Posts tagged ‘propaganda’

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lu Wei “name-dropped” by State-Owned Newspaper(s)

(Former) State Internet Information Office director
Lu Wei and federal interior minister
de Maizière, photo op, July 2, 2015.
Click photo for more info.

Lu Wei (鲁炜) made his first public reappearance today after his resignation as CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China) director. He didn’t appear in person, but was mentioned in a news article as a participant in meeting of a Central Committee special working group for the prevention of juvenile deliquency. The article was published this morning by state-owned Legal Daily (法制日报 / 法制网), reports the Financial Times. Lu’s resignation in June reportedly came as a surprise. While giving way to Xu Lin (徐麟) as CAC director, Lu maintained his position as the CCP’s deputy propaganda director.

According to its “About” page, Legal Daily’s website is under direct guidance from the party’s central propaganda department and the CAC. It is published by the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China.

People’s Daily also published the article (or rather, its first seven paragraphs), but mentioned China Youth Daily as the original source.

Given the topic, this appears to make sense – however, China Youth online’s article, just as People’s Daily’s, is shorter than Legal Daily’s.

Anyway – who cares. The CCP, and only the CCP, is the author of those articles.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Shortwave Logs, August 2016: Radio Ukraine International

1. Radio Ukraine International

Once upon a time, there was a broadcaster named Radio Kiev, or Kiev Radio – a foreign broadcasting station from the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

Maybe you won’t even know there was such a thing like Radio Kiev. But you might do an online search and find that Radio Kiev was a shortwave broadcaster, the official foreign broadcasting station of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine, and that after World War 2, in 1962, Radio Kiev went on air in English, probably for the first time in its history, and that they added German in 1966, and Romanian in 1970. There had been shortwave broadcasts in Ukrainian, addressing the Ukrainian diaspora, since November 1, 1950. All this information can be found on Wikipedia.

Radio Kiev QSL, 1985

A bluesy QSL card from Kiev, confirming reception of a shortwave broadcast in German, on December 8, 1985.
Click picture for Radio Ukraine International (formerly Radio Kiev).

I listened to Radio Kiew every once in a while, during the second half of the 1980s, the dying days of the Cold War, and I remember hardly anything of the program content – I usually listened to the programs in German. On certain holidays, they opened their broadcasts with “the Ukrainian state anthem”, which struck me as odd – but then, Ukraine had a foreign broadcaster of their own, so why not an anthem.

In all other respects, the message was similar to that from Radio Moscow, Radio Kiev’s sister station: the achievements of the Soviet Union, the harmony between the Soviet nationalities, etc. – although I have no idea if Radio Kiev covered foreign affairs, too, as Radio Moscow did. Even the modulation from Kiev sounded similar to Moscow, something which, in Radio Moscow’s case, was later attributed to the use of two microphones pointing towards the presenter, giving it a characteristic echo as there was a phase difference between the sound captured by the mikes.

There are no Radio Kiev files in my sound archive, but I did keep the QSL cards: one showing a melancholic city scene, crumbling building facades and an apparently indestructible tram with olive-green varnishing. I have no idea where the photo was taken; there is no English-language description on the reverse side (see picture above). Other cards presented a Monument to participants of the January armed uprising in 1918 in Kiev who died fighting for Soviet power, a Monument to heroes of the Great October Socialist Revolution who gave their lives for Soviet power, the “Sputnik” international youth tourism bureau, a Monument to Ivan Kotlyarevsky, outstanding Ukrainian writer, Vladimir Street – Taras Shevchenko State University is in the foreground, and the October Palace of Culture.

You probably had to be a somewhat selective listener:

Radio Kiev’s DX program will keep busy with the preparations for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow from now. The DX program will be broadcast from 19:00 to 19:30 on every first and third Friday in the German-language broadcast, and the English-language DX program can be listened to on Wednesdays from 20:50 to 20:57,

Weltweit Hören, a West German shortwave hobby magazine, noted in June, 1978.

Radio Kiev was succeeded by, or renamed into, Radio Ukraine International (RUI) in 1992, a bit more than half a year after Ukraine’s Supreme Soviet had approved the Declaration of Independence, and three months after a referendum that voted in favor of independence.

Seven and a half years after RUI’s inception, in September 1999, the broadcaster’s last active shortwave transmission site near Lviv had to be closed down, as its operation, including spare part imports from Russia, had become unaffordable, Radio Berlin Brandenburg reported at the time. [Correction, Sept 3, 2016: the last big transmission site went off the air, according to RBB, in September 1999 – the Brovary site, with four 100-kw-transmitters, remained available, apparently until December 2010, when all shortwave broadcasts were terminated, according to Wikipedia.]

