Washington’s Democratic Booth: What’s Behind the Screen?

Washington’s Democratic Booth: What’s Behind the Screen?

Andrey Shitov

US President Joe Biden sees the most important task of his country at the present historical stage in proving that a democratic system is stronger and more effective than an authoritarian one. Speaking at the beginning of the year at the Munich Conference on International Security, he said: “We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future, about the direction [of development] of our world. the challenges we face – from the fourth industrial revolution to the global pandemic – what is best, they say, is to move forward through autocracy, and by those who understand that democracy is imperative – necessary to meet these challenges. “

The American leader directly explained that he was talking about his country’s “long-term strategic rivalry” with China and about repelling “threats” from Russia. According to him, he is deeply convinced that “democracy can and must win”, but for this the United States and its allies “must demonstrate that we are still capable of meeting the aspirations of our peoples in a changing world.”

In practice, life has already shown whether they are good at it; the White House has nothing to boast about. In terms of the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19, the United States still holds the shameful palm for the richest country. In the economy, they face stagflation; because of problems with the delivery of goods, Americans – unheard of before – facein stores for the holidays with empty shelves. Social and interracial tensions, including in criminal forms, do not subside. In addition, with the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which looked more like a flight, Biden’s personal popularity indicators, according to polls, fell to record lows. Most Americans believe that the 79-year-old president is doing his job poorly and that the country as a whole is going in the wrong direction.

Hard words break no bones?

But at the same time, in words, the United States stubbornly stands on the fact that it is on the right side of history. It is to reinforce this slogan – the cornerstone of all American propaganda – that the White House is convening the so-called Summit for Democracy. Biden promised to hold such a forum “in the very first year” of his tenure in power even during the election race, and now, apparently, he wants to meet the appointed deadline.

Of course, the idea initially raised a lot of questions. It was hard to imagine how America is going to teach the rest of the world about democracy against the backdrop of riots, pogroms and “wars on monuments” due to systemic racism in the States themselves.

Moreover, the idea clearly contradicts the so-called values and ideals of the West, in any case, declarative ones. He, for example, always proudly called himself not only “free”, but also “open” world, resented the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. In fact, he himself always tried to “isolate” his ideological opponents, fenced himself off with all his might from their “malicious interference” and now he is again trying to arrange an open meeting for “like-minded people.” As is clear from the lists of invitees made public by the State Department, not only Russia and China are not invited to the “summit”, which is understandable, but also such nominal friends and allies of the United States as Hungary or Turkey, and among the leading African countries, for example, Egypt. But among the expected guests are Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as Taiwan, although officially Washington adheres to the “one China” policy. In general, everything is mobilized in the Pacific basin, down to the smallest islands.

In principle, this whole production looks so self-revealing that many skeptics, including myself, were at first sore: they say, the flag is in their hands! They will make themselves ridiculous in front of the whole world. And here their swearing does not hang on the collar: even if you call it a pot, just don’t put it in the stove!

” Democracy is an excuse “

But in fact, there is, of course, little fun in this booth. And now, when a new attempt to “rally the ranks” of self-styled democratizers to confront Russia and China is close to practical implementation, Moscow and Beijing are expressing in unison with disappointment and alarm at the impending ideological sabotage.

“We have a negative attitude, of course, to the upcoming event,” Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian President, told reporters the other day. “This is nothing more than an attempt to draw new dividing lines. to cut and remove them, but now the United States prefers to create new dividing lines and divide countries into good, in their mind, and bad, also in their mind. “

For his part, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian pointed out that democratic values do not belong to the United States: “Democracy is a common property, not a patent owned by a group of countries.”

“What the United States is doing no doubt confirms that American democracy is just a pretext that Washington is using to achieve its geopolitical goals and put pressure on other countries,” he added. “Summit for Democracy. <…> Taiwan is part of China and has no other status in the international arena.”

“The Merchant’s Victory Procession “

Peskov also said that the United States intended not only to impose its concept of democracy on other countries, but also to monopolize the term itself. “They are trying to privatize the word“ democracy. ”That is, [in their view], democracy is only that which corresponds to the understanding of Washington. Obviously, this cannot and should not be. This, in fact, does not exist,” he stressed.

This immediately reminded me of the very interesting work of Kirill Koktysh, a political scientist from MGIMO, which I recently studied. It is devoted to the study of the modern language for describing politics. And first of all, it reminds that this language, “proceeding from the normative nature of the concepts of democracy, freedom and rationalism, is itself the result of meaningful political construction, the foundations of which were laid by English political thought of the 19th century during the heyday of the British Empire.” In other words, all these concepts were not sent down to man from the heights of the high as a certain indisputable truth, but were developed and introduced into political practice by specific thinkers, primarily apologists of that very empire.

