Gore in 2001? It was almost funny to hear Putin sweeping Colin Powell’s criticism of the March 2004 Russian elections off the table by referring to the way Bush won his presidential mandate! And then the table turned during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004-5, when Putin mingled personally in the process.
And to put politics in context: who would have thought that the UK in 2009 had an un-elected Prime Minister, un-elected cabinet members with broad sways of power and a Parliament, whose corruption lets many banana republics look like kindergartens?
Despite civilian casualties, the intervention in Iraq was never a war against the people. We may never know the size of the “collateral damage”, as the Americans call, but it has been massive. Military loss runs into several thousands. But I also think we can say with certainty that ‘uninvited’ parties are making winning the peace a tough task, illustrating that we hardly understand who the enemy is. The unfortunate, but expected, fumbling around by the Americans does not help on their image. Iraq is a spectacularly dangerous place with lots of foreign infiltration, requiring an almost inhuman understanding of the conditions and a balance between physical control and social guidance, the latter not being the strength of America. It is now widely recognised that although WMD were not found, Saddam was more than capable (and willing) to produce them at short notice. For that reason the discussion about whether he had them or not is rather unimportant. It was a political red herring. The one and only acceptable (objective) reason to invade Iraq, in my opinion, would have been to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He was a danger in every respect to both his own people and to world peace. However, such an excuse would not work. In our part of the world war cannot normally be justified through “we don’t like” someone. In that case Mugabe would be next and we should have made pulp of the corrupt misnomer Yassir Arafat long ago. Our only hope now is that we can help restoring Iraq to become a normal member of modern society, i.e. with right to a peaceful existence for its inhabitants, but the path to that goal is fraught with political thorns.
Time will show whether the resolution of the Saddam-affair was a gateway to resolve any issues in the Near East, disregarding the ulterior oil-motives! But the potential is clear. Despite the anti-Bush demonstrators’ myopic view of the world, I am forced to agree that the Americans have bungled the opportunity to create a new and better Middle East almost beyond repair.
THE COLD WAR AND PERESTROIKA.
First a couple of questions: Why would the ‘left’ in the West never denounce Ceausescu, Stalin and a mental abnormality as Honecker as strongly as they bashed Bush? Why are the old communist politicians still the ones that wield their wands in the CIS? And why can’t the Western ‘Left’, falsely labelled ‘students’ or ‘intelligentsia’, see the correlation between a miserable system and the state of affairs today?
Let’s take a couple of examples:
The Lithuanian Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas obviously thought he could continue the traditional dubious link between state and business in the East (read: mafia, corruption and asset collection!!). On the eve of the entry to the EU Lithuania took steps to eradicate this behaviour, taking him to court. It illustrates the massive cultural barriers facing the former sovereign East Block states.
In Georgia a peaceful revolution finally did away with Shevardnaze, the former Soviet Foreign minister. Saakashvili, an American-educated Georgian lawyer, who inherited a state in total shambles, a country turned into anarchy and poverty, for a while had a chance to show that history can be reversed. The hospital in Tbilisi, for example, was built for 400 patients: 3 Jan 2004 it had one, no electricity and no medicine! Saakashvili had some big issues cut out for him, one of which was the continued presence of the Russian army in Abkazia – but he bungled it, underestimating the power of the Russian bear and Putin’s delusions of power! This is a status that Putin is unlikely to change due to the Chechen neighbours.
The picture repeats itself in Ukraina. Rich in oil, steel, and coal and with a fertile soil that leaves the mid-west look like a desert, it remains poverty stricken. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand the background for the economic and human disaster caused by a one-party system off the rails, collectivism and central planning during 70 years of rule and Russian economic drainage, followed by 18 years of totally failed dabbling into how to run a modern state. If Ukraine collapses, as predicted by many due to the headless corrupt government, it will send reverberations into the whole of the Eastern block.
When Leonid Kravchuk came to power in 1992 he had no idea what it meant to govern. They still call him “the Fox”, meaning “the smart guy”. The sad fact is that years of central Russian control never taught him how to make a decision! His successor, Leonid Kuchma, has since 1994 failed to implement anything even close to what the World Bank in 1996 called the ‘potentially richest state in Europe within 10 years’! And how about ex Prime Minister Lazarenko (1995-6), who embezzled the state to the tune of $114 mill., participated in a couple of murders on the way and then fled to the USA? The situation around the Orange Revolution in 2004-5 was even worse than in 1996. I have personally observed some of the effects brought about by this state of affairs and Stalin’s heritage:
- teenage unemployment, criminality and drinking problems with street robberies (don’t consider jewels in pierced ears at night!) or people sneaking in from the street kicking out the banisters of the beautiful antique staircases in Lviv’s many old Austrian/ Hungarian houses, either because they are of ‘real wood’ and can burn (in a harsh winter) or because they sell on the street markets for a week’s official salary.
- 50% of the population trying to survive on less than $100/month (e.g. doctors!). Like everyone else they have to work in a black economy to survive.
- physical violence in the parliament in Kiev, where the concepts of democracy seems to be only a remote possibility.
- certain racketeering if you exceptionally manage to set up a successful business.
- courts that can be bribed and a police force that is closer to the mafia than you would like to know about.
- criminal business that gets away with the following genius-scheme: You find Josef Bloggski, give him $10,000 to become a front figure signing documents, carry out your illegal business and then when the ground gets hot and someone asks too many questions, Josef Bloggski disappears in an appropriate amount of concrete. Josef Bloggski can’t be prosecuted and you are innocent!
- and politicians who couldn’t be bothered to consider anything but lining their own pockets.
So why don’t the ordinary citizens in the restored Austrian imperial houses get out there in force with banners and protest, or why don’t a few strong men simply chase the vice away? When asked, there is a consistent answer: Fear and money! Fear of retribution, fear of the police car that sometimes is parked a little further down the street, fear of the 04.00 o’clock call in the morning going a little further than just asking you to keep your nose out of the police business. And money from the rich pickings a la Lazarenko once you are a few steps up the political ladder.
The reality of Ukraina in 2009 is a country where people don’t count and the politicians, the police, the judicial system and a powerful mafia are running a corrupt business that seems to go only one way: down-hill. This is the Ukraina that has received $8bill. from the IMF, but is being denied the totally promised: $16Bill. as no one knows what happened to the first 8. And this is the Ukraina that makes overtures to the EU!
It is the legacy of a system that Tina, Philby and many of the Champagne Socialists loved and promoted.
As a consequence this state of affair is now widely confused throughout the C.I.S. with “democracy doesn’t work either and has only served to support the oligarchs”. It is a national scandal that Putin in Russia is trying to correct in a typical Russian fashion surrounding himself with his old KGB-buddies, the ‘Siloviki’. Evil tongues maintain that the arrest of Khorderkhovsky, the Director of ‘Yukos’, was just a way to begin diverting the oligarch-funds to become Siloviki-funds. It must have been very threatening to a Russian mind to see a multi-billionaire pushing for the throne in Moscow! One can only surmise what was behind the helicopter ‘accident’ that killed Khorderkovski’s lawyer! But if we compare with the USA, where super rich corporations increasingly determine state politics and irresponsible banks can bring states to their knees, such as during the 2009 credit-crunch, we may have sympathy for Putin’s move despite the ostensibly dubious approach.
