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Monday, June 11, 2007

EDITORIAL: Exploding the Fundamental Neo-Soviet Myth

EDITORIAL

On Saturday, Reuters reported (as noted by commenter "Simmons") that Kommersant claims, based on his statements to reporters at the G-8 summit meeting, that "Vladimir Putin, whose term as Russian president ends next year, does not rule out running again in 2012." Earlier in the week, Putin had spoken "in favor of giving presidents five- or seven-year terms instead of the existing four years." So in other words, the most likely apparent option for Putin is to return as "president" in 2012 with a Constitutional change allowing 7-year terms, and thus to rule Russia until 2026 or a total of 22 out of the 30 years between 2000 and 2030. The remaining time would be filled by "a handpicked transitional figure whose main mission would be to allow Putin to reset his political counter and stage a comeback." By proceeding in this way, Putin could cut the legs out from under criticism of his anti-democratic nature, keeping his power technically within the bounds of the law. In fact, he'd be a neo-Soviet dictator, of course.

On Sunday, the Times of London reported an analysis of Russia which contains the following paragraph, neatly summarizing the central Russophile-sponsored myth which must be dispelled before any real progress can be made in Russia:
Most people in the West expected the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to usher in a new Russia, one that would become free, democratic and capitalist, just like them. Instead, robber oligarchs seized assets and power without much care for democracy’s foundation, the rule of law. The result has been deep disillusion and suspicion of the West, reflected last week in the views of Maxim Andreyev, 59, who lives in a tiny, crowded flat in St Petersburg. “When communism fell there was a sense of euphoria,” said Andreyev, a former factory manager who now survives on odd jobs and a pension of £50 a month. “Fifteen years ago we thought democracy meant that soon we’d live better. And we looked at the West in awe. “But for people like me life only became harder. I don’t crave the repression of the Soviet Union, but democracy and freedom are luxuries when you have to worry about surviving amid rampant corruption, crime and injustice.” The physical hardships have had a deep psychological impact, says Vladimir Pozner, one of Russia’s most respected political commentators. “Many people lost everything and they thought the West would help,” he said. “But there was much talk and little action.” Putin became president in 2000 and responded to the chaos by centralising power, both economic and political.
The central organizing myth of modern Russian life is that (1) Russia tried democracy and (2) it was harder on them than Communism. There is not one iota of truth in this statement. It's pure neo-Soviet propaganda, exactly the same kind that destroyed the USSR. Those who care about Russia's future must do everything in their power to lay this mythology in its grave.

First, Russia didn't try democracy. At no time since Communism ended has Russia held a true contested election for president. At no time has a "president" been elected after participating in televised debates and who was not previously a significant functionary of the Communist party, and in all four of Russia's elections the chief rival to the winner was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Even if a real democrat had ever been elected, the Communist system was given a "trial" of nearly 75 years. Giving democracy less than ten before anointing a proud KGB spy as dictator hardly constitutes a fair "trial."

Second, trying democracy involves more than having elections. Russia's presidency has been invested with far too much power, and the leaders of its legislative and judicial branches have been far too pusillanimous, for there to be anything like a proper democratic division of powers in Russia. Not one judge or legislator has stepped forward to assert themselves effectively, and those who have made partial efforts, like Galina Starovoitova, have been summarily killed with no public backlash of any kind.

Third, Russia isn't suffering more now than it was during the Communist dictatorship. The Soviet government was the number one civilian murderer in all of human history, brutally killing at least 60 million of its own citizens. China is a poor second at 35 million. Josef Stalin murdered more Russians than Adolf Hitler's armies. What's more, under the Soviet regime, Russians lived on the brink of total eradication through global thermonuclear exchange with the United States, and they were clearly suffering massive public health issues that only became apparent to the West when the Iron Curtain collapsed (how could it be otherwise, when the USSR was devoting such a huge share of its GDP to weapons, a share perhaps four or five times greater than what the U.S. was shouldering).

But most important, even if Russians did become worse off when the Soviet dictatorship fell, the idea that life for Russians was supposed to become immediately, magically, "easier" after the fall of Communism is sheer unadulterated garbage of a kind that could only be generated by Russophile propagandists, the lowest form of human existence. Life didn't become much easier for the American or Indian colonists after they undertook their successful revolutions against Britain seeking freedom. To the contrary, life became much, much harder. One should properly see this suffering as necessary to earning the privileges and benefits of freedom. The Russosphile attitude the life should have become instantly, magically better once Communism fell is simply childish and ignorant, and it's doubtful that it reflects the true beliefs of most Russians, who are far more intelligent than that. Did Russians think life would get instantly better when they decided to fight the invading Germans rather than surrendering as the French did? Of course not. But they believed fighting and suffering would gain them something, just as the Americans did in their revolution. Russians seem to have forgotten this lesson, and they are paying dire consequences for that forgetfulness.