Koktysh’s work “Discourse of Rationalism, Freedom and Democracy” must be read in its entirety, it is worth it. But if we speak in an extremely simplified form, then it reduces political life from ancient antiquity to the present day to the interaction and opposition of three conventional symbolic figures – the Leader, the Priest and the Merchant. According to him, this threefold model was revealed at one time by the French anthropologist and sociologist Georges Dumézil – first among the ancient Indians and Romans, and then among all Indo-Europeans in general. “He called them“ three-functional gods, ”but it’s easy to guess that the gods always reflect what is happening on earth,” the political scientist stated in our conversation.

It is clear that functionally the Leader in this case personifies the power, the Priest – the law and ideology, and the Merchant – the economy and prosperity. But substantively behind each figure there are also more general value concepts – order, justice and freedom, respectively.

“Power, in fact, is not needed for anything other than order,” the source explained. “Norms all come down to justice in one way or another. that his business is always private and not general (Aristotle had already paid attention to this). But he discovers that protecting the interests of the buyer is no less effective than his own. remains a coin. And so the concept of freedom appears. Of course, the main freedom, the source of everything and everything, he has the freedom to buy and sell. “

I can’t help but recall that the spread of American influence throughout the world is invariably presented by Washington as a triumphal march of freedom. Overseas, they see this as a historical mission of the United States and a high road for all mankind. And in Koktysh’s monograph, one of the chapters is called “The Merchant’s Victory Procession.”

The cult of the ” free market “

The concept of progress also appears in a new light. “The very idea of progress is a human invention,” the researcher recalled. “First of all, it is associated with the name of John Stuart Mill. This is the middle of the 19th century, when it became necessary to replace the religion of Protestantism with some secular ideology.”

This political need arose due to the fact that the British simply did not succeed in converting the colonized peoples to their faith. Instead, thanks to the efforts of their ideologists, “a metaphysical cult of the so-called invisible hand of the market and a cult of progress have emerged,” the expert said.

According to him, “the pragmatics are very simple” and looks something like this: a large corporation enters a certain colonial market and drives a local merchant who sells the same product as its own to bankruptcy. Further, it is most profitable for her to hire this merchant: he knows the market, has connections, understands the product, etc. etc.

But how to make sure that this beneficial partner was on her side, in fact, against her fellow countrymen? This is where the concept of progress comes into play. They explain to the person: of course, it is a pity for your homeland, but what to do is progress, the inexorable course of history. And it was not we who destroyed it, it is an objective process, the “invisible hand of the market.” It’s pointless to argue.

“The idea of progress was originally associated with the fact that an overseas merchant should send his children to study in London, and then go there himself; that is, the road to London for such people was beaten already in the middle of the 19th century , ” said the interlocutor. the class concept was not Marxist, but Mill’s. It assumed that the rich class should rule the world. That is, those who have a pass to the City of Heaven. And money serves as such a pass. “

In the recent past, I covered the work of the IMF in Washington for over 20 years. And I can testify from personal experience that the belief in the life-giving economic power of the “free market” was absolutely inviolable and universal there. This dogma of the capitalist catechism even had a proper name – “the Washington Consensus.” Although the reckless deregulation of markets after the end of the Cold War led to a string of crises and nearly collapsed the American economy in 2008; nevertheless, today everyone is talking about the spot market for natural gas, because of the belief in which Europe is freezing.

“400 years of regrets”

Next, I suggested that simultaneously with the market cult, the division of the peoples of the world into “advanced” and “backward” was born, but Koktysh corrected me. According to him, “the concept of the first and second world” was created “30 years earlier” by James Mill – John Stewart’s father and author of “History of British India”. He was a gifted and influential publicist and philosopher, and he created the concept of two worlds, according to the interlocutor, “washing the image of the [British] East India Company” (OIC).

The story was also instructive enough. Already after the money plundered by the British in India was safely capitalized and “immobilized”, i.e. invested in the industrial revolution in the metropolis, a terrible famine broke out in Bengal. The British Parliament began an investigation and blamed Robert Clive, the general who, in fact, conquered India for the OIC in the Battle of Plessis, and later was the actual governor of the company in the occupied lands.

The discredited official committed suicide. But the OIC hired James Mill, instructing him to whitewash and legitimize both the company’s activities and all its assets. He coped with the task, creating, among other things, the concept of two worlds. “From which it followed that any actions of a representative of the first world in the second are already good, even if it is murder, perjury, etc., etc.,” Koktysh explained sarcastically.

Actually, the colonies in America were based on the same principles. No further than last Thursday overseas, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated – one of the most beloved nationwide holidays. It is believed that it was erected in memory of the first harvest gathered in 1621 by settlers in the New World, and that it was now met for the 400th time.

But the Washington Post responded to this anniversary with a non-festive publication about the Wampanoags Indian people living in what is now Massachusetts. The extensive material, in the spirit of the current “reset culture” in the United States, is unambiguously entitled: “This tribe helped the pilgrims survive the first Thanksgiving. They still regret it after 400 years.”

“America is not a democracy “

By the way, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Fernand de Varennes presented in Geneva a report on the results of a two-week working visit overseas. He called the United States a “nation of paradoxes” that “stands out among Western democracies for its unfinished mosaic of human rights recognition and legal protection.” The expert recalled that racial segregation persisted in the United States until the end of the twentieth century, and the indigenous peoples “for centuries faced deprivation of property rights, cruelty and even genocide.” And today, he estimates, “millions of Americans, especially [members of] minorities, face growing inequality and discrimination to the point of exclusion.”

And it reminded me of another paradox. At least since the time of Alexis de Tocqueville (author of the historical and political treatise “Democracy in America”), the United States has been considered and called democracy. You will be surprised, but in America itself, not everyone agrees with this definition. During the 2020 election campaign, conservative ideologue John Yew, former associate of US Vice President Dick Cheney and now professor of law at the University of California, pointed out that “America was created as a republic, not as a democracy,” that its founding fathers. ” deliberately built [into the political system] measures of protection against the tyranny of the majority. “

Mike Lee, Republican Senator of the State of Utah, was even clearer at the time. “We are not a democracy,” he wrote on Twitter. “The word” democracy “is not mentioned anywhere in our constitution; probably because our form of government is not a democracy. But a constitutional republic.”

Where is the generator?

There are, of course, amazing changes taking place in America now. To use the terminology of Koktysh, power in it is ideologized, i.e. flows from the Leader to the Priest. According to him, “exactly the same” was observed during the decline of the Roman Empire.

But he still does not undertake to predict exactly what will happen next in the United States – first of all, “because today the largest information corporations, capable of” prohibiting “even presidents, have become subjects. We saw this with our own eyes on the example of Republican Donald Trump. And the measures that are proposed “to make Facebook less toxic”, Koktysh so far assesses as “just babble.”

On the whole, he recalls that “each way out of the crisis, from each cycle of the” development of capitalism “was carried out due to the involvement of new space, new territories in circulation.” “There is nowhere to expand, the system is global,” the analyst argues. “And, on the one hand, the United States is expanding into virtual space, trying to make it an object of capitalization, and on the other, China is quite resolutely defending its own physical and virtual spaces within the framework of its sovereignty. “.

According to the specialist, “a two-pole system is emerging,” in which the individual is the “generator of demand” in the West, and the whole of society in China. Russia is still taking a wait-and-see attitude, if only because “we never like to be a junior partner, and we do not know how to be one.”

To the question of which system seems preferable to him, Koktysh replies: “A state with a powerful social component is rational and just.” And the point, in his opinion, is not only in value preferences, but also in economic calculation. “Under capitalism, individual consumption is the driver (development engine – TASS), and there is nowhere to further inflate it, it is already at its maximum,” said the researcher. while the other flies into space. “

“When a request generates a society, intangible assets are possible – that’s the beauty,” the source explained. And this also accelerates economic development. This has happened more than once in history; now, according to Koktysh, India is purposefully implementing this kind of project.

Technological reservation

Asked whether he sees any sense in the upcoming Summit for Democracy other than the frantic attempt by the United States to retain its notorious “leadership,” Koktysh replied in the negative. “It is very difficult to come up with something else here,” he said.

“Within the framework of the Wilson doctrine, this is, in fact, belonging to the zone controlled by American corporations,” the expert explained. “Woodrow Wilson, promoting the concept of freedom of nations, proceeded from the fact that the smaller the country, the lower the technological ceiling that it able to achieve, and it structurally anchors American leadership. “

It turns out, as I understand it, something like a technological reservation. Well, let this reminder be a parting word for the participants and guests of the gathering of democratizers. After all, he himself, as I understand it, will be held online, based on American network technologies.

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