Ryszard Kapuscinski (1993) Imperium.

Ryszard Kapuscinski was born in 1932 and grew up in the Polesie region on Poland (today Belorussia). Pinsk was liberated by Soviet troops in 1939. From what wasn’t clear. He learned the Cyrillic Russian alphabet as school from a single copy of Stalin’s Studies in Leninism, watched arbitrary mass deportations to Siberia and starved with his family. He remained liberated for most of his adult life and witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  The unravelling of the Imperium: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn 1992.

The system that governs us is a combination of the old nomenclatura, the sharks of finance, false democrats, and the KGB. I cannot call this democracy—it is a repugnant historically unprecedented hybrid, and we do not know in which direction it will develop…[but] if the alliance will prevail they will be exploiting us not for seventy, but for one hundred and seventy years.   

We do know the direction Russia took under Vladimir Putin. Kapuscinski marks out the direction of travel. He speaks of the old native Russia. His reading and understand of Bierdayev’s book as a student at university who tried to outline what the Imperium was and the paradox of what does a Russian think when he is somewhere such as the shore of the Yenisry.

He can walk along for days and months and always Russia will surround him. The plains have no end, nor the forests, nor the rivers. To rule over such boundless expanses, says Bierdayev, one had to create a boundless state.

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace showed the hubris of Napoleon and the triumph of Mother Russia. The Great Patriotic War as the Second World War was called was when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic defeated the Nazis (that had an alliance with until 1942). There were two superpowers in the world when the war ended and America was the enemy. They fought proxy-wars, Korea at the beginning of the 1950s. Communist China, a pauper state, under Chairman Mao provided unlimited manpower and around one million troops. Soviet MIG fighters protected ground troops. General McArthur, holed up as proxy-Emperor of Japan wanted to fight on, go all the way to China, all the way to Russia. War weary, General, later President Eisenhower, divided Korea. Both superpowers had nuclear weapons. China acquired them from Russia.

The Cold War and Mutually Assured Destruction. John F. Kennedy at the end of 1962 called the Russian’s bluff over Cuban missiles. I was too young to remember. Now we’re too old to care. Then Putin, 24th February 2022 threatens nuclear war for interference over his invasion plans of Ukraine.

Ukraine has been at war with Russia for eight years. It used to be the breadbasket of Russia and exported grain to Germany, now it exports its crops to China. Its soil was so fertile it was said that if you left a stick in the ground a tree would bloom. Yet, during Stalin’s purges millions starved. Putin’s military has annexed Crimea. The second day of their full-scale invasion and troops surround the capital Kyiv. But with amphibious landings on Mariupol and Donbas.   

Kapuscinski reminds us of falling into the abyss. The massacre of around 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey in 1915, the greatest mass genocide until Hitler. Regarded as traitors and infiltrators. In Putin’s terms neo-Nazis and drug addicts.    

‘Nationalism is the forbidden fruit.’

The Chechen Wars were good wars for Putin. The use of overwhelming military force, mass murder and torture quelled the North Caucasus. Puppet government.

‘A state that does not have a state seeks salvation in symbols. The protection of the symbol is important to it as protection of borders to other states. The cult of the symbol becomes a form of the cult of the country. Protection of the symbol becomes an act of patriotism.’

Look at the map, Kapuscinski says of Aremenia, but he could also be speaking of Ukraine.  The Russian bear wants to swallow it up. But he offers another lesson.

Look at the history books, ‘A magnificent ascent, and then, a dispiriting fall’.

The West (by which we mean President Joe Biden) offers overwhelming sanctions against Russia, but not if it pushes up the price of petrol for the average American. I wonder when the backbiting will start about the four million refugees not coming into Europe, because they’re already here. Are we sliding down the same road, taking sides, picking allies? Imperium is an insider account of a refugee that’s not a refugee in the old Soviet Socialist Republics Putin thinks still exist. Keeping your mouth shut doesn’t guarantee you’ll be OK. Not taking sides is taken sides. I’m not taking sides. I hope Ukraine wins, whatever that means. But I doubt its people will. Putin will win—for now.  I don’t know what that means either.   

Dodgy Dave and his chums

dodgy dave.jpg

This is a difficult script to write. You could go with the no suggestion of impropriety, criminality or wrongdoing, and following good business practice [fill in any name here, for example, David Cameron, Pablo Escobar, Vladimir Putin]

You could go all jokey and imply  we’re all in it together and we’ve all done it, signing on, or someone else signing on for you, for example, Bahama residents including a part-time bishop, because you’re too busy that day, creating wealth. Perhaps fling in a bit of alliteration, Dodgy Dave the Downing Street landlord coining it in, and mention the Panama Papers.

But then you’d probably have to mention not just Panama, but London itself as a tax bolt-hole where rich people congregate and get fitted for a bespoke tax avoidance suit, tailored to their needs, by an army of experts, such as David Cameron’s dear departed father.

In the European Union there – this week discounted offers- of convenient parking spots in Luxembourg, Lichtenstein and Monaco. And if sir and his capital wants to take a break from all that onerous paperwork there are hotspots in Guernsey, Jersey, Sark, Gibraltar, Anguilla,  The Virgin Isles, Montserrat, Bermuda, Turks & Calicos Islands,   Cayman Islands and any other British Territories and Crown Dependencies you can think of and that can be expected to keep stuhm about how much loot you’ve looted and don’t really give a flying fuck where you got it from. As long as you’re filthy rich you are master of all you survey. Only mugs and poor people pay tax. Thomas Piketty on Capital showed an interesting anomaly, there is more money in circulation than can be accounted for. It doesn’t take a genius to suggest that turn over any of these stones and you’ll find lots of interesting facts about wealth squirming under the light of transparency.

We could go for the moral angle and the exposure of pious untruths. A biblical quote would be good here to set off the script. Perhaps something from Proverbs 22:16: Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, and gives to the rich will surely come to poverty.

But the problem with that is we are a nation built on that great lie of trickle-down economics that the poor might eat –eventually- from the scraps of the table of the rich man. The poor are always with us and it’s their fault for being poor is a stick. We have our masters grandstanding, telling us to work harder and dig deeper and stop being such a whinger and whiner, while quietly, money flows in one direction from the poorest to the richest at an increasing rate.  Paul Mason shows that before Lehman Brother’s collapse 40 percent of corporate profits in the United States were in the financial sector, four out of ten dollars. London, the most subsidized city in the United Kingdom, offers its own model of excess equalling success with everything for sale including the government. When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 he took artillery and about one million men of different nationalities, the finest fighting force on the planet, but he was no mug, somebody would have to pay for the invasion. Napoleon had roubles printed. Whoever paid the full cost to the bearer of such a note would not be Napoleon, nor will it be Cameron and his ilk paying for the NHS or road, or school or take your pick and mix .  Who’s paying for failure if it’s not the rich?

As a morality play it doesn’t work and as an economic template it works even less well, but ironically it offers the greatest chance of electoral success. Beat the drum.  Come clean and admit your faults. David Cameron is a good man. As is George Osborne and Boris Johnson. They are just doing what they have been brought up to do, which is to help the select few. What’s the problem with that?