“M’Aidez” on Mayday: What a Parade Says About Hollow Leaders

Barry Gander
7 min readMay 9, 2022


“Russian forces are fighting in Ukraine so we don’t forget the lessons of World War 2”…a little bit of a strategic drift.

The Mayday parade in Red Square in Moscow was supposed to be a celebration of the brilliant strategic insight of Vladimir Putin.

Instead, the tank treads rumbled past a hollow man — a strategic zero.

In his eyes you could see a silent plea: “M’AIDEZ”! HELP ME!

He needs help to recover from his losing strategies and his crumbling kingdom. And he put himself there, all by himself. Gives new meaning to the word “Put In”.

He joins a line of leaders who were once thought to be brilliant but on closer inspection turned out to be straw men. Hitler and Stalin could be “put in” that camp. Hitler’s secret to initial success was to gamble chance after chance. Only the hesitation of the democracies of the West led to his initial success. His troops won the Battle of France through blunder more than brilliance. In fact, Hitler stumbled into WW2 by mistake, convinced that the French and English would never fight for Poland. Once they did, the Germans crafted a conventional attack plan, which the Allies had prepared for.

Just before they were to attack, a German aviator accidently switched off the fuel in his reconnaissance plane, which crashed in Allied lines. It was carrying the man responsible for a key part of the German plan.

Immediately Hitler’s generals came up with a new strategy, which they had been resisting all along. Genius often has to fight against the average. The new strategy involved making a dangerous sweep behind Allied lines.

Again fluke luck: in executing the new plan, German scouts found a crossing to the western bank of the Meuse River. They slipped over an undamaged weir, unnoticed by French defenders. This was the pivotal moment in the Allied defeat, and gave rise to the concept of the “lightning war” — or Blitzkrieg.

When it started to make rapid headway against the allies, Hitler panicked and tried to halt the sudden rush to victory, afraid his armies would be over-extended. His ‘strategic genius’ lost him the war, as the British were able to save their armies at Dunkirk.

Blitzkrieg became the model for future attacks, by most generals. As a strategy — and this is where Putin finally hit the wall — it requires LUCK, as it did originally in WW2. Sometimes it works, like when the U.S. rushed past Saddam Hussein’s army in Kuwait in 1990, and when the Israelis defeated the Arab armies in the 1956 and 1967 wars. Other times, however, the luck just isn’t there: both the U.S. and Soviet attacks in Afghanistan turned into unwinnable slogs, and Israel failed against skilled Hezbollah fighters a dozen years ago in Lebanon even though their enemy had fewer troops and lighter weaponry.

So you can imagine how Hitler’s luck went when he tried the blitz against an enemy who could retreat for several thousand kilometres and then hit back.

Stalin, for his part, was also no strategic genius. When Hitler attacked, he was frozen in indecision for days, losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers before new orders went out. It was through the timely intervention of a Soviet spy in Japan that he knew that the Far East was a safe reservoir from which to draw the troops that finally stopped the German was machine.

Putin has had the same burst of luck when he began his campaigns.

His interventions in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, Libya, Mali and twice in Ukraine — first in illegally annexing Crimea and then in creating self-declared Russian statelets in Luhansk and Donetsk — worked at low cost when he was able to move before the democracies could react.

But in Ukraine, he tried the same strategic genius against a NATION of 45 million people, armed and angry.

He failed with Plan A to seize the government in Kyiv before the outside world, could react, and then failed with Plan B to surround Kyiv and move in on other Ukrainian cities. Now he is failing in Plan C, to take the central Donbas region.

In the meantime, the Ukrainians are being armed, trained, and mobilized.

For Putin, it’s now a matter of choosing how he wants his defeat served. There are no good options.

Here is what his strategic genius has created:

· The re-arming and re-animation of NATO;

· The strengthening of Ukraine;

· The isolation of his country;

· The draw-down of his ‘resource card’, oil, as other countries make plans to abandon it;

· The recognition that Russia is governed by brainless half-wits; and

· The further disappearance of a Russian economy that was growing at one-tenth the pace of Ukraine.

Oh yeah, and the further shrinkage of Russia’s population.

It wasn’t just a mistake by his spy service that put Putin in this position. The underlying mistake was in taking on the project in the first place! That is the fact that underscores Putin’s hollowness. The Ukraine offered no threat to a Russia if that nation was also democratic and global.

