Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jan. 10: Books, books.

When thinking about current events, it helps to take a look at history. It's a little tricky to do that because we all have prejudices that get in the way of seeing history as it really was. For example, the popular view of the history of world war two is that we – Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Britain (and maybe France) defeated Hitler in that war.

The first hole in that version is that, despite de Gaulle, a very large part of France agreed with Hitler and supported the Axis side. But there's also a much bigger hole in it.

The greater part, by far, of the German forces were beaten by the Soviet Union. In fact, many sources estimate that the Soviets were the ones who broke some 90% of the German military. The Soviets suffered tens of millions of killed. And that's amazing because just 25 years earlier, a dispirited Russian army had thown away its weapons and fled before another German army. The whole country simply dissolved.

Why was there such an outstanding change in just 25 years?

Well, in 1914, Russia was ruled by a Tsar and his aristocracy. And they were greedy, incompetent and brutal. That's why Russians had no enthusiasm to die for the Tsar. That's why they fled before the Germans. And that's why there was a revolution in 1917.

The new, communist leadership soon demonstrated it could be as brutal as any Tsar – especially when Joseph Stalin became the leader. As well, it had a monstrous job in learning how to make the new Soviet Union an industrial power. It wasn't until 1930 or so that it was ready to begin preparing for the war it knew was coming.

It was obvious from the start that the West preferred the Tsar because he maintained a primitive sort of capitalism. Western big business, already faced by the threat of union and other radicals who demanded living salaries and safe working conditions, feared a spread of communist ideas. That's why Canada and Britain sent troops to Russia in 1918 to help bring Tsardom back. That's why western capitalists happily supported Hitler and Mussolini right up to 1939 (and even long after). That's partly why we wouldn't accept Jewish refugees from Germany until well after 1945.

Russian industrial growth was quite spectacular in the 1930s, and feelings of national loyalty had risen to a remarkable degree. When Hitler invaded Russia in 1941, he expected it to be the walkover of 1914 all over again.

But the Russians didn't flee. Morale was high. And their military equipment was first rate. In fact, Soviet tanks were far the best in the world, from the T34 at the start to the Stalin series at the end.

Two conclusions are obvious from this.
1. Without the Soviet Union, Britain would have lost World War Two. Churchill knew that and, despite his powerful 'we shall fight them on the beaches….” speech, we know now that he was seeking peace talks with Hitler in 1940, and was prepared to give portions of the British Empire to Hitler to get a peace.

2. Then there's the part I dislike recognizing. But it's there. Without the revolution and without Stalin, Russia would today be a part of a massive Nazi empire that would dominate the world. Stalin was one of the most cruel and murderous men who ever lived. And he couldn't have cared less about 'the people', any people.

But he was a necessary step for Russia. And why was such a murderous bastard necessary? Because western big money and its politicians would never have tolerated peaceful social change in Russia. After all, it could spread to here.

I thought of that as I read Wealth and Power, a book reviewed below in the New York Times.

Until I read the book, I had no idea of the intensity of Chinese shame for centuries of allowing itself to be plundered by western capitalists. Almost all of China was reduced to poverty, hunger and, quite deliberately, to drug addiction. The western powers, especially Britain and the U.S., were determined to keep it that way after 1945. That's why they supported a very big time gangster, murderer, and drug dealer named Chiang Kai-shek to rule China. (a note to the Faith page of the Irving press – he was also a Christian. Praise the Lord.)

But Chiang lost to Mao Tse-tung. Mao, like Chiang and Stalin was a mass murderer on a grand scale. I can well remember being dismayed at the news of what he was doing. And the time I spent in China did nothing to lift that dismay.

But – Mao is the man who made modern China possible. Without him, it would still be in poverty and hunger – and shame - at the hands of western capitalists.
Neither Russia nor China was ever communist, despite the common use of that label. The idea of communism has its origins in what Christians preach but seldom practice – loving thy neighbour. Karl Marx was a Christian. But I don't know whether communism as a form of government is even possible for us humans when we all have some degree of greed and self-interest.

I do know that capitalism has never worked for a majority of people in any country, and it doesn't work at all without strict controls. It has only rarely seen those controls; and we are very close to abandoning them entirely. As well, there's not a trace of any moral or religious beliefs in the creation and growth of capitalism. But don't depend on our big capitalist-owned news media to tell us that.

I list a review of Wealth and Power because it's important to get at least a more or less objective opinion of it from an expert in the field. So I also looked for the reviews of Richard Saillant's “Over the Cliff” on New Brunswick's enormous debt. Surprisingly, and despite Norbert Cunningham's enthusiasm, nobody seems to have bothered to review it. That's not a good sign.

I would be particularly interested to see a review which discusses how the book fails to discuss the role of big business in creating this debt.
Tamim Ansary was born in Afghanistan, became an American in his late teens. He is the author of Games Without Rules, a history of Afghanistan over the last several centuries. It's tough read at the start because of all the unfamiliar names, but that improves as it gets along. And Ansary is one, superb writer. His description of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is as gripping as anything I have ever read. Here's a typical review of it.

