[Marxism] Wallerstein: worst is yet to come
avvakum at gmail.com
Thu Sep 17 15:24:38 MDT 2009
I wish leftist intellectuals like Prof. Wallerstein would be a bit
more curious about the contexts in which they make "superstar"
performances like the one that led to the interview Louis gave us the
The context in this case was the conference "The Modern State and
Global Security," held in the Russian town of Yaroslavl:
Here is the Reuters article on the conference:
'Kremlin officials explained they had asked all the "genuine
opposition figures represented in the state Duma" to attend -- such as
the Communists or the nationalist LDPR -- but not "hooligans" or
'Independent NGOs critical of the Kremlin were not represented and the
conference venue on the city's outskirts was sealed off from citizens
by tight security, giving the whole affair a rather remote feel.'
Out on the wild streets of Yaroslavl itself, the local cops were
rounding up and intimidating "hooligans" and "extremists" on the eve
of the conference. Two anarchists were arrested for the grave crime of
stickering. Since that didn't amount to much, the police slapped on an
additional charge -- swearing in public -- which is now standard
operating procedure in Russia when the cops can't think of something
else to charge "extremists" with. Happily, the court that heard the
case believed the eyewitnesses (the cops themselves), and the two
"extremists" were promptly sentenced to five days in jail.
The cops and the FSB were also paying house calls to the members of
the Socialist Resistance movement (SotsSopr). One young member, a
university student, got called into the assistant dean's office on
September 10. There he found an FSB officer waiting for him. The dean
and the FSB spook told the kid to cut out the "corrosive agitation" he
was subjecting his fellow students to. The FSBshnik also reminded the
kid that they had him "on a hook."
You can read about all this fun (in Russian -- apologies for that) here:
Then there's Russia Today's excellent coverage of the forum, of which
the Wallerstein interview was a part. I was struck by how in this
interview (as in all the other interviews from the forum on Russia
Today), the interviewer starts off by saying, "It's an honor to have
you on our team." What "team" is that? The Kremlin's? Since Russia
Today is the Kremlin's international outreach wing, I guess that's
what we're left to conclude.
The interviewer, Sophie Shevardnadze, by the way, is Eduard
Russia Today's coverage also included this tremendous piece on their
website by Robert Bridge, an American:
Bridge quotes Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov's address to the conference
with a straight face:
'Luzhkov started off with an emotional critique on “the march of the
transnational corporations, which seek to make the role of the state
disappear. They want to make the state weak so ‘trans-capitalism’ can
move forward unimpeded.”
'Luzhkov then bemoaned the crisis of a consumer society, and the
efforts to come to its rescue, specifically in the United States.
'“Suddenly, consumer society (a term that Luzhkov pronounces as a
communist would pronounce the word “bourgeoisie”) – where consumers
consume more than they actually produce, has hit a crisis. Now we are
expected to overcome this dire period by throwing money into the world
economy, with demands that ‘the role of the state should be
'Clearly, Luzhkov was in favor of more state influence, but not
without some sort of game plan. Indeed, his prediction concerning the
future of any society that is based on consumerism is that it is
doomed to failure.
'“This crisis has demonstrated that a consumer society – one that
plays with money, and spends beyond its limits – has no future.”'
Since Bridge is on the Kremlin payroll, he fails to mention that this
is pretty rich fare coming from a guy who has run Moscow as his
personal fiefdom for the last 17 years and that Luzhkov's wife, Elena
Baturina, a real estate and construction tycoon, is one of the richest
people in Russia. Or that Luzhkov and Baturina's "new" Moscow is
nothing if not a paradise for conspicuous consumption.
Perhaps, however, Comrade Yuri has had a change of heart. It's so
tiresome being filthy rich and almost omnipotent.
In this same article, Mr. Bridge has another passage that for me sums
up the Putin regime's formula for success -- knee-jerk anti-westernism
+ the darkest form of social and political reaction:
"Some commentators seemed guilty of believing that by simply pumping
more into the public sector, all of the ills of society would simply
vanish. The fallacy of this strategy was proven during America’s
experiment with the Great Society, a domestic spending program
unveiled under former US president Lyndon Johnson, which aimed to
eliminate the specter of poverty and racial discrimination.
"What started off as an admirable idea (Medicaid, food stamps, special
privileges) was eventually rejected when it was revealed that
thousands of poor women, many of them from minorities, went on the
dole courtesy of a government that was actually paying impoverished,
unemployed mothers to stay home and reproduce. Government intervention
is good to a certain degree, but it may actually become harmful if
taken too far, since it potentially kills individual initiative."
There you have it, the beautiful Putin years in a nutshell. And from
the mouth of an American babe in exile.
It was also refreshing to see that one of my favorite Kremlin hacks,
Gleb Pavlovsky, moderated a panel at the forum entitled “The Modern
State: Diversity of Democratic Experience."
