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Please begin with an informative title:

This is one of those “OMG I just had an idea” diaries.

For the bulk of my life, the Cold War and many pre-WWII animosities were presented to me in school and in the media as a battle between communism and capitalism, with the USSR (commonly known as “Russia”) being the most fearsome advocate of communism. They (communists) were the enemy.

The solution was thought to be to conquer communism, to vanquish it, to replace it with the “good”: capitalism (commonly known as “democracy”). This is why everyone heaved a sigh of relief when the USSR broke up, to be replaced (mostly) with democracies. How could this not be good? There were (almost) no “enemies” left!

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But recent events have created a new, gnawing doubt deep in my entrails. Putin's Russian democracy is acting exactly like the Soviet boogeyman would have acted (and did act) under similar circumstances! How could this be?

Not only that, their recent initiatives, being carried out with soviet-like, truth-distorting, viciousness with a calm visage, are extremely popular with their democratic electorate!

This..does...not...compute.

But here is one possible explanation: perhaps the problem never was Communism at all! The Cold War was based on our own distortion of the truth, and in fact, the enemies were Russians, not communists!

I'm not saying it was all Russians, that would be silly. But if you look at the history of Russia's interactions with Ukraine, for example, you can see that it had been about using force to conquer what it wanted for centuries before 1918. In fact, before WWI upset the imperial applecart, this was pretty much the norm among all “advanced” nations. Most of the rest have either (mostly) abandoned, or at least artfully disguised their imperialist ways, but, apparently, not Russia. Perhaps this is because the Communist Revolution interrupted WWI for Russia, and focused their attention elsewhere for half of a century, allowing their old imperialistic, bearish, truth-distorting, violent ego to rest in stasis while a new communist, bearish, truth-distoring, violent alter ego ran things into the ground. But now, the communist ego is dead (or at least dormant), and—surprise!—the imperialistic one is running things!

This is all well and good as an analysis of Russia. I fear that in fact, there are elements of Russian thought and threads of their politics that embrace imperialism and that are behind Putin's abuses and popularity. However, that's not really why this idea blew my mind.

What blew my mind is what is says about communism. If the USSR was just a communist face on fundamental Russian imperialism, what would communism be like if it were based on fundamental liberal democracy?

I sort of already know the answer. It would be what we call “democratic socialism” as seen all over Western Europe. And these are our friends. Which means that communism per se was never the enemy.

Imperialism, even with a democratic face, as in Putin's Russian Federation, was and is the enemy.

This may take some time to assimilate. The Cold War was really about combatting Russian imperialism? The same dynamic underlies the Ukraine situation today?

And what are the implications for American capitalism and democracy? Does our capitalism distort democracy or does our democracy distort capitalism?

Well, that's about it. Got to go.

Greg Shenaut

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