By Gwydion M. Williams
France’s Overlooked Left Vote
Ukraine: Making Local Democracy Illegal
Russia: A Fate Worse Than Putin?
NATO: Elites Who Reluctantly Tolerate a Democratic Electorate
Britons Vote Themselves Into Poverty
Bears and Libertarians – Both Unbearable
Macron picked up another nine million votes: a bare majority of valid first-round voters. Le Pen got more than five million new votes, which must include some who chose candidates to the left of Macron in the first round. Rather more from the left must have gone to Macron.
Overall, there were three million less voters. And there were nearly 1.7 million extra blank ballots, on top of more than half a million who took the trouble to go to a polling booth to show discontent in round one. [A] And maybe not everyone bothered to go twice to say they liked none of the candidates.
This is not a President ‘for the whole nation’.
If I’d been French, I might have tried sloganising. ‘Don’t vote for this hollow man’; or whatever that is in idiomatic French.
Fears of what Le Pen might have done were exaggerated. French Presidents are powerful, but still need a Prime Minister with a majority in Parliament. She would have helped derail the anti-Russian crusade.
But it might easily have been Macron-Melenchon. This Hard Left candidate got 21.95 and Le Pen got 23.15; a gap of 1.2%.[B]
Adding Zemmour for the Hard Right and the two marginal Trotskyists for the Hard Left gives 30.22 and 23.22: a much bigger gap. But not hopeless.
An actual majority of voters reject conventional solutions: 53.44.
55.72 if you add the French Communist Party. But since they urged voters to support Macron in the 2nd round, this is probably not justified.
Some would add Dupont-Aignan’s 2.06% to the Far Right. I see him more as a continuation of Gaullism.
Melenchon refused to ask anyone to vote for Macron. Just not to vote for Le Pen: but it is almost certain that some did. Just as people who would have voted for Bernie Saunders ended up voting for Trump.
I also note that the Yellow Vest protestors have dwindled to nothing, which is exactly what I expected. Their last show was in March 2020, but their leaders urged them to stay home with the growing Covid-19 crisis.[C]
Structureless politics always fails, because real humans live within structures. Most of them doing so without being properly aware of it. They take the limits on their own minds as natural, and are baffled by those who see it otherwise.[D]
Modern society allows people to make individual choices within the structures they have been born within. Individual choices to leave these structures or to change them have been greatly expanded by modern industrial societies. But a human who is not part of a wider social structure is very much like a fish out of water. And mostly no more able to thrive that way. Or to be happy that way.
Western media do a Doublethink that would not be out of place in Orwell’s works:
- Russia might overrun Finland and other parts of Europe.
- Failures by Russia’s army in Ukraine will discredit Putin as leader.
No one stops to ask how both of these things can be true.
Putin repeatedly said he wanted two things;
- a friendly Ukraine
- official recognition of the right of secession of Crimea and the Donbass.
I assume he no longer hopes for a friendly Ukraine. Many Western experts had expected a quick military victory, and said just that Putin could not occupy or rule it. But his war in Chechnya did produce a government that does not seek secession, and has even sent volunteers to fight in Ukraine. His war to save South Ossetia from Georgian chauvinism has left South Ossetia safe. Georgia is resentful but passive.
Zelensky got elected as a centrist who might make peace with Russia. Some experts say he was intimidated out of this by a Hard Right. Armed gangs out of control since 2014.[E]
Putin’s aims were not absurd. But he has failed to make a Russia-friendly Ukraine. Perhaps because Turkish-made drones were unexpectedly useful.[F] They have even been credited with helping sink the Russian flagship.[G] They were a factor in Azerbaijan defeating Armenia last year.[H]
Was there a covert war over drone control? Maybe Russia thought it could jam the controls, but US help prevented it. Time will tell.
Regardless, the Russian army was stopped. It withdrew from unfriendly areas round Kiev and central Ukraine, without having been militarily defeated.