In December 2015, Ukrainian parliament passed legislation that prescribed – and limited – public funding of public enterprise, which will be tasked to fulfill functions of foreign broadcasting broadcasting, of RUI.

It’s probably no great liability for the state budget: Instead of shortwave transmitters, RUI counts on the internet, with livestreams and podcasts. and, according to the standard announcement at the beginning of each German program, on satellite (Astra 4 A).

The signature tune has remained the same throughout the decades, from the 1980s to now. And the program languages seem to reflect unchanged foreign-policy priorities: in Ukrainian, English, German, and Romanian.

German-language podcasts are available at the Funkhaus Euskirchen Website radio360.eu. And a half-hour English-language program is relayed by the American shortwave broadcaster WRMI, every morning at 02:00 hours UTC (previously 23:00 UTC), on 11580 kHz. From about March to October, the program can usually, but not every time (see logs underneath), be well heard in northwestern Germany.

WRMI appears to be interested in reception reports concerning the Radio Ukraine relays. Reports can be sent to radiomiami9@cs.com.

____________

2. Recent Logs

International Telecommunication Union letter codes used in the table underneath:

ARG – Argentina; ARM – Armenia; AUT – Austria; BOT – Botswana; CLN – Sri Lanka; D – Germany; EQA – Ecuador; G – Great Britain; INS – Indonesia; LTU – Lithuania; MLA – Malaysia; SVN – Slovenia; TIB – Tibet; TUR – Turkey; TWN – Taiwan; USA – United States of America.

Languages (“L.”):

? – not recognized; E – English; F – French; G – German; M – Malaysian; N – Dutch; R – Russian.

The table underneath might appear messy unless you click the headline of this particular post – or it may remain invisible unless you click “continue reading”.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Warum gibt es Propaganda?

Im folgenden Blockquote eine nicht autorisierte Übersetzung aus Jacques Ellul, “Propaganda – the Formation of Men’s Attitudes”, New York, 1965, 1973 in englischer Übersetzung des französischen Originals, Seiten 105 (u.) – 108 (0.).

Fußnoten wurden weggelassen. Inhaltliche Irrtümer beim Übersetzen sowie Typos sind jederzeit möglich.

Ich stelle meine auszugsweise Übersetzung hier unter der Annahme ein, dass sie unter “fair use” fällt, was auf der FC-Plattform möglicherweise nicht der Fall wäre.

Man muss auch im Auge behalten, dass Propaganda sich auf die dichteste Masse konzentrieren muss – sie muss organisiert werden für die enorme Masse Einzelner. Diese große Mehrheit findet sich nicht unter den Reichen oder sehr Armen; Propaganda wird also für die gemacht, die einen bestimmten Lebensstandard erreicht haben. In westlichen Ländern wendet sich Propaganda an den Durchschnittsmenschen, der alleine eine wirkliche Kraft repräsentiert. Aber, man könnte sagen, in den sehr armen Ländern wie Indien oder den arabischen Nationen wendet sich Propaganda an eine andere Masse, an die sehr Armen, die fellahin. Nun, der Punkt ist der, dass diese Armen nur sehr geringfügig und langsam auf irgendeine Propaganda reagieren, die nicht Agitationspropaganda ist. Die Studenten und Händler reagieren – nicht die Armen. Dies erklärt die Schwäche von Propaganda in Indien und Ägypten. Denn wenn Propaganda wirkungsvoll sein soll, muss der Propagandisierte einen bestimmten Vorrat an Ideen und eine Anzahl konditionierter Reflexe haben. Diese werden nur mit etwas Wohlstand erworben, mit etwas Erziehung, und der inneren Ruhe, die aus relativer Sicherheit erwächst.

Im Gegensatz dazu kommen alle Propagandisten aus der oberen Mittelklasse, ob sowjetisch, nazi, japanisch oder amerikanische Propaganda. Die reiche und sehr gebildete Klasse stellt keine Propagandisten zur Verfügung, weil sie fern vom Volk ist und es nicht gut genug versteht, um es zu beeinflussen. Die untere Klasse kann keine zur Verfügung stellen, weil ihre Mitglieder selten die Möglichkeiten haben, sich selbst auszubilden  (selbst in der UdSSR); und wichtiger, sie können nicht ein paar Schritte zurücktreten und sich ihre Klasse mit der Perspektive ansehen, die erforderlich ist, wenn man Symbole für sie konstruieren will. Daher zeigen Studien, dass die meisten propagandisten aus der Mittelklasse rekrutiert werden.

