28 November 2003
The ‘evil empire’ is no more. The end of an era and the start of a new one? Not exactly, as the events of the past decade or more testify, for whatever one’s views of the Soviet Union and the various socialist ‘flavours’, it can hardly be said that the world is either a better or safer place now that they’re no longer with us. If anything, the world has been shunted back in time about a century, to the era of unbridled greed and the chaos of unrestrained capitalism, to a period before the advent of socialism. The critical difference being that rather than ‘gunboat diplomacy’ enforcing capital’s reach, the world is now held to ransom with the threat of nuclear Armageddon unless the world tows the line.
Obviously the old Soviet Union cannot be resurrected, the past is the past whatever one’s opinions. But I think it’s time to take a fresh look at what actually happened, especially given the extremely dangerous and destabilised world that the imperium has created.
And I think this reappraisal is important for the future, for the one thing that is surely missing from the present is a sense that we have a viable future, one that is not ruled by an endless ‘war on terror’ as a pretext for maintaining an economic system well past its sell-by date (by about a century). One where the only option is an economic system motivated by private greed rather than one where the collective demands of an inter-dependent and increasingly battered planet surely has to come first.
The ideology of the individual, aside from the fact that it’s based on a complete lie, denies the collective nature of life, even in a country as rampantly individualistic as the US is and where the effects of the ideology have fragmented life to the point whereby, the empty propaganda of the ‘flag’ enables the dominant culture to divide and rule.
That the promises of socialism were not realised does not mean that it too, is a redundant solution, especially for the great majority of the world, the poor and dispossessed for whom it did and still does, offer a solution. It may not be one of 4-wheel drives, DVD players and shopping malls, but it most definitely offers what most people need, affordable education, health, housing and other basic services, necessary not only for survival but a solution that gives people hope that things can get better. A world where security comes first so people have time to contemplate their futures and especially that of their children.
So what went wrong? How has the capitalist world been able to persuade people that greed wrapped up and sold as ‘human nature’ has been able to triumph after 75 years of overall progress? For there can be no doubt that up until the 1970s, the poor of the planet had most definitely seen progress on almost every front, the statistics tell the story. Above all, the poor had hope and a sense of optimism that in spite of all the obstacles, ordinary people were taking charge of their own destinies for the first time since colonialism’s dead hand descended. One need only look at Africa to see the truth of my words where, following the liberation struggles of the 50s and 60s, post-colonial countries, albeit in fits and starts were moving forward in spite of the Cold War and sabotage by the imperialists.
There are several issues wrapped in what appears to be one, simple one, namely – that the West, motivated by only ‘humanitarian’ concerns about ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ blah, blah, blah, – brought about the demise of socialism, that it’s about the triumph of ‘human nature’ over ‘godless communism’ as if we are mindless animals ruled only by our genetic inheritance.
Let’s play what I suppose is best described as a role-playing game:
It’s the end of WWII and you’re the boss of the Soviet Union. You’ve just defeated the world’s strongest army and at great human and material cost (25-30 million dead, maybe more than half of them civilians). Everything that has been built in the past 25 years (again at enormous human sacrifice) has been destroyed. The West’s losses are by comparison, minuscule.
The US has just dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a thinly veiled threat to do the same to the Soviet Union, so if you weren’t paranoid before, you most certainly are now.
The US launches the Marshall Aid Plan but not a penny for the Soviet Union, its ‘ally’ in the war against Fascism. Instead, it rebuilds and rearms Germany.
Churchill makes his infamous “an iron curtain has fallen across Europe” etc etc in Fulton, Missouri. In 1949 Bertrand Russell (and others) makes his “let’s drop the bomb on the Soviets before they get one too” speech. The Korean War breaks out with US threats of atomic bombing China (then the Soviet Union’s ally).
Under these kinds of conditions what would you do?
A: Unilaterally disarm?
B: Build your own atomic bomb as fast as you can?