Putin now accepts a long war for territories that probably want to be free of Kiev. Regions in the south and east where votes from 2014 showed they did not share the anti-Russian views of a majority in Ukraine.
Western media avoid mentioning that Kiev governments from 2014 have flatly refused to permit a Democratic Secession by any of the regions (oblasts) that might want it. British governments have allowed votes on Scottish independence, though in Spain a Catalan attempt was treated as criminal. There would not be the same Western support for a war to prevent Democratic Secession.
Kiev’s fans say that the Crimean secession vote was imperfect. But don’t ask for a second vote with trustworthy impartial observers. Insiders and experts must believe they would lose such votes.
More often they say the vote was illegal. Deposing the pro-Russian President was just as illegal.[I] The creation of the United States was illegal, and so was their setting aside of the Articles of Confederation without unanimous agreement by all 13 original states. The Irish Republic was illegal. Bangladesh was illegal, and resulted from an Indian invasion. Almost everyone accepts such illegalities if they like the result.
The Western media are fools to hope that Putin will be replaced by someone more to their taste.
The main Russian Communists got 40% of the votes against Yeltsin in 1996. 24.29% of parliamentary votes in 1999. And 18.93% in 2021.[J] They might return to power as part of a centre-left government.
Some say that Putin moved reluctantly, to prevent an overrun by the Ukrainian army of the seceded portions of the Donbass. Something similar happened in Croatia. Had that happened, the Communists as the main opposition would have been strengthened.
What won’t happen is a revival of the tiny pro-Western parties. Yabloko, the biggest survivor, peaked at 7.86% in 1993. It was down to 1.34% in 2021. The Communist vote was 14 times larger.
The occasional commentator reports this:
“These people not only justify Russia’s war against Ukraine but welcome it. In their eyes, the conflict between Russia and the western world has been going on for a long time. The war on Ukraine is thus an attempt to establish peace in the future (despite the militant rhetoric of NATO), end aggressive nationalism in Ukraine and return eastern Ukrainians back into the ‘Russian world’.”[K]
Pro-Ukraine decency is preserved by suggesting that polls showing a pro-war majority might have been rigged. But an article in the Financial Times did not doubt that Putin’s actions are popular:
“For the moment, the regime has Russian public opinion on its side, and it may continue to delude itself, just as it is deluding the people, that it can turn Russia into a self-sufficient, self-isolating, expansionist rogue state, based on the idea of Russian superiority over other nations. In the medium and long term, however, the ‘special military operation,’ as Putin insists on calling it, seems destined to undermine all of Russia’s political, economic, and moral foundations.” [L]
Popular but doomed? Mao managed the strengthen China with much more drastic exclusion.
For the 28 calendar years of Mao’s rule, the overall death rate was lower than for similar poor countries.[M] His government had its trade hampered by the USA and was denied its UN seat. He had to guard against a Soviet war against China. Yet average growth matched the world average.[N]
China under Deng became a major exporter. The same opening that the USA gave Japan, West Germany and Italy – former enemies that generous policies won over. But though some Chinese leaders wanted to junk remaining elements of socialism, the damage done by the West to post-Soviet Russia made such views very unpopular.[O] And paved the way for Putin to re-assert Russian choices.
The West’s China experts evade the off-message truth that Mao was broadly a big success. So the West’s Russia experts feed the wrong data into their guesses about Russia’s future.
Like a dog returning to its vomit, they seek to repeat their Iraq error – remove a strong government without wondering what will replace it.
And unlike Iraq, they should not expect just chaos and weak government, which some of the elite may see as fine. Russians have a very solid sense of identity.
The Moscow identity was formed by a pragmatic step-by-step liberation from rule by the heirs of Genghis Khan. They had no all-powerful US Army to protect the ‘rugged individualists’ who grabbed Native American lands. Moscow created East Ukraine by conquering the Crimean outpost of the Ottoman Empire. An outpost long used for massive slave-taking raids on Slavonic populations, as is described in a useful book called War and Peace and War. It had flourished in the 16th century, with slave-raiding armies of as many as 80,000.[P] But Moscow was able to conquer it. Russians and Ukrainians settled what they called South Russia, which is now mostly the east of the Ukraine that Lenin and Stalin defined. The now-marginal Communist Party of Ukraine lasted longer there.
