What, Exactly, Is “Kicking Off Everywhere,” Whether in Venezuela, the Ukraine, or Thailand?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

“Kicking Off Everywhere” is drawn from an interesting book by Paul Mason, Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere. He summarizes his thesis here (2013; reinforced here):

What is underpinning the unrest that has swept the globe? In reality it’s reducible to three factors. Firstly, the neoliberal economic model has collapsed, and this has then been compounded by persistent attempts to go on making neoliberalism work: to ram the square peg into the round hole, thereby turning a slump into what looks like being a ten year global depression. Secondly there has been a revolution in technology that has made horizontal networks the default mode of activism and protest; this has destroyed the traditional means of disseminating ideology that persisted through two hundred years of industrial capitalism, and has made social media the irreversible norm. Thirdly, there has been a change in human consciousness: the emergence of what Manuel Castells calls ‘the networked individual’ – an expansion of the space and power of individual human beings and a change in the way they think; a change in the rate of change of ideas; an expansion of available knowledge; and a massive, almost unrecordable, revolution in culture. 

What we are seeing is not the Arab Spring, the Russian Spring, the Maple Spring [Quebec’s Printemps érable], Occupy, the indignados. We’re seeing the Human Spring.

Perhaps. Although we might consider firstly that the the 0.01% is doing quite well under a collapsing neo-liberalism, thank you very much; secondly that social media can be used by bad guys as well as good; and thirdly that a “change in the way they think” is just that: “Change,” much as speed is only speed, and not velocity. We might remember, also, that oligarchs and heads of state are “Human,” all too human; as are fascists.

So, in this post, I want to gently interrogate Mason’s theses, by using the following Real News Network interview as a forcing device; I’m going to take the entire transcript and interweave other examples of “unrest” with it, along with commentary. The RNN interview also has the advantage of covering Venezuela in some detail, which our famously free press is not doing, and so is useful for that purpose alone, besides being an armature for discussion. And, readers, I hope you’ll chime in with additions, corrections, and refinements; I’ve blogged a lot on “unrest,” ever since the Tahrir Square, but that, and an appropriate level of cynicism realism, are my only qualifications!

* * *

Paul Jay of the Real News Network interviews Miguel Tinker-Salas, professor of History and Latin American studies at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and Alexander Main of CEPR:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

Both pro- and anti-government forces are rallying in Venezuela today ahead of a peace conference called for by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Now joining us to discuss this are two guests.

In Caracas, we’re joined by Miguel Tinker Salas. He’s a professor of Latin American history, Pomona College, author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela from Duke University Press. His forthcoming book is Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.

And in Washington, we’re joined by Alexander Main, senior associate for international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, where he focuses on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean. And he’s also consulted for the Venezuelan government and the City of London.

Thank you both for joining us.

And let’s start with Miguel. So, Miguel, you’re in Caracas right now. There’s reportedly both pro- and anti-government rallies happening today ahead of this peace conference called for by Nicolás Maduro.

While “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war,” it’s not clear that such events can always resolve what are, in the end, crises of legitimacy. (“All dreaded it, all sought to avert it…. And the war came.”) We’ve recently seen the results of one such settlement in the Ukraine. On the other hand, in Thailand, a proposal for a live debate actually seems to have at least postponed serious civil strife.

Give us the latest. And if you can, also comment on Governor José Vielma Mora–and a lot has been made about this in the Western media. He’s a supporter of Maduro, but he’s criticized some of his what he called violent methods of cracking down on protestors.

On protest during the “Human Spring”: One thing I’ve finally realized, being here in Thailand during what amounts to an insurrection, is that just because a protest movement uses some of Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of non-violent protest and persuasion, that doesn’t mean that movement auto-magically merits support. Sharp, after all, opposes violence, but that doesn’t mean that he opposes the use of force, and force can be used for bad or good ends.

It is true that there are always two sides — those who will kill for their beliefs, and those who won’t — but at least in Thailand, people on the killer side (“the militant wing,” the “hard men”) were also on other sides (not all, but most, and certainly the most powerful). I’ve also finally realized that just because protesters want to overthrow the State — even if they’re wearing V for Vendetta masks! — that doesn’t make them auto-magically right, either. What if the protesters want to install a Fascist regime? Suppose the defeated Confederates had not turned to night-riders and terror in resisting the Union, but to method #196: Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws. Would their protest merit our support?

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, PROF. LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CHICANO/CHICANA STUDIES, POMONA COLLEGE: Well, no. Vielma Mora said he was against using repression against the population, and I think most people in Venezuela, including most supporters of Nicolás Maduro, would agree with that statement. So I think that Vielma Mora was clarifying his position in relationship to what’s happened in Táchira, where the protests have been–by the opposition–have been, somewhat, very violent in confronting the National Guard.

On violence and social media in the “Human Spring”: There has been considerable violence in the Ukraine, to say the least, confronting the government, and to a lesser extent in Thailand, too. Violence, and especially the distribution of (sometimes fake) images and videos of violence, both by and against the government, through social media plays a huge part driving activists on all sides forward and shaping world opinion in each case of “unrest.” (I wish I could write “unrests,” plural. “Unrestfulnesses” doesn’t make it.) Thailand is intensely socially mediated, and this image of an anti-government protester choking another Thai trying to go vote played very badly on the international stage. The post-nuclear images of Maidan, on the other hand, seemed to evoke a sort of awe; protesters going up against police with wooden weapons and tin shields! (Some Thai protesters go up against police wearing, I kid you not, armor made from X-Ray film). I suppose that the producers and consumers of all this media could indeed be called “networked individuals” — the Thai protesters, at least in the beginning, were notable for the massive volume of their selfies — but I’m not sure that adds up to Human Spring. Their selfies celebrated beauty, but not everything in the protests was beautiful.

Now, he also was very critical of the mayor, which is an opposition mayor in San Cristóbal, who took the cadaver of a victim who fell off of a second-story building and paraded it through the city. So we have that.

“So we have that.” Yeah, well. Parading a cadaver through the streets seems a little over-the-top to me, no matter which side did the parading. The quest for martyrs, the demand for dead bodies, has always existed, but the sucking maw of social media really brings out the dead now, along with the bloody and the maimed. Certainly true in Maidan, but also in Thailand.

But what’s happening in Venezuela today have been a series of protests and counterprotests on the part of the opposition. It was “Women for Peace”–interestingly enough, last Saturday, the government and Maduro and others had also a rally of “Women for Peace” on the government side. Today there was a protest sponsored by the Patriotic Pole and the government. The Patriotic Pole is the group that includes all of the supporters of the government, and it was the social movements and peasants (campesinos), who gathered in Caracas on the eve of a peace conference.

On class in the “Human Spring”: The peasants support the Venezuelan State. No wonder the political class in the United States wants to destroy it, oil aside! Of course, to immediately complicate matters, Ukraine seems to be fracturing along national/linguistic/historical lines, and so class doesn’t seem a useful prism to view unrest there through (except for the class interests of international bankers, of course, but that’s just a constant). In Thailand, it can be useful to view unrest as a conflict between multiple networks based in opposed bourgeoisies, the one settled and ascendant, based in Bangkok, and the other aspirational, based in the Northeast. (In other words, the unrest isnot a simple conflict between rich and poor, as it is often portrayed.)

What you have is much of the protest reduced to essentially 18 different municipalities. And even within those municipalities, it’s not the entire municipality. Friends tell me in western Venezuela that, for example, it’s a tale of two cities: whether it’s San Cristóbal or Mérida, actually one side or some neighborhoods are actually with barricades and others are functioning as if it was a normal day of work. So that’s–I think it’s a misnomer to consider that we’re confronting a massive outpouring by millions of people. In fact, we have pockets of protest taking place in Caracas and in the interior of Venezuela.

