Weaponized National Identity, War and an Orgy of Profits - Reed Hoffman 2/3

Paul Jay discusses the manipulation of nationalism in the war in Ukraine, and the need for central planning and a form of socialism to face up to the climate crisis. Paul is interviewed by Reed Hoffman.


Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget the donate button. Subscribe if you’re on YouTube, and most importantly, come to the website and sign up on the email list. In a few seconds, I’m going to be back with a student, Reed Hoffman, who asked to interview me, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Reed Hoffman

I had another question relating to Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway regions. You were saying that, and I agree entirely that there was no excuse for either side to be using force in Donetsk and Luhansk. When I say either side, I mean Russia and the Ukrainian military. You kind of answered it, but you were saying that you think that they’re, at least in some portions, their claim to self-determination is legitimate? Is that your opinion?

Paul Jay

From everything I understand, which I would say is to some extent minimal because I haven’t been there. I’m not a student of their history, but I, as a first principle, support any people’s right to determine their own fate, whether it’s based on nationality or ethnicity. I’m a Canadian U.S. dual citizen. In Canada, where I grew up, I fully support Quebec’s right to self-determination. I made a film about it called Never-Endum Referendum. If people want to watch it, it’s on my site under the documentary section. There is absolutely no reason in any of these situations for countries to insist on defending their sovereignty and their control over areas and territories. It’s an issue for the elites because the elites own stuff.

If you take Donbas, which has industry, minerals, resources, and agriculture, and if you own that stuff, well, then the sovereignty really matters to you. How do you own anything?

Reed Hoffman

Yeah. It’s the government⁠— 

Paul Jay

You only own something when a piece of paper says, oh, I own this house. It’s meaningless unless there’s a police force with guns that will come and evict anyone that marches into your house without your permission. So, if you own stuff, you need a State, you need laws, and you need a way to protect that you own stuff. If you work in a factory, if you work in a mine, you work on a farm, and you don’t own that stuff, does it make that much damn difference to you, which country or what State? Well, yes and no. I would say yes and no. Yes, if the State you’re in defends your rights as a worker, somewhat more, somewhat better if you have more power than in the other State that might want to grab it. To some extent, yeah.

To a large extent, even if you take Donbas, okay, let’s say when they declared independence. The Ukrainian government should have just organized a referendum internationally observed. If the people want it, say great, go. Honestly, from what I know of Donbas, all they really wanted, in the beginning, was a federal solution similar to Canada. Quebec has its own civil code based on Napoleonic law. It’s not like civil law is not the same in Quebec as in the rest of the country. You also have language laws in Quebec to defend the French language, which the Russian-speaking people of Donbas may well have wanted. So that’s what they wanted. If the Ukrainian government wasn’t run by such corrupt, many of them very right-wing oligarchs, they would have found a peaceful solution to that situation. That said, the Russian oligarchies are no better. The Ukrainian oligarchy and Russian oligarchy all came to power by stealing the assets of the people that were previously public when there was the Soviet Union. They have States that represent their interests. The Russians were no more interested in a peaceful resolution of Donbas, I don’t think, than Ukraine was. The longer-run play was to try to get Donbas into the Russian Federation.

The speeches [Vladimir] Putin has made about the fact that there really is no Ukraine, it’s all the Russian brotherhood and all this. There could well have been a peaceful solution. Yes, I do believe, from what I understand, that the people of Donbas have a right to self-determination. It should now be part of a peace solution. There should now be a peace agreement, an internationally supervised referendum, and give the people of the Donbas region a legitimate choice whether they want to stay within Ukraine and a federal solution. Do they want independence and neutrality, or do they want to join the Russian Federation? The truth is the more facilitating the Ukrainian government is, the more people might want to stay.

The way it’s now, the problem now, and this is how the elites use this issue of sovereignty, which is really for their benefit, mostly. I’m not saying completely. Sometimes sovereignty matters in order to defend the people from an external aggressor. It’s not a non-factor. We’re not living in a world where you can have no borders now.

Reed Hoffman

Right.

Paul Jay

It’s a complicated question, but the inflaming of national identity, the inculcation from birth of national identity goes back to feudalism. It goes back to slave society where the elites who profit from and use and, to a large extent, themselves, internalize national identity as a thing that has to be defended with your life.

So the First World War is the best example. The elites, in order to fight over the redivision of Europe, fight over the redivision of colonies around the world, send workers from all of Europe at each other’s throats so the elites can decide which elites are going to be dominant and which elites get to exploit, not just all the soldiers on all sides that are getting slaughtered, but which elites get to exploit their labor after the war. People are willing to die for this stuff. The national identity is so deep in the psyche. You go to school in the United States, and you have to put your hand on your heart at school and say, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Every country is doing that, more or less. I have to say, they’re doing it a lot in Russia. The promotion of Russian nationalism is virulent and connected with the Russian Orthodox Church. The people’s national identity is so connected with the ideas that, oh, we were the empire we need to be again. It’s all connected with⁠— they talk about American exceptionalism, and this is a very big part of the national identity. Well, now you have deep Russian exceptionalism, and it’s not new.

Before the Soviet Union, the Russian nationalists and Russian Orthodox Church were virulently pro the idea that Russia is a very unique, identified civilization that defends the Christian faith. Russian nationalism was really promoted in schools and through the Church. It was connected with the idea of empire. Of course, the British did the same thing. I mean, there was no one who has done more destruction on this Earth than the British empire. I saw a number where they may have killed more than a billion and a half people over 300 years. This internalization of national identity is screwing up the people of Ukraine and Russia. One would think that after the Nuremberg trials and World War II, we would have learnt from this. We did for a time. We did.

As terrible as the police state became in the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union was pretty good at trying to damp down this right-wing religious nationalism. Now Putin has brought it all back. Of course, the Ukrainian oligarchs have brought it back into Ukraine. You have Ukrainian and Russian workers killing each other on behalf of the oligarchs and thinking they’re dying for their nation.

Reed Hoffman

You’re speaking of, in this case, and in many cases, but not all, that sovereignty is oftentimes an issue between regional oligarchs and the elite, as it were. I’ve been following not just the situation in Ukraine, but the unfolding ramifications around the world, specifically relating to the petrodollar and these sorts of financial implications. I was wondering what your take is on, from the perspective of an oligarch, not necessarily from the perspective of a citizen like you and I; who do you think is winning this war or at least who is benefiting significantly?

Paul Jay

The Americans and the Chinese. Anyone that argues that this is hurting the Americans, I think, is nuts. This is a wet dream for the American military-industrial complex. Germany is going to double their arms purchases and manufacturing. Finland and Sweden are seriously talking about joining NATO. There are serious conversations going on, on whether NATO was even necessary prior to this? Even [Donald] Trump was talking about what we need NATO for. Lots of people in Europe were saying the United States is nuts. Do we really want to be part of a military alliance with crazy people at the helm of the United States? Now NATO’s back to life. It reinvigorated NATO. Massive increase in military budgets. The U.S. dollar is up and up and up. All this talk about, oh, this is the end of the U.S. dollar. Well, I don’t see it. Global capitalism is all about China, the United States and Europe. Europe’s a big economy. They’re in no rush to get off the U.S. dollar. Russia may make noise about trading at rubles and all that. Putin is turning Russia into a satellite of China. What is the long-term future of a Russian economy, which is dominated by fossil fuel and arms export, and other stuff, minerals, and agriculture? The fossil fuel sector is by far the biggest.

So what’s the future of that economy? Russia’s a complete no-win in this. The Chinese are doing a balancing act. It looks like in the end, they’ll end up with an ally of Russia. They’ll have preferred access to Russian energy. It’s not really hurting them in much of the world. The United States can’t afford to get into a real other sanctioned war with China. The economies are too entwined. The United States just needs the Chinese market far too much and vice versa. The Chinese need the American market.

You can’t rule out the crazy shit factor. In the United States, the crazy shit factor is the growing strength of Christian nationalism, and that includes a lot of the billionaire class who seem to be actual believers, not just manipulators. They see China, atheistic China, as the real enemy. In fact, much of this sector sees Putin as an ally and a defender of the Christian faith. This is why Tucker Carlson and people like him were so reluctant to go after Russia and join in. Even in Russiagate and the other kinds of stuff. Taiwan, as a trigger for this, the Taiwanese are really pushing for more and more de facto independence, if not recognition of actual independence. There are forces in the United States, including from the military-industrial sector, who want this as tense as possible. Shit can happen. As much as rational minds on all sides may not want war over Taiwan, it wouldn’t take much to trigger something that starts to get out of control.

Reed Hoffman

Yeah, that’s interesting. I think you’re right. It’s really only a winning situation for the Americans and the Chinese.

