Sunday, 25 March 2007
Unbreakable union of freeborn republics...
Fifteen years have passed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union on the first of January, 1992. The country - now region - with the most hotly debated - by its supporters, critical supporters, critics and enemies - political system in the world, has since then, been more or less ignored by people belonging to all shades of the political spectrum, apart perhaps from some largely irrelevant Stalinists, nostalgic about the olden days.
No one wants to talk about the post-Soviet republics. The left has moved on to more exciting issues like the new left wing wave that's sweeping Latin America, or the meltdown of imperialism in the Middle East while others might also focus on Nepal and the rise of the Maoists. On the other hand, liberals prefer to talk about things like the WTO, the EU, the "threat" of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, while, depending on where they stand on the Iraq war divide, they'll also comment on how US action in the Middle East is necessary to maintain Western security, or how it is irresponsible and destabilizes the region. If there's any mention of the post-Soviet and Eastern bloc countries, it is invariably within this framework. Russia helps Iran with its nuclear programme, Poland whines about Gazprom and Germany, the Ukraine's prospects for EU accession seem slim - the formerly real-socialist countries' political past is referred to only when there is some sort of clash of interests between said countries and the West. When Russia pursues her own imperialist objectives, Soviet Cold War mentalities are to blame. When the right wing authoritarianism that has spread all over Eastern Europe, and beyond, rears its ugly face, it is, naturally, considered an undemocratic residue and brushed aside as yet another problem to be dealt with by the liberal democratization process.
But that's as far and deep as any (mainstream) references to the real-socialist past go. That the fall of this deeply flawed and perverted form of socialism was, for the majority of the Soviet population, the greatest catastrophe that has befallen them in modern history, is rarely touched by socialist and liberals alike. By the left, the fall of the USSR is seen merely as a justification of their criticisms (degeneracy for Trotskyists, revisionism for Stalinomaoists). Every, 7th of November, their party press will carry an article about how important the Russian revolution is, how it shows that capitalism carries the seeds of its own destruction and more importantly, how the eventual fall of the USSR shows that their criticisms were right all along. They'll also add that what Russia needs now is the establishment of a true Leninist (meaning Trotskyist or Stalinist depending on whose paper it is) party.
Liberals on the other hand will usually deny that what happened in 1992 was a disaster. The grave problems faced by Russia and the rest of the post-Soviet republics are only the negative legacy of "Communism" and they can only get better, as long as democratization continues and governments remain responsible (it's up to them now, we helped as much as we could!). Somehow, they fail to see a connexion between the gangster capitalism unleashed by Tsar Yeltsin and fostered by Tsar Putin and the fact that the top 9 countries by suicide rate are all former real-socialist states. Further, that Russia suffers from an annual population decline of 750-800,000 is for them unconnected to the "shock therapy" advised by the Harvard economists and gleefully implemented by their Russian lackeys.
When faced with the facts, the liberal sycophants of global capital will quickly point to the Baltic countries - most often Estonia; here are successful, liberal democracies with booming economies! They will of course fail to mention that said economies have been built on the huge ethnic Russian minorities (25% in Estonia and 29.6% in Latvia) that lack citizenship and live in poverty.
The situation in the former Soviet Union is desperate, no matter how many pairs of rose-tinted glasses bourgeois commentators may look at it through. The only answer to the problems of the working class in all CIS countries is the creation of a new socialist movement. The task of any such future movement is threefold: First and foremost, it must make a powerful stand against fascism, as it is expressed by both the growth of the far right (National Bolshevism in Russia, neo-Nazism in the Baltics etc.) and the growing authoritarianism of the former Soviet states. Second, it must challenge any illusions the working class may hold about capitalism promoting "freedom and democracy" and offer a socialist alternative. Finally, it must fight against the culture of top-down, great leader politics that is prevalent amongst the left of the former Soviet states.
Given the lack of political culture and atomization the working class suffers from after decades of Stalinist rule and authoritarian capitalism, that any attempt to establish a united, powerful and participatory socialist movement in certain. It is equally undeniable however that there is no other way forward.