On the media in the “Human Spring”: As we see, the media focus is highly selective. For whatever reason, coverage on the ground is in Venezuela is rare, and what there is, is bad. For whatever reason, coverage on the ground in Thailand is good, and the BBC, Reuters, and Times all have real reporters here. Could be that ASEAN is more important, could be that Bangkok is a more desirable posting than Caracas, could be that there’s a news blackout at the editorial level. And Kiev? Who’d want to go to Kiev? (Somebody should do a study on how correspondents are distributed; protests aren’t dangerous enough in Bangkok for the real adrenalin freaks, but they’re dangerous enough for people who want to do more than work the phone; reporters have come under fire in here, even though the city is in no sense a war zone.[1])

On the “revolution in technology” in the “Human Spring”: One of the most amazing technologies of the Thai unrest (besides the X-ray film) is that private drones (not government, not official press, but private) have been used over the protest sites. Drones are useful to get a good sense of crowd size (all sides over-estimate their “millions” horribly), to track marches through the city (useful if you want to avoid them), and to document events. Bangkok is also awash in CCTV; whenever there is a violent or even a dramatic event, CCTV footage promptly appears in FaceBook and twitter. Of course, you should never trust digital data of unknown provenance, but that’s just part of the revolution. (The streamers played a similarly important role in Occupy.)

On “the people” in the “Human Spring”: And so, in Venezuela, we have what appears in our famously free press to be a mass movement, is parts of some municipalities. Interesting! In Thailand we don’t have that misrepresentation, because coverage is better; reporters actually went up-country and interviewed some of the Red Shirts there, instead of staying in Bangkok and tacking dictatation. We do, however, have delusion: The Bangkok protesters call themselves “the great mass of the people” but in fact the political party that represents them hasn’t won an election in twenty years, and even in Bangkok they have only 60% of the vote. They also call themselves “the people,” which gets to the heart of the matter: Only they have the right to speak for Thailand. I’d be interested to know if the Venezuelans use the same rhetoric. And I know very little about the Ukraine, but what I do know is that the country does not split neatly down the middle, West/EU vs. East/Russia. So the question “Who speaks for the country?” could have a very painful answer, just as in Thailand, or in Venezuela.

NOOR: And Alexander, I wanted to bring you in the conversation. What’s your response to what Miguel said? And, also, you know, you could describe the Western media as being almost rabidly anti-Maduro in their descriptions and how they’ve focused on the opposition and what they’ve made of José Vielma Mora’s comments. And they’ve highlighted the fact that he’s spoken out about some of the repression, but not about his support, his ongoing support for Maduro.

ALEXANDER MAIN, SENIOR ASSOC. FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY, CEPR: Yeah, absolutely. Well, in terms of what Miguel said, I mean, he’s absolutely right. We’re not looking at a generalized phenomenon in terms of these protests. They’re taking place in, you know, very small pockets.

On the media and the State in the “Human Spring”: “Very small pockets.” Didn’t we read about this in The Ugly American? The photogenic event, images carefully cropped?

And, you know, an important thing to note as well is that they’re taking place essentially in middle-class and upper middle-class neighborhoods.

On the tactics in “Human Spring”: See under “The revolt of the middle class”. In Bangkok (I don’t know about Maidan), the protests are driven by middle- and upper-class people (“hi sos”), although they don’t protest in their own neighborhoods. And protesting in their own neighborhoods strikes me as a crazy notion; does Caracas have no public space? No public transportation? No central square, a la Maidan or many locations in Bangkok[2]?

So it’s a rather strange thing that we’re seeing–I mean strange from the U.S. point of view, at least, where when one sees riots (because that’s essentially what we are seeing here), you really see that in poor neighborhoods, and, you know, often poor neighborhoods take the brunt of the damage that’s caused. In this case, it’s middle-class students–not necessarily students; young people, at any rate, who have taken to the streets in very small numbers. But they’re, you know, blocking traffic, they’re burning rubbish, putting up barracades.

On the corruption and class in “Human Spring”: As I remember, last year in Brazil, protests about costly public transportation were initiated by anarchists but were immediately co-pted “middle class” protests against “corruption.” That is the theme of “middle class” protests in Thailand as well, but I’ll believe they’re serious when they stop paying “tea money” to get their kids into the right schools.

They’re putting up barbed wires around intersections that have already caused, apparently, three deaths, including the beheading of a motorcyclist that went by.

On violence and social media in the “Human Spring”: That’s very bad. When the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie get blooded, they tend to go on with it and start slaughtering their opponents; Paris, 1870. (That’s why hate speech is important; it gives a license to kill.)

TINKER SALAS: Two motorcyclists.

MAIN: Is it just two motorcyclists?

TINKER SALAS: Two motorcyclists now that have died.

On class in the “Human Spring”: If Caracas is like Bangkok, the motorcyclists are not on the road for recreation, but providing essential and efficient public transport. So, some workers lost their lives.

MAIN: Okay, yes. So, at any rate, you know, these are, you know, sort of dangerous barricades that have been set up, but that also are paralyzing things in these neighborhoods. I mean, you go in there, you know, it’s, you know, very quiet because traffic can’t go through there. I mean they really blocked things in a lot of these neighborhoods. But it is a micro-phenomenon in Venezuela, and I think that’s important to, you know, keep in mind given the sort of huge coverage that it’s been getting over the last few days.

On the tactics in “Human Spring”: I’m not sure that blocking the city, let alone one’s own neighborhood, is ever a recipe for success. It hasn’t been in Bangkok, so far. What is the endgame?

And in terms of, you know, the government response to that, you know, there have been allegations that there was a lot of, you know, very heavy repression. I think there are certainly cases of abuses on the part of the state security forces. I think in a lot of cases, you know, in these neighborhoods, there’s perhaps a lack of any sort of intervention taking place on the part of state security forces. They, I think, are wary of going in there and clashing with these students, causing, you know, more casualties, potentially.

You know, there are already a number of casualties. Each one is, you know, generally in the media and so on attributed to the government, although, really, if you look over who has been killed so far, it’s probably about 50 percent opposition supporters, and the rest are, you know, either pro-government or just not really as involved in politics. So, you know, these are things that are not really being covered in the mainstream media.

On the strategic hate management in “Human Spring”: Yes, on the casualties. Each side talks only of its own, never of the other’s.

NOOR: Right. Miguel, how much of these protests are expanding into the urban working class? Because if you just read the headlines in the Western media, they’re all about the protests broadening and growing, but the urban working class, which the majority, from what I understand, do support–they are Chavistas, but they’re about split on their support. So have they taken to the streets? Are they part of the protests now?

TINKER SALAS: They’re not part of the protests, per se. But, for example, in Minas de Baruta, in Caracas, a few days ago there were protests in what is essentially a very poor neighborhood, and people were complaining about scarcity and about other issues. I mean, there are some real issues in Venezuela the government needs to tackle, and these are primarily economic issues and primarily the question of being able to not have scarcity. And people are tired of confronting those issues. Inflation is also upwards of 50 percent. So those are real issues that affect broad sections of society, especially working class and poor segments of society. So they are concerned.

On class in the “Human Spring”: A “rule or ruin” strategy by the bourgeois and petty bourgeoisie, I would guess. (The economic tactics and effects of the protests in Bangkok would be really complicated to net out, so I won’t do that. In a lot of ways, though, it’s a Stop or I shoot myself situation.)

But again, what the opposition is offering as an alternative is simply street protest. They’ve actually pushed their people into a dead end. They have only one goal: overthrow the government. They don’t have short-term measures. They have not made proposals on crime. They have not made proposals on how to address economic issues. They have not indicated how they would govern the country differently.

On tactics in the “Human Spring”: Exactly the same thing in Thailand. The protesters are demanding “reform before elections,” to be accomplished by an unelected council of “good people,” with no program of reform! But not at all the same in the Ukraine, yes? I’m not sure how to give an account of the differences in each case of unrest.

And, in fact, just the opposite happens. People that I talk to tell me, if this is how they want to govern, by creating ungovernability, by making the city impassable, by disrupting society, then that’s a very poor example. So I think that’s the largest question they face.