Pavlovsky and his Foundation for Effective Politics (FEP) have made
something of a specialty over the past few years of co-opting western
leftist superstar intellectuals for high-power powwows in Russia like
this one. Last year, when they got wind that Pavlovsky & Co. had
invited Alain Badiou to talk in Moscow, some of my comrades wrote
Badiou an open letter, urging him not to accept the invitation and
explaining exactly who was inviting him:
Here is an excerpt from that letter:
'Gleb Pavlovsky is one of a number of notable intellectuals who chose
the career of “political technologist” in the nineties. During the
crisis in the universities and the intellectual vacuum that formed
after the discrediting of Marxism, many members of the intelligentsia
chose to engage in paid PR work, motivating their choice via a
combination of watered-down postmodernism and social constructivism.
As they would put it, all meanings are artificially produced.
'In 1996, Pavlovsky—who was a dissident in Soviet times and an active
liberal during perestroika—became the principal beneficiary of the
Kremlin’s ideological commissions. In the early years of the new
millennium, he became even more powerful when his foundation, The
Foundation for Effective Politics, engaged in the propaganda and
informational support of the Putin administration. It is this
foundation that developed the fundamental ideologemes of the regime:
“stability,” “the Putin majority,” etc. Whereas in the nineties
Pavlovsky justified himself in the postmodernist spirit, as we have
mentioned, in the new decade he has become a frank collaborationist
and a businessman trading in propaganda, exploiting the impoverished
social and economic status of Russian intellectuals and thus turning
them into cynical servants of power. At present, Pavlovsky hosts the
television program Real Politics, on which he propagandizes extreme
anti-westernism and the Putin personality cult. He also manages the
Evropa publishing imprint, which among other thing has issued a series
of books exposing the idea and phenomenon of revolution. Recently,
Pavlovsky organized a roundtable entitled “Putin’s Enemies”—a farce
that made open reference to the Stalinist show trials.
'Dear Comrade Badiou! We have no doubt that your visit will be used by
Pavlovsky to legitimize the Kremlin, which aspires, mostly
unsuccessfully, to intellectual hegemony. In the spring of 2007,
Pavlovsky’s foundation invited Slavoj Žižek to Moscow. It is
conceivable that this leftist thinker didn’t know beforehand the
context in which he would be speaking. In the event, however, he
participated in a seminar entitled “The Limits of Democracy” and sat
at the same table with court “political scientist” Sergei Markov, who
as a television commentator praises the wisdom of Putin’s decisions,
and with Pavlovsky himself, who doesn’t himself believe a single word
he utters. Pavlovsky and Markov spoke about the need to “limit”
democracy, in the sense of Putin’s “managed democracy.” It all
resembled a bad comedy and forever discredited Žižek in the eyes of
Russian (leftist or liberal) intellectuals. If you do visit Russia,
this context will hinder any attempt on your part to polemicize and
discuss the views of those who have invited you.
'We do not mean to say that Russia is lost for good, or that it is of
no interest. Russian society is still lively, anarchic, critical,
highly educated, and intellectual hungry. It possesses the will to
transformation and a consciousness of the need for struggle. At the
present moment there is a growing network of organizations and groups
that, we hope, will consolidate into a new anti-liberal, communist
movement. For this to happen we also need international cooperation.
In particular, we take as a guide your ideas, whose universalism
impresses us, dwellers of the semi-periphery. We would like to engage
you in conversation. But your visit to Pavlovsky would disenchant many
activists. We ask you, therefore, to weigh your decision again.'
Badiou chose to turn down Pavlovsky's invitation.
The Pavlovskyites were decidedly unhappy about this (admittedly) minor
victory on the part of my friends. The mudslinging that ensued
prompted Kirill Medvedev, a well-known young Russian poet and an
activist with the Vpered (Forward) Socialist movement, to write the
'It goes without saying that today Badiou’s workplace, his reputation
as a leftist radical notwithstanding, is the sufficiently comfortable
academic system, a workplace where ideas, concepts, reputations, and
symbolic capital compete. His weight in this system would have allowed
him (just like those of his fellows who visited Pavlovsky before
him—Žižek, Perry Anderson, and Immanuel Wallerstein—to spit on the
letter from “Russian intellectuals and activists” and accept
Pavlovsky’s prestigious invitation. Why didn’t he accept it? It
probably wasn’t because of a bourgeois “fear for his own reputation.”
Rather, it was probably because he clearly understands an elementary
fact: a leftist philosopher isn’t a rock star or a supermodel. You
have to read his works, not gawk at him. Despite his
sometimes-academic language and complicated constructions, at the end
of the day he works for the oppressed and wants to be a
comrade-in-arms for activists, not a navel-gazing guru or an
unprincipled “star” with a heavy touring schedule.
'There is no great tragedy in the fact that Moscow leftists won’t get
to see Alain Badiou at the President Hotel. More important is the fact
that they will read his works with greater trust and curiosity and
perceive them as a part of everyday political practice.'
I think all of the above applies to Prof. Wallerstein's latest star
turn in Yaroslavl. Would he accept an invitation from Glenn Beck to
attend a similarly titled conference at the Bush ranch?
Yaroslavl: different time zone, same gang of reactionary thugs.
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
Subject: [Marxism] Wallerstein: worst is yet to come
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