I would be very surprised if any middle to large organisation East of a line between Kaliningrad and Trieste is not running double bookkeeping. Taking Ukraina as a model it is not an exception to find 50% of company accounts to be legal and 50% to be hidden (some of which is used to pay off the mafia). And the Tax-inspectors know – often taking a bite of the cake too. A tax-evasion accusation must, therefore, be the easiest thing in the world to prove serving as an excuse to get rid of people – bar shooting them! From his exile in Siberia Khorderkhovski is presently contemplating what it means to threaten the established powers. Mixing politics and business in Russia is nothing new and has probably increased under the legacy of many years of corruption. The oligarchs in Russia have their cake and seem to enjoy eating it, as long as they stay clear of the political decision process under Putin. In Ukraina it seems to be a free for all: lots of money, and you’re in.
Were these ‘grabbers’ wrongdoers? Or smart business people, hearing the bell when Yeltsin made the state’s assets available and the SSSR broke up?
And for comparison: were the UK MPs wrong-doers, when they decided that the expense system could be considered part of their salary?
The ascent of the former occupied European States to the EU has made Ukraina a borderland between the rich and the poor. The 2004-introduction of visa requirements to Poland and the other new EU states, with which a prolific trade has been entertained across the Galician border, and the lack of any signs of economic reforms since then, has sent Ukraina even deeper into misery.
EU-members don’t need visas to visit Ukraina. Richer Poles travel to a cheap Ukraina picking up goods, causing massive inflation, in 2008 officially at 35%. As there is no economic growth in Ukraina the impact on the population is devastating. I would dare the prediction that without dramatic change and within 10 years, Ukraina could cease to exist as a sovereign state, become split in two or again become a part of Russia. The dependency is already evident in the East and South, Galicia has no economic power and people leave in droves to work abroad wherever possible. It is estimated that every third female member of a Ukrainian family is working abroad.
Without respect and focus on the welfare of the people, state forming has no chance of longevity. Kuchma and his family took what they could, receiving immunity for prosecution and things have not improved with Yuschenko and Timoshenko, the former Orange partners who cannot even talk to each other. It does not promote the country’s standing either, when critics of the system are found headless in the forests outside of Kyiv!
THE START OF THE COLD WAR.The seeds were laid when the West had experienced a totally inept Russian army meeting defeat after defeat – until it finally bounced back in 1942-43 after the three turning points: Stalingrad, Kursk and Moscow. This was no doubt helped a little by German megalomania, the Russian winter and Stalin’s realisation that he had better pull out of tactical decision-making, letting his generals run the war – which they did a good deal better than he did! Hitler was not that smart. He stayed ‘in befehl’ to the end!
It gave the Russians the clout that overwhelmed Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta. Having refused for two years to open a 2nd front through an invasion in France, the leaders of the West had lost Stalin’s respect. By tooth and claw he had held on despite the German onslaught and managed to rebuild what had become the most powerful army, Europe had ever seen. And now it stood at the gates to the West.
Roosevelt was ill and died 6 weeks after the Yalta conference. At Yalta he wanted out of the European mess as he had a war to fight in Japan and therefore didn’t want a protracted negotiation. Stalin was too powerful and therefore not susceptible to dictation. He even went as far as to flatter Roosevelt: “we don’t need to listen to this war-monger (Churchill), why don’t we organise everything between us as business men?” - and Roosevelt fell for it!
Churchill had committed a major ‘faux pas’ shortly before: during a meeting with Stalin he had passed a scribbled note with a suggested partitioning of Hungary, Greece and Poland, allocating a % of control to East and West (it became known as “Churchill’s naughty note”). The idea was no doubt to appease Stalin and suggest a realistic split of the spoils of war, but as a negotiation ploy it was like spilling the beans. Stalin immediately recognised it as Churchill giving in, and simply ignored it! As a result there is great bitterness amongst old Poles that England went to war for Poland, but, together with the Americans, sold out in Yalta!
Greece barely managed to stay west of the Iron Curtain, as Churchill’s support of the Greek democrats in the civil war against communism and a major injection of funds from the Marshall Plan made Greece a ‘western country’. Stalin never intervened on the side of the communists. This clearly showed that a firmer stance at Yalta would have paid off.
Consequently Churchill was on his own and too weak to play his favourite card: restoration of the occupied European nations to their pre-war democratic status. Stalin only agreed very hesitantly to the other objective, Berlin’s partitioning – but he did agree, even before Berlin was taken!
Stalin nevertheless let his two Generals, Zhukov and Konief, race each other to capture the city! Why? – Because of the nuclear installations at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, which he badly needed to secure before the Americans arrived. Zhukov (and the NKVD) won the race, securing vital Soviet nuclear know-how, but paying a huge and unnecessary casualty price due to this competition.
Churchill, on the other hand, gave Montgomery urgent marching orders to turn his army north and safeguard Denmark, moments before the Red Army. Without this action the Iron Curtain would have gone down a few hundred miles further west and north and provided the Soviet marine free exit out of the Baltic Sea!
Stalin’s signed promises to support a sovereign future of the occupied European states soon proved to be tactical lies. No one opposed him. The hopes of democratically elected governments were therefore squashed faster than the promises were given. Stalin’s goal was to install communist regimes in all occupied countries and he achieved this without an allied shot being fired during the next 2-3 years – but with plenty of internal drama, e.g. the now confirmed murder of Jan Masaryk in Czechoslovakia, initially claimed a suicide.
The Free French were not represented at Yalta. Perhaps the reason was de Gaulle’s complete lack of diplomatic skills and pronounced “anglo-fobia”. He had made an utter fool of himself several times with Churchill, who in turn almost gave up on the “French circus”, referring to Petain and other French leaders. For a while Churchill had even dictated that de Gaulle was to receive no information whatsoever from the English, a situation that lasted 2 weeks until de Gaulle softened his stance. Nevertheless, it was de Gaulle, who remained the official French focal point, who marched down the Champs Elysee with Churchill on liberation day. Today everyone tries to forget France’s responsibility in the Jew-deportations and the Vichy governments rather shady role during the war.
This is interesting in view of today’s events! Somehow the French managed to draw the short straw in a couple of important events: they protested and stayed away from the action at the first creation of Iraq in 1919 – and consequently lost a bite of the oil-cake. They took revenge by slowly building up strong trading relationships with the Arab countries in the 1970s. When Chirac in 1975 personally received the upcoming Saddam Hussein in Orly Airport it was the start of a relationship designed to give France an oil-power parallel to the American-Saudi marriage. It is estimated that Iraq has spent about $20Bill. trading with France between 1975 and 2000, much of it on sophisticated weapons and war-technology. Not to mention the nuclear state-of-the-art reactor, which was destroyed by Israel in a raid in 1981. If these numbers appear incredible, just consider that more than a thousand French contracting companies were involved in Iraq in this period. It would be highly surprising – if not incredible – if these facts did not have a heavy political impact when the prodigal s*** hit the fan in 2002. France was caught with the trousers further down than anyone else, as they stood to ‘lose important commercial interests and Mid-East investments’, an understated admission slipped by accident by a French Foreign Affairs person.
