From Kennan to Trotsky
Russia and China today both enjoy the same grand-strategic advantage against the United States that the United States enjoyed through the 44 years of the Cold War.
The Soviet Union was then the superpower of the left, as the left had been globally understood since the French Revolution. It was the state committed to the promotion of revolutionary change across the world.
The United States, by contrast, was the superpower of the right. It was committed to the maintenance of stability and continuity in government systems around the world.
The United States won the Cold War. The craving for stability, peace, and continuity among governments and populations alike proved infinitely stronger than the fleeting flashes of revolutionary fervor. The Soviet Union eventually became physically exhausted and globally isolated by its ideological commitment to revolutionary change.
Today, however, the roles of the two great powers have been reversed. Since the advent of Madeleine Albright as secretary of state in 1997, the United States has become increasingly ideologically committed to the spreading of “instant powdered democracy” in every nation of the world, as defined and approved by the United States. Russia and China have become the main “conservative” or “right-wing” powers committed to preserving the status quo.
Ironically, the U.S. commitment to continual revolution around the world is a revival of the discredited concepts of Leon Trotsky. Josef Stalin abandoned Trotsky’s ideas in the 1920s when he took power in the Soviet Union. This gave him the ideological flexibility to create the Grand Alliance with the United States and the British Empire that won World War II—the Great Patriotic War.
But Nikita Khrushchev revived Trotsky’s disastrous concept: he and his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, drained their superpower dry by pouring resources into promoting revolution throughout the developing world, from 1954 in Egypt to Afghanistan in 1979-87. This led to the collapse of the Soviet system. It also prompted governments around the world to seek protection from efforts to fan the flames of revolution within them by turning to the United States for security on U.S. terms.
Today, it is the United States under presidents of both parties that has embraced the Trotskyite delusion. The bipartisan policy of the United States has become Permanent Revolution until Total and Perfect Democracy is finally achieved. This can only end the way it ended for Maximilien Robespierre in the French Revolution and for Trotsky in the Bolshevik one.
It is fitting that so many of the older generation of American neoconservatives started life as communist enthusiasts in the 1930s and ’40s. For today’s neocons are really neo-Trotskyites promoting the old, doomed enthusiasms under a new label.
By contrast, Russia and China are led by pragmatic governments guided by the concepts of profit and self-interest. They support and want to do business with existing governments and governing systems around the world. This has made them the 21st century’s major global powers of the right.
This is the strategic and psychological force behind China’s immense success in displacing the United States and the European Union in Africa. Chinese investment and aid comes free from the destabilizing, potentially revolutionary ideological strings that undermine existing systems of government throughout the region.
The governments of China and Russia hate and fear revolution and see the endless ideological promotion of democracy American-style in small countries around them and in their own homelands as planting the seeds of chaos and disintegration.
Democracy works admirably in societies where it is allowed to develop organically. But when other governments try to accelerate its growth artificially or hasten its triumph from outside, especially when they resort to military force to do so, the result is almost always a fierce reaction against the forces of democracy. This reaction often generates extreme fascist, repressive, and intolerant forces. And these forces usually win and take power. Then they impose themselves on the societies in question, delaying any real democratic development for decades or generations.
The efforts of the French Revolutionaries and Napoleon to export liberty, equality, and brotherhood across Europe by fire and sword instead ensured the survival of the old traditional empires for another 120 years. The efforts of Lenin and Trotsky to export socialism and communism by similar means were even more catastrophic. The backlash against them in Germany propelled Adolf Hitler to power.
It is not in America’s interests to follow in those footsteps—to put it mildly.
Martin Sieff is Chief Global Analyst for The Globalist and the author of the upcoming Cycles of Change: The Patterns of U.S. Politics from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama.