Monday, December 31, 2012

Comrades, a Satire

             Comrades, a Satire

The upcoming “fiscal cliff”, a.k.a. “austerity bomb”, and the looming debt ceiling crisis, reminds me of the following emails, which I wrote during the congressional debt-ceiling crisis of 2011. In them, I satirically took on the persona of a Chinese Communist Party apparatchnik, sending a message to various acquaintances and friends; each satirically given the persona of a higher-up official. I took on that point of view to see if things made more sense that way. Some of my correspondents wrote back, one in character.

These emails propose an offer that the Chinese would be foolish not to make, and the Americans would be hard-pressed not to accept. And it has precedent in our own history.


From: Comrade Hellerstein, Finance Ministry
To: Comrade Pournelle, Defense Ministry

Dear Comrade Pournelle:

I write you to propose a way for us, the People’s Republic of China, to
reclaim Taiwan without firing a shot. Our army is strong and could
easily over-run the rebel province, were it not for the Americans. Also
it would be a shame to damage the property while repossessing it; and
the use of force could have a negative propaganda effect.

The key is to convince the Americans to go. Fortunately they are
trillions of dollars in debt to us, due to their foolish greed and our
foresight. The solution, then, is simple; we need merely buy Taiwan.
This has historical precedent; consider the Louisiana Purchase.

The procedure would be simplicity itself. We would merely agree to
cancel part of the debt we hold over them, along with interest payments
owed to us; and in exchange the Americans withdraw all of their armed
forces from the area; and then, for political cover, hold a referendum
on the island, agreeing to the transfer of power. The election will, of
course, be fixed to ensure the correct outcome; the Americans are
skilled at such things.

Some of your comrades in the Party will object that the barbarous
Americans are too proud to betray an ally. They are indeed proud and
bellicose, but they are also corrupt, and they are economically
vulnerable. So much so that our trillions of dollars of holdings might
depreciate badly, soon; so I suggest that we bargain that debt away
while it’s still worth something.

Comrade Hellerstein
Are you sure this isn’t happening?
I like it
Jerry Pournelle
Chaos Manor


From: Comrade Hellerstein, Finance Ministry
To: Comrade Pournelle, Defense Ministry
Dear Comrade Pournelle:
Our plan is working perfectly. The Americans are aware of what’s 
happening, but they can’t prove it, and they lack the political will to 
resist. Right now they are too busy destroying their own credit rating. 
I would like to brag that our agents were responsible for that triumph, 
but it seems that the Americans are doing it to themselves. Amazing!
Comrade Anderson inform me that there is another historical precedent 
for our plan to purchase Taiwan; namely, the absorption of the Republic 
of Texas into the United States, in exchange for assuming the Republic’s debt.
Buying instead of invading Taiwan will of course be an ideological 
victory for capitalism. Perhaps the Americans will console themselves 
with that.
Comrade Hellerstein

From: Comrade Hellerstein, Finance Ministry
To: Comrade Johnson, Covert Operations
Dear Comrade Johnson:
I write you to inquire about your cadre’s role in the upcoming 
self-ruination of our American rival. As you may recall from a recent 
email, I was planning, with Comrade Pournelle’s office, to arrange for 
the purchase of Taiwan. We Chinese need merely cancel several trillion 
dollars of American debt, in exchange for abandoning their military 
bases on Taiwan, plus a fixed election for political cover. However, if 
the Americans default on their debts, then those trillions of dollars 
that they have borrowed from us might lose value.
Therefore I write to ask if your office has a different plan for the 
recovery of the breakaway island province. Perhaps your comrades figure 
that if the Americans bankrupt themselves, then they will abandon 
Taiwan for lack of funding. We Chinese will lose too in the capitalist 
crisis, but less so than the deindustrialized Americans. Our dollar 
holdings will become worthless; but balanced with the takeover of 
Taiwan, this is in a sense a Communistic version of my office’s 
Taiwan-purchase plan; for we will lose a terabuck, and they will lose 
Taiwan, so it will be as if we had traded.
However I must warn you not to underestimate the willful aggression and 
stupidity of the American ruling class. They might go bankrupt, but 
defund their empire last of all. We Chinese might find our rival 
weakened but desperate, hanging on to Taiwan out of pride, inertia and 
corruption. It would be a shame to get Taiwan back in a damaged 
Speaking of corruption: congratulations to your office in arranging for 
a favorable ruling in the “Citizens United” case. Now my office can 
spend unlimited untraceable funds on American elections. And let me 
tell you, Comrade, that as investment opportunities go, it’s hard to 
beat a Congress. They go for cheap, and they pay back big.
But that is precisely why I feel that your office must have had a hand 
in the American’s self-inflicted default crisis. For how else are we to 
explain such rank folly? Since when does a plutocracy disguised as a 
republic use the political process - which it owns! - to degrade its 
own credit rating? Baffled by this contradiction of both Marxist 
orthodoxy and capitalist-road revisionism, I consulted with Comrade 
Hari Sheldon. He, after long hours with the supercomputer, extracted 
three possible causes: interference from a rival power (that’s your 
office); royal ambitions from elements of the ruling plutocrats (for 
instance, the Koch brothers); and misdirected revolutionary energies 
from the suppressed masses (the “tea-partiers”).
In Comrade Sheldon’s model these forces interact; to wit, elements 
within the American plutocracy seek supreme power, and the ruination of 
most fellow plutocrats: this “1% of the 1%”, knowing itself treasonous, 
conspires with foreign rivals (that’s us) to manipulate the electoral 
process to provoke a political crisis over imperial credit; a crisis 
supported by masses of disaffected former petty bourgeois.
These “tea-partiers” are of course duped by us Chinese, and by 
America’s economic royalists. Comrade Sheldon told me, with grave 
amusement, that leftists will vote against their own economic 
interests, if they are rich, whereas rightists will vote against their 
own economic interests, if they are poor. Nonetheless the tea-partier’s 
actions have an internal revolutionary logic; for how better to destroy 
a hated plutocracy than by debasing the currency? In a default, Main 
Street will lose big, but Wall Street might lose worse.
How could we Chinese Communists, of all people, question such 
reasoning? Except to ask them: if you don’t like the 1%, then what will 
you think of the 1% of the 1%? We Chinese know the answer to that 
question all too well; but this time it’s the outer barbarian’s 
problem, and not ours.
Our problem is; how do we repossess the island province in an undamaged 
condition? I submit that your office’s plans might compromise this 
mission. At the very least we need to coordinate our efforts. Please 
respond soonest.
Comrade Hellerstein

Dear Leslie Fish:
Attached find two satires; emails in which I take the role of a Chinese
Communist Party apparatchnik, (Finance Ministry) addressing you in the
role of a comrade in the Propaganda Ministry. I wrote the first on
Sunday, in the expectation of a federal default; I write the second on
Monday, with an austerity budget deal emergent. But who knows, it may
fall through; so I send you and the others both now, in the hope that
one of them might be true.
Satirically yet sincerely,
Nathaniel Hellerstein
(Written Sunday:)
From: Comrade Hellerstein, Finance Ministry
To: Comrade Fish, Propaganda Ministry
Dear Comrade Fish:
I take my Mao hat off to you, Comrade. You and your cadre have well and
truly done it this time. Your office has managed to persuade the
biggest plutocracy the world has ever known to voluntarily bankrupt
itself. This is an event fit for the history books. Interesting times,
indeed. What a mess!
On August 2nd, 2011, a day that shall live in capitalist infamy, the American 
President was instructed by the Congress to 1) spend, 2) not tax, and
3) not borrow. This is of course mathematically impossible. What we see
here is a revolt against arithmetic itself.
I say this with some personal passion attached because to me, as a
worker in the Finance Ministry, 2+2=4 is not just a fact, it is a moral
imperative. I realize that in the Propaganda Ministry a different
standard applies; nonetheless two syllables plus two syllables make
four; ignore that fact and the scansion shall limp. I invoke the
authority of reality here, Comrade Fish.
I call this a revolt against arithmetic (and hence also against logic,
reason, civilization, etc.) because of the stalwart intransigence of
the “Tea Party” insurgents. Their dauntless obstructionism went beyond
the Republican party’s personal vendetta against President Obama (or
any Democratic president); it transcended DC’s normal plutocratic
greed; it achieved the glamour of madness. The Tea Partiers want
chaos. They wanted it all along!
Obama, the centrist, will try to make the center hold, but can he?
Which of three laws is he to break?  - for he must break one.
Shall he usurp Congress’s power to levy taxes? Unthinkable! (Yet I have
just thought it, and so will others).
Shall he usurp Congress’s power to allocate funds? Also unthinkable;
yet that describes the plan to give Treasurer Geithner the power to
choose which bills not to pay.
Or shall he defy the debt ceiling law? This is called the
‘constitutional option’ because it merely defies the law, and not the
Constitution. It will also provoke a Constitutional crisis, with the
President first challenged in the courts (who will probably pass the
hot potato right along) and then yet another impeachment of a
Democratic president - just in time for the election.
All of these will result in political chaos; which is, again, the
stated desire of the Tea Party, which in turn, Comrade Fish, points to
your cadre. To repeat; your Propaganda Ministry has done a masterful
job (in tandem with the Koch brothers and other local collaborators) in
convincing masses of disaffected former petty-bourgeois to an ideology
programmed to bankrupt them and their country. We Chinese Communists
are moderately well-positioned to take advantage of our rival’s
economic self-destruction. On the downside the USA owes us trillions of
dollars, and it is a large market for our goods. On the upside, we have
other markets, and we are ready to step into the power vacuum when
their empire-of-bases collapses.
(This includes the repossession of the breakaway Taiwan province. As
you may recall from previous emails, my office was coordinating with
Comrade Pournelle, of the Defense Ministry, to arrange the purchase of
Taiwan. We Chinese cancel trillions of dollars of American debt, and
the Americans withdraw their forces from the area. That was the plan;
but default may decrease the value of that debt. But not to worry;
Comrade Hari Seldon assures me that the American’s desperation to sell
out their allies will increase in inverse proportion to the value of
their money; therefore the price will remain constant. The nominal
terabucks we own will suffice, whatever they truly denominate, to cover
a face-saving withdrawal by the Americans. Comrade Johnson, of Covert
Ops, poetically warns me that Taiwan may prove to be “as elusive a
lover to China as Canada is to the Americans”. Ah, but this time we have
cash in hand.)
I have reviewed the propaganda that your cadres plan to catapult.
Abolition of the Federal Reserve? A fine plan for chaos! Close their
empire of bases; another win for the Middle Kingdom. I was at first
skeptical about the marijuana-legalization proposal; it’s good for
them, but what’s in it for us Chinese? Why give a rival a good market?
But then I thought; perhaps to ease America’s post-imperial transition
to second-class status. From world’s nuclear superpower to world’s
marijuana farm; there are worse fates.
I am particularly impressed by your proposal to eliminate bureaucratic
waste. Excellent plan! It comes complete with new forms, directives,
organization charts, and outside consultants! That’s bound to
increase efficiency! I jest, Comrade; for surely you know as well as I
do that bureaucratic reform measures rarely reform bureaucracy. The
would-be reformer must contend with  Murphy’s Law, the Peter Principle,
and ultimately the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Alas, Comrade; all
of existence is wasteful! That, indeed, is the Dao; the Cosmic Process;
the Watercourse Way: go with the flow, down the drain. Haven’t you
noticed that by now? But I entirely approve of your plan to tell the
American plutocrats to eliminate all waste. They will fail, and they
will eliminate themselves in the process, for excellent reason.
So I congratulate you, Comrade, for doing with a pen what the Great
Helmsman himself could not do with a sword; namely, make the American
plutocrats go screw themselves. Even if they avoid ruinous default,
their only politically viable alternative at present is a return to
Hooverism - in the midst of a capitalist crisis! Your office has made a
return to Depression-era economics the official consensus!
My only concern, Comrade Fish, is; what if the resulting revolution
goes the wrong way?
Comrade Hellerstein
(Written Monday:)
From: Comrade Hellerstein, Finance Ministry
To: Comrade Fish, Propaganda Ministry
Dear Comrade Fish:
My condolences on the failure of your cadre’s plan to wreak instant
chaos. You’ll just have to wait a few years to create chaos. The
Americans in DC have gone through their ‘kabuki dance’ (curious, isn’t
it, how they choose Japanese terms? It’s high time for us to penetrate
their mindshare with Chinese terms) and a deal is in. Predictably, the
poor, needy and vulnerable take a hit; also predictably, the richest do
not pay a dime; but surprisingly the cutbacks include the military.
With both military and domestic spending facing austerity, we see the
decline of the American warfare-welfare state. Predictably, it was
welfare that led the decline; only now is the Pentagon itself target of
cuts. Will the over-extended Americans phase out their empire of bases?
Perhaps my office’s Taiwan purchase plan will come to fruition without
our spending a dollar!
With characteristic hypocrisy, cowardice and opportunism, the two
American parties have created a ‘trigger mechanism’ by which unpopular
cuts to the poor and to the military will take place in a year if
nothing gets done; and nothing is what this Congress is most able to
do. It is wu-wei in action; doing by non-doing. How gratifying that the
Americans, those most Western of Westerners, have unconsciously adopted
this Daoist concept. They have yet to explicitly understand that Daoism
is for when you are losing. Winners are Confucians.
It is now Monday afternoon; the House must vote on the plan by evening;
so maybe the default will happen anyhow. But even if Tea Partiers and
Progressives in the House fail to rebel against this deal distasteful
to all, even so it sets up America for renewed decline. To repeat;
Hooverist austerity is now the law of the land; and this in the midst
of a capitalist crisis. This policy is designed to create a decade of
decline, stagnation and slow recovery.
And so, again, I hail you, Comrade Fish, and your cadre, for being the
architects of the Second Great Depression. As you may recall, Comrade,
the great Lenin once remarked that ‘worse is better’. The more obvious
the dysfunction of the system, the greater the options are for the
committed revolutionary.
The question is, which revolution? And it is notorious that
revolutions eat their children. The Tea Partiers in particular should
note that, by merely threatening federal default, they have made a
large number of rich and powerful enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Revolutionary theatrics, that’s one thing. Endangering the national
credit line, that’s something else entirely.
For you can preach love, peace and liberty in the wilderness, and the
authorites will ignore you; you can tell an army of followers to
prepare for the end of the world, and you’ll still barely be noticed;
but if you throw the moneylenders out of the temple, then rest assured,
Comrade, that the Man will nail you to a cross!
Comrade Hellerstein
From: Comrade Anderson, Foreign Affairs Ministry
To: Comrade Hellerstein, Finance Ministry

Comrade Hellerstein:

Comrade Johnson is unfair in referring to the “stupidity” of the neo-cons, or as my cell refers to them, Project Tar Baby. One of the threats to the peaceable expansion of the People’s Republic is the threat of sudden military action by the President of the United States. We have developed the now obvious countermeasure: if an American army occupies a country, it cannot be removed in less than eighteen months, unless it leaves its equipment behind; in neither case is it a credible threat.

Unfortunately, the neocons are not under strict party discipline: only some are agents, others are Trotskyites, pursuing a World Empire which will produce World Socialism after its collapse; yet others have a false consciousness: they have become interested only in the Empire for their lifetime (now short), no matter what happens to it. Fortunately, there is a dialectical harmony among them.

We therefore encourage the use of American force in as many countries as possible, as long as they’re not us. The use of Afghanistan for the first example was controversial. since those forces could have been effective against us; so some Project members sought to divert as many forces as possible to Iraq; but the Americans would have invaded Afghanistan sooner or later, and getting it over with also served to deter reactionary Uighur elements in our Northwest.

Nevertheless, I must commend Comrade McCain for his effort to emmesh US forces in Georgia, which would also have occupied the Russians. Our long term interest, of course, is an American army in Israel: that’s the other end of Asia, and they’ll never get out.

Our backup plan is the Balanced Budget Amendment, which our agents should be able to phrase so that no military action is possible unless it is budgeted for six to eighteen months in advance; that’s as good as Kandahar, and takes care of the Navy as well. (It is true that a nuclear war will be fought off the shelf, and so be possible under the BBA, but that doesn’t matter to us - we have a deterrent.)

Comrade Anderson