It was Churchill who gave the Iron Curtain its name in a speech in 1946 when he had been invited to visit Truman’s home town: “- - - an iron curtain has descended on the continent - -“. While Truman subsequently received a lot of flack for his inviting Churchill, this speech is today considered one of his best. I saw this interpreted by an American essayist as “it was Churchill’s desire to se Europe divided in order to increase English influence.” This is not only a severe misunderstanding and completely contrary to what we know about Churchill’s frustration at Yalta, it is also rubbish considering England’s bankrupt situation. The statement probably reflects Stalin’s success in isolating Churchill.
Roosevelt fell for Stalin’s flattery and failed to support Churchill concerning the re-establishment of free governments in the occupied European states. Churchill’s secretary at Yalta spoke of a “disillusioned, despondent Churchill, who didn’t even dictate minutes as he normally would do” immediately after the meetings.
Nevertheless, Khrustjev released Austria from the bear’s claw in 1955, apparently as a token of good will to the West after the disaster of the 1953 DDR-uprising. At the same time all allied troops left Austria. Russia had already given up occupation of the small Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea in 1946! They must severely have regretted doing so, considering the turn of events in the 1960s and 70s.
Back to Yalta: Unclear to the West, at Yalta the two most important post-war objectives from Stalin’s point of view were:
a) to have the previously free Eastern European states serve as a 600+ miles buffer zone between the west and Russia,
b) to create an economic repository that would help rebuild and supply his exhausted Motherland.
Stalin lied to get his will. It is that simple. Breaking his signed promises and exhibiting a medieval despot’s ruthless power over his subjects, Stalin became a major reason for our growing fear of “the East”.
The Cold War was truly of Stalin’s making.
He saw his chances of spreading communist control to the drained and bankrupt European countries. Later it was in his, and his successors’, interest to maintain a fear of the west amongst the suppressed people, as it would maintain status quo of power and control. The build-up of a soviet military power and the frantic activity to win the space-race served two purposes: stabilising the state with an iron fist and hiding the rolling economic disaster for the people through glorious parades and success in space. Today senior protagonists of both East and West admit that this generated mutual paranoia about the other party and that it served the purpose of a political power game, started by Stalin. Truman’s patience ran out in 1947 when he declared: “we will contain communism everywhere in the world” and again emphasised his determination after the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948.
The ‘Champagne Socialists’ should try to explain Stalin’s ‘idealism’ to the people of Poland and Czechoslovakia, where he in the late 1940s dismantled the manufacturing facilities and moved them to Russia! Whatever was left was reorganised in order to supply Russia with food and raw materials. In other words: he created agricultural states that were easier to keep subdued – for 40 years onwards! The enslavement of these countries was further exacerbated by forcing a central economy with fixed (undervalued) prices on export and an ‘a priori’ allocation of a large percentage of the produce going to Russia; oil, coal, steel, grain. Even a country like Ukraine, falsely called ‘Little Russia’, suffered hard from this forced, under-priced commerce with Russia.
The economic and human impact of this policy for the next 40 years was immense!
As a result Czechoslovakia would churn out mediocre products (Skoda!) contrary to the high quality manufacturing it had once produced - also Skoda, before 1939 – the reason for their surprising, but proudly and stubbornly sticking to the brand-name in recent years!
In 1945 the Americans finally succeeded in Japan showing the American might through the atom bomb. Stalin kept some skin on his nose by agreeing to join the war in Japan as promised, by August 18, but as Japan capitulated 15 Aug. that was an easy promise to keep. This was another broken Yalta promise, as he had committed to a much earlier entry.
There is no doubt that the existence of an American atom bomb fuelled Stalin’s paranoia and supported his desire to keep Eastern Europe in a steel grip as a buffer zone. It could be argued that the atom bomb was a major contributor to the Cold War, but that, in my opinion, is a distorted view. Stalin was quite determined to secure German nuclear knowledge already in 1945 (ref. the race to secure the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and the frantic search for and import of German scientists). He would have had a bomb before or later! However, the American atom bomb fuelled Stalin’s resolve to get one of his own as early as possible, but it must be remembered that the American bomb had nothing to do with Stalin. Fermi, Oppenheim, Bohr and all the other scientists, who worked on the project, all expressed serious moral and ethical doubts, but they were working for a state that was haemorrhaging in the Pacific war theatre. If anyone still has doubts about Stalin’s motives, just consider who started the Berlin blockade in 1948. It had been Stalin’s desire all along to take Berlin by himself. He deeply regretted his agreement to partition the city and now felt strong enough to push the point.
Despite the sabre rattling in 1946 and 47: If you need to put a date on the start of the Cold War, 1948 is the year and Berlin was the fuse.
I don’t believe that Stalin even for a moment contemplated the ideals of communism, the creation of a new society or the birth of a happy nation! These were propaganda slogans that played to his advantage. His goal was the same as Ivan Groszhny’s: a powerful state with himself in full control!! Whoever was against him – and often those who were not! – were summarily executed. Marx’s original idea, which was no more than a reasonable desire to share wealth and eradicate misuse of people, was forgotten. Social systems had bordered on slavery well into the 19th or even 20th century. Just think about child labour, the miserable living conditions of the workers in the industrial 1800s and the plight of servants, to name but a few. The original idea about a class-less society still exists in pockets around the world, but apart from a few Pacific Islands, where resources delimit the chances of further growth, and to the best of my knowledge, no such society has been implemented without degrading into an autocratic system that has to be defended by force and violence. Cuba is arguably the only “success”, considering fair education and a good health system. The cost is lack of freedom, a fact even the Cuban people don’t want to pay as witnessed by the fleeing hordes, who try to reach the USA in anything from yachts to converted amphibian Cadillacs!
With Eastern Europe his iron fists, supported by one of the strongest armies in the world, Stalin exhibited his will to preserve status quo through force. The East German uprising in 1953, a protest against all resources being used to feed Russia instead of supporting the everyday needs of the German people, cost 200 lives. All were killed by Russian military because Walther Ulbricht sat in stunned inactivity and watched! Poland, on the contrary, sent its own tanks against its citizens in 1956. Despite hundreds of dead, Gomulka thereby prevented a Russian intervention. Later Zhukov said: “We could have crushed you in 3 days”, to which Gomulka answered: “did you also calculate the potential loss on both sides?” A tough decision for Gomulka indeed! After the Hungary uprising in 1956 the two political systems and totally different values in human and economic terms went into stalemate.
At that time the Korean War was fresh in everyone’s mind. It was quite clear that a new armed conflict between East and West was the last thing anyone wished. Luckily MacArthur’s suggestion to ‘nuke the North Koreans and the Chinese back into the stone-age’ had been declined. It would no doubt have unleashed a Ragnarok. War in Europe, caused by support to the struggling occupied countries, was simply out of the question.
