Democracy: The Failure of a System become Religion

What is democracy? The answer given by civics textbooks and constitutional law treatises has the merit of being simple. Democracy has its origins in the Greek demokratia, formed from demos, “people,” and kratos, “power.” It is the power of the people, the government of the people; a political system where the people are sovereign. It is close to the republic, but it is not confused with it. The word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica, which means “the public good,” “the public thing.” The republic is the political system in which power is not exercised by one person, a hereditary monarch, but by elected representatives of the people. Democracy and republic, therefore, have very similar etymological meanings, but they cover different historical realities. In theory, in a pure democracy the voting majority has unlimited power; whereas in a pure republic a set of fundamental laws, a constitution, protects the rights of all against the will of the majority. Of course, in practice, modern nation-states are neither pure republics nor pure democracies.

Lawyers and political scientists distinguish between direct democracy, where citizens meet in assemblies and exercise power directly, and representative democracy, where citizens choose representatives to exercise power on their behalf. They point out that in a democracy, rulers are chosen through free elections, based on universal suffrage and free and secret ballots. They also point out that power is exercised by the elected representatives of the majority party, who have the legitimacy to govern, but under the control of the opposition, which has the freedom to criticize the government. Finally, they agree that the system can only function when there is a separation of powers (legislative, executive and judicial, not to mention the media, which has acquired the status of a fourth power since the 20th century) and, above all, a broad social consensus around values and legal provisions, which, in the case of France, are summarized by the motto of the Republic: liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity).

Democracy as a Modern, Secular Religion

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America (1860-1865), is said to have once declared that democracy is “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” meaning that sovereignty belongs to the people, who choose those who govern them. To this day, this principle is the theoretical foundation of Western democracies.

But to say that the people should be sovereign does not mean that they are. There is the admirable ideal and the prosaic reality. Paradoxically, the word “democracy” has become a cliché, a demagogic commonplace, a superstition, a mystification. Democracy has become over time a substitute, a surrogate, a semblance of faith, a kind of secular religion, even a religion of war. To cite only one example, that of the United States of America, the military interventions and aggressions committed by the US in the world in the name of democracy and freedom (the “democratic crusades” of the “benevolent policeman of the world” or of the “indispensable nation”), are countless.

It is not only the few cases from the turn of the 21st century, repeated in the mainstream media, nor the 400 interventions over two centuries in the whole of Hispanic America, as meticulously listed by the Argentine historian, Gregorio Selser (Cronología de las intervenciones extranjeras en América Latina, 4 vols., 2010)—the balance sheet is in fact far worse. The United States has fought or fomented government overthrows all over the world: the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, Cuba, Lebanon, Congo, Brazil, Peru, Dominican Republic, Iran, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti, Chile, Angola, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Sudan, Somalia, Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Kosovo), Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Indonesia. Since its inception in 1776, the U.S. has been more or less at war 80 to 90% of the time. Today, it has 175 military bases in 130 countries. By comparison, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia between them have barely 30 bases abroad. In 2019, the defense budget of the United States and its NATO allies amounted to more than $1 trillion (52% of the global defense budget), while Russia’s budget amounted to $65.1 billion.

Under the guise of good intention and the defense of democracy, Washington defends above all the interests of American companies. We all know Theodore Roosevelt’s formula: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Soft power to seduce and convince, and hard power to hit and punish! But rather than colonizing territories and peoples, US governments have made the wise choice of controlling decision-makers and gaining access to raw materials and national markets for their corporations or multinationals. The hawks in Washington are doing in Europe and around the world what they did in Central and South America—they are making sure they dominate militarily as well as economically. To do this, colonizing the elites is the most effective way. And in the end, the Empire’s allies are not simply friendly states, but rather protectorates or vassals with no real say in the matter. In the end, all have to obey. De Gaulle, who was to be a faithful, even unconditional friend of America in the most difficult moments of the Cold War, understood this well. He knew that Roosevelt hated him, that he considered him a “madman” and that he wanted to bring him down in one way or another because of his desire for sovereignty and independence.

The American myth of liberal democracy has slowly collapsed in favor of a plutocracy or corporatocracy. The values of the Founding Fathers have gradually disappeared in favor of the financial-industrial-military complex that Eisenhower warned against in 1961. And this situation was not new then. The nineteenth U.S. president, Rutherford Birchard Hayes, had already expressed concern about the evolution of such a system in his diary on March 11, 1888: “The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital. Hundreds of laws of Congress and the state legislatures are in the interest of these men and against the interests of workingmen. These need to be exposed and repealed. All laws on corporations, on taxation, on trusts, wills, descent, and the like, need examination and extensive change. This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.”

In a November 21, 1933 letter to Edward House, a former Wilson advisor, Roosevelt also made this admission: “The truth is that, as you and I know, a financial element in the great centers has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson.” Significantly, 15 billionaires now control the US media.

American democracy has undoubtedly turned into an oligarchy. The people still have some influence at the local level, but they no longer have much of a say at the federal level. At the top level, a tiny number of people make the decisions and reap most of the benefits. Blinded by the material comforts that the system has provided for decades, the American people have not been able or willing to see that their democracy has been progressively confiscated by their elites, that these elites have hijacked power for their own ends, and that the “deep state” has other ambitions than to help the American people, the real deep state. This lucid diagnosis is not the monopoly of dangerous radicals, anarchists, Marxists or other “anti-capitalist” revolutionaries. It is the work of a great many authors (and sometimes even presidents of the Republic) with the most diverse political sensibilities, such as Howard Zinn, John Perkins, Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti, Eliot A. Cohen, William Blum, Noam Chomsky, Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Carroll Quigley, Christopher Lasch or Paul Gottfried, who denounce this situation of capture or perversion of the democratic system and of dangerous overextension of the Empire. Among them, the vast majority have as their essential concern the scrupulous respect of the principles of the Founding Fathers, collective security and the common good of the American people.

On this point, the “conventional” and somewhat “angelic” thesis of historian Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman (American Umpire, 2013), built around the slogans “we are exceptional,” “we have made the world a better place because of our activities abroad,” “we are not an Empire” because “we are a democratic republic,” proves to be confoundingly biased and shallow, especially when compared to the historically and geopolitically sound argument of Nikola Mirkovic’s recent book (L’Amérique Empire, 2021).

However, it is rare to hear someone declare or “denounce” himself as a “skeptic” or moderate democratic, and even less as a “non-democratic” or “anti-democratic.” Even more so, no political regime would dare to define itself in this way. Democracy has been, for more than a century, a true political messianism that pursues the realization of the ancestral myth of the perfect City, of the ideal City and of the new Man. Not so long ago, Stalin (at least that’s what Yuri Zukhov says), and all the Bolshevik socialists, such as Lenin, Trotsky, Mao or Pol Pot, wanted to be partisans of a “new democracy.” Mussolini proclaimed the rejection of the “conventional and absurd lie of political equality and collective irresponsibility,” in favor of an “organized, centralized and authoritarian democracy,” “the purest form of democracy.” Not to be outdone, the doctrinaires of National Socialist Germany condemned, like their counterparts in the Soviet Union, “formal, bourgeois democracy.” The “Fuehrer State” was supposed to be, according to them, “directly democratic in the best sense of the word.” One can always dream about intentions and deny realities.

Most Europeans and Westerners today believe that freedom goes hand-in-hand with democracy, just as the stars go with the moon. There are of course false notes in the polite speeches of the “elites,” as when the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, issued his startling warning: “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties” (Figaro, June 29, 2015). There are also scandalous manipulations of the popular will, as when in 2007, President Sarkozy had the National Assembly ratify the Lisbon Treaty on the new European Constitution, even though it had been rejected by the people in the referendum of May 29, 2005. (In the Netherlands, it was the Senate that was responsible for adopting the same treaty first rejected by the people; and in Ireland, the voters had to vote and re-vote until they finally said “yes”). As the somewhat chameleonic and communist-courting poet Bertolt Brecht wrote in the aftermath of the East German uprising (June 17, 1953): “Since the people vote against the government, the people must be dissolved.”

However, the voters whose eyes are permanently unblinded are not legion and many are disillusioned. Democracy and freedom are taken for granted (even more so when the Western media compare the situation of their countries with the rest of the world), whereas in reality both are only partially implemented and sometimes even largely forbidden. In such a political and social context, to question the value and foundations of democracy, or to express doubts about the possibilities of its practical realization, is to attract the wrath, contempt and hatred of the high priests of the cult and other opinion-makers. To be accused by the media and the champions of virtue of the capital sin of antidemocracy is to expose oneself to the danger of a condemnation to silence, to a life of a pariah. A political regime and those who serve it rarely understand that one criticizes it or that one does not accept to sing its praises. Strangely enough, modern censors and neo-inquisitors have forgotten that generations of prestigious historians, jurists, philosophers and political scientists have carried out for almost two centuries, in an honest, rigorous and disinterested way, the most implacable analysis and dissection of Western democracy.

In the 1920s, the liberal philosopher José Ortega y Gasset had already denounced “morbid democracy.” In his famous lecture “De Europa meditatio quaedam,” in 1945, he warned Berlin students that the word “has become prostituted,” because it has many meanings that coexist. The word “democracy,” he said, has become “stupid and fraudulent;” its daily use, for whatever reason, resembles the invocation of a civil religion. The philosopher of law, Hans Kelsen, also wrote as early as 1929: “Democracy is the slogan that generally dominates the minds of the 19th and 20th centuries. But that is precisely why it loses its true meaning—like any other slogan.” No less lucid, the economist Joseph Schumpeter, noted in 1942 that “residual democracy” is “an organized hypocrisy.” It is reduced, said Gonzálo Fernández de la Mora (La partitocracia, 1977), to the opportunity that the partitocratic oligarchies offer to the governed to periodically pronounce on an option, generally limited, after having carried out a great operation of informing, or marketing to, the public opinion. In Du pouvoir (1945). Bertrand de Jouvenel was no less severe: “Discussions about democracy, arguments in its favor or against it, are struck with intellectual nullity, because one does not know what one is talking about.” Significantly, many intellectual and academic personalities, with openly democratic convictions, prefer to speak of “deficient democracy,” “precarious democracy,” “democratic deficit,” “impolitic regime,” “fatigue” and “exhaustion” of the Welfare State, “end of the democratic ideal,” “twilight” or “winter of liberal democracy.” Such is the case with Guglielmo Ferrero, Giovani Sartori, Angelo Panebianco, Stephen Krasner, Gaston Bouthoul, Julien Freund, Michel Sandel, Danilo Zolo, Guy Hermet, Michel Maffesoli and many others.

The Various Meanings of the Word “Democracy”

The reality is that the concept of democracy has multiple meanings that can satisfy everyone. The word has served and serves to designate and ennoble contrary doctrines and practices. With the exception of the last disciples of traditionalist thinkers, such as Maistre or Bonald, for whom only an order inspired by God is legitimate, and even of the last positivist monarchists of the Action française, everyone today declares himself in favor of democracy. But which democracy?

Historically, democracy, or rather a form of democracy, was established in Greece in the 5th century BC. But the current forms of government that claim to be its heirs only borrow its name. In the Athens of the 5th century B.C., out of a population of 400,000 inhabitants, only 10% of the men were recognized as citizens and represented their families (less than 200,000 souls); women, metics and slaves did not participate in political life. The Greeks also considered the election as an antidemocratic and aristocratic process that gave a notorious advantage to the most educated, the richest, the most gifted and the most cunning. The drawing of lots was, according to them, the only device capable of ensuring the democratic character of government.

On the other hand, neither Plato nor Aristotle claimed to be democratic. Plato believed that it violated freedom and dignity under the guise of equality. As for Aristotle, he preferred the “mixed” regime, a subtle mixture of democracy, monarchy and aristocracy. Ancient democracy thus remained for a very long time an object of study reserved to the scholars. The medieval proto-democracy having led to a dead end, and the revolutionaries (1642, 1763 and 1789) having not given their trust to the people any more than their counter-revolutionary opponents, it was not until the first waves of democratization in the 19th century (in the United States with Andrew Jackson in 1829 and in Europe with the revolutions of 1848), and especially after the First World War that mass democracy and universal suffrage began to develop in Western Europe and the West.

Democracy can be considered from two approaches: normative or descriptive. From a normative point of view, political democracy is above all a principle of legitimacy. Thus conceived, it is both the smallest and the only common denominator of all democratic doctrines: power is legitimate when it derives from the authority of the people and is based on their consent.

Let us immediately point out a major difference here. For the realist normativist (moderate liberals or conservative-liberals, who have not ceased to multiply throughout history the procedures aimed at diminishing the influence of universal suffrage, despite the fact that it is proclaimed by them as a constitutional principle), the end cannot justify the means. On the other hand, for the idealist or utopian normativist (liberal-Jacobin, socialist-authoritarian or Marxist-totalitarian), the use of non-democratic means for ends deemed to be democratic is always ultimately justified.

The example taken from French political history is eloquent. What matters for the French utopian normativist is not that the democratic system guarantees social order and the common good, internal harmony and external security, but that it maintains above all and at any cost the humanitarian values of the revisited ideal of the Enlightenment. All those who do not accept the rules of the game are thus excluded ipso facto. The power is held by the people and the “values” are in theory a function of the will of the people; but in reality, for our “progressives,” “defenders of the Republic and of Democracy,” the people can never have the power to question the “republican and democratic values,” these being able to be altered or redefined only by the members of the self-proclaimed republican elite. The same is true of the social-democratic theorist Jürgen Habermas. In the name of “constitutional patriotism,” the German philosopher wants to be the intractable censor of historical-cultural or social-identitarian patriotism. He intends to save the possibility of a “universal consensus” of substance; and to do this he expressly excludes those who are “clearly and voluntarily” (according to his own criterion), “beyond the borders of society.”

American neoconservatives and neoliberals (Alan Bloom, Wolfowitz, Hanson, Kagan, Podhoretz, Kristol, etc.), but also many of Strauss’ disciples (with their French epigones Bernard-Henri Lévy, Jacques Attali, Alain Minc, etc.) are all on the same ideological page when they defend the right to interfere, or the right to humanitarian intervention all over the world, in the name of “equality, freedom and human rights”) and advocate the universal application manu militari of the American or Western democratic model.

The irony is that since the 19th century, the arguments of European colonialists have also generally been developed on a triple register: economic (search for markets and raw materials), political (imperatives of grandeur and power) and moral (benefits of science, reason, education, progress, civilization, the Enlightenment, human rights, secular morality and/or religion). The origins and justifications of the Western right to interfere can be found much further back, not only in the Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) or the economist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), but also in the theologian and founder of the School of Salamanca, Francisco de Vitoria (1483-1546). According to the Dominican Vitoria, the following are legitimate grounds for intervention: natural law and the law of nations, the right of natural communication, the right to preach the Gospel freely, the tyranny of the indigenous rulers, the agreement or approval of the majority of the indigenous people, the alliance and the appeal for help from friendly peoples and, finally, a ground that he considers more debatable, the temporary incapacity of the indigenous people to administer themselves. One is tempted here to quote Ecclesiastes: “What was, will be; what was done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

In this case, American democratic interventionism at the turn of the 21st century, so often described as hegemonism or imperialism by its opponents, is neither new, nor original, nor modern. Strauss was fond of explaining that one should always judge political thinkers by the fruits of their ideas. But in view of the havoc wrought in the name of his ideas by his followers, one cannot help but return the argument. Relativism, historicism, non-interventionism and, more generally, the democratic realism of authors like Tocqueville, Ortega y Gasset, Buchanan, Mearsheimer or Paul Gottfried is infinitely less dangerous than the democratic humanitarianism of the Straussian warmongers or the neoliberal globalists.

From a second point of view, no longer normative but descriptive, political democracy is a system based on the competition of parties and elites, a competition arbitrated by the masses, as well as on the limitation of the power of rulers. Within this system, the majority must respect the rights of minorities. The reasoning here is centered on the concepts of electoral participation, selection of leaders, representation, opposition, control, limitation of power—but it is not at all centered on the idea of a self-governing people. However, in a democracy, the key notion is neither the number, nor the suffrage, nor the election, nor the representation—but the participation of all the citizens in public life. Everyone must play an active role as a member of the community, as part of a whole. The maximum of democracy merges with the maximum of participation.

In fact, depending on the convictions of its exegetes, democracy rests on different, if not contradictory, foundations. It can be founded either in reference to the individual without belonging—this is liberal democracy; or in reference to the masses, or to the working-class as the potential negation of other classes—this is popular democracy; or, in reference to the people conceived as a collective organism and as the privileged authors of all historical destiny—this is organic democracy. “Liberty, equality, fraternity,” proclaims the French Republican motto. Liberty is attached to liberal democracy. Equality has been exploited by popular democracies. Fraternity is at the heart of organic democracy.

Let us recall a key element that is at the heart of popular, social-Marxist democracy. At the time of its creation and development, socialists and Marxist communists castigated universal suffrage as essentially mystifying. The revolutionary minority was not to abdicate to the average opinion. “True democracy” was the one imposed and guided by the “conscious minority.” The “revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat” had to act without taking into account the refractory mass, the unconscious majority, charged with the great mission of awakening men to freedom. The exercise of universal suffrage in Western democracies could be, in this optic, only a simple propaedeutic to revolutionary action and to the seizure of power that was expected from it, at the same time as an exceptional occasion of agitation and propaganda. Lenin and all Marxists announced as the last stage of their regime the stateless and classless society; but the stage of “dictatorship of the proletariat” in charge of oppressing the bourgeois class was quickly converted into a permanent and definitive dictatorship of the minority of the Party over the whole society.

Third type of democracy: organic democracy. Here, representation takes place, partially or totally, through the municipality, the family unit, the region, the union, the professional associations or the corporations. These different forms of participation are themselves supplemented by the practice of referendums. Organic democracy is almost always held by its opponents (especially Anglo-Saxon Protestants) to be the exclusive invention of authoritarian or even totalitarian regimes (that of Franco’s or Italian Fascist doctrinaires) or of Catholicism (that of Catholic-socialist or traditionalist authors, such as Ketteler, Le Play, La Tour du Pin, Toniolo, Chesterton, Belloc, etc.). But this assertion is totally false. Social organicism has its origin in German idealism (Hegel, Fichte, Ahrens and Krause). Later, it is found in eminent liberal and socialist authors, often Freemasons, such as Renan, Carlyle, Durkheim, Duguit, de Man, Laski, Weber, Prat de la Riba, Madariaga or Besteiro. For the proponents of organicism, any political doctrine whose implementation favors the disintegration of peoples, or the erosion of popular consciousness in the sense of a consciousness of belonging to the organic entity that is the people, must be considered undemocratic.

That said, the problem of terminological confusion and the correct meaning of the word “democracy” is not reduced to the simple triad of liberal democracy, popular democracy and organic democracy. Other meanings have spread with varying degrees of success. We speak of representative or liberal democracy to describe a system based on the power of parliamentary assemblies. We evoke polyarchic democracy to emphasize the plurality of pressure groups and decision-making centers. We refer to direct democracy to name a model based on the practice of referendums. Direct or plebiscitary democracy is opposed to representative, partitocratic, pluralist or polyarchic democracy. The former, supported by the national and/or populist right, is criticized on the right and left, often with arguments reminiscent of those of the traditionalist right. Referendum democracy would be an open door to demagogy, madness, passions and irrationality. The argument is strong, but in representative democracy, the delegation, the exercise of the mandate, does not prevent the manipulation of parliamentarians by lobbies, economic arms of strong, invisible powers, nor the taking of ill-considered decisions, questionable or prejudicial to the interests of the people.

We also speak of social democracy, to define a way of life characterized by the levelling of differences in condition, or of economic democracy, to signify the will to equalize wealth. The State (Welfare State) is entrusted with the task of compensating for socio-economic inequalities through measures to protect the most disadvantaged and to redistribute wealth. Industrial democracy is also referred to as self-management or direct self-government in the workplace; or local or grassroots democracy, to avoid using the term organic democracy. Since 1997, reference has also been made to illiberal democracy, to qualify and criticize the regimes of Eastern Europe (notably Hungary and Poland) which oppose liberal globalization, without denying freedoms, and which claim control over the collective destiny and cultural integrity of their peoples. Finally, the concepts or terms of moral, populist, citizen, absolutist, prophylactic, belligerent, ballistic, strategic democracy have appeared, as well as those of market democracy, technocratic democracy, internet democracy, teledemocracy, “cyber-democracy,” “democratic governance” (a system that in reality reserves “serious” decisions for the small number of technocrats), participatory, deliberative, diversitarian, multicultural, global, globalized democracy, etc. Welcome to Orwellian newspeak!

