[Marxism] Fwd: You're the Puppet - bookforum.com / current issue

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 29 06:54:42 MST 2016

(By Tony Wood, one of the few people associated with NLR who is not a 
Putinite stooge.)

What's particular to Russia is the closeness of the relationship between 
private wealth and the state. That relationship, often depicted as one 
of domination by the Kremlin over capital, is in reality closer to a 
symbiosis, in which political and economic power are intertwined—and 
mostly concentrated within the same small group of people. After the 
fall of Communism, the Yeltsin administration rushed to privatize large 
chunks of the economy, transferring factories, mines, oil fields, 
banking licenses, and so on to a select few individuals. The state 
played the decisive role in creating this new class, as the 
beneficiaries have readily acknowledged. Banker Pyotr Aven—currently 
ranked No. 317 on the Forbes list of billionaires—once observed that "to 
become a millionaire in our country it is not at all necessary to have a 
good head or specialized knowledge. Often it is enough to have active 
support in the government, the parliament, local power structures and 
law enforcement agencies. . . . In other words, you are appointed a 
millionaire." For most of the 1990s, the oligarchs created by the state 
seemed to have the upper hand, with figures such as Boris Berezovsky all 
but dictating government policy. But the 1998 ruble collapse and ensuing 
economic crisis weakened the oligarchs' position, while the rise in 
global commodities prices from 1999 onward suddenly sent floods of tax 
revenues into state coffers, strengthening the hand of the government. 
The tide now turned the other way, and state officials began to exert 
more pressure on business. The 2003 attack on Khodorkovsky confirmed the 
shift, and sent a signal to the other oligarchs that new rules were 
going to apply. But in neither phase did the idea of private 
profit-making as the governing principle come into question—only the 
distribution of the rewards.

full: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/023_04/16815

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