Fwd: Chris Doss replies to Nestor on Russia

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Thu Sep 25 04:35:51 MDT 2003


Just responding to Nestor's comment.

This list isn't really the place for me to be on, but just thought I'd
address briefly some points Nestor raises.
My own personal view, by the way, is that everybody would be much better off
today if the Soviet Union had not broken up and if Perestroika had not been


a) I think that the question is wrong. In view of facts, what one
would have to ask is "what do you value more, lots of consumer goods
or higher probabilities of an early grave?"

Yes, but -- this is a lifestyle/cultural issue. No one is forcing the
peasants to drink ethanol and smoke filterless cigarettes. If you live
intellgently, you will probably live as long as you would anywhere in
Of course, a lot of this is related to rural despair. There is nothing more
tragic than a Russian village (maybe an Argentine one?). An acquaintance of
mine recently died at 93. He remembered Lenin! Fascinating life story -- Red
Army officer, almost made it to Berlin, was sent to the Gulag, later became
a chauffeur for Stalin.

b) On the other hand, I agree that I am considering, say, Russia 1975
against Russia 2003, mainly because Russia 1995 and Russia 2003 are,
from a _structural_ point of view, one and the same thing as compared
to Russia 1975.

I would quibble with this. The Yeltsin-era system was too much in flux to
have a definite structure. Putin was put in place to stabilize the
oligarchic system which was emerging, which he has done. That's his mandate.
Putin is actually quite a weak leader, spending most of his time mediating
between rival groups in order to maintain stability. That's his mandate.

c) Not that I worship Russia 1975. But it is easy to speak of false
options when _your own_ lifespan is not at stake.
It is at stake! I live here!

And, of course, I am completely sure that the "middle class" are
better off. This is always the same with semicolonies.
I am skeptical as to what extent it is accurate to describe Russia as a
colony or semi-colony. The Russian economy is almost entirely in the hands
of Russians and it is largely outside of the web of international financial
institutions. Russia told the IMF to F off in 2001, and has a debt-to-GDP
ratio lower than Germany's. It was quite amusing watching the US trying to
economically blackmail Russia into supporting the war on Irsq, seeing as the
US has almost no economic leverage on Russia. What was Bush going to do, not
give them the aid they were promised under Gorbachev? Ha ha. The EU and
China are much more important for Russia than the US.

BTW the Cancun developments were widely hailed in Russia as a victory,
because the EU has been insisting that Russia cut its heavy subsidization of
the economy as a requirement for WTO entry. The view is that that is no
longer necessary.


What's good in the "variety of goods and [their][...] higher
quality", if the mass of population can only watch them through the
shop windows, is an arcane to me. But I am probably a dynosaur

No, I agree.

These are remnants of what you call "Russia 1975". Perhaps the Putin
regime will not allow capitalism to advance towards these areas. But
I would not place bets on it.

There are lobbys trying to set utilities to market prices. I don't think it
will happen -- Putin is too much of a populist.

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