With the latest “progressive” fads, classical democracy has been turned against itself to become a real enterprise of permanent deconstruction of Western values and institutions. Citizenship is no longer based on the equality of rights between citizens. The new social struggles claim to be articulated around identity, cultural and racial struggles. Multicultural democracy is in charge of enforcing political correctness, using coercion if necessary. It must pursue equality between groups by refusing the norm that is imposed on all. It must neutralize the majority for the benefit of the different cultural minorities. Consequently, the popular referendum must be prohibited as an instrument and expression of the tyranny of the majority. It is no longer a question of representing a pre-existing people (whose existence is denied), nor a relatively coherent collectivity, but of setting up a mechanism of representation allowing the various particular identities (homosexuals, LGBT, decolonial indigenous people, racialists and others) to assert themselves and to emancipate themselves. Democracy, writes political scientist Dalmacio Negro Pavón, “is thus reduced to political correctness defined and sanctioned by governments with the active or passive assent of the governed, previously infantilized by massive propaganda” (La loi de fer de l’oligarchie: Pourquoi le gouvernement du peuple, par le peuple, pour le peuple est un leurre [The Iron Law of Oligarchy: Why government of the people, by the people, for the people is a sham], 2019).

Aristotle, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Jefferson, etc. explained that democracy is impossible without a limited territory, an ample middle-class balancing the extremes, and a high degree of homogeneity or socio-cultural cohesion. Montesquieu taught that “political virtue,” which he identified with love of law and country, was indispensable to democracy. Generations of political scientists have insisted on the cultural (Tocqueville, Mill) or economic (Lipset) conditionality of democracy’s development. Others (such as Juan Donoso Cortès, Lord Acton, Christopher Dawson, Julien Freund, etc.) pointed out that all forms of democracy are conditional on the development of the state and have argued that all known civilizations have drawn their strength and stability from religion; that the fundamental ideas that shape Europe and the West (universalism, recognition of the value and natural dignity of the individual, distinction between religion and the State, importance of the election of assemblies since the Middle Ages) are practically all of Christian origin or have been re-elaborated or re-adapted by Christianity, and that the decline of Europe and of Western civilization has its origin in the rebellion, the abandonment or the negation of Christian roots.

Still others have emphasized the inevitable political and social consequences of the demographic suicide of the West (the famous work of P. Chaunu and G. Suffert, La peste blanche [The White Plague] now dates from almost half a century ago). But the deconstructionists and other modern utopians don’t care about that. They blithely and thoughtlessly take the exact opposite view of classical political science. In the final morbid phase of modern democracy, the totalitarian temptation is irresistible. The Orwellian newspeak is at work. Is it necessary to underline further the extent of the semantic and ideological confusion that reigns around the magic word of “democracy?”

Criticisms of the Liberal-Democratic Model

The theoretical critique, whether radical or balanced, of the liberal-democratic model has been systematized by multiple authors on the right and the left. Jusnaturalists, defenders of metaphysical natural law, have resorted to dogmatic arguments, such as the divine right of kings. Others have argued philosophically that what is true and just is independent of its recognition by the majority. German idealism (Hegel, Krause), elitist socialism (Saint-Simon, Fourier), anarchism (that of the republican Proudhon of the Solution of the Social Problem, 1848), Comtian positivism, Le Bon’s social psychology, Le Play’s empiricism, Maurras’ monarchist nationalism, Guénon’s integral traditionalism, all deny the individualistic and inorganic principle of the political representation: man is not a solitary being who constitutes the state by means of a pact, as if it were an anonymous society. He is born into a community, and his voice can only really be expressed through the intermediary bodies into which he is really inserted: family, municipality, region, professional body, etc. The jurist Carl Schmitt, for his part, has shown that there is a contradiction at the heart of the liberal-democratic regime: liberalism denies democracy (the logic of identity) and democracy denies liberalism (the logic of difference). There is an invincible opposition between the consciousness of the individual and democratic homogeneity, which presupposes the identity between rulers and ruled. In the eyes of Schmitt, liberal thought overlooks the political, because its individualism prevents it from understanding the formation of collective identities.

On the other hand, the Marxist, anarchist and syndicalist-revolutionary schools (Sorel, Labriola, Valois) have denounced in the liberal-democratic model a system of formal liberties, which become real only for the bourgeoisie. Political realist sociology (Ostrogorski, Pareto, Mosca, Michels) has demonstrated that political elites are never the product of the will of the masses, but that minorities select themselves by means of competition and self-affirmation, that political leaders are not the agents chosen by the people, but oligarchies, all the more closed in on themselves, as they belong to structured and organized parties.

All the criticisms of democracy can be grouped into two categories. Some of them concern the democratic principle itself and are generally anti-democratic. The others deplore the fact that democratic practice rarely conforms to the ideal and propose various solutions to remedy this. But often the authors adopt successively one or the other position, so that it is not easy to situate them clearly. Most of these criticisms are well known: democracy is par excellence the reign of division, instability, endemic civil war, rhetoric, the dictatorship of quantity (“the superior cannot emanate from the inferior”), disguised oligarchy, incompetence, mediocrity, corruption, influence peddling and the omnipotence of money. Democracy has no other philosophical foundation than skepticism and relativism. Until recently, many of the authors of these critiques were not so much fighting parliamentary and representative democracy in principle as the capitalist or market democracy in which it is embedded. The problems of social justice, of class struggles and of socio-economic exploitation were not then considered as accessory or subsidiary. The “social sciences” did not yet claim to have “discovered” the “real” enemy of redeemed humanity that is Western civilization dominated by the white, heterosexual, colonialist, slave-owning male, responsible for all discriminations.

Comparing “constitutional ideology” to “political reality,” many legal scholars and political scientists have criticized the abstractions, metaphors and fictions of liberal democracy.

The first example of a fiction is the principle of the division of powers (executive, legislative and judicial). In reality, the parliament regularly invades the domain of the executive when it legislates in concrete, not general, matters; the government promulgates decree-laws of general content and thus assumes the functions of the legislature; and the judges of the constitutional court exercise the supreme legislative or even constitutional function when they interpret an ambiguous, fundamental precept.

The second example of fiction: the main justification for parliament is that it streamlines discussion, ensures political transparency and expresses the national will. But the reality is quite different. Most deputies or representatives are not those whom the people consider the best, but those who belong to the class of “politicians.” Their non-imperative mandate is not enough to ensure their independence, as they are usually subject to the discipline or instructions of their party. The voter puts a ballot in the box and the parties then arrange to form a coalition government or not at their convenience. The more important the deliberations, the more secretly they are conducted by senior party officials. The same applies to the selection and nomination of candidates for election and the appointment of offices. Nor is parliament the instrument of political integration, of the submission of divergent wills to a single national will, but the means by which a political faction occupies the entire state and imposes itself on its opponents.

Third example of fiction: the liberal-democratic State intends to ensure the equality of power to all deputies and the equality of vote of all citizens. But then, why does the simple majority in the constituent assemblies undemocratically provide that qualified majorities will be needed to reform the Constitution? Why do most electoral laws establish very high electoral thresholds (5 to 10%) and majority bonuses (of 25 or 50%), so that some ballots are worth more than others? Wouldn’t the basis of the anti-democratic spirit finally be to consider that the primary goal of an election is not to allow the people to express themselves freely but to force them to elect a “stable majority” of an oligarchic nature?

To this, the realist democrat retorts that a regime based on the plurality of parties, the limitation of powers and the respect of minorities, may be execrable, but that the others are even worse. We know Churchill’s ironic or cynical phrase, “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” In Democratic Theory, the famous liberal political scientist Giovanni Sartori agrees that “anyone who wants to prove that the democratic system has a rational basis is at a dead end…. It is no accident that in the realm of rationalist philosophy one rarely encounters theories of democracy.”

The only exception to the rule is that of the rationalist Rousseau; but he is forced to resort to the fiction of the general will in order to better evade the fallible and changing will of all. In truth, it is difficult to affirm that there is more rationality among the supporters of democracy than among its opponents. The liberal Hans Kelsen, for example, readily admits that he finds it difficult to believe that the people and only the people possess the truth and the sense of the good; for this would imply a belief in a divine right of the people as inadmissible as the belief that a man is king by the grace of God. Kelsen goes even further. He admits, as do many other lucid democrats, that the cause of democracy is hopeless, if one starts from the idea that man can attain absolute truths and values. The liberal philosopher Pierre Manent also concedes that “under the guise of democracy, it is in reality an oligarchy that thrives.” He does not hesitate to add: “the minority of those who possess material and cultural capital manipulate political institutions to their benefit.”

The “democracy or dictatorship” dilemma, in which idealistic democrats seek to confine their opponents, is more seductive than it is well-founded. No political procedure is an absolute guarantee against autocracy and despotism. Even the least brilliant student of the history of political ideas knows this. Tyranny and dictatorship represent a corruption that is always possible and that also threatens, in different forms, the totality of political systems.

Real Western Democracy

Historically, the world has never known any other form of government than that of the few, of the ruling minority (the oligarchy, the establishment, nowadays the European-American-globalist “elite bloc,” i.e., all the financial, industrial and media elites, without forgetting Gramsci’s “organic intellectuals” and, of course, the so-called “experts” of the consulting firms). Moreover, every government needs the support of public opinion. Behind all known forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy—according to the classical classification; democracy and dictatorship—according to modern classification), there is always a minority that dominates the immense majority. The multiple possible variants depend on the mode of renovation of the minority and the limits and controls to which this minority submits in the exercise of power. The positions of power are never contested by the masses; they are contested by the different factions of the political class. The governed are spectators, sometimes facilitators, but rarely arbiters. When a political oligarchy is discredited, it is replaced by another in search of prestige, of legitimacy of exercise, ready if necessary to use demagogy. All political power seeks to simulate, to operate in secrecy, to control information, to manufacture consent through the mass media.

The works of Gustave Le Bon (The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 1895), Edward Bernays (Propaganda, 1928), Lord Ponsnonby (Falsehood in War-Time, 1928), Sergei Stepanovich Chakhotin, (The Rape of the Masses. The Psychology of Totalitarian Political Propaganda, 1939), or Jacques Ellul (Propaganda, 1962) or Anne Morelli (Principes élémentaires de propagande de guerre, 2001) to name but a few, have explained in great detail how propaganda (or “communication” as we hypocritically call it today), whether “good” or “bad,” “white” (for the Good) or “black” (for the Evil), works in Western democracies. They have demonstrated that it is, paradoxically, an invention of liberal democracies and not, as is often heard, the creation and practice of totalitarian or authoritarian states alone. When today’s politically correct journalism (opinion journalism camouflaged behind the cloak of so-called news journalism) criticizes, not without corporatist ulterior motives, the “fearsome character” of the new cyber propaganda, it is the hospital that mocks the charity. In reality, the often-vaunted pluralism of the Western mainstream media is nothing but a deception, fully described by the allegory of the horse and rabbit stew.

On the evening of the re-election of French President Emmanuel Macron (April 24, 2022), an independent journalist mischievously asked in the columns of a non-conformist blog: “What is the name of the country where almost 100% of the subsidized press supports the government? What is the name of the country where all taxpayers finance, forced and coerced, media “committed” to the same side, that of the elites, the power and a huge hegemonic party that criminalizes its opponents? What is the name of the country where half of the citizens no longer trust any major media?” (G. Cluzel. BV, April 24, 2022). Of course, the almost unwavering attachment of the people of the United States of America to the First Amendment of its Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, press and expression, makes all the difference and seems to protect them from a similar situation. But while the American citizen-voter can ignore the precepts of political correctness and say in theory just about anything he or she wants, he or she cannot do so without risking serious disadvantages in his or her professional and social life.

Politics, said the poet Paul Valery, “is the art of preventing people from meddling in what concerns them.” But public opinion is much more aware of this today. The consequence is that the oligarchy or “elite bloc”—increasingly fearful—tightens the screws that subjugate the demos. We know the hostility, contempt and fear that populist movements and popular rebellions such as the “Yellow Vests” arouse. People fear the power to which they are subjected—but power also fears the community over which it rules.

To conclude, real Western democracy is, after all, only an oligarchy elected by the people. It excludes the use of physical violence but not moral violence (unfair, fraudulent or restricted competition). Two conditions would make it possible to reform it in depth for the benefit of the people. First, the represented should be able to recover the freedom to directly control their representatives or elected officials, a freedom that has been abusively taken away from them. This would require the introduction of an electoral system with an imperative mandate; representatives would thus be obliged to respect the mandate of their respective electors. Then, for the people to be able, if not to direct and govern de facto, at least to participate durably in political life, it would be necessary for the principle of direct democracy to be widely accepted [with, of course, the referendum of popular initiative (RIP) or citizen initiative (RIC)]. A realistic ideal, which, one can well imagine, is not close to being achieved. The crux of the matter is, however, to prevent those in power from being mere transmission belts for the interests, desires and feelings of the political, social, economic and cultural oligarchy.

As the political scientist Dalmacio Negro points out, “The only effective attitude in politics is the rational criticism of reality in order to keep the spirit of collective freedom alive.” Realistic and lucid, he wisely adds that there is an essential condition for political democracy to be possible and for its corruption to become much more difficult if not impossible. It is necessary that the attitude towards the government be always distrustful, even when it is a question of friends or people for whom one has voted. Bertrand de Jouvenel said in this regard: “the government of friends is the barbaric way of governing.”


Arnaud Imatz, a Basque-French political scientist and historian, holds a State Doctorate (DrE) in political science and is a correspondent-member of the Royal Academy of History (Spain), and a former international civil servant at OECDHe is a specialist in the Spanish Civil War, European populism, and the political struggles of the Right and the Left – all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles on the political thought of the founder and theoretician of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, as well as the Liberal philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, and the Catholic traditionalist, Juan Donoso Cortés.


Featured image: “World’s Constable.” Cartoon by Louis Dalrymple. Published in Judge, January 14, 1905.

The Importance of Gaetano Mosca

A great book opens one’s eyes to processes that one may have missed had one not read it. Likewise, its power lies in activating one’s own abilities of thought to see more clearly what others may not notice at all or merely glimpse as a blur in the fog.

Few books I have read are better guides and eye-openers about how to think structurally, historically, and comparatively about politics generally, and the major crises of our time, crises that have largely been induced by a ruling class that has globalist ambitions, than Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class. Reading it can also help one be better attuned to the political fluxions that draw us toward the break-down of politics as the means for staving off those terrible forces of human destruction and rejuvenation—war and revolution, which are the inevitable consequences of a failure to adequately maintain and cultivate the powers of peace.

The ruling class of the West, which forms the core of a globalist elite, draws us into an external war—that remains at this stage a proxy war—and (most conspicuously so in the United States and Europe) a civil war that is playing itself out politically and institutionally and has already destroyed the very possibility of a common political culture.

1. Canonical and Great Books

Some books found peoples and nations; some assist in the founding of institutions; some open pathways for new types of orienting of human beings and help us forge a new reality; some provide the language and thought patterns of an epoch; some books are prophetic; and some provide the wherewithal that best defines the problem of an age. The most influential of these great books are canonical. And in spite of the ideological attack upon the canon which was part and parcel of a sweeping attempt to accommodate Western institutions to the knowledge and intellectual capacities of poorly-educated and under-read undergraduates and graduate students, canonical books exist because our world would simply not be the same were they to not have existed. This was also why it was commonly assumed amongst professors, teachers, and the professional classes that every educated person should acquaint himself with certain books at some point in his life-time.

The canon also reflects the problems of the ages and the most significant of attempted solutions—which is why it is so diverse, if I may be permitted to use a word that has become an ideological truncheon in the arsenal of managerial and progressive moral absolutes. A canonical work might not be error free, or it may be fraught with problems (Marx’s Communist Manifesto or Capital or Rousseau’s Èmile and Social Contract are obvious examples), or just simply defiant of traditional ethical appeals (Machiavelli’s Prince). Nor does the canon contain a collection of like-minded sentiments or responses to the human condition. And the idea that it is simply the point of view of white men makes no sense, given the shoddiness of the category—are people from what is now the Middle East, Northern Pakistan and Central Asia white?—or the authors of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Koran, the Analects, the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita, which all are canonical works?

Then there are books which, though lesser known, if read attentively, can change how you see the world forever. They may not be canonical, but they express profound insights which, if remembered, would help us greatly in making sense of our world. I consider the writings of J.G. Hamann and Herder, of Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy to be good examples of these kind of books. In the case of both pairs of thinkers, they were contemporaries of much more influential and famous philosophers—viz., the former were contemporaries of Kant, the latter of Heidegger. But whereas Kant and Heidegger remain essential to the philosophical tradition and hence to the curriculum of Philosophy (at least to that curriculum that breathes outside of the straightjacket of Analytic Philosophy), if one has attentively read Hamann et. al., then one can quickly identify a range of egregious deficiencies in the philosophies and legacies of Kant and Heidegger, and his ‘68 progeny.

Then there are books that were ignored at the time of their publication; or having made a strong impression upon a discipline or the public have faded from view, only to undergo a revival because they have been (re)discovered by later generations who see that they address something of profound importance about their lives and times. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for example, were “stillborn” only to be reborn; while Mises’s Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, took on a new life when the Soviet Union was collapsing.

Explosive times, invariably, call out for the most thoughtful and inventive of people to make sense of them. And great books are inevitably forged out of the explosive fall out; the materials and problems of times in great crisis. Though, we should note, that human beings are crisis producing creatures—which is why those who believe in progress invariably are forced to temper their enthusiasm when their own circumstances and age go to hell.

But let us first address the tumult of our time, which is the reason I suggest Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class is a must read.

2. Global Leadership Aspirations versus those Non-Compliant Critics from the “Led-ship”

We are living in a period of civil wars in the West being played out in its institutions, as the ruling political class, and the various interests it represents and deploys for its objectives, overturns (in large part by redefining the character and roles of all) traditional social institutions. It is a civil war that is rather typical of all civil wars—a ruling class furnishes the world in a way that suits its interests; but such furnishing requires great sacrifice from those whose lives are an important part of this new furnishing. And the proposed purpose, the changing circumstances, and the new future being made, do not fit well with the interests (the ways of being in the world) of those who are required to get in step with the dictates of the ruling class.

The civil war of our time, in other words, is the struggle over whether the future will be dictated by a globalist elite and those who (often unwittingly) work on their behalf, or by those who oppose the goals and means of that elite, and the sacrifices that are required to achieve it. On the one side stand those who believe they are striving for human progress, and that progress involves greater “emancipation,” “safety,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “equity.” Yet, as their critics point out, they are creating a world which is far less equitable, safe or free. They are contributing to a divide between the immensely rich, the highly paid leaders, and administrators, celebrities, elite athletes, and all those who are employed to do their bidding by supervising and instructing everyone in what to think and say, on the one hand, and the rest.

The rest are those who are meant to make up the great “led-ship,” who are to do the bidding the various leaders, the “representatives” of sustainability, global justice, world health—and pretty much anything else said leaders can think of—and thus the “rest” find themselves increasingly beholden to leaders. Irrespective of their intentions, the more vocal opponents of this ruling elite can see that they are aiding and abetting corporate technocratic globalism, and its accompanying suppliers of governance (administrative states beholden to larger global administrative powers, such as the EU, and the UN), knowledge (from big tech/media and its fact-checkers to the requirement that scientific research be funded by state-corporately authorized research institutions and bodies which comply with consensuses that are manufactured within various professional associations, again complying with corporate and state requirements, and standardized curricula crafted around ostensibly universal rights), health (Big Pharma, and WHO, medical associations, and boards), and safety (the Industrial Military Complex and international military alliances whose very existence requires manufacturing wars, which may never be won, but which help ensure a continuous resource stream from tax-payers to arms manufacturers, bureaucrats and the military so that a global standing military reserve will never cease to exist).

What to those who embrace this globalist order and its rulers and minions is a more caring, safe and compassionate, environmentally sustainable world order, is to others but mindlessness and mental enslavement, infantile indulgence, and the suppression of the more traditional institutions and roles, which have provided people with a sense of the fit between themselves and the kind of freedom that was worked out over multiple generations in the numerous spheres of sociality. Whereas supporters of globalism can be found everywhere—though, the further away one gets from the West, such supporters exist in ever smaller numbers—the opponents of this global elite do not form a natural alliance: being a traditional Muslim, Jew, or Christian does not mean that the common ground—one’s traditional faith—is very common or solid as a base for an alliance. Conflict and wars are the inevitable accompaniments of traditional life-ways. But the delusion of the globalist elites is that under their direction there will be perpetual peace.

Again, critics of the globalist elite (which take NATO as its military shield) will point out that what is happening is not that war as an existential feature of human existence has ceased, or even diminished, but the grounds for its existence have shifted, and the beneficiaries for its existence have assumed the authority of being the planetary peace-providers.

If nature abhors a vacuum, then the nature of our global administrative, financial, communication systems have created a vacuum that has been filled by a globalist ruling class—a Superclass, as David Rothkopf, who served in the Clinton administration, formulated it in his book of that name. (Rothkopf, who is not at all hostile to this elite, makes the case that while membership is relatively mobile, it numbers around six thousand people at any given time). In filling that vacuum, the global elite have required that the world adopts itself to their interests, which are the interests that support their authority. But, again, their interests, simply do not suit the overwhelming number of people who live on planet earth, and do not feel that this superclass is of any benefit to them—critics of the superclass go further and see it as a class whose ambition wildly outstrips its competence, and is thus a destructive force, far greater than what nature and our other social formations would generate.

The globalist ruling class inaugurates another fundamental break with tradition—and at the danger of repeating myself—the modus operandi of the globalist elite is its break with all real traditions, involving a kind of substitution racket, like fake gold being passed off as real gold. This particular break is that previously whereas power formations which move beyond those of outright enslavement or tyranny are historically formed symbiotically, so that a sacrificial order is established—no serious sacrifice is required of the globalist elite themselves: they can pay others to enforce others to make the sacrifices that are intrinsic to social reproduction (notably sacrifices of the independence of mind to the ruling ideas, the sacrifice of one’s faith to the higher absolutes of globalist/corporatist/progressivist ideology, and sacrifice of one’s relative economic well-being).

For all its aspirations, though, Globalism Inc. remains largely politically ineffective outside of the West, and the great geo-political non-Western globalist alternative to Western globalism, China, is one that far more carefully attends to bringing along the ruled with its ruling class—which is not to say that on certain divisive issues it will not do what ruling classes always do, i.e., brutally enforce its authority. The way it has managed to cement its authority by avoiding a civil war is to ensure its adherence to traditions in a way that makes it something of a mirror image of the West. But, to repeat, there is no natural allegiance between the traditionalism of the Chinese and those in the West, who find greater solace in their traditions than in the new elite counterfeit fabrications. To question these fabrications in the West as counterfeit, based upon (collective self-)delusions and/or deception, is now to be a “right-wing extremist,” and to question any of the ticket items that are advanced through these fabrications, and to even speak of a globalist elite is to be a dupe of a conspiracy theory, which is to say that those making a play to be the global ruling class smother resistance by ideological indoctrination, accompanied by social, economic and political enforcement.

The primary reason that the West has been the leader of the globalist agenda, from its social alliances, to policy, to ideology is because the West has been created through wars and revolutions, and the relative success of its institutions, prior to breeding a class determined to destroy them, has been the incorporation of a dynamic which enables adapting to its changing technological and socio-economic circumstances. In the West, it is not the case that those who wish to preserve their traditional way of life are wishing to leap back to pre-modern times, as, for example, has been the case in much of the Islamic world’s response to modernization. Thus, for example, in the United States, those who are most outspoken against the progressive direction of their country identify themselves as “patriots,” i.e., as defenders of the American revolution and the principles it founded and which have evolved in its wake.

Today, the ruling class in the United States has largely embraced switching the founding of the United States from the date marking the independence of a colony from a foreign oppressive power it defeated in a civil war by declaring “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” to a date which takes its founding as an act of enslavement, and its perpetuity as one of a trail of injustices that must now be rectified by those who will lead its people (who no longer are merely the citizens and their children) via the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, the media, the classroom, and wherever else people may assemble, speak, or reflect.

Of course, there are still some people who belong to the political class who are on the “wrong side of history,” the side that identifies in the United States with the founding fathers, who are appalled that the new ruling class works in tandem with the youth of the nation and its educators to overturn institutions, tear-down statues, change the names of military bases, schools and other buildings and, rewrite their history books and school curricula, so that the men who founded the United States may have their status removed and their personage shamed, and the more diverse, and the tolerant ruling class who represent the truth of power and an emancipated future may live in safety, free from the “moral odium” of their forebears. The civil war that is taking place is one which exists because the ruling class has changed. It has gone globalist, become “virtuous,” and got “woke.”

There is, I believe, no better book for making sense of what is now transpiring than Gaetano Mosca’s Ruling Class.

3. Mosca Elements of Political Science and Their Importance for Understanding the Affinities Between Totalitarian Ruling Classes

Apart from its providing a number of key elements to help make sense of the times we are living through in the West, I came to the conclusion, right at the end of my academic career, after picking the book up again for the first time in nearly fifty years (when I had been too young and stupid to realize what gold it was) that Mosca’s Ruling Class is, along with Aristotle’s Politics and Thucydides’ Peloponnesian Wars, probably the best foundational text for studying Political Science that has ever been written. (For all its greatness, I would not say that Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope is a foundational text for studying Political Science)

The Italian title of The Ruling Class (when literally translated) is Elements of Political Science, the first edition of which appeared in Italy in 1896; the English translation of the revised edition of 1923 appeared in 1939. The English title is perhaps a more catching one, and it does capture the content of the book. But I think it regrettable that in an age where Political Science is little more now than a disciplinary name rather than a genuine academic discipline that this book is rarely read by those who study Politics. Today, as would be evident to anyone who simply read the titles of papers presented at the American Political Science Association, with the possible exception of rational choice theory (which I think is irredeemably flawed by its inattention to culture and history), most who teach Political Science are morally committed political partisans who have little or no interest in exploring their role within the ruling class. Or indeed thinking outside of the two-dimensional model and its intersectional variant, which would make them and their chosen groups oppressed members of a society they wish to transform, instead of being paid employees (mostly of) the state whose task it is to educate and socially prepare the next generation for reproducing the kind of society that its “leaders”—its ruling class—deem as desirable.

As the Italian title suggests, in dealing with elements of a science of politics Mosca’s book is one that cuts across cultures, which is to say it is a structural examination, a study of the laws that lead to rulership and its class-based nature. Though the structures and laws examined by Mosca are analyzed in their historical genesis and mutations, which is to say Mosca’s study is also an historical study, as it must be given that history provides the condition of our circumstances, just as our response to circumstances also make history. Thus, it examines the changing conditions which give birth to the different social needs and opportunities for different types and classes, and hence the different priorities of governance and those who form the political class of a time and people. It is also comparativist in its approach. In his “Introduction” to the Ruling Class, Arthur Livingstone provided a good summation of Mosca’s method:

He will of course take the facts about society from any source or method that can supply them, only so they are facts—from economics, from anthropology, from psychology, or any similar science. He does explicitly reject for the political-social field any absolute exclusive acceptance of climatic or north-and-south theories, anthropological theories based on the observation of primitive societies (the question of size is important), the economic interpretation of history (it is too unilateral), doctrines of racial superiorities and inferiorities (many different race theories have had their moments of splendor), and evolutionary theories (they fail to account for the rhythmical movement of human progress—biological evolution would require continuous improvement.

The book opens with Mosca showing the inadequacy of most competing approaches to Political Science, noting that various claims to Political Science “are still, little more than philosophical, theological or rational justifications of certain types of political organization which have for centuries, played and in some cases are still playing, a significant role in human history.” Then, it proceeds to lay down the foundational fact upon which there can be political life, as well as a science of it:

Among the constant facts and tendencies that are to be found in all political organisms, one is so obvious that it is apparent to the most casual eye. In all societies—from societies that are very meagerly developed and have barely attained the dawnings of civilization, down to the most advanced and powerful societies—two classes of people appear—a class that rules and a class that is ruled. The first class, always the less numerous, performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings, whereas the second, the more numerous class, is directed and controlled by the first; in a manner that is now more or less legal, now more or less arbitrary and violent, and supplies the first, in appearance at least, with material means of subsistence and with the instrumentalities that are essential to the vitality of the political organism.

Mosca then notes that “in every political organism there is one individual who is chief among the leaders of the ruling class as a whole,” but that person may not hold supreme power according to law. No head of state can rule without the support “of a numerous class to enforce respect for his orders and to have them carried out.” Indeed, it is because of the need for competing and potentially conflicting forces to be coordinated, so that peace between them reign, that a figure symbolizing unity and bearing ultimate sovereignty can act as a mediator between them. That is, it is sovereignty which is a consequence not a precondition of a larger class of “interested” parties; but once established its success depends upon a fit between the sovereign’s interests and that powerful class that commands and coordinates subordinate powers. Of course, that power is originally martial—and the Ruling Class is particularly attentive to the importance of the changing nature of armies in the transformation of ruling classes.

Mosca also notes that just as states require a unity of ends and agreeable means between the sovereign and the most powerful class which girds its authority, there is also a need to draw from the “masses” a group to facilitate and enforce the functions of the rulers. As he puts it:

and granting that he can make one individual, or indeed many individuals, in the ruling class feel the weight of his power, he certainly cannot be at odds with the class as a whole or do away with it. Even if that were possible, he would at once be forced to create another class, without the support of which action on his part would be completely paralysed. On the other hand, granting that the discontent of the masses might succeed in deposing a ruling class, inevitably, as we shall later show, there would have to be another organized minority within the masses themselves to discharge the functions of a ruling class. Otherwise all organization, and the whole social structure, would be destroyed.

…the real superiority of the concept of the ruling, or political, class lies in the fact that the varying structure of ruling classes has a preponderant importance in determining the political type, and also the level of civilization, of the different peoples.

In the chapter “Principles and Tendencies in Ruling Classes,” Mosca notes that it is the middle-class that generally supplied the personnel for the bureaucracy; that it is the moral level of the bureaucracy that signifies the moral level of the ruling class; and that the members of the bureaucracy tend to “believe in their own infallibility,” and are “loath to accept criticisms and suggestion from persons who are not of their calling.” With the expansion of the state into ever more areas of what were once considered private domains of life, and the expansion of those who work with the state, combined with those who are not of the bureaucracy generally but who are affiliated to a party and/ or committed to a political program and work in the corporate and private sector to achieve the kind of state they desire, this combination of moral assuredness and hostility to criticism threatens to generate the kind of opposition that typically leads to the overthrow of a ruling class. Just as the partitions between private and public spheres, the market and state have been pushed aside, thus indicating the death of old fashioned liberal democracy, the bureaucracy no longer has either the aspiration or pretence of being non-partisan. Its members now almost totally represent the program of the “liberal (anti-democratic) progressive.”

The totalitarian trinity of people, party, and leader(ship) has been a complete success in the United States, while most other nations still play by two party rules when it comes to the parliament, but administrations, service providers, school and university curricula, legislation regarding sexuality, policies for multiculturalism, advancement of identity politics and minorities, hate speech etc. are systematically progressive and utterly globalist. And when even it comes to the parliament, as the example of Boris Johnson and BREXIT illustrates, today there are all manner of serpentine ways that political rulers may slip from defender of the nation and its mores to employee of Globalist Inc. Ultimately the most ambitious and most driven members of a ruling class have little regard for older rules of etiquette precisely because of their own sense of moral conviction, and the ability they have to appoint and reward those who share their convictions.

The greater part of the Ruling Class is an historical analysis of the varying ruling class structures and the historical and social conditions that have given rise to them. Apart from any comparisons between Mosca and his contemporaries, who also were developing an elite theory of politics, which I touch upon below, the idea of a ruling class is most commonly associated with Marxism. But the difference between the Marxian deployment of the term to advance its own political program, and Mosca’s analysis, is two-fold—and it is this difference which I think enables us to see why Marxism is ideology, while Mosca’s work a contribution to Political Science.

First, the Marxists promise a future where there will be no ruling class. But that future could only be realized if there were a unity of purpose and such a vast coalition of interests that politics, rulership, class, and divisions between people would have ceased to exist. Thus, Marx’s claim that communism would eliminate the division of labour whist providing material abundance of a sort so that all could live according to their ability and needs. This is a unity that simply has never existed for any protracted period of time, and could only exist were different social interests eliminated—but they are generated out of the division of labour—and it is the division of labour that is the sine qua non of large-scale production, not the desire of someone to dabble in one or other form of creative productivity as it suits him.

Marx simply could not demonstrate how the elimination of the division of labour could defy everything known about economic production and create more abundance than it did when groups existed on such a small scale that what division of labour existed (such as between the sexes and the ages) was negligible. Which brings us to the second point: the Marxist future, irrespective of Marx’s own inability to see what he was doing, is nothing more than a verbal conjuration. In that sense it is the perfect means for those whose primary “skill” is rhetoric. The link between oratory, sophistry (the use of education for the advancement of one’s political power), demagoguery, and tyranny was critically observed by Plato; and that link has only become more intense within the displacement of the old ruling class by one in which verbal prowess and rationalization is fundamental to political legitimation.

Marxism is but one means by which a class, trafficking in words and ideas and persuading people to follow the objectives they lay down, and the means they authorize to achieve those objectives, has come to rule. Of course, that class needs resources; and the most common means available to it are: theft (a means used by the Bolsheviks for a relatively short while, and a means which the United States and, with the European Union, set to follow, are using in their proxy war against Russia), taxes, and donations to political parties.

Marxism did not die with the end of the Soviet-style central planning. In the West, it has survived in its non-Leninist incarnation, as an intrinsic ideological component of the Humanities curricula of elite Western universities. It has survived because it is an ideology whose endgame irreality is of no relevance to its success as an ideological way of oversimplifying reality for an aspirational ruling class keen to find a path to professional careers providing them with the power to build the world around its leadership. The particular interests of those who identify with any one of the radical variants that have come out of Marxist critique is to rule and thus decide how resources are to be deployed for which purposes by which people. This is ideologically passed off as achieving an absolute good – universal emancipation.

Marx himself appealed to a future of spontaneous universal cooperation based upon the complete mutuality of interests of the species (once the bourgeoisie were eliminated). But the impossibility of having large scale productivity and consumption growth without a market and capital investment, and of having political direction without a ruling party and state has meant that Marxism, and its various academically refined spawn, is but one piece of the ideological puzzle justifying the actuality of a ruling class that deploys a combination of value imposition, technocracy—its inevitability and spread being well noted in another very important book, James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution—and financial control. It is achieved by a completely politicised social, pedagogical, and economic alignment or coordination of human action- what the Nazis call Gleichschaltung, which in turn requires suppressing any resistance whether of thought or deed. In so far as the process is ideological – the result of thinking built around political ideational alignments—this ruling class is far more attuned to the dangers of thoughts and words than were any inquisitors or contemporary mullahs.

In sum, while Mosca sees the ruling class as the inevitable accompaniment of all large-scale social organization, Marxism passes off the notion of the ruling class, and indeed politics itself, as but a transitory phase of social existence, whilst creating a rhetorical smokescreen for the rise of a political class that, if successful, claims to speak on behalf of universal interest and thus, if successful, should be able hold its power into perpetuity.

Typically, when Mosca’s work is raised, it is grouped along with other theorists of political elites, most notably Roberto Michels and Wilfried Pareto. Unlike Michels who had been a Marxist before becoming an anarcho-syndicalist and supporter of Il Duce, and Pareto, whose support of Mussolini was brief (Pareto died in 1923) and something of an ill-fit, given the liberal nature of his economic thought, Mosca was a liberal, but not one who was oblivious to its failures and shortcoming, and the threats posed to it by fascism—he wrestles with the problems of representative government in the book’s final chapter.

Although there was some dispute between Pareto and Mosca over who should get the prize for being the first to focus upon political elites as forming the basis of political science, the more important contrast within the elite theorists is between Mosca and Michels.

Michels’s study of the social democratic movement had led him to the observation that oligarchy was the inevitable type of all political organization; and his support for Mussolini expressed his willingness not only to embrace the fact of the inevitability of elite authority, but to endorse a political ideology in which elite power was openly factored into the political program and party.

Ironically, today, while fascism is the pejorative hurled about to discredit anyone who objects to the ticket items of globalist progressivism and corporatism, the globalist program and agenda is built around the unquestionable moral and political authority of cultural and global “leaders” who are increasingly schooled in leadership programs. The preoccupation with leadership today reaches from culture to industry to universities to politics. A jarring example of how central leadership is to politics today was to be seen in an election poster I saw nailed up all over the place in Australia’s recent election. When the poster is translated into German my point needs little further comment: ”Australien braucht einen Füherer, keinen Lügner.”

People in liberal democracies so frequently and blithely speak of politics in terms of the need for political leadership that they seem completely ignorant of the fact that unlike fascist, or communist states, in liberal democracies the most important role of the government (at least in peace time) was not to lead but to provide the conditions so that people might peaceably lead their own lives as best they saw fit.

Michels, like our present globalists, is rather typical of a certain kind of mentality that begins with abstractions and ideals about what political power may achieve if expressing the popular will, but which, in dealing with the actual requirements of maintaining political power, readily either abandons its more democratic rhetoric or simply twists it haphazardly so that it can get on with the business of directing who does what. The business of deciding who must do what—and along with this, who gets what from whom, and deciding what occurs to them, if they won’t do it, is the end of politics; and thus, a task that befalls every ruling class.

Moreover, for all the idolatry surrounding politics today, as if it is the means for solving all our problems, the state, though impossible to do without, is a blunt means (its powers are force, persuasion, and bureaucracy) of orchestrating human action. The problem with totalitarian forms of government is not that their political class makes political decisions, but the expansive combination of the range of decisions and components of life that become absorbed under their political reach and authority, and the intolerance shown towards those who question its authority.

Apart from the idolatry of progressive ideas, and leadership, the use of the state and corporations to ensconce a technocratic elite doing the ideological bidding of a globalist ruling class that demands unity in peacetime, of the sort that in a traditional liberal democratic society would only be required in wartime, is indicative of the totalitarian nature of the modern globalist project. Hence too it must control what can be said, and the best way to control that is to indoctrinate children into the values and narratives that the ruling class holds as absolute.

Also, all distinction between war and peace is being destroyed in Western democracies—we are being attacked by a never-ending series of threats requiring militant response, from the destruction of the planet due to anthropogenically induced climate change, to viruses and infectious diseases that can only be stopped if we all follow the leadership provided by pharmaceutical companies and state authorized medical “advisors,” and the numerous others who have been authorised to identify the correct information and “facts” on any topic warranting totally unified militant action.

Thus, there can never be a time when the ruling class takes a step back from its leadership role. Now we have the impending threat of an actual war—just yesterday General Milley advised the graduating class of West Point of the “increasing risk of global war.” There is, indeed, an impending threat, though the question is not only why, but whether the alliance of Western powers is actually less rather than more totalitarian than the global powers it opposes.

The great challenge of modern liberal-democracy is to maintain a political culture in which the social tensions are fecund enough to make social adaptations of a sort that prevent the political body from succumbing to either traditional ossification or progressivist delusions of governance becoming a mere shell concealing implacable wills. It is an irony that the ruling classes supporting fascism and globalism respectively positioned themselves in antithetical ideological terms with respect to the past and future—whilst both were captured by the internal dialectic of their political means: the fascists presented themselves as Rome reborn, but their emergence and the forces they mustered were all extremely modern. The globalists, on the other hand, appeal to a future free from oppression (a utopia); but they can only achieve this by the old-style means of enforced unity; what Friedrich von Hayek saw as the limited power flow of an order of taxis, which is typical of military and bureaucracy.

The Marxist tradition had gone along with the Saint-Simonian formulation that the future would be free of politics; and in its place there would simply be the administration of things. That tradition had a longer pedigree in utopian writing generally, though Rabelais’ depiction of the Abbey of Thélème had identified the nub of a tradition that runs through Rousseau, and the various socialist writers like de Mably through Saint-Simon and (in spite of their polemics against utopians) Marx and Engels: that nub was political unity. As in the Abbey of Thélème, there would be no leaders because everyone wanted the same thing and everyone did exactly what was required at the time of its requiting.

Both fascism and Marxism were born out of this faith in unity—though in the case of fascism the unity (people, state, party) required at its theoretical foundation an all-knowing, caring leader. In the case of communism, the cult of the personality was not something that was forged theoretically but developed out of necessity, as a party that had seized power in a coup, and defended it in a civil war, was faced with conflicting decisions about what to do about the food supply—should it be collectivized immediately, or allowed to operate through market inducements?—and workers who did not like the labour conditions required of them by those who had promised such liberation and now were shipping people off to prison camps.

Whether fascist or communist, these two modern responses to future-building not only required a mass that complied with what its ruling class dictated, but a mass which was ideologically committed to that ruling class and hence indoctrinated in supporting all its choices. The real difference between liberal democratic regimes and fascist and communist ones had nothing to do with abstract theories—which were, of course, prevalent enough—but with how openly one might grumble about the ruling class. One might say that the grumbling made little difference; but taking away someone’s right to grumble involves deploying state and corporate resources to that end – and hence job opportunities – it also only fuels the grumbling and discontent. Which is also partly why the levels of social discontent in so much of the Western world is so high.

The ruling class of today’s Western democracies now has no compunction in doing what the fascists, and Marxists before them did: and ultimately that is because it is the same kind of people demanding the same objective—that their will be done on earth as it is in the heaven of their ideas.

Reading Mosca will not help anyone prevent this; but reading him does help one place what is happening now in a larger, historical perspective, whilst also providing one with a healthy dose of scepticism, so that one does not fail to note that the primary interest of a ruling class is the preservation of its right to rule. In and of itself that is understandable; but the matter of whether they are doing a good enough job in facilitating the interests of the ruled is something else. And a ruling class that must control information-flows is one that has shown that it no longer cares about the interests of those they rule—which is always the beginning of their own demise.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


Featured image: “New Gods, Old Monsters,” by David Whitlam; painted 2020.

Democracy and Psychotic Vocabulary

In the study of human language, the oldest and most fundamental distinction is between sign, meaning and referent. A sign is a sign, visual, sound or any other that indicates an idea, an intention, and represents it in the mental sphere. A meaning is a set of signs that expresses the subjective intention contained in the sign. Referent is the object, the thing, the element of the real world—objective or subjective—to which the meaning, and therefore also the sign, refers. If a subject knows by heart the definition of “cow,” but, when we show him a cow, he can’t distinguish it from an armadillo, a matchbox or an atomic reactor, the sign he used corresponds only to a meaning, a subjective intention, but to no element of reality.

In political discussion, and in journalistic language in general, the use of meaning without referents is a self-hypnotic habit by which the sender of the message persuades himself and his audience that he is saying something when he is saying absolutely nothing.

Whether he does this out of ignorance or malice is indifferent—for malice is nothing more than feigned or planned ignorance.

One of the most characteristic examples is the current, omnipresent and obsessive use of the expression “democratic institutions.” This is understood to mean the entities and institutions founded on laws and constitutions that institute the representative system, as well as the rule of law that controls it. It is understood that this expression defines a thing called “democracy,” differentiating it from dictatorial, tyrannical or authoritarian regimes, where rulers who represent only themselves do as they please and are subject to no law whatsoever. In Brazil, the defenders of “democratic institutions” present themselves as protectors of freedom and of the people, in opposition to the supporters of a “military dictatorship,” represented, it is said, by the current president of the republic, his sons, friends and supporters.

So far, everything is very clear, but with this conversation we don’t leave the realm of verbal meanings. We don’t touch the referent. If we now look for the entities of reality that ordinary language associates with these terms, we find them nowhere. First of all, the supporters of the “dictatorship” that they also call “military intervention” or even “constitutional military intervention” do exist; but they are rare and have not the slightest influence over the mass of the president’s supporters, who present themselves as a mass firmly resolved to fight for their own objectives, supporting the president, to be sure, but without receiving from him even an instruction or a word of an order, let alone a voice of command.

This means that when they present themselves as defenders of “democracy” against the danger of “military authoritarianism,” the supporters of “democratic institutions” pretend to fight an imaginary enemy in order not to have to declare which real enemy they are fighting and wish to destroy. This enemy is not any “dictatorship,” but the popular mass, the populist indignation that occupies the streets and wishes to impose its sovereign will on the political, journalistic and university minority of “defenders of democracy,” as well as on the eventual apostles of the “dictatorship.”

But democracy, unless I am mistaken, is not defined by the presence of such or such “institutions,” but by being “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people;” that is, the government in which the institutions, whatever they may be, are under the control of the people and not the people under their control.

When they turn against the masses of the people in the name of “democratic institutions,” the advocates of the latter are simply reversing the meaning of democracy, making it the absolute empire of “institutions” under which the people have and can have no power and no means of action. No wonder that, on his release from jail, the highest apostle of “democratic institutions” and sworn enemy of “fascist authoritarianism,” Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, finds no popular support and seeks instead the support of the military class, the personification of “dictatorship.”

The language of Brazilian public debates is a set of psychotic inversions in which each speaker tries to deceive himself in order to better deceive others.


Olavo de Carvalho (1947-2022) was a Brazilian philosopher who lived in the United States. His books cover a wide array of topics, including Aristotle, Descartes, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Christian philosophy. For his work, he was honored with the Grand Cross of the Rio Branco Order, Brazil’s highest award, by President Jair Bolsonaro. His most recent book in English is Machiavelli or the Demonic Confusion.


Featured image: “Skat Players,” by Otto Dix; painted in 1920.

What Political Commitment for Christians?

The political commitment of Christians in our liberal democracies is not at all obvious, so much so that these democracies oppose the teachings of the Church on many subjects.

Let us first bring to mind the context. Christians cannot be indifferent to politics, understood as a form of higher charity. But in our societies, Christianity is now in the minority and rejected as a public reference. It has therefore become difficult to have an influence by explicitly claiming it. And yet Christians cannot blend anonymously into society. Indeed, they cannot avoid speaking up and becoming visible, if an issue at hand is directly religious. But even if it is a matter of natural law, and when it is unknown to society (marriage for all), Christians are quickly identified as such. The old dilemma is therefore not very helpful—one will always act “as a Christian,” obviously, but also in each case “inasmuch a Christian” without exclusion a priori.

Does the Magisterium give a clear answer as to the directions to take? The principles (the Social Doctrine of the Church) are solid. But the political position has varied considerably—at first hostile to political modernity (19th century), it then oscillated, at least until the Second World War, between restating the principles and a de facto accommodation. Then it tried Christian democracy, which seemed a convenient and promising compromise, but which finally failed, leading to the present position. If it can be summarized, the Doctrine seems to recommend democracy and human rights, like the rest of society—but (at least for John Paul II and Benedict XVI) with an underlying understanding that is quite different from the prevailing one, and more than a little nuanced between the popes. In any case, it is not disrespectful to say that the impact over time has been and remains inconclusive. The only clear case of success, that of John Paul II in the East, was no ordinary political struggle.

It should be remembered, moreover, that the Magisterium exercises its full authority only on faith and morals (the moral foundations), not on decisions of political prudence. The light it sheds is therefore very important, but it leaves open various possibilities, while remaining faithful to the principles. This does not mean that magisterial teaching should be neglected—far from it. But it is not a ready-made manual. This fact is often forgotten when positions taken here and there in the Church are taken without caution. Conversely, it is difficult in practice to claim to be a Catholic in politics while going against this or that expression of the Church of the moment, even if one remains within the legitimate margin of autonomy. For example, a party claiming to be Catholic but restrictive on migrants would probably be criticized in an uncomfortable way.

What References in the Past?

Do we have references in the past? Less than we think. The era of Christianity was too different. Christian democracy did not survive and was a flash in the pan—in a way correlated with the illusion, common at the time, that there was a misunderstanding with the modern world, which just had to be dispelled. But what has emerged is that, as the popes of the nineteenth century perceived (despite their errors and blunders), there are elements of strong and structural opposition between this world and the Christian. In the end, the model of the first Christians seems more inspiring. It is true that there was no democratic political struggle in the Roman Empire, but the dilemma was already known—not to deny the society in which one lives and its elements of legitimacy, while recognizing points of irreducible opposition. And within this framework, the positions could be diverse. Thus, the question of the Roman army—some thought that it was out of the question to fight in it; others made the opposite choice, without denying their faith.

This does not tell us what choices should be made concretely. All the more so since the Christian world is divided politically, with, to simplify things, a basic polarization between “conservatives” and “progressives.” The former are more numerous and transmit the faith better; but the latter, although weakened, hold more levers. That said, the Catholic spectrum thus drawn does not merge with the political spectrum in society, as it is significantly more skewed to the right. The “progressive” Christian is very rarely on the extreme left: he or she will be an ecologist or a Socialist Party member, but often LREM or even LR, like the majority of practicing Catholics. The “conservative” Christian is readily classified by the system as being on the right, or even on the extreme right.

These oppositions also seem irreducible; first of all, of course, on questions of morality and society. In theory, the Doctrine gives clear-cut answers. But not everyone adheres to them (contraception); and the question of what is possible remains open; and thereafter, the division is often sharp (marriage for all). Then there are the migrants. The disagreement between Christians is very bitter here, with the current pope having moreover committed himself radically to one side. Less harsh, but nevertheless clear, is the opposition on Europe and more broadly on the national question. Finally, in the vast field of economic and social issues, including ecology, there is a very wide range of opinions, with considerable differences. This simple reminder shows that it is not possible to unite under one banner the positions in question, whether explicitly Christian or not.

In such a context, frustrations are inevitable on both sides; and not only because the Magisterium seems to support some over others. The “progressive” side suffers from the retreat of this current compared to the 1970s and 1980s. Above all, since the opposition between the dominant spirit of our societies and the Christian faith is denied or relativized, we end up in the wake of the former; and, in practice, the political action we carry out is confused with that of the left or the center. Moreover, the committed progressive is troubled by the right-wing vote of the majority of Catholics, as well as by the insistence of the “conservatives” in regards to matters societal, which is much more visible and the only one associated by the public with Christianity.

Finally, there is difficulty with a magisterial doctrine that remains traditional (despite certain declarations). Hence the temptation of an exacerbated ethic of conviction, notable on the subject of migrants—but there again without any political effect of its own.

The malaise is no less real on the “conservative” side. This may be because of the fact that they are out of step with the hierarchy—not so much on principles as on certain declarations, such as on migrants—but even more so because of frustration over the poor results obtained, for example in societal struggles. This is because we are opposed to the heavy tendencies of society, the relativist paradigm that dominates it. Moreover, on this side also Christian discourse is in the minority, although less than on the left.

The balance sheet therefore does not appear to be encouraging. One can recognize an ardent obligation as a Christian, but in practice it is difficult to implement it in a way that can be identified in Christian terms; the dispersion of efforts is considerable; and the political field does not immediately appear to be fruitful for the Christian who wants to act explicitly as such. But it would be wrong to leave it at that. First of all, of course, what makes an action good or bad is not primarily the result obtained—which for the most part depends on God. It is not up to us to carry the future of humanity on our shoulders; this does not prevent us from doing what we have to do, where we are and where we can; and if possible, intelligently. Doing good around us, including in political matters, is always possible, and obtaining real results, and by making explicit how this manifests our Christian faith whenever possible or pertinent.
Another thing is the manifestation of Christianity in society and in history. Let’s look at its lessons—how many cases of collective successes are there that are the fruit of Christian action, consciously and in principle? I am, for example, one of those who admire Christianity in spite of its defects and limitations; but it was never defined as an objective to be reached; it was given in its time. It will be the same in the future.


Pierre de Lauzun, a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, has worked in banking and finance and has published, among other things, Philosophie de la foi, La finance peut-elle être au service de l’homme? and Finance: un regard chrétien. This article appears through the kind courtesy of La Nef.


Featured image: “Christ Before Pilate,” Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, 6th century.

Disaster Capitalism and the War in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is a tragedy. Few can fail to be unmoved by the daily accounts of suffering. Equally it is clear that war crimes have been committed. But what a reading of recent Postil articles reveals is that this was could and should have been avoided. If Jaques Baud is right (Postil April 11 and May 1, 2022) then this conflict makes no sense whatsoever. It seems that the USA, the UK and France, after having successfully sabotaged the Minsk agreement, are now fighting a proxy war with Russia. They encouraged Ukraine to poke the Russian Bear. Putin had been reluctant to rise to the bait but eventually felt he had no choice but to intervene.

To some scholars of USA Foreign policy, the current war is part of a global strategy to establish unchallenged world-wide dominance. Some 20 highly-credentialed analysts contributed to Lendman, S. 2014 book, Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US drive for hegemony risks World War III. They argue that Obama’s pivot was global, in pursuit of unchallenged worldwide dominance, leading to multiple direct and proxy wars. Neocon-dominated Washington seeks to marginalize its Russian and Chinese rivals, surrounding both countries with US bases. Ukraine is in the eye of the storm, the crown jewel of NATO eastward expansion, the last step in Washington’s drive to incorporate all former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries into NATO and install missile defense sites on Russia’s very border. We should not lose sight of the fact that Joe Biden was not just Obama’s vice-president—he had an active hand in the shaping of US foreign policy during Obama’s presidency. It seems that he is picking up where Obama had left off. Yet I cannot help but ask “who benefits from this war?”

There does not seem to be much of a benefit for Western Europe and indeed the rest of the world as the conflict threatens global shortages in food supply. Europe still relies heavily on Russian oil and gas and that too is now placed at risk; if the conflict is not resolved in time, it can create domestic tensions as the price of energy rises. The price that Europe will be paying will be in the form of very expensive energy and food shortages—it may be bearable during the Northern Summer but winter could be a different story. It seems that this is a risky venture in which no-one benefits.

However, let us consider three factors: the military industrial complex, the global energy shortage, and disaster capitalism. Our understanding of all three will enable us to make some sense of the Ukrainian conflict.

The Military-Industrial Complex

World War I introduced the world to a total, global tragedy. The belligerents made full use of their global resources. Neutral countries helped to maintain the industrial violence by shifting to the industrialized production of munitions, food and other supplies. War had become a profitable business.

The First World War may be regarded as the origins of the military-industrial complex. Free trade had been the cornerstone of liberal democracies—the war changed that. Governments now placed restrictions with whom one could trade. In the past such restrictions had been imposed to protect local industry; now they were imposed to protect the nation. However, the war also changed one other important element. In times of war, governments relied on securing their resources from either their domestic suppliers or from neutral or friendly foreign suppliers. Government contracts are lucrative. Little wonder that by1961 President Eisenhower saw fit to warn: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

The military-industrial complex relied on governments to do two things: firstly, lubricate the wheels of international diplomacy to gain access to foreign markets, and secondly have a willingness to place the nation on a permanent war-footing.

In the current conflict, the three nations that have been most active in providing support for the Ukrainians have been the USA, UK and France—these three nations are responsible for 57%, 9% and 5.3% of global arms sales. Thus, the $33 billion that President Biden is providing to the Ukraine is effectively a grant to the USA manufacturers. This underlines that these three nations are not disinterested parties in this conflict—the funds promised to Ukraine for weapons will be spent domestically. It also means that by presenting this war as a fight for democracy there will be very little criticism of this expenditure.

Eisenhower’s concerns were well founded. The military-industrial complex has become a significant part of the USA economy; but whilst a substantial player it is not in the top 15 manufacturing companies. However, that can be misleading. Table 1 below shows that some of the top 15 manufacturing companies also have interest in war. Car and electronic component manufacturers would be interested in tendering for a range of government contracts. All these companies will be lobbying government to ensure that the political climate remains conducive for their businesses.

The fact that so many global corporations stand to benefit from government spending on the war effort means that those corporations will have a vested interest in ensuring that the West does not falter in its prosecution of the war. If we add to this the anti-Chinese policy, we can see that the West is being softened up to see Russia and China as two enemies who must be stopped at all costs.

In that context, simply note the double standards that apply to human rights violations. Russia and China are portrayed in the media as being despotic and anti-democratic. Much is made of the way religious minorities are treated. The challenge for any commentator is to contradict that narrative, for there is much that is reprehensible about the way people are treated in China and Russia. But—we have to ask why do we hear so little about the internal politics of countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Hungary or Poland? The same countries who are welcoming Ukrainian refugees with open arms have been less than welcoming to refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, or Burma. One cannot help but feel that the confected moral outrage will be limited to actions by nations that do not support Washington’s crusade.

Global Energy Shortage

In 1972, the Club of Rome Report, The Limits to Growth, posited that the world was heading for a global energy shortage. At the time, it was dismissed as another Malthusian chimera. However, in 2009, Turner published, A comparison of the limits of growth with thirty years of reality. Given the complexity of the Report, it is rare for its forecast to yield such uncompromising confirmation. The Report had predicted that the world was heading for a global collapse by the second decade of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Kjell Aleklett in another peer-reviewed work demonstrated that the world had reached the state of peak oil. This basically means that the cost of extracting various oil and natural gas was becoming less and less profitable—we would need to become accustomed to a world of energy shortages. The global corporations had grown and expanded on the back of plentiful and comparatively cost-effective energy.

For a time, Covid had hidden the advent of peak energy. The conflict in the Ukraine provides the world with another means of disguising the reality. The countries which are the most reliant on plentiful cheap energy are also the ones who are engaged in what could reasonably be referred to as a crusade against Russia. Thus, all energy shortages may be sheeted home to Russia; there can be no question that it is due to the failure of the various Western governments to protect their people from the energy crisis.

But that is not all. The USA and the West have not abandoned their Cold War rhetoric—Putin has been a road block to the Americans. The incessant speculation that the war will hasten the end of the Putin era is a mixture of wistful thinking and propaganda. The removal of Putin could open up the vast resources of Russia to the West.

Disaster Capitalism

In his book, Capital and Ideology, Piketty argues that “every human society must justify its inequalities: unless reasons for them are found, the whole political and social edifice stands in danger of collapse.” Piketty justifies this proposition by referring to the long-term history of the ways in which regimes in different polities established what he refers to as the “inequality regime” which comprises “A set of discourses and institutional arrangements intended to justify and structure the economic, social, and political inequality of a given society” (p. 2). The justifications for inequality are not open ended—“what determines the level of inequality is above all society’s ideological, political, and institutional capacity to justify and structure inequality” (p. 267). The levels of inequality generated by neo-liberal policies have thus far been justified on the grounds “that a rising tide raises all boats.” However, that claim is sounding increasingly hollow.

Nevertheless, what Piketty’s work has also demonstrated is that contemporary neo-liberalism seems to be an ideology free zone. Between 1980 and 2018, the share of the top decile (the 10% highest incomes) in total national income, ranged between 26% and 34% in 1980 in the different parts of the world, and from 34% and 56% in 2018. From his data it seemed immaterial where one lived. A democracy like India showed the sharpest growth, closely followed by the USA, Russia and China. (See, Piketty’s website)

The reason there is a global trend towards inequality may be attributed to the influence of Milton Friedman from the Chicago School of Economics. Friedman won the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics for what was referred to at the time as monetarism but is today better characterised as neoliberalism. It was this theory that guided the policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. Their policies were focused on increasing the richness of the economy rather than on enhancing the richness of human life. The argument was summed up by President Clinton who argued that human well being was dependent on the economy—”it is the economy stupid” that should guide public policy.

For those who advocate adherence to a neo-liberal economic narrative, the real problem has been that governments are concerned about the public backlash of promoting policies that seek to fully implement a neo-liberal economic agenda. However, disaster capitalism presents governments with a solution. Disaster presents an opportunity to implement policies that would, under normal circumstances, be resisted. Milton Friedman opined: “Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” If the ideas of the Chicago School of Economics are the only ones lying about, then they will be readily embraced, for they seem to offer a well thought out constructive way to respond to the crisis. Disaster capitalism was the solution in response to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. The tragedy is that the solution served to create what Adams has referred to as Chronic Disaster Syndrome—where alienation becomes a way of life:

New Orleans points not to the failure of a particular set of policies but, rather, to the success of these policies in achieving other goals pertaining to the growth of the private sector and debilitation of the public sector, the erasure and eradication of the poor, and the rendering invisible of the true recovery needs of communities post disaster. In the wake of such successes, we witness the trauma of lost lives, families, and cities. (Adams, V., T. Van Hattum, and D. English, “Chronic disaster syndrome: Displacement, disaster capitalism, and the eviction of the poor from New Orleans”)

It may seem a callous approach, but for the supporters of a neo-liberal democracy, disasters provide the opportunity to implement the economic objectives that will supposedly lead to a better world. In his article for the Postil Dugin states that Fukuyama claims that: “The United Nations Security Council has proven once again to be useless. The only helpful thing was the General Assembly vote, which helps to identify the world’s bad or prevaricating actors.”

In this thesis, Fukuyama is referring to the need to dissolve the UN and create in its place the League of Democracies; that is, fully subordinate to Washington, states that are willing to live under the illusion of “the end of history.”

It is tempting to dismiss this as yet another conspiracy theory; but there is no need for an elaborate conspiracy theory. Instead, we need to see it as the logical outcome of a chain of reasoning that assumes that in order to enjoy the full benefits of living in a liberal democracy, everything must be subordinated to the creation of a free market economy. The argument is based on Adam Smith’s idea that in a free-market economy there is an invisible hand that ensures that the best interests of society as a whole are fulfilled. Individual self-interest and freedom of production and consumption will ensure that the best of all possible worlds is created. With the end of the cold war, it was assumed that a new era would be ushered in: an era where globalization under the auspices of the USA would see an end to national sovereignty—the world would become a collection of free markets.

So, Who Benefits?

The problem is of course that the utopian vision of a global collection of free markets, markets guided not by government but by the invisible hand of what was regarded as enlightened self-interest, has not eventuated. There are several reasons for this. The end of the Cold War has not been the end of history. The end of the Cold War represented an opportunity for the revival of nationalism—not only for countries which were part of the Soviet bloc, but also for the national minorities within Russia itself. Secondly, whilst the rhetoric of democracy became widely accepted, the way it was interpreted depended very much on the culture and history of the various countries. It is fair to say that it did not herald a global commitment to human rights, or political transparency. Furthermore, one can discern strategic manoeuvring, as the various major powers attempted to ensure that the outcome of elections corresponded with their interests. Much of the pre-history of Ukraine needs to be viewed through this spectrum.

