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Samizdata quote of the day

If Stalin was 75 percent violence and 25 percent propaganda, Putin is 75 percent propaganda and 25 percent violence.

Peter Pomerantsev, from “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia”

21 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Putin is indeed less inclined to the murder of tens of millions of people for ideological reasons that “Stalin” (the false name the Marxist Joe D. adopted).

    Indeed I doubt Mr Putin is a Marxist at all (people who deny that “Stalin” was a Marxist – are like people who say that the Nazis “misinterpreted” Fichte, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Alfred Rosenberg), Mr Putin hates the West most certainly – anyone who has seen his “RT” station knows that, but not (I think) for ideological Marxist reasons. He just hates us because he hates us (for all sorts of personality reasons – and, to some extent, because of old Russian resentments).

    Mr Putin is also a thug – a violent thug, essentially an Organised Crime type (like Al Capone), NOT a sincere and dedicated Marxist like “Stalin” or Mao (or the creatures who dominate Western universities and much else of what Marxists call the “ideological superstructure” out of which things such as Barack Obama have come).

    On one side an Al Capone type – with long historical resentments in Russia backing him up.

    On the other side a heretic Marxist (a Frankfurt School type).

    And then there is the People’s Republic of China (which combines capitalist economics with a vicious collectivist politics that seeks endless conquests for the Han Chinese race).

    And the Islamists – who the wise Mr Cameron keeps telling us are NOT our enemies.

    It is an unfortunate time to be alive.

  • Darin

    Mr Putin is also a thug – a violent thug, essentially an Organised Crime type

    Ok. And what does it says about the Western “leaders” when a mere street thug can run a circles around them?

  • Rich Rostrom

    Paul Marks @December 4, 2015 at 10:42 am:

    And the Islamists – who the wise Mr Cameron keeps telling us are NOT our enemies.

    Has he ever said that? I don’t know that he has ever referred to “Islamists” in a public statement.

    He has said that Moslems (as a class) are not our enemies, which is in fact true. “Islamists” are a sub-group of Moslems – and it should be noticed, their primary targets are non-Islamist Moslems.

  • bobby b

    “It is an unfortunate time to be alive.”

    It beats the heck out of the alternatives.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Obama is 25 percent skim milk and 75 percent Government Inspected Grade A #1 bullshit.

  • Ljh

    Putin has the advantage over western leaders in actually putting his country’s interests ahead whether invading Crimea or making a ME base in Syria. Cameron, Merkel, Obama, the EU don’t even have a glimmering of what should be national interest, let alone putting it ahead of the political pieties re migration, climate change or Islam.

  • Alisa

    I absolutely fail to see what advantage can the Russian people gain from Putin’s antics – so far they have been losing big time.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    The oil price is below $50. Russia is spending its savings. In about 18 months they will run out of money. What will then happen to Russia is utter collapse. Hyperinflation. No imported goods in the stores. (Russia imports *everything*). And Russia will have no friends in the world. At that point we will discover whether Putin has been acting in his country’s national interests or not.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    I’ve been meaning to review the Pomerantsev book, too. It’s a good book, but flawed in that it overestimates Russia’s significance in the world.

  • bobby b


    A feeling that Russia still matters, that their neighbors take them seriously, that they’re not just another remnant of a failed state.

    Without a team, soccer hooligans are just drunken louts. Putin’s giving Russians their team back.

  • Vinegar Joe

    “And look at Russia. It spreads all around and everywhere, and yet ain’t no more important in this world than Rhode Island is, and hasn’t got half as much in it that’s worth saving.” – Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad

  • Alisa

    ‘A feeling’ – indeed, which is not quite the same as ‘interests’. What Michael said.

  • Bruce Hoult

    Messieurs Jennings and Marks et al,

    I certainly agree with the assessment of Putin. He’s more in it for himself and his friends, I don’t think on the whole he gives two hoots for the long suffering Russian people.

