The Coming Age of New Unfreedom in Post-Communist States

By Peter Baofu, Ph.D.

As Estonia celebrates today (on August 20, 2010) the national holiday in commemoration of its successful fight for independence from the Soviet Union on August 20, 1991 -- something historic with global implications slowly and steadily emerges in many of the post-communist states, namely, the steady process of being increasingly dominated, albeit to a partial extent at the moment, by a new master (especially the E.U. and the U.S.), just when they succeeded in getting rid of their old master (viz., the Soviet Union under Russian domination).

In the euphoric moment of national celebration (which varies from country to country in regard to the official date of commemoration), there is a pervasive sense of innocence, or a widespread spirit of denial, in many of the post-communist states, because they have been all too busy getting rid of the social and cultural remnants of their old master (since their independence from the Soviet Union) but unwisely in a hurry to endorse the new master (without a thorough consideration of its long-term consequences).

This is all the more serious, especially among those who have never experienced what their forebears encountered before them, namely, the long history of being dominated and oppressed by one major empire after another in their own backyard.

Many of these post-communist states have fallen victim to the temptation of freedom, in the hope of creating a new society and culture, which are to be free and prosperous for them and their posterity. But this temptation of freedom has its dark side unsaid, because of the mistake that they currently make – that is, the historic rise of new unfreedom.

In my 2007 book titled BEYOND THE WORLD OF TITANS, AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER, I already went to great lengths to explain the essential dilemma confronting many of these post-communist states in this recent chapter of their long history of fighting for their own independence from one major empire after another in their own backyard. More specifically, I coined the term “the ambivalent regions” as one of the new battlegrounds in the coming age of what I originally called “the post-post-Cold War era” for the foreseeable future and beyond. This book also addressed other parts of the world (in relation to different dilemmas), not just the post-communist states, as it provides a new paradigm of understanding international relations for the entire planet Earth.

In the current context, the mistake that many of these post-communist states now commit is another extreme version of the same mistake which befell their ancestors before, that is, being dominated by Russia (in the older Soviet days) and now being increasingly dominated by the West (especially the E.U. and the U.S.), albeit to a partial extent at the moment.

There are different major processes which have contributed to this long-term prospect of unfreedom in many of these post-communist states. Consider three of them below, solely for illustration.

The first process has to do with the authoritarian legacy of the local traditions and is nothing new. But the other two processes have to do with their search for full integration with the E.U. and NATO. These two new processes are still ongoing (at their early stage) and have not yet reached the stage of full integration at least for many decades to come. But when the two new processes are completed one day in the future, the historic rise of new unfreedom for them will be most explicit and profound (and will be too late for them to completely undo), especially for those which are the smallest and weakest members.

Of course, this is not to suggest that there is no benefit for full integration with the E.U. and NATO -- but the important point to remember here is that, all so often in history, the costs are more than the benefits for small and weak states in integration with major powers with imperial ambitions.

In the case of the E.U., some of the post-communist states had already joined, and good examples include Bulgaria (2007), the Czech Republic (2004), Estonia (2004), Hungary (2004), Latvia (2004), Lithuania (2004), Poland (2004), Romania (2007), Slovakia (2004), and Slovenia (2004), for example. Others (e.g., Ukraine and Moldova) are tempted by possible membership, although they have not yet joined.

In the case of NATO, some of the post-communist states had already joined, and good examples include the Czech Republic (1999), Poland (1999), Bulgaria (2004), Estonia (2004), Hungary (1999), Latvia (2004), Lithuana (2004), Romania (2004), Slovakia (2004), Slovenia (2004), Albania (2009), and Croatia (2009). Other states are more cautious (or wiser, in a small way) and have only formed a “partnership for peace” with NATO, and good examples include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.

While Russia also has a “partnership for peace” with NATO, she has the good fortune of being one of the major powers on Earth and does not run the risk of being dominated by NATO that many of these smaller post-communist states are inherently vulnerable to. In this case, Russia is an exception.

On the horizon of the future, the E.U. and the U.S. will constitute two of the empires in the coming “post-post-Cold War era” (that I already went to great lengths to explain in my 2007 book as cited above), or what I called “the meso-empires” of “the European Union” and “the North American Union.”

In this coming “post-post-Cold War era,” many of the smaller post-communist states are sandwiched among major powers with imperial ambitions, and there are already five major patterns which can be detected and are worth mentioning here.

Of course, these five patterns (as summarized below) are solely illustrative, and I refer the reader to my 2007 book (and other related books of mine as shown in the bibliography at the end of this essay) for elaboration.

Firstly, many of these smaller post-communist states will continue to be a battleground among different major powers for exploitation and domination. Besides Russia, the U.S., and the E.U. -- future players will also include China and India (or what I called “the hyper-empires” in the future).

Secondly, new empires with this magnitude of cross-continental reach (encompassing numerous members) are seldom benign in history, as they all dominate and oppress (or exploit) the smaller ones in their own unique ways, which differ from region to region, from era to era, and the like.

For instance, Western multinational firms already start spreading their dominant presence in many of the post-communist states (replacing many local businesses), causing some nascent resentment among the locals. And NATO already decided to put some missiles on the territories of some post-communist states (like Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria), causing some emergent concerns among the locals, because of the risk of being targeted by Russian counterparts as a retaliation.

To make things more complicated, domination and its consequential oppression (or exploitation) can also take different forms, be they along the lines of ethnicity, race, region, language, political power, economic exploitation, ideology, religion, social norms, mass culture, and the like.

In addition, as if to make things even more complicated, the opening up to the Western model has also brought its unspoken ills on many fronts. In many of the post-communist states, old hostilities among different ethnic and racial groups now reappear, sometimes in broad daylight. Hate crimes are back. Brain drains worsen, when local economies are uncompetitive. Some cities and towns can be left half-empty and half-abandoned, and many communities depend on foreign remittances. Old folks living on pensions, the homeless, those with the wrong and/or insufficient skills, and others like them are some of the new losers in the new era. Those who are disillusioned turn to the addictive relief of alcoholism.

Many girls go into prostitution (and pornography), especially targeting foreign customers with thick wallets, or, alternatively, fleeing abroad in major Western cities, thanks to the growing business of humantrafficking (for sex slaves). Western mass culture industry steadily reshapes local entertainment (according to its own hegemonic image), as a form of soft power domination. Money laundering, drug trafficking, and criminal gangs proliferate, as they provide life support and exciting activities for many idle locals, especially among young and middle-aged men.

Even law enforcement officers are themselves vulnerable to different forms of corruption. Local politicians are subject to bribery and pressure by major Western powers -- and at times spend more time fighting with each other than doing much for their own peoples. Multinational firms move in and start exercising their dominant presence (and replacing local businesses), often with complicity of the local politicians (who can personally benefit from it). Secret prisons (by the U.S.) for torturing already appear in some post-communist states. Installations of missiles by the U.S. already appear in some post-communist states, putting the local population at great risk of being targeted in return by Russian counterparts. Nationals from major powers in alliance with many of these post-communist states (especially in political, military, and diplomatic circles) enjoy some extrajudicial treatment -- more than what local people want to know.

And these examples are only illustrative, as there are many more, as already extensively analyzed in my other books titled THE FUTURE OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION (2000), THE FUTURE OF CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY (2002), BEYOND DEMOCRACY TO POST-DEMOCRACY (2004), and other books of mine.

Thirdly, domination and its consequential effect of oppression (or exploitation) in society and culture do not occur overnight, as it will take many decades for its development to be complete -- just as a lung cancer in a human body does not occur overnight, as it will take many years for it to grow into a deadly mature form.

For this reason, there is a pervasive sense of innocence, or a widespread sentiment of complacency, in many of the post-communist states, because they have not yet encountered the new unfreedom in its complete form, while having been so distracted by their attempt (at the moment) to get rid of their old master and welcoming the new era (without the thorough understanding of the dangerous consequences to their new found freedom in their hurried marriage of convenience with the West).

Fourthly, there is also an inherent limit to the change towards the new era in many of these post-communist states, because their old mentality dies hard. The material change on the surface is highly deceptive (and superficial), as the old way of doing things remain pervasive in both society and culture, to the extent that many of the locals still behave in the older ways of being intrusive to individual rights and collective unto conformity and uniformity.

Their authoritarian past is never far from sight, and this is true, even when it so often reappears in different forms, to different degrees, which can easily dazzle the naive observer from the outside. And as they become more democratic (in copying the Western model), they will also be more authoritarian. In fact, this thesis was already explained in another book of mine in 2007 titled THE RISE OF AUTHORITARIAN LIBERAL DEMOCRACY (in which I argued that, as democracy becomes more advanced, regardless of whether it is liberal or not, it will also be more authoritarian, under certain conditions as explained in the book).

A vivid illustration of this inherent limit concerns the tragedy of the three failed revolutions in our time: the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. The revolutions have evolved into different forms of authoritarianism with democratic characteristics on the outside.

And fifthly, there is also a dialectic logic in this imperial formation, in that it will be only a matter of time, before many of these post-communist states will wake up one day to realize the consolidated fabric of domination and exploitation behind the seductive close relationships with the E.U. and NATO at the moment. States in “ambivalent regions” seldom show constant loyalty to the powers which seek to control them, because of their rebellious nature to reject domination and oppression when the right moment arrives.

Like all other “ambivalent regions” in other parts of the world (and in other times of history), many of these post-communist states will then have to repeat the same struggle for independence once more (when that future history arrives), this time not from their old master but from their new one (with which they are currently celebrating, with a pervasive sense of innocence and a widespread spirit of complacency).

Surely, these five patterns in relation to the three processes are only illustrative of the coming age of new unfreedom in many of these post-communist states.

But it is also important to remember that many of these post-communist states do not have to repeat this historic fate, if they can learn something from history now (or from their long history of being dominated and oppressed by one major power after another in their own backyard) and instead choose a different policy at the present, or a wiser policy of some form of “neutrality,” which plays different major powers against each other (while learning and benefiting from different special relationships with them, but without seeking full integration with any major bloc, be it the E.U., NATO, Russia, or others).

There are plenty of historical examples of states which pursue with sophistication and success different versions of “neutrality” when they are sandwiched among dangerous empires (or major powers with imperial ambitions at their time) -- and this is true, even if their success also comes with a price to pay (because there is “no free lunch,” so a popular saying goes). Two good modern examples include Switzerland and Finland in the 20th century. But different states have to develop their own versions of neutrality to fit in the specific conditions which confront them at any particular point in history. There is no “one-size-fits-all” recipe for all.

Many of these post-communist states still have time to choose and change their current direction, before it is too late. Otherwise, their posterity would have to repeat the cycle of fighting for independence from one imperial formation after another in the future and will not easily forgive their forebears (that is, those at the present who are innocent and complacent enough to be celebrating with euphoria).

However, in the longer term, there will be something else, which is even more tremendous in historic development, or what I originally called “the union of all unions” on this planet Earth, and that will constitute another planetary upheaval, which is beyond the space for discussion in this essay but was already analyzed in my 2007 book.

The nature of domination and oppression will then take new forms, just as they showed up in the older forms in previous times of history. But this caveat falls on the deaf ears of those in many post-communist states who celebrate with euphoria at the moment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Peter Baofu is the author of 36 books, in which he proposed 45 new theories in different fields, ranging from the social sciences through the formal sciences and the natural sciences to the humanities, with the final convergence into a unified theory of everything. Some of his latest books on world affairs include “The Future of Post-Human War and Peace” (2010), “The Future of Post-Human Law” (2010), “The Future of Post-Human Mass Media” (2009), “Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order” (2007), “The Rise of Authoritarian Liberal Democracy” (2007), “Beyond Nature and Nurture” (2006), “Beyond Civilization to Post-Civilization” (2006), “Beyond Capitalism to Post-Capitalism” (2005), the 2 volumes of “Beyond Democracy to Post-Democracy” (2004), “The Future of Capitalism and Democracy” (2002), and the 2 volumes of “The Future of Human Civilization” (2000). The rest of his 36 books touch on numerous other fields in the natural sciences, the formal sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences -– ultimately for a unified theory of everything.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov