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Garry Kasparov: “The only difference between the system now and a totalitarian one is the absence of mass repression.”


Leonid Martynyuk: Some people think that following Boris Nemtsov’s murder Russia transitioned into a new sociopolitical condition. Do you agree with this opinion?

Garry Kasparov: Even earthshaking events, like the killing of a person of Boris Nemtsov’s stature, don’t change the situation so much as they reveal what is already taking place. The very fact that the authorities practically sanctioned this killing shows us the chasm that has opened in front of us.

This would have been impossible to imagine several years ago. The quotation from the German pastor Martin Niemöller has become a cliché, that when they arrested the communists, the labor union activists, and the Jews, he didn’t protest, because he was not one of them, but when they came for him, nobody was left to raise their voice in his defense. The growth of a dictatorship doesn’t occur overnight—it occurs gradually. And at some point it turns out that it’s possible to shoot dead the most prominent opposition figure in front of the Kremlin and to have nothing happen. And nothing does happen.

The authorities feel so brazen that they can openly sabotage the investigation. The most that can be expected is that they will imprison the perpetrators, and maybe not even the actual ones.

L.M.: How do you evaluate the current political climate?

G.K.: Today Russia finds itself in a situation where a boss lives only by loyalty to his higher-up boss. Loyalty has in fact replaced the law. It’s like in the Mafia: the word of the don is law. We see this in everyday life too. Recall the incident involving the Cossack activist Vladimir Melikhov. At the border they took away his foreign passport and an hour later gave it back, but with a page torn out, making the passport invalid. This mundane story shows that today’s Putinist boss will commit a crime without blinking.

This incident shows the extent of the total degeneration of the Russian regime—violating the law for the sake of momentary political expediency has become the norm. That is yet another confirmation of the fact that Russia today is a personal dictatorship in which a fascist ideology is followed everywhere. Russia has not yet become an absolute totalitarian state with mass repression. But in the context of the twenty-first century, we are in a situation where to hope for some kind of positive evolution of the regime is totally senseless.


Kasparov on Greece and EU

11693971_10153492441023307_1883563843240026870_nJust a few days ago I was in Greece. Although I was there to promote a remarkable chess in schools initiative of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Kasparov Chess Foundation, many of the questions at the press conference were about Greece, the European Union, and Putin’s Russia. While I have discussed the Greek crisis with many economists and politicians, my opinions are based on the values of capitalism and democracy. For capitalism to work, there must be consequences for bad decisions. No company, no nation, can be “too big to fail” or there is no reason to make wise decisions. Indeed, it punishes those who did make wise decisions in the first place.

So it’s sad to see prominent econ-pundits like Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs hailing the Greek vote and inevitable default as a good result and a “victory for democracy”. Democracy is more than just a vote; it’s a process that depends on a rule of law that applies to all. If the rules can change on a whim, and if everyone cannot believe in a fair system, the vote is little more than anarchy or, as in Putin’s Russia, a charade to mask repression and dictatorship. Without the rule of law, the purest expression of democracy is a lynch mob.

Greece arrived at the Euro buffet and filled its plate with every dish and then came back for dessert. Twice! Then they found out the meal wasn’t free and that they didn’t have the money to pay the check. So they borrowed and borrowed some more and still didn’t leave the buffet until dragged away. It was a very poor investment by the lenders and a criminally stupid series of decisions by the borrowers. Both deserve the punishment capitalism metes out for such gluttony. If not, what happens in Italy, Ireland, and Portugal, where debt levels are also sky high? Telling them there is no reason to worry, that there is no reason to change because there is always another bailout, another extension? That is a recipe for more long-term catastrophes like the one we are seeing in Greece. (It’s not on the chart, but the US is now 100% of debt as GDP.)

No one wants anyone to suffer. But bad decisions, lies, and delays are the real cause of suffering, not austerity. To make a more prosperous world we need a functioning system, not one that says free money can solve all our problems. How much of the trillions of dollars the US, EU, and Japan have printed and pumped with quantitative easing ended up in Greek bonds? How much in Puerto Rico? Easy money requires discipline and we are seeing what happens when that discipline fails.

There are many complex discussions to be held about whether or not Greece should ever have joined the monetary union, should be in it now, or whether it was a good idea in the first place. But I am convinced that this crisis isn’t a failure of capitalism or democracy. It is our politicians who have failed capitalism by twisting its principles and trying to turn it into a perpetual money machine. There will be many more such catastrophes as long as we follow these fake values that tell us that self-control, sacrifice, and risk-taking are obsolete.

How North Korea’s Marchers for Peace Became Fellow Travelers

Important article. Dictatorships always turn these engagement stunts into propaganda without lessening repression at all. Paid, complicit, or simply ignorant, such people are enemies of the free world by lending PR and political aid to the worst regime on the planet. North Korea is a concentration camp with 25 million prisoners and it will be one of the greatest shames on our historical conscience that it has been allowed to exist among us for so long.


In May, a group calling itself Women Cross DMZ carried out a highly publicized “peace march” across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North Korea from South Korea. The thirty women activists called for an end to the Korean War — the two sides of the conflict signed an armistice, but not a peace treaty, in 1953 and remain technically at war — and argued that the crossing was a bold new way to push for peace and unification. Their goal of bringing female perspectives into a male-dominated discussion was an admirable one. And yet, the women became, willingly or unwillingly, shills for North Korea’s dictatorship.

Festivities began when the participants touched down in Pyongyang in mid-May to a warm welcome and a series of feasts. To the delight of its North Korean hosts, the delegation included such high-profile individuals as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, feminist leader Gloria Steinem, and filmmaker Abigail Disney; U.S.-based activist Christine Ahn planned the trip, with guidance from North Korean officials in New York and Pyongyang. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and eight other Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, endorsed the marchers and their stated quest to bring attention to the “forgotten” Korean War. The Women Cross DMZ campaign generated positive coverage from the world’s top news outlets including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and Time magazine, which wrote in their defense. Senior Brookings Institution official Katharine H.S. Moon gave a stamp of approval, while Politico published a fawning tribute from a friend of Ahn’s.


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