Ukraine is of strategic interest both to the West and Russia. Russia has always had to face the problem that for much of the year it was icebound; Ukraine gives it access to the Mediterranean. A Ukraine that is sympathetic to the West is a major strategic problem. Little wonder that the post-Cold War history of the Ukraine has been one of interference in its democratic processes.

For the West, the Ukraine presents an opportunity to encircle Russia, giving it extra leverage as it seeks to control Russia’s resources. Furthermore, in encouraging and facilitating the war in Ukraine, it provides a boost for the sale of US, UK and French armaments.

It is here that we see disaster capitalism at work. The narrative of Ukraine being the unprovoked victim of naked Russian aggression has ensured that there are virtually no voices raised in opposition to the way the West has behaved in the conflict. The war has been reduced to a war against evil; I have lost count of the number of attempts to frame this in terms of Hitler’s road to war.

The war plays into another narrative that supports the cause of neo-liberalism. Although governments remain largely committed to neo-liberalism, some economists have sought to develop alternative narratives. Thus, we find that Raworth has developed an alternative economic model—so-called “doughnut economics”—her argument is to show that there is an ecological ceiling that we cannot afford to overshoot.

In a similar vein, Trebeck and Williams make a compelling case that the unrelenting pursuit of growth poses a great risk both to our own well-being and that of the planet. They propose an alternative economic narrative—that of arrival—their idea is that as the benefits of continued growth are experienced by fewer and fewer people, we should be aiming for a fair distribution that will enable us to all live well. Furthermore, in central Europe a group of thinkers have established what they refer to as Common Good Economics; like the models of the other economists, it represents a departure from the neo-classical paradigm and offers the hope for an alternative way forward.

The Nobel prize-winning economist Stiglitz has undermined another aspect to the dominant economic narrative. He argues that the economy is our creation, that there is no “invisible” hand that guides the free market; economic systems are our creation and hence we can change them at will. In a world where most people in democracies are concerned about climate change these systems offer a credible alternative.

This also provides the most important benefit of the war. The war means that Russia and Ukraine, the two biggest producers of wheat, will struggle to provide the world with food. In that event the world will be facing an unprecedented disaster. But we also know that there is enough food to feed the world—it will be a matter of distribution. The global disaster will create the conditions that will facilitate the implementation of these policies that foster the growth of the private sector and debilitation of the public sector.

Has this all been thought out to this extent? Of course not. All that we can say with some degree of certainty that the decision to encourage the war in Ukraine is based on a belief that Russia and Putin are evil and must be stopped. The reason that they must be stopped is that they are a roadblock to the full development of a global neo-liberal ideology. To quote Alexander Dugin:

But the proponents of the end of history have not been complacent. They are so enmeshed in their fanatical models of globalization and liberalism that they do not recognize any other future. And so, they began to increasingly insist on a virtual end to history. As in… if it’s not real, let’s make it look like it is. In essence, the policy of controlling consciousness, through global information resources, network technology, the promotion of new gadgets, and the development of models for merging people with machines, has been bet on. This is the “Great Reset” proclaimed by the creator of the Davos Forum, Klaus Schwab, and adopted by the U.S. Democratic Party and Joe Biden. The essence of this policy is as follows: while the globalists do not control reality, they completely dominate virtuality. They own all the basic networking technologies, protocols, servers, etc. Therefore, based on a global electronic hallucination and total control over the consciousness, they began to create an image of the world in which history had already ended. It was an image. Nothing more. But the tail seriously decided to wag the dog.

This view is consistent with Rawls’s critique of neo-liberalism who argued that the problem is that neoliberalism is undemocratic in that it allows “very large inequalities in the ownership of real property…so that control of the economy and much of political life rests in a few hands” (Justice as Fairness, p. 138). Rawls was concerned that neo-liberalism diluted the capacity of citizens to retain control over the levers of economic and political management.

The reality is that we, the Ukrainians, and the Russians are pawns in a game of global chess that is being prosecuted on behalf of that 10% of the global population whose lives will remain largely untouched by the war. The millions of refugees, the food shortages and energy shortages, the people who will die of hunger—these will be the victims of a conflict that is being prosecuted to gain control of increasingly scarce resources. Already Russia and the West are promoting a narrative that seeks to blame these miseries on the protagonists. For the West it will be Putin who is responsible and in Russia it will be the USA and Europe. As flies to wanton boys are we to the superpowers, they but kill us for their sport.


John Tons is Professor at Flinders University (Australia) and specializes in Rawlsian theory. His recent book is John Rawls and Environmental Justice.


Featured image: “View in Perspective of a Perfect Sunset,” by Eugène Berman; painted in 1941.

A Difficult Restart for a Failed State

On May 3, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the UN Security Council, the US State Department and the European High Representative Josep Borrell issued harsh statements condemning an attack by the Islamist Al-Shabab militias on an advanced base in Elbaraf, in the Middle Shabelle region, held by Burundian troops, of ATMIS, the recently activated stabilization operation of the African Union, established at the end of the mandate of AMISOM.

There are conflicting reports of the attack. Officially, there were about ten killed among the “green helmets.” Other sources report instead of almost two hundred killed and that the base was briefly occupied by Islamist militiamen, who after having sacked and burned it, abandoned the position.
The gravity of the incident was however confirmed by the fact that the President of the Commission of the African Union (former Chadian foreign minister Mussa Faki) also broke silence by condemning the incident. Although AMISOM (like ATMIS) is, albeit in a politically ambiguous way, an articulation of the Union, a declaration from Addis Ababa reveals the gravity of the moment (especially considering that the regional organization has always been very sparing regarding public statements about Somalia, which is considered the most difficult area for the organization).

The attack on the base, in central Somalia, part of the Al-Shabab, was a grave signal to the AU, but also to the UN (whose Security Council Resolution 2628 of 31 March 2022 sanctioned the end of AMISOM and the activation of ATMIS), and to the EU, which has several operations on site, such as EUTM-Somalia (which has been operating since 2010 and in which military instructors from Italy, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Romania, UK and Serbia take part), the EU CAP-Somalia (which has been operating since 2013), and the EUNAVFOR “Atalanta” (activated in 2008). It also means that the change of name means nothing and the Islamicists will continue to strike.

ATMIS (African [Union] Transition Mission in Somalia) replaced AMISOM (African [Union] Mission in Somalia) on 1 April, in line with a decision by the AU Peace and Security Council. The new mission has the mandate to support the Somali government in the implementation of the Transition Plan and in the transfer of greater responsibilities to the Somali armed forces and police. The activation of ATMIS was scheduled for December 2021 but disagreements with the Somali authorities delayed it and an agreement was finally reached on what appears to be more only a change of name and an extension of the existing mandate. ATMIS will operate until the end of 2024, after which all responsibilities will be transferred to the Somali security forces.

The ATMIS “capacity” of approximately 18,000 soldiers, 1,000 policemen (from Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda, Sierra Leone) and a hundred civilian staffers (all diplomats seconded from their respective nations and based in Nairobi) seems a mirror of its predecessor, as well as a large part of its mandate. The work of AMISOM, which began in March 2007, was focused on degrading the military capacity of Al-Shabab and strengthening the capacity of the Somali army and police, so that the mission could eventually withdraw as soon as possible. This happened only in part; the pan-African forces engaged in violent clashes with the Islamist militias, suffering heavy losses (some sources refer to up to 3,000 KIA), and even carried out an amphibious assault in 2012 in Chisimaio.

The mandate of the “green helmets” has been renewed several times and came to a difficult end in 2021. However, the exit did not happen, as the security threats that necessitated the arrival of pan-African soldiers continue to exist and Somalia continues to face three emergencies: security, governance, and development. These emergencies continue to grip the country and AMISOM, which was supposed to be the first response to security challenges, and the start of a positive loop, in which governance and development would lead the country out of the condition of a failed state (in existence since the fall of the never sufficiently deprecated regime of Siad Barre, which laid the foundations of the current instability). There has only been control of the situation, but no reversing of the negative trend.
To determine the future of AMISOM, the AU and the UN conducted independent assessments last year and various options were proposed. An agreement was required on the mandate, composition, size, strategic and specific objectives of a new mission and the tasks of the military, civilian and police components. These processes have made the relations between the international community and the Somali authorities very tense, which although divided over everything, were unanimous in the very strong opposition to any possible reduction of forces and substantial modification of the mandate of AMISOM due to the slow process of integration between the national armed and security forces and those of the autonomous regions of Puntland and Jubaland.

Such was the hostility that last November the deputy head of the mission, the Ugandan diplomat Simon Mulongo was expelled, and a week after the start of ATMIS (!). The same was done with the Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia (SRCC), the Mozambican diplomat Francisco Madeira.

Now the mission is guided by an acting head, and Addis Ababa is negotiating with Mogadishu for another head of mission; and clearly the problem is not in the choice of the person but what the mission should do. This shows how for ATMIS the scenario is difficult and all uphill even without Al-Shabab. Somalia’s government wants ATMIS to focus on implementing the Transition Plan, developed in 2018, to transfer security responsibilities from AMISOM to the country’s security forces, but with substantial cash flows to equip and train them. It has recently been revised and will be implemented (hopefully) over the next three years. The AU and the UN agreed to this approach. Bankole Adeoye, the Nigerian diplomat who is the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs and Head of the Peace and Security Council, said the stabilization and construction goals of the Somali state and the activation of ATMIS will be fully in line with the Transition Plan.

The AU Peace and Security Council outlined a mandate for the new mission which included reducing the military capabilities of Al-Shabab and other terrorist groups, providing security, building the capabilities of security forces, justice and local authorities and support for peace and reconciliation. But as well, the mandate of AMISOM was the same and was aligned with the Transition Plan, so there was nothing new in ATMIS in this regard, compared to the previous one.

The biggest change is perhaps that the emphasis on the idea of a “transition” is most strongly rooted in the logic of the new mission, which has a four-step timeline for working with the Somali government to implement the Transition Plan. In addition, some minor adjustments should also occur, such as realignment of ATMIS facilities relative to those of AMISOM and greater command and control authority under the mission force commander; but these are limited overall. In terms of operational changes, ATMIS will differ from AMISOM in increasing mobility, lethality, and efficiency in every sector of the mission, with the main goal of rapidly degrading the capabilities of Al-Shabab and other extremist militant groups.

This capacity should increase soon, after it was dramatically reduced when the US forces present in Somalia were withdrawn in a controversial decision by President Trump in December 2020. Just after the election of the new President of Somalia, the Pentagon notified the return of a substantial presence. This presence, with special forces operators and drone units, and after the withdrawal was re-deployed in Djibouti, will increase the capabilities of the pan-African troops.

Regardless of the May 2 attack, Al-Shabab continues to exert strong pressure on international and Somali forces and the group still controls vast territories of central and southern Somalia. It carries out deadly raids in the Somali capital itself and has substantial financial resources (according to a research institute based in Mogadishu, in 2021 it has collected about $180 Million in revenue [taxes and customs] and has spent 24 million dollars on weapons). In recent months, many attacks have been reported, aggravated by social strikes and riots in Mogadishu and Beledweyne which caused over 53 deaths.

As mentioned, the presence of the “green helmets” was envisaged as an element of activation of a process of national unification, albeit in a federal context. Thus, prioritizing the political deadlock would help resolve the country’s security challenges; but the replacement of AMISOM with ATMIS comes at a critical time. Political tensions in the country still threaten the modest progress made over the years. The divisions among the Somali elites over the distribution of power and resources are at the heart of all problems. Two peaceful transitions of power occurred in 2012 and 2017, but the third faltered due to disputes over election management. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo,” in power since 2017, remained in office after his term expired in February 2021 and he was re-elected on 15 May, ending, at least formally, the institutional stalemate and re-activating a more serene dialogue also with the international community.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble (the defeated competitor of “Farmaajo” in the presidential run) has been tasked with reforming the electoral process. But progress has been slow, despite the tireless mediation work of UNPOS (UN Political Office for Somalia). The country’s future is unpredictable, with the political impasse sometimes leading to armed clashes and persistent external interference, such as by Turkey, Qatar and the UAE, which have their own agendas (and substantial military presences on the ground) and which do not necessarily coincide with the plans of the UN and the EU. (But then the UK also has its own bilateral training mission of the Somali armed forces, the “Tangham” operation, with about sixty instructors; and Italy, the former colonial power, has a similar one, MIADIT-Somalia, which is focused on training the Somali and Djibouti police forces and which works closely with EUCAP- Somalia).

In terms of the wider regional dynamics, how the new government will position itself in the neighbourhood will have implications in terms of realignment of regional politics and may affect the project of a tripartite alliance of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The outcome of the election will also affect Somalia’s relations with Gulf countries. Qatar is said to have supported Farmaajo’s re-election, whereas the UAE has maintained ties with Roble and some of the federal member states.
ATMIS will also suffer the same financial problems as AMISOM. The United Nations has provided logistical support to the mission, and will continue to do so with the UNSOS (UN Support Office for Somalia). The new (or old) AU presence in Somalia will impact also in the format and mandate of UNSOS, which will get a “technical” extension mandate in the month of May from the Security Council in the perspective of a strategic assessment of the mission and a possible re-tailoring.

The EU, it is supposed, will continue to pay the salaries of ATMIS military and police personnel, as it had done for AMISOM. But the EU has progressively reduced its support in recent years (also to protest the internal policies of some countries participating in AMISOM, especially in the areas of political and civil liberties), and its intentions for ATMIS are not yet clear, even if the EU Delegation in Somalia assured that the organization is ready to contribute and ensure predictability of funding as long as the configuration plan is realistic, pragmatic and focused.

Thus, it appears that ATMIS will not differ substantially from AMISOM in its ultimate purposes. It will mainly be a continuation of the current military support which, although essential for the security of the country, will not be new.

As political deadlock is at the heart of Somalia’s social and security problems. Resolving these should be the priority; and the recent election of a new President is not a guarantee for such a resolution, given the controversial and conflictive political life of the country. If it is to differ from AMISOM, the mandate of ATMIS and the reconfiguration of international and local forces should include a solid political commitment to support reconciliation between the country’s divided political groups and better political cooperation between the UN and AU (and EU). Otherwise, the exercise of simply renaming the mission without addressing the institutional and political problems in the first place that afflict the country and that keep it anchored to the condition of a “failed state,” will not help much to change.
Analyzing the recent developments in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, a region of increasing importance, naturally leads to a broadening of view, considering, or at least trying to consider, the possible future regional and sub-regional repercussions of the war in Ukraine. Russia’s relations with Africa are under heavy pressure in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine and amidst the articulate reactions from the continent’s states to the new war in Europe.

In recent years, Moscow has strengthened ties with countries across the continent, especially those plagued by internal violence and which are also disillusioned with Western powers. Russia remains a leading arms supplier and Russian private military contractors continue to expand their presence, most recently in Mali, Central Africa, Cameroon, and Sudan (not counting the political-diplomatic forays into Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad). Whether Russia is pursuing a broader strategy, or simply engaging in tactical power plays, focused to disturb the role and presence of Western powers in Africa, remains a matter of debate. Russia has long sought a naval base on the Red Sea and holds its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council to influence the Continent.

Africa’s response to the Ukrainian crisis has been far from united. During the historic session of the UN General Assembly in early March, the emerging rifts were clearly shown: only about half of African states supported the resolution’s denunciation of Russian aggression; one, the only one of the Continent and furthermore belonging to the Horn of Africa, Eritrea, has opposed. While some countries have strongly condemned the invasion as a flagrant violation of crucial norms, others have been more hesitant, often emphasizing the West’s inconsistent commitment to these same principles in other situations, and the West’s murky and contradictory statements and actions.

It is a fact that in the African Continent, and in the very sensitive region of the Horn of Africa and its surrounding areas (the Suez Canal/Red Sea/Bab-el-Mandeb Strait axis), the situation remains open to interference, if not directly Russian, possibly by other players (such as Iran, present in Yemen), with further upheavals in an already fragile region.


Enrico Magnani, PhD, is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


Featured image: mural by Nujuum Hashi Ahmed, 2020.

Jupiterian Johnson: Median voters, Tories and the French

Once again Teflon John(son) proves how essential his self is to this cosmic mess the Good Lord sees fit to test us with. For Boris, the particulars are really quite pedestrian – just another scandal, just another broken rule – which by all rights, well… if none of the other scandals did him in, a surprise birthday cake surely wouldn’t have carried enough climax for BoJo, especially given recent jurisprudence on surprise birthday celebrations at work.

I wanted to bring this up as an example of a tragic trend – the failed baptism of fire, whereby a candidate (or just a regular person) is successfully (character)-assassinated despite being well above both the circumstances and the critics assailing them. Boris Johnson, Legend of Bullingdon, Editor of the Spectator, Father of 6(0?), Wankerer of Ankara, Mayor of London, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Deliverer of Brexit, etc etc… Felled by birthday cake?

The chance to go over his record is too good to pass up. Not only does he stand as a shining example of “Stick-to-it-iveness” for lesser mortals in need of inspiration on matters relating to perseverance, he has brought back sound government to the UK, channeling that eye of Sauron that is public attention toward the great issues of his day – leveling up Britain’s shire-heartland, where the first and second industrial revolutions brought together science and commerce, banishing scarcity in any number of areas (clothing, and then many more).

His government has made great strides in Migration policy, signing a migration partnership agreement with Rwanda which correctly aligned the rules of the international system – Rwanda is indeed a safe third country, which has every right to accept migrants on behalf of another country, in exchange for whichever sum is agreeable to both parties. One wonders if the organized criminals known as human traffickers will make the logical next move, which would be to sell Rwandan deportation insurance and open an office in Kigali for them to appeal to.

Boris is also doing the heaviest lifting for the West on keeping New Delhi onside – where Washington insists on alienating Narendra Modi unnecessarily over who knows what excuse (the real reason is Pakistani capture of the Democratic party, but that’s a story for another day). Par for the course on the Democrats’ inversion of all goodness, Modi’s stunning electoral victories (his party holds upwards of 80% of seats in the Indian Parliament) are somehow not democratic… presumably because it only counts when the left carries the day.

London is running point on the Ukrainian war, as well. Nobody has done more for the war effort than Britain’s MOD and the British spooks, to say nothing of Boris himself visiting Zelensky in Kiev. Zelensky himself has very harsh words for fair-weather friends trying to get a photo op out of his passing popularity on the world stage. Boris is not one of them, and the Ukrainians are lucky someone in the Free World has the Jupiterian nous to rally the rest of the pantheon in a coherent direction.

The other claimant to Zeus’ thundery crown – recently re-elected Emmanuel Macron – could learn a lesson or two from the Tory persuasion to find the center of every position, rather than present himself as the center. As the Median Voter Theorem predicted, he did sail to victory for being closer to the center, but Marine Le Pen found a way to drag ever more of France’s electorate toward her position – shifting the Overton window her way. Therein lies the lesson for Boris Johnson: Where his party might want him to govern by Opinion Poll (the great mistake of his predecessor, David Cameron) it is in moments like this where he must carry the public in his direction by the force of being correct on the substance of the issues.

In the spirit of a recent decision in America (Florida in particular) about mandatory masking – decided against the government’s power to do such a thing – I propose legislation amnestying all pandemic offenses and striking/refunding fines for all offenders. The spectacle of British Bobbies arresting people for sitting on park benches should really have been enough of a hint: After all, Boris’ original instinct – natural herd immunity – is now a provably less costly means of arriving at a better result. Closing the schools (which neither Sweden nor Ron DeSantis’ Florida did) is without exception the greatest harm committed by governments against their populations present and future. Official recognition of such mistakes cannot but restore trust in lawful, common-sense government administration.

Which brings me back to the feeble attempts for taking down Boris, that essential figure of our time. Dominic Cummings, who succumbed to a pandemic-related scandal regarding the sort of rules Boris is now on the record as having broken, no doubt stews in resentment – altogether a waste of his considerable talents, which would presumably be available once again after this blanket pardon. Other highfalutin satraps of 10 Downing Street have also been felled for having been at or around wine, crowds or otherwise found in violation of whatever the law happened to be on that particular day.

The meaning of a recent Florida court decision – striking down the Federal mask mandate – is that wags telling us we were wrong/criminal were themselves in violation of the law. They’ve done nothing to alleviate the “degraded trust” in institutions which institutionalists never tire of complaining about – before going on to waste whatever credibility they have left on enforcing rules everyone already knows aren’t worth a dime.

The highlighting of rampant thievery during the pandemic, and its swift prosecution by the authorities (particularly in contracting abuses, which is where the political geese will be gandered) must be a central plank of this effort. If ever there was a chance for folks like Dominic Cummings and Steve Bannon to dismantle the administrative state, this is it.

