Cambridge, Massachusetts (21/5). Delivering my speech today in this forum, after all ten years ago when first posed the question if communism is alive and presents a threat to society, an esteemed academic rolled his eyes and declared that “they are all dead”. Another senior foreign Diplomat and likely a future ambassador, pronounced that I am the “sole voice in the wilderness”. He also proclaimed a landslide victory of a presidential candidate. All of these accounts of contemporary history show that they all had a point; but were all wrong.
Standing on the debris of communism, as a young foreign service officer on his first posting, communism vanished in front of my eyes. Like a bad dream, Russians rejected the hardliner coup d’état against a regime poised to hold on to power. Later in life I saw another whirlwind of regime change of the Indonesian strong men Suharto being swept out of office.
In Moscow in 1991, my eldest son, born only a few months earlier, slept peacefully in my arms through the demonstrations, the noise and the mass of people calling for change, we looked in astonishment how the aspirations of people had enough of oppression, shortages of food, radioactive poisoning of their children or mothers mourning the returning coffins of their loved ones from a battlefield, Afghanistan, without explanation from the oppressive KGB dominated regime, the Soviet Union imploded after seven decades of oppressive fantasies in pursuit of an extremist ideology which saw the creation of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Shining Path in Peru, Marxist utopia in North Korea, Venezuela or China.
So, standing on the streets of Moscow watching in awe the wave of rage sweeping through the country watching the imploding of the Soviet Union and the birth of what is today the Russian Federation, the August 1991 days were liberating and deeply moving. Millions expressed their frustrations in an all too common battle cry we heard since so often: We Have Enough!
Now twenty-nine-years later we find a new generation of political fantasies emerge in the public domain. The new generation of young political leaders attracted to messages of past failed ideologies.
Like Nazism, Communism, Anarchism, like jihadism, are proven failed ideologies. The new generation of radicals and extremists giving a rise of a renewed belief of failed political systems like Marxism, Leninism, anarchism and even fascism should be given a second chance. Adopted to fit the liberal and populist agenda, the media has provided the extremist ideologies a conduit, a platform, to gain political relevance.
Following the 2008 near financial collapse of the western-led economic belief system of greed, these forces on the left saw themselves confirmed the system is broken and Marxism teachings are justified. The failure of the greed driven market economy gave also rise to the right wing, and the response of the Marxist Autonomes, colloquially known as the Autonomes, the Antifa, or Black Block.
The rise of nationalism can be causally linked to the failure of the western economic system, the loss of faith in the political leaders and the premise of strong men are the solution. All these trends are not new. The political history of mankind is full of examples of zealots, radicals, and extremists.
On the left the ideology adopted a convenient narrative promoted for the past decade of humanity are doomed and scheduled for extinction in what Frank Furedi calls the culture of fear. In a constant torrent of claims the very top political leadership we, the public, been told by media, eco-action groups, politicians, and religious leaders that the end is near. Twelve years, pardon eleven years to go to extinction. We are doomed.
Global enlightenment made way to intolerance, falsification of science by powerful NGOs in court, and creating division of “us” versus “them”. We abandoned science and opted for Hitler-youth type of poster girl images of gloom and doom. Common sense is replaced with a Marxist narrative of the promised paradise of the proletariat working class.
Political tribalism is on the rise, and the political leaders are to blame. Trump, Putin from Russia, Berlusconi in Italy, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Nigel Farage, Le Pen, the Tea party, and Germany’s AfD are the result of an overuses one-world narrative which is too extreme for society.
Instead of unifying society the liberal leadership caused division, resentment and tagging who do not agree with the neo-liberal cause as deplorables polarizing the society.
Let me give you all a warning of false prophets. I have seen my share in my humble lifetime. Empires have crumbled, the Soviet Union, the entire Eastern Block imploded resulting in a generation of civil wars and failed states. Regimes like Suharto, and Mahathir in Malaysia vanished. Thrown to the heaps of history.
These reforms movement came with a price; loss of lives and lost economic wealth at the expense of liberation. Make no mistake, reform is needed today even more so than twenty years ago, but not by promoting an equally racist, leftist extremist ideology which is based on a failed economic and political dogma; Marxism.
I must warn of these new prophets of doom, the promises of a better future, a better life for all and a future much better if we just abandon the wicked ways of democracy, freedom of movement, to help the poor, the sick and the impoverished. This is a fantasy.
The evidence is suggesting otherwise. The Covid-19, the coronavirus much to the grief of the brand of beers, is an exception. Overall, humanity is empowered. Unemployment is down, life expectancy is up, treatment of ailments is up, mobility and the access to transnational mobility is up, wars are down, terrorism is irrelevant but still a danger.
We live longer, have access to better quality of food, leave healthier and have more time on our hands. We have access to information, even if governments try to censor of what we can read, understand, and consume, we can bypass these controls. Never in the history of mankind is access to learning and information as accessible as today. But there is a dark side to this liberty, and it is of uttermost importance to guard against these dark forces.
