The Wrong Referendum, The Wrong Saviour 371


I am not opposed to self determination for the people of Crimea; I am opposed to this referendum.  Nobody can seriously argue there has been a chance for a campaign in which different viewpoints can be freely argued, with some equality of media access and freedom from fear and intimidation.

Hitler invaded Austria on 12 March 1938.  The Anschluss was confirmed in a plebiscite on 10 April, just 28 days later, by a majority of 99.7%.  Putin has done it in less than half of the time, and I have no doubt will produce a similar result in the vote.  The point is not whether or not the vote reflects the will of the people – the point is whether the will of the people has been affected by military demonstration, fear, hysterically induced national psychosis and above all an absence of space for debate or alternative viewpoints.

There is no reasonable claim that Putin’s swift plebiscite is necessary because of an imminent threat of violence against Russians in Crimea.  There is absolutely no reason that a referendum could not have been held at the end of this year, in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, after everybody had a chance to campaign and express their position.  Putin has proved that force majeure is powerful in international politics, and there is every reason to believe that he could have finessed international acceptance of such a referendum in due course.  Germany, in particular, is much more interested in its own energy supplies than in the rights of Ukraine.  In twenty years in diplomacy, I never saw a single instance of Germany having any interest in rights other than its own national self-interest.  It is very likely such a genuine referendum would have gone in Russia’s favour.  But the disadvantages of open debate about the merits and demerits of Putin’s Russia, and his own self-image as the man of military prowess, led Putin to take the more violent course.

The vote yesterday in the Security Council should give every Putinista pause.  Not even China voted with Russia.  The Africans and South Americans voted solidly against.  That is not because they are prisoners or puppets of the United States – they are not.  Neither did they take the easy road of abstention.  The truth is that what Putin is doing in Crimea is outrageous.

What happens now is going to be interesting.  I greatly fear that Putin is looking to stir up as much disorder in Ukraine’s Eastern provinces as possible, perhaps with the aim of promoting civil war in which Russia can covertly intervene, rather than open invasion, but I do not put the latter past him.  Against that, I am quite sure Russia did not expect the extreme diplomatic isolation, in fact humiliation, it suffered at the UN yesterday.  I am hopeful Russia may step back from the brink.

The EU I expect to do nothing.  Sanctions will target a few individuals who are not too close to Putin and don’t keep too many of their interests in the West.  I don’t think Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovic need lose too much sleep, that Harrods need worry or that we will see any flats seized at One Hyde Park.  (It is among my dearest wishes one day to see One Hyde Park given out for council housing.)  Neither do I expect to see the United States do anything effective; its levers are limited.  I doubt we have seen the last of Mr Putin’s adventurism.

Human society is not perfectible, which does not mean we should not try.  I believe western democracy, particularly in its social democratic European manifestation from approximately 1945 to 2000, achieved a high level of happiness for its ordinary people and an encouraging level of equality.  For approximately 20 years unfortunately we have witnessed a capitalism more raw and unabated than ever before, and massively growing levels of wealth inequality, a reduction in state provision for the needy, a distortion of state activity further to line the pockets of the rich, ever increasing corruption among the elite and growing levels of social immobility and exclusion, a narrowing of the options presented by major political parties until there is not a cigarette paper between them and their neo-conservative agendas, and a related narrowing by the mainstream media of the accepted bounds of public debate, with orchestrated ridicule of opinions outside those bounds.  Democracy, as a system offering real choice to informed electors, has ceased to function in the West leading to enormous political alienation.  On the international scene the West has retreated from the concept of international law and, heady with the temporary unipolar US military dominance, adopted aggressive might is right polices and a return of the practices of both formal and informal imperialism.

But every single one of those things is true of Putin’s Russia, and in fact it is much worse.  Wealth inequality is even more extreme.  Toleration of dissent and of different lifestyles even less evident, the space for debate even more constricted, the contempt for international law still more pronounced.  Putin’s own desire for imperialist sphere of influence politics leads him into conflict with aggressive designs of the west, as for example in Syria and Iran. The consequence can be an accidental good, in that Putin has thwarted western military plans. But that is not in any sense from a desire for public good, and if Putin can himself get away with military force he does.  His conflicts of interest  with the west have deluded a surprising number of people here into believing that Putin in some ways represents an ideological alternative.  He does not.  He represents a capitalism still more raw, an oligarchy still more corrupt, a wealth gap still greater and growing still quicker, a debate still more circumscribed.  It speaks to the extreme political failure of the western political system, and the degree of the alienation of which I spoke, that so many strive to see something beautiful in the ugly features of Putinism.

