La Russophobe and Paul Goble; Just Say No to Imperialist Corporatism


Uncle Volodya says, "Excellent, Comrade Shornikov. You fulfilled the five-year plan for nonsense in only twenty minutes"


Can anybody tell me what the hell this is about?

This crazy rant, third-hand from La Russophobe via The Indispensable Paul Goble via Aleksey Shornikov is suddenly beginning to gain a fair bit of traction with russophobes and “Russia News” sites. That’s curious, because it makes no sense whatever, and no evidence offers itself that its author is any kind of “analyst”, as he is described by Goble. Rather, he appears to be just some opinionated blogger, and no more an analyst of anything than I am. That’s just a title Goble likes to give his sources so they will sound more authentic. Mr. Shornikov actually bills himself as a “Luzhkov Researcher”.

If you’ve ever wondered whether material needs to have a point at all, or if it’s sufficient that it just be anti-Russian in order for it to be picked up by russophobes, this may clear up a few things. Let’s look at it. Russia, we’re told once again, is not a country. Jeez, how many times have we heard that? Instead, it’s a corporation, which the author wants to call “RF Inc.”, presumably signifying, “Russian Federation, Incorporated”. Catchy: I like it. RF Inc., we’re told, patterns itself on the British East India Company, best-known for its colonization and subjugation of India.

The British East India Company was incorporated in 1600, and ceased to exist as a legal entity in 1873, so it had a pretty long run. It was formed to seize advantage for the crown in the spice trade, although it later exercised considerable political influence and became the primary agent of British imperialism in India. In its initial operations it conducted each spice voyage as a separate business venture, with its own stockholders. In 1612 it switched to temporary joint stocks, and then in 1657 to permanent joint stocks. The company assembled its own military and administrative departments, owing to the threat from foreign competitors, so I suppose it was a de facto state of sorts, and it created and policed colonies on behalf of the crown.

By now you’re probably asking yourself, “What has this got to do with Russia being a country, and if it isn’t a country, what is it??” Don’t ask me, because I’m in the “Russia is a country” camp. But the assembled wise heads of La Russophobe, The Indispensable Paul Goble and Aleksey Shornikov don’t appear to have an answer, either. How, exactly, is Russia like the British East India Company? We’re going to have to guess.

The British East India Company was formed to fight for market share in international trade, on behalf of the host country – England. At no time I’m aware of did anyone suggest England was no longer a country because it was host to the British East India Company. Is it because Russia aggressively pursues international trade opportunities? If so, how does that make it not a country, but a corporation better described as “RF Inc.”? I can’t wait to hear the preferred alternative; is it smiling peasants, selling root vegetables from roadside stands? Perhaps the comparison with the British East India Company owes something to its having made a select group very wealthy by exploiting a much larger group- is that it? Please say it’s not, because if you say, “Yes, that’s it exactly!!”, I’ll ask you to point me to a state or competitive organization that features a management or leadership core which deliberately makes itself poorer while enriching its subjects. If you can do that, and it’s not too much trouble, could you forward me a citizenship application? Get it? Every nation in the world is interested in increasing its market share of international trade; even the dumb, backward ones. Every nation in the world which enjoys reasonable success at it features a core of individuals who profit more than anyone else. In a good many of those countries (notice that they’re all called countries, not Incs), that core forms the national government. In the rest, the profit-taking core is formed of business heads who are well in with the government, but not actually members. Don’t make me name names, because that apparently is “whataboutism”.

Perhaps the LaRussophobe/Goble/Shornikov Think Tank is comparing Russia the non-country to the British East India Company because of the latter’s acquisitive nature and imperialist ambitions as a colonial power. If so, I suggest it’s 19 years late; the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 without even releasing a “Greatest Hits” album. That shouldn’t suggest there are not nationalist elements in Russia today who would like to have all those “colonies” back again, but there are probably not enough of them to form their own country. Or Inc., or whatever. The fact remains that the Russian Empire has not gotten larger since 1991, unless you want to count South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