Dubcech and Svoboda’s attempt to create a more open and free Czech state in 1968, fully supported by the people, was therefore doomed to fail. There was no help and support to get from the West as a quiet and unsigned agreement about not getting involved within the ‘sphere of influence’ ruled decisions on both sides of the Iron Curtain. This fact had been fully illustrated during the Cuba-crisis in 1962, where Khrushchev had to order the return of the rocket carriers just before reaching Cuba.
This was the direct reason that the Cold War moved outside of Europe:
It was too dangerous and too close to home, whether home was Moscow, London or Washington - so the arena moved to Asia, Africa and South America, where all parties, incl. the Chinese, had a field day playing serious cloak and dagger. East and West today laugh a little about this and people from both sides agree that there was mutual paranoia. But in the countries, in which the Cold War was fought, it created feelings that are still alive today. In fact it probably created the whole idea of Americans being colonialists. Conveniently the ‘left’ doesn’t listen or learn. They use the notorious American failures in Chile and Nicaragua as an argument against America, instead of looking at it in context and compare with the Eastern generated stupidities during 1950-80, mainly in Africa: Congo, Uganda, Angola, Mozambique etc.
Paradoxically this helped the world become global via Communication, transport and opening of international trade in a constant search for cheap labour and new economies, proportionally with the increase in wealth, and cost, in both the USA and Western Europe.
WAS THE COLD WAR DUE TO A THREATENING AMERICAN OMNIPRESENCE?
Of course not. It started with Stalin and continued with Stalin until Truman was forced to promise containment in 1947. America was forced out of their often stated and preferred isolationism. People on both sides of the Iron Curtain were conveniently fed with stories about how dangerous the other party was. This was both a political device and a consequence of the automatic escalation – what I call “the neighbour feud”: My neighbour is a prat, so I don’t talk to him; then he doesn’t talk to me; then if I can bother him, I will – and then he will bother me, etc.
Did the Americans screw up? Yes, but not nearly as much as the Soviets, who admittedly exhausted their own countries life-blood in the arms and space race and proved their system to be a disastrous experiment with people’s lives, creating a raft of poor states and causing huge ecological disasters to boot: a rotting nuclear fleet; Chernobyl; inability to manage huge natural resources; a lack of knowledge, ability and ambition to govern for the people, reaching far into the 21st Century; etc. Leaders in the East have in the 90s admitted that their countries were under-managed and drained for resources, all of which went into the military and the space programme. They wouldn’t have stood a chance in a major classical conflict. The nuclear warheads would probably have done away with all of us anyway! This did not prevent them from having complete plans written up for a West European invasion, including a tactical nuclear attack on Denmark to create the passage for the navy that they failed to establish in 1945!! We found these hair-raisingly detailed documents in the STASI-archives in 1993.
The people who still propagate the Stalin-lies about a successful communist society should all be forced to have a 6 months stint in Russia (outside Moscow and St. Petersburg) or Ukraine, living as the locals, to see what Communism brought. Despite my 2005 ravings about caviar at $15/100g and champagne at $ 2/ bottle, pensioners who receive a miserly insufficient $20 per month speak their own language. Even these ‘cheap’ times have now (2009) gone as a consequence of failed government and rampant inflation.
Before Perestroika water supply seemed to function. In many places today it is only between 06.00 and 09.00 and from 18.00 till 21.00. A basic, but normalised, existence seemed to be the norm before 1989, although it would have appeared grey and strained by West European standards. It shows that the Marshall Plan was a strike of genius in terms of preventing such a system to flood Europe. Marshall put an effectively bankrupt Europe back on its feet, allowing us a quality of life in the 60s that Eastern Europe didn’t have even in 1991. It proved to be a strong device in the fight to keep communism at bay, the major objective with the plan. General Marshall was convinced after a discussion with Stalin, that Stalin was stalling for time, as it was in Stalin’s interest to see a poor and bankrupt Europe susceptible to a communist take over. Marshall therefore recommended speeding up the plan. $20Bill. were allocated (and $16Bill. used) to 16 countries, in particular Germany, where England was spending $1 mill per day in support; Greece ($400 Million, after England had stopped support in 1947) and France ($2.7 Billion, but only after the French had stopped widespread industrial action!). I find it fascinating that The Soviet union was offered a large chunk of the Marshall plan, but Stalin refused – perhaps the reason for the missing $4 Billion? Yugoslavia got $170 million, the only communist country to receive support despite the offer to all of them. Stalin felt this was an American trick – he called the Marshall Plan an “aggressive act” - and started the completely inadequate and impotent COMECON in response.
Italy was an interesting example: it was the first country where CIA played a massive role in turning the population’s hearts from the likely communist dominance at the elections! The tools ranged from election-supporting funds and activities by local agents, to a nothing less than genial suggestion of letting all Italian immigrants in America write back to their families in Italy, warning them against voting for the communists. Millions wrote – and it worked! Much later in life I understood why my parents were fans of Don Camillo and Fernandel’s film portrait of this figure!
The Marshall plan had two other major effects on the post-war West. Apart from being an essential instrument preventing the growth of communism it also had a self-serving effect, as receiving countries used the money to buy goods in the USA, the only country with an intact and strengthened post-war production capacity. This pushed the US economy enormously, a fact that has caused the left to criticise the plan heavily.
I can only suggest they move east to experience what Stalin’s decline of support meant.
Secondly, Europe adapted American management principles and manufacturing knowledge. The effect was that Europe was propelled way beyond the slow and vulnerable economies of the 1920-30s, leaving Eastern Europe to look on in envy for more than 40 years!
Interestingly, there is a parallel today: it is a thorn in the eye of Muslim countries that non-Muslims seem to fare considerably better. Could they have put their stakes on the wrong god?
As time passed, proof emerged that the Communist system was so flawed that it could not produce more than basic living conditions over a period of 70 years and it collapsed with only a single shot being fired against the Moscow White House in 1991. In the Ukraine 80% of the people are back to virtual serfdom and small-hold farming due to the failings of a state that never learned to govern, i.e. thinking about the people instead of apparatchiks lining their own pockets. A penetrating propensity for control, corrupt leadership and no tradition for effective management use up resources to no avail. The Eastern tradition of state and business being a tad too close does nothing to generate learning and progress. Constant ill thought-out attempts to provide economic reform only make things worse. As a result a large proportion of the economy is of a dubious nature – to use a politically correct euphemism. It is a big question whether foreign support reaches any further than to the luxury villas and Mercedes cars for the few. Lazarenko’s indictment in California is a glaring example and it does not even begin to approach the question of ‘who murdered whom’. A few courageous Ukrainians originally pressed on for an investigation of Kuchma and 17 other parliamentarians in Kyiv, who needed to explain the killings of journalists, politicians and business leaders, but the cases have been abandoned.
Ukraine will have to do a lot better before the overtures towards the EU will be heard. The EU-organised commission working in Kiev with the objective of bringing order in the economic chaos was a genuine attempt to stop money laundering, but it has clearly failed. Malpractice starts at the top. It is rare for people to bite the hand that feeds them and the near economic and political collapse that looms in 2009 may push a solution far into the future!