At the same time, the disparity between the super-rich, thumping their noses at us, the poor, and the middle class created deep social resentment and seed hate yet to fully understand. This excessive wealth by a few, usually obtained not by honest hard work, but on the back of its workforce, secured by corruption and payments to the powerful, fuels a time bomb. And it is ready to go off at any moment of time. Nations and societies are deeply divided. U.S. policies are only a manifestation of this end point.
This angry, middle class of workers who are the engineers of society, bakers, farmers, mechanics, bus drivers, cleaners, workers in factories, and the many other who build and support societies, raise children, teachers for special needs, nurses, and the many who keep us safe, are increasingly feeling the pinch of the economic disparity by the power held by a few overpaid bankers, accountants and lawyers who contribute little and reap excessively. Like in the past, the present-day anger fuels future hate, extremism. Social inequality, the daily struggle to survive reached the apex: violence.
Like with the German Marxist Autonome which led to the Red Army Faction (RAF), protests led to resistance which led to violence which leads to extremism. We are on the path of a new revolution, a not so new form of extremism in Asia.
Combined with the throngs of newly graduates who have no job, and no future, in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, India and elsewhere see their generation of rich scions of tycoon gobble up the public wealth and squander riches on excessive lifestyles. I ask, If I may be permitted, what monster have we created?
And how long before these forces unite; before challenging the status quo, is the new norm and extremism is accepted and not stopped?
These large factions of society, sufficiently agitated and isolated by the economic elites in Asia and elsewhere, are targeted by a Marxist collective exploiting under the banner of extinction fears of the public. The leadership of these agitators posing as democrats but are self-declared Marxists; they are purveyor of hate, not unlike the right-wing fanatics in Germany or the left-wing Antifa and Black Block extremists.
The absence of credible future for the middle class and the newly minted graduates entering the absent employment market are in survival mode giving rise to the attraction of extremist causes. An average Asian 19-year old graduate usually does not have a rich-crazy-Asian scion owning a paper empire driving Ducati’s in Bali hence is on the end scale of minimalist income of a 300 USD per month, if he or she is lucky.
The Black Block provides the sense of belonging, with comrades in arms fighting for the same causes of justice, freedom, and last chances. Cosplay in a cool Ninja style black dress battling the hated cops who defend the fat cat bourgeoisie and burning them out of the offices, is a suddenly appealing concept in the absence of economic wealth, and individual satisfaction. Hong Kong was the warning of things yet to come.
But the extremist in Hong Kong are not just the young, the middle class happily participates in the resistance movement. Equally impoverished many Chinese employers in Hong Kong, and in the region, exploit its workforce. Reforms in conglomerates dominated by Chinese owners are not a priority and merely an exercise to appease foreign restrictions or consumer demands. The management style is an obedient a yes-minister culture, even if the scions were trained in Harvard, Oxford, or Wharton’s.
Managers from the subcontinent in particularly stand out for their condescending culture. In one instance widespread rioting broke out at a Southeast Asian shipyard after an Indian manager disrespected the local praying times. Riot police took three days to calm the lynch mob hunting the manager who after his office was burned down, fled in horror never to return the country.
These new extremists are the grandchildren of the Marxist Autonome movement of the 1970’s and 80’s considered by most experts as the most extremist movement of the German leftist groups. Camouflaged as eco-warriors, extremist vanguard movements posing as civil society actors are on the rise. Deeply embedded, funded and political opportune the extremist bid their time. In Hong Kong vanguard groups developed a beachhead for eleven years before striking, in Indonesia a decade long vanguard movement built steadily up a cadre undisturbed in the vacuum of political leadership. The unrest in 2019 in Papua and Jakarta was part of the beachheads and Marxist vanguards challenging the unity of the state.
The Autonomes build the Red Army Faction, the feared RAF, the Italian Brigade Rossi, the Red Brigades, or the French Action Directe, eventually mutating what is known today as the Black Block.
The Green Party once called the Black Block the militant wing of the Green movement which was all fun and games until one day in 1986 nine police officers were shot by the Marxist Autonomes. Killing two of officers, one a father of small children the Greens finally broke with the extremists only to partner with EarthFirst! a less lethal but nevertheless extremist group.
Today, in Hong Kong, Chile, Lebanon, Germany, Jakarta, and Papua we see a resurgence of militancy under the Black flag banner of Marxist autonomists and other forms of leftist extremists.
The notion of violence is justified in the name of democracy must be rejected as ludicrous. It is a false, dangerous, and poor understanding of what democracy is all about.
Violence as proposed by theoretical ideological writings such as Gene Sharp and others shows the contempt for the ideas of democracy. Perhaps naïve or lack of realism these forces foreshadow troubled times ahead if we, as society, accept the premise of extremism is acceptable.
The modern version of the Autonomes, the Black Block is in the need of an enemy; the “Nazi’s”. Even if the creation, the “Chinazi’s” is a new term, it should give us pause. The Autonomes, the most extreme of Marxists call communist China Nazis, the exact opposite of the communist ideology. The lack of political education is apparent. It is a manifestation of how poor our collective society has become. Lack of education, the absence of history, shortage of context, paucity of relevance and the dearth of nexus replacing reason with extremist ideology.
But this educational ignorance of what Marxism represents provides the extremists of all dominations the oxygen to exist. Otherwise the extreme left, and for that matter any political extremists, have no justification for its existence. Deeply misogynistic, racist, the hate views, the destruction of public assets through arson is presented as a justified symbolic act of cleansing.
We should remember the narratives of symbolic cleansing in contemporary history are not new nor revolutionary. How wrong are the assumptions made by the extremists and their apologists, was missed by policy makers, law enforcement officers, intelligence officials and academics alike?
The countless times the these leaders stood in front of me, wrung their hands and claimed shock and surprise of the sudden explosion of violence, destruction of assets, demolition of economies, and deaths of fellow men, proclaiming the loud, trampling black elephant stomping out of the proverbial porcelain shop was unexpected and could not be foreseen. It only shows the lack of imagination, and failure in leadership. Often at the expense of the innocent.
I argue in the final analysis 9/11 didn’t come to a surprise the warning signs were present; the riots in Hong Kong are not leaderless or sudden but planned for years ahead; Covid-19 is not some mythical thing of black magic but a combination of factors yet to be understood by the medical community; the Trump victory was a shock but was not unforeseen, few experts predicted the outcome as early as July 2016; so was the rise of Islamic State, or the terror plots in Paris. The lessons are endless.
How did we all miss these and future events? Hubris, say some, ignorance, say others, incompetence and a lack of imagination is the common thread that connects the fall of the Soviet Union, the slaughter of civilians in the Balkans, leading to the riots and economic impacts in Hong Kong.
Much like the Nazi’s who justified the book burnings as an act of symbolic violence to symbolize the rebirth of post war Germany, today’s Black Block extremists justify the violence as identical justification for extremism.
Extremist Marxist ideology making a come-back. Much is mired in agendas of eco-socialism, utopian narratives of political correctness, but essentially equally racist ideology of “us” versus “them”. Save the planet, save the whales, save the trees are unlikely saving anything if the political and business elites fail in the basic understanding of what communist/Marxism looks like.
How can police, policy and intelligence, academia and media trivialize these groups? How do we not accept the dangers these movements pose and how come we, reasonable citizens do not speak up to warn of the false prophets claiming a man set on fire is in the name of democracy.
Ignorance, hubris, and arrogance of leaders provide the political space for extremism. Ignorant to the warnings, hubris to ignore and arrogant to the views that are not politically convenient, voices of dissent, the contrarian sole voice in the wilderness of mirrors, gets it regularly right.
Much to the dismay of experts, bankers, accountants who only serve to please, seldom serve to build and almost never serve to protect, the contrarian sole voice in the background who raises the finger and challenges the authority is an valid contributor to society and should be celebrated. After all their batting average is higher than the yes-minister type of administrative manager.
They are thinkers, restless souls wandering the corridors of mind and buildings, solving complexities in the dead of night with simplicity of mind over matter, and evidence over managerial fiction or political expediency.
They are the keeper of secrets, protector of mankind, seeker of truths, finder of the unusual. They are thinking out of the box expert, tinkering with problems only they see thru the childlike amazement of evidence with the ruthless efficiency of a surgeon. Are strong in conviction and never fear authority, challenging the views, or pointing out the illogical, unmoral, and they loathe the idiotic.
They do not seek fame only quietly enjoy the recognition of their peers. Bragging rights are in the papers only they can giggle like schoolgirls about, display plagues on the wall and coins on the dusty shelves behind books on Einstein, modern painting or well-read editions of Plato propped up by the pictures of loved ones.
A good book with a thank-you dedication on the inside of the cover appreciating the efforts, means more than a million-dollar car. They are the subject matter analysts, seldom appreciated and lesser made known to the public. They are the one who finds the extremists from the Baader-Meinhof gang, to Abu Nidal and the Al-Fatah’s red prince, to Bin Laden and the wanna-be extremist building some hairbrained new bomb to kill and maim. They live by the motto of Servire tacitum omnes, or in Silence we Serve.
Respect them or vanish at your own peril.
The editorial is a speech written for the Harvard University Rhetoric class in 2020. Dedicated to the nameless police officers who had the foresight to learn, academics who know, journalists who are willing to report balanced and unbiased and national security experts who are the sole voice in the policy circles and speak the uncomfortable, the analysts who “spot” the unusual, who are the quintessential contrarians, and the lone voices in the ‘wilderness of mirrors’ who are in the forgetting business of having heard it all. We tip the hat in awe and rise the glass in respect. They do exists, they know who they are and true to the unspoken code, serve in silence.
It is also dedicated to the idiocy of a few who cause loss to the many. They lack the foresight, the intellectual intelligence and should never be in power. They hold the title, have the money and but lack the lateral thinking. They are the cause for radicalization of society as they lack character and education. Hell has a special place reserved for the who fail again and again to recognize the “dots” staring them in the face, and fail out of hubris, arrogance and plain ignorance reject reason, logical and the nexus to the past. They are promoted six time over their capability and two times over their worth. May they be resigned to insignificance.