Business as usual, was it ever a thing?

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Business as usual

The term “business as usual”, coined by Winston Churchill during the First World War, was once meant to maintain order and a stable functioning economy of a country at war. But many decades later, it became to be known as completely the opposite. Today, it is about doing business while disregarding a morale-eroding change in the behavior of those you are dealing with, writes Bohuslav Zapravdskyi for

Business as usual

Despite the widespread and quite firm belief among many top politicians and businessmen that this upside-down approach of “money makes right” still holds any water, it doesn’t seem to work any longer and definitely nowhere near the long term. The question remains, though, was it ever a thing? Was it ever something more than wishful thinking?

The so-called wild or savage capitalism, as they call it in still Soviet russia, is a term that was probably conceived sometime during the dark and timeless Soviet ages in the entrails of the vast pseudo-socialistic landscapes. It was essentially used to tag any system with even a hint of private capital, ergo different from the system of the “prosperous communist future” of the USSR that never actually happened. But the only truly wild thing about capitalism, it seems, is the wildly inadequate belief that the disciples of communism across the pond, across part of Western and Eastern Europe, and now across the Ukrainian steppes are capitalists too, somehow, with whom you can reach a mutually beneficial outcome.

russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the decisions that followed offer insights into the extent to which governments and international firms are prepared to sever ties with nations now viewed as geopolitical rivals, according to a study by Simon Evenett and Niccolò Pisani. In a way, it is the extent they are prepared to follow the sentiment and hence the benefits from their very own people and customers.

“It is the perfect test case”, Evenett and Pisani say, and I have to fully agree. But at this point, less than nine percent of Western firms have divested at least one of their subsidiaries in russia. According to a separate report by Yale University, more than 550 international companies are still doing business in russia, defying public pressure. And as many as 223 companies are considered to be operating “business as usual”. This list includes prominent firms from Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and even the US.

Justifying their operations in russia, companies say that they are “providing essential goods”. They say they provide basic food or hygiene products, essential medicine, and jobs. They say that the russian people are not responsible for the actions of their government. But according to surveys, in March of 2022, about 70% of russians supported putin and believed that everything was going in the right direction. In February of 2023, 45% definitely supported the invasion, and 30% of russians “mostly supported” the actions of the russian army in Ukraine. So nothing really changed.

And though it is true that some autocracies now want to act as formidable opponents to democracies, it doesn’t seem that they are up for the game. And even this unsubstantiated desire wouldn’t be possible without the direct involvement of the latter, without their investments and, what is more important, innovations. Capitalism, and hence the self-sustainable economy, doesn’t seem to be working much without democracy of some sort. And if you want to point towards China, it is obvious that without the West, without its demand and its markets, it would be really hard, to say the least, to calculate a real net value of such aspirations.

The Peterson Institute for International Economics believes that China’s chances to resuscitate its bleak economic growth are fully dependent on increased consumer spending. At the same time, China’s annual Central Economic Work Conference attendees were silent on what policies might facilitate reviving its economic growth.

Inspecting the problem from the vantage point of the post-Soviet country, it is safe to say that the main fallacy of the collective West was never rooted in capitalism-communism dualism. Mainly because of the fact that at the other end of the rope was never any consistent ideology, or at least it wasn’t the one you could hear about. But also because the main goal was simply to loot what was possible, in the case of russia, or to resort to industrial espionage, in the case of China, and the main tool was always to use whatever system you have against you. It might seem strange and implausible, but only for those who never experienced it firsthand.

And now the state of affairs looks eerily similar to the famous “online quote” about the ‘capitalists that will be hanged with the rope that they themselves sold’ attributed to Lenin, which was probably written as a part of the propaganda effort later, but still long before the Soviet disinformational tidal wave reached the Western audience in full. And even though this quote is most definitely untrue, this, now self-fulfilling prophecy, is still threatening to happen.

Here should be some sort of argumentation why this “business as usual” policy actually means losing money and power, losing credibility; instead, you get nothing. This one is for you to decide, but it adds up. Just sum everything up, everything provided to Ukraine, everything lost from myriads of shady practices, add every conflict instigated, supported, and maintained, and don’t forget that this was just a foreshadowing if the decision was made to pursue a different path.

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