Fighting tradition in the old East Block is a tough business
THE WORLD TODAY AND ITS CHALLENGESThe present criticism against the Americans is not unreasonable. A tendency to support regimes with a miserable human rights track record and playing righteous policemen in areas producing oil rather than growing carrots paint a miserable picture. If the Americans have become the World’s policemen they would do well by examining their hearts and ask why they would totally ignore the Hutu/Tutsi killings in Rwanda, but immediately and indignantly go to Kuwait’s aid. According to Bill Clinton it was because he was too busy with the Israel/ Palestine peace plan – he even offered his apologies in a TV interview with Dimbleby on British TV!! Apologies for 600,000 killed without intervention. Or why they continued to support the government of Equatorial Guinea, where oil is flowing in the streets mixed with the inhabitants’ blood? Or why Mr. Cheney’s company, Halliburton, involved in the rebuilding of Iraq, got caught in a corruption scandal of overcharging for the contracts? Perhaps most strikingly the degradation of the American ‘freedom principle’ is demonstrated in the way the US handles the ‘peace’ in Iraq. Money has taken over from the human dream to the extent that POW-prison guards are contractors – not army personnel! Untrained, un-supervised civil personnel with no instructions, carrying a luggage of parochial redneck vision of another culture, are let loose – with responsibility – in a highly sensitive political and complex cultural environment. Their Trophy-photos (a rather disgusting word!) show treatment of the Abu Ghraib prisoners that leave the rest of the world looking upon the American ‘liberators’ with dismay. The righteousness of President Bush, the lack of sincere apologies and the self-important smirks of Donald Rumsfeld, who let the army investigate the army, were almost unbearable to watch. We have to ask the question: what is the difference between the beheading of a US soldier and other hostages in Iraq, shown on an Al Quaeda Internet site, and the illegal killing and filmed torture of Iraqi prisoners of war? I would expect such cruelty from Al Quaeda and societies with a medieval disregard for human life, but not from a Western state. At best it proves that there always will be rotten eggs in a big basket; Rumsfeld and Bush certainly didn’t come out clean. In 2009 there are calls to let Tony Blair give evidence at a hearing, as we realise that the Iraq war was the biggest foreign policy failure since the Suez crisis. Most of us (westerners) will want the perpetrators found and punished. I doubt there will be a similar call from the Muslim world in respect to the beheading, which by the way still is a public occurrence in Riyadh! The strategically important close relationship between the USA and Saudi Arabia is beginning to crack. If this is not contained and the Saudi Royal family loses power there will be a world calamity that will put the 2008 credit-crunch into the shade.
The $ has formed our present world and it has not always spoken a nice language. However it will continue to dominate for a while, although there are signs that it could change. The € is strong, but unpredictable at the moment. It has stabilised since its inception, but the cost of increasing the number of EU member states to 27 may be hard to fund. Many of them still struggle to get out of the failed communist economy. Future wars will continue to be economic and/or religious and we will no doubt continue to use the wrong arguments to justify our ulterior motives. One only needs to read the 2002 speeches of John Kerry, the Democratic US president candidate, and compare them to his version of Bush-bashing today; they are a study in hypocrisy and severely need re-writing in the light of facts in Iraq today. What did Clinton let slip in his Dimbleby interview? “ - - - Kerry will be a quite good president - - “. Quite?
We would be hugely naïve not to believe that the Middle East is an important economic playground with a domestic US-resonance and with the thirst for cheap oil, demanded by a dynamic domestic manufacturing industry and a high standard of living. The often heard argument “Look at what the Jews have done to the desert; the Arabs (Palestinians) can hardly make a date-palm grow” cannot justify the forced expatriation, killing and stealing of the property of the Palestinians. How the West can allow this situation to continue is a scandal and again: the Bush administration has only contributed negatively to a possible solution. The annexation of the Kuwaiti oil fields by Iraq was a serious economic threat and a threat to world stability and peace, important because of oil. And so it warranted intervention. The Israel-Palestinian conflict must be resolved for the same reason. But again the ‘left’ levels their criticism without balance. A country that has been attacked by its neighbours 4 times since 1947 is understandably apprehensive about its neighbours’ intentions. It is a conflict that can only be resolved through negotiation lead by a credible and trustworthy party. The Americans are too tainted by the Cold War history and now their fumbling in Iraq – but they are still the only realistic nation to play a decisive role in this question. Russia has had its teeth pulled and has a past that has generated no credibility, and the UN is, to all intents and purposes, powerless. It may seem like an impasse, but burning American flags in Trafalgar square and boycotting Israeli oranges will have no effect whatsoever. It is negative, childish and totally devoid of the constructive mind everyone is crying out for – the only thing that counts in a democratic society. Nevertheless, a solution has to be found. One can only wonder what might happen when the left cannot drive to work in their BMW 4-wheels any more? In May 2004 a barrel of oil was at its most expensive level ever, above $40 – but in relative terms not more expensive than when the first oil crisis hit in the 70s. In 2008 it topped at $145. And how about the headless commercial move into China? When one Billion Chinese can afford 800 cars pr. 1000 people as in the USA instead of the present 15 pr. 1000, oil will surely be $250/barrel or more – or not available at all? The Chinese are masters of nicking our technology, selling our own products back to us at dumping prices while introducing import stops. If that is not a crowbar breaking up economic stability, I don’t know what is.
The Americans should consider the negative contribution of their $-might to the world’s ecology: They produce 25% of the world’s pollution and use the world’s resources as if they were infinite, charging 25c/litre petrol at the filling stations while the rest of us bleed 160c/litre. A small country like Denmark has implemented ‘green taxes’ on anything to do with pollution and utilities, from insulation and energy to drinking water with an delimiting effect on local consumption – the whole point. A corresponding move by America, managed over time to avoid the negative systemic commercial effects, would have a really measurable consequence and provide the model behaviour we need today. This is why the Kyoto agreement does not go far enough and also why the Americans, instead of refusing a signature, should lead with a more progressive approach.
Despite its power, the USA has failed to provide leadership in the world. True Leadership demonstrates integrity. It will create followers because people trust their leaders, but they will only trust their leaders if they are convinced about the vision. This is at the core of the dilemma in the last 10 years: to believe in the vision we must see some evidence of its success. The Russians haven’t seen that evidence yet from their leaders and therefore yearn for Stalin to return. In fact they may get him before they think through Putin’s restoration of KGB and a return to resource gobbling control, visible in an impoverished Ukraine as well, where its citizens cannot buy a train ticket without showing a passport!!
State – and Global – leadership is required. A hopelessly ineffective Security Council and an all but impotent UN are a big disappointment to those of us, who had hoped the world would go from progress to strength in the past 40 years. The USA seems to be the only country that realistically could provide such leadership and perhaps Barrack Obama is the man? Whatever he does, the results of changed values and implementation of Democratic ideas may take years to form roots.
