Lenin Lives... In The West

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jan 23, 2024 - 05:25 PM

By Michael Every of Rabobank

Lenin Lives!

Vladimir Lenin died 100 years ago last Sunday. He led a workers’ revolution, and was responsible for five million deaths. His successor, Stalin, killed another 20 million. Today, The Guardian asks: “‘Angel or antichrist’: Russia grapples with Lenin’s legacy 100 years after death”, Stalin is being rehabilitated, and Western protestors embrace the hammer-and-sickle and ends-justifies-the-means political violence. In short, a century on, ‘Lenin lives!’

Even at Davos, German Finance Minister Lindner stated we are in a “Marxist New Normal.” Yet he’s wrong in a way that matters: it isn’t Marxist, but Marxist-Leninist.

In a ‘Marxist New Normal’, the good times roll for the bourgeoise, capital is concentrated, and pressure builds on socio-economic tectonic plates. That’s what we saw pre-Covid, and it’s sympathetic with ‘lower for longer’ rates and “fictitious capital” asset bubbles. Part of that is still in the air, with the Dow Jones over 38,000, and markets still pricing for rate cut after rate cut.

In a ‘Marxist-Leninist New Normal’, political violence emerges: as Lenin said, “Sometimes history needs a push,” --off a cliff-- adding, “A man with a gun can control 100 without one”. Likewise, on media, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth,” and on education, “Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever”. After nationalizing at gunpoint and trying to crush the power of capital by printing money --and learning the hard way that “The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation”-- Lenin pivoted to a New Economic Policy of state capitalism with a gold-backed currency, a ‘deal with the devil’ always planned to be rolled back, which Stalin did with a vengeance. And on foreign policy, the view was, “You probe with bayonets: if you find mush, you push. If you find steel, you withdraw.” Simply, that backdrop is *not* sympathetic with ‘lower for longer’ and asset bubbles. Indeed, Chinese and Hong Kong stocks, the latter close to a 20-year low, are being dragged into a modern-day ‘NEP’ discussion. Those who didn’t want to talk about that kind of thing are suffering: Bloomberg quotes the head of one recently failed Asian hedge fund that had gone long China saying: “I have lost my knowledge, trading, and psychological edge. The principle of risk-reward for both the short term and long term has turned its head.” He should have read Marx-Lenin theory.

Is this a “Marxist” or a “Leninist” political era? In Germany, the AfD’s pro-Russia and pro-China leaders promising a referendum on “Dexit” which nearly half its supporters back are at over 30% in one poll: together with two real leftist parties, the vote share is over 40%. Yes, Brexit is a failed model. Yet so are others around us, including those that keep getting pushed. With German and French farmers on the streets, the EU elections are likely to see angry protest votes.

The US looks like 2024 can’t avoid a replay of Trump vs. Biden. The market thinks it won’t be caught out like it was in 2016 (or by Biden’s embrace of Trump’s China tariffs?). It’s even taking Trump’s proposed 10% universal tariffs as dollar positive and rates negative. Yet The Street is so deep in the Cantillon trough it can’t see above the rim to note Trump’s neo-Hamiltonian policy is focused on domestic production, not financialisation. If tariffs don’t work at 10%, they could move as high as needed to reorder things; or, logically, if less likely, capital controls could be imposed on foreign buyers of Treasuries. Yet Wall Street DSGE models can’t show any fragmentation of the global system into separate spheres because they don’t work that way: just as turkeys don’t just not vote for Christmas, they don’t know what Christmas is either.

Yet Davosniks won’t admit the West can’t provide what US President Hoover promised in 1928: “A Chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage.” Have you seen the price of chickens and cars – and of garages?

Is this a “Marxist” or a “Leninist” geopolitical era? The Ukraine War meat-grinds on. West Africa sees coups and the Sahel violence. North Korea makes threats. The South China Sea and Taiwan are very tense. Venezuela claims parts of Guyana. And the Red Sea crisis is getting worse: maritime insurance rates have soared 70-fold; Asia-Europe spot freight rates reportedly hit $10,000; and, as flagged last week, we now see a global container shortage as a result.

In response, the US is now prepping a long (special?) military operation vs. the Houthis that ‘won’t last years’. Another bombing raid was made last night by the US and UK, supported by Australia, Bahrain(!), Canada, and the Netherlands. All those nations’ shipping are now Houthi targets too, who have already stated they are even more determined than ever to block maritime trade. That’s as the Israeli press says the UAE, Saudi, and Jordan are mirroring the planned India-Middle East-Economic Corridor -- which Iran blew up via Hamas -- to help Israel get cargo; in reply, there is social media buzz of a Houthi “Al-Aqsa Triangle” strategy to also blockade the energy chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz. Meanwhile, the US admits that Iran is backing the Houthis, but isn’t willing to confront Tehran, just as it is not pushing back against attacks on US Mid-East bases that led to traumatic brain injuries to troops. The US is war-phobic; and even if it hit Iran with new sanctions, it would need to impose secondary sanctions too - which the West fails to do vs. Russia “because profits.” As Lenin apocryphally noted, “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them.” (As the architect of the Iran pivot under the Obama then Biden White House, Robert Malley --suspended in “the interests of national security”-- gets a job teaching a ‘Contending with Israel-Palestine’ seminar at Yale. Wait for the Ackman and Summers tweets.)

Yet Davosniks won’t admit “A Chicken in Every Pol Pot and a Car in Every Garage” doesn’t bring world peace. Instead, chicken-eating, protein-filled non-Western powers are driving away from a US-led global economy because they make the cars – and the steel for the garage doors (and for many other things). A Leninist grasps a weaker West means a less stable world and less stable markets: Western markets don’t gasp Leninism and bayonets looking for mush or steel. But all of this was obvious. Deindustrialisation would always hit the US military over time; Iran was never going to be a friend of the “Great Satan”; China and the US will always have as many geopolitical differences as they do economic linkages (for now); and even in the 1990s, President Yeltsin told President Clinton, “Just give Europe to Russia.” Clinton replied, “I don’t think Europe would like this very much.”

Amazingly, in 2024 Western Europe still doesn’t dislike the idea enough to actually spend money on its own defence, even as US support might dry up. Indeed, UK Defence Minister Shapps just put the ham in Hamlet to soliloquise: “And we have come full circle. Moving from a post-war to a pre-war world. An age of idealism has been replaced by a period of hard-headed realism. Today our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers. Old enemies are reanimated. New foes are taking shape. Battle lines are being redrawn. The tanks are literally on Europe’s Ukrainian lawn. And the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core. We stand at this crossroads – whether to surrender to a sea of troubles, or do everything we can to deter the danger. I believe that, in reality, it’s no choice at all. To guarantee our freedoms, we must be prepared.“ Then he said the UK military doesn’t need to be as big as it used to be because ‘technology can fill the gap’! I’ve heard of a “killer app”, but I never took it literally.

Markets, looking at assets ignoring gravity, don’t grasp the gravity of the moment. Neither do our leaders, it seems.

Yet Lenin lives: and when life gives you Lenins, you make Leninade.