Paul Jay

Here is the only way this becomes a kind of win for Putin and Russia. I’m not predicting this. I’m more speculating that maybe this is what Putin’s thinking. If or when the Republicans take control of Congress, if that happens, and there are certainly a lot of predictions that they will. If the Trumpist, either Trump himself or a Trumpist becomes president, then essentially, the Christian nationalists will control three branches of government. They’ve got the Supreme Court, more or less. They’ll have Congress, and then they’ll have the president. That’s a whole change of game, and it’s a change of game vis à vis Russia. As I said, a lot of these people see Putin as an ally. They can’t not jump in on the anti-Putin rhetoric right now. The military-industrial complex certainly wants it. All the ghosts and demons of the Cold War are so deeply implanted in the psyche of most Americans that it’s hard not to go along with it now.

I can imagine by 2024, if you get that kind of president, and Putin can imagine that, things really change. Now you start to get back to a Trumpist; who the hell needs NATO and the hell with Europe. Now you have a real isolating and targeting of China. Now you have a Russia that’s no longer enemy number one, at least, and maybe some normalization and relief on sanctions. Most importantly, if you’re Putin, you have climate deniers and climate science deniers back in power. More or less the end of any effective action on climate, which I have to say is also the end of human civilization as we know it but not soon enough to worry about fossil fuel and Russian fossil fuel. So if Putin’s doing calculations like that, maybe he says, okay, in the long-term, I’ll wind up with this very important piece of Ukraine: Donbas, the land bridge to Crimea, and Crimea. There’s a lot of wealth wrapped up in that. I’ll take the short-term hits. What have I accomplished? I’ve stoked Russian nationalism to such a degree that I can put somebody in jail just for calling this a war and not a special military operation. The power that’s accrued to him in the course of this nationalist fervor, with the full, full support of the Russian Orthodox Church. If there were any challenges to his power, this war has really solidified him.

 A similar thing happened to George Bush. Before the invasion of Iraq, there was a TV show. It was called That’s My Bush. It was a political satire about the Bush family. It just ridiculed President Bush while he was president on a mainstream television channel. That’ how in such low esteem Bush was.

Excerpt

“Would you stop that? Don’t you have some laundry to do?”

“Oh, you’re right. I’ve got to do like your father did and separate the whites from the coloreds.”

“Well, at least he believed in something.”

Paul Jay

He invades Iraq, and all of a sudden, he’s a wartime president. He’s a hero. So I don’t think that went unnoticed in the Kremlin or in many other centers of power. It’s just unfortunate how much the population is still capable of being manipulated by national chauvinism, this bullshit national identity, and war. I guess those are in his calculations. I don’t think he really wins out of this.

Did the United States really win out of the Iraq war? Well, if they went there for the oil, they actually didn’t wind up getting most of the oil. In fact, China has more oil contracts than the United States does. They wanted a pro-American government in Iraq. Well, the government in Iraq is as friendly with Iran as they are with the United States, maybe more friendly with Iran. So they didn’t get that. But you know what they did get? They made a hell of a lot of money out of the war itself, the process of the war. Same as Afghanistan. In the end, they had to leave with their tail between their legs, but individual corporations made a ton of money out of it.

The same thing’s going on in Russia. The oligarchs and the Russian State, which is almost like a fiefdom in many ways, are making a ton of money. The fossil price of fossil fuel is through the roof, and they’re still selling fossil fuel. I don’t know that they’re selling less fossil fuel, maybe different customers. The price of that fossil fuel is through the roof. All the fervor in arms exports, because much of the world is still buying Russian arms, including India. I think 60% of their arms come from Russia. The actual process of war itself, whether you win or lose, is very lucrative for the people that make money out of war.

There are a lot of factors at play here. The fundamental issue is the oligarchs win short term. Long term, human society is closer to coming to an end. Obviously, nuclear war is far more threatening now. I don’t think there’s a rational decision that’s going to be made to use nukes. There is actual serious conversation about low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, which is about as insane a conversation as you can get. If you have a tactical nuclear weapon, let’s say— I don’t think this is happening⁠— let’s say the Russians are about to lose in Donbas, and they get so defeated in Donbas that there’s actually serious conversation in NATO of whether to take things even further and wipe out some Russian troops on the Russian side? I really don’t think this is going to happen. I am in no way predicting this. What I am saying is if there was a use of a tactical nuclear weapon by the Russians because any real threat to the Russian State is when they say they would use it. What they really mean is any serious defeat of Russian conventional forces, they might use it.