Let us for a moment try to apply the concepts of Business Leadership and Change Management to the Iraq situation (e.g. John Kotter’s 8 point model). The major difference between Business Leadership and State Leadership is the time horizon and the impact. The processes are by and large the same. Iraq ostensibly represented an imminent danger. The UN was unwilling to move, France had too many economic Mid-Eastern irons in the fire and Germany had been handcuffed by the Allied after WW-II with a clause in their constitution, forbidding them to become ‘aggressively’ involved with other nations! (I think there were other reasons why Schroeder expressed a negative attitude, but that is a long story). So as a ‘true’ Leader’ America felt it had to act. The first prerequisite to change, a sense of urgency, was present - we were told that Saddam could hit us all within 45 min., now admittedly pure nonsense. A lot of serious people even maintain it was a deliberate lie. Failing to generate support from the UN, the USA struggled to create a guiding coalition (UK, Spain), the second prerequisite for success. According to Clinton this was where Bush made his major mistake – USA should have continued the attempts to generate a wider support. The third factor, a vision (to find and destroy the WMD), was clearly stated and communicated. The alliance then went on trying to generate the first glimmer of success: finding at least some evidence (the fourth factor). That’s where they really failed. There may never have been any WMD. At least none were found. Or perhaps the definition of WMD was wrong? From an objective perspective the vision was certainly wrongly expressed. Perhaps we concentrated too much on the 45 minutes? Saddam was both able and willing to do ‘something’ and it doesn’t really matter whether it was 45 minutes or 45 days! But from a realistic perspective the vision was the only one that would have had a moral foundation. If the imminent dangers were taken away, there would have been no support!
The lack of WMD proves that the whole Iraq affair was on a losing track in terms of world acceptance and that it only was an initial ‘success’ for all the wrong reasons.
It is interesting, by the way, that the USA and Russia possess plenty of WMD and so do India, Pakistan, China, Israel and possibly North Korea and Iran. The mind boggles - - -
People always resist change! A business leader who fails to generate successful change is doomed, unless he is rich and owns the company in which case he personally determines whether he is doomed! Berlusconi, for example.
The Coalition Forces failed to generate a success as outlined, although Saddam and his gang were apprehended. The simple reason was that the success criteria were wrongly defined, a normal state of affairs in business! – but if stated honestly we would never have started the process and Saddam would have stayed in power. Would that be good or bad? Was Saddam really that dangerous? Some say no. My personal opinion is clear: of course he was dangerous. He had proved it many times over. If you were a surviving Kurd or a Shiite Muslim you would agree. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that Saddam was able to produce WMD in a very short time. The knowledge was there, some of it supplied by Abd El Khan from Pakistan, other elements sold by the UK, France and Russia! It doesn’t really matter whether we found any or not! We had to prevent potential deployment! It is unfortunate that America didn’t spend more time on the political scene before going to war with the objective of eliminating Saddam and his rule in Iraq. This is both the weakness and the strength of our democracies – we can’t possibly justify war for ‘personal’ reasons. It would have been honest talk, however, albeit I agree it would have been even harder, or impossible, to obtain support from the rest of the world. The combination of WMD and oil had painted a doomsday picture and a decision had to be made, despite touching the heart of the weakness in our democracy: going to war at the same time as we claim to live in peaceful societies that are based on respect, consensus and tolerance is a hard one to swallow.
But not to choose is also making a decision!
American Leadership in the Iraq invasion, blindly supported by Tony Blair, was grudgingly accepted – unfortunately for the wrong reasons and unfortunately so mismanaged that it is hard to see how the situation can ever be normalised. The underlying sad reasons are, more likely than not, probably to be found in two areas: the American desire to maintain an over-consuming domestic lifestyle and Blairs cling-on attitude to the USA. This is why there is general anger against the USA, but burning American flags in Trafalgar Square does not change this attitude. A level of real-politik must begin to enter the brains of the loonies before the world will listen. Our democracies are certainly not ideal, but probably the best option we have. Change is only acceptable as a result of a free debate. Otherwise we are no better than the Iraqi Ba’ath party, Communist Russians or Serbian despots.
Now, 6 years later, there is mounting evidence that both Bush and Blair lied to us.
Paradoxically, I generally find the Americans politically ‘un-dangerous’, because of the undoubtedly democratic foundation that empowers us to “click them in or out”!
Click – and they are gone.
Click – and they are back.
The EU-USA conflicts are played out mainly on the stock market. Serious enough for some, but a considerably more agreeable form of war than the ones we have witnessed in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. As my American friend Joe said: who is stupid enough to get into a pissing contest with a skunk? However, I don’t think he realised that this is the epitome of a ‘Bully-statement’. We shouldn’t even feel the need for the contest! For good or for bad: we call it the Free World and the only occupation by a ‘bad Yankee’ I can envisage is more McDonalds taking over the Corner Shops.
Now try to ‘click’ a Stalin, Saddam and others of that ilk out, a totally different matter that ranges at the bottom of the Murphy scale of needs: survival.
The Indonesians could click the Americans out as well, but of course they would miss the spoils of trade and a popular focal point for rallying the voters. Lacking a scapegoat they would also have to face their own frailness and deficiencies – always a hard thing to do.
Arab states have become rich on selling their oil (which was discovered by the West!), but with few exceptions (Kuwait) the wealth hasn’t done much for their own populations. Certainly not in Iraq and Iran. They should seek the blame in their own ranks and not with the Americans or the British.
Getting rid of despotic leaders is probably the first step to relieve us of terrorism.
We must learn to understand that ‘doing nothing’ equals acceptance as quoted by Seneca! Europe has proven too often that we let decisiveness in critical situations slip between the fingers, only to regret it later (e.g. Chamberlain), but the world has no place for killer-dictators. Potential megalomaniacs must understand this and some have. We still need to see Mugabe disappear into asylum in Yemen or Saudi Arabia, where he can join the memory of the syphilitic Mr. Amin! Perhaps someone’s God will take on that task some day?
It will probably remain a discussion point whether the Iraqi intervention was morally acceptable, but from an objective standpoint drastic action was needed, as the fumbling and impotence of the UN became more and more embarrassing. About as frustrating as when you heard Rumsfeld ‘order’ Hans Blix to “-- find Weapons of mass destruction – or else –“! Fortunately, Rumsfeld finally showed what he was really made of in the complete bungling of the peace.
So, why won’t America get the Israelis to comply with all the UN-resolutions? It would take next to nothing, considering the might of the USA. Why does the US always vote against resolutions that tend to criticise Israel? According to Bill Clinton, any US president, Republican or Democrat, will ALWAYS fight to the end to ensure that the state of Israel will not disappear! That’s fine, but: Security for Israel, creation of a sovereign Palestinian state on land already agreed, elimination of the corrupt Palestinian leadership of the last 40 years, removing all the illegal kibbutzim and simply stopping to kill on both sides – is that too much to demand? Aha, economy and dirty politics again? Jewish groups in the USA wielding their influence? Who knows?
Human hypocrisy has no end, as illustrated when a Hamas leader was asked whether they would give up all terror and violence if their demands were met. He refused to answer, which gave the Israelis a perfect and legitimate reason to kill the ‘Father’ of Hamas and the ‘Mother of all Suicide bombers’, Ahmed Yassin.
In other words: there will never be a Middle East solution before ALL parties agree to stop the killing and just get on with their lives – and so far Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PLO, Netanyahu and the other Israeli hawks and factions, have screwed up.