On tactics in the “Human Spring”: I believe that reaction happened in Bangkok, too. In many ways, the protesters were seen as irresponsible. I can’t quite the word… Actually, the word is “asshole”; see this definition. Political speech is fine, but not in the Quiet Car, mkay? I’m trying to figure out the difference between Caracas and Bangkok protests, on the one hand, and Zucotti Park, on the other; funding issues aside, I’d say that although it was disruptive[3], Zucotti was also prefigurative, an element lacking with Caracas and Bangkok. In Bangkok, it was people who didn’t have to go to work that day bringing public transport and convenience to a halt for those who did have to go to work. I just don’t think that played well. In the Ukraine, obviously, the stakes and what people were willing to risk and put up with are very different.

And the electoral cycle does not benefit them this year, because for the first time in almost 15 years there are no elections scheduled in Venezuela. So, again, let me reiterate: they have taken their movement and their people into a dead end, because they don’t have anything else to offer except oust Maduro by undemocratic means, because at the heart of their position is they refuse to recognize his election.

On tactics in the “Human Spring”: Exactly as in Thailand; I don’t think in Kiev.

And understanding that last December, 2013, from Municipal elections, the opposition made them into a plebicite on Maduro, they lost. They gained a couple of major urban cities, but they lost, and Maduro’s forces won close to 75 percent of the municipal areas, so that coming from that victory to now have a condition of ungovernability simply underscores and belies the fact that they are not willing to abide by the democratic process and they are looking for extralegal means to oust a democratically elected government.

On tactics in the “Human Spring”: And again, exactly as in Thailand. We have a party named the “Democrats,” who haven’t won an election in twenty years, boycotting a democratic election! That didn’t play well either, despite the protesters’s appeal that they were in favor of “true democracy” and would hold elections after reform.

NOOR: And I know we’re running out of time, but, Alex, let’s end with you. So there may be legitimate demands here, but is the call for the resignation for Maduro really a demand for destabilization?

MAIN: Well, absolutely. I mean, these are destabilization tactics. When you paralyze neighborhoods and smoke them out and terrify entire communities, which is what these small groups of young people have been doing for the past ten days or so, you know, that is the objective.

And, you know, I think it’s important to underline that this is not a new thing. This has happened many times now over the last 14 years, ever since, you know, Venezuela first elected, you know, Hugo Chávez, that the opposition has engaged in these destabalization tactics, sometimes with, you know, a temporary success, as was the case in 2002, during the April 2002 coup.

This is not so much reminiscent of the 2002 coup, when the opposition did manage to mobilize a really mass middle-class protest. I think it’s much more reminiscent of 2004, where we saw the phenomenon of the guarimba that took place at the end of February and the beginning of March. The guarimba is exactly what we’re seeing now. It is, you know, creating chaos with small groups of people that are setting up barricades, that are, you know, threatening anybody who comes close to them, that are, you know, burning things, that are damaging public property, etc., trying to provoke, actually, a very strong response from state security forces in order to sort of try to get a snowball effect and try to get a more generalized rebellion.

On tactics in the “Human Spring”: Guarimba is a useful word, but there’s no such thing in Kiev or Thailand, AFAIK (though the cycle of provocation and counter-provocation in Thailand is so layered and intricate and opaque you just have no concept.)

Well, as I said earlier, there hasn’t actually been much repression of these protests, at least not recently. I think it’s been, you know, fairly minimal. And so, you know, they’re not really managing, I think, to mobilize more support.

On violence in the “Human Spring”: In Kiev, the repression was massive. In Thailand — at least by the standards of the previous government, run by the protester’s party, that ended up killing around 90 people in a crackdown by the Army — the repression has been pretty minimal. The wind of protest blows through the tree of the State, and when the wind is gone, the tree remains (see this video).

But in the meantime, you know, I think the really tragic thing for the opposition is that the radical sector of the opposition sort of has the upper hand as the support of the private media in the country and so on. And, you know, they are not about elections, they are not about constitutional processes; they’re about, you know, getting rid of this government immediately. And that’s what they’ve made clear.

In Kiev, the government seems to have been gotten rid of. In Thailand, if the government is gotten rid of, it hasn’t been by the protests alone, although there are other methods under the heading of “checks and balances”; this has yet to play out.

* * *

Well, these are preliminary notes towards a comparative study of “middle class” and other unrest “kicking off” round the world. Maybe I’ll be able to add the Occupations, and especially Egypt, to the list. I’m not sure what the underlying dynamic is worldwide, or even if there is a single on, but this remark from Dmitri Orlov, writing on the Ukraine, struck me forcibly:

In light of all this, some people might wonder: were the people in Washington and in Brussels always eager to favor fascists, or is this a new thing for them? I believe the answer is that it doesn’t matter. Their assigned job is to destroy countries, and this they do well. They have destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria, but these are small, and the beast is still hungry. They would love to destroy Iran, but that has turned out too tough a nut to crack. And so they have now set their sights on larger prey: Venezuela and Ukraine. And the reason they have to continue destroying countries is so that the process of wealth destruction, which is inevitable as the world runs short of critical resources, can run its course some place other than the West’s economic heartlands in the US and Northern Europe. It matters very little to them whether they have to support al Qaeda fighters in Libya and Syria or fascists in Ukraine; it’s all the same to them.

I dunno about that process of “wealth destruction.” But if you hypothesized that a small class of extraordinarily rich people (call them “oligarchs”) hated the State, as such, because the State gets in the way of their making any even shittier shit ton of money than they already do, given that the proles have some influence on the State, no matter how tiny, then events in the Ukraine and Venezuela — as well as Iraq and Afghanistan — take on some unity.[4]

And returning to where I began, I think that’s one missing point in Mason’s article: The idea that the neo-liberals and their squillionaire owners — “Global trolls,” we might call them — can’t keep trying to “shove the square peg into the round hole” (Mason) and “destroy countries” (Orlov) for a very long time to come. They too can employ the “revolution in technology.” They too can infiltrate or even sponsor “horizontal networks. They too can leverage “social media,” exactly because it’s an irreversible norm. Finally, the “networked individual” is without moral content; heavily networked individuals involved in creating or leveraging unrest are surely working toward goals that Mason would oppose with every fibre of his being (as would I), just as surely as people Mason would support.

* * *

NOTE Thailand is a monarchy, and the lèse-majesté laws are enforced, even against foreigners. Therefore, readers, discussion of the Thai monarchy or royal family is off-topic. Guests in Thailand must obey its laws. Their house, their rules.

* * *

NOTE [1] It’s also a question whether gunmen perform for the cameras, of which there are rather a lot; I think they do.

NOTE [2] Greater Bangkok is a city of 12 million. It makes LA or Berlin seem small.

NOTE [3] Not in the Silicon Valley sense.

NOTE [4] Events in Thailand are about capturing the State, not destroying it. IMNSHO, the protesters in Thailand are not funded by the US. The tell is that their international presentation is, to say the least, gauche. Insulting women and blocking the ballot doesn’t play well, even among the international global ruling class.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. proximity1

    “Thirdly, there has been a change in human consciousness: the emergence of what Manuel Castells calls ‘the networked individual’ – an expansion of the space and power of individual human beings and a change in the way they think; a change in the rate of change of ideas; an expansion of available knowledge; and a massive, almost unrecordable, revolution in culture.”

    You could have fooled me.

    1. digi_owl

      What is the saying again? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

      As best i can tell, after a full work week and “leisure” activities the human mind is just not capable of absorbing new information.

  2. der

    If I take the perspective that Chris Hedges suggests: “They know what’s coming.” (the powerful and their enforcers in the Pentagon-NSA-GCHQ and climate catastrophe), then Orlov’s view lines up. Destroying established state rule and handing over the keys to corrupt and corruptible actors insures access to resources that the oligarchs would need in their futuristic “colonization of Mars”. I have no respect for their genius after all what we now have can be laid at their feet, that they are unable to see we are all in this together and Mother Nature will not stop at the wall surrounding their utopian compound is a huge obstacle to saving the species in a livable planet.

