The Tale of Two Karls

Vladimir Golstein

Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove addresses the executive director’s meeting of the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting January 16, 2008 in Washington DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”Karl Rove

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”Karl Marx

History repeats itself twice. First as Marx, then as Marx Brothers; first as Karl Marx, then as Karl Rove.”Vladimir Golstein

Karl Marx might have been dreaming of communism, but he analyzed capitalism judiciously and thoroughly. His insights into its mechanisms and principles, such as exploitation, alienation, or complex dialectical relationship between economics, politics, and ideology; his scrutiny of the inherent and dynamic contradictions of any economic system, the contradictions that inevitably lead to the revolutionary upheavals and transformations, remain the model of insight, intuition, and sober analysis. History is a living process. We participate in it, as we participate in life: now we are the subjects, now the objects of various forces way beyond our control.

All this has to be beyond the grasp of Karl Rove. Yet, he’s obviously inherited from Karl Marx, or rather from Marx’ mindless followers, their brash voluntarism. Why bother understanding the world, when we might as well change it? Or even better, why even bother to change it, when we can just declare that the world has changed!

“Mission Accomplished!”“Oh, yeah?” — say the critics. “All right, go, study, scrutinize judiciously, find the faults, but by that time, we’ll accomplish the similar mission in a few more Middle Eastern countries. Which you then will study judiciously…”

“History has ended,” – declared another Karlrovean, Francis Fukuyama. “No more big ideas and big confrontations, it is liberal capitalism and liberal democracy all the way.” So while we study judiciously the failures and inherent contradictions of Fukuyama’s liberal clap-trap, he goes on producing more of his BS realities. How many times has this damn thing, called history, ended? Every religion declares its end; every philosopher with universal ambitions announces it.

It is clear that these bold pronouncements cut across cultures, traditions, and periods. Religious fanatics assert their new realities, and so do the social ones. There are laws of history and universe, which we might intuit, but can’t fully know, and therefore cannot really change. We might guess the algorithms and basic principles, as various geniuses have done before us, but their intuition cannot be abused into the a-historical declaration of a new reality.

In his 1853 collection, Ten Sermons of Religion, Theodore Parker writes about the complex moral universe and its incomprehensible way of unfolding, yet detects in it certain principles and patterns. Here is his comment, parts of which were made famous by Martin Luther King:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble.

Parker divines where the universe bends, and expresses his confidence, that America will eventually get there. As it did.

Marx divined where the universe bends, and expressed his confidence that the world will get there. And eventually it will.

But it is very foolish and Karlrovean to assert that it is over, when we know damn well that it ain’t over until it is over. Soviet apparatchiks could declare all they want that the Soviet Union has become the country of the victorious socialism, yet the lies, and lines, and inefficiencies, and corruption, and economic exploitation, and mind-numbing propaganda told millions of people that it ain’t over.

Of course, the cynical liars of the Karl Rovian type know damn well that it ain’t over. Of all people, Soviet leadership and their propagandists had access to people’s letters and complaints, to the sad realities of the state of decay. Yet, they persisted in their deception. Undoubtedly, Rove knew very well that he was lying when he persisted with presenting us with the ever-new sets of King’s Clothes, so that by the time we’d figured out that the king was naked, there would be another set of “clothes” waiting in the wings.

And sadly, the lessons of Karl Rove haven’t been wasted. Every day brings more and more “World Historical Figures” who boldly declare new realities, which we all study judiciously only to discover their utter falsehood.

How many recent wars have started on false pretexts? Serbian atrocities on Balkans; weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; chemical bombing in Syria; endless claims of new Russian aggression; submarines in Sweden; collusion with Trump; Russia’s downing of the Malaysian plane; Skripal poisoning; endless hysteria emanating from Kiev.  Who cares that most, if not all, of these charges are nothing-burgers. “We are the ‘World Historical Figures’…” In fact, judging by the constant and uninterrupted supply and the all-embracing power of these fake narratives, it might appear that the Rovianization of western politics and its mass media has been completed; the mission has been accomplished.

It is naïve to hope for Nuremberg-type trials for all the Karlrovians of this world. The western democracies have proved much better at attacking and decimating Marxists rather than Rovians. But the universe and its principles are as stubborn as the propagandists are obtuse. “You cannot fool all the people all the time,” as we were reminded by another American visionary. The arc of the moral universe always finds its footing and it always puts things in their proper perspective. No, Karl Rove!  You are not a “World Historical Figure”. You are a petty little plaything of the historical, economic, cultural, and religious currents, which will cast you on the shore as the mighty stream casts upon a shore all sort of garbage it carries with it for a while. “Things refuse to be mismanaged long.”

Vladimir Golstein, who frequently appears on RT and PressTV and contributes to The Duran, Russia Insider, Signs of the Times, etc., is a professor of Slavic studies at Brown University, Rhode Island, USA. Professor Golstein’s scholarly interests embrace Russian culture, religion, philosophy, and poetry, of the past two centuries. He is the author of Lermontov’s Narratives of Heroism (Northwestern University Press, 1998) and numerous articles on nineteenth-and twentieth century Russian authors, including Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tsvetaeva, and Bulgakov. He is currently completing a monograph on the conflict of generations in Russia.


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Dec 6, 2018 2:11 AM

He dances as badly as Treason MAY.
It has something to do with exceptionalism….

Dec 5, 2018 2:08 AM

‘“History has ended,” – declared another Karlrovean, Francis Fukuyama. “No more big ideas and big confrontations, it is liberal capitalism and liberal democracy all the way.”’

That was sooo yesterday. His latest discovery is that Democracy has ended. Identity Politics dun it in.

kevin morris
kevin morris
Dec 4, 2018 6:47 PM

You don’t have to be Karl Marx or one of his followers to recognise hubris when you see it.

Dec 5, 2018 9:52 AM
Reply to  kevin morris

You don’t have to be a “follower” of Karl Marx to understand the central importance of his lasting contribution to economics.

Dec 4, 2018 4:38 PM

Thank you Professour for this excellent and thought provoking article.

Dec 4, 2018 1:01 PM

“You cannot fool all the people all the time,” as we were reminded by another American visionary.


‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me er….you can’t get fooled again.’ as we were reminded by another American war criminal

Dec 4, 2018 12:06 PM

From OED Definition of Rove: A sliver of cotton fluff twisted preparatory to spinning.