Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A horribly skewed process

Even in a slightly more ideal world there would be a place for Barack Obama in the presidential election: he is an admirable representative of what used to be the Republican mainstream and which probably still enjoys quite a bit of support among the Republican voters. As it is he's portrayed as a "radical socialist" by a deranged extreme right wing party (financed by deranged billionaires) that has barely been able to scrape up a candidate brazen and principle free enough to satisfy both the party hard core and still be presentable to the great - but diminishing - American middle class (which in most issues is broadly to the left of Obama). He is an ally, potentially a good ally, of the progressives but he is no progressive.
The process is so rotten with money, so distorted, so skewed towards great concentrations of capital that to call it democratic is quite daring. This didn't used to be so: there is no inexorable historical law that it should be so. In fact, this direction, these awful trends are not good to great concentrations of capital, to great inherited or speculated wealth, not at all. Nor are they good for the current global hegemony of the fast disappearing American Republic - I suppose a republic in name only: maybe we really do end up calling this period the Late Empire. Anyway, an Obama victory will do nothing serious to reverse these trends, only slow them down a bit, no FDR here, maybe a somewhat more conservative version of Nelson Rockefeller instead. And so the global financial crisis of 2008 that so exposed the neo-liberal economy was let go unused.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Tõnisson and Päts

It is curious that both modern popular biographies of Tõnisson and Päts would be written by Finns. I read Turtola's book some years ago and was quite critical, echoing Estonian reactions: it seemed bit glib, wise after the fact criticism of Päts' handling of the Soviet ultimatums in -39 and -40. Tõnisson then, the icon of Estonian liberalism, is of course the more congenial historical figure for me, and has found an exemplary historian, one of my absolute favourites among Finnish politicians, the current Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja. Well, about the only favourite but anyway. A man inexplicably wasting his considerable scholarly talents in politics, of all things.

After having lately read Tuomioja's book I reread Turtola - and partially had to reconsider. Both books are popular, but still solid scholarly work, and though Turtola clearly overstates his case he does have telling points. Päts certainly was more rational than the Finnish government in the fall of 1939: who could have known that madness would work better than calculation. But the summer of 1940 is simply a different matter - I wonder what threats Päts received from the thugs, threats that he was alone confronting, alone and isolated. With Tõnisson in charge, there would have been a civil society, legitimate organizations, the rule of law.