A Report from Political Observer.
After yesterday’s Gideon Rachman column, January 3, 2022 :
Headline: Putin’s attempt to control the past follows the Xi model
Sub-headline: The censorship of history in both countries is an essential part of domestic repression
“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell was writing in the late 1940s — but that extract from 1984 is a perfect guide to how Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the leaders of Russia and China, treat history.
In the dying days of 2021, the Russian and Chinese governments both took dramatic action to censor discussion of their countries’ history. In both cases, the decision to “control the past” sends a bleak signal about the future.
Russia’s Supreme Court closed Memorial, an organisation founded in the last years of the Soviet Union to record and preserve the memory of the victims of Stalinism. In Hong Kong, local universities bowed to China’s central government — removing from campuses statues commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. In the decades after decolonisation in 1997, Hong Kong was a bastion of free speech within the People’s Republic of China. But that era has now definitively come to a close.
The closing of Memorial feels like a turning point for the whole of Russia. For all the brutality of the Putin regime, Russia, until recently, has allowed considerably more latitude for political dissent than China. Putin’s opponents demonstrated in numbers on the streets in 2012, 2019 and in 2021. That kind of open criticism of Xi has long felt inconceivable in mainland China.
The New Cold War fought from the comfortable office/study of Mr. Rachman has been aided, by some careful garnish that History Made to Measure offers, in the way of ‘insights’ wedded to the usual New Cold War hysteria.
Today, January 4, 2022, Janan Ganesh predicts American Doom and Gloom:
Headline: Endemic civil disorder could be America’s future
Sub-headline: A year on from the Capitol siege, the US remains vulnerable to political violence
I delayed quoting from the essay to recognize Mr. Ganesh’s maladroit framing:
Some 50 winters ago, the UK home secretary Reginald Maudling gave up on the outright defeat of Irish Republican terrorism. What might be feasible, he said, almost spoofing the British art of managing decline, was to keep the bloodshed down to “acceptable” levels. What was at the time a quite sensational gaffe went unmarked on its semicentennial last month. This was a sheepish admission that he had not been callous or defeatist, but prescient.
The turbulent, riotous, or even anarchic decades, of the 1960’s & 1970’s in America is beyond Mr. Ganesh’s reach, at least until later in his essay. If a writer is to comment on American politics, it is incumbent to confine commentary to that History? This expectation isn’t borne of cultural/political chauvinism, but of the necessity of historical context!
Some ‘highlights’ from Mr. Ganesh’s essay:
Find this alarmist or much too optimistic, according to taste. But the first of these objections (that January 6, 2021, was not so bad, and anyway a one-off) is harder to take seriously. It is often paired with the kind of giggling taunt about liberal hysteria and “Trump Derangement Syndrome” that stopped being conscionable when people died on the Capitol grounds.
Mr. Ganesh is here on firmer ground here:
There are several reasons to worry about the future. One is the past. It would not take an exotic sequence of events for violence to become a feature of politics in the coming decades. It would just take a regression to, if not quite the mean, then a recurring theme in US history. In the half-century after the election of Abraham Lincoln, there were three presidential assassinations and a civil war that claimed almost as many lives as all other US wars combined. Ethnic violence flared between the world wars. The 1960s brought a new round of assassinations and urban riots so bad that some northern cities only half recovered. If anything was aberrant, it was not January 6, then, it was the relative calm of recent decades. And even that lull included, in Oklahoma, the nation’s worst ever act of domestic terrorism.
In her data-rich new book, How Civil Wars Start, the academic Barbara F Walter sees a US ripe for terrible internal violence. But no chapter is scarier than the one that tries to hold out hope. The mismatch of disease and treatment is huge, and not through lack of imagination on her part.
Few are old enough to remember that politics can be so dangerous as to start total wars. If neither of these issues is unique to the US, they are compounded by one that is: the state has no formal monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. What exactly is to be done about factors so vast and ingrained? How a Chronic If Not Existential Level of Violence Starts is a drab thesis. It is also a grimly credible one.
What Mr. Ganesh fails to confront is the utter collapse of America’s Political Class! The enthusiasm, with which all of its operatives, Republicans and New Democrats, presented the Neo-Liberal Swindle as the dawn of a New Age, that collapsed. And immiserated both the Working Class and the Middle Class, has produced political rage. A unsparing critique of Capital, in or out of Neo-Liberal Drag, and its political watershed, will never be enunciated in this newspaper?