Global crisis and conflict of civilizations
The crisis that has engulfed the world is deeper and more systemic than any economic and socio-political crisis that mankind faced before in its history. This crisis is not caused by class contradictions, ideological confrontation, struggle of elites or states for influence, territory or wealth. All that, including economic and ideological contradictions, socio-political splits, national conflicts and elite clashes, are only accompanying and derivative components of the main and deeper crisis that the world plunged into at the beginning of the 21st century.
This unprecedented global crisis is caused by the conflict of civilizations.
The crisis in the relations and interactions of the main world civilizations is complex, it goes simultaneously in different dimensions and manifests itself in different spheres of life and affairs. The main conflict between civilizations takes place in the form of struggle of group of civilizations for equal rights and positions in the system of international relations and against the dominance of Western civilization in the world affairs.
The Russian and Chinese civilizations, as well as the civilizations of the former third world, in particular, the Indian, Iranian, Arab and emerging Latin American civilization that supported Russia and China, started this conflict.
The clash proceeds unevenly, involving nations and states that comprise buffer zones. That generated active formation of civilizational blocs, striving to occupy their place in new architecture of international relations that could allow them not only to maintain their independence, but also to gain greater influence on decision-making and development of international relations.
Some civilizations are undergoing reformatting and even internal crisis. For example, Russian civilization that started struggle against the dominance of Western civilization, is going through its own internal crisis caused by the split of the «Russian world» as a result of the collapse of the USSR into fifteen independent states. Each of these states has created its own organizational political center, new economy and state ideology, in most of them based on rationalism and nationalism. Contradictions between these fragments of the Russian and Soviet past is growing, and struggle between them is acquiring forms of conflicts, riots, clashes and even wars, as we now see in Ukraine.
And yet, the most important is the struggle between Western civilization, led by the United States that seek to maintain its dominance in the world economy, finances and international relations, against China and Russia, followed by India and other states that demand equality and claim the role of pivotal civilizations in the new architecture of international relations.
These rising civilizations seek to change the system of international relations that had been created by the West based on the Western mentality and ideologies. They want to develop a new one that takes into account their interests and to play pivotal role in the new architecture of international relations.
At present, the conflict between the West and Russia has become the main episode, and Ukraine has become the main arena of a hybrid war of civilizations that threatens to develop into a full-scale third world war.
In this series of articles, I would like to analyze the war in Ukraine, where two major conflicts of Russia against the West and Russia against Ukraine converged at one point, on one territory, in Ukraine.
Conflict one. The West and Russia
For five centuries, Western European civilization subjugated other civilizations. It dominated the world and built architecture of international relations in its own interests, as well as internal socio-economic and political systems in other civilizations and states.
The era of growth and dominance of Western European civilization began in the 16th century. By the end of the 19th century, Western Europe had achieved complete dominance on all continents, with the exception of the Russian Empire, although the West had been increasing influence on Russian civilization throughout all that period, primarily through international politics, communications of elites, trade, culture and science.
Thanks to its civilizational features, primarily moral standards and mentality, the West has gained undeniable leadership in the world, seizing control over all the great civilizations, including China, India, and the Arab East. By the beginning of the 20th century, Russian civilization remained the only one uncontrolled by the West, but it was under its significant and growing influence.
Since the end of the 19th century, there has been qualitative leap, sharp increase in the influence of Western civilization in Russia, including through acceptance by Russian elites of Western forms of governance, Western forms of capitalist entrepreneurship, including banking sector, services, trade and insurance, scientific research and education. Most importantly, through Western theories of social and economic development, leftist revolutionary ideas, including Marxism and social democracy.
In 1917, Russian civilization, at that moment the last rival of Western Europe, was taken over by Western ideas. The October Revolution, later called the socialist revolution, was carried out according to the Marxist theory that considered social and economic relations from the point of view of class struggle and defined the model of future human society as classless communist society of universal equality, fully providing for the needs of mankind according to the principle “from every man according to his ability, to every man according to his needs”. Most important, it denoted path to communism through dictatorship of proletariat, working class, whose interests coincided with the interests of society as a whole. However, the October socialist revolution led to the dictatorship in Russia not so much of the proletariat as of Western European social thought, and thus of the Western civilizational model.
Creation on the territory of the former Russian Empire of the first state that began to build a society according to the theory of Marxism, and attempt to turn Russian civilization into important part of Western European civilization, created deep contradiction within Western civilization itself. The winner got his gravedigger, terminator, because Marxism and socialist state built on its ideas were created to destroy capitalism in Western Europe that gave rise to Western civilization, the US being part of it.
The twentieth century was the century of the struggle between two components of Western civilization: old capitalist system and socialist system created as continuation, but also as its denial of the first. According to Marx, socialist system was supposed to destroy its parent and unite the world into classless society, devoid of private property, to providing universal equality.
The socialist state, the USSR, managed not only to defend its independence, not only to make breakthrough in culture, education and health care, to create the most powerful defense and scientific complex, to win the world war, but also to expand its influence on the world, including other civilizations. The USSR helped Indian, Chinese and other civilizations, if not completely free themselves from the influence of the West, then begin to freely develop their economic and social system in accordance with traditions, religions and local mentality. As a result, the world was divided into the world of socialism, capitalism (or the old Western European democracy) and the developing world.
