War and Anti-War

I am popping in to recommend a listen for the 99% Invisible podcast on the Orange Alternative (which helped bring down the Polish military dictatorship in the late 1980s and ultimately ushered in the post-Communist era), which was centered around Wrocław in southwestern Poland. It’s a lovely radio show, full of inspiring history, and usefully brings it into the present by telling us about the “Little Picketers”—small clay statues holding signs that are popping up all over Russia as a kind of small, everyday dissent against the Ukrainian war.

A few images of “Little Picketers” that The Nation published, at least a couple originated with The Moscow Times.

At the end of this post I’ll put the unfinished video of a journey through the last days of the East Bloc by the “Anti-Economy League of San Francisco”—we went to warn our political friends in East Germany, Poland, and (then-)Czechoslovakia about the coming disaster of “freedom.” That was our logo at upper left (taken from Oscar Bernal’s back cover of Processed World #8).

The Orange Alternative, well-presented in the 99% Invisible episode, was very inspiring to us when we learned about it. Using the symbol of a smurf, the movement grew by leaps and bounds and filled the streets in many places, especially Wrocław, using humor, ridicule, and festival to reduce the military dictatorship to the butt of a joke. These days it’s hard to laugh in the face of the Russian onslaught on Ukraine, but we have to admit that meeting military might with the same is basically destroying the country. As Steven Cohen usefully analogized on the New Yorker Radio Hour, say you live in a big house with 10 rooms. A big bully comes barging in and takes two rooms, wrecks them, and from them begins to wreck the rest of your house. You need your house. They don’t. They have one behind that is basically safe and untouched. How long can you endure the destruction before you have to make an unpleasant deal?

It’s worse of course, because the United States has been up to no good since the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s perfectly true that the U.S. pushed NATO up against the borders of Russia, violated many of the pledges made when the Soviet Union imploded, and have surrounded Russia in a way that is almost designed to provoke a belligerent response. Blowing up the Nordstream gas pipelines (as Seymour Hersch has reported) shows the real U.S. agenda: to push Europe back under its nuclear and economic hegemony. Biden seems like a baffled old man a lot of the time, but this foreign policy is continuous with the priorities of the American establishment stretching back well into the Cold War. We haven’t even mentioned how much money is pouring into the coffers of the biggest war contractors, how much they’re running down stocks of weapons that were nearing their sell-by date, and how this is another goosing of the Military Industrial Complex.

I don’t have time to go on at this moment, so for once I’ll just post this and let it be a brief provocation. (In other news, I have a final first draft of my novel, and it’s being evaluated by a publisher and, separately, a screenwriter! Fingers crossed for good news in the next month or two.)

OK, here’s the long-lost unfinished half hour of our forgotten journey to Eastern Europe in 1990:

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