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PostFragility of Western Freedoms, According to Zelensky (Consoly Leon Arias, Spain / Canary, 04/06/22 11:04 am)
Yesterday Zelensky addressed the Congress of Deputies, and therefore, the Spanish people, with a request for help, but also with a clear warning about the fragility of some systems of freedoms that Western democracies take for granted.
His words apprised Spanish society of the situation in Ukraine, so that they could imagine the horror that nation is living, at the mercy of Putin's homicidal whims.
This is nothing that the vast majority of Europe has not suffered in the last century, but which undoubtedly seemed to have faded in memory and the imagination of the new generations, raised in times of peace, and with the guarantee of feeling protected under the umbrella of rights and freedoms.
There have always been threats, such as terrorism, a terrible scourge that has shed innocent blood in different countries, including Spain. However, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union, it did not seem that the sovereignty of those states recognized as such by international law could be questioned, at least not on the old continent.
The European Union was unable or unwilling to see the warning signs in Chechnya, Georgia or Moldova. Nor did it dare to draw the right conclusions from the Russian invasion of Crimea and Donbas, territories recognized by the United Nations as part of Ukraine.
What is more, Brussels did not even flinch when Germany gave itself up as a hostage to Russian gas and subscribed to the construction of the North Sea gas pipeline. Nor did it flinch when the European Commission dismantled our cereal and oil seed potential in order to tie itself to Russian agricultural production.
Too many compromises were made with a government such as Vladimir Putin's, where democracy had not ceased to decline since its beginnings, and whose citizens tried to claim rights that were summarily silenced. At the same time, the doors were opened to the plutocrats of the Muscovite regime.
Yesterday, the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, promised Zelensky an increase in the supply of armaments and a push for the tightening of sanctions against Russia. He also promised to expel most of the Kremlin's diplomatic corps and confirmed that Spain had become a host country for those displaced by the war. This is the only legitimate and indisputable position in the face of the invasion of a sovereign country by a superpower.
But the question is whether the EU, and with it Spain, will be able to prolong Russia's isolation until Putin and his communist system, camouflaged under the riches of capitalism, fall and a new government emerges that respects freedom and international law. Otherwise, the West, runs the risk of seeing other Ukrainian mirror images in other scenarios.
JE comments: Consoly, you've pointed out something we all know but had forgotten: After millennia of strife, Europeans have felt safe since at least the end of the Cold War, or even going back to 1945. That's three whole generations, which nearly encompasses living memory. Possibly the scariest lesson from Ukraine is the destruction of that secure feeling.
However...I still don't understand why you call Putin's system "communist."
Is Putin a Communist? He Acts Like a Stalinist
(Anthony J Candil, USA
04/08/22 3:14 AM)
Certainly Consoly León Arias (April 6th) is pointing correctly at the main issue we are all witnessing these days: the destruction and attempt to subjugate a sovereign country by a dominant power--still considered to be so--ten times bigger and armed with nuclear weapons. This is something not to be expected in Europe nowadays. And this reminds me to pose a question: why do all world conflicts start in Europe?
Certainly, despite what Mr. Putin says, this cannot be attributed this time to the United States. Actually, none of the previous world conflicts were the responsibility of the United States, to speak the truth.
However, I am truly shocked by the view of my dear friend John E, when he asked Consoly "why she continues labeling Putin a communist." Seriously?
Well, maybe he is not officially communist but stealing from an Elvis song: "he walks as an oligarch, talks as a capitalist, behaves as a dictator but in the end he is a communist in disguise." Just remember that the hammer and the sickle continue being the symbols of Russia on planes, tanks and on their soldier's uniforms alongside the Red Star. Or maybe somebody is going to tell me that those are "fascist" symbols?
Putin was a colonel in the dreaded KGB, and no one reaches that rank without having proved his o her loyalty and enthusiasm for the system. As Putin himself has declared officially and openly, "the most catastrophic disaster of the 20th century was the crumbling and fall of the Soviet Union and communism." Do you still not understand why Consoly calls Putin "a communist"? Really?
His behavior or his Army's in Ukraine is a repetition of the behavior of the Bolshevik army in Ukraine in the 1920s. Or the Stalinist behavior again while "liberating" Ukraine from the Nazis in 1943-1944. There are no words to describe the Russian army's attitude in those little towns close to Kharkiv. Only one: pure Stalinism and Stalin was no other than the perfect communist archetype. Can we label Putin a communist? Maybe we should call him "Stalinist." What is the difference?
Not last but not least, I am also shocked by our friend comparing Putin to Franco. Wow! I don't feel any sympathy for Franco but comparing him with Putin is an insult to Putin! Putin is much more efficient and sophisticated than Franco. Franco was a poor "Gallego," very evil at times but pretty incompetent in the end.
On the other hand, my dear Carmen Negrín mentioned also Gernika and the killings of Paracuellos de Jarama. Well, what I have seen on TV regarding the killings in Ukraine reminds me more Paracuellos than Gernika.
At Gernika fewer than 200 people were killed, and it was horrible, but they were killed in an air raid. It took place in April 1937. At Paracuellos--according to our fellow WAISer Sir Paul Preston--between 2,000 and 2,500 people of different origin and social status were assassinated by firing squads. It took place in November 1936. I think it's a total different issue than Gernika.
I ask you all one thing only: we can harbor different opinions and views but, please, don't distort the history.
JE comments: Social media has featured images of invading Russian vehicles flying the hammer-and-sickle flag. The one below appeared on Twitter. It strikes me as photoshopped, as the flag wouldn't be fluttering outward if the vehicle were in motion. But who knows?
