Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Anti-Russia Syndrome


I normally cast aside explanations of events based on the psychology of the actors, but this has been hard to do in recent months. How else, apart from signs of paranoia, can one explain the never-ending stories in the mainstream media about the Russian menace?
A constant tirade against Russia emanates from television and radio channels, and from all the ‘quality’ newspapers and reporters. (See this Youtube video of Putin explaining that the BBC’s John Simpson has no ‘common sense’). Only the topic changes with the times. One early focus was Russia’s intervention in Crimea/Ukraine, which upset US and European strategy. The next was how Russia’s support for Assad in Syria unravelled and sidelined disastrous western policy. One of the latest is the election of Trump, billionaire-in-chief of the US hegemon. A shocked US political elite can only put down Trump’s election to the nefarious Russkies, not to domestic political reaction. Right on cue, a British ex-MI6 agent provided a dossier of ‘evidence’ to ‘demonstrate’ that Putin was in a position to blackmail Trump! If that were not bad enough to show how the commies were undermining western liberal democracy, new stories are about Russian support for Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France and other rightwing parties in Europe.
The anti-Russia syndrome reflects two things outside the realm of psychosis. Firstly, it is a sign of big power frustration with a permanent member of the UN Security Council that can veto US-led UN resolutions and which can also back up its policies with military firepower. Secondly, the chronic phase of the crisis persists, and this is straining the political infrastructure, as most clearly seen with the Brexit and Trump votes. ‘Anti-communism’ is one of the few comfort blankets that the western powers can cling on to in these troubling times and pretend that they are all still in the same gang.
Take the UK government, for example. No longer invited to any EU soirĂ©es, the UK has to grandstand at NATO. The UK Ministry of Defence today declared that one of its key objectives for this week’s NATO summit in Brussels was
“to ensure the Alliance continues to make progress on taking forward the ambitious agenda agreed at Warsaw, in particular on modern defence and deterrence towards Russia. On that front (literally), the enhanced forward presence of NATO battlegroups is deploying this Spring to the Baltic States and Poland, with the UK proud to be leading the formation in Estonia, one of our most effective Allies in the Helmand campaign.”
The anti-Russian strategy has been a hallmark of British imperialism ever since the October revolution of 1917, and it has helped shape, or has been used in, almost all of its other policies. From the late 1930s/early 1940s, Britain focused upon splitting India into two countries, so as to make the new Pakistan a bulwark against any Russian incursion into its interests in the Indian subcontinent and the Persian Gulf. Britain also feared Soviet involvement to stymie its attempts to re-establish its colonial empire (and those of other powers) in the late 1940s. Britain went out of its way to support Moslem fundamentalism in the Middle East and North Africa as a counter-weight to local demands for freedom from foreign domination, usually put forward by secular nationalists, and it justified this by using the fear of ‘communist subversion’, even when that was completely unfounded. Similarly, Britain used the Soviet threat as a way to get the Americans to back its policies, as with the US involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew Mossadegh in Iran. There were many other such initiatives, as documented in Stephen Dorrill’s MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations.
Russia has completely embarrassed British and American political strategy at a time when Britain wants to hold on to its role as facilitator for that strategy in European and beyond. Now, post-Brexit, the Brits are high and dry, but Theresa May hopes to continue to hold hands with Donald Trump over NATO. Expect more

Tony Norfield, 15 February 2017

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Sussex

Next Thursday, 16 February, I will be giving a lecture on 'Capitalism, Imperialism and Finance' at the University of Sussex, Falmer, near Brighton.

The session is run by their Centre for Global Political Economy, and Sam Knafo will be a discussant.

It is from 5-7pm, the location on the campus being Essex 18.

If that's convenient for you, I look forward to seeing you there.

Tony Norfield, 9 February 2017

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Finance and the Imperialist World Economy

I will be giving a lecture next week at King's College, London, on Wednesday 8 February.

The session is from 6pm to 8pm, and is part of a series of seminars at King's on Contemporary Marxist Theory.

The seminars are open to the public, but arrive in time to get signed in if you want to attend.

Venue details:
342N Norfolk Building (entrance on Surrey St)
King's College London, Strand, London WC2R

Summary of topics:
This paper discusses how the financial system both expresses and reinforces the power of major countries. Developing Marx’s theory by examining bank credit creation, bond and equity markets, the paper shows how what Marx called the ‘law of value’ is modified by the evolution of finance. To understand imperialism today, one has to recognise how financial markets help the centralisation of ownership and control of the world economy. They are also an important way in which the US and the UK siphon off the world’s resources. The question of Brexit and the City of London is also discussed.

Tony Norfield, 1 February 2017