 


371 thoughts on “The Wrong Referendum, The Wrong Saviour

1 11 12 13
  • Ben

    Members of the recently established POGROM seem inclined to dust off veteran commentators.

    Grammarians with a passion for verbose minutiae and concentrations of extraneous points having nothing but contrariness as their intent, run free.

    Run free free-range poultry !

  • A Node

    ESLO 18 Mar, 2014 – 2:00 pm

    “Clear ballot boxes and lack of secret ballots aid vote fixing because those who might wish to vote against might be intimidated into not doing so as a result of their views being made public, especially with Putin’s armed goons in close proximity. It used to be the case in the UK (pre 1832) that the way everyone voted was a matter of public record, the resulting shenanigans was one of the reasons why civilised countries moved to secret ballots.”

    You are avoiding the issue. How will their views be made public? If voters are concerned they can fold their voting slip. How then can “Putin’s armed goons” see which way they voted? The most common way of fixing an election is ‘ballot stuffing’ which is more difficult with transparent boxes.

    Many Western democracies including France use them:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_France

    The EC provides them to African countries to prevent vote rigging:
    http://www.sachajournals.com/user/image/ajss2013ghn002.pdf

    And a Danish manufacturer of transparent ballot boxes supplies the United Nations with them:
    http://www.cphelect.com/transparent-ballot-box

    Please explain HOW transparent boxes aid vote fixing, and why you are only concerned about their use in Crimea, as opposed to, say, France.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    A Nought

    “Please explain HOW transparent boxes aid vote fixing, and why you are only concerned about their use in Crimea, as opposed to, say, France.”
    ______________________

    If I might presume to answer on ESLO’s behalf : perhaps because, in France, referenda are not carried out against a background of foreign soldiers and mercenaries standing at the voting stations?

    *************

    Be a chimp, not a chump!

  • Clark

    Someone, no, it’s you that appears deceptive, not Craig . You commented about the dead in Iraq in order to counter Craig’s highlighting of the dead in Chechnya; this is clear from the context. It was a callous piece of whataboutery, and Craig was quite right to challenge you on it. Craig was also replying to one of the BNP “putinistas”; I recognised Black Jelly’s style even if you did not.

  • Clark

    Habbabkuk, don’t you be a chimpy chump. A Node has clearly shown that ESLO has seized upon something insignificant. That doesn’t make the referendum right, but ESLO should just say “oh, thanks, I didn’t know that”.

  • Someone

    “Someone, no, it’s you that appears deceptive, not Craig .”

    Clark,

    The FACTS are above, I will let them speak for me.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Clark

    “A Node has clearly shown that ESLO has seized upon something insignificant.”
    __________________

    If insignificance were a criterion for commenting on this blog, there would be a massive exodus of Eminences. Starting, perhaps with Mary and her comments about the Duchess of Cambridge’s shoes.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “..but ESLO should just say “oh, thanks, I didn’t know that”.”
    _________________

    That assumes that ESLO didn’t know. What’s your evidence for so assuming?

  • Clark

    Habbabkuk, do you really want to argue about that? Look at this comments section; it’s a disgrace! I thought you said you were doing quality control.

