[downwithcapitalism] FW: Capitalism as psychosis

Barry Stoller bstoller at SPAMutopia2000.org
Mon Apr 9 13:18:41 MDT 2001

>> One-third of Russians are suffering from mental disorders, the number
of which has steadily grown in the past few years, doctors said...

Gee: ... I tend to think this issue has probably grown more
significantly in the last 10 years and would suggest that the transition
/ upheaval is the cause of societal stress rather than capitalism or
communism. A revolution in favor of communism would probably also cause
high levels of stress among a significant band of poeple (even many of
those in favor) so it's the direction we should evaluate rather than the
level disorders.

Bukharin commented during the dire 1920s that '[t]he communist
revolution is accompanied, as by every revolution, by a reduction in
productive powers' (Economics of the Transformation Period, Bergman
1971, p. 58). One would expect, as you note, 'transition / upheaval is
the cause of societal stress'---in general.

However, a qualitative look at the objective conditions in which
transition / upheaval occurs is in order. The October Revolution was
accompanied by World War II as well as Civil War and foreign invasion;
the 1991 counter-revolution, on the other hand, was conducted under
peaceful, almost ideal, conditions.

A basis of generic comparison, therefore, is not appropriate.

Taken in isolation, the psychosis report says little---and you are quite
correct to question its significance.

However, when we consider the background, the report becomes
significant. And the background is severe.

'According to official statistics, real wages in 1998 were only 49.3
percent of their 1991 level (1991 was the last year before the Soviet
Union fell apart)' (Monthly Review, July/August [51:3], p. 86).

At the same time, '[w]hile the private income of the average household
dropped sharply, so too did the level of public services. Vacation
resorts and summer camps previously available and affordable for average
Russians converted themselves into spas for the wealthy. The quality and
quantity of health care declined sharply as the government subsidy was
slashed... As a consequence, there have been epidemics of diseases
rarely seen in Russia in the past,' and so on and so forth (Kotz & Weir,
Revolution From Above: the Demise of the Soviet System, Routledge 1997,
pp. 183-84).

See also the report, below, on pensions in Russia.

Looking at the situation dialectically, we see that mental health in
Russia deteriorates as general health deteriorates; and general health
deteriorates as health care services deteriorate; and health care
services deteriorate as infrastructure deteriorates; and, following
that, infrastructure deteriorates as neoliberal 'shock therapy'
privatization is applied to a nation in which social services were
previously quite advanced.

The conclusion should be obvious.


Moscow Times. Monday, Apr. 9, 2001. Tackling a Pending Pension Problem.

Sergei, 75, is sitting in his apartment fretting about how President
Vladimir Putin has changed his life. Or, more specifically, his income.

On the surface, it looks like Sergei should have nothing to complain
about. Putin has ordered pensions raised six times and further increases
are planned throughout this year.

But in his case, the math works out this way: "Before the [1998] crisis,
I received a total of $200, then my pension fell to $60 and now it
stands close to $80," said Sergei, who asked that his last name be

So in dollar terms, Sergei's pension, which includes a payment from the
State Pension Fund topped with cash from City Hall, is about 2.5 times
less than it was three years ago.

Pension reform is at the forefront of a government drive to improve the
country's standard of living. Average pensions are expected to top 1,000
rubles by the end of 2001, up from 550 rubles at the start of 2000.

But the government knows that inflation and currency devaluations have
weakened the buying power of all of the population, not just pensioners.

... This year, the government has budgeted 550 billion rubles ($18.3
billion) for pension payments.

As it's laid out now, pensions are collected in a pay-as-you-go basis,
in which monthly deductions from the working population's salaries are
immediately handed out to pay of retired people. But as the population
grays more rapidly and the birth rate drops, many fear that there simply
will not be enough cash in the pension coffers to pay those on pensions.

Then, of course, there is the matter of bringing pensions up to a level
needed for a comfortable living.

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry says it has some answers to
these problems. A first step that should be taken, it says, is to no
longer give out the same amount for pensions to everybody regardless of
their previous jobs and salaries [NOTE THAT]. Instead, allow personal
accounts to be set up at the State Pension Fund in which a portion of
each worker's salary was deposited to supplement his pension after

... Meanwhile, 75-year-old Sergei is philosophical about both his low
pension and government reform plans, saying matters could always be
worse. "At least my pension is better than it was in 1992, when it
amounted to about $10," he said.


Barry Stoller

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