Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Anti-American ‘Cultural Komintern’ Will Trump US Soft Power, Russian Analyst Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 16 – A new article by Harvard’s Joseph Nye about the collapse of Russia’s “soft power” (project-syndicate.org/commentary/putin-soft-power-declining-by-joseph-s--nye-2014-12) has prompted one Russian analyst to argue that Moscow’s “Cultural Komintern” based on hostility to US power will ultimately trump America’s “soft power” and  unite the world against Washington.


            Konstantin Semin, a Russian television journalist who hosts the “Agitation and Propaganda” program on Russia-1, says that Nye is wrong to think that Russia can no longer attract the world to its side while American culture will continue to win Washington support (odnako.org/blogs/sila-i-slabost-amerikanskoy-myagkoy-sili-i-nash-kulturniy-komintern/).


            Stripped of its scholarly verbiage, the Russian commentator says, Nye’s ideas about American soft power are rooted in the idea that “even if you don’t like Bush or Obama because they are bombing someone, you will not cease eating at McDonalds, listening to Lady Gaga or watching Hollywood trash on Friday nights at your local movie theater.”


            According to Nye, that will maintain American power until and unless there is another competing center of attraction which can offer the same thing, Semin says. But there is “an Achilles’ heel” to such an argument, and it is one that Russia now can and must exploit as its competition with the West intensifies.


            As American culture spreads, he continues, anger at American culture spreads as well, a classic example of Newton’s law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Indeed, Semin insists, “the outlines of a new cultural-anti-colonial movement” is taking shape, one that resembles “the cultural liberation revolutions of the 1940s through the 1960s,” revolutions that wouldn’t have happened “without the assistance of the USSR.”


            Russia’s “soft power” now is not as Nye imagines it but rather based on the antagonism many around the world now feel toward American “soft power.”  In short, it is “judo-like,” with Russia achieving what it wants on the basis of how people view America.


            “The world will be united not so much by love for Russia but by hatred of America,” Semin says, because “Russia is the only force on the planet which can cast doubt on American force. There are no other such forces, and in the event of the collapse of Russia, perhaps there never will be any.”


            That is the basis of Russian “exceptionalism,” Semin continues, and it is the basis of Russian attractiveness to so many. It isn’t the talents of Anna Netrebko which attract people but the fact that she isn’t afraid to help Donetsk. And it isn’t that Valery Gergiyev is “a great musician but that [he] performs in the ruins of Tskhinval.”


            To draw on, inspire and organize this force, he argues, Russia needs “a new version of the Komintern, a cultural Komintern, which will be just as much a nightmare for the West as was its predecessor.” 


            In 1943, he calls, Stalin agreed to disband the Komintern “in exchange for the Second Front.”  Restoring it now “on an oligarchic foundation is impossible” as the failures of the Zurabovs and Abramoviches in Ukraine show.  “But we are now involved in a fight in which our country must either lose or sooner or later shift to a different foundation.”


            And Russians are “changing,” Semin says. “And a new Komintern will come into existence.”  Those in the West who think their soft power can withstand it, should be warned and “prepare” for the struggle of their lives.


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