  • Cuthulan

    Craig why the “hate fest” against Putin?
    YOU seem to have issues.
    Anyone that offers a different opinion is either a “putinista”, whatever that is,do YOU even know?
    OR
    you just ignore them.
    BTW
    as YOU support centralised authorities like western representative democracy ,YOU ALSO SUPPORT PUTIN!
    As a Direct Democracy supportter I do NOT support Putin.YOU CRAIG are more to blame for Putin having power than me!!!..but I do not expect an apology,not from a polition!
    Centralised authorities are elected dictatorships and always produces corrupt leaders.Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,did you not know this? Or had you not noticed that the UK and USA was been run by war criminals and paedophiles from 1945 to 2000? and 1000’s of Dead South american children are ignored in Craigs fantasy island! But shoot a Chechnayan and you will never hear the end!!!!
    Or do you just blame Russian and foreign centralised authorities and see no war criminals and paedophiles in the UK centralised authorities?
    FYI
    Direct democracies don’t just arrest war criminals and paedophiles ,even if they are politions, they also arrest criminal bankers.Please check Iceland for an example!
    MEANWHILE IN REALITY…SOMEWHERE NEAR KIEV
    It was the Western centralised authority financing a Neo Nazi coup that caused this situation!!
    ..OR are you still in denial of this FACT!
    SO Where is YOUR irrational hatred aimed at “obamanistas”?
    Let the Ukrainians sort this out themselves.Your opinion on the referendum is irrelevant!
    BTW the vote seemed very fair and even the Crimean Tartars voted to join the Russian Federation instead of a Nazi Ukraine!
    …and Craig is supportting Neo Nazis the new liberal thing? Many German Nazis considered themselves liberal and progressive, I think you have been in coalition with the tories for too long!!

  • Bob Jackson

    No chance for a campaign? On 16 March, While Craig was writing that, Gary Brecher was writing this: “Unlike many Eastern Ukrainians, who speak Russian and consider themselves culturally but not politically Russian, Crimeans identify strongly as Russians, politically and culturally. They were very unhappy when Yeltsin let Crimea go to Ukraine after the breakup of the USSR. Nobody’s mentioning it, but the fact is that there was already a referendum in Crimea on staying with Ukraine or rejoining Russia.

    “On January 20, 1991, Crimeans voted to restore their ties with Russia by almost the same percentage (93.2%) we saw in today’s election—where, according to the BBC, 93% of Crimean voters once again voted Russian.

    “That’s a remarkably consistent vote, considering what a lot of chaos and poverty have encompassed the region since 1991. Back then, of course, no one in the West took the results seriously, because everyone knew the USSR was evil and anyone defecting from it was good. But it might be worth remembering that election now–because with Russian economic and military power backing them, the Crimeans’ vote might actually count.”

    http://pando.com/2014/03/17/the-war-nerd-everything-you-know-about-crimea-is-wrong-er/

    The capitalism Putin represents is a vast improvement on the western model trialled so ruthlessly in the Yeltsin years, with its catastrophic die-off. Putin’s grannies no longer die in the snow, and Parliament is not bombed into submission. Britain, awash in Russian oligarch money, is in no position to judge. Putin is “adventurist” only in the sense that the Kaiser was supposedly “adventurist” for congratulating Kruger on defeating the Jameson Raid, which was so akin to this fascist putsch.

  • Bob Jackson

    No chance for a campaign? On 16 March, While Craig was writing that, Gary Brecher was writing this:

    Unlike many Eastern Ukrainians, who speak Russian and consider themselves culturally but not politically Russian, Crimeans identify strongly as Russians, politically and culturally. They were very unhappy when Yeltsin let Crimea go to Ukraine after the breakup of the USSR. Nobody’s mentioning it, but the fact is that there was already a referendum in Crimea on staying with Ukraine or rejoining Russia.

    On January 20, 1991, Crimeans voted to restore their ties with Russia by almost the same percentage (93.2%) we saw in today’s election—where, according to the BBC, 93% of Crimean voters once again voted Russian.

    That’s a remarkably consistent vote, considering what a lot of chaos and poverty have encompassed the region since 1991. Back then, of course, no one in the West took the results seriously, because everyone knew the USSR was evil and anyone defecting from it was good. But it might be worth remembering that election now–because with Russian economic and military power backing them, the Crimeans’ vote might actually count.

    The capitalism Putin represents is a vast improvement on the western model trialled so ruthlessly in the Yeltsin years, with its catastrophic die-off. Putin’s grannies no longer die in the snow, and Parliament is not bombed into submission. Britain, awash in Russian oligarch money, is in no position to judge. Putin is “adventurist” only in the sense that the Kaiser was supposedly “adventurist” for congratulating Kruger on defeating the Jameson Raid, which was so akin to this fascist putsch.

1 11 12 13

Comments are closed.