The coronavirus has accelerated a lot of processes, but above all it has brought about the collapse of the familiar world. It seems that soon there will be a choice between the bad and the very bad. Every time we seem to have reached the bottom, something gives way and we continue to plummet. Amid our fall, we’ve forgotten something – humanity’s potential for ideological conflict, writes Valdai Club Chairman Andrey Bystritskiy.
About forty years ago, a struggle was perceived to be happening between democracy and totalitarianism, capitalism and socialism. This gave way to the illusion of the victory of democracy around the world. At the time, it seemed that all kinds of authoritarianism were still resisting democracy and refusing to give up. Now, it seems, the issue is no longer about democracy per se. There is a struggle for basic human rights, and humanity is losing.
The front lines of a new war for the future and to preserve our values, are, alas, being drawn in the United States. It’s playing out particularly vividly, mostly because of what people are fighting for — for freedom and the right to say what they think. In a certain sense, this is exactly what Donald Trump spoke about on July 4th, when he claimed that his country would have to fight for freedom again, this time with an internal enemy, against various communist-fascist movements. Trump expressed the hope that, as before, the forces of freedom and reason would prevail in the United States. But, alas, the outcome of any real struggle is unpredictable.
Oversimplifying, there has been an uprising among a certain segment of society, led by part of the US elite. The goal of this uprising is, of course, to seize power, obtain the country’s capital wealth, and create a new, illiberal (that is, not free) state in which part of society will be able to expropriate things of value created by others. In its most primitive form, this manifested itself during the looting and burning of American stores by so-called protesters following the death of George Floyd. But, of course, the idea that this was simply a matter of smash-and-grab criminality (which, incidentally, many in the United States defended) is only symptomatic: a random, but at the same time indicative example. The toppling and destruction of monuments was also only a symbolic approximation of the desired goal – the seizure of power. The perpetrators believe tearing down the monuments is necessary, of course, in order to deprive relatively wealthy and (more importantly) independent people of their moral foundations, to destroy their identity and compromise their sense of confidence in their right to control their destiny. You are the heirs of villains, the protesters tell them, your wealth is unrighteous. What you have must be inherited by new people with a new identity, and they have the right to redistribute capital. Incidentally, in Russia this trick is well known. It was the essence of the so-called socialist revolution which took place in 1917. And by the way, as in Russia at the time, the police were demoralised, because, as a rule, they act as a very important institution within civil society, protecting human rights, including the right to property. Discrediting the police is also an essential element in the seizure of power, and, in order to do so, the rule of law must be destroyed. Here we are not talking, of course, about the necessity for civilians to maintain control over the bodies of power in a functioning state.
It is clear that a comparative minority alone cannot seize power. This requires the collapse of the elites and the subsequent conspiracy of one segment of the elites against the others.
Historical experience shows that, as a rule, rebellious elites themselves fall victim to any change in power. This, incidentally, was recounted by Anatoly Gladilin in his Gospel of Robespierre. Those capitalists who supported all sorts of socialists in Russia a hundred years ago were easily and effortlessly liquidated by the country’s new radical leaders. In the United States, in a sense, the same thing is happening. Amid the heat of the fight against their hated opponent Trump, all sorts, including Biden, Sanders and the Clintons, are ready to consign the prosperity of their own country to the furnace of political struggle. The intelligentsia, who sympathise with them, are adding fuel to the fire, partly because of their intellectual blindness, and partly because of their ambition and desire for money and prestige amid the reconstruction of society. No other conclusion can be drawn from the activity of many media outlets, such as CNN or the New York Times, which have turned into organs of propaganda. Alas, if successful, they will face cruel disappointment and may actually pay with their lives. They can only live successfully if the status quo is maintained. But the chances of maintaining the status quo are getting smaller.
Unfortunately, the left-wing voters who align themselves with the Democratic party, are leaning towards totalitarianism, and in general, towards fascism. Their predisposition to ban freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and generally curtail scientific and intellectual independence at universities in the United States is obvious. It is even more obvious that in the USA, in fact, racial conflicts are being fired up, and BLM, Antifa and so on are among the main provocateurs. The incitement of racial hatred, an attempt to arouse guilt among the majority of the population has the obvious goal of demoralising people in the shortest possible period of time, and will lead to unprecedented social degradation, the collapse of society and a real civil war.
If the rebels win this war, the results will be just as terrible as that of the Bolsheviks in Russia. But their almost-inevitable defeat will cost everyone dearly.
We have already seen how formally democratic procedures led in the mid-twentieth century to the triumph of fascism in its various manifestations in Europe – in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and in other countries. The problem is that democracy is only conceivable under conditions where civic institutions are strong, in a society in which social relations are complexly intertwined, and people are included in various forms of social interaction. The atomisation of society, in combination with democracy, is a direct road to totalitarianism. Crowds of feral individuals seek leaders, enemies, and unity in an aggressive, incohesive community.
When democracy ceases to work, a difficult choice arises, quite Aristotelian in spirit, between the enlightened aristocracy and totalitarianism. Between the tyranny of minorities seeking the enslavement of the majority on one hand and hierarchical rule-based management on the other. One must recognise that despite the fundamental equality of people, the contribution of each of us to the development of mankind is unequal. Just for clarity, the contribution of an experienced epidemiologist is not equal to the contribution of a specialist in computer technology or the contribution of a scavenger. It is impossible to live without a hierarchy and the distribution of roles. But this is precisely what is being questioned, which is not new.
In general, the problem is that an incredible event happened; billions of people were given a social and political voice. Presented a seemingly limitless amount of information, they were confused, finding it simply impossible to cope. On the one hand, people were able to witnesses a kaleidoscopically diverse world, and on the other, they failed to learn how to understand this variegation. Above all, this is because a monstrous multitude of people cannot and do not want to learn. However, it is worth recognising that they are not particularly able to learn. And, judging by the developments in the United States, they don’t want to.
These billions, active and lost in the information tornado (including tens of millions in the US) began to seek answers to the questions of who they are, why some are rich and successful while others are not, why some have amazing knowledge and others don’t, why laws work the way they do, and why history happened one way and not another. And the answer to this is to latch on to an ideology. One or another. And as has happened repeatedly in history, many chose to accept the simplest ideology; one that holds that all the riches of the modern world are ill-gotten. That those who think in a different way are ideological enemies. And, amazingly, that the Jews are largely to blame. Or, in any event, this is what some BLM leaders say. Strangely enough, anti-Semitism always manages to creep in somewhere.
This ideological enmity (now between individual freedom and collective responsibility) is a direct path to a global civil war.
Einstein once said “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” I believe that the results of the first world civil war will not be any better.
Alas, it has not yet been possible to stop a war using democratic means. God knows what would have happened in Russia if General Kornilov hadn’t allowed the Bolshevik coup, but many think that things would have been better. However, this is fortune telling about the past. We should not speculate about the future, but make sure that a new ideological quarrel does not lead to a global catastrophe.
Complex processes happen everywhere. But the destruction of the United States could lead to a terrifying global catastrophe. Financial instability, the threat of nuclear war, terrorism – this is just a small list of the threats to peace which may emerge if the Americans do not learn to live with themselves.