Die Bandbreite propagandistischen Einflusses ist größer und umfasst auch die untere Mittelklasse und die obere Arbeiterklasse. Aber damit, dass man den Lebensstandard erhöht, immunisiert man niemanden gegen Propaganda – im Gegenteil. Natürlich, wenn jeder sich auf dem Level der unteren Mittelklasse befände, hätte die heutige propaganda vielleicht weniger Erfolgsaussichten. Aber in Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass der Aufstieg zu diesem Level allmählich erfolgt, macht der steigende Lebensstandard – im Westen, wie auch im Osten und in Afrika, die kommenden Generationen empfänglicher für Propaganda. Letztere etabliert ihren Einfluss, während Arbeitsbedingungen, Ernährung und Wohnbedingungen sich verbessern und während gleichzeitig ein gewisse Standardisierung der Menschen einsetzt, ihre Umformung zu dem, was man als normale, typische Leute betrachtet. Aber während das Aufkommen eines solchen [106] “normalen” Typs einmal automatisch und spontan war, wird es nun immer mehr zu einer systematischen Schöpfung, bewusst, geplant und beabsichtigt. Die technischen Aspekte der menschlichen Arbeit, ein klares Konzept sozialer Beziehungen und nationaler Ziele, die Errichtung einer Form üblichen Lebens – das alles führt zur Schöpfung eines Typs normaler Menschen und führt alle Menschen in geeigneter Weise, auf einer Vielzahl von Wegen, hin zu dieser Norm.

Darum wird Anpassung zu einem der Schlüsselworte allen psychologischen Einflusses. Ob es sich nun um eine Frage der Anpassung an Arbeitsbedingungen, des Konsums oder eines Milieus handelt – eine klare und bewusste Absicht, Menschen in das “normale” Muster zu integrieren, herrscht überall vor. Dies ist der Gipfel propagandistischen Handelns. Zum Beispiel besteht kein großer Unterschied zwischen Maos Theorie der “Gussform” und dem McCarthyismus. In beiden Fällen ist Normalität das Ziel, in Übereinstimmung mit einer bestimmten Lebensweise. Für Mao ist Normalität eine Art idealen Menschens, der Prototyp des Kommunisten, der geformt werden muss, und dies kann nur damit getan werden, dass der Einzelne in eine Form gepresst wird, in der er die gewünschte Form annehmen wird. Da das nicht über Nacht passieren kann, muss der Einzelne wieder und wieder in die Form gepresst werden, und Mao sagt, dass es dem Einzelnen selbst völlig bewusst ist, dass er sich dieser Operation aussetzen muss.

Auf der anderen Seite und mit anderen Formeln gibt es den McCarthyismus. Der McCarthyismus ist kein Zufall. Er drückt eine tiefe Strömung in der amerikanischen Meinung gegen alles “Unamerikanische” aus und beutet sie gleichzeitig aus. Er beschäftigt sich weniger mit Meinungen als mit einer Lebensweise. Herauszufinden, dass die Zugehörigkeit zu einem Milieu, einer Gruppe oder einer Familie, in der es Kommunisten gibt, als verwerflich gilt, überrascht, denn hier sind nicht Ideen, sondern eine abweichende Lebensweise von Bedeutung. Dies führt in der Literatur zu unamerikanischen Aktivitäten zur Assoziation von Alkoholismus oder Homosexualität mit Kommunismus, und zu den Regeln, bekanntgemacht 1952, die das “Risiko geringer Sicherheit” aufstellte und zur Rasterung von 7.000 Funktionären führte. Es gab für diese Ermittlung keinen anderen Grund als den, dass der Kommunist “anormal” ist, weil er nicht das “normale” akzeptiert – also den amerikanischen way of life. Diese “anormale” Person muss natürlich als solche behandelt, aller Verantwortlichkeiten enthoben und umerzogen werden. Daher wurden amerikanische Gefangene im Koreakrieg, die mit Kommunismus kontaminiert zu sein schienen, nach ihrer Freilassung in Krankenhäuser verlegt und psychiatrisch und medizinisch in einem Krankenhaus in Valley Forge behandelt. In der derzeitigen amerikanischen Meinung werden alle Anstrengungen, das, was dem amerikanischen Way of Life nicht entspricht und ihn gefährdet [zu bekämpfen], notwendigerweise als gute Werke betrachtet.

Zusammenfassend: Die Schaffung von Normalität in unserer Gesellschaft kann eine von zwei Formen annehmen. Sie kann das Ergebnis wissenschaftlicher, psychosozialer Analyse sein, die auf Statistiken beruht – das ist die amerikanische Art der Normalität. Sie kann auch ideologisch und doktrinär sein – das ist der kommunistische Typ. Aber die Ergebnisse sind identisch: solche Normalität führt notwendigerweise zu Propaganda, die den Einzelnen auf das Muster reduzieren kann, das der Gesellschaft am nützlichsten ist.

