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