People are heavily conditioned to negative views of communism based on the legacy of Bolshevism. It seems like a nobrainer. And we are constantly reminded that capitalism is the only honest or fair system. So one of the great ironies of the ‘end of history’ was the way the end of the end of history came at the same time. Read the usual history of the American/capitalism response at the ‘end of history’. This is a depressing protrait of the end of the end of history coming swiftly on the heels of the 1989 transition. We can see that issue wasn’t capitalism, but the issue of capitalist ideology fronting for Washington gangsters set to plunder those who gave up Bolshevik confusions in good faith. They never got a chance for either capitalism or democracy.
Here is my latest column in CounterPunch Magazine.
The Shock Doctrine vultures are coming home to roost. The intensifying crisis in Ukraine is one of the many malign, long-reverberating consequences of the West’s decision to bludgeon Russia when it was reeling from the crack-up of the Soviet Union. Instead of giving the country breathing space, helping it find its way from the shattered socialist past toward its own new forms of civic life and economic organization, the West rushed to impose a brutal “market fundamentalism”: the now-familiar horror show of “austerity,” privatization, ruinous debt, plunging life expectancy, and rising infant mortality — the pitiless devouring of the common good by crony capitalism.
This dish was served up by willing Russian stooges — dazed patsies like Boris Yeltsin and the wild-eyed market zealots, converts to “Chicago School” economics, who filled his first government and tried, in the space of a few months, to transform a land that had never known capitalism (except in a few slivers of the economy, for a few decades, a century before) into the wet dream of Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman. The country was turned over to gangsters and hucksters, and to murky operators in the bowels of the security apparat. These were adherents of a different “Chicago School” — the school of Al Capone.
I lived in Moscow when the Shock Doctrine was reaching its full fury. Murder was rampant: high-flying businessmen were gunned down on the steps of the metro, reporters investigating corruption were blown up in their newspaper offices. Used car salesmen became nation-straddling oligarchs; nuclear engineers and factory managers became drivers and janitors for Western-owned businesses. Ordinary people in threadbare clothes lined the streets and train stations, hawking their few private possessions and family mementos for ever-more worthless rubles. Homeless children — the besprizorniki — roamed the city, in packs or alone, abandoned, dirty, feral, scared. Drunks killed by rotgut turned up in the snow beneath gleaming billboards for Revlon and Marlboro. Casinos proliferated, while local bakeries and health clinics disappeared.
Meanwhile, in the Kremlin, the jihad of the market extremists raged on. With the encouragement of Western governments and the assistance of Western privateers and consultants, the government “auctioned” off a trillion dollars’ worth of public assets to oligarchs and insiders — for $5 billion. Much of this money — up to $350 billion from 1992-2001 — was stripped from the country in capital flight and parked safely and profitably in Western financial firms. It was the greatest fire sale in human history.
The death toll of the first 10 years of “demokratsia” in Russia is astounding: an in-depth study published in the British Medical Journal found that “an extra 2.5 million to 3 million Russian adults died in middle age in the period 1992-2001 than would have been expected based on 1991 mortality rates.” Up to 3 million unnecessary deaths — as many as were killed in the Vietnam War.