More reports on the People’s Daily and Xinhua News on the China-Russia joint naval exercises in the South China Sea.


And a series of articles in the People’s Daily analyse the USA as a ‘source of turmoil in the world’. It is keen both to make a mess and to brainwash the elites in some non-Western countries. To a large degree, this is ‘a reflection of a twisted mentality of an empire moving downhill’.

Strange how I need to read Chinese newspapers to find out details about the major joint naval exercises between China and Russia in the South China Sea. As I have pointed out before, their increasing closeness is perhaps the major geopolitical development in recent years.

How about this for an image (from Xinhua News):


A comrade at the University of Newcastle, Roger Markwick, has written a great piece on the ‘new cold war.’ A specialist in Soviet and Russian history, he tracks the way NATO’s blatant provocations and aggressive stances are aimed at threatening Russia and how Russia’s responses should be seen in that light. In other words, invade Russia at your own risk. NATO – ‘a lethal instrument of the world’s most powerful military machine, harnessed to a predatory, highly developed capitalist system that brooks no challenges to its hegemony’ – risks following in the steps of Napoleon and Hitler. It did not end well for them.

I would add to Roger’s analysis the growing alliance and cooperation between Russia and China, which embodies the bulk of the Eurasian landmass, huge resources, economic power and military sophistication.

This is the real story of geopolitics at the moment: the increasing rapprochement between China and Russia. I have seen this at first hand in my own way, but when the two countries that make up the vast bulk of the Eurasian landmass get together, it means something. Apart from the belt-road initiative, on which they are working closely, China has neatly stepped in to supply Russia with items banned through EU sanctions, and in September this year they will hold joint naval exercises in the South China Sea. Pictures like these don’t often appear in the corporate media, but Xi Jinping and Putin have been meeting frequently over the last few years:


Amidst all the brouhaha over Brexit, it might be worth getting some perspective. Some preach doom, while others point out that the island off the western peninsula of the Eurasian land-mass means little for places like Australia (a couple of percentage points on the trade register). So it’s worth checking out a few other places for their angle on things. Needless to say, Sputnik is full of gleeful analysis – not surprising since the Russians have been providing assistance to the anti-EU parties across Europe. Before we read this as some sinister project, it may be worth recalling the ‘color’ revolutions, which marked the outsourcing by Washington of regime change to NGOs et al. As Losurdo points out (in Non-Violence: A History Beyond Myth), they first tried their hand in China in 1989, but failed there due to the patience and restraint of the Chinese government (so also with Tibet). Since then, the ‘color’ project has refined its skills and toppled popularly supported governments where desired. So the Russians have learned a thing or two and have been busy seeking to undermine the EU and NATO in their own way.

But all this misses what is really going on, since it assumes Europe is in some way still a global centre. A look at the two main Chinese newspapers gives a hint. Xinhua news on 2016.06.24 has three feature stories: on the most recent meeting between Chairman Xi Jinping and President Putin regarding the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; an article on Putin regarding the revitalised Silk Road; an hour-long exclusive interview with Putin by the head of Xinhua news. Meanwhile, the People’s Daily features the meeting between Xi Jinping and Putin ahead of the Brexit news. In other words, there is much more of importance going in the world than the decision of a small island to leave the EU. I suggest that this is (along with Donald Trump – who really embodies the truth of US-style bourgeois democracy) yet another a signal of the substantial shift, which has been underway for at least a decade, in economic and political power from the Atlantic to Asia.

But I have more important things to consider, since on the same day as the Brexit vote happened, my second grandson was born. Felix Hendrik Boer is his name – and what a fantastic name it is, full of grandeur.

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In the process of writing a second article for the flagship Chinese newspaper, the People’s Daily (first article here), I am working my way through a journal called Marxist Studies in China. It’s published by the Institute of Marxism in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Some articles leave, shall we say, a little to be desired and some are real gems.

The journal also carries regular pieces by Russia specialists, one of them called ‘Why Is the Stalin Debate Raging Again in Russia?’. This is from 2010 and the debate has by no means abated. The authors identify four main positions: left-wing communists hold high the banner of Stalin and seek to march to a new socialist society; right-wing liberals want to uproot the legacy of Stalin and hold faith in liberal democracy and capitalism; the moderate conservatives affirm Stalin’s achievements but criticise his methods; and the patriotic faction, which seeks to avoid the political polarisation and borrow from Stalin’s experience for a new modernisation of Russia today. Guess where Putin and the United Russia Party stand?

The question remains: why is Stalin the topic of so much debate? Apart from long-term reasons, the authors focus on the Great Recession in parts of the world from 2008. Despite Russia’s stabilisation fund and Putin’s efforts to strengthen the management of major industries, the underlying problem is a fundamental shift in Russia’s economic situation. It has become primarily an exporter of raw materials as the basis of its economy. This makes it particularly vulnerable to global trends. So calls began for a new modernisation of Russia. And when did the last economic modernisation take place, turning an economic backwater into a superpower? Under Stalin’s watch. No wonder that Stalin is the topic of so much interest in the search for a new modernisation. Indeed, the authors suggest that ‘a new Stalin will come soon’.

Many strange things happen in Russia, but this is one of the more intriguing. Not so long ago, I was told while in Russia that one could not speak of Marxism directly in many circles. Marxism is a dirty word, I was told; indeed, there are no Marxists of any influence. The only way to undertake research on Marxism and find a job in a university was to focus on the various forms of the opposition to Lenin and Stalin.

Something has changed. It began with an invitation from Algoritm Press to write a book on Stalin that would be translated into Russian. Debate is heating up over Stalin’s legacy, with an increasing number of people calling for a reassessment. They also want foreign engagements with this debate. It has also generated works like Oleg Khlevniuk’s new biography of Stalin, which is an alarmed response to these developments.

But it really struck me this year at a couple of conferences, one celebrating 120 years since the death of Engels and the other called, innocuously, the World Cultural Forum. At the first conference, in Nanjing, a number of Russian scholars were present, with their journeys covered by the conference organisers. They spoke mostly of Chinese Marxism, although one chose to speak in Russian since it was ‘the language of Lenin’. However, one of them spoke of socialism as a cultural force, in both the Soviet Union and China, if not worldwide. Afterwards, I said to him, ‘I was told there are no Marxists in Russian any more’. He replied, ‘Well, I am one. She is one. He is one …’.

At the next conference, a few days later in Beijing, the handful of Russian scholars became scores. They had all attended an earlier conference there (which I had missed) called the ‘World Socialist Forum’ – which may be seen as the twenty-first century’s version of the Comintern. Now it became even more interesting. Some of the Russian speakers sought to draw upon and assess positively aspects of the Soviet Union. One spoke of Soviet education, another of Soviet cultural policy, another of Sino-Soviet ties. I dared to speak in front of such an audience (a little nervously) of the philosophical connections between the nationalities policy, affirmative action, anti-colonialism and the redefinition of ‘people’ and state in the Soviet Union. Quite a few came up to me afterwards with appreciative comments. One senior philosopher from the Academy of Sciences even told me that I had managed to identify some of the key philosophical developments he had been studying for 40 years.

So what is going on? I am not quite sure. Partly, it has to do with the recent development of very close ties between Russia and China, thereby negating much of the efforts of NATO and the USA. But it goes well beyond strategic and economic interests. Partly, it has to do with finding common ground between Russia and China, via the Soviet era, although an occasional Russian will assert that the Soviet Union was ‘more advanced’ than China. But I sense much more is under way, with both older scholars who spent most of their lives in the Soviet Union and younger scholars seeking to re-engage. What these developments might actually mean is still unclear to me.