Eastern Democracy was based on Imitation, which confesses others are Superior

08:28
uh the the thesis of the book we were
asking
why is it that democratization produced
a politics of grievance and resistance
and resentment and one the simplest
answer
is that uh democratization was imitation
and imitation
uh uh is associated with the confession
that the other is superior you’re
inferior
and of course that produces resentment
but more
particularly if i could give you just
one i think uh
very revealing example
of how this uh how this developed let’s
take hungary as an example
the hungarians took standard model
thatcherit
privatization which uh uh developed in
the west
they tried they applied it in a society
with no private capital
the consequence of this was in a way we
should have seen it ahead of time
was that managers took the assets of
their enterprises
and uh used that to buy the enterprises
for themselves
creating their own private wealth and uh
this was the beginning of the
development of an appalling inequalities
in these uh in east european societies
post-communist societies unjustifiable
inequalities which were resented but not
only that
the the language of liberalism which is
the language of human rights individual
rights
was not able to capture or to articulate
the grievance uh experienced by those
who watched the public patrimony of
their country
put into the pockets of individuals who
were insiders
so the privatization of polypatrimony
was a uh was was experienced as an abuse
as a
10:09
as a as a crime but it couldn’t be
10:12
articulated in the language
10:13
of individual rights of liberalism and
10:16
indeed
10:17
the language of liberalism particularly
10:18
the language of private property rights
10:20
be uh beca banned blessed or justified
10:24
this process which was widely viewed as
10:27
illegitimate and unjustifiable and and
10:30
of course
10:31
personally painful if you are your best
10:33
friend
10:34
you have two friends uh uh they’re very
10:37
equal one day
10:38
in a couple years one of them is riding
10:40
around in limousines
10:41
the other can’t afford a bus ticket one
10:43
is eating at fish restaurants every
10:45
night the other
10:46
can’t afford a piece of fresh fruit that
10:48
produces resentment so the
10:50
the the westernization process created
10:53
traumas in these societies which we
10:55
didn’t foresee and didn’t predict
10:57
but that was the seedbed for this
11:00
populist revolt against the liberal
11:02
order
11:03
now for those of us who grew up during
11:04
the cold war this is going to sound
11:05
passing strange but there are many on
11:07
the right
11:08
in eastern and central europe that
11:10
consider the european union to be the
11:12
new
11:12
soviet union how can that be
11:15
yeah this is a very strange development
11:17
interesting and kind of
11:18
complicated so the first thing is that
11:21
reform elites
11:23
in eastern europe were very eager to uh
11:26
to join in the accession process to the
11:29
european union
11:30
and therefore accepted the post-national
11:32
rhetoric
11:33
of the european union that if you
11:35
remember was really developed to help
11:37
germany
11:38
overcome its nationalistic past so it
11:40
was a very post-national language
11:42
and that um meant that this these reform
11:46
elites
11:47
were leaving behind in their own country
11:50
national symbols
11:51
national traditions they kind of didn’t
11:53
speak about them
11:54
and therefore when resentment uh or when
11:57
when the west entered into crisis
11:59
particularly in 2008
12:01
and the western model seemed to be less
12:04
than it was cracked up to be
12:05
and to present problems um a counter
12:08
elite emerged
12:09
in eastern europe in central eastern
12:11
europe mostly of provincial origins
12:13
who blamed everything that went wrong
12:17
on the fact that they the reform elite
12:19
had abandoned the nation
12:20
had abandoned national traditions so
12:22
this was a uh
12:24
the the accession process was a viewed
12:26
as a
12:27
betrayal of national authenticity
12:31
uh in in addition there’s another very
12:34
interesting factor which is that the
12:35
european union was
12:36
asking all in and hungary become
12:39
democratic
12:39
you must learn how to become democracies
12:42
like we in the west
12:43
at the same time brussels was saying we
12:46
are going to write all of your laws
12:48
so while you’re becoming democratic
12:50
actually your laws are going to be
12:51
written in brussels
12:52
this produced also resentment and a
12:54
feeling that there is something
12:56
uh perverse or uh arrogant about
12:59
brussels obviously brussels is not
13:02
moscow it doesn’t have a boot
13:04
on their throats but it did it does did
13:06
convey
13:07