The Russian people took no active steps to bring down the USSR, they simply watched it fall (much in the same way that most of them simply watched it rise). They did not demand accountability on the part of Soviet criminals, nor did they make a public acceptance of their own guilt as the German people did concerning Hitler. Instead, they lapsed into denial and sought to blame their troubles, caused by Communism, on the institution of democracy. That's blasphemy, and shows that the people of Russia fully and richly deserved the suffering they experienced after Communism fell.

It's an even more outrageous form of blasphemy to compare what Russians suffered in the 1990s to what they suffered, say, during the invasion of Napoleon or Hitler. If Russians of the past had adopted the same childish, cowardly attitude towards suffering that today's Russians have embraced, Russians would now be speaking French or German.

Yet, one can't blame modern Russians entirely. The fact is that while Russians stood up to Hitler and Napoleon bravely, those very same Russians showed exactly the same kind of pathetic, reprehensible cowardice towards Stalin that they now reveal in regard to Putin, and Stalin's uncontrolled barbarism brought the USSR to ruin, giving rise to the so-called "suffering" of the 1990s.

The fact that a single person in Russia, much less a majority, can imagine there is any hope for a decent future to be found in being ruled by a malignant little troll who spent his entire life serving Stalin's KGB in secret proves conclusively that Russians are simply not prepared to take responsibility for their own actions, their own futures. Their impulse when confronted with such accountability is to spurn it, and to place their lives in the hands of others so that someone else can be blamed when suffering and failure comes.

Russia is a house divided against itself, and as such cannot stand. Time is quickly running out for Russians to rectify this situation before dissolving into the mists of history. Those who care about them should tell them so at every opportunity.



10 comments:

Anonymous said...

LR, a couple of facts, to illustrate how life has been since the collapse of the USSR.

In 1992, the birth rate in the RF was 15/1000 population, and the death rate was 11/1000 population. The population of the RF grew by about 400,000 that year.

In 2006, the birth rate in the RF was 10/1000 population, and the death rate was 16/1000 population. In 2006, the population of the RF declined by about 800,000.

This indicates that life is indeed worse now than it was then.

La Russophobe said...

There are a number of serious problems with your analysis. Let's just discuss fourth of them:

First, you are relying on Soviet data, which everyone knows is not reliable. Not only would (and did) the Soviets lie about data of this kind, even when they told the truth they proved fundamentally unable to gather and collect reliable information (were they able, the country might not have suffered so many privations).

Second, you don't make any attempt to consider the possibilty that, assuming the data you cite is accurate, the trend was caused by Soviet failures -- the same ones which bankrupted and destroyed the USSR itself (i.e., the USSR's crazed decision to engage in an economic competition with the world's most powerful economies).

Third, you've totally ignored the intentional mass murder engaged in by the Soviet state and documented in the post.

Fourth, even if you are right and democracy made things much worse, you have ignored the fact that nobody promised Russia a rose garden. All countries seeking to become free and democratic have suffered in transition. Russia's suffering is no different, and far less than the country suffered to rid itself of Nazi invadors for example. Russians didn't give up just because fighting the Nazis caused hardship, so there is no reason for them to have done so in regard to democracy (unless of course they don't actually value democracy and freedom and want to live in a neo-Soviet state like the one that murdered millions of their forefathers).

David Essel said...

As always, to the point and right on.

Could I add two things, though:

You say:
[...] says Vladimir Pozner, one of Russia’s most respected political commentators
I must say that, having listened to a younger Pozner slitheringly justifying Brezhnev policy, that the man is a chameleon, not to be trusted, and certainly not be awarded any positive epithets such as the above. I have listened to him recently and find him still just as slimy, subtly defending the regime while simulating reason. [He is a pet hate of mine.]

and
Did Russians think life would get instantly better when they decided to fight the invading Germans rather than surrendering as the French did? Of course not. But they believed fighting and suffering would gain them something, just as the Americans did in their revolution. Russians seem to have forgotten this lesson, and they are paying dire consequences for that forgetfulness.

Seventy years of Soviet power engendered a trade-union mentality in most Russians making expect what little they got to be handed to them on a plate. So of course instant improvements are precisely what they did expect. (Remember Margaret Thatcher's not fully won battle against that same mentality in the UK, a battle that is now going to start in France under Sarkozy).

Anonymous said...

"First, you are relying on Soviet data, which everyone knows is not reliable."

Check the dates, LR. Quel Soviet Union in 1992?

And ya know, I've seen RAND reports on Russia's age structure, and its a funny thing... there are lots more 15-year olds than 1-year olds in the RF today, which is what you get when a birthrate drops a lot over a period of 15 years.

So it looks like that "Soviet" data you're talking about has some useful things to say.

"Second, you don't make any attempt to consider the possibilty that, assuming the data you cite is accurate, the trend was caused by Soviet failures -- the same ones which bankrupted and destroyed the USSR itself (i.e., the USSR's crazed decision to engage in an economic competition with the world's most powerful economies)."