    I’ve been living and working in Moscow since April, with another 2.5 years planned at present. Assuming the place doesn’t turn into complete anarchy, my situation here depends more on the fortunes of a large Korean electronics manufacturer than on the Russian economy. There is a bit of staff turnover with for example two of my colleagues recently (and independently — they surprised each other) announcing their impending departure to ARM Ltd in the UK. Women I’ve been dating here report difficulties in their companies. One, a graphic designer for local licensed Disney merchandise, says the remaining five in her department are doing the work that formerly was done by ten, and she’s taking work home in the evenings and weekends in an effort not to be the next to go. Another friend works in logistics for the local branch of a French-based major telephone equipment manufacturer. Most of their sales are to government departments and orders are way down this year.

    If anyone happens to be passing through, I’d be delighted to meet for a beer.

  • Bruce Hoult

    Sadly, Pomerantsev’s book doesn’t appear to be available in a Kindle version, unlike Kasparov’s (which I recommend as a good read).

  • Mr Ed

    I found on YT a video of a talk by Victor Suvorov, the former GRU spy who wrote Icebreaker after he defected to the West. He talked to the US Naval Academy in 2009 about the Soviet plan to attack Germany in 1941 and Stalin’s plan to get WW2 started by Germany. Suvorov ends up predicting that Russia will break up, but says that it was still dangerous. An interesting talk. He ends up saying:

    ‘…Liberty, it is a golden key for any success…’ at 49:12

  • bobby b

    “‘A feeling’ – indeed, which is not quite the same as ‘interests’.”

    There are many steps Russia might contemplate over the next decade which would work to restore what you term her “interests”.

    But the “feeling” of which I wrote – a nationalistic one – is a predicate step in binding together a society which is willing to suffer deprivations and hardships in order to pursue its long-term goals.

    I thinks it’s less worthless than you imply.

  • Alisa

    It is not worthless, Bobby – problem is, there are no long-term goals in the service of which such a feeling may be of real value to the people. In the case of Putin’s regime (and indeed almost any other Russian regime in living memory), the feeling serves not much more than said regimes and their staying in power. It really is quite sad.

  • Paul Marks

    I agree with Alisa and Michael – Mr Putin is not doing what is the best interests of the Russian people.

    But I also agree with those who point out that the Western leaders are useless – perhaps not criminal thugs, but useless.

    Life better than the alternative?

    Depends on one’s position – still I have not yet committed suicide. The practical problems are actually quite irritating.


    O.K. What is an “Islamist” – I have used the term but can I define it?

    I suppose the closest I can get to a definition is “someone who takes the practices of Mohammed seriously and tries to copy them”.

    For example, Mohammed had anyone who mocked him (even old blind poets, or pregnant poets) killed.

    Someone who took Mohammed seriously and wanted to follow his practices – would do the same.

    Why would they not do the same?

    Would Mr Cameron say this – I do not think so.

    Perhaps it should NOT be said – perhaps we should pretend (for various reasons) that Mohammed was a nice man.

    After all most Muslims ARE NICE – they really are.

    So perhaps we should stay quiet – and not make them choose between their niceness and Mohammed.

    The thing is that groups such as ISIS are not going to stay quiet.

    They are going to carry on pointing out what Mohammed did and approved.

    And if we wipe out ISIS – new groups will form, and they will say the same things.

    Can we hide the truth for ever?

  • Paul Marks

    Say there was a large group of people who held Thomas Hobbes to be a sacred figure – or Lenin to be a sacred figure.

    A bit odd as the first was a closet atheist and the second was an open one – but let us carry on.

    Let us say that most people who held Hobbes (or Lenin) to be a sacred figure were NICE – really nice.

    Should then one tell the truth about their spiritual leader?

    For example that Thomas H. spends many pages describing humans as nothing but machines – and denying that we can do other than we do (denying the possibility of MORAL choice), and that he spends far more pages denying any concept of traditional natural justice natual law embodied in the Common Law – upholding what we now call Legal Postivitism instead.

    If we disclose this – do we not force the nice people who follow Hobbes to make a choice between Thomas H. and their niceness.

    Mr Putin would apply much the same argument to Lenin and Stalin – at least I suspect he would.

    He would accept, at least privately, that they were mass murdering beasts – but he would also point out that (like Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great) they were “great” unifying figures in Russian history.

    Can not the Russian people people keep their unifying “Myths” (in the sense Sorel used the word “Myth”).

    Without someone like Paul Marks coming along saying “Peter built Petersburg on human bones” – or “Lenin and Stalin were both traitors to Russia – they both made deals with the German regimes”.

    Or “you can not accept Legal Positivism (the doctrine of Thomas Hobbes and others) and then oppose the Holocaust – if the doctrine that the will of the ruler or rulers is the only law, then I-was-only-obeying-orders is a valid defence”.

    Should one say this to someone who regards Thomas Hobbes as their guide?

    Or should one draw a sharp distinction between the real Mohammed, Martin Luther, Thomas Hobbes, Lenin, Hitler and so on – and the figure that exists in the minds of their nice followers.

    Take the example of the film “Iron Moon” (I think that was the name) – here Nazis live on the dark side of the Moon.

    Some of the Nazis in the film (for example the school teacher) are very nice – should one confront such a person with the truth about their spiritual leader Adolf Hitler?

    What abour a Russian who regards Stalin as the “Saviour of Russia in the Great Patrotic War” and has never thought further?

    Or an academic who thinks Thomas Hobbes believed in “peace” – and so he DID (in the same way Mohammed did – submission to the ruler).

    Does one confront such people with the truth about the beasts they follow – or does one stay silent?

    What about a very nice Lutherian – and I am sure most Lutherians are very nice.

    Should one confront them with the-slavery-of-the-will the total denial of human agency that Martin Luther comes out with in his debate with Erasmus?

    How about Luther’s statement that all women should be “wives or whores” (nothing else) – do they really need to know this?

    What about his views on Jews?

    Should someone who (sincely) holds Martin Luther as their moral and spiritual guide be told about this?

    My instinct is always – YES.

    Expose the lies – force them to choose between their guide and their niceness, and if they choose to reject their niceness (and become another enemy) then so-be-it.

    But I am correct in this attitude?

    Could a policy of silence (concerning Mohammed, Luther, Hobbes, Lenin and the rest) be the better policy in some cases?

    Perhaps, without lying, one could play up their good side.

    Mohammed was a great poet – and really did want peace (in the sense of submission to the ruler).

    Thomas Hobbes was good at mathematics – and really did want peace (in the sense of submission to the ruler).

    Stalin was sincerly interested in engineering and had a real practical grasp of it – even as an old man he took one look at the plans for the AK47 rifle and understood (at once) that it would be ideal for the sort of army he wanted to build.

    Perhaps one should concentrate on the positive side of these people – at least when dealing with those who admire them.

    I am not, entirely, ironic (or saracastic).

    I think I can understand why Mr Cameron talks the way he does.

    After all if he demands that Muslims in Britian choose between niceness and Mohammed – they might choose Mohammed.

    And that would mean war with millions of people in this country.

    So a policy of avoding the issue (not lying as such – just keeping silent) may be wise.

    Or it may not be wise – I just do not know.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Paul, when Bush 2 talked about Islam, he wisely talked about the twisted interpretation of Islam preached by al-quaida. Since there is no central authority to interpret things, any preaching you don’t like can be labelled ‘twisted’. By doing this, Bush did not antagonise the millions of Muslims who want to be part of the American Dream- if they all were pushed into being radicalised, America would have civil war again. So discretion is the wisest path, especially as a lot of muslims do seem to want to live peaceful lives in the West.

  • Mr. Ed (Arkengarthdale, Richmondshire)

    I asked a friend of mine in North Korea how he was doing, and he said ‘Can’t complain!‘.