Friday, December 01, 2023

'What would Lenin have made of the Soviet Union in 1987?'

 'Perestroika and glasnost had started to unknit Soviet certainties, leaving a society in flux. New enthusiasms included hard rock, horse racing and ballroom dancing, Lacoste sweaters and Pepsi. The influx of visitors for the 1980 Moscow Olympics and a market in ‘much-thumbed western magazines’ had excited new desires, but the average monthly salary of 200 roubles (less than £200) meant most of this remained out of reach for almost all.'

Lenin hastened the development of capitalism in Russia.    With regard to Gorbachev and life in state capitalist Russia post 1917, this candid comment from journalist Vitali Vitaliev is worth repeating:"The main mistake of Western analysts trying to assess Gorbachev's career is the attempt to treat him as a kind of God-sent Messiah who emerged to save Russia from 'socialism'. Nothing can be further from reality. Throughout his political career Gorbachev was part and parcel of the apparat. He came not to dismantle 'socialism' but to preserve it.   I am putting 'socialism' into inverted commas because there has never been anything of the kind in Russia. No other country is so far from the ideas of equality and fraternity as the Soviet Union. If there was a socialism, or even a Communism at all, it was only for the ruling elite who lived and are still living in a separate world.  It is a world of privileges, starting from birth (special maternity homes) going on all through their lives (special shops, hospitals, hairdressers' salons, canteens, toilets and what not) and not ending even with the end of their physical existence (special cemeteries). Yes, yes, special cemeteries for the rulers of 'the first working-class State in the world', where workers are not supposed to be buried' (Observer, 11 March 1990).

Margaret Thatcher in a meeting with Gorbachev reportedly argued at one stage about the merits of capitalism versus 'communism' and she told him '''We are all capitalists. The only difference is that for you it's the state that invests, while for us it’s private individuals.'' Gorbachev was apparently flummoxed' (Mission to Moscow, Sunday Times 5 April 1987).   She was correct.  Capitalist hallmarks, such as class society, commodity production, profit motive, exploitation of wage labour, markets, etc., exist in Russia, both pre- and post-Gorbachev, as they do worldwide.   The very idea of socialism in one country is akin to being a little bit pregnant! 

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