According to Shornikov, “RF Inc.” appeared coincident with the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although he claims to despise communism, Russia was apparently still a country while it was a communist state, although the Bolsheviks kind of spoiled it a little. Before 1917 Russia was not only a country, but a pretty good one, then. Some of the people must not have shared his enthusiasm, since Emperors Ivan VI, Peter III, Paul I, Alexander II and Nicholas II were all murdered or assassinated, but we’ll leave that for now. Where in the Shornikov Doctrine, then, which holds that RF Inc. emerged in 1991 and ushered in a corporation totally occupied with self-enrichment which persists to the present day, do figures like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky fit? Both made fortunes by acquiring state assets at fire-sale prices, both are fabulously wealthy (Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man and 16th in the world). Pursuing unrestricted wealth is the watchword of corporatism – why, then, aren’t these exemplary men welcome in RF Inc.? More to the point, why are they the darlings of russophobes? I think if you look around, you can find other countries that are run much closer to the corporate model. One of them almost took down the world economy recently with its unabashed corporatism.

If you wanted a good laugh, the emergence of the Corporate Inc Formerly Known As Russia is supposedly personified by the sacking of Moscow ex-mayor Yury Luzhkov, whose wife is the richest woman in the non-country.

Well, here’s a little free advice for the Triple-Headed Focus Group – take it, or don’t, as you wish. Aleksey Shornikov; real academics and analysts don’t threaten to delete the comments of people who respond rudely, and ban them for life. Those are the resources of people who can’t stand up under debate. Paul Goble, stop getting your facts from opinion columns and whackjob bloggers. La Russophobe, check your links before you publish – your link to Paul Goble in the subject piece is the wrong Paul Goble, unless the crusading researcher who features prominently in your dreams is actually an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books, from England.

In closing, I’m sure Alexei (or Aleksey) Shornikov is a common name in Moscow, but I couldn’t find one with any credentials as an analyst of anything. I did, however, find this guy. Hope this isn’t your analyst, Paul.

Update: One of our readers, Peter, provided this link to another “essay” by Mr. Shornikov, in which he suggests the Moscow Metro is a monument to Lenin, a continuation of the mausoleum, and a temple to satanists (the Bolsheviks).

Holy Jeebus. The man appears to be a kook. Nice one, Paul Goble.

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22 Responses to La Russophobe and Paul Goble; Just Say No to Imperialist Corporatism

  1. Yalensis says:

    Maybe this Shornikov fellow is trying to say that post-Soviet Russia is a fascist entity? I have never understood economics very well (maybe kovane can jump in here and tutor me), that is to say, I understand the distinction between capitalism (private ownership) and socialism (state ownership or mixture of private/state). What I have never understood is the difference between fascism and regular capitalism. By “fascism”, I am not talking about goose-stepping Nazis or anti-Semitism, I am speaking stricly about the fasacist economic model; I believe they call it “corporatism”. Like what Mussolini established in fascist Italy? What I am not clear about is the relationship between the central government and a corporate entity in such a system. Depending on the definition, maybe the England of the days of the British East India Company could be considered a fascist country? Regardless of that, I doubt if contemporary Russia could be called fascist. Gazprom is a huge money-maker, but it is not the entire economy. In an alternate universe in which Mr. Putin had never been born, maybe Khodorkovsky would now be the president of Russia, as well as its chief stock-holder and richest man in the world, and in that case I think Russia truly would be a fascist country! (Also, in such a universe, La Russophobe would be a happy happy camper and her blog would be all full of happiness and praise…)