    1. hunkerdown

      that they are unable to see we are all in this together and Mother Nature will not stop at the wall surrounding their utopian compound

      You’re fighting the last war. Today they wall *in* the favelas.

      Also, we’re really not all in this together, if they can significantly influence their outcomes relative to ours, and you haven’t given a whole lot of evidence that it isn’t the case. At what point in the history of civilization has there been a sovereign nation without a body of elites exploiting (and sometimes consuming) a disenfranchised subaltern class to provide for the leisure and trappings of elite status?

  3. PaulW

    Thank you for the insights into Venezuela. And the Orlov piece sounds dead on correct to me.

  4. Watt4Bob

    This situation has happened over and over throughout history, if prodded the PTB can match any display of opposition, man-for-man.

    “You want to see a demonstration? We’ll show you a demonstration…”

    It is ever useful to reiterate Jay Gould’s famous aphorism;

    “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half”

    It’s also very instructive to re-read the early chapters of William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to see how violence in the streets alway seems to favor the purposes of the authoritarians.

    It’s in this context that one can start to understand the tremendous threat that Martin Luther King’s non-violence movement posed to the PTB, they can always and everywhere mount an equivalent force to break heads and create chaos behind which their suggested ‘solutions’ sound ‘serious’ and ‘reasonable’, but faced with a determined, and disciplined non-violent movement, their tactic becomes less affective because it’s easier to see who is repressing who.

    I think that Occupy presented a real problem for the MOTU and they’ve done every thing in their power to convince us via propaganda that it was a failure, and ineffective, mostly because media coverage of police beating non-violent protestors was making people think, and they can’t reliably turn-out an equivalent mass of disciplined non-viollent demonstrators backing Wall $treet’s interests.

    Fascism doesn’t grow out of the chaos of toe-to-toe street violence, fascism is always there, behind the scenes, it incites and uses that violence to gain, or hold power.

    World-wide, the Washington consensus, neo-liberal cabal, the 1%, or what ever you want to call it is facing growing opposition, and they are expert at leveraging chaos to their advantage.

    I think the Occupy movement was on the right path, possibly the only path. and if we can properly digest the experience, eventually we’ll understand that.

    1. hunkerdown

      The neoliberal consensus also loves counseling non-violence as a strategy for two reasons: it provides minimal credible duress to incumbent power at significant cost and inconvenience to demonstrators, and it insulates their class from the *one* form of recourse against which their class has no particular advantage and cannot be made whole as if it never happened.

      Behind every successful good cop is a credible bad cop. Please, look up the term BATNA and use the light to reexamine your absolutist (and ineffective in practice) position within the context of game theory.

      1. Watt4Bob

        I’m mindful of the necessity of the credible, effective ‘bad cop’, in fact, I think it’s a easily proven historical fact there’s ever been any real progress made without actual ‘bad cop’ enforcement.

        I believe however that the ‘bad cop’s’ job can’t be effective until the ‘good cops’ have convinced the masses of the true character of the enemy.

        So far, there are far too many people who believe dissenters deserve the boot.

    2. Nathanael

      Nonsense regarding the claim that the PTB can match any display of opposition. The exiisting elites have, repeatedly, underestimated their opposition.

      Think: The French Revolution.

      The opposition doesn’t get what it wants, generally. But the important point is that the existing elites get trashed. The populace are quite capable of blowing away the existing elites, although it generally seems to just leave an opening for new elites.

      But you know what? That should be considered really bad by the old elites. That they are not trying to avoid this scenario indicates stupidity.

      I can agree with you regarding the threat which MLK and Gandhi and Occupy pose to the brutal elites. If the elites are sufficiently brutal and stupid, however, even less disciplined movements can toss them over. There is no substitute for competence if the elites wish to retain power.

      The Washington consensus/ neoliberal cabal / 1% have *failed* at competence, and this means they are doomed one way or another.

      I hope the Occupy path is successful at ousting them, since it might lead to democratic results. If it isn’t successful, however, fascists or Stalinists or Napoleonic types or *someone* will oust them.

  5. vlade

    “I’ve also finally realized that just because protesters want to overthrow the State — even if they’re wearing V for Vendetta masks! — that doesn’t make them auto-magically right”


    Enemy of my enemy may not be my friend. Or at least not for very long.

  6. Vatch

    I’m mystified by some of what Orlov says at the linked site:

    And now the situation in the Ukraine is roughly as follows. The new Ukrainian government, born, as it were, of an incestuous relationship between a Ukrainian neo-Nazi skinhead and his pig (or was it a US State Department operative?) lacks legitimacy. In the Russian-speaking provinces in the east, people are taking over local governments and appealing to Russia for help, which Russia is quick to offer, moving troops into the historically Russian Crimean peninsula and handing out Russian passports to anyone who wants one. (Interestingly, they are handing out Russian passports to the members of Ukrainian special forces, who are now on the run. Clearly, the Russians don’t think that the allegations of mass murder will stick.) Having lost 26.6 million dead fighting fascists during World War II, it is not in Russia’s political DNA to allow fascists to rise to power right in the Slavic heartland.

    It’s true that the Soviet Union suffered terribly from the Nazi invasion, however, I have often wondered whether the death toll was exaggerated by including the people who died during the planned famine of the early 1930s and the people who died during the Terror that started in 1934. After all that the Ukrainians suffered from the Russian dominated Soviet Union, perhaps it’s not in their DNA to allow themselves to be abused by the Russians any more.

    Also, is it really correct to call the Yulia Timoshenko faction “skinheads” or “fascists”? Wasn’t she imprisoned on trumped up charges by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich (the former prime minister, although he claims he’s still the real prime minister)? It would appear that Yanukovich is the fascist, not the rebels. What am I missing?

    For what it’s worth, Orlov is a Russian native, so he may be inclined to prefer the Russian side in this dispute.

    1. Banger

      No, Stalin’s basic genocide of Ukrainians did not figure in the millions lost by the USSR in WWII since it predated the War by six years. We also have to figure in the millions who lost their lives in the Gulags between 1917 and the death of Stalin. The Ukrainians have every reason to hate Russia–but Russians suffered also during “Communist” rule in the USSR.

      The point here is that this hatred is being used by the West to threaten and limit the Russian Federation. This is the initiation of Cold War II. The West needs it to have a credible external threat to make sure people understand TINA and are willing to follow Big Brother for another few decades as Saddam and Osama are dead.

      1. Vatch

        I’m not convinced that Soviet censuses during the 1930s were accurate. Do you have evidence to support the accuracy of the Soviet censuses during the middle and late 1930s? I admit that I don’t have evidence that the censuses were fraudulent, but when in doubt, I tend to assume that Stalin and his minions were lying.

        I don’t trust the national security apparatus of the U.S., but I also understand that there are a lot of countries in Europe that are justifiably worried about what Russia might do to them.

        1. optimader

          I think your assessment is you correct Vatch, Stalin closed the Ukrainian border to the outside and engaged in wholesale genocide of the kulaks. Subsequently, the ethnic Ukrainian’s were military cannon fodder. There is no reason to accept any Stalin era census information. I am confident that Stalin was responsible for more Ukrainian deaths directly and indirectly than the Nazi’s.
          I have a Belarusian friend that is a newly minted US citizen, I look forward to getting some perspective on all this.

              1. optimader

                It would be more interesting if you critiqued flaws in her article rather than suggest a visit to a linkedin page…

        2. Banger

          Russian has very little interest in military adventures–most Russian wars were defensive or or to wind warm water ports. No European country has anything to fear from Russia. It is the U.S. that is to be feared since it is now very broadly spread out militarily and now concentrates its offensive military operation to covert ops, assassinations, paying for destabilization of various countrie and so on.

          The Europeans are making a mistake by following U.S. policies so closely–they need to take a more neutral position to leverage their power better. However, the NY/London axis of financial power now sits astride the Euro economy and they the Europeans are somewhat intimidated by the Anglo/American alliance–or more accurately that alliance plus their own banking and investment class.

          1. Vatch

            The biggest Russian wars were defensive. But they had plenty of offensive wars, as well. Any war to win a warm water port was offensive. In the 18th century, along with Austria and Prussia, they seized part of Poland, and kept it for more than 100 years. They invaded Finland in 1939; and their non-aggression pact with the Nazis was their excuse to aggressively swallow half of Poland and some of the Baltic nations. At the end of World War II, they aggressively seized more than just their German/Austrian enemies and client states. Poland and Czechoslovakia became post WWII conquests.

            You’re right that the Anglo-German-American axis of financial power is not to be trusted. But neither is the Russian government. They have black ops, too. Remember the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210?

            1. Banger

              The Russian view was that a warm-water port was a requirement for Russia to defend itself so I don’t regard those wars as “aggressive” in the same way many U.S. wars are and were.

              1. Vatch

                The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was defensive in response to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was similarly “defensive”, due to the imminent deployment of Iraqi phantom weapons of mass destruction. Spin-meisters can make all sorts of aggressive acts into defensive gestures. The U.S. has done it, and so has Russia.

                If Russia seized or attempted to seize territory belonging to another country, it’s an aggressive act. It can be rationalized that it was needed for defense, because it was in quest of a warm water port. But that public relations legerdemain doesn’t change the aggressive reality.

                1. Banger

                  All wars are justified by propagandaists–I don’t buy it about either Afghanistan nor Iraq nor Libya.

                  1. Vatch

                    Neither do I. And similarly, I don’t buy the propaganda about the defensive nature of Russia’s aggressive wars. Yes, they defended against Napoleon and Hitler, but there was nothing defensive about their wars against Finland or Poland, and World War One was mutually aggressive by all sides, including Russia.

          2. Yves Smith

            The EU is not following the US closely here. Remember the US “fuck the EU” remark? EU representatives then held meeting without the US and with Ukraine and Russian representatives to hammer out a deal. That went sour as a result of shooting, which many believe was instigated by US aligned extremists.

            So they may all smile together in photo ops but the EU isn’t keen to follow the US on this one.

            1. Banger

              This aspect of the crisis has me confused–I confess to be fairly mystified by EU foreign policy, on the one hand it seems to slavishly follow the “full spectrum dominance” idea of U.S. power with Europe as a junior partner benefiting from the U.S. guaranteeing oil from the Gulf, open shipping lanes and so on. Hollande, for example is as pro-American as his predecessor and Skandinavia has turned to the right in FP for some years now. What gives?

              1. Nathanael

                The EU is not at all aligned with the US. It just pretends to be, in public statements, to keep the US quiet.

                The EU is best understood as a German attempt to create an export-driven mercantile empire of soft power, in alliance with France. It is in some sense an entirely capitalist enterprise. Matters of warfare are considered annoyances, distractions, failures of economic policy.

                The other countries doing the same thing right now are Turkey and China.

                In this contast, the EU need for the importation of raw materials from Russia is problematic, as it is hard to secure without military action. The EU reaction is the sensible one: stop depending on Russian methane.

                The EU’s attitude towards the US is the same as the 19th century British attitude towards the colonies which were short on raw materials: a captive export market. Frankly, they see Russia the same way.

                It’s all much more mercantilist than you might imagine.

    2. rayduray

      Re: “I have often wondered whether the death toll was exaggerated by including the people who died during the planned famine of the early 1930s and the people who died during the Terror that started in 1934. ”

      You exhibit considerable confusion as well as a lack of research ability and/or laziness. That makes you susceptible to falling for lies. Your sentence above reads like classic propaganda from a source wishing you to remain befuddled.

      The facts are easily sorted. Whether or not you trust Wikipedia (and not trusting it in basic matters is another sign of susceptibility to being propagandized) the facts are plain.

      Here’s Casualties from World War II: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties

      The USSR is listed here at total deaths (civilian and military) of 21,800,000 to 28,000,000.

      Stalin’s campaign of starvation of the Ukranian peasantry in the early 1930s was called the Holodomor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

      Total Holodomor deaths: 2.4 to 7.5 million

      The Great Terror or Great Purge resulted in the deaths of at least 681,000. Other estimates are higher. Google Wikipedia Great_Purge#Number_of_people_executed for the details.

      It will behoove us to all realize that with regards to Ukraine, the U.S. government and media are at this moment displaying by far the most egregious example of lying to the public that we’ve endured since 2002-3 when the war criminals Dick Cheney and George Bush drummed up their illicit war in Iraq.

    3. Nathanael

      Orlov’s gobbledegook about “fascists” is absolute nonsense — he’s been reading Putin’s propaganda. Putin has been spreading nonsense propaganda claiming that the new anti-Yankovich government of Ukraine is fascist; Orlov fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

  7. Watt4Bob

    Ok, I’ll put it another way;
    If, when the cops arrive at the bar, there’s a dead guy laying the floor with a hysterical woman standing over him crying;
    “Oh my God! Oh my God! What happened…”
    You can pretty much bet that same woman had been talking with both the dead man and his killer prior to the ‘event’, and far from not knowing ‘what happened’, was the instigator.

  8. Banger

    Interesting thoughts, Lambert, I think this is important to look at. But let me just move the argument a little towards the Big Picture or, to be more accurate, the Bigger Picture.

    We are used to a Narrative coming out of the mainstream media–whether we realize it or not we accept the basic precepts of the narrative. Some of us accept all of it some of us very little but we all accept some parts of it–what else are we going to do? Narratives or mythological frameworks are the sine qua non of human society.

    Modernism has techniques to deconstruct these mythological frameworks and we can use them if we are willing to walk a tightrope without a net. Personally, I believe we live in unsustainable frameworks that are poorly constructed easily torn and completely confused because they are made to stand using duct tape rather than girders.

    We believe, without analysis, that something called “democracy” which we seldom define is the best form of government because, as Churchill said, the rest are far worse. We believe that the U.S. Constitution or something like it which, dilutes democracy (we forget that), is the best form of democratic rule. We believe the U.S., while occasionally making “mistakes”, is genuinely ruled by the will of the people and exerts not only a positive influence on the world but we are the main force of what we call progress in the world. These assumptions underlie the mainstream media Narrative and is accepted by all but the most fringe elements as being essentially true whether leftist intellectuals or right-wing Tea Party people.

    Reality has a sad way of intruding on this vision–obviously our history is quite dark in many ways and during all those times our rhetoric has always been very high and very chauvinistic. We were a diverse country that needed unifying principles. When PNAC came on the world stage in the 90s it stated this quite openly saying, essentially, that without a clear purpose the U.S. would degenerate into hedonism and factions/tribes–we required a New Pearl Harbor to galvanize Americans into fulfilling our national destiny to rule the world through “full-spectrum dominance.”

    For me the missing piece of the puzzle is the “deep state” or “deep politics” that states that history did not stop in 1789. Because of the illusion of American Exceptionalism (briefly described above) the U.S. is not subject to the temptations of power and empire every other society is tempted by. American leaders are always well-meaning even if they are wrong–they would never stoop to, for example, poisoning their enemies or using Machiavellian tactics to rule–when these sorts of things appear to come up it is always described as “mistakes were made” and that’s the end of it. Vietnam was a “mistake” so there’s no need to pour over the minutiae of how and why decisions were made. I know, both from the Pentagon Papers and the recollections of my father, who was there every morning with Bill Bundy at State, how and why decisions were made and what forces were at work at that time and every single aspect of the Vietnam debacle was known from the beginning–it was no “mistake” it was a policy conducted with eyes open–the intel was accurate (for the most part) but “other” considerations were in play. What were these? And here I go to the famous radio show called The Shadow the motto was “who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man–the Shadow knows!”

    The deep state existed in protean form before WWII–it was run largely out of Wall Street and involved raw intel but also covert operations mainly in Latin America. Later the OSS recruited many of these people (and organized crime) and later these people came together, along with others, to form the CIA. If you know anything about game theory and make certain assumptions about the sorts of people attracted to power and covert operations and include the idea that these people could operate in secret you might see that these people had considerable competitive advantages to other political forces that had to operate in the public eye and could not legally kill people whenever they felt like it. The mafia was an exception–but I believe they were and are tied into various levels of intel (I think the CIA is no longer the central locus of the deep state).

    I suggest that most of the major events since this group of men and women were empowered to act for the state gradually became the deep state and created alliances with other parts of society to capture power. I believe these forces dominate our society at this time and have for many decades–since 2001, however, this “state” has come to exercise more centralized control though, I believe, the deep state may be experiencing internal fights over the general direction of the country.

    I will say no more on this except to say that the situation in Venezuela is different because that country lies within the sphere assigned to the U.S. whereas Thailand is still relatively independent as is much of Asia. The mainstream media is run by the deep state and has no ability to report and publish independently. I used to follow the USSR media and they were pretty good and you could get intelligent analysis of some events but they always had to toe the Soviet line–the U.S. press is much the same today though not as blatant because the power of the deep state is less centralized than the Soviet Central Committee.

      1. Susan Pizzo

        From Feb. 21 essay/interview on Moyers and Company:

        “[1] The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime. In British author John le Carré’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth, a character describes the Deep State as “… the ever-expanding circle of non-governmental insiders from banking, industry and commerce who were cleared for highly classified information denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster.” I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.”


        PS – Good macro analysis of global unrest by Nafeez Ahmed over at the Guardian a few days ago. “The interaction of environmental, energy, and economic crises suggests that business-as-usual won’t work. The epidemic of global riots is symptomatic of global system failure – a civilisational form that has outlasted its usefulness. We need a new paradigm. … What is needed is a meaningful vision for civilisational transition – backed up with people power and ethical consistence.”


      2. TimR

        From that recent Moyers & Co piece:
        “[1] The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime. In British author John le Carré’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth, a character describes the Deep State as “… the ever-expanding circle of non-governmental insiders from banking, industry and commerce who were cleared for highly classified information denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster.” I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Le Carré sounds like he’s describing the ruling class under a new name. The Brits do that (the ruling class, and writing about the ruling class) rather well. But which is it? Peter Dale Scott, or Turkey? This is IMNSHO good and connects to the ideas of Flexians and Flex Nets:

          [A] hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

          I’d comment that ruling class still does the trick for me. Also, they’ll “reference” the consent of the governed. But only if it suits them.

          1. Nathanael

            No, no. Deep State has some particular implications.

            A genuine ruling class can admit that they are the ruling class.

            A “Deep State” has to hide. If you expose them, they wither. Their power is weak and depends on concealment.

            So, the MIC is the Deep State. The billionaire bankers are ruling class. If the Deep State goes up against them…. who wins depends on whether the Deep State actors are *exposed* or not.

            1. Nathanael

              Pakistan has a well-established “Deep State”.

              Turkey used to have one but it’s been rather comprehensively demolished recently.

              The US definitely has one.

              Soviet Russia had one after Stalin (remember the coup against Gorbachev?) but then it fell apart.

      3. Banger

        The people above answered the question but I’d like to expand it a little and have you go to the idea of “deep politics” coined by Peter Dale Scott–who was, btw, one of the first to initiate the famous Vietnam War “teach-ins” in the sixties that spurred the anti-war moment back in the day.

        All that term means to me is that it is actually politics without the filter of American Exceptionalism. To me it is just the classical view of politics before people believed history was a grand saga of “good guys” vs. “bad guys” a notion that is very popular even here at NC but goes counter to reality.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Ah, Peter Dale Scott, thanks. I don’t believe in American Exceptionalism (except insofar as all times and places are exceptional in some way). I do believe in better guys and worse guys, sometimes, though not always. Also, sometimes good guys are caught within bad systems… In general, people who seek power are very rarely fit to exercise it humanely. That’s a problem.

    1. susan the other

      That was very interesting Banger. Any insights on who offed Bill Bundy’s controversial brother?

      1. Banger

        You mean McGeorge Bundy? He lived to a ripe old age. The two brother disagreed on Vietnam. William Bundy believed the WH was ignoring the facts and not acting rationally. Lyndon Johnson was thought to be, in part, insane by those who worked with him and knew him. I’ve heard numerous stories about his erratic behavior even when he was President–in those days, what they called “gossip” was not discussed in public by either officials, insiders or the press.

        Both Bundys, btw, were Yale Skull and Bones and connected to the CIA as have of Yale of that generation was.

    2. j gibbs

      Understanding all this is very easy. Just disregard everything you were taught in high school and college, and everything published in the New York Times and Washington Post. Realize that money is insecure; it craves power to make itself more secure and to pile up more money. Imagine yourself among those rich, insecure, power craving people. What would you do? Pretty much everything they have done, I submit.

      And LBJ was not insane. He thought he was in charge, but awoke one day to realize he was just a stooge, something he had been since about 1930.

      1. Nathanael

        Naw. LBJ was no stooge. He just had priorities. He chose to attack the Southern racist aristocracy head on, and he wasn’t about to fight the MIC at the same time (or even, really, to pay attention to what it was up to).

        By contrast, I can’t see what Obama’s priorities are, if any.

  9. susan the other

    Orlov’s quote is indelible, and easy to agree with since we have seen so much of this already. I’m thinking that the common denominator is, once again, the perennial quest to control oil by the western powers. Myanmar just built, or is building, a pipeline to transport oil to southern China which, I assume must pass thru Thailand and could be a real bone of contention. The “Red Shirts” sound much astroturfness, they are the new-rich who stand to benefit from graft and grift the length of the pipeline – not to mention that some entrepreneur just built a fat casino at the big bend in the Mekong where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos tricorner together. Opium and gold smuggling used to be the best businesses in that neck of the woods. So add oil on top and who wouldn’t want to stage a revolt? So, maybe. And obviously the unrest in Venezuela is much astroturfness over oil, as usual. Ukraine? Why yes – it’s about fracking natgas right under the existing pipeline and disrupting Russia’s monopoly of gas to western Europe. The more things change…

    1. Jerome Armstrong

      Yea, Ukraine used to export their gas to Russia, now they rely on the the gas subsidy to buy Russian fuel. Follow the money of the carbon footprint…

  10. impermanence

    You have the few taking a great deal from everybody else. How “in-depth” does the analysis need to be?

    The truth is always eminently simple.

    1. hunkerdown

      As deep as is necessary. To answer “should I root for or against incumbent power?” eminent simplicity works. To answer “What sorts of coercion should I prepare to see when They come for those on my side, and how should I be prepared to counter it?” requires rather more detail.

  11. 1 mo time

    How to deal with crises of legitimacy, Who merits support, The import of tactics, all apposite questions.

    Here’s the rules. Not to say they’re always honored in the observance, but if you follow the rules, you get moral and legal dibs on legitimacy in international judicial decisions and supranational diplomacy. That manifests itself as increasing pressure over time.

    Every state’s sovereignty is conditional. A state has sovereignty iff it accepts its responsibility. Responsibility is, at a minimum, compliance with the International Bill of Human Rights, the UN Charter, and the Rome Statute. To the extent that a state’s sovereignty is compromised, peoples comprising the state can exercise their right to self-determination through devolution, autonomy or secession. Irresponsible states compromise their sovereignty, prompting recourse to rebellion by its constituent peoples and requiring international capacity building or other intervention.

    So a movement is legitimate to the extent that it conforms to the International Bill of Human Rights, the UN Charter, and the Rome Statute. In the early stages, the movement is pretty much limited to advocacy but every degree of freedom that it gains is bounded by these instruments. A state is sovereign only to the extent that it conforms to these same instruments.

    The instruments provide a handy checklist for determining how to pick sides. Easy & fun!

    – Fun fact about neoliberal regimes: without exception, they selectively derogate economic rights that are indivisible elements of the International Declaration of Human Rights.

    – Fun fact about OTPOR-template color revolutions: the architects of OTPOR say frankly that human rights is bullshit. Too abstract, they say.

