Boris (1&2) reformated Do Not Quote or Reprint (fwd)

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Sun Apr 16 14:40:50 MDT 1995


Thought this might be of interest. --Justin


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 1995 11:49:37 -0500
From: Jim Hurd <jhurd at INDIANA.EDU>
To: Multiple recipients of list SLDRTY-L <SLDRTY-L at suvm.acs.syr.EDU>
Subject: Boris (1&2) reformated Do Not Quote or Reprint

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
                        The New Pragmatists

         Any history of the ideologues of "Belovezhskaya Russia" would have
to be like an account of the forty years Moses is supposed to have spent
wandering in the desert. From the whole of the Old Testament, it seems,
these people could remember only this passage. This is quite
understandable: everything that is disgraceful about the new epoch is
ascribed as a matter of course to the "accursed past", which is now
"communist" and "Soviet", while all the unrealizable hopes and illusory
achievements of the last few years are assigned to the department of the
"shining future". And once the talk has turned to the shining future, this
future must include a "new man" and "new woman", uncorrupted by the old
ways.  Poor Moses! The biblical legend has become necessary only in order
to repackage and resell to the public an old schema from the textbooks of
"historical materialism".
         Meanwhile, at the same time as the ideologues
are promising to lead the new generation of "non-Soviet" Russian citizens
into the hot-houses of capitalism, this generation is speaking for itself
more and more insistently. These people are in fact the "children of
reform". Many of them were never in the Komsomol, and some were never even
pioneers. Perestroika began when the youngest of these peole were twelve
or thirteen years old, and when the oldest were finishing school. The
White House was bombarded when they had just reached the age of majority
or had just embarked on their careers. In December 1993 they did NOT vote
for the first time in their lives.  For these people, Stalin is as remote
a historical figure as Alexander the Great or Ivan the Terrible. Brezhnev
is a childhood memory, a folk-tale character like Ilya Muromets or Little
Red Riding Hood. Liberalism is a tiresome official doctrine preached by
cheerless bureaucrats and official propagandists.
         Marxism is a half-forbidden Western theory helping to explain why
everything round about is so foul.  These people are young professionals
with an excellent grasp of what they want. Competent, qualified, dynamic
and uninhibited, they are thoroughly adapted to market conditions, simply
never having seen any others. They have a "Western" style of behaviour, a
good command of foreign languages....  The liberal ideologues might be
expected to rejoice: here is the new generation of which they dreamt.
Unfortunately, this generation has not accepted the values of the "new
Russians", looking on these values with a mixture of contempt, revulsion
and disbelief. Nor does this generation take the state institutions of
"Belovezhskaya Russia" seriously. Meanwhile, talk of "free
entrepreneurship" evokes cynical jokes from them at best.
         The new generation are used to shops in which the shelves are
full, piled with trashy goods at unaffordable prices. You can't fool
people like this with stories of a "consumer heaven". Unlike their
parents, who dreamt of lugging a few more imported goods into their homes,
the young pragmatists are more inclined to think about professional
self-affirmation.  The previous generation let itself be fooled by tales
of Western prosperity. This prosperity was supposed to appear promptly as
soon as the country introduced private property, securities exchanges and
real estate speculation.
         Now millions of people look in bewilderment at the windows of
expensive shops, while counting their own miserable pittances. But if
older people were duped, then their children and their younger brothers
and sisters have learnt a great deal. The new pragmatists know how to
analyse events, and have already worked out that once we have become the
periphery of the West, we will never break out of the vicious circle of
backwardness and dependency; meanwhile, European standards of comfort are
not the highest value. They are sufficiently realistic to have grasped
that nothing good will be created on the basis of today's barbarian
capitalism, and that the stories to the effect that we are building a
"normal society" are opium for idiots.
         The members of the generation of new pragmatists are profoundly
hostile to the social order that is coming into being in Russia. They know
that the triumphant "Russian market" is not leaving them with any hope of
fully realizing their knowledge and abilities. It is precisely because
these people are so knowledgeable and able that they are unable to
reconcile themselves to this situation.  These people have no wish to sit
behind street stalls, to pilfer state property, to take bribes, or "to
fish in muddy waters".
         They want to work well on a Western level, to do what they like
doing and to get results. They would like this work to bring them a
respectable income and to give them prospects for growth. They want to be
able to live in their own homes, without having to range the globe in
search of work. In this sense they are patriotic, but the jingoism of the
slavophile opposition moves them only to bitter smiles.  These people are
young journalists who have never worked in the party press, but who know
from their own experience the value of a "freedom" that is limited by what
the sponsors will tolerate. They are top-grade computer specialists who do
not have to be told that policies which are destroying the country's
scientific potential are also robbing them of a future. They are lawyers
who are not content with working under conditions of official
arbitrariness.
         These young professionals need state programs of scientific and
technological development; they understand that no private initiative is
going to create for them the conditions in which they can succeed.
         They need free health care and education -- not because they lack
money, but for the reason that unlike the "new Russians", they are good at
counting it.  Can it be said that people with a sense of their own worth
have finally appeared in Russia? There are, at any rate, people who are
conscious of their interests, and who will not allow themselves to be
duped with impunity. At present there are very few such people, but their
numbers are growing with every passing day.
         For the moment they are not very radical, but they are shifting
steadily to the left.  The propagandists still set out to frighten the
population with talk of a "return to totalitarianism". Young professionals
understand that there will not be a return to the 1970s, even though there
is a good deal in the history of that period that present-day Russia badly
needs to restore. The new order in Russia is an abomination, and it is
necessary to struggle against it. In understanding this, today's young
Russian professionals are strikingly similar to their colleagues and
contemporaries in New York, Mexico City, Prague and Delhi. They have
common interests and a common dislike for political intriguers,
bureaucrats and "bourgeois".
         For Russia, people of this type are something quite new, but their
counterparts have existed for a considerable time in Latin America. Under
Western influence, and as a result of capitalist reforms in society, a new
generation of Latin American professionals as early as the 1950s issued a
challenge to the West and to the prevailing social order. It was not
downtrodden proletarians who tried to storm the Moncada Barracks in Cuba.
These were young representatives of the middle class, convinced that
without revolution there would not be modernization.  The generation of
new professionals in Russia in the 1990s is pragmatic-minded. These people
are not idealists, and as a result they do not have their own ideology and
cannot work it out for themselves. Some of these peole even describe
themselves as a "lost generation". They are unwilling to identify
themselves with any of the forces active in society. But at the same time,
they are moving to the left.
         Their problem, and that of Russian society as a whole, is that
there is no mass political movement in the country able to pose a real
alternative. Or at least, not yet.  This is not yet a generation of
revolutionaries, but they are already potential cadres for future radical
movements. The young pragmatists know that they will never become members
of a prosperous bourgeoisie. But they could yet become commissars, since
it is in conditions of radical change that their energies, talents and
knowledge will be required. If events unfold along these lines, it will be
the young generation of professionals who inherit this historic role.




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