The ‘left’ forgets this balance in their rage against Israel. None of them have tried to be bombed out of a birthday party in a restaurant! They prefer to feed their own fires with false arguments that lead to nothing, because they serve no other purpose than America-bashing. As I mentioned before, if you can’t fight for your own cause because it has collapsed (communism) the second best is to criticise you present living conditions. Another way to put it: if I can’t win it my way then I can at least prevent my opponent from getting any satisfaction.
“Own happiness is great, but our neighbour’s unhappiness should not be ignored”.
It is a common (false) debate technique to attack failure to correct one problem by referring to the difficulty or unwillingness to remedy another, unrelated, problem; for example:
“Why blame Iraq when you do nothing about Israel”.
Saddam has killed in excess of a million of his own people, caused 3 wars and shown a brutality that the world of today CANNOT accept. There is little doubt that he was dangerous and he could probably be expected to do anything at any point in time! Perhaps a new world-order needs an entity that can deal with this situation. If the world community cannot agree (for a whole raft of reasons), is it then immoral of the USA to take action? Not entirely, I think – in this situation.
The Americans did provide leadership in this respect albeit, as mentioned, for the wrong reasons. Until proven otherwise Saddam himself was the only Weapon of Mass Destruction that ever existed. So that was one problem (almost) out of the way. Perhaps now the time has come to do something about Israel?
The Americans may have won the weapons-battle, although this is not quite certain in the light of the continued insurgence, but they are completely losing the PR-war. Bush told us that Saddam’s miserly $1/ person/year in Iraqi health care will be topped up by US-aid of $16/person. All the praise in the world if this were true, but did it happen? For whom and even why? It sounded good in an election year, but why not restoring water supply and electricity in the houses – 5 years after hostilities stopped there is still a lot to do. And it sounds hypocritical, when the embargo on products to Iraq and Iran has cost 10.000s of lives, especially children, because of a lack of drugs. They could easily have been supplied, not as financial help, but as goods, even paid by oil. The statement also sounds a little hollow when we know that many young recruits, serving in Iraq, come from poverty stricken areas of the USA (South Virginia) where unemployment runs into the high 30, perhaps 40%. They chose the military as their way out. Too many of them are now returning in body bags!
Or how about the hype at the Saddam catch – compare that to the Americans’ cool inaction when they passively watched Saddam’s genocide of Kurds and Shiite Muslims in 1991? The US didn’t even shy away from staging a Hollywood rescue of ‘Private Ryan’ – a young female GI ‘captured’ by the Iraqis! A TV reporter actually slipped the name Ryan!!!! The whole affair was a hoax.
Have the Americans made the world more dangerous to live in? Perhaps, but only so lately. The fall of the SSSR and the demise of the communist dream are in my opinion top contenders for the danger-position. When an economy collapses and people are forced to scramble for food, there is no limit to what they will do: knock out antique banisters or bring nuclear warheads to the market. It could be argued that there would be no sellers if there were no buyers. So did the Americans create the buyers? Did they create a new wave of international terrorism or did fertile soil for this scourge already exist? Remember Carlos? Rote Arme Faction? IRA, Muslim/ Christian clashes in Indonesia and the Philippines? Tamil Tigers? Palestinian terrorists massacring Olympic sports people and carrying out plane hijackings? Killer squads in South America? Libya? The list is endless! The difference today is that on 9/11, for the first time in history, the terrorist threat has been brought to the American homeland! It has become truly borderless through ‘Proliferation’.
I believe that state of the world today is caused by the highly chaotic events of the Cold War. Because the Americans generally are claimed to be the ‘winners’ - a misrepresentation of facts: they just happened to come out on top – the present status is claimed to be their fault. It is a sad fact that most people deliberately ignore the systemic mechanisms in the world and only think with their emotions. This creates false arguments that obscure both the problem and the solution.
Today we are forced to deal with fanatic groups (religious or not); hunger; Russia’s rusting nuclear fleet in the arctic waters; flaring of the gas from the Nigerian oil fields releasing 30 Mill. Tonnes of CO2 and 12 Mill. Tonnes of Methane pr. year – about 20% of the flaring pollution in the world, produced by a company that for more than 10 years has spent millions in advertising Dollars, telling us about its ecological responsibility: Shell; nuclear waste from e.g. Chernobyl leaking into the ground water and rivers of the Ukraine and beyond; a water-less Aral lake caused by diversion of rivers into misunderstood cotton field irrigation; a fish-less North Sea and Atlantic Ocean; an all but dead Black Sea caused by the World Bank in its incredibly stupid support for an over-dimensioned Turkish fishing fleet (which is now rusting ashore because of over-fishing!); mass emigration of poor people; 1 billion Chinese wanting Western wealth with unimaginable consequences for ecology and economic change; destruction of the world’s lungs in the Amazonas and Indonesia; huge changes in Business conditions e.g. China and India’s taking over European Service industries and European manufacturing bolting off to the new East European states or to China, the fertilizer of most of Asia’s economic growth at the moment; an ecologically bankrupt Russia where 100s of old Stalinist chemical factories have cut the average life expectancy to 40 years in the areas where they are located – witness the dates on the headstones in the cemeteries!
Does the learning from history matter? Looking at how we repeat the same old mistakes and continue to commit the same atrocities, one must of course say YES. But do we actually learn?
In business we don’t seem to learn either. Consultants still run endless seminars on Leadership, Team Building and Effective Organisational Change. Why? Does nothing stick?
My answer is: Yes we do learn, both in business and in life. It just takes time and the learning curve for humanity is long and cumbersome. New (young) people have to pick up where the old often failed to provide continuity in both business and family learning. But even just a little learning will help improve our tolerance level in the future and thereby create a quality of life through both organisational learning and life-long family learning.
If learning didn’t matter, our business organisations would look like in the 1850s – or 1950s – and they don’t! It is the same with the world – we DO learn, although pathetically slow and a lot of new learners have to go through the same labyrinth as we did. At the same time we have to modify our learning because the action theatre has grown so much larger and endlessly more complex!
Learning does matter! This is why, in a global world, we cannot afford to think isolationist any more, but must begin to establish a new, global order. We have a common responsibility. An example of the thinking ahead is the international court, which will bring international transgressors to justice, if we can find them – Mladic and Karadzic, for example. The enlightened world doesn’t accept the old order any more. We should accept hunger and disease in the third world as little as we should accept Saddam Hussein killing a million people. However, alleviating the hunger does not solve the problem. We must begin to sort out the underlying causes, while dealing with the systemic effects of the solutions, such as an explosion in population. Moreover, the inability to solve one problem must not prevent us from attacking the others head on!
Contemplate for a second the question why Cuban people flee, ostensibly from a level of security, to a country, the USA, that definitely does not provide a safety net for the have-nots? The answer must lie in the human species itself!
People have wants and desires; some will always be more aggressive than others. The quest for equal happiness for all is impossible: we can’t all own a villa at the coast, a luxury yacht, or have filet mignon every day, so life is bound to be diverse, causing a level of jealousy and envy.
This is point zero of the political entropy and it can only go one way from there.