The former Soviet Republic of Ukraine lacks unity.[Q] West Ukraine in mediaeval times had a majority population of Ruthenians conquered by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Dominated by Polish landlords and Jewish middle-men, and apt to massacre both whenever they got the chance. Which also happened when Tsarist Russia collapsed and civil war began.
Stepan Bandera as an intermittent ally of Hitler continued the tradition of massacring Poles and Jews, as well as fighting Moscow. This is the man revered by the Azov Brigade. A man briefly celebrated as Hero of Ukraine by President Yushchenko, who was a hero in the First Orange Revolution in 2004. Who had lost all support by 2010, and may have brought Neo-Nazis into the anti-Russia coalition as a reliable way to make sure there would be no second reversal for the pro-Western forces.[R]
And Russians, unlike people in the West, have been told about this.
NATO: Elites Who Reluctantly Tolerate a Democratic Electorate
NATO poses as a global defender of democracy. But when founded in 1949, it was a very different world-order that it defended.
Portugal, an old British ally, had a right-wing dictatorial republican system from early in the 20th century. They helped overthrow the Spanish republic and install the Franco regime. A founder-member of NATO.
Portugal, Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands were cores of global empires, with a hierarchy of race. The non-white possessions were governed by outsiders: most were given no practical experience of running a parliamentary democracy. Only the Indian subcontinent got majority-voter assemblies that had some power, which must have helped its later survival in the Republic of India. But even there, white men appointed by London always had the last word.
The world changed. The Netherlands joined NATO on August 1949, and accepted Indonesian independence in December. France had major wars in Vietnam, and then Algeria. Britain fought wars to save the remains of its empire, including committing war crimes in Kenya, for which Britain somehow escaping formal guilt.
NATO was set up to defend this particular world order. It was never about defending democracy.
It was Cold War pressures and the US preference for Neo-Imperialism that dismantled the European empires. Apart from some very small possessions that mostly didn’t want independence, this ended with Portugal. With a left-wing military coup in 1974.
There was also, sadly, an attempt by the Portuguese Communist Party to hijack the revolution they had sparked off. There was a clear electoral majority for Moderate Socialism. This and the foolish suppression of moderate reform in Czechoslovakia in 1968 began the Soviet Union’s deserved decline.
But that doesn’t change the good they had done earlier.
The Soviet’s official doctrine of racial equality encouraged the official Western rejection of racism and racial segregation. And the USA had been much the worst offender. In Europe, small numbers of non-whites had always been allowed to join the elite.
The world we have was made by those who never accepted NATO as it was in the beginning.[S]
“Surging living costs force Britons to work past retirement age…
“Two-thirds are not giving up work due to rising bills
“The share of older UK workers planning to carry on working in their retirement has nearly doubled in two years due to rising living costs and insufficient pension savings
“66 per cent … proposed to continue with some form of employment beyond retiring, up from just over 50 per cent in a similar study last year and just 34 per cent in 2020.
“The study, carried out at the end of 2021, before the Ukraine war delivered a further blow to energy and food supplies, comes in the same week as … the governor of the Bank of England, warned Britons of a ‘historic shock’ to their incomes as a result of spiralling inflation and rising energy prices.”[T]
But older people mostly still vote Tory, having been convinced that Labour is a terrible threat to them.
And who does it help?
In the short run, a millionaire elite. Blair accepted Thatcher’s notion that rich business people are delicate little flowers who must be cherished, otherwise disaster will follow.
To ‘keep confidence’, money can be taken from mothers and children and from the sick and the old – all sorts of people who ‘don’t really matter’.
No one notices the total failure of New Right policies to improve anything except the life-styles of the ultra-rich.