I can endorse the "Stalinist" label for Putin. Perhaps we can leave it at that? As for the Franco comparison, I grudgingly have to give the advantage to the Caudillo: Franco actually won his war, and moreover, he was smart enough to remain neutral in WWII.
Putin a Communist? Ridiculous
(Cameron Sawyer, USA
04/09/22 3:16 AM)
Putin a Communist (Consoly León, Anthony Candil)? This is a completely ridiculous proposition.
Putin on the contrary is an inveterate anti-Communist, whose first order of business upon taking power in 2000 was to rip the guts out of the KPRF, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Along the way he venerated anti-Communist nationalists like Solzhenytsyn, author of Gulag Archipelago, whom Putin raised to mythical status as a spiritual father of Russia, funded countless documentaries about the repressions of 1937 and the GULAG shown endlessly on Channel 1, honored Gorbachev ("he gave us our freedom"), comparing him to Tsar Alexander II who freed the serfs, at a time when Gorbachev was possibly the most unpopular man in Russia.
No, Putin is an authoritarian nationalist, anti-Communist, thoroughly capitalist, although it's an oligarchic, controlled type of capitalism which he favors, but still the furthest thing in the world from Communism. Putin respects Stalin for having led the country through its defining crisis, the war with Nazi Germany, but he hates Lenin, whom he (rightfully) blames for much of the evil of the 20th century. Although Putin has tried to make Russian identity a big tent and refrains from too much criticism of any one stream in Russian history for fear of alienating some group in Russian society, he sometimes fails to hold back when talking about Lenin. See for example: https://apnews.com/article/7384e0f96dfb41ceaa3724f5c1deae6a , which includes a telling statement of Putin's attitude about Communism as well as about Lenin.
Respect paid to the memory of Stalin by Putin has nothing to do with Communism. This is all about the victory over Nazi Germany, which is the defining point of Russian identity (we're putting aside the fact that Stalin was a Georgian). Likewise, the Soviet flags flown from invading Russian tanks have nothing to do with Communism--the Russian soldiers were told (falsely) that they were being sent to liberate Ukraine from Nazis. They (vainly) hoped that Ukrainians, seeing the Soviet flag, would greet them as liberators, as many Ukrainians did in 1944 and 1945, and hoped to strike fear in the hearts of actual Nazis like the Azov Battalion. Why is it that apparently no one in the West has a clue about this?
I have written about this before, but many WAISers seem to profoundly misunderstand Soviet nostalgia, a widespread phenomenon throughout the former Soviet Union. I suggest reading up on it; there are plenty of resources online. In 2013, just before the first Russian attack on Ukraine, a Gallup Poll found that a clear majority--56%--of Ukrainians considered the breakup of the Soviet Union to have been a bad thing, more than Russians did (55%). Only 23% of Ukrainians thought the breakup of the Soviet Union was a good thing. See: https://news.gallup.com/poll/166538/former-soviet-countries-harm-breakup.aspx . Of all the former Soviet republics, only Armenia and Kyrgyzstan had a higher level of Soviet nostalgia than Ukraine.
Does anyone think that means that Ukrainians are Communists? Of course not. Many people in the former Soviet Union, particularly older people, are skeptical about the breakup of the Soviet Union simply because their experiences with radical privatization and corrupt democracy and dysfunctional post-Soviet self-rule have not been positive. See Zelensky's Sluga Naroda for a very nuanced picture of this; this is required viewing for anyone who wants to actually understand post-Soviet reality. Communism and the Soviet system failed, of course, and fully deserve their place in the dustbin of history, but the widespread repressions under Stalin ended with Stalin's death, and for many people life has been very harsh since the end of the Soviet Union, whereas it was not all that bad during certain parts of the Soviet period, particularly the so-called "Period of Stagnation," during Brezhnev's rule. That's too much nuance for some people who insist on looking at everything in the world in a Manichean way, but that's the reality in this part of the world. The old system was bad, but the new system is not living up to its promise yet, and it's hard to even say for sure yet that it's even better (in the minds of people here). This is a main theme of Zelensky's Sluga Naroda and completely characteristic of post-Soviet life whether it's in Ukraine or Russia or Georgia.
You find nostalgia for Soviet times even in former East Germany (where it's called "Ostalgia"), which due to the noble sacrifices of West Germans has not suffered even a hundredth as much as the former Soviet republics have after the end of Communism. Polls show majorities of people in many countries of Eastern Europe who consider that their lives were better under Communism, than now. A sociologist's treatment of the subject: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.859.3655&rep=rep1&type=pdf .
No doubt our system is better. I truly believe in democracy and freedom and free markets--as ideals! But our system, especially as it's implemented in the US, is not ideally executed, and has not produced an instant paradise in former Communist countries--far from it. On the contrary, the end of Communism has, in most former Communist countries, under the fatuous tutelage of US NGOs, produced an orgy of corruption and kleptocracy which has not produced a life for average people which is much better than what they had under Communism, and for many which is much worse.
Just keep all that in mind before you start flinging epithets about "Communists." It's...complicated.
JE comments: Stalin might be the unifying "glue" in the communist assertion. Stalin=bad, Stalin=communist; Putin=bad, therefore Putin...communist. But the comparison only goes so far: Stalin, unlike Putin and like Franco on the other side of Europe and politics, actually won his war.
Cameron, what is your take on the photograph published yesterday? See below for an encore. Do you believe the flag is legitimate?
And a totally different topic: In the Gallup poll (second link above), wildly repressive Turkmenistan was by far the least nostalgic nation for Soviet times, with just 8% of respondents seeing the fall of the USSR as harmful. I assume the Turkmen regime makes people fearful to answer truthfully. What do you think?
- Putin a Communist? Ridiculous (Cameron Sawyer, USA 04/09/22 3:16 AM)