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Heraclitus, the brilliant Presocratic philosopher, is remembered for having said “You cannot step into the same river twice,” to which one of his contemporaries responded, “you cannot even step into the same river once.”  The doctrine of change or “flux”is, in the mind of Heraclitus, logically tied to two other important concepts.  The first of these is the concept of “unity” expressed in statements such as “everything is One.”  The concept of “One” is very important to all the Presocratics; after all the primary question  they sought to answer was what is the “One” thing from which all other things derive or emanate.  This “ONE” is not one (1) of arithmetic, which is a singularity devoid of differences  but a unity of differences which are themselves differentiated and defined by one another both as simple differences and, in a more essential sense, as polar opposites ( a situation in which the other is not just a defining difference, but the defining difference, “its” difference. The opposites and differences, qua differences, are in constant conflict with one another, and it is this conflict which fuels change.  Thus, “nothing is but all is becoming.”  These concepts, as Hegel himself admits in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy(https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hp/hpheraclitus.htm,Section D,  “….there is no proposition of Heraclitus which I have not adopted in my Logic.), inspired his Logic, which in turn, shaped the dialectic of Marx and Engles, and, when all is said and done led, directly to Lenin and the Russian Revolution.  As I am fond of telling any Russian who cares to hear about such things, which is not many, the philosophy of Heraclitus, labeled dialectical materialism, shaped the conscious of the Russian people for eighty years, and because things do not come to an end just like that, still does.  According to the very law of the dialectic itself, we both do and do not step into the same river always,  Beneath and behind the constant change is that which is changing, that which is becoming, that which is evolving. There is continuity in the midst of discontinuity, just chaos theory shows us that there is chaos already present in stability, and incipient stability in chaos.

So when we look at Russia today, or America today, or at U.S. Russian relations, or,  as I plan to do in the next several posts to Countercurrents, at Vladimir Putin, the man and the leader, we must keep in mind that he is the product of history.  He is, on the one hand, the product of Russia’s history, a history which is embedded in his genetic memory.   More specifically and perhaps more emphatically, he is a man who was born, raised, educated, worked in the service of and lived his life for the Soviet Union.  That fact cannot be ignored but to the contrary, provides the foundation for understanding the man and his nation.

Having said that let me continue the point by saying that over the course of his life, the nation he served, a Communist country with a Communist ideology, was engaged in a world encompassing struggle against the Capitalist West.  The enemy of Russia was not America, but American capitalism, and not just American Capitalism, but Capitalism itself. In turn, Capitalism’s enemy, was the Soviet Union (and Cuba, and Vietnam, etc.  Thus, it should not come as a surprise to anyone, that they still remain enemies; that the Cold War rages on, or that when we look at Vladimir Putin, we find that early on in his tenure he identified as his enemies, as the enemies of the people, the much hated “laissez faire” Russian Robber Barons known as the “Oligarchs,”When he first defeated then drove them into prison and exile, he won the hearts and minds of the people of Russia, a people who, like himself, had been taught to hate the capitalist class.

I will write several more articles on this transition from Communism to Putinism, and on the way that communist ideology still dictates both state and domestic policies.

Mary Metzger is a New Yorker living in Moscow for over a decade.

 

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