Democracy has taken the world by storm. This is the real trend that Putin was fighting against. About 100 years ago, most of the world was ruled by autocrats. Today, that has dropped to 25%, and three-quarters of the world was free.

Russia, in fact, is one of the last large remaining autocratic countries (the other one is China).

The only threat to Russia, was Putin himself: Putin-the-dictator himself and his world view.

And he is, as he is about to discover, expendable.

Which brings us back to Mayday.

Mayday is almost a religious event in Russia. Originally a worldwide celebration of the international labor movement, it became a public holiday for the Soviet Union et al, where technological and military achievements were celebrated.

The closest Americans ever came to see a May Day was during an anti-Vietnam war protest in 1970, when about 500,000 people in Washington demonstrated against the expansion of the war into Cambodia.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the event was re-made as a tale of the Great Patriotic War, when Russia turned back the German hoards. They had in fact paid a huge price: some 24-million people in the Soviet Union died in WW2 — by far the largest death toll of any nation.

May Day fits the “Expulsion-of-Alien-Enemies” narrative behind the celebrations. It has been an ideal platform for Putin’s message that Ukraine is owned by fascists from abroad, who are undermining the nation in the Ukraine, under the guise of fascism and NATO.

This militant ideology continues to shoot itself in the foot (or in some cases — see below — the eye)?

This zealot dropped his own handgun and shot himself in the eye. Now it’s a “Look” for Stewart Rhodes, who — instead of becoming a walking flag-bearer for the abolition of guns — started the Oath Keepers militia group. Because what other lessons are there?

Stewart Rhodes thinks of the Oath Keepers as a support group for Donald Trump, to protect against “insurrection.” When he was helping to plan the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, he issued a statement timeless in its eloquence: “let’s not fuck around,” he said.

Needless to say, abortion clinics continue to be a primary target for domestic terrorism. With the true touch of the strategically inept, the Oath Keepers and others refuse to make the connection between their actions and the harm they do to their cause.

By pushing for a ban on abortion, the banners build up a veritable army of enemies determined to counter them.

It is possibly because the militaristic zealots seem to snap first, tempers getting in the way of long-term plans.

In spite of themselves, though, full-blown civil war in America has (almost) always receded.

Let us count the ways: We have the abortion strife now, and before that the divisions caused by the War In Vietnam, the Equal Rights marches, the Civil War (a real shooting war, for sure…I’m thinking that the South could be characterized as right-wing precursors), and the initial War of Independence (a civil war, if not always seen that way; there were more Americans fighting for the British than were fighting for George Washington). The reason for the one success out of a line-up of potential civil wars, can be put to the ‘outlier’ fact: another nation (the French) entered the war on the Revolutionaries’ side.

But talk about strategic mistakes: did it not occur to the French King that a revolution against authority would backfire? He did have all the time on the way to the guillotine to ponder it, of course.

Now, you might ask, who has been one of Putin’s most frenzied admirers in America?

Donald Trump.

According to the Donald, Putin is a strategic genius.

There is a reason for this sympatico attitude — a reason explored in a book called “Surviving Autocracy”, by Masha Gessen, who is a Russian-American journalist. He was recommended to me by one of your colleagues; a reader of these columns.

The Trump administration, he notes, shared two key features with the Soviet government: utter disregard for human life and a monomaniacal focus on pleasing the leader, to make him appear unerring and all-powerful: “These are the features of autocratic leadership.”

Trump, says Gessen, was probably the first major U.S. party nominee who ran not for president but for autocrat. And he won.

Putin, similarly, had declared his autocratic intentions early: a focus on re-militarizing Russia, dismantling its electoral institutions, and cracking down on the media. His economic policy was simple: reward his friends.

Hitler, Stalin, Putin and Trump struck many people as uneducated, uninformed, and dull. Their only ‘quality’ was the repetition of simple messages and solutions in a complex world. Their incompetence is their major attribute. They didn’t even know that they did not know.

Their minimal strategic IQ, however, caused the world so much harm.

If only it could be taught in books…like, history books, say.



Barry Gander

A Canadian from Connecticut: 2 strikes against me! I'm a top writer, looking for the Meaning under the headlines. Follow me on Mastodon @Barry