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Hi Yalensis, your misunderstanding of the fascist economic model is due to an improper translation of the Italian term “corporazione” (in the fascist meaning of the term) into the English “corporation”. The corporazione during fascist times was an organization that represented all people working in a specific professional field (e.g. housing construction), regardless of the social status of its members, that is to say both workers and owners belonged to the corporazione. A better English translation would be “guild” although it isn’t completely correct because the guild was a pre-capitalist organization.
      The aim of corporazioni (plural of corporazione) was to represent the interests of their members towards each other and toward the government which acted as the supreme arbiter. In this way fascism tried to quell class struggle which had reached a boiling point in Italy during 1919-20 (the red biennium). The bottom line was like this: we all are in the same boat, both haves and have-nots, we should cooperate to form a powerful State (note the capital S) and engaging in class struggle is not just futile, it’s counterproductive.
      Another characteristic of the fascist ideology was the concept of the state as the supreme, almost god-like, entity that was more important than the single citizen, because the state was more than just the sum of the people forming it. Hence the capital S in State (Stato).
      I realize that for Anglo-Saxons this idea may look strange, but it’s not for continental Europeans. The former tend to see governments as a necessary evil, the latter see the State as the community they belong to. Please note the terms I’ve used. “State” is mainly understood and used as a concept by Europeans, “government” is just part of the implementation of the concept.
      As an example, “taxpayer’s money”, whose literal translation in Italian is “soldi dei contribuenti”, is often referred to as “State’s money” (soldi dello Stato). Another example is the debate about firearms rights. Most right-winger are in favor of gun liberalization arguing that the citizen has the right to defend himself from criminals, but unlike their US fellows they would’t even think to use their guns against the government (or as they would say the State). The US slogan “I don’t trust a government that doesn’t trusts me with a gun” is unthinkable for the European gun-rights advocate.

      • marknesop says:

        We all owe you a debt of gratitude, Giuseppe, (at least all of us who are not historians and economists) for that excellent explanation. One of the things I love about blogging is how much I learn from it.

        There was nothing much wrong with the guild concept – it kept trade skills fresh and ensured new developments were made available to all members. There was still intense competition, but it was based more on skill than politics.

        The modern corporation relies on lobbyists to advance a perception of great skill or great influence.

      • Yalensis says:

        Thanks, Giuseppe, that’s a very good clarification of Italian fascism. If I am understanding you correctly, it sounds like Mussolini came up with this idea of ending the class struggle by replacing trade unions with these mixed-class “corporate” entities representing both capitalists and workers within the same industry? I am guessing that the experiment was not a success? Or maybe it was economically successful for a while, but then the war got in the way?
        Also, did the German Nazis use the same model in their economy, or was that a specifically Italian concept? Thanks again for your excellent response!

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      I forgot a question at the end of my comment. Which is the Russian attitude toward the (S)state? is it closer to the European view or to the Anglo-Saxon one, or is it different from both?

      • carpenter117 says:

        Well, I will not tell you for the whole of Russia, it’s a big country, after all, but the attitude towards the State here IMO is somewhat unique. I’d call it cautious indifference.
        As it seems to me, russians believe that good, honest and noble people do not voluntary come into power.
        Nevertheless, they believe that the state is obliged to perform certain duties before it’s citizens, and it is desirable to interfere as little as possible in their lives. Failure to meet these two obligations on the part of the State will lead to social instability. So, at first look it’s like “necessary evil”. But there isn’t (at least now) any real prominent antagonism in Russia between the State and the People – there is, IMHO, some kind of wariness to each other.

      • Giuseppe, as you framed it, Russians’ conception of the state is the European, not the American one.

        • marknesop says:

          Agreed. In many ways, at least in my opinion, Russians are a people who look like Europeans and think like Asians. But in this, I agree they think like Europeans.

  2. Igor, AU says:

    ..while I am here at your blog ..The original article in Russian was (IMHO) extremely poorly written & the language there is not the one an educated person would have used. And, indeed, the author has some hard to understand ideas – eg. re. Luzhkov . When such people as Luzhkov (sorry, not “people” but “businessmen” or “oligarchs” 🙂 are removed from direct participation in politics, I fail to see it as not a state-building act…

    BTW – regarding examples of the countries.. Did you look at Brunei, with its (equalized) GDP per capita ranked ~ 4th in the world (if I’m not mistaken)? It is an interesting example, not only because officially it is not a democracy, but also because there is no personal income tax there. The government officially owns AFAIK 51% of resources & runs other businesses & even though it is officially & effectively is a business/corporation, it somehow willingly gives “their” money to the people in the form of free education, medical services, pensions etc

  3. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Can anybody tell me what the hell this is about?
    IMO it’s like those action B-movies whose feeble plotline (if any) is just an excuse to show loosely connected, and often badly acted, fight scenes. Just enjoy the fight scenes, don’t care about the plotline (and acting, dialogs…).
    Moreover, reading LR and Paul A. Globe posts along with a Google translation of the original Shornikov’s blog post, I got the impression that the “fight scenes” are not just the usual russophobic slants but also a desire to show the authors historical knowledge. Most of the details about the East Indian companies are irrelevant or are at odd with the desired thesis.

