A comment on Russian society today

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Wed Sep 24 19:27:00 MDT 2003


Nestor wrote:
"I am just saying that all things considered, the "ancien régime" born from
the October revolution was definitely more human than the "brave new world"
delivered by the 1989-90 destruction of the fSU."

I will leave aside whether the USSR under Gorbachev was "born from the
October revolution" or born from a Stalinist counter-revolution. I do
understand the view that it was "more human" than what followed.

Notwithstanding some visits to other places, including the USSR in 1989, my
formative experience with "actually existing socialism" was the East
Germany of the sixties. So I followed closely, though from afar, the
collapse of that state.After the Wall came down, there were quite a few
people -- even those very critical of the Honecker regime -- who said East
Germany had more of a feeling of community than the
"Ellenbogengesellschaft" (elbow society -- i.e. one where everyone was
jostling rudely for advantage) of the west.

Part of my answer was to relate the story of my East Berlin pen pal who
told me one day that a Stasi agent had approached her out of the blue on
campus and thrown the fact of our correspondence in her face. Not very
neighbourly, you might say.

Even so, I also acknowledged that there was some truth in it. The question
remains: is this something to do with the "socialist" character of the
regime? I doubt it, because I have also encountered the community
atmosphere thing in Indonesia -- especially once you get away from the
"westernised" middle class. I suspect it is partly to do with being old
fashioned-- that the Eastern bloc states were less modern and therefore
less alienated -- in the same way that old working class communities in the
west were more intimate and caring tha the new suburbs that sprang up after
World War II.


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