    Fun fact about US government sovereingty:
    UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: F+ (not in compliance with the ICCPR or the UDHR; failed to ratify the CESCR)
    UN CHARTER: F (in criminal breach of Articles 2.4, 53, and Chapter VII)
    ROME STATUTE: F- (failed to ratify, official state program and policy of impunity, actively subverting the underlying universal-jurisdiction law)

    1. Nathanael

      You can also judge legitimacy by measures of how well a country responds to actual voting.

      The US does quite horribly in this respect, having overturned the democratic results of an election in 2000, and having elections which international monitors refuse to observe because they’re too crookedly operated to start with.

  12. allcoppedout

    Manuel Castells’ work has a very low signal to noise ratio. It would be good if we could get a networked response to the deep problems of the world, but most networking is just naff evasion and perpetual childhood stuff.

    Who would we pin the ‘deep state’ on Lambert? In that ‘before they shoot him’ him of way? Maybe the Stoics, given they produced the first written condemnation of slavery, thus recognising something rotten in the state of Denmark concerning soaked-up acceptance of institutions? The Persian Cyrus the Great preceded them in practice, yet we get films like ‘The 300’ (Spartans who rendered the Helots slaves in a ratio 7:1 mouthing stuff about being free men). Machiavelli was good, the key being that leaders should do ‘lovely PR’ in public but be deeply sly and ruthless ‘in deep’. Want some deep state origin and you might study Marlborough and British balance of power politics, but one would no doubt be trumped on date by some Greek stuff, and they by Asian claims. How deep does deep go? Churchill looks much more like a placeman of deep rich interests to me than a British hero. The world would be at peace as an enlarged British Empire if not for that chump – gosh, how deep this deep stuff can get into one’s brain! How many of these deep sleepers does the CIA maintain? I mean look at how many the bungling Soviets paid through Cambridge. Blair is the most obvious since Churchill. What inducements or diabolical dirt are offered or threatened in the grooming processes. I’m sort of serious here. Something very deep is in.

    The Ukraine stands in one of the most barbaric, war-torn bits of geography we can imagine, the broad sweep from the Baltic to the Balkans. We are talking a couple of thousand years of unspeakable horror and genocide. The Crimean Tartars were the major players in the major slave traffic of 1400 – 1800 outside Africa, mostly of Moscovites and Slavs to the middle east (estimates around 2 million – the British and Dutch bombarded Algiers in an anti-slave action in 1816 but this didn’t stop the practice). The Ukrainian Cossacks were once runaway slaves. Crimean Tartars collaborated with the Nazis and were force-ably expelled by Stalin after WW2 – about 45% died. They have been returning in recent years and I think sacked Moscow as late as 1751.

    I see no films on the enslavement of Europeans, despite the massive scale and range of the vile practice (last raids on Britain and Ireland mid-1850s?). Is this reality too deep for us, the shame too much for us melanin deficient ‘masters’ in admitting we were very likely to have endured ’12 Years A Slave’?

    What is ‘deep’? In the Middle East, ordinary people ask where the oil revenues have gone, but they are more sensible than us. We have no idea that oil and gas have been sold to us at vastly inflated prices, maintained by control of production and distribution. If we found the lair of the rubber-masked aliens running deep politics we’d surely have to start the cavalry charge, but they are in deeper than that.

    Full circle in the Crimean situation never involved any prevention of the disgusting slave ports like Sevastopol. We did little to stop revolting starvation genocides by Stalin or Hitler in the Ukraine. The deep politics is what makes us not give a damn, prevents networking in which we might find the courage to do so. My view is this deep is biological-libidinal, similar to pack behaviour ‘castration hierarchies’ and polygamy-structures.

    The Ukraine and the Steppes generally were harvested for slaves not that far back, and the long history of brutality and killing is probably the actual ‘deep politics’ – so clever, so vile, yet out in the open (yet mostly unknown because we are taught so selectively) and perhaps in deep trauma memories all at the same time. Real networking would involve being able to shake hands with Russian soldiers in Crimea. Instead, we relate through Putin, Kerry and ‘Tory Boy’. Let’s face it, we haven’t even networked an end to slavery.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Slavery has left (and is leaving) horrible scars all over the world. Fascinating to see the connections here. Some military historian makes the point somewhere (rightly or wrongly) that one reason peoples of the steppes (and herders generally, as opposed to agriculturalists) were so good at butchering people was that they were already very good at butchering animals (assuming, arguendo that the former is not a subset of the latter). Similarly, one might wonder what slave-sellers and slave-owners were good at, and what cultural practices and values survived, once slavery itself was officially outlawed.

  13. alex morfesis

    noiseolutions are wonderful and feel good for those frustrated by their lack of success in a fractured society, but in the morning, somebody has to drive the bus. The hard work of life has to go on. Many who crave for a better or more quiet or less corporate or blah blah blah, have options. There are many parts of the US that are basically free for the taking, almost abandoned communities with easy to purchase land in small quiet corners of the country, but its not right next to times square.

    for all the noise that is greece, there are olive trees that sit untouched/unharvested year after year on the island of ithaki where my family is from.

    the deep state or the sleep state. Beltway thinking that leads to Dr Strangelove imagined capacities. Dorks with brooks brothers suits who licked enough boots to stand in the middle of progress should not be confused with a “deep state”…certainly people can manipulate situations but they cant control them. Humans are too fickle to be controlled. Bernayzed yes, but controlled, not so easy…

    Luck has more to do with success than most will accept. Yes the harder you work the luckier you get, but the sleep state, if it exists other than in its drunken imagined existence, is running out of people to fool and places to confuse. Raz-Putin has more resources than any other head clown in charge, but can’t even convince russian woman how wonderful russian men are and how they need to make more babies to fill in the vast empty space that is the 11 time zone nightmare known as Moscva on steroids.

    In the morning, somebody has to drive the bus.

    Mangup was the center or seat of power in the Gothia, or Greek hold outs in the Crime-eyah, playing patty cakes with Genoese corporate colonies on the black sea. One side played the other side and all sides decided to watch the Othmans rid the world of the Gabras, although a few ended up in moscow and had their little moment in history, with all of a statue bust left as a reminder. After the russians came through and pushed out the last of Ghenkis Khans progeny, Mangup was abandoned, and all that is left is a few stone walls that time has not bothered to tumble.

    in the morning, somebody has to drive the bus.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Beautiful comment, Alex. Thanks.

      Would only add that I would encourage attending town meetings, serving on a jury if called, or joining a civic organization. They all opened my eyes to the mental acuity and sense of civic duty of my fellow citizens although it is very unlikely you’ll find any corporate CEOs, heads of government agencies, university presidents, prominent investment bankers et al in that room.

      Still wondering how our national interest is intertwined with developments in the Ukraine and elsewhere? Maybe those inside the Beltway and in NYC can just dial up Amazon and buy a copy of the latest game to satisfy their craving rather than trying to make it our problem… reeks of desperation for diversion.

      As far as the elevation of the so called “Deep State” is concerned, it’s just a little too convenient for my taste… fait accompli for democratic institutions and political legitimacy. Good to know there is a small group of “elite” individuals who care only about our common welfare in charge, though.

      1. Banger

        There are many ways to understand the Deep State on of which is to hang around Washington as long as I have without participating in factional disputes. The other is to put it into a “game” perspective. You determine the sorts of stakes that are in play, you figure who the basic players and political operators are, you see which one of them has the most competitive advantage and you play iterations of the “game” (Game Theory) and see who is likely to win.

        The problem with most Americans, particularly intellectuals in this country, is that they believe in American Exceptionalism and a “free” press. I believe both are dangerous delusions. History shows us how power struggles end up. Go back and read classical historians particularly Thucydidies for politics among states and Livy for, mainly, politics within states and top it off with a good dose of Seutonius and Tacitus. Our country is no different substantially from the ones they described only their propaganda organs weren’t up to snuff.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Those patterns are probably limited in number, long-lived, and could be named. One thinks of Eric Berne’s Games People Play.

            Some clever person (not me, I don’t know enough) could/should come up with a list.