The Marxist ideology is a delusion, which inevitably will degrade into autocracy, dictatorship and a class who ‘has’, ruling the people who ‘have not’! The simple reason is that resources in the widest aspect of the word are limited and our search for balance and sharing is ill defined. The average Joe Bloggski in the SSSR days didn’t have much fire in the belly – and still hasn’t, so he wants Stalin back or at least someone who can provide a minimum of food and shelter. A class-less system can therefore only be defended by force after which it will degrade into a class society by definition. If you don’t believe this, just watch North Korea, where 1-2 million people died of hunger and the ruling class survived.
It has taken Western societies 230 years to reach a compromise with at least a nominal and fair chance for everyone to find happiness (ref the US declaration of 1776) and with that condition built into most Western constitutions today. This system may not be fair either, but it is the best we have got. Already in the 1930s Denmark was called a country, “where few have too much and fewer too little” – a modified level of socialism representing respect for human beings and allowing some freedom for creativity, ability and entrepreneurship to prosper. This is what we don’t want to see destroyed, neither by medieval Muslim radicals nor by deluded Communists or megalomaniac dictators around the world.
Once people have been educated and have free access to information there is no power in the world that can hold them back from trying to generate a system of “equal opportunity”. Iran is bursting with people who haven’t forgotten what education brings. This brings them to the streets when pressed by a stolen election (2009), while Palestinian suicide bombers are a good example of the misled; they are willing to give their life to support a Muslim state (Hamas’ declared objective). They are not fighting for freedom! Less dramatically, but with a powerful effect, are the ‘immigrating’ Ukrainians, who flee from the incompetence of their leaders to find work in Western Europe. Considering that they finally got their century-long wish fulfilled, a sovereign state, hardly 15 years ago, it is nothing less than tragic.
The conclusion must be that a state that does not take care of its citizens (e.g. DDR 1953, Ukraina today) has no chance of long-term survival, unless the leadership resorts to force, being it physical or economical. This approach, however, has no longevity. Iran will change as well for this reason.
In the old, under-educated and under-developed world there is still a rich breeding ground for power-sick would-be dictators, who can rule and exploit as they please, because the population is kept at a level we in the West have not seen for 200 years. Most of Africa is a good example with corrupt leaders from Nigeria and Sierra Leone to Zimbabwe, Congo and Mozambique.
It would suit the left, and more recently the Muslims, to take the parsley out of their ears, leave the old dogmas and skeletons buried in their rusting cupboards, stop the energy wasting USA-bashing and seek a more reasonable balance. Bush was perhaps not the world’s smartest guy, perhaps even a ‘cretino’ as my friend Carlo says and his administration has certainly made a mess out of the hell in Iraq, but there is a more proactive and positive job to be done. This should be done within the framework of our hard-won democratic principles and not through changing the world the “Provisional IRA”, “Bali-bombing” or “Madrid-bombing” way nor through the increasingly oppressive and KGB-controlled way of Putin’s modern Russia or through the senseless flag-burning at Trafalgar Square. As Yoko Ono said: “instead of being critical of others, we should start to look into ourselves”. It looks as though the Americans have started to do so when they elected Barrack Obama! As the biggest financial and military power in the world they must learn to open their minds and use their $-might to provide leadership on the burning issues in our world, helping to create sustainable living conditions for our children and their children’s children.
Let us hope that the greed, demonstrated through the fall of Enron, AIG, a number of banks – and most politicians – thereby creating an all but bankrupt world, is not going to prevent progress in the longer term.
Even though Blair and Bush did their best to sow chaos!
So, who won the Cold War? No one.
Who defeated Communism? It did.
Whose country is the most beautiful? Mine.
Did we find any WMD in Iraq? Yes – Saddam.
Was it Stalin’s fault that communism failed and does that justify another attempt to introduce a red dawn without corrupt leadership? NO -The system was doomed from the start and still is. There will always be a comrade Napoleon, feeling inclined to grab the reins when resources are in short supply and collectivism dictates ‘no leader’.
Does Stalin’s legacy from terror and paranoia still impact millions of people? Yes.
Democracy, with all its faults, seems to be the only way ahead, but we have to learn to talk ourselves out of conflicts – not fight them off.
Was Stalin worse than Hitler? - - - - Definitely YES!
And if you still don't believe me, here's a quote from a Russian blog-site:
"The truth is, however, that Stalin’s Russia differed from Hitler’s Germany in one profound way: it treated its own people with even greater savagery than its enemies and those it conquered."
Quod erat demonstrandum!!
“It is, by far, our choices that prove who we truly are. Not our abilities.
Professor Dumbledore, Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Wizardry, 1998.
And they say that the ‘Revolution year’ of 1830 was unique?
How about 1989?
April 5: Poland. The Communist government and Solidarity agree to share power and hold free elections.
May 8: Yugoslavia. The nationalist Slobodan Milosevic is elected as president.
June 4: Poland. Solidarity wins a huge majority of the vote, including 96 of 100 Senate seats.
Aug. 19: Poland. Mazowiecki is elected as Poland's first non-Communist prime minister.
Sept. 10: Hungary. 60,000 East Germans go through Hungary to cross into Austria.
Sept. 27: Yugoslavia. Slovenia asserts its right to secede from Yugoslavia.
Oct 7: Hungary. Socialist Workers Party (formerly Communist) renounces Marxism, embraces democratic socialism, and is renamed the Hungarian Socialist Party.
Oct. 18: East Germany. Mass demonstrations force President Eric Honecker to resign.
Oct. 18: Hungary. Parliament ends the one-party monopoly and announces elections for next year.
Autumn.: Husak, Honecker and Ceausescu, horrified over the events in Poland, try to convince Gorbachev to intervene militarily, but get a blank ‘No’ in response.
Nov. 9: East Germany. The Berlin Wall is opened and five million people come to Berlin to celebrate the end of the Wall, the end of the Cold War, the end of Communism, and the reunification of Germany.
Nov. 10: Bulgaria: Todor Zhikov, head of state and leader of the Communist Party for 35 years, resigns.
Nov. 17: Czechoslovakia, Hundreds of thousands of protesters march in Prague.
Dec. 10: Czechoslovakia. President Husak resigns and installs a coalition cabinet with communists in the minority.
Dec. 13: Bulgaria. The Communist Party renounces their monopoly on power.
Dec. 16-21: Romania. Security forces open fire on thousands of demonstrators; hundreds are killed and buried in mass graves. As Christmas arrives, everyone in Europe watches the revolution on television.
Dec. 22: Romania. The army revolts, joining with demonstrators, and the Council of National Salvation declares the government to be overthrown.
Dec. 25: Romania. In a two-hour trial, the Communist dictator Ceausescu and his wife are convicted of genocide and immediately executed by machine gunfire.
Dec. 26: Poland. Radical free-market reform plan is announced.
Dec. 29: Czechoslovakia. Playwright and human rights campaigner Vaclav Havel, who spent years in prison as a dissident, is the new president of Czechoslovakia.
(Borrowed from Andreas Ramos, http://www.andreas.com/berlin-more.html 20-4-2004)