Fwd: Chris Doss replies to Nestor on Russia

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Thu Sep 25 08:55:51 MDT 2003

El Jueves 25 de Septiembre de 2003 a las 12:35,
Jurriaan Bendien dijo sobre Fwd: Chris Doss replies to Nestor o que:

> Hi,
> 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.

>From what I am learning in this exchange I would definitely believe
that this list is the place for Chris D. to be on. But OK it is a
matter of personal preferences.

> 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
> derailed.

The above I assumed. I guess everybody on the list agrees in that
your view was such as stated.

> ---
> 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
> Europe.
> Of course, a lot of this is related to rural despair.

Now, here is where our differences arise. Chris D.'s statements on
"lifestyle" are too heavily loaded with bourgeois ideology/fetishist
rationalism.  There is a difference between a socialist (or pro-
socialist, or pre-socialist, or para-socialist, or transitional,
whatever) regime such as existed up to the late 80s (I am not against
consideriing that it existed up to the botched perestroika --but
could perestroika have not been botched, that is an open question),
and the pro-capitalist or capitalist regime installed afterwards. And
the difference shines as a bright summer Sun precisely on these
issues. If you have a population in despair, ethanol or no filter
cigarettes simply cannot be allowed. If you allow them for the sake
of the "free choice" you are guilty of murder even though you will
never go to the bench for it.  If you are for bourgeois rule, then
this guilt is superseded by the fact that you honestly believe that
there is no better way to deal with the problem, because in the end
markets solve it all (in this case, by killing people by the
truckloads). But Chris D. is not for bourgeois rule, so that this is
a gross inconsistency in his thought.

> There is nothing more tragic than a Russian village (maybe an
> Argentine one?).

There are not "villages" (in the European sense) in Argentina. But I
would suggest Christ to spend a fortnight in one of our shantytowns.
However, as some Russian castaway told me and I already wrote on the
list: "Here, at least, there is no snow in winter".

Gogol: "Oh, how tragic is Russia!" If we are to believe Chris D., and
I don't see why not, after two hundred years (slightly less), the
Russian people hasn't still been able to realize the essential tasks
that are commonly attributed to bourgeois (not socialist) revolution.

It took the heaviest toll of life to three generations to keep the
land relatively free from imperialist agents, and that is in the end
all that can be put on the "good" side of the scales when evaluating
this tremendous experience with a historian's eye. In the long road
traversed, everything that the October revolution was expected to
bestow was mercilessly lost. But rural despair was not exactly the
description of the situation before full capitalist restoration came

There was a state which considered despair as  a problem, not just as
a datum. Now, there isn't. And lifespan has been left to personal
decission of people under stressing conditions.

> 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.

Fascinating, indeed, and I, for one, would have paid for a
conversation with that acquaintance of Chris's. But the fact that
some swimmers are not killed by sharks doesn't mean that sharks are
harmless. Of course, if you manage to live against the current in a
murderous society you can have a long lifespan. But when you can't
even realize that you are caught into the current (which is usually
the case with most normal and ordinary people) what can you do?

No, no. The current death rate in Russia cannot be analyzed in cold
terms. It is a crime, and it is the demonstration that the former
system was better than the current one. Chris believes that this is
true, then why not to admit that the main consequence of the regime
change has been a demographic disaster, since "the most general law
of population under capitalism" is to fit the population figures to
the necessities of capital accumulation, and not the other way round.

> ---
> 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.

But something was definite: not the least trace of socialism would
remain. It is in this sense that I speak of "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.

On the above, I would tend to agree. But don't you think you are
missing the State as such, which has something to do with Putin?

> ---
> 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!

No, Chris. _Your_ lifespan is, and you know it, subject to different
laws than those which rule the mass of the Russian population. I
understand you took it personal (I hoped you would, BTW). But the
fact is, though I don't know you in person, I am completely sure that
_you_ are not among the mass of earmarked for early death, not any
more than I am here.

Both of us know this. Neither were Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin or Krasin,
for that matter. But they understood the meaning of this pornographic
destruction of human life, and did not try to view it as a
consequence of "free choice" in a complex world. These people who
drink themselves to death believe that they have _no choice_. That is
precisely why they do it. In a sense, they are right. They simply
fulfill the requests from capital: "You are redundant, just die".

> ---
> 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.

This does not make Russia any less of a semi-colony. The colonial
character (or semi-colonial character) is NOT marked by widespread
presence of imperialist concerns. It is marked by the ability or
inability of a given country to integrate Sections I and II of its
economic structure within a continuous cycle of capital reproduction.
Russia simply can not. It can defy the IMF, because the capitalist
countries still fear its rusting defence system. But it is not
admitted as an equal by the G7 nor will ever be. It is still a large
economy, but as we say in Argentina, "it is not the same thing to be
fat and to be swollen".

> 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.

Certainly so, and here lies one of the hopes of humankind for the
future. However, there is a dyssimetry here which reveals what I am
talking about. While the EU is most important for Russia, Russia is
not most important for the EU. Russian economy turns basically around
oil and gas exports to the West, and this is what tells us about its
semicolonial character. The question is whether it could be otherwise
under capitalism in Russia. In fact, what is happening is that one of
the basic goals of the February, 1917, revolution was not attained.

Russia is simply _not_ an imperialist country. It cannot export
capital and extract supplementary surplus value from other countries,
etc., though Putin would of course love it if this were possible. But
it can't. I am no expert in Russian issues, and would hate to sound
as one. But in my view, Russian capitalism cannot repeat the history
of, say, British, French or German capitalism.

The question to be posed is: "Does the current system of socio-
economic relationships depress or boost the possibilities to carry
the _bourgeois_ tasks to their reasonable end?", or differently put,
"Can we imagine Russia as a full-bearded imperialist state such as
the EU, USA or Japan if not now, within a reasonable time span?" Once
you look at the issue from this point of view, then the semicolonial
character of Russia comes to light stronger than ever.

Argentina, under Perón, was a semicolonial country even though most
of its economy was Argentine-owned. Not only that, it was state-
owned. This is not the litmus test.

> 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.

Yes, and since Argentina has had something to do with the
developments at Cancun, I am glad that the whole conference went
rout. But the attitude from the EU is characteristic of a
metropolitan-colonial relationship. While the EU subsidizes whatever
they want (even some villages "out of landscape reasons" as it
happens in France), Russia (or Argentina, or Brazil, or whoever) MUST
relax any subsidy (excepted those that are given to imperialist
concerns, of course)

> 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.

Ah, that word, "populist". You have given me the first reason to
begin to feel some slight respect for Putin. Whenever someone in a
semicolonial country is termed a "populist" I begin to look at her or
him with a milder eye.

Best to you, Chris D., and to kind Jurriaan, who allows us to debate
on Marxmail. As to me, I am convinced that you _should_ be here on
this list...

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
"Sí, una sola debe ser la patria de los sudamericanos".
Simón Bolívar al gobierno secesionista y disgregador de
Buenos Aires, 1822
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