Kagarlitsky on Russia

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Thu Oct 3 13:46:54 MDT 1996

>from another list...

Boris Kagarlitsky
>From "Russia Chooses--and Loses"
Current History
October 1996

    The political elite in modern Russia can hardly believe that the
Communists are guilty of the sins ascribed to them. Until 1991
prominent supporters of the present regime and leading figures from
today's opposition both sat in the same Soviet cabinets. But whatever
attractive force this shared past might exert, there is in fact
something which repels the holders of power from the Communists. The
fear which the thought of Zyuganov coming to power arouses among the
Russian elite does not stem from the prospect of wholesale
nationalisations, nor from hostility to Communist ideology. Because a
genuine entrepreneurial bourgeoisie has not been established in
Russia, success in business is linked indissolubly to personal
relations which the entrepreneurs enjoy with the authorities. A
change of government would quickly bankrupt many of the "New
Russians" who have grown rich during the years of reform. A victory
for any opposition force is feared by these entrepreneurs as a
personal catastrophe. Therefore, increased pressure is placed on the
government by various interest groups with a stake in the survival of
the present leadership.....

    It is easy to speak of "treachery" and political
irresponsibility on the part of the Communist hierarchs. But the
problem goes much deeper. On the one hand, the Russian population has
not shown any particular desire for change. Half-starved teachers and
factory workers voted for Yeltsin, not because they were scared of
the Communists, but for another reason: because for hundreds of years
such people in Russia have had instilled in them a platonic love of
the authorities - any authorities. July 3 marked a historic triumph
for social apathy, for the traditional love of bosses and fear of
freedom, for conformism and for an authoritarian political culture.
     The people who voted for Yeltsin on June 16 and July 3 were the
same passive majority who in 1937 had watched the repressions with
indifference; who had denounced dissidents in the 1970s; and who in
the 1980s had joined in condemning informal activists. By supporting
Yeltsin, Russians accepted moral and political responsibility for
everything that had been done under Yeltsin's rule: for the war in
Chechnya; for the economic policies that had robbed future
generations of the right to education and health care; and for the
lawlessness that had taken hold of the country.

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