a sense of uh superiority judgmentalism
13:10
and then i i need to uh emphasize that
13:13
although
13:14
the west did not impose democracy and
13:18
liberalization
13:19
it did judge the progress of
13:22
democratization and liberalization
13:24
and in a way westerners when they
13:26
visited eastern europe i saw this a lot
13:28
i worked there of course in the 90s
13:30
uh it was as if it’s in the way tourists
13:33
visit a zoo you know
13:34
you go to the zoo you look at the
13:36
primates you say well
13:38
uh they’re like us but they’re lit
13:40
missing something they don’t have an
13:42
opposable thumb
13:43
or they don’t have the rule of law so
13:45
you’re kind of saying you’re you’re kind
13:46
of a copy of us but you’re not a very
13:48
good copy
13:49
and probably you’ll never be much good
13:51
so there was a feeling of
13:52
being looked down upon uh which also
13:55
stirred resentment uh and let me just
13:59
say one other thing about
14:00
i think authenticity the sense these
14:02
populists are claiming that they
14:04
are those in touch with the authentic
14:06
tradition which has been
14:08
lost by westernization and
14:10
democratization so
14:12
in 1989 uh it’s clear that the
14:16
nationalists were allied with the
14:19
liberals in the revolt against moscow’s
14:21
empire
14:22
so in poland there was a lot of
14:24
basically trying to get away from russia
14:25
was a very important motivation now they
14:28
didn’t
14:29
speak the language of nationalism at the
14:31
time probably because it was not a
14:32
language welcome in brussels
14:34
but also because this was the period of
14:36
milosevic you know the bloody side of
14:38
nationalism and milosevic was a
14:40
communist communist so a man like
14:42
kaczynski would never
14:43
echo milosevic so there was the language
14:46
of nationalism was subdued
14:49
and when after 2008 2014 the immigration
14:52
crisis
14:53
these populist knees near felt freed
14:56
from having to
14:57
to cover their nationalism with the
14:59
language of liberalism so
15:01
it it it had felt like a kind of cage
15:04
in which they were trapped and they
15:06
broke out of it
15:07
and returned to this kind of nativist uh
15:10
way of feeling which had always been
15:12
there but had been muffled so it was
15:15
that’s part of the why populism seems
15:18
authentic to them
15:19
well let’s extend your metaphor a little
15:22
further if we want to talk about the
15:24
number one primate in the zoo boy this
15:26
is a terrible analogy
15:28
uh should we ask about russia here why
15:30
didn’t i i mean
15:31
the the many of the central and eastern
15:33
european countries did sort of flirt
15:35
with
15:35
liberal democracy for a while before
15:38
adopting illiberal democracy that they
15:40
have today but russia never did
15:41
why why did russia never try it well i
15:44
mean first of all you have to remember
15:45
that in the soviet union
15:46
elites have been have found it very easy
15:49
to
15:50
fake democracy have fake elections
15:52
because they’ve been faking communism
15:53
for at least two decades before
15:55
uh they were sort of dressed up this way
15:58
let’s pretend we’re having to
15:59
have elections these are all rigged of
16:01
course uh
16:02
and uh we know he’s going to win and
16:04
there’s not really any competition
16:06
that was very easy for them to do they
16:07
also in russia by the way
16:10
they they had a communist training told
16:12
them that democracy is just
16:14
a trick by which elites uh deceive their
16:17
publics
16:18
and hold on to power capitalism is just
16:20
really an elite project to
16:22
exploit the working classes and so on so
16:25
they were
16:25
very comfortable with that idea of
16:27
capitalist democracy
16:29
but in the end basically uh russia
16:33
was so injured i mean the main thing to
16:36
understand about the russian
16:37
situation is they lost huge part of
16:40
their territory
16:41
uh a huge number of their population
16:43
they lost their superpower status it was
16:45
a
16:46
it was a huge injury to the self-image
16:48
of russians which was not true in
16:49
eastern europe that they didn’t
16:51
eastern europeans didn’t have this
16:52
imperial swagger this imperial
16:54
claims that they were you know on the
16:57
top of the world
16:58
uh and actually exporting their own
17:01
model
17:01
elsewhere so that was a very strong and
17:04
i think the so the russians for
17:06
a couple decades were pretty happy with
17:08
just faking democracy and
17:10
but in the end as putin came to power
17:13
the resentment of being treated as
17:16
second-class
17:16
citizens as being looked down upon as
17:18
being taught lessons
17:20
by the west boiled over and uh the
17:23
russians
17:24
went from this like faking a democracy
