Is it a case of birds of a feather flock­ing to­gether?

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Alexei Bayer

CIT­I­ZENS are in­creas­ingly de­mand­ing that their coun­tries be free of for­eign­ers. Karl Marx must be spin­ning in his grave. The no­to­ri­ous “one per­centers” in the world have more as­sets than the other 99 per­cent com­bined. To­day’s su­per rich are a na­tion apart – or rather, a class that tran­scends na­tional bor­ders. Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s pol­icy of whip­ping up na­tion­al­ism is to keep him­self and his su­per-rich cronies in power. Putin claims to be a Rus­sian pa­triot, but he is bleed­ing Rus­sia dry and cor­rupt­ing all of its in­sti­tu­tions.

Ever since Don­ald Trump be­gan run­ning for pres­i­dent of the US, he has man­aged to heap abuse on pretty much ev­ery­one. Al­most an equal-op­por­tu­nity dis­crim­i­na­tor. His tar­gets range from the Mex­i­cans to the Chi­nese and in­clude plenty of Amer­i­cans, from ac­tress Meryl Streep to Repub­li­can John Lewis. But the one man who can do no wrong by Trump is Putin.

There have been claims that Putin holds “kom­pro­mat” on Trump – dam­ag­ing ma­te­ri­als such as sex tapes – forc­ing the new US pres­i­dent to sing to Putin’s tune.

While such “kom­pro­mat” ma­te­rial may ex­ist, there is a less con­spir­a­to­rial ex­pla­na­tion why the two are bro­manc­ing to­gether – and what kind of world or­der they are start­ing to build jointly.

“The work­ing men have no coun­try,” Marx and En­gels de­clared in their Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo back in 1848. They fa­mously called for the pro­le­tariat of the world to unite, be­cause they re­garded na­tion­al­ity as a fake dis­tinc­tion. What truly mat­tered, they said, was class sol­i­dar­ity.

The first So­cial­ist In­ter­na­tional was founded in London in 1864 and The In­ter­na­tionale be­came its an­them. Marx must be spin­ning in his grave

World War I proved Marx ut­terly wrong. The work­ers of the world showed a re­mark­able en­thu­si­asm for killing each other and so­cial­ist par­ties were among their most ar­dent cheer lead­ers.

Even­tu­ally, the hor­rors of Nazism in Ger­many and Fas­cism in Italy sobered peo­ple up, but only af­ter yet an­other slaugh­ter in World War II. Wiser for the wear, Europe went for open bor­ders, in­clu­sive­ness, tol­er­ance and supra­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions. But ap­par­ently the lessons of his­tory have al­ready worn out. Na­tivism, white supremacy, racism and anti-Semitism are spread­ing in the US.

Not to be left be­hind, Euro­peans, spear­headed by the Brits, have de­cided to try some­thing new and ex­cit­ing: na­tion­al­ism. Once again, var­i­ous na­tions’ cit­i­zens are ral­ly­ing un­der na­tion­al­ist ban­ners, de­mand­ing that their coun­tries be free of for­eign­ers.

And yet, in­ter­na­tion­al­ism is alive and well – in the new class of the su­per rich. The global su­per-rich class emerged nearly four decades ago. Its mem­bers hail from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and dif­fer­ent walks of life. They have dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sional back­grounds and earn their money in a va­ri­ety of le­gal, semi-le­gal and crim­i­nal ways.

They ranged from the heirs of the Roth­schilds to wildly suc­cess­ful tech en­trepreneurs and the in­vestors who backed them. The class in­cludes fi­nan­cial spec­u­la­tors, bankers, heads of pub­licly traded com­pa­nies, with their huge bonuses and golden para­chutes, sports and en­ter­tain­ment su­per­stars and so on. And, of course, let’s not for­get the klep­to­crats, the oil sheiks and the drug barons.

A re­cent re­port by Ox­fam de­cried the ob­scene wealth gap be­tween the rich and the poor. The no­to­ri­ous “one per­centers” have more as­sets than the other 99 per­cent com­bined. The su­per-rich class is ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­flu­en­tial, and it is in­creas­ingly con­vert­ing its eco­nomic mus­cle into po­lit­i­cal power, sub­vert­ing democ­racy. In many coun­tries, the rich are, in fact, the gov­ern­ment or have the gov­ern­ment in their pocket.

Even more im­por­tant, this class is so rich that its mem­bers no longer have much in com­mon with other cit­i­zens of their coun­tries. They share in­ter­ests, be­liefs and ac­tiv­i­ties with peo­ple of the same wealth bracket, re­gard­less of where they or their money come from.

They have res­i­dences the world over, usu­ally out­side their coun­try of birth. They send their kids to the same schools, they dine at the same exclusive restau­rants, they stay in the same ho­tels. They own pri­vate planes and boats, they have their own po­lice forces. Spe­cial clin­ics dis­cretely care for their well­be­ing.

A na­tion apart

The su­per rich have lit­tle in­ter­est in what hap­pens to their coun­tries. In short, to­day’s su­per rich have be­come a na­tion apart – or rather, a class that tran­scends na­tional bor­ders.

Each in his own way, Trump and Putin are ex­treme ex­em­plars of this group. Putin is prob­a­bly the world’s rich­est – and most shame­less – klep­to­crat. He has turned Rus­sia into the world’s first nu­clear armed mafia state. His pol­icy of desta­bil­is­ing the US and the EU and whip­ping up na­tion­al­ism at home has been de­signed with one pur­pose in mind – to keep him­self and his su­per-rich cronies in power.

Trump is not just a bil­lion­aire him­self (even though no one knows for sure whether he is, be­cause he tends to ex­ag­ger­ate his net worth). He doesn’t give a damn about Amer­ica (and “mak­ing it great again”). Putin cares as lit­tle about Rus­sia as Trump does about Amer­ica. The two only care about mak­ing the world safe for them­selves and all the other su­per rich.

Alexei Bayer is the East­ern Europe Ed­i­tor of The Glob­al­ist. This ar­ti­cle ini­tially ap­peared on The Glob­al­ist. Fol­low The Glob­al­ist on Twit­ter: @ the­glob­al­ist


For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama meets with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in 2013. For Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Putin can do no wrong, says the writer.

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