Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Putin's Weltanschauung, Putin's Gamble

Is Putin still a Marxist? We don't officially know. We know that he is a Russian nationalist-imperialist, but that could skip back over the Soviet time to the Czars. We know he is not a socialist, but then were the Soviets? Kleptocrats, that's more down Putin's line.

But let's ask this question: how does Putin explain the world to himself? Does he still look at the world through Marxist glasses, at least partially? All young Russians from his generation were subject to very detailed, very long schooling on Marxist theory. Marxist theory presents an entire way of looking at the world, much as do religions. The Jesuits said, “Give me a child for his first seven years and I'll give you the man.” World views stick.

Which brings us to today. Putin has embarked on a very risky campaign in the Ukraine. He has invaded a country and ripped off part of it, and is in the process of trying to rip off more. He has to think, will the Western powers try hard to stop him?

The Western powers are capitalistic. Marxist theory tells us that the state is governed by economic forces, and even if it appears that the official leadership is making decisions, it is really the capitalistic forces behind the curtain that are pulling the strings. Their motivation, Marxism tells us, is profit, pure profit.

The facts are that the Western states have extended their markets into Russia. The oil companies especially are intertwined with Russian oligarchs in projects to extract wealth from the Russian land. In addition, something like 40% of Germany's foreign trade is with Russia. The Netherlands (home of Shell oil) are likewise intertwined. London has benefited mightily from capital infusion of Russian oligarchs into the City. Will state interests of geopolitics trump the short term profitability of the companies that make up the backbone of Europe? Will Europe risk recession and a very cold winter or two, simply to protect the interests of a country far, far away, with little to offer them in terms of profits?

Putin might no longer believe in socialism, but I would wager that his world view remains shaped by Marxist precepts. I think he doubts that when push comes to shove, the capitalistic powers will forego profits in favor of the state's geopolitical interests. I think Putin holds the concept of democracy in contempt when it comes to action and power. I believe that Putin is ready to bet his political life on his Marxist precepts. I think Putin will push and push, and gradually concede only a little at the end.

And who can say it isn't a good bet?

Budd Shenkin

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