17:28
to a what we call aggressive imitation
17:31
uh that is
17:32
imitation of the west which is designed
17:35
to humiliate the west
17:36
uh which is designed to show that the
17:38
west is hypocritical so for example
17:41
in the speech he gave putin gave
17:44
justifying the annexation of
17:46
crimea he basically imitated word for
17:49
word
17:49
uh western speeches about the
17:51
independence of kosovo
17:53
human rights national self-determination
17:56
and so forth but this was
17:57
very much a kind of imitation meant to
18:00
expose the west’s
18:01
hypocrisy and uh yes i think that’s
18:05
i think that’s a good uh way to
18:07
understand the putin regime which is not
18:09
people often uh act as if putin is a
18:12
great strategist and it is true that
18:13
he’s played
18:14
beforehand well but he’s not a great
18:16
strategist his
18:17
his main aim which is not strategic and
18:20
is not
18:21
helping russia redevelop itself is to
18:24
expose the west as hypocritical that’s
18:26
his
18:26
obsession uh and i think that’s a
18:29
blind alley that’s a dead end maybe a
18:31
blind alley but most days of the week
18:33
it’s not that hard to do
18:34
whoops there’s my little editorial
18:36
comment uh let me try this
18:39
do we have to come to the unhappy
18:40
conclusion therefore
18:42
that liberalism as we understand it is
18:45
really not exportable
18:47
to cultures that are if i can put it
18:49
this way wired differently
18:51
from those of us in the west i think
18:54
one of the big lessons of the 2003 war
18:58
in iraq
18:59
is that uh trying to impose a
19:02
democratic system after a six-week
19:04
military campaign
19:05
in a country where three-quarters of the
19:06
population married their first cousin
19:08
and so
19:08
it’s a completely different social world
19:10
you can’t just you know uh
19:12
impose something like this and that that
19:15
was such a lesson even though
19:16
our uh uh international internationalist
19:21
humanitarian internationals uh went over
19:24
there
19:25
with the uh crude and i think uh
19:28
defenseless uh idea that the only
19:31
legitimate authority with whom we are
19:33
going to deal are going to be authority
19:35
that’s elected
19:36
i think it’s very good to help so the
19:38
listeners to contrast what
19:40
how we behaved in afghanistan and how
19:42
the americans behaved in afghanistan and
19:44
how they behaved
19:45
in iraq and afghanistan we had been
19:47
there for decades we
19:49
knew all the warlords we didn’t say to
19:51
the warlords you must be elected
19:53
before we negotiate with you but in iraq
19:56
the religious leaders the tribal shakes
19:57
were set aside we had this
19:59
fake ideological belief that we have to
20:02
create authority by elections which of
20:04
course is a
20:05
is a uh it is based on historical
20:08
ignorance
20:09
democracy is a tiny spot in human
20:11
history
20:12
it has cute enormously complicated
20:14
preconditions
20:16
it doesn’t we we’re confusing the
20:18
absence of obstacles with the presence
20:20
of preconditions we thought if you get
20:21
rid of saddam
20:22
you’re going to have democracy just like
20:24
if you get rid of communist elite you’re
20:26
going to have democracy
20:27
and this was an illusion it’s a
20:29
democratic ideology that
20:31
idea was uh is is is it
20:34
uh uh ex exposes a kind of disgraceful
20:38
historical ignorance which was uh at the
20:41
basis of much of american foreign policy
20:44
in the post-cold war era we’ve got about
20:46
five minutes to go here so let me try a
20:48
couple more questions with you
20:49
your book now suggests that we’ve
20:51
entered an age of illiberal
20:53
imitation how do you see that
20:56
well it’s a strange uh fact that uh
21:00
president trump seems to be uh uh
21:03
accepting putin’s uh a strategic goal of
21:07
dismantling the european union
21:09
of destroying all of the international
21:11
organizations created by the united
21:12
states after world war
21:14
ii uh and he’s at war not only with the
21:17
wto the who in
21:19
all the world america made seems to be
21:21
uh uh
21:22
the liberal world order seems to be
21:24
something that trump himself
21:26
is uh attacking so that is a a kind of
21:29
imitation of and he’s using the rhetoric
21:32
nationalist rhetoric anti-immigrant
21:33
rhetoric
21:34
of orban and kaczynski uh and the
21:38
anti-western
21:39
uh language and also by the way
21:42
uh he’s the first american president who
21:45
has not said we deserve to rule the
21:47
world because we’re morally superior
21:49
i mean that’s a kind of not a very
21:52
likable uh uh position to take but every
21:55
american president has taken that
21:57
basically
21:58
trump says no no we’re just like
21:59
everyone else uh
22:01
well what i was personally don’t you
22:03
think
22:04
is that again be a tough case for him
22:06
personally to make it
22:07
imitate him personally yes i would say
22:10
but he of course
22:11
his basic uh thing is he resents
22:14
this is sort of the trump world view is
22:16
he resents terribly
22:18
the countries that imitate our uh
22:21
economic productivity
22:22
or or are horning in on our market share
22:25
and so on so
22:26
he’s a person who has claimed i think
22:28
the first american president ever
22:30
to say that america is the greatest
22:33
victim of the americanization
22:34
of the world so that’s part of it but i
22:37
wouldn’t like uh to say a word about
22:40
uh the current crisis we’re in and i’m
22:43
i’ve been asking myself and my colleague
22:45
yvonne krustev
22:46
we’ve been speaking about this as well
22:48
what does the was the current pandemic
22:51
tell us about the trauma of liberalism
22:54
and the the competition between
22:56
liberalism and populism
22:57
uh because in a way uh the
23:01
the previous crises of liberalism 19
23:04
uh the uh 2001 in which it turned out
23:07
that
23:08
defending human rights the whole uh idea
23:11
of defending human rights as the primary
23:12
value
23:13
seemed to give way to the battle against
23:15
terrorism in which rights were viewed as
23:17
a trojan horse for our enemies
23:19
2008 which really showed that our
23:22
economic elite
23:23
i didn’t know what it was doing so that
23:25
also uh really hurt our prestige to uh
23:28
2014
23:29
in which the migrant crisis uh made
23:32
people feel like open borders
23:33
were a threat to western civilization
23:36
and so on all these things have
23:37
combined and and we’re under a
23:40
uh we’re living in a time where those
23:43
three crises have seemed to be
23:45
accumulating in the present one
23:46
and weakening the liberal commitment to
23:50
globalization and so forth
23:51
openness uh at the same time
23:54
every political order has its own
23:57
disorders and populism
23:59
is producing its own discontents and
24:01
these populist leaders
24:02
bolsonaro trump authoritarians like
24:05
putin
24:06
strangely enough they are very afraid of
24:09
this crisis
24:10
they are not you know taking hold of it
24:12
and using it
24:13
to uh to uh uh to their benefit
24:16
uh there’s a way in which this kind of
24:19
crisis has
24:20
uh had is is challenging any kind of
24:23
regime
24:24
the archaeon regimes we saw that in
24:25
china where they’re hiding evidence
24:27
we see it in the west some some
24:29
democratic societies have done well some
24:31
authoritarian societies have done okay
24:33
it doesn’t seem to fit well into our
24:36
ideological
24:37
uh polarities so i think that’s and the
24:39
way i would put this in the end the
24:40
question open to us
24:42
is now in the future is is the pandemic
24:45
going to
24:46
increase our reliance on science and
24:49
rationality
24:50
belief in fact consciousness or is it
24:53
going to
24:54
uh create a uh is the panic
24:57
of and fear going to lead to more
25:00
conspiracy theories
25:01
uh and more xenophobia uh uh
25:04
migrant bashing uh so we’re on a knife’s
25:08
edge
25:08
i think and the the fate of the liberal
25:11
model and the liberal commitment to
25:13
rational decision making
25:14
uh and uh the uh uh
25:17
and its competition with these populist
25:21
myth makers
25:22
sloganeers who are always trying to sell
25:24
something has not been decided
25:26
i definitely do not think the populists
25:29
have the upper hand
25:30
i think the populists are also
25:32
struggling and they’re
25:33
not finding this an easy crisis to deal
25:36
with
25:36
so although i don’t believe that the
25:39
west is covering itself with glory
25:41
either
25:42
uh the whale and liberal regimes are
25:44
also struggling because
25:46
uh the the disease is hard to understand
25:49
and it’s hard to master
25:50
i i definitely don’t believe that uh the
25:54
current crisis is going to
25:56
really decide the question in favor of
26:00
of the populists well why don’t i
26:02
freelance then and just uh re-title your
26:05
book the light that’s failed
26:07
so far and we’ll leave it there uh
26:10
i want to thank you very much professor
26:11
holmes for joining us on tvo tonight
26:13
congratulations again on your gelber
26:15
prize
26:15
uh for anybody who wants to pick it up
26:17
yvonne krastieff and stephen holmes
26:18
collaborated on the light
26:20
that failed are reckoning take good care
26:22
and thanks for joining us on tvo tonight
26:25
thank you steve
26:30
the agenda with steve pakin is brought
26:32
to you by the chartered professional
26:33
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26:35
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26:49

The death of the archetypal Russian villain

THE cold war was fought as much in the imagination as on the battlefield. Each side sought to project images of social and cultural superiority; stories of people corrupted by the decadent West or persecuted by the KGB were turned into weapons. This struggle was largely waged on screen, in shows and films that were subject to varying degrees of government involvement. When the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union followed, writers and directors put down their arms. Barely any films about the cold war were made in the years immediately following its end.

..  For example, Ivan Drago, the antagonist of “Rocky IV” (1985), was an emotionless brute: “If he dies,” he memorably says of a defeated American boxer, “he dies.” So was Podovsky, a Russian torturer, in the “Rambo” series. In “From Russia With Love” (1963), the assassin Rosa Klebb relished inflicting pain on both her compatriots and her enemies

.. the rare female communist was either a nymphomaniac or frigid and repressed.”

.. “They” were cold-blooded criminals, subversives and deviants; “we” were enlightened defenders of democracy and freedom. Even in grittier, more realistic works, the motivations of communist characters were rarely explored. They existed mostly as “foils against which the men of the West demonstrated their superior skills,”

.. These hard-faced psychopaths have now been ousted by richly textured Soviet citizens. “The Americans” is concerned as much with the marriage of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, the Russian agents (pictured), and the trials of raising their children in America, as with espionage.

.. The pair grapple with guilt and the meaning of freedom.

.. So human are these characters, in fact, that viewers are persuaded not only to empathise with them, but to hope they evade capture—even as they kill and blackmail Americans.

.. In these stories, the idea of Western superiority—either moral or professional—is questionable.

.. In the case of “The Americans”, it can be laughable: one of the series’ funniest moments comes when the head of counter-intelligence at the FBI discovers that his secretary has secretly married a KGB officer.

.. The villain of “The Shape of Water” is not Mosenkov but a repulsive American colonel.

.. The overseers of “The Americans”—Joe Weisberg, himself a former CIA officer

.. They enlisted Masha Gessen, a Russian-American writer, to ensure their Russian dialogue would feel idiomatic.

.. Now the production team has been “able to spend time in the Stasi archives, to spend time with people who were on the East German side,” Mr Cornwell says. “There is room in the six-hour format to explore both sides.”

.. faith in Western spooks has drastically decreased in the wake of the Iraq war and recent surveillance scandals.

.. despite Vladimir Putin’s election-meddling and revanchism, most English-speaking viewers no longer feel they face an existential threat from Russia.

.. The imperative to deflect criticism outward, so conspicuous in the 1980s, no longer applies.

.. Used to navigating moral minefields in shows such as “The Wire” and “The Sopranos”, viewers have outgrown simplistic tales of good and evil. Proof was offered by “Red Sparrow”, a film released earlier this year that starred Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian seductress targeting a CIA agent.

.. It was “designed to make Americans feel good about [themselves] by showing how much nicer [their] spies are than their Russian counterparts,” says Denise Youngblood, a historian of Russian and Soviet cinema. Judging by its box-office performance, the formulaic plot was a turn-off.

.. Because Russia has always been a land of villains,” Rodric Braithwaite, a former British ambassador to Moscow, once wrote, “it is also a land of heroes and saints.” Hollywood is at last imaginative enough to make room for all of them.