“Rich countries that let inequality run rampant make citizens unhappy, study finds
“Study of 78 countries reveals impact of economic exclusion, including on changing fortunes in UK
“Countries that allow economic inequality to increase as they grow richer make their citizens less happy, a new study shows.
“Until now, researchers have believed that inequality was largely irrelevant to levels of life satisfaction, according to Dr David Bartram at the University of Leicester.
“But his study of 78 countries spanning four decades – the largest longitudinal research of its kind – punctures that myth, he said.
“‘When inequality increases, people with high incomes don’t benefit much from their gains – many rich people are focused on those who have even more than they do, and they never feel they have enough,’ Bartram said.
“‘But people who earn little really suffer from falling further behind – they feel excluded and frustrated by not being able to keep up even with people who receive average incomes.’..
“India’s life satisfaction declined from 6.7 in 1990 to 5.8 in 2006 as inequality rose. By 2012 it was still lower than in 1990, despite the country’s prolonged economic boom.
“The US and Australia also both saw pronounced falls in life satisfaction, but those countries where inequality had fallen were generally happier, such as Poland, Peru, Mexico and Ukraine, before the Russian invasion.”[U]
That’s from The Guardian. But they remain committed to Asocial Liberalism. The modest reforms favoured by Jeremy Corbyn were treated as a terrifying threat to human existence. And now they have Starmer, who lied to get elected and has returned to Blair’s weakness.
The New Right have run the USA and Britain for the benefit of the millionaire elite. Libertarians are useful as propagandists, but not trusted with power.
We’ve seen the New Right Future, and it does not work. Inequality is undermining societies – I detailed earlier how more than half the French hate the centre ground. And wars have been constant and often unsuccessful.
But is that because they are not libertarian enough?
It is true that pure libertarian notions have not been tried on a large scale. Nor has sacrificing a Finance Minister on a pagan altar in the hope of Appeasing Heaven. Had this been tried with Norman Lamont when he was Chancellor, he might even have produced real ‘green shoots of recovery’. Or failing that, many might have said ‘Je ne regrette rien’: I regret nothing.
In the real world, this was Lamont trying to channel Edith Piaf. And getting seen as absurd.
In the real world, the USA saw a local libertarian experiment. Recounted with malice in a book called A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear.[V]
“By pretty much any measure you can look at to gauge a town’s success, Grafton got worse… The number of recorded crimes went up. The town had never had a murder in living memory, and it had its first two, a double homicide, over a roommate dispute.
“One thing that the Free Towners did that encouraged the bears was unintentional, in that they just threw their waste out how they wanted. They didn’t want the government to tell them how to manage their potential bear attractants. The other way was intentional, in that some people just started feeding the bears just for the joy and pleasure of watching them eat.”[W]
So far three bear attacks on humans, in a state that had not had a black bear attack for at least 100 years.
China currently struggles to contain the super-infective Omicron strain of Covid-19 in Shanghai. Western media are hoping that this will make China conform and let in the virus, as has happened with other hold-outs.
But we only have Omicron because so many countries let the virus breed within hundreds of millions of humans. 509 million cases and 6.21 million deaths, according to the Wikipedia.[X]
The hope of winning ‘herd immunity’ by a libertarian approach has proved false.[Y]
Vaccination has done some good. Imperfect, but better than its absence. One rich community in New Jersey had unusually strong resistance, and has had unusually high death rates.[Z]
And unlike flu, what doesn’t kill you may well leave you far weaker.
“Stuck in a twilight zone of never-ending debilitating symptoms.”[AA]
Which is also what they’ve done to the global economy
Old newsnotes at the magazine websites. I also write regular blogs – https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams
[A] To be exact, 53.45% and 9,783,058 plus 8,996,583. Another 1,684,403 Blank Ballots from the original 543,609.
[P] War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires by Peter Turchin. Pi press edition, pages 37-40
[V] A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling. 2021