The curse of Afghanistan is that it occupies a highly strategic location which, for the last 200 years, has made it the frequent target of Britain, Russia, China, and the U.S. It's a poor country with a low level of industrialization. It also has a far smaller population than its attackers. But it beat the pants off the Russians when it had only 12 million people. Today, it has 30,000,000; and that has been enough to beat off the U.S., Britain, a few other countries, and Canada all at the same time. After fifteen years and over a trillion dollars, the mighty U.S. is no closer to controlling Afghanistan than the day it started.

Two hundred years ago, Afghanistan was a loose society, based on loyalty to extended families and tribes, with little central power or organization. But, especially since World War 2, it was moving toward more centralization and much more democracy. It was also easing the restrictions on women in its very Muslim society.

Then came the Russian and the U.S. invasions. (The U.S. or, more correctly, big U.S. oil) wanted control of Afghanistan for an oil pipeline as well as for other reasons. In fact, the invasion of Afghanistan was planned years before 9/11. One of the planners was Jeb Bush in his capacity as a leader of Project for the New American Century. Dick Cheney, vice-president under George Bush was another prominent member. George Bush was never more than a tool for the likes of Cheney.)

The Afghanistan Wars, by the way, are a good example of how big money uses us to pay for its wars, and to fight and die in order the make the very rich richer.

What these wars did was what such wars usually do. They drove the people back to extreme versions of what they had been familiar with . They fled from the modernization and democratization that they had been engaged in. They fled back to loyalties to family and tribe. They fled back, as well, to Islam – and to its most extreme form. That is what the Taliban represent.

In Afghanistan, children had always been raised to work hard, be loyal to family and tribe, to withstand punishment, and to be tough. That's why relatively tiny Afghanistan could defeat the mighty Soviet Union. That's why it is still holding off the U.S. in one of history's most disastrous foreign policy decisions.

And every day this lasts, we push these people further to extremes. And always to satisfy the greed of our very rich who can never be rich enough. So it is that we create what we call Muslim extremism. Listen to the speeches of the candidates in U.S. leadership races. If you were a Muslim, what could you do but fight?

Of course, the Muslim world is profoundly divided in this. Our killing and hatreds are profoundly dividing Islam, itself – setting extremists against others. And every day we fight, we create more extremists. How would you, as Canadians, feel if you heard a Donald Trump say of Canada, “I would bomb those bastards into the ground, and kill them all.” And don't bet that could never happen. What happened to our native peoples could quite well happen to us. Think climate change. Think massive migration. Think of migration creating a demand that Canada become a part of the U.S.

The Russian and American attacks which drove Afghanistan to an extreme and violent form of Islam also brought it support – from our good friends, Saudi Arabia. The extreme form of Islam that grew in Afghanistan was Wahabbi – which is the form practiced by our good friends, the Royal family of Saudi Arabia.

Money and weapons flowed from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan. They still do. Most of them flow through another nation of our good friends, Pakistan. For the same reasons, Saudi Arabia has supported ISIS.

Greed, besides killing many millions in just the last fifty years, has made us more enemies than we can ever count. It is now provoking a world wide war between Muslims. There are almost 2 billion Muslims in this world. Are we going to bomb all of them into the ground? Are we going to send more of our people to die in wars that, quite apart from being immoral and unChristian and unJudaic, are fought only to make a tiny number of very greedy people very rich?

And are we seriously accepting the reality that such a world-wide war would inevitably draw all of us in, and destroy all of us – even the greedy ones.

We don't have much time to decide.

On the war crimes front, the British government is now considering the prosecution of fifty British soldiers for murders, rapes, etc. in Iraq. I wonder whether it will consider prosecuting Tony Blair for lying to set up that war, and so killing over a million people.

For the same reason, Bush should be on trial for war crimes. Bush and Obama should be on trial for drone attacks in several parts of the world. These are acts of war, and they are illegal. Obama should be on trial for selling cluster bombs for the Saudis to drop on Yemen. That's a war crime. Then there's the massive use of torture. (The only people being prosecuted for that are the ones who told us about it.) Torture is illegal. Which reminds me. Harper participated in torture by permitting Canadian involvement in it. Then there's the use of special ops troops who have conducted raids by the thousand all over the world. Those raids are acts of war; and they're illegal. The American support of rebellion in Syria is illegal. So is the American bombing of Syria. These are all war crimes. Funny how editors at the Irving press missed that.

An unregulated and overpowerful capitalism is tearing down the world, including itself. It's not just New Brunswick. It's the whole world. If we don't deal with that – and very, very soon – it won't really matter a hell of a lot if a restaurant in Moncton closes or if a fire alarm isn't connected, or even if the Irving Chapel has a guest preacher, and special music.


  1. "It's a little tricky to do that because we all have prejudices that get in the way of seeing history as it really was."

    Yes. Yes it is, Graeme.

    "That's why Russians had no enthusiasm to die for the Tsar. That's why they fled before the Germans. And that's why there was a revolution in 1917."