            It’s always easier to watch a football game when you know the plays are. Of course, it also helps to know the score…

        1. alex morfesis

          everyone thinks they are exceptional, everyone thinks they are the chosen ones, everyone drinks the arsenic of power, especially if they don’t really have any.

          There was never a “free” press, but there was a competitive press. with each major city having a few different outlets from competing economic parties who would expose each others dirt to try to eliminate competition and to move public opinion in the manner that would assist their economic interests.

          J. Edgar had a stroke soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was convinced by certain parties who he hung out with and lived near that it was somehow a Kennedy attempt at killing him off (might have been, but I doubt it), and coming out of the hospital he changed his mindset about his importance. Was it old age or the stroke, or just the fear of no longer being important if he was forced to retire, he then went on a rampage, attacking behind closed doors the unions that went on strike in NYC and claiming they had to be crushed as they must have been communists. Four of the newspapers never reopened.

          Hoover got played as he became more paranoid and delusional after his Nov 1962 hospitalization and within ten years, the consolidation that came from lack of competition led to the loss of divergent views that came from the factionalism.

          Today we have google, but google censors…go try to find some of the old stuff on FM Policy Watch and the maneuvers used to crush fannie and freddie. Its gone…even in the wayback…

          a military is required to shake out scenarios on a regular basis, that does not mean they are “creating” the situation just because one of the three dozen possibilities plays out in “game theory” scenarios.

          People in private rooms wearing silly outfits and claiming to be some fifth cousin of some long forgotten monarch or some super secret knowledge that is only dispersed to the anointed ones is most amusing.

          The sleep state…not the deep state…ZZZZzzzzzzzz

        2. Chauncey Gardiner

          “We are going to do something terrible to you. We are going to deprive you of an enemy.” —Georgi Arbatov; Director of the Soviet Academy of Science Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies; 1988

          “There is a fundamental question any foreign policy must answer: What will we fight for? What are the vital interests for which America will sacrifice the blood of its young? With our great enemy gone, the answer is not a simple one. For we Americans disagree on what our vital interests are, what our role in the world should be, and whom we should defend. Without some new foreign peril, America is never going to know again the unity we knew in World War II and the early decades of the Cold War. It may be naive to believe we can ever again have a foreign policy that unites this divided and disputatious people. Nevertheless, we must try, for foreign policy is the shield of the Republic.” —Patrick J. Buchanan; “How Empires Perish”; 1999 [http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/buchanan-republic.html]

          “[T]here are still vested interests who want another Cold War, another arms race, weapons trade, interventions. They will not succeed.” —Mikhail Gorbachev; May 25, 2012

          Um, looks like Gorby is wrong… and “Wag the Dog” is again on for the seekers of Empire. Tragic.

          1. Nathanael

            Gorby is brilliant. And he’s right. We’re witnessing the vested interests — “merchants of death”, I think we called them around WWI — making their attempt. I still don’t think they’ll succeed.

            Every invasion Putin makes backfires in ways he doesn’t yet seem to comprehend, just as every US invasion has backfired.

            The question is who will actually demonstrate what *will* happen next. My bet remains on South American countries, which abandoned invasions a long time ago, worked through economic colonization and broke that, and and now well into struggling with issues the rest of us haven’t even gotten to yet.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Ruling class” seems just fine to me. While “deep state” obviously has legs, I distrust phrases like that, phrases that sound “intuitive” and “natural” but don’t have any framework behind them.

  14. allcoppedout

    Not surprising I have to get a taxi to work so often then Alex.

    The slave mentality seems well-evidenced in modern networks. Cowardice is one of the main rules, all connected with having to get up in the morning to drive the bus to keep the modern whip off your back.

  15. spacecabooie

    Just as it is not The Venezuela (as was called out in the post’s title), neither is it The Ukraine.

  16. backwardsevolution

    “There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol.

    The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress.”


    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      I would add into this list the Federal Reserve (actually, the Fed is more in the nature of “the One Ring to rule them all) the private club of banks. The Treasury Department, as we saw during the so-called Global Financial Crisis, in its relation to the Fed was the federal government agency tasked with putting the citizenry at the disposal of the members of the Fed in a formalized, and politically sanctioned way. The Fed’s member banks wanted to jab their money funnel directly into the public fisc, and the Secretary of the Treasury, the Congress, and the President were there to assure that this would happen – despite the clear and unambiguous sentiment of the citizenry, if you recall. I submit that any entity that possesses that level of coercive power is supreme in the power hierarchy.

  17. backwardsevolution

    Charles Hugh Smith on the Deep State:

    “I have been studying the Deep State for 40 years, before it had gained the nifty name “deep state.” What others describe as the Deep State I term the National Security State which enables the American Empire, a vast structure that incorporates hard and soft power–military, diplomatic, intelligence, finance, commercial, energy, media, higher education–in a system of global domination and influence. […]

    One key feature of the Deep State is that it makes decisions behind closed doors and the surface government simply ratifies or approves the decisions. A second key feature is that the Deep State decision-makers have access to an entire world of secret intelligence.”

    1. Jerome Armstrong

      I don’t think the “ratifies or approves” clause is any longer applicable. It seems we’ve moved to a place where once the money goes into the black box, it goes with a pre-approval that anything goes.

      1. Nathanael

        Or its actions are rejected outright by Congress and the courts and they do them anyway.

        That sort of stuff… it’s iffy. The Deep State types think they can get away with it. They don’t have the sort of power they think they do. They hide because they are afraid of being found out. If they are found out… they become visible to very powerful enemies, enemies who are in the ruling class but not afraid to show themselves.

    2. Banger

      And covert operators who do the slimy little killings, plan the airplane crashes, the heart attacks, the suicides and so on.

  18. allcoppedout

    More or less at random, this is an example of a trade treaty – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roca%E2%80%93Runciman_Treaty

    In making this particular treaty the Argentinian vice-president stated, ‘It can be said that Argentina is an integral economic part of the British Empire’. Strangely, not all Argentines welcomed co-option into the benevolent embrace of British Empire in 1933.

    I suggest this treaty is more or less what is kicking off now. Such treaties are never between nations, but interest groups – in this case the owners of British manufacturing-engineering industries and the landed Argentine elite. The trance of the deep state is such that the rubber-masked aliens are doing the same things today as 100 years’ ago. I don’t think there is any revolution going on, just a fall out amongst alien factions trying to exploit what they can. People are being screwed by leadership promises. The cautionary tales vary from place to place as to the identity of the demon beyond the gates that must be variously fought and appeased.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think we need to think of the class of post-national wealthy elite (the global 0.01%) as managing a collective portfolio opportunistically, and at times in individual or factional conflict with each other. I don’t think there’s a single integrated operational plan (“the same petrowar”). They’re all trolls and griefers working against functional States, but the trolling and griefing happens incrementally, based on opportunities as they present themselves.

      1. Nathanael

        Yep. The “scramble for fossil fuels” is a large part of the current conflicts.

        The more far-seeing among the elite have figured out that it’s a mug’s game and are going all-in on solar, hydro, wind — but these folks are *rare*.

  19. Lambert Strether Post author

    Speaking generally, I don’t want to fall into the same sort of Inside Baseball mentality that’s been engendered at Daily Kos, and with such destruction consequences.

    I think it’s important to look upward, as it were, to how the class interests of Our Overlords play out, and it’s also interesting to talk about The Great Game, but I think the important story is how the center of gravity for what is politically possible shifts for those who are not Overlords, and don’t work for them; in the houses and in the streets; they have agency too. I wish we had a Jane Jacobs for “unrest,” and/or a collective of bonded, branded live-streamers. Many reporters do work that’s as good as they are permitted to do, but often that’s just not enough, we don’t get the detail, so we get horrible constructs like “the masses,” and one gets tired of having to do a media critique for literally everything.

    1. Watt4Bob

      “…one gets tired…”

      In retrospect, that seems one of the most effective outcomes of the enemy’s age old tactics.

      Our deliberately degraded language leads to frustrating and tiresome process.

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