Now, the Americans have exactly the same protocol in place and have had since the invention of the nuclear bomb. The American war plans always were. This is part of what’s going to be in this film I’m doing with Ellsberg. Any one brigade, an American brigade, gets in a direct fight with a Russian⁠— Soviet, at the time, but Russian now⁠— and starts to lose, the protocol is nuclear weapons come next. Now, it used to be, I don’t know if it still is, but it might well be, full-out nuclear war against Russia and China even if China is not involved. That was the military protocol, and many people think it still is. The point is, let’s say it starts with a tactical nuclear weapon. The other side isn’t going to just sit there. Okay, you’re going to use quote-unquote, low yield. Well, so will we. Boom. Well, you’re going to. Well, now I will. It doesn’t end because neither side will accept defeat. It has to escalate. The room for error in such a situation, even an almost situation; now you see a missile coming in. How do you know if it’s nuclear or not? There’s no time to figure it out. The real deterrent is in the submarines on both sides. As soon as the shit starts to fly, the subs have the orders to let loose.

Excerpt

“A full salvo from an Ohio class submarine, which can be launched in less than one minute, could unleash up to 192 nuclear warheads to wipe 24 cities off the map.”

Paul Jay

Now, the Russians are the same thing. They have a very similar level of⁠— the American subs and weaponry is more advanced, but the Russians have more than enough to wipe out the United States. Then number two, while the oligarchs are all⁠— when I say this, I certainly include American oligarchs, British oligarchs, French, Canadian, Saudi, you name it⁠— well, they’re all going to make short term more and more money out of this. Climate change is going to completely destroy organized human society and much, much sooner than these oligarchs think. They don’t take seriously the reports from the IPCC, which are conservative. They’re saying now that we’re going to hit 1.5 degrees warming by 2033. It’s a little more than a decade. Well, 1.5 degree warming is a disaster. It’s not an okay leveling. One point five is we can’t do any better than leveling off at 1.5. One point five is maybe double the extreme weather events we’re having now. Then you get to 1.5; it’s almost impossible not to get to 2 unless you have radically changed energy policies now. So you get to 2, and much of South of the globe becomes unlivable. So tens and hundreds of millions of people have to head North. Then what? Then you get into 2 or 3 degrees. By 2 degrees, if not sooner, most of the agriculture in the Midwest of the United States is gone. Gone.

So the oligarchs are making out like bandits. Bandits is a mild word for who they are. They are ushering in the end of organized human society. So even if we avoid nuclear war, we are absolutely heading into hell. They are in denial because they are in an orgy of moneymaking. It’s a drug. The daily life for most of these oligarchs is drugs, sex, debauchery, hundreds of millions of dollars, yachts and on and on. Then they have these States who protect them and who feed this kind of nationalism amongst the people. So, yeah.

Back to your question about who wins and whatever. Short term, these oligarchs, they are winning short term. Long term, they think their money is going to protect them. I think they’re wrong.

Reed Hoffman

It’s ambition. I’ll say as a side note, my brother is currently getting his Ph.D. in astrophysics, and he’s focusing on the Earth’s total resources and what would be required to actually colonize Mars or extract resources in an efficient manner. There is certainly a Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk faction of the ruling class that sees that, I think, at least personally, I think as their way out. The resources aren’t there. It’s just not feasible. We don’t have enough fuel for the rockets. It’s just not happening. So I agree with you.

Paul Jay

Well, even if it could happen, it ain’t happening in a time frame that’s going to matter. By the time we’re at that time frame, who knows what’s left of human society. If they thought they had global supply chain problems with the pandemic, imagine what it’s like when hundreds and hundreds of millions of people head North. What do those supply chains look like?

END


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written by Slim Williams for Paul Jay’s documentary film “Never-Endum-Referendum“.  

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2 Comments

  1. Paul:

    I agree with much of what you spoke of, and the nationalism you mentioned is a modern form of tribal behavior. Nationalism breeds more “isms”, extremism, terrorism, like it has done with the neo-nazis in Ukraine, and the Christian Right in the US. Economic hardship and climate pressures will only exacerbate this behavior. It takes a conscious effort to challenge nationalism, and I don’t know that humans are capable, under duress, of not reverting to tribal war. I mean, what will it be like to be black or latino under a Christian-nationalist gov’t in America?

    You mentioned the current strength of the Dollar, and as long as the US cultivates an image of strength, I agree that reports of its demise will be exaggerated. However, China grows stronger each year, is creating a commonwealth throughout the world (BRI), while the US creates failed states by comparison. Which economic vision will countries of the East and South want to embrace? (see https://multipolarista.com/2022/05/11/michael-hudson-dollar-sanctions-imperialism)

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