    On the contrary, the Russian people fought bravely for two years despite lacking the industrial base to compete with Germany. Not only did the Russians mobilize far more quickly than Germany thought they would (and forcing the need to transfer troops from the Western Front at a critical time) but they also made a lot of gains. By the end of 1914 Russia controlled Austrian Galicia. Meanwhile the Germans were unable to make headway along the German-Russia border. So great was the threat that the German command switched its focus to the Eastern Front. The Russians tried to attack Silesia but at this point the better organization was becoming a serious factor. Russian soldiers were severely under-equipped and, due to being more spread out, out-numbered in most engagements. For these reasons the Stavka ordered the army to retreat in order to shorten supply lines and avoid having a large number of troops encircled (the Eastern Front was essentially a giant salient). This was a time-tested strategy for Russia. They used it on the Swedes, they used it on the French, and they would use a modified version in WW2. The new front roughly running along Riga–Jakobstadt–D√ľnaburg–Baranovichi–Pinsk–Dubno–Ternopil did not really change until the revolution in 1917. From 1915-1917 the Russians forced the Germans to transfer more and more units to the Eastern Front. The Russians were even able to launch an offensive into the Ottoman Empire. Oh, and with millions of civilians fleeing German-occupied lands Russia had to contend with a serious refugee crisis which increased food shortages. While I have found evidence of military retreats I'd like to know what examples of cowardice you are referring to?

    Oh and there were two revolutions in 1917.

    "The new, communist leadership soon demonstrated it could be MORE brutal THAN any Tsar"

    Fixed that for you.

    "But the Russians didn't flee. Morale was high. And their military equipment was first rate. In fact, Soviet tanks were far the best in the world, from the T34 at the start to the Stalin series at the end."

    You mean the well-equipped soldiers were in high spirits and not prone to flee? I find it odd you didn't attribute the low morale of the Imperial Army to its low quality weaponry (or simple lack of weaponry).

    "Without the Soviet Union, Britain would have lost World War Two."

    And without Imperial Russia Britain would have lost World War One.

    "Without the revolution and without Stalin, Russia would today be a part of a massive Nazi empire that would dominate the world."

    And without the German Revolution we wouldn't have had Hitler. Without either revolution millions would not have died.

    "Karl Marx was a Christian."

    The Marx family became Lutheran in name only in order for the father to avoid being fired due to Prussian antisemitism. From what accounts I've found the family was non-practicing and Karl Marx clearly embraced atheism in his youth. Saying Marx was a Christian is like saying Hitler was a socialist.

  2. "What these wars did was what such wars usually do. They drove the people back to extreme versions of what they had been familiar with . They fled from the modernization and democratization that they had been engaged in. They fled back to loyalties to family and tribe."

    It really is too bad the US were against the Afghans restoring their monarchy. Perhaps with a unifying figure who had the support of the tribes (and who had led modernizing efforts after WW2) the modernizing and democratizing efforts of the Afghans might have been successful. Oh but I forgot, the US doesn't do monarchy. So they shoe-horned a president in there with little prestige or love by the people who would do what he's told to.

  3. Scholars have long known about the decisive role of the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler. However, you are correct that during the Cold War, the popular media minimized the role of the Soviet Union in the Nazi defeat. However, there is one corrective note I would like to add. The Russians defeated the Germans on the Eastern Front, however they did so with American trucks, jeeps and essential supplies of all sorts. Without it, the Russians would not have succeeded. The Canadian, British and American navies and merchant marines suffered a lot of casualties getting that material to Russian ports. Canada played an important role in that venture.

  4. Scholars have, indeed, long known about the importance of the Soviet role in stopping Hitler. I didn't discover that all by myself. But 99% of the population of the west has never heard about it. That's why I so often say we are soaked in myths about our history.

    And it works both ways. Few Canadians have ever heard of Sir Arthur Currie oof World War 1 who may well have been the best general Canada ever produced. And that my have something to do with his domestic enemies. (Most Americans have heard of the brilliance of his American equivalent, "Black Jack' Pershing - who was, in fact, one of the worst generals of that war. For some reason, Americans love to give thuggish nicknakes to their generals - 'black jack', blood and guts'...)

    A Kisagari Colour and I could argue for a long time (and anonymous).

    Yes, We supplied Russia, at great cost, with weapons. But they were by no means a major need of the Russians. Russians didn't need American tanks. They produced enough of their own - and the Americans tanks were hopelessly inferior. More useful to the Russians were trucks,

    As to the lesser points, I have no doubt that Hitler, for example, was as brutal as Stalin. But I wasn't arguing that point in the first place.

    And I never said the Russians of World War 1 fled in cowardice. In fact, cowardice had nothing to do with it.

    and, yes, I have heard of two revolutions in Russia. Indeed, one could argue more than two. But the whole period is commonly referred to as the Russian revolution.

  5. A "review" for you..............

  6. Sorry to be late in answering. But thank you. I hugely enjoyed this, and plan to post it if that's okay. I learned early in the game to be very careful before trusting university professors.