Eine PDF-Datei der englischsprachigen Vorlage findet sich »dort und enthält auch die hier übersetzten Seiten 105 – 108.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Huanqiu Editorial on Hague ruling: “The Chinese People will inevitably support the Government”

The following is a translation from an editorial published online by Huanqiu Shibao. It refers to today’s (Tuesday’s) decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The terms used in this translation may not be accurate legal language, be it because of my limited translation skills, be it because of the nature of the article which may be more about purposeful agitation and reassurance, than about legal issues.

Links within the blockquote were added during translation.

The arbitration court’s result on the South China Sea arbitration case, announced in the afternoon Beijing time, is even more extreme, more shameless, than predicted by many, and may be rated as “the worst version” people could imagine, and we believe that Chinese people in their entirety will resent this illegal ruling, and the peace-loving global public will also be absolutely astonished about the arbitration court’s seriously partial approach which will very likely add to regional tensions.

南海仲裁案仲裁庭北京时间12日下午公布了仲裁结果,它比之前很多人预测的更加极端、无耻,堪称是人们可以想象的“最坏版本”,相信全体中国人都会为这一非法裁定感到愤慨,世界爱好和平的公众也会对仲裁庭这一严重偏袒一方,并且很可能加剧地区局势紧张的做法而十分诧异。

According to an unofficial translation, this arbitration result, by denying the nine-dotted line, acts drastically against China’s sovereignty within [this line], and also denies its historical foundation. It denies that there were any exclusive economic zone around any of the Spratly Islands which amounts to denying the Taiping Island its due status. It also openly claims that the [artificial] extension of the islands were without legal legitimacy, denouncing China for obstructing the Philippines’ economic activities within the nine-dotted line, and denouncing China’s interception of Philippine vessels can only exacerbate maritime tensions.

根据一个非官方的中文翻译版本,这一仲裁结果借助否决南海九段线内中国主张权益来对其做了釜底抽薪,而且否定它的历史依据。它否定南沙群岛中任何一岛有专属经济区,这等于否定了太平岛的应有地位。它还公然宣称中国在南沙扩建岛礁不具有合法性,指责中国拦阻菲律宾在九段线内开展经济活动,指中国拦截菲律宾船只加剧了海上紧张。

If one goes by this ruling, the maximum that would remain for China in the Spratly Islands would be a few isolated spots, no exclusive economic zones, and even some territorial waters linking the islands and reefs could be denied. In large part, the Spratlys would be covered by Philippine and Vietnamese exclusive economic zones.

如果按照这一裁决,中国在南沙群岛最多只剩下一些孤立的点,既无专属经济区,甚至可能连岛礁周围的一些领海都将被剥夺。而南沙海域大部分将被菲律宾和越南的专属经济区覆盖。

It would also mean that Chinese construction on these islands and reefs could not be continued, and if the Philippines and Vietnam had sufficient power, they could carry out “demolitions” of already existing Chinese construction. From here on, all maritime resources would be the Philippines’ and Vietnam’s; China’s economic activities and all other activities would have to withdraw from that area.

它还意味着,中国的岛礁建设无法持续,如果菲越有足够的力量,甚至可以对中国已建的岛礁搞“强拆”。今后那片海域的资源将归菲越所有,中国的经济活动和其他活动都要退出那个区域。

This is a brazen denial of China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea doesn’t apply for the standards and adjustments of territorial sovereignty – this should be one of the main principles of international conventions and treaties. Now, by this contentious redefinition [my understanding of the line – may be wrong – JR], this comes full circle by delimiting the dispute with this forcible ruling, this is shameless overstepping of authority and abuse of authority, and cruel trampling on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and for the entire international law system.

这是对中国领土主权和海洋权益的悍然否定。联合国海洋法公约不适用于领土主权的调整和规范,这是该公约缔约时的首要原则之一。现在仲裁庭通过对这些争端的再定义,兜了个圈子对中菲领土和海洋划界争端强行裁决,这是无耻的越权和滥权,是对海洋法公约以及整个国际法体系的粗暴践踏。

Not only China’s government, but the entire Chinese society will never accept this “arbitration result”. We will show an unwavering attitude of non-participation and non-acceptance, and nobody should think that anything would shake us.

不仅中国政府,整个中国社会都决不可能接受这一“仲裁结果”,我们对仲裁“不接受、不参与”的态度坚定不移,谁都休想撼动我们。

The so-called “arbitration result” is wasted paper, but if America, Japan and other countries will use it to exert actual military and political pressure on China, the Chinese people will inevitably support the government as it fights back. We firmly believe that when China’s law enforcement is embattled, China’s military force will not remain silent when their appearance is needed.