Pandemic Profiteering kept the lockdown racket going for much, much longer than it needed to. Bankers trying to make their yearly quotas 6 months early by placing bonds – to pay for unnecessary PPE and lots of vaccines for people who had already recovered once or twice from a virus that wasn’t even going to kill them anyway – locked into place a government policy that made them money on the backs of the populations they were stealing liberties from. Aping the Chinese communist party doesn’t make for good policy? Who would have guessed?

Those of us who remain unvaccinated even when it was illegal have something to say about unlawful birthday cakes. Take your laws and shove them.


Felipe Cuello is Professor of Public Policy at the Pontifical university in Santo Domingo. He remains an operative of the Republican Party in the United States, where he served in both the Trump campaigns as well as the transition team of 2016/17 in a substantive foreign policy role. His past service includes the United Nations’ internal think tank, the International Maritime Organization, The European Union’s development-aid arm, and the office of a Brexiteer Member of the European Parliament previous to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. He is also the co-author and voice of the audiobook of Trump’s World: Geo Deus released in January 2020, back when discussing substance and principles were the order of the day.


Nord Stream 2: A Key to the War in Ukraine

Beneath the soil of the Ukraine is a network of gas pipelines through which part of the Russian supply to Europe passes. Between 2004 and 2005, 80% of Russian gas destined for Europe passed through the Ukrainian subsurface. When Gazprom (the Russian state-owned energy giant) cut off supplies to the Ukrainians in January 2006 and January 2009, the Ukrainians appropriated the gas destined for Europe, resulting in huge losses for those countries highly dependent on Russian gas, and this in turn greatly discredited Russia as a supplier.

In order to avoid this Ukrainian transit system, the Russians decided to build two new gas pipelines. Gazprom said that linking a gas pipeline directly to Germany without the need to go through transit countries would avoid cutting off Russian gas exports to Western Europe, as had already happened twice. Thus, was born the Nord Stream (Northern Stream, Севеверный поток) project, a gas pipeline that would link Russia to Europe (directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea) without the need to pass through Ukraine or Belarus.

Since April 2006, Poland’s Defense Minister Radek Sikorski compared the agreements on building a gas pipeline to the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact signed in the early morning of August 24, 1939, because Poland is particularly sensitive to agreements made over its head. Every pact made by Russia and Germany will be linked to that pact and will thus be demonized (this is how simplistic propaganda is—but it is equally effective, not because of the merit of the propagandists but because of the demerit of the ignorant masses, who abound).

The Swedish Minister of Defense, Mikael Odenberg, pointed to the project as a danger to Sweden’s security policy, as the gas pipeline passing through the Baltic would motivate the presence of the Russian Navy in Sweden’s economic zone, which the Russians would take advantage of to benefit their military intelligence. In fact, Putin justified the presence of the Russian Navy to ensure ecological security.

The German weekly Stern speculated that the fiber optic cable and repeater stations along the pipeline could be used for Russian espionage. But Nord Stream AG (the pipeline builder) responded by arguing that a fiber optic control cable was not necessary and had not even been planned. Gazprom’s Deputy Chairman of the Board, Alexander Medvedev, dismissed the issue by pointing out that “Some objections are put forward that are laughable – political, military or linked to spying. That is really surprising because in the modern world… it is laughable to say a gas pipeline is a weapon in a spy war.” Wherever the Russians are, there is always the fear of spies (there is not the same suspicion with the Yankees, despite Edward Snowden’s revelations—Hell is always on the other side).

The Rockefellerian Greenpeace also complained about the construction of the gas pipeline, since it would cross several zones catalogued as marine conservation areas.

On June 13, 2007, in response to ecological concerns, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated that “Russia fully respects the desire to provide for the 100% environmental sustainability of the project and that Russia is fully supportive of such an approach, and that all environmental concerns would be addressed in the process of environmental impact assessment.”

The pipeline was inaugurated on November 8, 2011, at a ceremony in the municipality of Lubmin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev; also present were French Prime Minister François Fillon and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

There were also plans to build South Stream, a gas pipeline that was to run from Russia to Bulgaria, across the Black Sea, reaching Greece and Italy. But it was eventually cancelled in favor of Blue Stream, which carries natural gas from southern Russia to Turkey via the Black Sea. Thanks to this pipeline, Turkey is the second largest importer of Russian gas, second only to Germany.

While Germany was able to carry out the Nord Stream 1 project, Greece and Italy saw their South Stream project scrapped. This is a sign of who has more power in the pretentious European Union. But Nord Stream 2 has not been able to go that far and—as we shall see—the Germans have bowed to the dictates of the Americans.

Nord Stream 1 consists of two gas pipelines running from Vyborg (northwest Russia) to Greifswald (northeast Germany). It has the capacity to transport 55 billion cubic meters per year, although in 2021 it was capable of transporting 59.2 billion cubic meters. It is the pipeline through which the largest volume of gas to the EU passes.

Work on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline lasted from 2018 to 2021, and it is estimated that the pipeline material can last about 50 years. The pipeline starts from the Slavyanskaya compressor station near the port of Ust-Luga (in the Kingiseppsky district of Leningrad Oblast) to Greifswald (West Pomerania). In 2019 the Swiss company Allsea, which was in charge of laying the pipeline, abandoned the project and Gazprom had to complete it on its own. The first line was completed in June 2021 and the second completed in September. It was planned to open in mid-2022, which was intended to double the gas transported to 110 billion cubic meters per year. In addition to Gazprom, the partners to build Nord Stream 2 were Uniper, Wintershall, OMV, Engie and Shell plc.

The German government approved the project in March 2018, in order to move Germany away from nuclear power and coal (i.e., for environmentalist reasons, always hot-topics in Germany, especially since the not-particularly-democratic times). The costs of the gas pipeline are estimated at 9.9 billion euros: 4.75 billion were put in by Gazprom and the rest by its partners.

Nord Stream 2 would have completed third and fourth lines (compared to the first and second lines of Nord Stream 1). Through the Baltic, Nord Stream 1 and 2 basically follow the same route. Both pipelines take their gas from fields on the Yamal peninsula and from the Ob and Taz bays. With the two pipelines (with four lines in total), Germany would supply Russian gas to other countries, which would undoubtedly improve the situation in the European market, overcoming the energy crisis. The Germans went so far as to argue that Nord Stream 2 would be more cost-effective than overland deliveries through Eastern Europe. Russia has supplied 35.4% of the gas reaching Germany (and with Nord Stream 2 it would have doubled the amount) and 34% of the oil.

The main opponents of Nord Stream 2 have been the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary(?), Romania, Croatia, Moldova—and mainly Poland and Ukraine; all of them supported by the European Commission and the US. These countries opposed Nord Stream 2 because a direct gas pipeline to Germany could mean the stoppage of energy supplies to them, as well as depriving them of lucrative transit tariffs.

Chronology of U.S. Policy against Nord Stream 2

U.S. complaints against the pipeline are not exclusive to the Biden Administration (which was pressured by its own fellow Democrats to take a hard line against Russia, hence calling Putin a “murderer;” as if the Obama Administration of which Biden was Vice President had not committed countless war crimes, far more than Russia may have committed—but the first African-American president is a demon who “does not smell of sulfur”). Already with Obama, the protests began when the project was not yet fully been put together (the idea of the project began to take shape in October 2012).

With the Trump Administration the complaints dragged on, and never stopped, even though at first Trump claimed that he would not enforce the Act against America’s enemies through sanctions on Russian energy exports. But before long he would change his mind. Trump even threatened to impose tariffs on EU countries, and proposed reopening talks to forge a U.S.-EU trade deal, if the draft were canceled.

On January 27, 2018, coinciding with the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (who was a former CEO of Exxon Mobil, i.e., this was a Rockefeller man infiltrating the Trump Administration, who would eventually be ousted by the more loyal Mike Pompeo) argued that the U.S. and Poland opposed Nord Stream 2, because it was considered a danger to Europe’s energy security and stability, ” and it provides Russia yet another tool to politicize energy as a political tool.”

U.S. senators from both parties were concerned in March 2018, when the German government approved the project, and wrote that ” “by circumventing Ukraine, Nord Stream II will remove one of the biggest reasons for Russia to avoid large-scale conflict in Eastern Ukraine—as the Kremlin is well aware.”

Ukraine’s transit used to supply 44% of Russian gas for the EU, pocketing the (increasingly corrupt) state coffers some $3 billion a month. But with Nord Stream 2, this was to change and the transit through the Ukrainian subsoil was to be reduced by a further 10 times. This would have caused Ukraine to lose 3% of its GDP. In Ukraine this was seen as undermining its sovereignty and also the collective energy security of the whole of Europe, as transit of gas through Ukraine deters Russian aggression, and this would end with the opening of Nord Stream 2, which in turn would have made Germany the main gas hub in Europe.

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, sent a letter in January 2019 to the companies in charge of building the pipeline, urging them to abandon the project and threatening them with sanctions if they continued with the project. In December of that year, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johson also pressured the project companies.

European Council President Donald Tusk, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and then British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also protested against the construction of Nord Stream 2. Tusk made it clear that the pipeline was not in the interests of the European Union. European Commission officials stated that “Nord Stream 2 does not enhance our [EU] energy security.”

Nord Stream 2 is something that divided the EU. Although when the Oval Office of the White House was occupied by Donald Trump the project did not seem so bad, and both France, Austria and Germany, plus the European Commission, criticized the United States (i.e., the Trump Administration) for new sanctions against Russia because of the pipeline, as they complained that the United States was threatening Europe’s energy supply.

So complained Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern and German Foreign Minister Sigman Gabriel in a joint statement: “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not for the United States of America.” And they added: “To threaten companies from Germany, Austria and other European states with penalties on the U.S. market if they participate in natural gas projects such as Nord Stream 2 with Russia or finance them introduces a completely new and very negative quality into European-American relations.” But—as we are about to see—German politicians, with the Social Democratic government, have not been so bold with the Biden Administration.

Isabelle Kocher, the CEO of the ENGIE Group (a local French-owned group that distributes electricity, natural gas, oil and renewable energies), criticized the US sanctions and claimed that they were trying to promote American gas in Europe (which is the key to this whole affair). Olaf Scholz, when he was Finance Minister in the Merkel-led coalition government, called the sanctions “a severe intervention in German and European internal affairs.” An EU spokesman criticized “the imposition of sanctions against EU companies conducting legitimate business.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said on Twitter that “European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the United States.” Lavrov would argue that the U.S. Congress “is literally overwhelmed by the desire to do everything possible to destroy” relations with Russia. However, it should be noted that Germany strongly backed sanctions against Russia over the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The German Eastern Business Association said in a statement that “America wants to sell its liquefied gas in Europe, for which Germany is building terminals. Should we arrive at the conclusion that US sanctions are intended to push competitors out of the European market, our enthusiasm for bilateral projects with the US will significantly cool.”

On December 21, 2019, Trump signed a bill imposing sanctions on companies that contributed to the construction of the pipeline, which was halted after Trump’s signature, although it would resume again in December 2020, following the election of Joe Biden as president. But immediately, on January 1, 2021, an annual defense policy bill passed by the U.S. Congress included sanctions for those companies working on the pipeline or securing it. On January 26, the White House announced that the new president also believes that “Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal for Europe,” and therefore his Administration will “review” the new sanctions.

Therefore, bipartisanship on Capitol Hill has been against the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, not because it is “a bad deal for Europe” but because it is a bad deal for the United States. On this “globalists” and “patriots” agree.

On July 30, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the Senate criticizing the construction of Nord Stream 2: ” We will do everything we can to make sure that that pipeline doesn’t threaten Europe. We want Europe to have real, secure, stable, safe energy resources that cannot be turned off in the event Russia wants to.” It’s as if he said, “We will do everything we can to make sure that pipeline doesn’t threaten the United States. We want Europe to have energy resources that it buys from the United States.” He added that the State Department and the Treasury Department “have made very clear in our conversations with those who have equipment there the expressed threat that is posed to them for continuing to work on completion of the pipeline.”

On April 20, 2021, one read on the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations (Soros think-tank): “It would be bad for Europe if American pressure forced the cancellation of the pipeline and left Germany and other member states whose companies participate in its construction bitter and beaten. It would also be bad for Europe if the pipeline ended up bulldozing Poland’s misgivings and portraying Germany as a selfish actor that did not care about its partners. Either of these outcomes would also weaken the transatlantic alliance and, more or less directly, benefit Moscow… if Washington halts the project, Moscow will find another reason to dismiss Europe as a policy actor that lacks credibility. Of course, this should not mean that Europe needs to save Nord Stream 2 just to impress Russia. The EU’s reasoning should have deeper roots than that.” It was thus “a relationship management problem.”

However, on May 19, 2021, the U.S. government waived sanctions against Nord Stream AG, but imposed sanctions against four Russian banks and five Russian companies. Sergei Ryabkov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, rejoiced and viewed the move as “a chance for a gradual transition toward the normalisation of our bilateral ties.”

Republican Senator Jim Risch stated that such a move was ” a gift to Putin that will only weaken the United States.”

Yurity Vitrenko of Naftogaz (Ukraine’s state-owned oil and gas company) opposed the move and claimed that Ukraine was pressuring the U.S. to reimpose sanctions to stop the pipeline from opening. Biden claimed that he stopped the sanctions because the pipeline was nearly completed and because the sanctions had damaged U.S.-EU relations.

Ukraine’s president, then an unknown in the West, Volodymyr Zelensky, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision of the Biden Administration, which also declined to sanction Nord Stream AG CEO Mathias Warning, a Putin ally.

However, in June 2021, the pipe-laying of the two gas pipeline lines was fully completed. On July 20, 2021, Biden and an already outgoing Angela Merkel agreed that the United States could sanction Russia if it used Nord Stream 2 as a “political weapon,” with the aim of preventing Poland and Ukraine from running out of Russian gas.

Merkel is an avowed Atlanticist and was not exactly enthusiastic about the Nord Stream 2 project, but she saw no way to back out. For her, it was a very delicate situation.

Ukraine would get a loan of $50 million to invest in green technology until 2024, and Germany would set up a $1 billion fund for Ukraine to switch to green energy and thus compensate for the loss of tariffs because not all the Russian gas that was to pass through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be transported through its subsoil.

Now fully decided, after the strange hesitation, in November 2021, the U.S. State Department imposed further financial sanctions on Russian companies linked to Nord Stream 2.

On December 9, 2021, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Marawiecki pressured the new German Chancellor, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, not to inaugurate Nord Stream 2 and not to give in to Russian pressure, and therefore “not to allow Nord Stream 2 to be used as an instrument for blackmail against Ukraine, an instrument for blackmail against Poland, an instrument for blackmail against the European Union.”

Upon detecting Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new sanctions on December 23rd.

Olaf Scholz was pressured to stop the opening of the pipeline at the EU summit. On February 7, 2022, he met with Biden at the White House, and at the press conference he stated that the U.S. and Germany were “we are acting together. We are absolutely united and we will not be taking different steps. We will do the same steps and they will be very, very hard to Russia and they should understand. As the President [Biden] said, we are preparing for that. You can understand and you can be absolutely sure that Germany will be together with all its allies and especially the United States, that we take the same steps. There will be no differences in that situation… I say to our American friends, we will be united. We will act together and we will take all the necessary steps and all the necessary steps will be done by all of us together.”

We see that he was no longer complaining about US intervention “in German and European internal affairs,” as we had seen him say when he was Finance Minister in the coalition government with Merkel, while Trump was in the White House.

For his part, Joe Biden warned that if Russia invades Ukraine, with “tanks or troops,” as would end up happening, “then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

In the face of Biden’s threats to Russia, Scholz kept a timid silence, saying absolutely nothing about blatant U.S. interference in Germany’s economic relations with Russia. He bowed to Washington’s dictates.

On February 15, Scholz met with Putin in Moscow, where the Russian president affirmed that the pipeline would consolidate European energy security and that it was a “purely commercial” matter. As if economics were not economics-politics and as if it were not a geopolitical issue of the utmost importance and, as we have seen, of vital importance.

Scholz stated that the negotiations had been intense yet confident and pleaded with Russia to avoid being involved in the conflict with Ukraine.

At the press conference, Putin went so far as to say, “Germany is one of Russia’s key partners. We have always striven for interaction between our states. Germany ranks second after China among Russia’s foreign trade partners. Despite the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic and volatility in global markets, by the end of 2021, mutual trade grew by 36% and reached almost 57 billion. In the 1970s of the last century, our countries successfully implemented a historic project. It was called “Gas in exchange for pipelines.” And since then, German and other European consumers have been reliably and uninterruptedly supplied with Russian gas. Today, Russia meets more than one-third of Germany’s energy transportation needs.”

The “Gas for Pipelines” project was possible despite the Cold War, and the United States tried to prevent the construction of the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod gas pipeline and also tried to prevent German entrepreneurs from participating in the project, although it was eventually built 1982-1984 and officially inaugurated in France, complementing the Western Siberia-Western Europe transcontinental gas transport system that had existed since 1973. This pipeline transits Ukraine, pumping gas to Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. At that time the USSR did not have the capacity to produce the required pipelines. After construction, large deliveries of gas from Russia began, from the gigantic Vengoyskoye field to Germany and other European countries. The consequences of so much gas were the replacement of US coal in the European market and the FRG enjoyed a great economic boost. These gas agreements between Russia and Europe (then the USSR) did not benefit the United States, of which the US took careful note.

Scholz later met with Zelensky, where he was accused of using “Merkel’s playbook” by avoiding questions about the pipeline at the press conference he gave together with the Ukrainian president.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the future of the pipeline depended on Russia’s behavior in Ukraine. On February 19, she stated at the Munich Security Conference that Europe could not be so dependent on Russia for its energy needs (perhaps she wants it to be dependent on the United States, and not only for energy but geopolitically, which is the logical consequence). “A strong European Union cannot be so reliant on an energy supplier that is threatens to start a war on our continent… We can impose high costs and severe consequences on Moscow’s economic interests. The Kremlin’s strange thinking that comes straight out of a dark past may cost Russia a prosperous future… We will hope still that peace will prevail and that diplomacy will take us there.”

On February 22, the day after Russia recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Olaf Scholz, who was always in favor of the project but had just come from seeing Biden (although he did immediately afterwards visit Putin), suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2. “Today I asked the Federal Ministry of Economics to revoke the energy security report of the Federal Network Agency… This is a necessary step so that the certification of the pipeline cannot take place now. Without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot be launched.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock told reporters that the German government had “frozen” the project.

On February 23, Biden ordered sanctions to be imposed on the pipeline operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, and also on company officials. “These steps are another part of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further action if Russia continues to escalate.” Such sanctions were imposed after “close consultations” between the U.S. and German governments. And he thanked Scholz for his “close cooperation and unwavering commitment to holding Russia accountable for its actions;” in other words, he thanked him for his subservience to the United States. By recognizing the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Putin, Biden said, “gave the world an irresistible incentive to abandon Russian gas and switch to other forms of energy.”

The day after, Russia began the “special military operation” in Ukraine. Thus, the United States now had the war it needed to make sure that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would not be opened and German-Russian relations would break down; although Nord Stream 1 would continue to carry gas to Germany, functioning like the other gas pipelines supplying Europe, with which Russia is pocketing some 800 million euros a day, plus 260 million euros for exporting oil.

On March 8, the United States banned all imports of oil and gas from Russia, breaking historical records in the price of gasoline (7% of the oil consumed by the United States is Russian).

On March 9 the Russian President’s press secretary, Dimitry Preskov, responded to the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland—the woman who said “f**k the EU,” by stating that Nord Stream 2 is “dead and will not be revived” (a day earlier in the US Congress she had said that the pipeline is just “a pile of metal at the bottom of the sea”)—and Preskov told her that the pipeline is ready for use, adding that the United States is declaring economic war on Russia.

A Geo-Economic and therefore Geopolitical Dispute

Rather than an infrastructure project in the federative power (or international trade) of the core layers of the States concerned, Nord Stream 2 seems rather a symbol of discord in diplomatic power and even in military power, something we are seeing in Ukraine. Undoubtedly, Nord Stream 2 and all gas and oil pipelines entail geopolitical problems, because the basal resources are embedded in the core problems of the dialectics of states (economy is always economy-politics; that is, both cannot be understood as megaregional spheres but as conjugated concepts—conceptually dissociable, existentially inseparable).

Undoubtedly, as it is rightly accused, Russia uses its energy power as a geopolitical and geostrategic weapon, as does the United States. In fact, such Russian power is enormous. Adding oil, gas and coal exports, Russia is the world’s largest exporter of these products.

If Nord Stream 2 had been implemented, the United States would have lost influence over the EU and also over Ukraine. This would have made European countries, primarily Germany, even more dependent on Russian energy resources. Some of these countries, and of course the ringleader of the gang, the United States, took a stand against the construction of this pipeline. Ukraine was seen as one of the economies most affected if Nord Stream 2 were to be put into operation, since a large quantity of raw materials from Russia would no longer pass through its subsoil (although this would also affect Russia’s rather vassal ally, Belarus).

The Russians argued that with Nord Stream 2 the price of gas would go down, as some 55 billion cubic meters of gas would be transported per year (more or less the same amount that Nord Stream 1 sends). It should be borne in mind that just over a third of the gas arriving in Europe comes from Russia.

In Spain only 10% of the gas received is Russian. Algeria (Russia’s historical ally) is the main gas exporter to Spain (30% of its gas ends up in Spain), and the government of Pedro Sánchez is not exactly being diplomatically tactful with this country; moreover, it is treating it with extreme imprudence, ceding the Sahara to Morocco (abandoning the poor Saharawis for the second time). Perhaps this is the reward the sultanate has received for recognizing Israel. But then is not in Spain, for several decades now, foreign policy is not foreign policy but continuous betrayal?

Note what the 2019 report from the leading U.S. think tank RAND Corporation said: “Increasing Europe’s ability to import gas from suppliers other than Russia could economically extend Russia and buffer Europe against Russian energy coercion. Europe is slowly moving in this direction by building regasification plants for liquefied natural gas (LNG). But to be truly effective, this option would need global LNG markets to become more flexible than they already are and would need LNG to become more price-competitive with Russian gas.”

Germany saw its energy security endangered if Nord Stream 2 did not come on stream. And it should be borne in mind that this was a project that was built on the initiative of Berlin and not Moscow. And yet, Germany has sided with Ukraine (thus bowing to the dictates of the Washington Empire).

But it should also be borne in mind that with Nord Stream 2 the relationship between Russia and Germany was not exclusively one of dependence of the latter on the former, since Russia would also depend on Germany, that is to say, a relationship of cooperation would be established, which is what the United States does not want. And Germany in turn would distribute the gas coming from Russia to the other countries.

The problem is that if this gas pipeline begins to pump gas, then the United States could lose the vassalage of Germany and other European countries. The United States has always tried to prevent trade relations between Germany and Russia from prospering (it did so when it came to the FRG and the USSR, as we have seen).

Hence Biden’s complaints (like Trump’s, and also Obama’s), since the US wants to prevent at all costs the opening of Nord Stream 2. Wouldn’t Russia be helping to consolidate German leadership in the EU with this pipeline? Although historically, despite Napoleon, Russia has maintained better relations with France. And certainly, the Russians do not forget the two world wars, especially the Great Patriotic War.

Germany argued that Nord Stream 1 did not prevent the Reich from taking a hard line against Russian expansionism. And, crucially, that the United States opposed the project because it wanted to sell more liquefied natural gas to European markets (that sums up the plot).

Almost a quarter of the energy consumed by the EU is natural gas, and a third of this comes from Russia, with the eastern countries obviously being more dependent on this gas. The EU receives 40% of its gas from Russia, as well as 27% of its oil. The United States does not get any Russian gas, although it does get—as we have already said—7% of its oil (which it now intends to replace with Venezuelan oil). On March 25, 2022, the EU finalized an agreement in which the United States will supply 15,000 million cubic meters of liquefied gas to the EU market this year. And between now and 2030. Mission accomplished: Europe bows its head before its servant.

And how can the United States afford to put the brakes on a project between two sovereign nations behind a pharaonic construction site thousands of kilometers apart? Could it be that Germany, which together with France leads the EU, is nothing more than a vassal of the United States, even if it now intends to rearm? And if the Franco-German axis is a vassal of the United States, won’t Spain, forsaken Spain, be a vassal of the vassals? Be that as it may, the United States has behaved towards Germany like an extortionist gangster—who forces shopkeepers at gunpoint to buy his merchandise. Then, armed with a titanium diboride face, they call it a “free market.”

According to a European Commission report, entitled “EU-US LNG Trade,” in 2021 the record supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States to the EU was overtaken, exceeding 22 billion cubic meters. In January 2022 it had reached 4.4 billion cubic meters (if it continues at this rate, it would reach more than 50 billion). But this is not enough for the United States. Nevertheless, the European Commission is in favor of the Yankees being the main suppliers of natural gas to the EU market.

In view of all this, it could be said that the United States has fomented a war in Ukraine for the purpose of restricting the EU’s economic cooperation with Russia, which goes against the interests of the Union, which has behaved in this crisis as a group of vassal states of Washington; something that has been the case for a long time, practically after the Second World War—except that it has now manifested itself in an embarrassing way.

In an interview given by Jacques Baud, a Swiss army colonel, military intelligence expert and deputy to NATO and the UN, he said: “I am sure that Putin did not want to attack Ukraine, he said this repeatedly. Obviously, there was pressure from the US to start the war. The US has little interest in Ukraine itself. What they wanted was to increase pressure on Germany to shut down Nord Stream 2. They wanted Ukraine to provoke Russia, and if Russia reacted, Nord Stream 2 would be frozen.”

Also, the UK looks set to benefit as a “transit” country for natural gas supplies to Europe, via the pipeline through Belgium and the Netherlands, which will try to get rid of dependence on Russian gas as planned for this summer by the only British energy operator gathering North Sea gas in Norway: National Grid. As The Daily Telegraph reported, National Grid believes it can export some 5.1 bcm to Europe this summer. It is also considering importing liquefied gas from the U.S. to the U.K. for conversion into normal gas for export to Europe.

Because of the Russian military operation in the armada-by-NATO-countries-(not all)-Ukraine, the non-opening of Nord Stream 2 has not divided European countries, as happened in 2003 with the Iraq war, even though the UK has left the EU. There seems to be an anti-Russian consensus (perhaps anti-Sorosian Hungary is the exception, although it is ambiguously).

To win Russia’s alliance against China, neither the Trump Administration (which was what it intended) nor the Biden Administration (which has shown the world its exacerbated Russophobia, along the lines of the Polish-U.S.-trilateralist-Rockefellerian Zbigniew Brzezinski) have been able to act with diplomatic tact. And they should know that alliances are as important as the forces themselves. That is why Russia has won over the Chinese ally, although always with the fear that the latter might absorb it or at any given moment betray it (hypocrisy is our daily bread in international relations).

Zelensky’s Humiliation of the German President

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier maintained for years a cordial relationship with Vladimir Putin, whom he praised, as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Gerhard Schröder and later as Foreign Minister under Angela Merkel. And he also showed his strongest support for the Nord Stream 2 project during those years, until just before the war, something that, after the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine, the head of the German state has admitted was a “clear mistake.” A mistake he maintained for years, almost a decade? After the flurry on Twitter where pictures were posted of Steinmeier hugging Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the president expressed his remorse. For this he was no longer welcome in Kiev, and had to cancel his visit: “It seems that my presence is not wanted.” Later he added, “We have not managed to create a common European home in which Russia is included. We have not managed to include Russia in the overall security architecture. We clung to bridges that Russia no longer believed in, as our partners warned us.” All this shows Germany’s shameful subservience to the United States.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, went on to point out that Germany maintains “too many vested interests” in Russia and that Steinmeier is largely to blame, as he spent decades weaving a spider’s web of contacts with Russia (as would Merkel, with whom Putin spoke in Russian and German). “Many of those now in charge in the (German) coalition are involved in this.”

The deputy spokesman of the German government, Wolfgang Büchner, has cooled tempers by understanding “the exceptional situation” Ukraine is going through. And he has indicated that “Germany has been and is one of the strongest defenders of Ukraine… and will continue to be so. The President has a clear and unequivocal position in favor of Ukraine.”

Steinmeier recalled in the German magazine Spiegel that in 2001 Putin gave a speech in German in the Bundestag itself: “The Putin of 2001 has nothing to do with the Putin of 2022 whom we now see as a brutal and entrenched war promoter.” And that he still expected “a remnant of rationality from Vladimir Putin.”


Daniel Miguel López Rodríguez lives in Cortegana (Huelva), Spain. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Seville. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.


Featured image: Map of Nord Stream 1 and 2.

Propaganda During Times of War

This article, by Anne Morelli, is here translated for the first time complete. It is based on her monograph, Principes élémentaires de propagande de guerre (utilisables en cas de guerre froide, chaude ou tiède)The Basic Principles of War Propaganda (For Use in Case of War, cold, hot, or warm), which was first published in 2001 and then revised and republished in 2010 to include the war in Afghanistan and Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech.

Morelli’s ten principles, or “commandments” are often accredited to Lord Arthur Ponsonby. Rather, Morelli summarized Ponsonby’s work, Falsehood in War-Time to formulate them.

The current Russian-Ukrainian conflict is just the latest iteration of the immense reach of war propaganda to fashion consent, in the form of ready sacrifice of blood and treasure.


Nearly a century ago, a British diplomat who had observed firsthand the creation of anti-German information in British government offices described these counterfeiting procedures at work during the First World War. This book by Arthur Ponsonby explained the basic mechanisms of wartime propaganda. However, these principles are not about the First World War—they were applied in all open conflicts, and also in the Cold War. They form the basis of the information war which is essential, more so today than in yesteryears, to win public opinion to a cause.

Ponsonby’s Ten Commandments

The principles identified by Ponsonby can be easily stated as ten “commandments.” I will state them here, and we will see for each of them to what extent they have been applied by NATO’s propaganda services.

  1. We do not want war
  2. The other side is solely responsible for the war
  3. The enemy has the face of the devil (or in the order of “ugly”)
  4. The real aims of the war must be masked under noble causes
  5. The enemy knowingly commits atrocities. If we commit blunders, they are unintentional
  6. We suffer very few losses. The enemy’s losses are enormous
  7. Our cause is sacred
  8. Artists and intellectuals support our cause
  9. The enemy uses illegal weapons
  10. Those who question our propaganda are traitors

1. We Do Not Want War

Arthur Ponsonby had early noticed that the statesmen of all countries, before declaring war or at the very moment of this declaration, always solemnly assured as a preliminary that they did not want war. War and its procession of horrors are rarely popular a priori, and it is therefore fashionable to present oneself as peace-loving.

During the war against Yugoslavia, we heard NATO leaders claim to be pacifists. If all the heads of state and government are motivated by a similar desire for peace, one can of course wonder innocently why, sometimes (often), wars break out all the same. But the second principle of war propaganda immediately answers this objection: for we have been forced to wage war; the opposing side began it; we are obliged to react, as self-defense, or to honor our international commitments.

2. The Other Side is Solely Responsible for the War

Ponsonby noted this paradox of the First World War, which can also be found in many previous wars: each side claimed to have been forced to declare war to prevent the other from setting the planet on fire. Each government would loudly declare the aporia that sometimes war is necessary to end wars. That time it would be the last war, “der des der” [last of the last].

The most relentless warmongers therefore try to pass themselves off as lambs and shift the guilt of the conflict onto their enemy. They usually succeed in persuading public opinion (and perhaps in persuading themselves) that they are in a state of self-defense.

I will not attempt to probe the purity of either side’s intentions. I am not trying to find out who is lying or telling the truth. My only purpose is to illustrate the principles of propaganda, unanimously used, and in the case of this second principle (“it is the other who wanted the war”), it is obvious that it has been applied many times during the NATO war against Yugoslavia.

On that occasion, European governments, slightly embarrassed by public opinion to be dragged into a conflict about which European parliaments had not been consulted, despite the constitutional obligation, in several countries, that such consultation take place, widely used in their propaganda the argument of the obligation in which the European countries found themselves to join the war.

Thus, in 1999, Christian Lambert, head of the cabinet of the Belgian Minister of Defense, replied to students who asked him why Belgium participated in the bombing of Yugoslavia, that it was an obligation for our country, by virtue of its membership in NATO. This answer was totally classical at that time, but did not correspond to reality. There would have been an obligation for European countries to participate in the war, if a NATO state had been attacked, but this was obviously not the case in the Yugoslavian war.

During this same war, the principle of “he started it” was in fact very widely applied by Western propaganda, and in particular in a form that Ponsonby had already pointed out: the enemy despises and underestimates our strength; we will no longer be able to remain on the sidelines; we will have to show him our strength.

Western propaganda in 1999 thus stressed that the Yugoslavs defied NATO and pushed it to respond with violence. Thus, the Brussels daily Le Soir wrote on January 18, 1999: “NATO finds itself challenged by astonishing cynicism. Will the world’s leading armed power be able to justify its wait-and-see attitude for long?”

NATO also claimed that it was reacting to a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” by the Serbs against the Albanians in Kosovo. With the passage of time, however, the international experts of the OSCE confirm the opposite thesis: when NATO began bombing Yugoslavia on March 24, Belgrade reacted with a systematic campaign of violence against the Albanian majority in Kosovo. Before March 24, police violence against Kosovo Albanians had been isolated; it was not “ethnic cleansing.”

But in order to convince Western public opinion of the validity of the bombing of Yugoslavia, it was necessary to make people believe that the war was a retaliatory one. It was the enemy who had to bear the full responsibility for the war, and more personally its leader. The war was the fault of Milosevic who, in his intransigence, refused Western proposals for peace in Rambouillet. The Franco-Belgian weekly Le Vif-Express ran this headline: “The dictator of Belgrade has a crushing responsibility in the misfortunes of the Serbian and Albanian people.” The insistence on the person of the leader of the enemy camp is not a coincidence. Ponsonby’s third principle insists on the need to personify the enemy in the person of its leader.

3. The Enemy has the Face of the Devil

It is not possible to hate a whole people globally. It is therefore effective to concentrate this hatred of the enemy on the opposing leader. The enemy thus has a face, and this face is obviously odious. One did not only wage war against the Krauts, the Japs, but more precisely against the Kaiser, Mussolini, Hitler, Saddam or Milosevic. This odious character always conceals the diversity of the population he leads and where the simple citizen may yield his alter egos.

In order to weaken the opposing cause, it is necessary to present its leaders as incapable, at the very least, and to cast doubt on their reliability and integrity. But, as far as possible, it is necessary to demonize this enemy leader, to present him as a madman, a barbarian, an infernal criminal, a butcher, a disturber of peace, an enemy of humanity, a monster. And the purpose of war is to capture him. In some cases, this portrait of our enemy may seem justified, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this monster is most of the time very approachable before the conflict and even in some cases after.

Since the Second World War, Hitler has been considered such a paradigm of evil, that any enemy leader must be compared to him. This was of course the case with Stalin, Mao or Kim Il Sung; but even more recently, all the “villains in service” have also had to bear the same comparison. It is no different with Milosevic, whom the Italian weekly L’Espresso presented on its cover under the title “Hitler-Sevic,” with one half of the face corresponding to Hitler’s face and the other to Milosevic’s.

Following the same script, and at the same time, Le Vif-Express presented, at the time of the first bombings of Yugoslavia, a very dark cover, displaying the left half of Milosevic’s face and on the right the title “L’effroyable [The Appaling] Milosevic.” Inside the magazine, in text supported by grim and worrying photos of the Yugoslav leader, we learned that Milosevic’s capacity for trouble-making was far from being exhausted. The man who, three years earlier had raised his glass with Chirac and Clinton, during the peace agreements of Bosnia, signed in Paris, was now a neurotic whose two parents and even his maternal uncle had committed suicide, obvious symptoms of a hereditary mental imbalance.

The Vif-Express did not quote any speech, any writing of the master of Belgrade, but simply noted his abnormal mood swings, his explosions of anger, sickly and brutal: When he got angry, his face became twisted. Then, instantly, he could recover his composure. His wife was pushy, ambitious and unbalanced, whose psychological problems dated back to the fact that she was acknowledged late by her father. And the weekly concluded: Slobo and Mira are not a couple; they are a criminal association.

The technique of demonizing the enemy leader is effective and will probably continue to be applied for a long time. The reader and the citizen need clearly identified “good guys” and “bad guys,” and the most simplistic way to do this is to call the “bad guy” a new Hitler. Anyone who might not necessarily defend him, but even doubt that he is the precise incarnation of evil, is immediately disqualified by this comparison.

4. The Real Aims of the War must be Masked under Noble Causes

Ponsonby had noted for the 1914-1918 war that one never spoke, in the official texts of belligerents, of the economic or geopolitical objectives of the conflict. Not a word was said officially about the colonial aspirations, for example, that Great Britain expected and which would be fulfilled by an Allied victory. Officially, on the Anglo-French side, the goals of the First World War were summarized in three points:

  • to crush militarism
  • to defend small nations
  • to prepare the world for democracy

These objectives, which are very honourable, have since been copied almost verbatim on the eve of each conflict, even if they do not fit in with the real objectives.

In the case of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, we find the same discrepancy between the official and undeclared goals of the conflict. Officially, NATO intervened to preserve the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo, to prevent the mistreatment of minorities, to impose democracy and to put an end to the dictator. It was to defend the sacred cause of human rights. The war did not need to end even to realize that none of these objectives were met; that we were far from a multi-ethnic society; and that violence against minorities is a daily occurrence—but the economic and geopolitical goals of the war, which had never been mentioned, had indeed been achieved.

Thus, without having officially having claimed it, NATO’s sphere of influence had been significantly enlarged in Southeast Europe. The Atlantic Organization thus established itself in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo, regions that were previously “resistant” to its installation.

Moreover, from an economic point of view, for Yugoslavia, which was “resistant” to the installation of a pure and simple market economy and which still functioned with a large public market, it was “proposed” in Rambouillet that the economy of Kosovo should function according to the principles of the free market and be open to the free circulation of…capital, including that of international origin.

One might innocently ask what connection there can be between the defense of oppressed minorities and the free movement of capital, but the first type of discourse obviously conceals less avowed economic goals. Thus, 12 large American companies, including Ford Motor, General Motors and Honeywell, sponsored the 50th anniversary summit of NATO in Washington, in the spring of 1999. Some thought that this was a totally disinterested move, while others thought that it was a “give and take,” and that the bombing of Yugoslavia, by destroying the country’s socialist economy, made room for the multinationals that had long dreamed of setting up a large construction site and doing good business there.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea announced that the cost of the military operation against Yugoslavia would be more than offset by the longer-term benefits that the markets could realize. From September 3, 1999, the Deutsche Mark became the official currency in Kosovo, and the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac, which I had seen in May destroyed by the NATO strike of April 9, was snapped up by Daewoo in July.

The real aims of the war were perhaps not totally humanitarian, but the main thing was to make people believe that they were, at the time of the launching of the operations, when public opinion doubted the validity of this attack. The public was persuaded that they had to intervene against “bandits”, “criminals”, “assassins.”

This is also one of the basic principles of war propaganda: the war must be presented as a conflict between civilization and barbarism. To do this, it is necessary to persuade the public that the enemy systematically and voluntarily commits atrocities, while our side can only commit involuntary blunders..

5. The Enemy Knowingly Commits Atrocities. If We Commit Blunders, They are Unintentional

Stories of atrocities committed by the enemy are an essential part of war propaganda. This is not to say, of course, that atrocities do not occur during wars. On the contrary, murder, armed robbery, arson, looting and rape seem to be commonplace in all circumstances of war and the practice of all armies, from those of antiquity to the wars of the 20th century. What is specific to war propaganda, however, is to make people believe that only the enemy is accustomed to these acts, while our own army is at the service of the population, even the enemy, and is loved by them. Deviant criminality becomes the symbol of the enemy army, composed essentially of lawless brigands.

During the First World War, the Germans accused the Belgian and French “francs-tireurs” of the worst atrocities who, flouting the laws of war, treacherously attacked German soldiers and deceived them by their ruses, as for example by offering them coffee with strychnine. On the Belgian and Anglo-French side, the rumor that the Germans had systematically cut off the hands of Belgian babies circulated non-stop.

Moreover, the fear of the Belgian population, following these rumors, triggered an unprecedented exodus of refugees. One million three hundred thousand Belgians left their homes at the time of the German invasion in 1914. This exodus of “poor Belgian refugees” and the imaginary episode of Belgian babies with their hands cut off were used to the full extent by Allied propaganda to bring hesitant countries, such as Italy, into its camp.

During the war against Yugoslavia, the propaganda technique was obviously similar. Before the start of the bombing, William Walker circulated the news that the Yugoslav police had massacred civilians in Racak in January 1999, and it was officially announced in the Western media that the Serbs were carrying out systematic ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The figures quoted at the time spoke of 500,000 victims of “genocide,” most of whom were buried in mass graves. Some commentators even suggested that bodies were burned in former industrial sites, which obviously evoked Nazi crematoria.

It is now known that in Racak, it was KLA troops (and not civilians) who were decimated. French troops finally invalidated the hypothesis of cremations in industrial vats; and, after long and meticulous research, Spanish forensic scientists have estimated the number of people killed in Kosovo at a maximum of 2,500, on both sides and including individual deaths for which no one can be accused.

Even the American weekly Newsweek headlined, after the end of the bombing, “Macabre mathematics: the count of atrocities decreases.” But it didn’t matter at that point because the war was over. The official lies had mobilized public opinion at the right time to gain its approval and we could turn to more serious assessments.

In the autumn of 1999, it was also possible for Western journalists to explain how they had been manipulated by KLA agents to broadcast “bogus” testimonies on television. For example, the journalist Nancy Durham, working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), whose moving report on the murder of an 8-year-old Albanian girl, with the testimony of her older sister, was shown on more than ten channels—and later it was revealed that she had been deceived by her Albanian informers. But she was refused a correction that demonstrated the lie.

As for the mass graves and concentration camps, the terms seem in retrospect to be inadequate to the reality. In the spring of 1999, there were obviously murders, looting, torture and burning of Albanian houses. But one “forgets” to highlight with the same acuteness the same atrocities committed from the summer onwards on Serbs, Bosnians, Roma and other non-Albanians. Their exodus was passed over in silence, whereas the images of Albanian refugees from Kosovo and their reception abroad had been the subject of entire television programs. This is because the fifth principle of war propaganda is that only the enemy commits atrocities. Our side can only commit “mistakes.”

6. We Suffer very few Losses. The Enemy’s Losses are Enormous

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the British greatly “overestimated” the number of German planes shot down by British fighter and the D.C.A. The Nazis, on the other hand, tried as long as possible to disguise their defeat on the Eastern Front and proclaimed resounding losses for the Soviets, without mentioning their own losses.

This old tactic was also used in the war against Yugoslavia. The West claimed to have zero losses on its side and inflicted huge military losses on the Yugoslav army. Thus, to justify the usefulness of the strikes, Western propaganda spoke of hundreds of Yugoslav tanks being put out of action. A year after the war, Newsweek was able to admit that only fourteen Yugoslav tanks had been hit by the 1999 air strikes.

7. Our Cause is Sacred

God’s support for a cause is always an important asset, and for as long as religions have existed, we have happily killed each other in the name of God. War propaganda must obviously make public opinion believe that “God is on our side;” or, at the least, ecclesiastics must give their support to the war by declaring it “just.” Let us remember that the good St. Bernard exhorted the knights of Christ to work for Christ by killing infidels. “Got mit uns” was the slogan displayed by the German soldiers of the First World War on their belts. This slogan was answered by the English “God save the King,” while the Cardinal Primate of Belgium, Cardinal Mercier, in his pastoral letter, “Patriotisme et endurance” (Patriotism and Endurance) did not hesitate to proclaim that the Belgian soldiers, dying in the fight against Germany, redeemed their souls and secured a place in heaven.

In the NATO war against Yugoslavia, while some French and American bishops spoke out against the use of force, others justified the bombing. Thus, Archbishop Jacques Delaporte of Cambrai, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the French episcopate, approved in the pages of Le Monde of the air strikes as an ethically necessary action, while Archbishop Miloslav Vlik of Prague justified NATO’s intervention by relying on the doctrine of the Church: The international community is not only authorized, but also obliged to prevent the murder of the Kosovars and to restore their right to return to their homeland. Such positions obviously legitimized the “regularity” of the use of violence against Yugoslavia in the eyes of Western public opinion.

8. Artists and Intellectuals Support our Cause

During the First World War, with a few rare exceptions, intellectuals massively supported their own side. Each belligerent could largely count on the support of painters, poets, musicians who supported, by initiatives in their field, the cause of their country.

In Great Britain, King Albert’s book brought together the propaganda work of painters and engravers who “launched” the glorious image of King Albert, King Knight. In France, the caricaturists Poulbot and Roubille put their talent at the service of the Fatherland. In Belgium, the artists Ost and Raemaekers specialized in the making of tragic images evoking the martyrdom of Belgian refugees or the heroic image of the Fatherland. In Italy, the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio was the champion of such action. In Germany, in October 1914, 93 intellectuals, including the physicist Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winner and philologist von Willamovitz, the historian G. von Harnack and many professors of Catholic theology, signed a manifesto in support of their country’s cause and the honor of their army, which, according to this manifesto, was the victim of odious slander.

For the NATO war against Yugoslavia, it is no longer a matter of composing beautiful heroic music or making moving drawings. But the caricaturists are largely put to work to justify the war and to depict the “butcher” and his atrocities, while other artists work, camera in hand, to produce edifying documentaries on the refugees, always carefully taken from Albanian ranks, and chosen as much as possible in relation to the public to which they are addressed, such as that beautiful blond child with a nostalgic look, supposed to evoke Albanian victims.

Almost all the French intellectuals followed the official position of their government with articles of support in the press and interviews in the media. Such was the case—obviously—of the “philosopher” Bernard -Henri Lévy, being intervieed throughout the war on various French radio channels and in the newspaper Le Monde to justify the bombardments against Yugoslavia. But many other French “intellectuals” (Pascal Bruckner, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Didier Daeninckx, Jean Daniel, André Glucksmann, Philippe Herzog, the geographer Yves Lacoste) showed the same political servility.

9. The Enemy uses Illegal Weapons

There is nothing like affirming the deceitfulness of the enemy in war propaganda by assuring that he fights with “immoral” and condemnable weapons. Even if the basic idea is absurd—that there is a “noble” way of waging war with “chivalrous” weapons, which is obviously our way, and a barbaric way of waging war with “savage” weapons, which is that of our enemy.

During the First World War, and the controversy is on-going as to who, France or Germany, started to use asphyxiating gases. Each belligerent put off the sad priority of this use onto the enemy, thus assuring that he himself only “copied” the enemy’s weapons by obligation.

On September 1, 1939, during his speech in the Reichstag, announcing the invasion of Poland, Hitler himself stated that he had humanitarian concerns regarding the use of weapons. He would have tried to limit armaments, to suppress certain weapons, to exclude certain methods of warfare that he considered incompatible with the law of nations.

During the Korean War, it was the communist camp that accused the United States of waging germ warfare, which was far from being proven.

During NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, this old principle of war propaganda, noted by Ponsonby, was reused. Indeed, when the Yugoslavs revealed in June 1999 the use by NATO of depleted uranium weapons, with immeasurable human and ecological consequences, it was not necessary to wait long for the response. By August 1999, the Western media claimed that the Yugoslavs had used chemical weapons in Kosovo, thereby transgressing the rules of “civilized” war.

10. Those who Question our Propaganda are Traitors

Ponsonby’s last principle is that those who do not participate in the official propaganda should be ostracized and suspected of intelligence with the enemy.

During the First World War, pacifists of all countries had already learned the hard way that neutrality was not possible in wartime. He who is not with us is against us. Any attempt to question the accounts of the propaganda services was immediately condemned as unpatriotic or, better still, as treason.

During the war against Yugoslavia, the same scenario took place in the West. NATO’s media tactic was to produce daily news that was taken up by the soldier-journalists. Annoying opponents were systematically dismissed, with the exception of a few open forums that were not very well attended, serving as an alibi to show the pluralism of information.

When the “genocide” of the Kosovo Albanians was announced, for example, anyone who expressed doubts about the extent of this phenomenon was called a “revisionist,” a term that carries a lot of weight, since it is generally used to designate those who deny that Nazism organized the systematic extermination of the Jews.

In France, it was the Régis Debray affair that crystallized passions. On his return from Kosovo, Debray contested, in a letter to the President of the Republic Jacques Chirac, the reality of “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo.

Immediately the media, led by Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of a response entitled “Farewell to Régis Debray,” organized a public lynching. Daniel Schneidermann wrote that Debray “slapped the refugees from a distance;” Pierre Georges called him a “false journalist,” “burdened by his prejudices,” “ridiculously naïve” and said that he had accumulated “elementary errors” and produced “a fragmented and totally questionable account.” Alain Joxe, declared him an “international cretin,” in league with the ideas of Milosevic and an accomplice of the Serbian fascist regime against which the U.C.K. fought “practically without weapons.” At this point, some cleverly recalled that Régis Debray was a former companion of Che Guevara. Regarded now as a revisionist, the accusation of being a red-brown traitor became clear. In times of war, asking questions is heretical.

The weekly magazine L’Evénement never hesitated to publicly denounce, to the opprobrium those that it denounced, “Milosevic’s accomplices,” and whose photos it published. Meshed together in this camp of the “traitors” were the historian Max Gallo, the Abbé Pierre, Monseigneur Gaillot, General Gallois, the film director Carlos Saura, the singer Renaud, the playwright Harold Pinter and the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. For being suspicious of the official propaganda, they were accused by the Parisian weekly of having “chosen to brandish the great Serbian banner,” of having gone over to the enemy.

Conclusion

As we can see from these examples, the ten “commandments” of war propaganda described by Ponsonby have lost none of their relevance in almost a century. Have they been applied intuitively by NATO propaganda officers or by following the grid that we ourselves have followed? It is always risky to think that propaganda is built by systematically staging it, according to a meticulous plan; and one would rather believe that the possibility of improvement has criss-crossed the old Ponsonby principles.

However, one should not forget that the Nato spokesman who orchestrated all the propaganda for the war against Yugoslavia was Jamie Shea, who was not an uneducated military man. A graduate of Lincoln College, Oxford, he looked at the role of intellectuals in the First World War as his final thesis. His academic perseverance was crowned by a socially enviable position as head of NATO’s propaganda services. Thus, it is also safe to assume that Jamie Shea learned, as my Historical Criticism students do every year, the basic principles of war propaganda and carefully and systematically applied them in the propaganda campaign he was asked to orchestrate.


Anne Morelli is a Belgian historian at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).


Featured image: American propaganda poster by Harry Ryle Hopps, published 1917.

Is Putin Crazy?

Much is being said in the Western press about the alleged insanity of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and some have even said outright that the Russian leader is “a psychopath.” To reduce the very complex reality of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict (which is much more than a clash between Russia and Ukraine) to the psychological anxieties of a single individual (namely, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin) is to stupidly block out understanding and not to attend to the dialectical and pluralistic (not Manichean dualistic or harmonistic) webs of the present geopolitics at work. Such diagnoses only show that the person who affirms them is a prisoner of the crudest and silliest psychologism.

One of those who say that Putin is mad is the fervent Russianophobic Judeo-Magyarist-American globalist Esperantist George Soros: “Putin seems to have literally gone mad. He has decided to punish Ukraine for standing up to him and seems to be acting without restraint. He is throwing the entire Russian army into battle and ignoring all the rules of war.”

Says the tycoon who with his foundations is spreading truly delusional ideologies. Since we avoid psychologism at all costs, we prefer to speak of objective madness (see, Gustavo Bueno).

The oligarch who was once the richest man in Russia, an opponent of Putin who spent ten years in jail for tax evasion, although he denied it, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, affirmed from his London exile that this war is the result of an “emotional decision by Putin,” and that the leader shows “signs of senile paranoia” because he is a “madman in the clinical sense.”

But let’s look at the position of the experts, and not of the talk show hosts on duty who start talking like real specialists on any subject without having any idea of what they are talking about (get rid of the vain talk show hosts, we should add, paraphrasing Paul of Tarsus).

The president of the Spanish Society of Criminology and Forensic Sciences (SCEE), Carlos López Gobernado, states categorically: “Without any doubt, Putin is not a psychopath. He has a very clear mind… He is not. He knows perfectly well what he wants and he wants it for his country. Rather than psychopathic traits, I see geopolitical motives. Russia wants its space at the international level. There are supranational interests at stake here. More than personality conflicts, I find questions of statesmanship and geopolitical power politics.” To paraphrase the vile Clinton, “it’s geopolitics, stupid.”

Henry Kissinger, a professional politician who has spent more than fifty years keeping an eye on geopolitical entanglements, has gone so far as to say, “For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”

Putin could not have remained in power for 20 years if he simply and despotically offered tyranny and repression to his fellow citizens. To think of such “tyranny” is to offend the intelligence of Russians, given that Putin is one of the most popular politicians in the world (probably the most popular).

As acknowledged in Foreign Affairs, in a May/June 2021 article by Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy at Columbia University Timothy Frye: Over the past 20 years, Putin’s approval ratings have averaged a remarkable 74 percent, and there is little reason to believe that Russians are lying to pollsters in large numbers. But these high approval ratings were largely driven by the economic boom that doubled the size of Russia’s economy between 1998 and 2008 and the unique foreign policy success of the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Since 2018, Putin’s popularity has wavered. His approval ratings remain in the mid-60s, but Russians express much less confidence in him than in the past. In a November 2017 poll, when asked to name five politicians they trust, 59 percent of respondents named Putin; in February 2021, only 32 percent did so. During the same interval, support for a fifth Putin term fell from 70 percent to 48 percent, with 41 percent of Russians surveyed now saying they would prefer he step down.

With a month of war in Ukraine, we read in the foreign press (it seems that in the mainstream Spanish press, with some exceptions, we won’t read that) that Putin’s popularity has risen to 83%.

Be that as it may, it is an insult to the intelligence of the Russian people that they have trusted for so long a stupid, crazy man, or a psychopath who is willing to press, simply out of sheer evil, the nuclear button. Or that among his favorite hobbies is genocide. Lately this word the mainstream media writes and pronounces in Spain with much joy, and anything or any war crime is mistaken for genocide. But such a fine distinction is not something that is habitually made by the ignorant masses.

One must keep in mind that Putin inherited a devastated, shattered Russia, with the vast majority of its population demoralized by living in misery after a decade of the collapse and ruin of the Soviet Union (with the war in Chechnya fueling the misery). Putin’s governments have been gradually reversing the situation. It is as if his enemies never forgave him.

It is very simple-minded and typical of Western journalists, who are functionally illiterate in the noble art of geopolitics, along with the pretensions of pantologists and experts in universality, to believe that an overly prudent politician like Vladimir Putin (as he has shown during his twenty years in office, from 2008 to 2012 as Prime Minister) would ever make such a mistake of not foreseeing the consequences of the Western sanctions (i.e., those of NATO plus Japan and Australia) and that he has simply “lost his mind” (such is the “rigor” with which the matter has been dismissed in mainstream media).

But the truth is that neither China, nor Mexico, nor Brazil, nor India, nor Iran, nor South Africa and other countries (actually most of the world’s states) have imposed sanctions on Russia, which together with China has been preparing since 2015 for the de-dollarization of their economies, while putting in place parallel systems to SWIFT, such as the Chinese Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS, for its acronym in English). “The CIPS system, which some Russian banks already joined in 2019, as confirmed by Vladimir Shapovalov, head of the Bank of Russia, could become strong enough to allow the two neighboring powers to bypass the Western system.”

The US and EU plan is to isolate Russia with sanctions so that the oligarchs, seeing how their businesses are being destroyed, will rebel against Putin. But won’t Putin have everything neatly wrapped up and firmly wrapped up?

And while the war is raging in Ukraine, the EU pays Russia about a billion euros a day for its energy (although it has demanded to be paid in rubles, which Russia now wants to back in gold, which could change the rules of the geo-economic game). The gas pipelines have been operating normally. Russia is punished with sanctions but at the same time the war is financed by buying Russia’s gas. What will not be bought in peacetime? Russia is an energy giant that Europe can hardly do without. Russia is not to be scorned, even if this is shocking to democratic and liberal fundamentalism. At the Antalya Diplomatic Forum held on March 11, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, admitted that sanctions against Russia “have a very high cost for the whole world.”

In the face of Western sanctions Russia could count on BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), an international body that was launched in 2008-2009 and which—as the US Council on Foreign Relations knows—” BRICS has already become a platform for efforts to build an alternative financial system, with the group’s development bank raising funds in local currencies as part of its goal to ‘break away from the tyranny of hard currencies.'”

As far back as 2019 the RAND Corporation report said, “Imposing deeper trade and financial sanctions would also likely degrade the Russian economy, especially if such sanctions are comprehensive and multilateral. Thus, their effectiveness will depend on the willingness of other countries to join in such a process. But sanctions come with costs and, depending on their severity, considerable risks.”

Putin did not get along entirely badly with Donald Trump. In the four years of the Orange Man sitting in the Oval Office, the US-Russia relations were very different from how they were with Obama or how they are now with Biden (who called Putin a “murderer”—as if the United States, and as if the Obama Administration of which he was Vice President, did not have a bloodthirsty career). Trump’s return to the White House could appease relations with Russia but strain them with China. And after the Ukrainian war, Trump would have a hard time winning the favor of a Russia already very much devoted to China.

As written in Foreign Affairs in November/December 2021, in an article by Fiona Hill, Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, Putin shared many of the same enemies as Trump: “cosmopolitan, liberal elites; the American financier, philanthropist, and open society promoter George Soros; and anyone trying to expand voting rights, improve electoral systems, or cast a harsh light on corruption in their countries’ respective executive branches…. Trump railed against a mythological American deep state, whereas Putin—who spent decades as an intelligence operative before ascending to office—is a product of Russia’s very real deep state. Unlike Trump, who saw the U.S. state apparatus as his enemy and wanted to rule the country as an outsider, Putin rules Russia as a state insider. Also unlike Trump, Putin rarely dives into Russia’s social, class, racial, or religious divisions to gain political traction. Instead, although he targets individuals and social groups that enjoy little popular support, Putin tends to promote a single, synthetic Russian culture and identity to overcome the domestic conflicts of the past that destabilized and helped bring down both the Russian empire and the Soviet Union. That Putin seeks one Russia while Trump wanted many Americas during his time in office is more than just a difference in political styles: it is a critical data point. It highlights the fact that a successful U.S. policy approach to Russia will rest in part on denying Putin and Russian operatives the possibility to exploit divisions in American society.”

The Spanish bourgeois press, especially that of the “global daily” (globalist), maintains that Putin fears that next to the Russian border the “evolution of a free and thriving society” is being forged and “not any of the weapons that the Central European countries may have on their territory. None of them is a military danger to Russia. They are all, and Ukraine in particular, a danger as an example that freedom can be successful and not necessarily be a source of violence and chaos as happened in Yeltsin’s Russia and which is the scarecrow that Putin uses to defend his despotism. If the Ukrainian brethren can have a democratic and free country that works, there is a danger that the Russian brethren will conclude that they can, too. That is what Putin fears. That is why he says he is going to destroy the anti-Russia that the West has put in front of his door. What he has in front of his door is not against Russia, but it is a society that is against tyranny, and he feels, with much logic, very affected.”

In order to hold up the corrupt Ukrainian oligarchy as an example of a “free and thriving society” that “goes against tyranny,” it is necessary to have a face not made of reinforced concrete, but of titanium diboride. But this is how they tend to spin it in the once “Independent Morning Newspaper” but now “The Global Newspaper” (globalist, very globalist). This is the same media that published Zelensky’s corruption when he was in the Pandora Papers: “In March 2019, a month before winning the elections, Zelenski transferred his shares to Sergiy Shefir, a close friend and business partner who later became one of his main political advisors in Kiev. Neither the minister nor his advisers have responded to requests for comment.”

In the other bourgeois press, the liberal jim-dandy, the one that sees communists as the child in The Sixth Sense saw the dead. We are referring to the pie-in-the-sky Libertad Digital; and they just cannot stop writing nonsense wholesale: “Putin is the leader of a gigantic terrorist gang, president of a world terrorist power, called Russia. A mediocre nostalgic with nuclear arsenal and lack of scruples. We have been informed by many Russians who worked for him, who brought him to power and who risked their lives or freedom denouncing him. For nothing?”

A journalist, who is the epitome of being mediocre, calls the greatest statesman of our time “mediocre.” Ignorance has always been very bold.

But the one who takes the cake is the owner of a dog-and-pony show, one Federico Jiménez Losantos, whose comments are laughable. He calls Putin “communist” every other morning (like a mantra). And he pronounces this word with the same insulting tone as progressives pronounce the word “fascist.”

But Putin’s Russia is the country where more churches are being built and where the Christian religion (Orthodox, of course) is making a comeback; where gender ideology and liberal cosmopolitanism are most firmly attacked (Soros cannot enter there—n our country he has even got into the kitchen); where a private sector is becoming more and more influential in its economy; where brands like Zara have hundreds of stores throughout its vast territory; and where the Russian Communist Party is the main force of opposition to United Russia (Putin’s party).

To say that Putin is a communist and that he wants to restore the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is simply supreme ignorance or crude demonizing propaganda, the same as the former COPE announcer does with the USSR and communism in general in his book which is as fat as it is nonsensical, Memoria del comunismo (Memory of Communism). But that, among other things, is what I am here to criticize.

Agapito Maestre, professor of philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid, is not far behind either, having authored such unreasonable and stupid statements as: “Putin only intends to return to the old and cruel Stalinism. The totalitarian process of Putin’s era is also irreversible: the whole of Russia is already a Gulag. It will continue to stagnate economically, politically and socially.”

It is embarrassing that a philosopher, who even admired Gustavo Bueno during his lifetime and also after his eternal birth, should write such nonsense. You should amend your judgment, Don Agapito, because such statements are typical of the corruption of understanding or of a third-rate sophist.


Daniel Miguel López Rodríguez lives in Cortegana (Huelva), Spain. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Seville. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.


Featured image: “Vladimir Putin,” by Kalin Modev; painted in 2015.