The Ontological Death of the West
From the fifteenth century onwards Western Europe transformed itself from a backwater into the dominant power in the world, through the subjugation of most of the rest of the world, the theft of so much of the world’s wealth and production, the settler colonization of the continents of North America (British), South America (Spanish/Portuguese) and Oceania (British), and the colonization of Africa (various) , the Indian sub-continent (British) and South East Asia (various). At the start of World War 2 the “sun never set” upon the British Empire. Utsa and Prabhat Patnaik in Capitalism and Imperialism do an excellent job of demolishing the self-serving imperialist myths of the European industrial revolution and showing how it relied extensively upon the looting of the rest of the world. Any visit to a European museum will tend to provide a crime scene, with the stolen loot of empire on display in room after room. Imperial apologist propagandists such as Niall Ferguson may try to conjure up a fantasy version of history to cover up the massive looting and destruction of the European empires, but such rubbish falls apart when contrasted with facts, as the Patnaiks show.
The self-serving fantasy version of an immanent European industrial revolution, arising from everything from a Protestant Work Ethic, to liberal democracy (which didn’t actually exist until the twentieth century), private property and capitalism is the ontology, the set of beliefs in how the world is, through which Europeans, the white settler colonies, and the “European” elites of South and Central America view themselves. What was once displayed as pure racism through the White Man’s Burden was transformed in the first half of the twentieth century into purely cultural terms – generally known as that of Western Civilization or more recently Liberal Capitalist Democracy and its inherent superiority over other political arrangements. When the self-serving historical fantasies are removed, this supposed “superiority” evaporates. One that views the city-state of 4th century BC Athens, where about 10% of the 300,000 population could vote (the rest were slaves, freed slaves, children, women and foreign residents) for a short while as the basis of “civilization”. At exactly the same time China, with a population of over 45 million, was developing a level of political complexity that made Athens look like a simplistic backwater in comparison. It was not until the nineteenth century that the West would overtake the political and economic power of China and also of India. It is the power of the West, that peaked in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the context of a still weak China, that both supports and is buttressed by the Western ontology. But instead of being the End of History, the 1990s were the peak of Western power; as with every Empire, it started its decline from its pyrrhic peak.
What we are seeing with the war in Ukraine is part of a truly global competition between the West and the rest of the world that wishes to throw off both the Western yoke and the fake history and self-serving Western ontology. For the populations, and especially the elites, of the West having to come to terms with the fact that they are not special, and that other civilizations and peoples of different colours may be able to defeat and surpass them will be like an ontological death. Their self-image will be shattered, and the psychological chaos of extreme cognitive dissonance will be unleashed. A resurgent Russia that decisively defeats both the Ukraine/NATO and Western attempts to destroy its’ economy will be a major blow to a self-image which has already taken damage from China’s economy’s refusal to “crash” no matter how hard Western opinion-makers wish for such an outcome or attempt to make it happen. The movement of economic power from West to East also eats away at Western dominance on a daily basis, and the West is now on the back-foot reacting and attempting to forestall further relative decline rather than expanding. What it cannot control it attempts to create chaos within, or at least manipulate through the bribery and co-option of elites and economic and political blackmail. The scale and scope of this conflict is astonishing and is hard to keep track of, in only the past two years it has included:
- The Chinese defeat of US-backed protests in Hong Kong
- A coup in Bolivia that was defeated by the mass of the population
- The election of the wife of the ex-President of Honduras who was overthrown in a Western-backed coup due to his mild progressive policy orientation (land reform).
- The disastrous US expulsion from Afghanistan.
- The disastrous trips of US officials to the Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries, all of which have reiterated their neutral stance toward the aggression of the US against China. Only tiny Singapore has sanctioned Russia after the Ukraine crisis.
- Nicaragua recognizing China and ending its relationship with Taiwan
- The ongoing Western attempt to overthrow the Ethiopian government in favour of the previous more Western-oriented one
- Coup d’etats in Guinea (former French Legionnaire), Mali (now seemingly more aligned with Russia), South Sudan (may have been internally driven), Burkina-Faso (French and US trained military) and a coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau
- A war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that was mediated to peace by Russia.
- An attempted colour revolution and then a coup in Belarus (driving Belarus closer to Russia)
- An attempted coup in Kazakhstan (driving Kazakhstan closer to Russia)
- What looks like a planned invasion of the Donbass by the NATO-directed Ukrainian army, forestalled by the Russian intervention
- The re-election of Orban in Hungary and Vucic in Serbia (both not toeing the line of the US, NATO and the EU) with larger margins of victory than expected. China now seems to be supplying arms directly to Serbia, a major change for China’s foreign policy orientation.
- The AUKUS deal that damaged US relations with both France and India.
- A military coup in Myanmar, subject to a Western-backed insurgency. Myanmar supplies natural gas to China, is an important part of the BRI and provides a port that bypasses the Straits of Malacca.
- An ongoing constitutional coup in Pakistan to remove the Russian-leaning leader Imran Khan and replace him with a US-leaning one. Pakistan is a major player in the BRI and provides a port that bypasses the Straits of Malacca.
- Thailand pushing through legislation that would allow the state to control the myriad of Western NGOs that are directly interfering in the nation’s internal affairs, in the face of a massive Western propaganda campaign.
- French polls showing that Le Pen, who is committed to leaving NATO, removing sanctions against Russia, and restructuring the EU, is running neck and neck with the neoliberal/neocon Macron. The Presidential run-off elections are on April 24th.
- Saudi Arabia seeming to want to end its war with Yemen and have closer ties to China, through such things as pricing oil in Yen.
- The negative response of India to US pressure on it to sanction Russia.
- The Russian demand to be paid in rubles for its energy exports.
- Ongoing US attempts to goad China into taking action against Taiwan.
It is hard to keep track of this global war, but it can be understood as five major groupings. Firstly, is the attempt to set the Russian periphery alight to remove its allies and deplete its economic, military and diplomatic resources. In Kazakhstan and Belarus this has spectacularly failed, in the Caucasus it was outplayed, and in the Ukraine destroyed by Russia’s military intervention. It has also failed with respect to the Western “loss” of Afghanistan, India’s support of their good relations with Russia and China’s role as a staunch ally. It may have a victory in Pakistan, but that at best may only last until the next Pakistani elections in August 2023; when there may be serious blowback for the obvious US meddling. The Russian periphery overlaps somewhat with the Chinese periphery, heavily in Central Asia; China may provide some limits on any Pakistani rapprochement toward the US. China’s periphery is the second grouping, with abject failure met within most of ASEAN, but chaos unleashed in Myanmar and Pakistan. The seemingly closer relations between India and China, aided by US pressure on India to sanction Russia and the insulting to India AUKUS deal, may completely derail the US dream of the “Quad” (US, Australia, Japan, and India) to surround China. It may also help bring an end to the Myanmar conflict by cutting off the insurgency’s supply lines. The US vassals of Japan and South Korea will always be that, but their populations and leaders (especially the new Japanese leader) do not seem to be of the suicidal orientation required for hostilities with China. Taiwan will continue to be an open Chinese wound that the US keeps exacerbating, but the US should reflect on the Ukrainian situation. If it gets what it wants in the South China Sea, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the result could be further destruction of US prestige through the impotence of its military and sanctions, and the destruction of its own economy.
The next grouping is Europe, especially Western Europe. For now, the US triggering of the Russian invasion has worked a treat in disconnecting Europe from its natural EuroAsian ally of Russia; greatly aided by the deep-seated racist superiority complex of the West European elites. Germans are now happily breaking the shop windows of Russians in Berlin in the same way they did such things to Jews without a hint of self-reflection. This may not last though, as the current Presidential election process in France is showing, together the strong victories of Orban and Vucic. It is also a question whether the German “traffic light” coalition will hold in the face of widespread German immiseration due to the massive blowback of Russian sanctions. As France and Germany goes, so goes the rest of Europe. The UK will continue to play the obedient bulldog on its US chain, and its elites and media conveniently knee-capped a genuine anti-racist left-wing leader with an utterly contrived “antisemitism” campaign. Those very same elites and media now celebrate actual Jew-hating Nazis, while the choice for the UK voters is now between a somewhat entertaining ruling class representative (BoJo) and a bland somewhat incompetent ruling class representative (Starmer); as the average Briton struggles to pay their energy bills and the nation continues to sail into ever greater oblivion and irrelevance while comforted by the warm blanket of its “glorious” past.
The next grouping is the Middle East and Africa, which is being increasingly aided in its struggle to throw off mainly US and French neo-colonialism. In Mali, the French have been given the heave-ho and the word is that Russian special forces may be arriving. In Ethiopia the government has resisted the reinstatement of the previous disgusting regime in the face of Western pressure. In other nations, US and French trained militaries have overthrown democratic governments, and of course the open sore of Libya remains contested within its medieval-like social conditions; thanks “humanitarian” intervention! The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will soon be rent by the effects of escalating food and energy crisis, perhaps leading to a new “Arab Spring”. This time, Russia, China and Iran (and Turkey unfortunately!) may be much more active against the West’s attempts to bend revolutions to suit themselves – creating a region of chaos that will only increase the flow of refugees to Europe. Once Russia has finished with the Ukraine perhaps then it will help finish off the foreigners who occupy Syria, allowing that nation to have a relatively benign Arab Spring. If the Iraqi people rise up against the US occupiers, the US may have to make a decision about what may become another “Afghanistan” for them which will forestall its efforts against Russia and China. With the Middle Eastern energy exporters also leaning toward their major customer, China, the US may also have to make a decision on the best use of its limited resources. It is the US, not Russia, that is spread thin by its belief in its right to a global empire. In all of this, the Lebanon that once was an island of beauty within the Middle East may continue to be the societal disaster rent between the interest of Israel and the West together with its kleptocratic Christian leaders, and the Muslim East.
The final grouping is the US “back yard”, or perhaps the “front yard” as Biden put it recently – Central and South America. China is continuing to make inroads into this continent, and although the US is still strong through its co-option and manipulation of the local oligarchic elites and militaries, it is increasingly contested. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have continued to resist US attempts to force them to cry “uncle”. Peru has elected a non-elite President (although there is an open war against him by the elites) who blew up the Canadian anti-Venezuela coup-plotting Lima group, and in Honduras the wife of the overthrown President is now President herself. The Mexican President is also steering as much of an independent path that he can do without losing his position or his life. In Brazil, even the President installed through the US-backed lawfare coups has refused to sanction Russia and Lula is set to be re-elected; short of a military coup. Unfortunately, in Ecuador, Correa’s Vice President Moreno turned out to be a traitorous piece of scum who sold out his country (and Assange) to the US as soon as he became President. Then, in the next election another traitorous piece of scum “indigenous activist” (Perez) split the alternative vote to get an elite representative elected; seems he hated Correa more than the neoliberals he supposedly also hated. His own statements brand him as a bigoted enemy of the working class and the indigenous population, not an ally but more a self-serving careerist. Argentina and Chile also have “progressive” Presidents, who are at least better than out and out US-poodle neoliberals and have also refused to sanction Russia. Colombia holds an election in May of this year, and if the ex-leftist guerrilla Petro wins, as is possible given current opinion polls, the US’ greatest ally in South America may be rent with a level of conflict which would make the current Peru look tame. We can assume that the US would be heavily involved in any attempts to overthrow a President elected by the Colombian people who did not understand the way that they were supposed to vote. As with a Le Pen victory in France, a Petro victory in Colombia would throw a huge wrench in the US global plans.
When we are thinking about a global conflict, we must understand the national power of each nation, with that bedrock being each nation’s economic output. Traditionally this has been measured using the US$ and market exchange rates, but with the benchmark itself overvalued due to reserve currency status and other nations explicitly “managing” their currencies the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) method is a generally more accurate measure. Using that measure, China has the largest economy at US$26.7 trillion (IMF 2021) which is larger than the whole of the EU plus the UK at US$21.5+3.2 trillion and also the US at US$22.7 trillion. In agreement with the position of Prof. Michael Hudson, I consider that the US economy has a much greater level of waste and rent masquerading as output than either China or the EU due to widespread oligopoly, financialization and state capture; the 20%+ spent on a failed sick care system and the widespread profiteering and corruption of the military sphere, together with financial profiteering counted as output are just some examples. In the 1990s I used to buy things when visiting the US from the UK because they were so much cheaper, nowadays many things are cheaper in Europe and the UK than in the US; just compare mobile phone and internet plans. The problem for Europe, especially Germany, is that the political leaders have committed to sanction policies which will help destroy their industry though high energy prices/shortages and generally high inflation. To add to Germany’s problems, its car industry seems to be substantially behind the ball with respect to electric vehicles and in danger of significant bankruptcy this decade. This decade, Europe may once again become the “sick man” as China continues its growth story. China also has its economic periphery in the neutral ASEAN with a US$9 trillion economy that is growing rapidly, and a US$10.2 trillion India that is edging closer to China, together with the US$4.3 trillion Russia. Japan at US$5.6 trillion continues to be the multi-decadal “sick-man” also at risk of losing much of its car industry, and South Korea at US$2.4 trillion has been relatively slow growing since its US-driven economic defenestration during the Asian crisis in 1998. I consider that during this decade Europe, the US and Japan will muddle through with slow grow at best, while China, the ASEAN and even a relatively corrupted India will continue to outgrow them. Russia may also benefit from continuously increasing commodity prices as global growth fights with resource limits. Time after time the West will be reminded of their slow ontological death, as it becomes harder and harder to claim superiority over those who outperform it. There may be even more books written about the coming “China Crash” as cognitive dissonance finds its early-stage literary outlet.
This is already becoming a long post, but there is one more point that I need to address; the mistaking by so many of the useful fronts behind which the truly powerful hide and use as useful expendable courtiers to present the appearance of change. In the US there has been a general elite consensus for opening up and exploiting foreign nations, knows as the “Open Door” policy and more recently as the “[US-defined] rules-based order”, which is very different from an international law-based order. The two great realist scholars, Mearsheimer and Walt, made this mistake with respect to the Israeli lobby in the US, mistaking cause and effect. The Israel-lobby is a wonderful smokescreen behind which the US powers that be hide, having the public think that they are doing things they are forced to do rather than things they want to do. The Israeli government will be annoying now and again, but the benefit of plausible deniability is worth it. In the US government we currently find a bunch of psychotic racist Russia-haters, Nuland, Blinken, and Sullivan etc. Gonzalo Lira has done an excellent job of laying out the deeply dysfunctional history of Ms. Nuland stemming from the pogroms of the Russian Empire over a century ago. Blinken’s family is also from the Pale of Settlement and his mother remarried into the family of Robert Maxwell’s power lawyer. Yes, that Maxwell that the Israeli secret services honoured at his funeral and who has a daughter named Ghislaine – a childhood friend of Blinken. Seems both Nuland and Blinken hate the Russians more than they hate Nazis. With respect to Sullivan, whatever turned him into a nazi-loving anti-Russian racist seems to have been well hidden. But, US policy against Russia is not that way because of these ideologues but because it fits the unchanged Open Door orientation which was so rudely put into question by Trump; hence the collective treasonous hissy-fit that the US establishment and its media organs fell into. The Ukrainian-born Alexander Vindman (pronounced best in the way Seinfeld would pronounce “Newman”) was the perfect careerist courtier representative of such treasonous acts, for which the rightful punishment is a firing squad. Russia can truly thank Donald Trump for delaying the Ukrainian action for a good five years, greatly aiding their preparations and resilience; no wonder the neocons hate Trump so much. The “true believers” are very useful as they truly believe in the crusade they are on, keeping prying eyes away from those behind the curtain. Once the mid-term demolition of the Democratic party is complete, I expect the brain-damaged human being who used to be able to remember that he was Joe Biden without external aid to be pushed aside; even Ronald Reagan only started losing his brain a few years after he was elected. Together with Biden will be all the Russian hating true believers as the powers that be move on from the ongoing disaster that will be their Russia policy. The fall guys will take the blame and the underlying policy will continue irrespective of the appearance of change. The careerist mediocrity Harris will then become President and mightily embarrass the US on a global scale from her exalted, and unearned (unless toadying to the rich and powerful while shitting on the rest counts as earned), position. Trump may be allowed to become President in 2024, as his only real sin was not to be aligned with the elite foreign policy. By 2024, the US may be desperate to forget Russia and go all in against China – meaning that the elite consensus and Trump may actually align fully!
That will of course lead to another huge failure, either for the West or the population of Earth in general. It remains to be seen whether the Western elites will accept a purely ontological death and rebirth or will seek out the physical version. Then of course there is climate change and general ecological destruction, but who gives a f*&k about that when we are fighting for who rules the world … fadeout to Tears for Fears