  4. peter says:

    “Московский метрополитен – храм сатанистов” by the very same Alexey Shornikov. The man is a notorious nutcase.

  5. Yalensis says:

    Anyhow, the Russophobes must be getting pretty desperate for material if they’re now sobbing for Luzhkov. Aren’t these the same folks who were building careers just a couple of months ago by dumping all over Luzhkov? Must have short-term memory syndrome…

  6. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    @carpenter117, Sublime Oblivion
    Thanks for your answers.
    Thanks for you appreciation, but I’d like to make it clear I’m not an historian neither an economist (perhaps this is an advantage). I too like blogging, the interaction with the author and other commenters is very informative.
    You understood it correctly, one of the explicitly stated aim of corporazioni was to make class struggle obsolete, the State proclaimed itself to be the supreme arbiter between workers and capitalists. Strikes were forbidden and any contrast between workers and capitalist was to be dealt with by the State. There was some state planning with prices, wages and work hours regulated by law. That is to say, workers got some rights but had to renounce class struggle.
    This was the theory. In practice, capitalists enjoyed a privileged status during fascist times without the pains of strikes and negotiations with trade unions. Economically, corporazioni were hollow shells, unlike guilds. The latter made sense as Mark pointed out, because in middle ages workers and owners were very close. The former didn’t, because in XX century workers and capitalists lived (and still live) in different worlds.
    Corporazioni were only useful as a kind of opium for the masses.
    As for Germany, to my knowledge there wasn’t anything similar to corporazioni during Nazism. German workers enjoyed some rights and concessions but had to renounce any semblance of class struggle. The opium in Germany was antisemitism that trickled down in Italy only in 1938, after Italy allied with Hitler. Before that date, antisemitism was not an issue, and the National Fascist Party (PNF) had some Jew members even in middle-high levels.

    • marknesop says:

      Good Morning, Giuseppe; I understand you’re not an economist, but I think your grasp of history might exceed your own appraisal, even if you don’t do it for a living. We’ve all seen blogs where the interaction is mostly just insults traded back and forth. I suppose that’s amusing on some level, but you don’t learn much from it. I’ve learned a great deal from the give-and-take here, and developed considerable respect for all the commenters. It doesn’t take long to get a feeling for who you can fool and who you can’t, and blogging will allow you to be lazy only insofar as your audience is also lazy, or too dumb to know when they’re being sold a load of rubbish. There’s nobody here that I could fool, assuming I wanted to, so I have to do my research or be exposed as a fool. When you do research, you learn. Frequently I’ve discovered something that way and thought, “If I’d written what I intended to write before I knew this, it would have held up for maybe two seconds”.

      Yalensis – I agree, with a huge helping of snickering; Luzhkov was just another money-grubbing oligarch last year, even six months ago. Now he’s a downtrodden folk hero. Just goes to show you how long Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s halo would last if he was back in Russia doing business as usual. He’s only a hero as long as he remains in opposition to Putin and Medvedev, and says all the right liberal sound bites. At heart, he’s only interested in using his wits to make as much money and gain as much power for himself as possible. Russophobes (amazing how many of them lean Republican) understand that code perfectly, just as Khodorkovsky understands he’s only useful to the west as long as he’s in opposition to the government. If he were the government, they’d all be, like, what happened to Khodorkovsky? He used to be such a liberal warrior, but now it’s all about money and power with him. Hey, He’s just like Putin!!! Down with Khodorkovsky!!!

