Russia is seeking a legally binding pledge that NATO will stop expanding east, including to Ukraine. If the US refuses, is war next? Scholar and author Richard Sakwa analyzes the growing Russia-Ukraine conflict and how Russiagate fueled it.
Guest: Richard Sakwa. Professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent. His books include “Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands” and his latest, “Deception: Russiagate and the New Cold War.”
THE pandemic alas is not yet over, but there are no economic disruptions in the current fiscal year in the form of lockdowns or workers’ absence. The economy’s performance therefore can no longer be attributed to the prevalence of the pandemic; whatever it is, it is caused by economic factors.
Government spokesmen are busy claiming that the economy is displaying a robust recovery, and that the current fiscal year will post a double-digit growth rate. But a double-digit growth rate in the current year means nothing; since the previous fiscal year had witnessed a sharp absolute drop in GDP, in fact one of the sharpest among all countries of the world because of the government’s imposing a lock-down more stringent than anywhere else, a drop amounting to a staggering 24 per cent in the April-June quarter of 2020, a bounce back from such a trough is naturally to be expected; there is nothing to crow about it. The real question is how the current fiscal year’s performance compares with that of the pre-pandemic fiscal year, i.e., with 2019-20. And on doing so, we find that the first quarter’s GDP this year was well below that of the first quarter of 2019-20. The second quarter’s GDP is about the same as the GDP of the second quarter of 2019-20 (in fact it is just marginally higher by 0.3 per cent). In other words, given the 7.3 per cent drop in GDP last year compared to the previous year, even a double-digit growth rate of 10 per cent, which is higher than what government agencies like the State Bank of India are projecting for the current year (which is 9.5 per cent), will just about put the current year’s GDP 1.97 per cent above what it was in 2019-20; this is hardly indicative of a positive trend in the economy.
Who built the seven gates of Thebes? The books are filled with names of kings. Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone? —Bertolt Brecht, “A Worker Reads History”
Much academic debate about the origin of capitalism has actually been about the origin of capitalists. Were they originally aristocrats, or gentry, or merchants, or successful farmers? Far less attention has been paid to Brecht’s penetrating question: who did the actual work?
The answer is simple and of world-historic importance. Capitalism depends on the availability of large numbers of non-capitalists, people who are, as Marx said, “free in the double sense.” Free to work for others because they are not legally tied to a landlord or master, and free to starve if they don’t sell their labor-power, because they own no land or other means of production. “The possessor of labor-power, instead of being able to sell commodities in which his labor has been objectified … [is] compelled to offer for sale as a commodity that very labor-power which exists only in his living body.”
In 1922 the Soviet Union experienced severe famine conditions in some areas following on from the wars of intervention when imperialist powers had sought to crush the new Soviet state. Famine conditions recurred again in 1933, particularly, but not exclusively, in the Ukraine. There are two versions to this second famine that are radically different. An objective analysis indicates the famine to have resulted from a combination of poor climatic conditions and sabotage on the part of the rich peasants or kulaks in the face of the collectivisation of agriculture. Ukrainian nationalists however argue that the famine was deliberately contrived by Stalin in order to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people, and resulted in millions of needless deaths, in fact death and destruction on such a scale that it dwarfs the Nazi holocaust. Documentary evidence produced to support this claim is often endorsed by academics such as Robert Conquest, or James Mace of Harvard University. Such evidence is shaky in the extreme and often relies on discredited accounts from the 1930’s pro-fascist press in America, or even Nazi documents. Despite this it continues to resurface, most notably in the 1980s as part of an attempt by Ukrainian nationalists to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famine, and at the same time to fuel the cold war rhetoric of the Reagan era.