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Like many of you I have been horrified and transfixed by Putin's unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine, which is rapidly evolving into a massive atrocity as the Russian military's expectations of a quick and decisive victory are frustrated and they pivot to the methods of wholesale and indiscriminate destruction they used in Grozny and Aleppo.
Leon Trotsky observed after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution that wars are the "locomotives of history", creating and accelerating trends that reshape the world, as World War I did by creating the conditions for the rise of the international communist movement.
I am working on what I expect to be a major article that puts this unfolding series of events in a longer historical context, taking up a question already being debated by a group of intellectuals in the UK—are we living in a period of exceptional and disproportionate influence on the future of humanity, are we in a hinge of history.
It will address questions like (this is a pretty tall order so I will probably not get to them all, so let me know if you would like to address specific aspects):
If anyone with specific expertise would like to collaborate on this, or if you have any comments, please let me know via the contact form.
PS I have not forgotten about the final part in the three-article set about the Left that I promised a couple of weeks ago. It has been deferred, in the light of events, but not canceled.
Posted by Peter Baldwin on Feb 18, 2022
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a succession of debates on how the virus originated and how it should be managed. From the outset, starting with the argument about whether travel bans are racist, each of these debates has become highly politicized, with "left-wing" and "right-wing" positions on all manner of things, including some that should be purely scientific.
How, in this climate, with rival teams of experts lining up on opposite sides, is the non-expert to gain a reasonable approximation of the truth? Has this situation led to important pandemic management options not being properly considered?
Posted by Peter Baldwin on Feb 04, 2022
Modern businesses, especially the largest and most powerful ones in big tech and finance, like to be thought of as highly moral entities with a strong commitment to social justice. Just about all of them nowadays have internal bureaucracies concerned with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and have embraced internal cultures that are highly intolerant of employees expressing views inconsistent with their "equity agendas".
But what becomes of those commitments, all that moral exhibitionism, when their business interests are really on the line? Say, when dealing with the rising would-be global totalitarian hegemon, the Communist Party of China (CCP) regime?
A new book by the American author Peter Schweizer sheds some astounding and profoundly disturbing light on this.. The virtue signaling lions become tame pussy-cats, expressing fawning, indeed awestruck, admiration for the CCP dictator Xi Jinping, and exhibit a willingness to collaborate with the regime in developing the means to fulfill its global ambitions, including strengthening the CCP's military.
The CCP has developed a sophisticated strategy to exploit these proclivities that espionage experts term "elite capture". Or in a pithy quote attributed to Lenin "when the time comes to hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope".
Posted by Peter Baldwin on Jan 28, 2022
The generational radicalization of the 1960s, spurred especially by the Vietnam War, led to the emergence of a New Left that seemed to many to represent a clear break with the totalitarian impulses of the old Marxist-influenced movement. Theorists like Herbert Marcuse called for this radicalization to be consolidated by a "long march through the institutions" that would transform the universities, then the wider society.
The subsequent success of this long march would have astounded its early advocates. But what has it wrought? In this article, the second of two about the modern Left, Peter Baldwin contends that modern progressivism has morphed into an abomination that discards and deprecates what was good about the old Left while perpetuating and extending some of its worst pathologies.
Posted by Peter Baldwin on Jan 14, 2022
Ponder this thought experiment. Suppose a left-wing activist circa 1970 was put into a deep sleep like Rip Van Winkle, and woken up in our own time. What might such a person make of what counts as being "left-wing" or "progressive" nowadays, given the Left's wholesale embrace of identity politics during his/her long slumber?
In this article, Peter Baldwin argues that he would likely find the currently fashionable "woke" variant of leftism not just deeply strange but profoundly reactionary, the antithesis of what leftists used to believe about matters like race and racism, human universality and the Enlightenment legacy.
Posted by Peter Baldwin on Jan 01, 2022
What poses the greater threat to American democracy—the riot at the Capitol on 6 January 2021, or the political and institutional response to it?
This is a question well worth asking a year out from this episode, especially given that we now have much more information on which to base an assessment than was available during the saturation media coverage in the immediate aftermath.
Media pundits and politicians have variously described the riot as an insurrection—even an "armed insurrection", a veritable coup d'etat, some even claiming it is the greatest threat to American democracy since the civil war.
The Biden administration has contended that the riot was the result of an organized conspiracy by "white supremacists", and has proposed a rewriting of the law pertaining to domestic terrorism to focus overwhelmingly on this element.
How should we assess these claims, and the proposed policy responses, in the light of the far greater body of information now available?