所谓“仲裁结果”就是废纸一张,但美日等国如果利用它向中国施加现实军事政治压力,中国人民必将支持政府予以针锋相对的回击。相信中国的执法力量严阵以待,中国的军事力量同样不会在需要他们站出来时沉默。

We hope that China’s reasonable activities of all kinds will not be affected in any way, and we also hope that Chinese society, in the face of all storms and waves, including geopolitical provocations, will maintain their determination, and let the daily affairs of this country continue as normal. We believe that the government is able to meet these challenges and to make us believe in this country’s strength will guarantee the unmoved continuation of our correct path.

我们希望看到,中国在南沙地区的各种正当活动不受任何影响,也希望看到中国社会在各种包括地缘政治挑衅在内的各种风浪面前保持定力,让这个国家的运行节奏一如往常。相信我们的政府有能力应对这些挑战,也让我们相信这个国家的实力能够确保我们岿然不动。

____________

Related/Updates

» Beijing engineers coverage, BBC, July 12, 2016
» Why we cover our Ears, BBC, July 10, 2016

____________

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Be very Afraid …

… counter-revolutionary students in public squares!

The PLA is here to kill, kill, kill you with responsibility!

Remember June 4, 1989.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Beijing: Foreign Experts wanted to avert more PR(C) Disasters

Life’s hasn’t been nice to China Radio International (CRI). The propaganda juggernaut hasn’t been mentioned in the nation’s chairman’s new year addresses in recent years (as had been a time-honored custom during previous decades), it had been described as a bottomless pit of waste by Keith Perron (a former CRI presenter himself), and the international broadcaster’s borrowed-boats strategy probably caused some chuckles in the industry, too. Other “international” media outlets from the Middle Kingdom aren’t really effective either. Whenever they catch attention, it’s for anchors losing it, or similar not so-work-related reasons – at least in Western countries.

CRI’s German service is a brilliant example of how propaganda on a foreign audience simply can’t work. On the past two Sundays, they broadcast the same edition of their “listeners forum”, with just one listener quoted there (maybe he was the only one who wrote in), and later on, a “report” on electrical power supply in Tibet (also the second time on two consecutive Sundays). That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any listeners – some actually appear to be listening religiously, and Beijing’s propaganda is in no position to abandon these early Christians. But it appears to be a small flock. And given the truthful (and therefore highly unpleasant) representation of Beijing’s attitude towards Tibet, for example, it can’t be a big audience.

If you, as a government or collective dictatorship, can’t bring yourself to destroy some quarters of the state-owned industrial sector (as prescribed by the neo-liberal foreign press), you certainly cannot break an unsinkable aircraft carrier with thousands of jobs up, either. But you can still do two things. Measure number one is to keep the ineffective bathing tub*) in your coastal waters, while venturing into international waters with some international expertise. That, at least, appears to be on Xi Jinping‘s mind – Xi is the guy who hasn’t mentioned CRI in his new-year addresses.

And while the foreign expertise is going to work for you, you can kick all those foreign correspondents out who treat China unfairly. That would be measure number two. In fact, measure number two has been practiced for ages.

(On a private note, I’m not sure if putting lipstick on the pig will really make the pig look nicer, or more convincing. But then, the pig has little to lose – and I’m going to watch the experiment with some curiosity.)

____________

Note

*) Given the wide range of languages and target areas, there may be CRI brances which are a success story, in terms of feedback from the audience, etc.. But I haven’t heard of them yet.

____________

Friday, April 15, 2016

Monument Policies (1): Poland

As Poland celebrates 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland, the country’s right-wing government is pushing the country’s European heritage as the EU steps up its criticism, writes Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international media platform. The news article seems to reflect the general angle of the German press on Polish current affairs quite well, although  milder than some German-language reports, even at DW itself, where a headline in February read Polen: Muslime unerwünscht (“Muslims unwelcome”, a choice of words that triggers memories of “Jews unwelcome”, a notice on many German doors, especially once the Nazis had come to power. Dirty German history at Poland’s expense, in only two words.

Coverage on Poland

DW: How ugly of you, Poland

Not all is well between Brussels and Warsaw, as an article by DW correspondent Barbara Wesel reflected in December, after the Polish government’s attack on the country’s supreme court, and its state media:

Polen is the biggest net recipient of EU funding in all of Europe. And Warsaw is wrong if only sees the European capital as the main cashier’s window. From there, obligations accrue, too. The number one obligation is to observe the rules of the club. If Jarosław Kaczyński believes he can impudently defy them, he needs to be disabused. Unfortunately, there are barely ways of imposing official financial sanctions, but maybe all sorts of mistakes can be found in future Polish project proposals… Rudeness like that of the Law-and-Justice party chief needs to be answered with rudeness.