However, Russian civilization did not disappear. Moreover, attempts to create socialism by combining the ideas of Western European communism with the moral foundations, principles of organization and functioning of «Russian world», including the Russian Orthodox Church and other religions on the territory of the USSR, gave impetus to qualitatively new development of Russian civilization. That was involving and drawing in other nations and peoples living on that territory into one multinational community. This process was called «the creation of the Soviet people.» In fact, a significant part of each of the more than a hundred nations and nationalities that lived on the territory of the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet Union, became Russians in mentality.
Why did it happen? Because a significant component of the process of socialization, communization of the peoples of the USSR was the introduction of communal forms, including collective farms, cooperatives and state enterprises, whose work was carried out on the basis of the ideas of collective ownership and collective property management, even in conditions when the real right of management and disposal belonged to the party and state bureaucrats.
Failure of Communist experiment in Russia
The main reason for the failure of the communist experiment lay not in the weakness of the Marxist idea and not in the strength of capitalism and Western democracy, but in the fact that in building socialist society and state in Russia, the communist leaders and bureaucratic elites relied on Western European principles of social and state systems, essentially capitalist.
They blocked the process of socialization of production and state structures, which was at the heart of Marxism. They rejected any search for new ideas, including those aimed at the development of Marxism, making Marxism dogmatic collection of fetishisms. They also blocked economic reforms and development of political and social spheres based on traditions of Russian civilization.
Rejecting the state system of tsarist Russia that hindered development of Russia and its peoples, the Russian communists have been carried away by the ideas of the West and did not rely on traditions and experience of the Russian people, although Vladimir Lenin after the victory in Civil war and against the invasion by foreign states, in 1918-1922, saw “complete constipation” of the policy of “military communism”. He accepted two elements that reflected precisely the Russian civilizational principles and were brought into revolution by people: the Soviets (or communal councils) as main elements of public and state systems, and cooperatives as most socialized and therefore socialist by nature, as fundamental forms of ownership and organization of production. This was expressed in Lenin’s formula: «Socialism is Soviet power plus cooperation.»
However, Lenin’s ideas about building socialism in Russia on traditional for Russian civilization principles were discarded after his death.
In 1937, with the adoption of a new constitution, the system of state administration subordinated to local Soviets was replaced by Western system of direct election of members of the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet Parliament, that became subordinated to the Communist party leadership.
In the 1950s, after the death of Stalin and the rise to power of Nikita Khrushchev, cooperatives were declared as obsolete. The idea that state property was identical to public property was imported from the West and declared as truly socialist. That gave rise to economic problems, shortages of goods and services, made the Soviet economy completely dependent on party and state bureaucrats, who created an underground crypto economy and later, in 1991, collapsed the USSR to privatize “public” property.
Differences between Western and Russian civilizations
There was another contradiction inherent in the first socialist state that caused failure of the communist experiment in Russia. That was contradiction between the system built on class and group ownership and management of property, wealth, means of production and public organizations immanent to Western Europe, and communal system of life and relationships of majority of population in pre-revolutionary Russia, as well as in the Soviet Union.
Russian civilization was based on the communal structure of society. Moreover, Russian village communities were territorial, not tribal, nor family, nor clan, and it was this territoriality that determined and shaped mentality and character of Russian civilization. Everyone who was ready to become member of community, regardless of nationality, could join it and have equal rights in community.
It was the Russian communal peasants, who made up over 90% of the population of Ancient Russia, the Russian Empire, and then Soviet Russia. Only in the late 1920s did the structure of the Russian population begin to change rapidly. This change was the result of industrialization and policies aimed at developing and strengthening of working class, as well as the cultural revolution and creation of new party and state apparatus by drafting in workers and peasants. The share of communal peasants in the Soviet Union began to decline sharply. Peasants became workers, engineers, poets, writers, teachers, soldiers. In the early 1960s, the share of collective farmers and workers in industrial cooperatives fell to 50% of the total population of the USSR.
However, despite the policy of the Communist Party based on Marxist dogmas, communal mentality of the majority of Russians was preserved and passed on to subsequent generations.
Members of Russian peasant communities at the genetic level avoided sharp aggravation of conflicts. Relations in the community, based not on private, but on communal ownership of land and communal use of forests, subsoil, rivers and lakes, forced community members to keep relations of peace and mutual assistance within the community, to avoid conflicts or quickly find compromises.
Dispersal of village communities over vast territory covered with forests, isolation from large cities and remoteness made village communities easy targets for robbers and invaders. Those threats created special type of character. For Russian, conflict that poses threat to existence of community and lives of community members cannot be resolved by compromise. The result of the conflict can only be destruction of the enemy or death of community members.
Western European civilization was based on mentality of rivalry, struggle for one’s interests, on initiative, active search for new opportunities, options, innovation. Western democracy presupposes upholding and tough protection of one’s interests from the very beginning of any conflict. Conflict is acceptable form of searching for opportunities, it develops abruptly and grows to its limit. However, when there is a threat that losses in the course of conflict may far exceed any possible gains in the event of victory, Europeans and Americans begin to search for compromises that are formalized into laws and rules to regulate and block similar conflicts in future.
For European-American civilization, compromise is the natural result of conflict, and for Russian, compromise is the natural way to resolve conflict at its initial stage. For Russian, most of the conflicts end with heavy losses and destruction of one of the parties to conflict. For Europeans and Americans, compromise creates basis for further development and is the natural ending of the conflict …
Now, let’s return to the modern conflict of civilizations and analyze the war in Ukraine as manifestation of the conflict of civilizations, mentalities and ideologies that dominate and determine decisions and actions of the West, Ukraine and Russia…
(To be continued)