Actually, Russia's birth rate bottomed out in 2000, at 9/1000 population/year. It's climbed 20% since Putin took over. So if the data means anything, it looks like a bit of import substitution and cutting down in the roles of Berezovsky et al in Russia's politics has led to some recovery.

I'm sure you're happy about that!

"Third, you've totally ignored the intentional mass murder engaged in by the Soviet state and documented in the post."

And the cure for that is for Russians to be born less and die more? Yes, that makes so much sense, especially when you see that the vital statistics of, for instance, the former "Captive nation" Ukraine are even worse.

"Fourth, even if you are right and democracy made things much worse, you have ignored the fact that nobody promised Russia a rose garden.All countries seeking to become free and democratic have suffered in transition. Russia's suffering is no different, and far less than the country suffered to rid itself of Nazi invadors for example."

Excellent example, LR. The Nazi invaders initiated and waged a war of extermination agains the peoples of the USSR. When you total excess deaths in Russia from the rates that have exceeded the 11/1000 population/year of 1992, you're approaching the order of magnitude that the Nazis caused.


"Russians didn't give up just because fighting the Nazis caused hardship, so there is no reason for them to have done so in regard to democracy (unless of course they don't actually value democracy and freedom and want to live in a neo-Soviet state like the one that murdered millions of their forefathers)."

Or if the course they were on between 1992 and 2000 gave no indication of being anything but a death spiral.

But there are indications of recovery, especially the climbing birth rate. That's something to be happy about!

La Russophobe said...

HI DAVE!

Quite right about Pozner, just another reason to call their position into question if he's rationalizing it! Your ever-watchful eye is most welcome.

Yikes! A whole country with trade-union mentality . . . now THAT is something horrible to contemplate.

By the way, on behalf of your readers let me say we are axiously awaiting your next installment.

La Russophobe said...

ANONYMOUS:

Yes, Russia was still Soviet in 1992 (a clueless wreck by any other name . . .). Moreover, if you are suggesting that Russian data is more reliable than Soviet, we believe it's less reliable, and we dare you to prove us wrong.

If the birthrate has increased 20%, that means people are dying at an even more horrendous rate, because Russia's population is still falling. Why do you ignore that fact? And again, if you believe data reported to you by a proud KGB spy in a country with no independent media, you're simply foolish. A neo-Soviet stooge, being played for a fool by the regime.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, Russia was still Soviet in 1992 (a clueless wreck by any other name . . .). Moreover, if you are suggesting that Russian data is more reliable than Soviet, we believe it's less reliable, and we dare you to prove us wrong."

Actually LR, all my data cited here is courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

"If the birthrate has increased 20%, that means people are dying at an even more horrendous rate, because Russia's population is still falling."

The natural decrease (excess of deaths over births) was greater back in 2000 than it is now, but substantial immigration reduced the rate of population loss. The rate of population loss is about the same as then, though the natural decrease is less. Immigration has declined.


"Why do you ignore that fact?"

I just addressed it.

"And again, if you believe data reported to you by a proud KGB spy in a country with no independent media, you're simply foolish."

Wow, LR, that's quite a description of the CIA!

"A neo-Soviet stooge, being played for a fool by the regime."

ROTFLOL!!

Anonymous said...

This is Hector,

"even if you are right and democracy made things much worse, you have ignored the fact that nobody promised Russia a rose garden."

Hmm, I thought you said Russia wasn't a democracy. Contradicting yourself, arent you? Also, you are dead wrong. The working class not only of the Soviet Union but Eastern Europe as a whole were told they were going to have a paradise on Earth if they accept capitalism. This is what Carter, Reagan, and Bush preached to the people in the Soviet bloc as they bought them off in the late 1980s.

"All countries seeking to become free and democratic have suffered in transition."

Two decades later most of Eastern Europe still suffers. And the ruling classes have their villas and limos. Tell me, how long does it take for the suffering to end? If you look at Latin America which suffers greatly from capitalism, I hate to think how long Eastern Europe has for the suffering to end. But as long as America can invest I guess it really doesn't matter.

La Russophobe said...

HECTOR:

If you mischaracterize what we've said, your comments won't be published. We have zero tolerance for lies and propaganda.

The phrase "EVEN IF" means what we think it is NOT true but we accept it for purposes of argument, you moronic simpleton. Sorry if your eductation didn't progress to the level of rhetorical argument. We guess you probabably studied in Russia. That's a pity, it clearly ruined your brain.

What's more, this post has NOTHING to do with "capitalism." You really should have studied reading a bit more in first grade. It's about DEMOCRACY you dimwit.

Anonymous said...

dittos on pozner. he's a propoganda-whore on the worst of the kremlin-ass-kissing stations, channel one. only a loser or a snake would work there.