      Because then he’d be a competitor, rather than an enabler. That’s unless he just opened Russia up to foreign ownership, and gave America first refusal on everything. And who knows? If the price was right, he might.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Hello Mark, the fact is that in Italian schools some humanistic subjects (language, literature, history) were taken very seriously, while techno-scientific subjects were considered second-rate. So I started with a good base from school and given my fondness for history I cultivated it like an hobby, although in a non-systematic way.

  7. Yalensis says:

    @Giuseppe: your discussion of the corporazioni suddenly reminded me of Fritz Lang’s great film, “Metropolis”. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. In my student days I was a great film buff of classical movies, Lang and Eisenstein were my two favorites of the expressionistic era. Anyhow, in “Metropolis” (which was made in 1927), there was a clearly “fascist” ideology that was expressed as the moral of the story at the end, when the hero, Froeder, puts an end to the class struggle (in this futuristic sci-fi civilization) by becoming the “intermediary” between oppressed workers and elite capitalists. This is expressed poetically in the fascist concept that the “state” is an organic entity, in which the capitalists are the “brain” and the workers are the “hands”. To end the conflict between these two organs, a well-meaning intellectual such as the hero should become the “heart” that mediates between them.
    Later, Lang renounced this fascist philosophy, here is a quote from Wikipedia of Lang being interviewed by Peter Bodanovich:
    “The main thesis was Mrs. Von Harbou’s, but I am at least 50 percent responsible because I did it. I was not so politically minded in those days as I am now. You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that’s a fairy tale — definitely”
    Apparently Hitler was fascinated by this particular film (as well as with Lang’s other work, including his awesome Siegfried/Niebelung epic). So, when Hitler came to power, Lang had to go into exile to the U.S. Not because Hitler hated him; on the contrary, Lang had to leave because Hitler loved him and wanted him to make movies for the Nazi party. Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou, was actually the author of the “Metropolis” screenplay and espouser of the fascist ideology. She was an extremely talented writer and producer, but unfortunately she did become a Nazi, as the Wikipedia article mentions, in 1933. Lang divorced her and emigrated to the U.S. He continued to make great films in Hollywood but, unfortunately, none of them was nearly as good as the films he made in his native Germany.

    • marknesop says:

      I was never the film buff you were, but I’ve always been a reader, and one of my favourites is A.J. Cronin. His books have a common theme; the main character almost always gets what it was he thought he wanted in the end, whether it be fame or affluence or whatever – but it costs him everything he ever cared about along the way, and he’s left to wonder, was it all worth it? His wonderful “The Stars Look Down” is perhaps the best book I’ve ever read on class struggle; describing the scenario from both perspectives – that of the liberal who would have everyone be free and justly treated but doesn’t understand business and competition, and that of the capitalist owner who wants to do the right thing (in this case, and admittedly a rarity), but is hobbled by the obtuseness of lawmakers in the government, liberal activists who think the worst of every business owner, and greedy competitors who wait for a sign of weakness.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      It’s like the fable used by Menenius Agrippa to end the secessio plebis in 494 BC. This story was taught to me at primary school (6-10 y.o.) more than 30 years ago, perhaps its inclusion in the syllabus was a relic of fascism. IMO, it isn’t just a fascist idea, today the “trickle down economy” theory is used in the West with the same aims.
      I’ve not seen “Metropolis”, the only Fritz Lang movie I’ve seen is “M-Duesseldorf monster”.

      • Yalensis says:

        So, Agrippa claimed that the “stomach” of the body-politik was the patrician class, which needed to be constantly fed with taxes? Ha ha! And this fable was taught to 10-year-old children in Italy? In your schoolroom, surely some wise-guy kid (maybe you?) raised their hand and asked which group of people represented the anus?

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          Hi Yalensis, no one dared to ask that kind of question to the teacher. She was nicknamed “Diavola” (female devil) for a good reason.
          But there is an easy answer to that question: the men that built the Cloaca Maxima (Greatest Sewer) in ancient Rome.

          • Yalensis says:

            Giuseppe, I am grateful to your ancestors for inventing indoor plumbing. My poor ancestors had to drag themselves outdoors in the bitter cold in order to do what they needed to do!

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