A Reply to Steve Fuller’s “Eurasianism as the Deep History of Russia’s Discontent”, Ahmed Bouzid

I read with great interest Steve Fuller’s essay “Eurasianism as the Deep History of Russia’s Discontent” and wish to share here a few thoughts, some general and some pertaining to specific points that he makes.[1] … [please read below the rest of the article].

Image credit: Mark Steele via Flickr / Creative Commons

Article Citation:

Bouzid, Ahmed. 2022. “A Reply to Steve Fuller’s ‘Eurasianism as the Deep History of Russia’s Discontent’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (4): 1-4. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-6Fs.

🔹 The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers.

This article replies to:

❧ Fuller, Steve. 2022. “Eurasianism as the Deep History of Russia’s Discontent.” Educational Philosophy and Theory March 23. doi: 10.1080/00131857.2022.2054330.

What Russia?

I begin with my reaction to the title, and specifically to the phrase “Russia’s discontent” and ask this question: What “Russia” is Professor Fuller referring to that is in a state of “discontent”? The only parsing that does not render the phrase nearly meaningless is to substitute “Putin” for “Russia” or, at best, “Putin and those thinkers who agree with him.” I say “thinkers,” because it seems to me that it would be superfluous in this context to count the oligarchs and hangers-on who remain faithful to the chief not out of any ideological alignment but out of pure self-interest, as long as such self-interest continues to be served by their fidelity. In any case, it feels to me that the phrase “Russia’s discontent” in this context is as useful and as meaningful as the phrase “America’s rage” might have been to, say, explain the ferocity of America’s illegal invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 or its equally illegal (but far more spectacular) invasion of Iraq 17 months later.

On Boycotts

Second, concerning boycotts—the more blunt and ineffectual progenitors of the current far more efficacious instruments of the “Cancel Culture” movement,[2] perhaps the most interesting and the most promising (as it evolves) of all the Post-Truth era creatures—[3] and specifically the boycotting of academics, I will only make the observation that if indeed Putin is being animated by visions of resurrecting the soul of some alternative Kantian way of bringing about “a just world order” and reconstituting a dismantled empire (and I do believe that he is animated by such delusions), you will not find many in Russia who share his deep, pining grievances outside of the world of the intelligentsia, including academia.[4],[5] Not that all academics should deserve damnation because a minority subscribes to the emperor’s fantasies,[6] but then again we have a reality to consider here, don’t we, which is this: Russia is currently being subjected to collective punishment, pure and simple. This is Dresden, or Vietnam-style carpet bombing of civilians, but without the conventional ordnance or the napalm. The whole population is viewed by those who wish to defeat Putin as a means, a mere instrument.

The vast majority of Russians, like the vast majority of humanity, couldn’t care less about anything much more than the wellbeing of their family, securing a livelihood, protecting their dignity, and working and hoping for a better day, some day. They are as purely innocent victims of this war as the Ukrainians who are being attacked and invaded. Carving out a plea of special concern for academics, among whose ranks, let us be frank and rational, most of Putin’s ideological collaborators dwell, feels a bit un-Kantian to me, if one insists on dragging Kant into this mess. That is: Protest barbarity against all or keep a stiff upper lip. Pick your poison.

The Brutal Practices and Echoes of Colonialism

Third, as someone who, among many, many of his fellow travelers vehemently opposed the first invasion of Iraq in January of 1991, who, as many, many others like me, opposed Bill Clinton’s immoral choking of the people of Iraq for almost a whole decade in the 90s, who, in disgust of Al Gore, actively campaigned for and supported Ralph Nader in 2000 (and I stand by my choice), who instantly understood that 9/11 was about to usher in a new ugly and bloody age for Muslims everywhere (as it did)—an era right up America’s alley (given its interminable track record), and as someone who demonstrated right along with millions of his fellow Americans across the country against the 2003 invasion of Iraq and who stood and remains in a state of perpetual revulsion at what America’s military power has wrought upon Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine (where the largest open air prison in the history of humanity cages more than two million people in Gaza, courtesy of American tax payer dollars and American unshakeable political backing of Israel), Chechnya (remember that it was within the context of fighting terrorism that Putin waged his war, and American hypocrisy does have its limits), Syria (why not let the Russians, and even the Iranians, take care of the dirty and expensive business of eradicating Daesh and ISIS, the blooming of which the destruction of Saddam gave life), Yemen (Iran having become a regional power now that Iraq, the other Shi’a nation in an otherwise overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim world, the Iran-backed Yemenis now needed to be fought with an inhumanity, made possible by American weaponry, commensurate with the severity of the threat they now represented to the Saudis)—as such a person who stands by no means as an outlier of any sort among those in the United States who care, I reject the proposition that I, in any way, “identify with past decision-makers,” as Professor Fuller suggests, or that I regard myself as “in some morally relevant sense [one of] their ‘heirs’.” I vociferously and actively rejected those misdeeds as they were being committed,[7],[8],[9],[10],[11] as did countless others, and I will continue to voice my opposition to the many misdeeds that continue to be committed in the name of a healthy majority of us Americans who do not agree with our government.[12]

As to the matter of Ukraine and Trubetskoy’s contention that “Ukrainian nationalism was the alloyed product of pro-Europe propaganda stemming from at least the times of Peter the Great and unsubstantiated claims about ethnic differences from residents of ‘Greater Russia’,” I will remark that in such a contention I hear distinct echoes of vanilla-flavored tropes from classical colonialism. In other words, I find the contention utterly unremarkable and wholly unoriginal, let alone worth pondering much upon.

To cite just one example among almost every other nation that has gained its independence from their European or American occupiers, until they gained their independence in 1962, Algeria as a nation or as a country did not exist, and the French never tired of asserting that basic fact, insisting that, therefore, those that they were slaughtering were dying for a phantom cause. In fact, the sentiment continues to thrive vigorously to this day in the uninhibited proclamations of many members of the French right.[13] As for the French, “decent” mainstream, let us simply note that, also to this day, the French offer “no repentance, nor apologies,” in the words of current French president, Emmanuel Macron, for their colonial crimes.[14]

In any case: Yes, it is indeed true and undeniable that the borders of Algeria as we not only know them today but as they have always existed were indeed drawn by the French occupiers, who took over the land from the Ottomans in 1830. Moreover, yes, Algeria is a startlingly diverse people, among them the Amazigh, the Chaoui, the Sahrawi, the Mozabite, the Tuareg, to name just a handful of ethnicities, aside the Arab majority. So, yes, there was no “Algeria,” but what created Algeria was one of the bloodiest wars of independence in human history — a war that resulted in the decimation of a third of the indigenous population.[15]

So the French were right all along and factually spot on, there was no “Algeria,” but the struggle for liberation united a diverse people that no longer wished to remain subjugated in their own land, and to win, they gave themselves a name, a flag, and a national anthem.

The Irony of Aggression

The irony, of course, is that in his foolish attempt to erase their nation, Putin is, as we speak, forcing the Ukrainian people to cement their identity as a nation who has shed and continues to shed its own blood defending itself against an aggressor. After all is said and done, it really is a simple case of a war of liberation, in old, forlorn 20th century terms, all else notwithstanding. In other words, Popper, that Prophet of Negation as a driver of a History (‘No, I will not submit to your fantasy’) feels like the more trustworthy guide when it comes to matters that pertain to breaking free from a yoke—at least much more trustworthy than Plato or his pupil.

The finer irony is that in his assertion that he belongs to a heritage fundamentally apart from the one he insists on opposing—the so-called “Romano-Germanic” one—Putin has blinded himself to picking up some basic lessons from the blood-soaked past of those he emulates and mimics in his deeds, his stated motivations and intentions, sincere or otherwise, notwithstanding.

I will end by noting that those who have “always already” been opposing Pax Americana for decades are not, nor should they feel that they need to be, in “search of a moral compass for the Ukrainian war.” Aggression is aggression, whether by a nation that professes to be a staunch champion of democracy, freedom, and human rights (but rarely follows through), who is mighty and yet claims to be under permanent siege and hence insists on establishing military presence in all corners of this earth—or by a weak, anemic country ruled by a delusional tyrant intoxicated by his own absolute power and by the noxious phono-philological fumes of a Millennium Past. In other words: Just as we protested and continue to protest with a clean conscience against Pax Americana, we do likewise against Velikaya Rossiya. Yes, of course, in terms of sheer magnitude and devastation, Velikaya Rossiya’s sins pale in comparison, but sins they are still, and if we are to retain any moral ground that we can stand on, this is not the time to dabble in hypocrisy in the name of avoiding it.

Author Information:

Ahmed Bouzid, ahmed.bouzid@gmail.com, Founder & CEO Witlingo.

[1] Fuller, Steve. 2022. “Eurasianism as the Deep History of Russia’s Discontent.” Educational Philosophy and Theory, March 23. doi: 10.1080/00131857.2022.2054330.

[2] Haskell, Samantha. 2021. “A Qualitative Analysis of the Social Media Practice of Canceling.” Master’s Thesis, Boise State University.

[3] Rao, Venkatesh. 2020. “The Internet of Beefs.” January 16. Ribbonfarm.com.

[4] Cole, Brendan. 2022 “Russian People Increasingly Against Ukraine War: Opposition Poll.” March 8. Newsweek.

[5] Lem, Pola. 2022. “Russian Rectors’ Union Echoes Kremlin Propaganda on Ukraine.”March 7. Times Higher Education.

[6] Durrani. Jamie. 2022. “More than 600 Russian Scientists Sign Open Letter Against War with Ukraine.” February 25. Chemistry World.

[7] Bouzid, Ahmed. 2001. “If the CIA Had Butted Out.” October 21. The Los Angeles Times.

[8] Bouzid, Ahmed. 2002. “Imperiling Democracy.” August 23. The Atlanta Journal Constitution. [Google Scholar].

[9] Bouzid, Ahmed. 2002. “To Defeat Terror, Eradicate Tyranny.” September 9. The Detroit News. [Google Scholar].

[10] Bouzid, Ahmed. 2002. “Blind Journalism, American Style.” September 29. Editor & Publisher. [Google Scholar].

[11] Handley, Robert L. 2010. “Palestine Media Watch and the U.S. News Media: Strategies for Change and Resistance.” PhD Dissertation. University of Texas, Austin.

[12] Shortridge, Anna. 2021. “The U.S. War in Afghanistan Twenty Years On: Public Opinion Then and Now.” October 7. Council on Foreign Relations.

[13]Zemmour: L’Algérie N’existe pas – C’est une Invention de la France.” Youtube Interview.

[14] Momtaz, Rym. 2021. “France won’t Apologize for Algeria Colonization.” January 20.

[15] “Colonial Rule.” Algeria [Britannica].

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