Polen ist der größte Netto-Empfänger von EU-Fördermitteln in ganz Europa. Und Warschau irrt, wenn es in der europäischen Hauptstadt nur die Hauptkasse sieht. Daraus erwachsen auch Verpflichtungen. Erste Pflicht ist auf jeden Fall, die Regeln des Clubs einzuhalten. Wenn Jaroslaw Kaczynski glaubt, er könne sich frech darüber hinweg setzen, muss er eines Besseren belehrt werden. Leider gibt es in der EU kaum Möglichkeiten, offiziell finanzielle Sanktionen zu verhängen. Aber vielleicht finden sich ja allerhand Fehler in künftigen polnischen Projektanträgen… Auf einen so groben Klotz wie den polnischen PiS-Parteichef gehört ein grober Keil.

This kind of creative anger – probably indicative of the general mood among the political class in the City of Brussels – is a somewhat unpleasant sight, especially when Germans wield the financial club. Nothing is forgotten in Poland: no pressure, no words, which above all shouldn’t come from German mouths, will dissuade us, German news magazine Der Spiegel quoted Jarosław Kaczyński in January.

Kaczyński’s policies may be facing widespread opposition in Poland by now – but with comments like these, he may be able to reach some of his opponents, too.

Brussels and Berlin seem to understand that. While wide swathes of German press coverage is pulling Polish policies to pieces, German and EU diplomacy remain … well … diplomatic.

And the real dark clouds, from Warsaw’s point of view, are gathering in the West, from the direction of another complicated neighbor. That would be Russia. When it comes to the Katyn massacre, for years, “the blame for the killings was alternately attributed to the Germans and the Russians”, a Radio Poland continuity announcement informed the station’s listeners on Wednesday (7th minute), Poland’s official day of remembrance. The report that followed the announcement was more accurate, stating that the Soviet Union (the Soviet NKVD) had been responsible.

In the same broadcast, German journalist Boris Reitschuster is interviewed (20th minute) about his latest book (to be published on Friday, April 15) about Putin’s Secret Army. (Whatever may be said about the book (in terms of reliability or otherwise), conservative press people appear to be fans, while liberal and leftist publications don’t display nearly as much fascination.)

There was no official mention of the tragedy in Poland during the communist rule nor much was said in the West, which is also guilty of concealing evidence of the Stalinist crime,

Radio Poland said on Wednesday.

Maybe it’s this mood that defines the current mission of Polish remembrance policies: 500 monuments to the Soviet soldiers, who drove the German Wehrmacht out of Poland in 1944/1945, are scheduled to be demolished (CNBC) or removed (Newsweek).

It’s not the first action of this kind, but it is now reportedly the Polish state Institute for National Remembrance (INR) that calls on regional authorities to dismantle the monuments. It could become a comprehensive measure.

And at the same time, Polish media discuss the positive symbols that shall replace those from the communist era. A Radio Poland press review, still on April 13:

Back to Rzeczpospolita now which claims that President Lech Kaczyński, who was killed in the plane crash in Russia six years ago, deserves a dignified memorial in the Polish capital. Having in mind, however, deep divisions in Polish society surrounding the circumstances of the crash, it is not a good idea to erect such a memorial in front of the presidential palace, as is proposed by the Law and Justice Party. The Rzeczpospolita columnist thinks that hospitals, schools and libraries built from public funds and named after the late president would be a better way of remembering President Kaczyński, and of bridging the divides within Polish society.

The presidential palace in Warsaw may have to wait for its copy, but this what the presidential memorial might look like.

____________

Notes

纪念“卡廷惨案”受害者的橡树, CRI, April 14, 2016
Instructions Importantes, CRI, April 12, 2016
Lech Kaczyński, 1949 – 2010, April 10, 2010

____________

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Germany: Is “The Ivan” Back?

The Russians are coming was a standard line when I was a child. Sometimes, everyone into the blockhouses would be added. it was meant to be fun, but there was an underlying fear in it.

Another term for Russians in general would be The Ivan*) (probably an echo from “Ivan the Terrible”). At least in West Germany, fear of Russia was part of collective post-war identity – much more so than in Britain or France.

There may be many possible explanations for this, and I tend to believe that it was a combination of several factors (Germany being subject to allied, including Soviet, control being one that lasted particularly long) was one of them. West Germany’s existence and raison d’être as a frontline state was another. And then, there was a widespread inclination among many Germans to see their country as a victim in the first place, rather than as an initiator of Nazism and boundless war.

By 1983, it had become evident, at least in certain quarters, that the USSR had lost most of its expansionary power. In terms of soft power, Moscows message had become about as attractive as athlete’s foot, and in military terms, the “Evil Empire” was grossly overestimated.

But there was a narrative, and as usual (when the narrative is well crafted), it prevailed over facts. On March 31, 1983, US president Ronald Reagan told a Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon that

In the last 15 years or more, the Soviet Union has engaged in a relentless military buildup, overtaking and surpassing the United States in major categories of military power, acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military capability. All the moral values which this country cherishes-freedom, democracy, the right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny, to speak and write, to live and worship as they choose—all these basic rights are fundamentally challenged by a powerful adversary which does not wish these values to survive.

Der Spiegel, back then a center-left and liberal German newsmagazine, took issue with Reagan. While the USSR was certainly no paper tiger, and while it was true that Soviet military had seen a huge push during two decades under Leonid Brezhnev (with American military budgets being  reduced by some 2.5 percent per year during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies), the USSR’s military power wasn’t as strong as first reported.

Shortly before a paper was published by US secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger (also in March 1983, and supportive of Reagan’s March-31 remarks), the CIA had retracted all its US statements concerning Moscow’s military budget:

military expenditures had been overestimated by fifty percent. Rather than by three, four, or more percent, there had been growth by a maximum of two percent since 1976.

Such subtleties, however, didn’t put Ronald Reagan off-message. His story remained the same; the Soviet Union was about to put an end to [a]ll the moral values which this country cherishes.

Fourty-year-old statistics like those debted in the early 1980s are hard to verify (or falsify). But in at least one respect, the Spiegel authors, in 1983, were wrong: contrary to what they believed (quoting “experts”), America proved able to finish the USSR off in a gargantuan arms race, and the factors that lead to the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 were pretty much the weaknesses that the Spiegel authors themselves had pointed out less than a decade earlier.

The rest, as they say, is history. The world, from Alaska to Siberia (the long way round, of course), and from Pole to Pole, happily awaited huge peace dividends. After all, we had reached the end of history.

But Russia felt squeezed by NATO – understandably, the Baltic nations and Poland had felt rather urgently that they needed a strong reassurance against potential future Russian expansionism. (Not everyone appeared to trust the story about the end of history, and besides, a democratic society doesn’t necessarily live in a peaceful, unaggressive state.

Germans have viewed Russia – and the Soviet Union – differently since the mid-1980s. By 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had overtaken Ronald Reagan, in terms of popularity here. That didn’t change after the USSR’s demise: while Gorbachev was seen as a failure, or even a “sellout” of sourts, among many Russians, Germans considered him “the” man who had made German unification possible. And Boris Yeltsin‘s Russia, even if not looking terribly respectable at the time, certainly didn’t look like something to fear either.

In an article in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a Moscow correspondent stated in May 1994 that once again, a majority of Russians considered the end of the USSR a greater calamity than its beginnings, and that Russian reformers had not been successful in “learning from the West”, as stipulated by Yeltsin two and a half years earlier.

Yeltsin had to accept that the safeguarding of authority, which had for centuries been based on expansion rather than on enlightenment, could not be redesigned with a new constitution alone.

Jelzin hat einsehen müssen, daß Herrschaftssicherung, die seit Jahrhunderten durch Ausdehnung statt durch Aufklärung erfolgte, mit einer neuen Verfassung alleine nicht umgestaltet werden kann.

Only pacts and compromises with conservative forces could save the “autumn” of Yeltsin’s presidency, the correspondent wrote.

In economic terms, a Stratfor paper dating from November 1999 suggested that veterans of perestroika, such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, could strip the oligarchs of their wealth and influence, and enact more centrist policies.

To quite an extent, this seems to be what Vladimir Putin‘s presidency has done. In its early years, it continued the ideological consolidation started by Yeltsin himself, and his administration began to implement a policy that the “Zeit” Moscow correspondent described as west-oriented as a matter of principle, but moving away from America in particular. […] In America, however, the “Zeit” article quoted Yeltsin, forces were concentrating that would like to keep Russia in a state of controllable paralysis. That said, Putin  – in the eyes of investors – may have arrived at a point similar to Yeltsin’s, by now. Too little appears to move, economically.

When reading the press these days – certainly the German press -, you might be forgiven if you think that Russian policies had fundamentally changed since the 1990s. But they haven’t. There has been a remarkable Russian continuity – and a tendency in the West to disregard realities in Russia, and in its remaining sphere of influence.

When late German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told Moscow in December 2013 that it was “not appropriate” for the EU “to ask third parties for permission before inviting the Ukraine to develop into Europe’s direction”, this represented widespread western- and central European illusions.

Russia, too, is a European country – most Russians live on the European continent, and Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd not least, are European cities. The discriminatory – and self-centred – approach of equating Europe with the EU has done much to its recent crises, be it on its eastern, be it on its northwestern boundaries.

There is an important difference to make: it would have been unethical if NATO had refused Polish or a Baltic country’s accessions, and it would have been particularly unethical if Germany a main author of Polish partition and loss of the Baltic states’ sovereignty,- had demanded such a refusal.

But in Ukraine, there had been no consensus to join an alliance with the West. In a row, administrations closer to Moscow or closer to the West had been elected, but there had been no continuity. There was Russian intervention, but there had been unwarranted Western interference prior to that. I have no doubt that any Russian leader, be it Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev, would have reacted just the way Putin did. That was no matter of conviction; it was a matter of geopolitics.

Now, Germany’s federal government intends to counter Russian espionage, propaganda, and disinformation in Germany, writes German daily Die Welt. What they mean is, that Russian and pro-Putin publications have blown several issues in the news – issues that have recently troubled many Germans – out of proportions, or given them a slant that favored narratives from the fringes, rather than the much-conjured “center” of German society.

If the German public can be persuaded by domestic propaganda to swing back from a rather “russophile” (since the 1980s) to a rather anti-Russian attitude again (as from the 1940s to the 1970s) remains to be seen. But if the political class have their way, it is going to work that way.

That said, there are surprises, once in a while. In May 2015, Joachim Gauck, not particularly famous for being a friend of the Russian people, gave a speech in the Westphalian town of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war campsite during World War 1 and, more notoriously, World War 2. What Gauck said, was this:

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

Saying that was laudable, especially as most Germans I know aren’t even aware of this chapter in their history. But there is a catch: to say something only once hardly changes anything. Only regular repetition – as anyone with just a faint idea of how propaganda works can tell you – will make sink inconvenient truths like these sink in. Most Germans I know aren’t actually aware of the scale of German warcrimes against Soviet war prisoners. And to make the warprisoner story sink in isn’t deemed desirable: neither by most of Germany’s media, nor by the German population in general, many of whom would like to see a Schlußstrich, a “final stroke” underneath the complete chapter of Nazism.

Some time in the early 1980s – prior to Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet party secretary -, the West German foreign office published a booklet for use in school classes. Our school was a rather conservative environment, but the booklet made it into our classroom anyway. Titled “Aufrüsten-Abrüsten” (Armament-Disarmament), it was a try to educate us in foreign politics, and I don’t remember much of it. But there was a remarkable line in it which basically said that, no matter to which conclusions we, as school students, might come concerning the Soviet Union’s role in Europe, we should develop some sympathy – even if not necessarily acquiescence – in the light of the past.

I guess that this booklet had much to do with the man at the helm of the foreign office at the time – Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, who died on Thursday. As phobic as West German feelings against the “East” might have been back then, there seemed to be an understanding, at least in some substantial quarters of the political class, that you can’t have peace without trying to understand those who may (or may not) become your foes, and that your own decisions may matter in the process.

This understanding may no longer be here, and I’m wondering how much misery it may take before we will regain some common sense.

____________

Notes

*) Max Frisch, in his novel “Homo Faber”, raised a modest monument for German anti-Russian sentiment, in the shape of an, as it turns out later, otherwise/actually/mostly quite likeable German philistine:

No German desired re-armament, but the Russian forced America into it, tragically, which I, as a Swissman […], couldn’t judge, because I hadn’t been to the Caucasus, he [the German] had been in the Caucasus, he knew the Ivan, who could only be taught a lesson with weapons. He knew the Ivan! He said that several times. Only possible lesson through weapons!, he said, because nothing else would impress him, the Ivan —

I peeled my apple.

Distinction between Herrenmenschen and Untermenschen, as advocated by the good Hitler, was, of course, nonsense; but Asians remained Asians —

I ate my apple.

Kein  Deutscher  wünsche  Wiederbewaffnung,  aber  der  Russe zwinge  Amerika  dazu,  Tragik,  ich  als  Schweizer   (Schwyzzer, wie  er mit Vorliebe sagte)  könne  alldies  nicht   beurteilen,  weil  nie im Kaukasus gewesen,  er sei  im  Kaukasus gewesen,  er  kenne den Iwan, der nur durch Waffen zu belehren sei. Er kenne den Iwan!
Das  sagte  er mehrmals. Nur durch Waffen zu  belehren!  sagte  er, denn alles andere  mache  ihm keinen Eindruck,  dem  Iwan   –

Ich  schälte meinen Apfel.

Unterscheidung   nach  Herrenmenschen   und   Untermenschen, wie’s  der  gute  Hitler  meinte, sei  natürlich  Unsinn;  aber  Asiaten bleiben Asiaten –
Ich  aß meinen Apfel.

____________

%d bloggers like this: