“Cultural Liberalization and Decadence” Opposed at Rhodes Conference Organised by Putin Confidant

Noam Chomsky and Helga Zepp-LaRouche among “key-note speakers”

Earlier this month saw the 10th “World Public Forum: Dialogue of Civilisations” conference take place on Rhodes. I’ve written about these international events previously: the WPF was initiated by the Center of the National Glory of Russia and the Saint Andrew the First-Called Foundation, and it was co-founded by Vladimir Yakunin, a confidant of Vladimir Putin who has been variously described as an “Orthodox Christian Chekist” and as “the Kremlin’s model Orthodox businessman“.

The yearly Dialogue of Civilisations events have featured a remarkably broad – and in some ways bizarre – range of high-level politicians, academics, and religious figures from around the world. This year, “key-note speakers” at the opening and closing meetings included, among others:

Noam Chomsky (USA) – Institute Professor and Professor (Emeritus) of Linguistics & Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) [apparently via web-link – RB]

Alfred Gusenbauer (Austria) – Co-chairman, World Public Forum “Dialogue of civilizations”, Federal Chancellor of Austria (2007-2008)

Walter Schwimmer (Austria) – Chairman, International Coordinating Committee, World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”

Fred Dallmayr (USA) – Co-Chairman, World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”; Packee J. Dee Professor, University of Notre Dame

Helga Zepp-LaRouche (Germany) – President, Schiller Institute

Siarhei Sidorski (Belarus) – Prime Minister of Belarus Republic (2003-2010), Minister of Industry and Agro-Based Industry, Eurasian Economic Commission

Zepp-LaRouche, of course, is the wife of the deeply unpleasant Lyndon LaRouche. She has written up an account of the event, for publication in LaRouche’s crackpot Executive Intelligence Review:

…A recurring theme was the utter collapse of moral values, the disappearance of any rules in the social order, and the consequent plunge into archaic and barbaric behavior. From different philosophical or religious standpoints, there was a demand for a renaissance toward the highest standards that are in accord with human dignity. Whether it was the ethical standard of the monks of Mount Athos, or the values of the Catholic Church, or the revival of Confucianism in China, the common denominator was the rejection of the cultural liberalization and decadence that are associated with globalization, and a return to the cultural roots of the different cultures and civilizations. Respect for the principle of equality of cultures and civilizations makes possible dialogue and mutual understanding.

This is similar to Yakunin’s own rhetoric; last year, Yakunin’s opening speech described “incompatibility between the neo-liberal interpretation of the system of human rights and the system of human values”, and he explained that “the universal urge to have the ‘freedom’ to say ‘anything and in any form’ has a temporary character and is beginning to fade away”. Thus criticism of human rights abuses in Russia can be deflected as western interference; as Yakunin stated recently in Der Spiegel:

What right does the West have to constantly criticize Russia? There are a few things about the West that I don’t like either. But I am not constantly pointing my finger and criticizing things that are a country’s internal affairs.

One particularly urgent topic of discussion at the conference was tensions with Iran; Zepp-LaRouche writes that:

The conference opened with a video by MIT Prof. Noam Chomsky, who warned of the immediate threat to the entire world from an escalation of the tension around Iran, and even the danger of nuclear war. Chomsky pointed out that Israel had recently received advanced submarines from Germany, from which nuclear-tipped missiles can be fired.

A presentation by Ghoncheh Tazmini criticised western approaches to Iran. However, there was perhaps rather less criticism of Iran’s own behaviour: the conference included a “salutation” from Mohammad Khatami, as well as greetings “on behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Despite bemoaning the effects of American power in the world and showcasing the likes of Noam Chomsky, Yakunin also has links with American conservatives. Unsurprisingly, he regards “homosexual propaganda” as a “social pollutant”, and last summer he and his wife Natalia (President of the Sanctity of Motherhood Program) joined Don Feder and Larry Jacobs at a World Congress of Families event in Moscow. There are also unexpected overlaps between the WPF and organisations involving US Christian Right figures.

UPDATE: Here’s an odd piece of extra background information; from LaRouche’s website in 2009:

Vladimir Yakunin, the CEO of Russian Railways and a long-time associate of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said in an October 16 interview with the Baltic Information Agency (BaltInfo), that American economist Lyndon LaRouche’s warnings of a systemic global crisis prepared him and his company for what has happened during the past three years.

…In February of this year, Yakunin took the same message to a conference at the London School of Economics, where he again named LaRouche as the “very rare” economist who predicted the collapse of the world financial bubble.

… LaRouche and his wife, Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche, were speakers at the 7th annual Rhodes Forum, held last week.