Dissidents’ peace versus hegemonic wars
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Belarusian Ales Bialiatsky, Russia’s Memorial movement, and Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties to honour their worldview, which radically differs from the exaltation of the “sovereign" identities that led to war. The only answer to any “hegemony” lies with the defence of freedom, peoples, and individuals.
By awarding the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize to Belarusian lawyer and human rights advocate Ales Bialiatsky, Russia’s Memorial movement, and Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties (CCL), the Nobel committee rebuffed in no uncertain terms Greater Russia’s warmongering regime and its rulers, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko.
The names of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky and Russian political prisoner Alexei Navalny, the Putin regime’s most eminent adversaries, had been put forward, but in the end, the committee chose to stay away from individuals directly involved in ongoing political and military struggles, and that includes Belarusian opponents in exile or in jail.
The award goes to two humanitarian organisations and one individual, Ales Bialiatsky. Currently, a prisoner of conscience, the latter set up the Viasna (Spring) Human Rights Centre in the 1990s, which the Lukashenko regime ordered closed recently, like Russia did with Memorial. By contrast, in Ukraine, the CCL stands against dictatorship and totalitarianism.
Their worldview radically challenges that exaltation of the idea of “sovereign" identity that led to this year's war, and which Russia strongly reiterated in recent days.
The changing fortunes of war in late September to Russia's war operations in Ukraine have in fact laid bare the purpose of the war, namely to use Ukraine as the battlefield opposing a world now identified by all as the ideology of the "Russian World"” to the alternative offered by the so-called collective West.
In President Putin's speeches announcing the country’s mobilisation, and the annexation of the so-called liberated republics in the Donbass and along the Black Sea coast, there is very little talk of territories and military strategies.
The mass of recruits in the Russian army are not meant to pour into the other regions of Ukraine to "de-Nazify” it, something that is now absent from the official rhetoric, months after raving about re-enacting the Great Patriotic War.
Among the reservists called up, several have already met their maker during Ukraine’s effective counteroffensive, while thousands more have surrendered and are now in POW camp – soldiers in an otherwise hodgepodge of an army of misfits who can at best pretend to occupy or defend their ground.
For the international community, the main fears are now turned to Putin’s nuclear threat, but that too seems to be gradually fading away as it appears less and less credible. Meanwhile, a dark cloud hangs over everything amid political and strategic diatribes concerning energy prices and the coming winter cold.
In Putin's latest speeches, whether they express his own thoughts or those of various ideologues and speechwriters, the terms hegemon (Rus: гегемон, gegemon) and hegemony recur several times, obviously used to label the Western enemy bent on “wiping out Russia” by imposing its soulless global domination.
“The West is ready to drive over everything and everyone to preserve its neo-colonial system, which allows it to plunder the resources of the whole world and collect from humanity a great tribute (the dan during the medieval Tatar yoke], the gegemon’s rent.”
During this year’s war, the term was symptomatic of the tsar-liberator’s deepest personal resentment: “Everything disliked by the gegemon holder of power is declared archaic, outdated, superfluous, and harmful, and those who do not agree have their kneecaps broken.”
The new “anti-Russian” Nobel laureates, in Putin's mind, only confirm this “dictatorship of thought", as did the 2021 Nobel prize awarded to Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, which was shut down after a court revoked its licence.
There is nothing new in Putin’s resentment-filled tirade, in which Russia is seen as the only hope for a “more just world order” in which the past that some seek to erase is restored, but with no idea or sign of the future one wants to build.
Everything is seen through the prism of a conspiracy paradigm, a hysterical reaction to the great powers that impose colonial servitude.
Yet, even in Putin’s circles, some people have developed a view of Russia’s future, like former Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko, known to be methodical, someone seen by many as a possible replacement of the “madman in the Kremlin bunker”.
Putin explicitly cites the ultraconservative philosopher Ivan Ilyin, the most radical anti-communist thinker expelled from Russia on the “philosophers’ ship" in 1922 who dreamt of a born-again tsarist Russia, but also the “mystical cosmism” of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who theorised human spaceflight in the late 19th century as an ideal whereby man can achieve complete victory over the forces of nature, a man with whom the Russian president identifies with in the universal war of Russia against astronomical obstacles.
Kiriyenko and others turn instead to the Soviet-era "internal dissident" Georgy Petrovich Shchedrovitsky (aka GPS), a philosopher from Moscow who chose not to seek fame and fortune abroad like samizdat dissidents did, but instead established a series of “methodological seminars” to provide the tools to change the world even under the cloak of totalitarianism and repression.
His programme was based on prioritising methodological activism over naturalism, on proposing a "virtual" and alternative reality outside the walls of natural reality, way ahead of the philosophy of the metaverse that is increasingly current today. The real Russia, in short, is the one that does not really exist.
In the muddled ideological vortex inspiring the champions of Russia’s war against the whole world, the very concept of "hegemony" remains something uncertain and difficult to grasp, as noted by the excellent Signal newsletter put out by the Meduza news website.
In Putin's Soviet-era mindset, the Marxist idea of hegemony clearly prevails, articulated around the relationship between the "base" and the "superstructure" – control over material and economic assets is reflected in the secondary, “superstructural" aspects of culture, religion, art and science, the "dominant mindset" imposed by the masters.
Eventually, Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci turned Marx's conception on its head, noting that revolution could be carried out by gaining “cultural hegemony" even before the means of production came under revolutionary control. This could be done by defining the programmes in school and universities, and by shaping artistic and literary tastes and topics of discussion in society.
The overwhelming pervasiveness of modern communications and media seem to back Gramsci’s ideas, as people's lives are shaped by the new god of Algorithm without any need for philosophy or culture.
For Signal, there is more. One development that plays a decisive role in Putin's way of thinking is the “theory of hegemony” by neo-Marxist philosopher Immanuel Wallerstein, which he calls the "world-system".
Based on his experience in post-colonial Africa, Wallerstein sees two types of systems that govern the entire world community: world-empires based on the power of a resource-distributing centre, and world-economies. In reality, the two morphed into a single system built by bourgeois capitalism that increasingly replaced empires in modern times, where the role of the "hegemon" is less evident, like Great Britain in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th century, the Anglosaksy, the Anglo-Saxons Putin likes to hate.
Today these roles are being redefined, and certainly not by Russia’s unrealistic wars, but by a set of macro-economic and geopolitical trends that should encourage everyone to look to the future rather than to reclaim the past.
In order not to be relegated to the peripheries of the US-centred hegemonic system, Putin is turning into a pawn of the rising Chinese hegemon, a rivalry in which nuclear bombs would certainly help no one to prevail.
The worldview of the man in the Kremlin is much less sophisticated than that of philosophers. Simply put, his way is to solve everything by force and opposing “us" and the treacherous “them”, i.e. the countries that support US sanctions and those that share Russia’s “common sense” and agree with its attempt to preserve the "sovereignty" of every people, and perhaps acknowledge Moscow’s “good hegemony”.
Yet, the answer to every "hegemony" lies with the defence of freedom, peoples, and individuals, which is what the new Nobel prize laureates do, heeding Pope Francis, universal spokesman of the Gospel, who calls on us to solve today’s problems without war in order to build the future together.
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