Friday, May 20

Highly coercive authoritarian systems

The visit of the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodímir Zelensky in kyiv, during which he announced an important shipment of military material to help that country resist the attack by Vladimir Putin’s troops, has a obvious symbolic. The initiative is part of a front of democratic states that support Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Some states in whose societies it is possible to debate the level of involvement that must be maintained in that war and where the most pacifist or warmongering positions, more favorable to neutrality or intervention, as well as the different geopolitical visions of the conflict and the role played by the European Union and NATO. In Russia, no. Russia also lacks support from any democratic country for its aggressive maneuver.

Every day more horrible news arrives about the barbarism perpetrated by Russian troops in cities like the besieged Mariupol. It is a contest, marked by the resounding initial failure of the assault by Putin’s troops on the city of kyiv, in which a characteristic of what Thomas L. Friedman, a journalist with three Pulitzer Prizes, has defined in New York Times as “high-coercion authoritarian systems, which are low-information systems, so they are often more blind than they think.” Friedman thinks that Russia and China are in trouble for it. Putin’s Russia, which he considers to be based on “oil, lies and corruption”, due to the obvious miscalculations regarding the sanctions that dozens of countries have ended up applying to him, the inefficiency shown by his own army and the ability to Ukrainian resistance, which has placed it in a high-cost and long-lasting confrontation. The China of Xi Jinping and his communist party, due to the determination to combat a global pandemic such as Covid-19 with a rigid local solution, which has led to the conflictive closure of Shanghai and 44 other cities in which 370 million live of people.

These days have been recalled to explain what is happening in China with the “Covid zero” strategy -which seems to have wasted the two years of the pandemic due to a failed attempt to hermetically isolate the gigantic country from the coronavirus- the episode that occurred with sparrows in the late 1950s, when the “great helmsman” Mao Zedong ruled and the campaign against the “four plagues” (mosquitoes, mice, flies and sparrows) was launched. The idea was to prevent the birds from devouring the crops and, on a huge scale, the population was mobilized to go out and make noise with pots and pans, in order to scare the birds and make them die of exhaustion, they were poisoned and Their nests were destroyed. The campaign achieved the virtual extinction of the sparrows. And the crops were then devoured by insects, such as locusts, which the sparrows used to keep at bay, with the consequence of a famine that caused between 15 and 45 million deaths.

Democratic systems have flaws, many at times, but autocratic regimes are intrinsically dysfunctional because their members, as Friedman points out, practice lying upwards in order to drill downwards and extract the resources with which a few enrich themselves. The neoliberal and runaway globalization phase of recent decades has tended to forget these facts. It was believed that capitalism without controls or borders would contribute to reforming the structural problems of autocracies and authoritarian systems, immersed in that combination that characterizes them of an unleashed consumer economy, oligarchic accumulation of property and capital, reactionism, with the dynamics of markets. morality, extreme nationalism and repression of dissent. If we analyze the programs and approaches of the extreme right that are emerging in Western countries, we will find a very similar formula clearly drawn, which is made strong thanks to the fact that some of these tendencies are also produced, favored by the impact of growing inequality and a discredit of social cohesion policies, within democracies

It is difficult to predict what will happen in Russia or in China in the short and long term. We know that Ukraine will resolutely defend its territory and its democratic system because its citizens feel part of a Europe that, in turn, suffers the economic consequences of a war on its soil. What no one can deny is that we are facing a turning point in globalization and in international relations. And it would not hurt for us Democrats to remember that phrase by Franklin Delano Roosevelt according to which “democratic aspiration is not a simple phase of human history, it is human history.” Nor would it be bad for us leftists to remember that, on occasions, as happened in our Civil War without going any further, some are forced to defend freedom with arms and it is not acceptable for democratic nations to look the other way.

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