C: Capitulate and embrace capitalism?
Now no one is denying that the ruling bureaucracy (the Party) was self-serving, autocratic, patriarchal and a bunch of other bad things and one can argue that its relationship with the ‘Third World’ was motivated by self-interest as part of the Cold War. However, there’s no denying the fact that if one lines up the US position say over Vietnam, Apartheid South Africa, Angola and Cuba, whatever self-serving interests the Soviets had, they were defending countries that were the subject of colonial occupation and aggression that differs little from the current onslaught on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine etc.
And it’s also a reality that in spite of the appalling inefficiencies of the Soviet economy, its people weren’t starving and in fact, in spite of this, living standards were improving, an indigenous political struggle was taking place, albeit too little too late.
It’s fashionable in the West to put down the ‘longing’ on the part of the Russian people for the ‘good old days’ to nostalgia but the stark reality is that by comparison with the situation now, it was the good old days!
Several things here bear taking into consideration: The arms race that before Reagan looked like being at least stabilised (SALT etc), accelerated and in no small part because of the IT revolution, a revolution that the Soviet Union was effectively excluded from. Attempts on the part of the Soviet Union to participate in the emerging global economy were rebuffed, the effect of which was to have a fundamental effect on the Soviet economy and its failure to modernise.
Getting dragged into a proxy war with the US in Afghanistan was perhaps its biggest mistake, and here there is no doubt that by then (the late 1970s, early 80s), the situation was too far gone to retrieve. Led by a geriatric ruling elite which by now was effectively hereditary, it was unable and unwilling to respond to the final attack, a combined one of propaganda and vast amounts of money thrown at the ‘democrats’ by the West.
An extremely informative article in Global Research reinforces what many ‘defenders’ of the former Soviet Union said at the time of Gorbachev’s abortive attempts at reform of the ‘command economy’ from the top.
“Take the collapse of the Soviet Union, for example. Clark points out that “Soros’ role was crucial: “From 1979, he distributed $3 million a year to dissidents including Poland’s solidarity movement, Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia and Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union. In 1984, he founded his first Open Society Institute in Hungary and pumped millions of dollars into opposition movements and independent media. Ostensibly aimed at building up a ‘civil society”, these initiatives were designed to weaken the existing political structures and pave the way for eastern Europe’s eventual exploitation by global capital. Soros now claims with characteristic immodesty, that he was responsible for the “Americanization” of eastern Europe.”
“Who are Soros’s business partners at the Carlyle Group—one of the world’s largest private equity funds, which makes most of this profit from defense contracts? They include the former secretary of state James Baker and Frank Carlucci, former defense secretary, George Bush, Sr, and “until recently, the estranged relatives of Osama BinLaden.” Soros has invested more than $100 million in Carlyle:
“More recently, there is the case of Yugoslavia. As Clark puts it:
“The Yugoslavs remained stubbornly resistant and repeatedly returned Slobodan Milosevic’s reformed Socialist Party to government. Soros was equal to the challenge. From 1991, his Open Society Institute channeled more than $100 million to the coffers of the anti-Milosevic opposition, funding political parties, publishing houses and “independent” media such as Radio B92, the plucky little student radio station of western mythology, which was in reality bankrolled by one of the world’s richest men on behalf of the world’s most powerful nation. With Slobo finally toppled in 2000 in a coup d’etat financed, planned and executed in Washington all that was left was to cart the ex Yugoslav leader to the Hague tribunal, co-financed by Soros along with other custodians of human rights, Time Warner Corporation and Disney. He faced charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, based in the main on the largely anecdotal evidence of (you guessed it) Human Rights Watch.”
And if you want further proof of the sheer hypocrisy (not to say audacity) of the ‘champions of human rights’, just check out the gangsters who populate Soros’ International Crisis Group that contains:
“such ‘independent’ luminaries as the former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinki and Richard Allen, as well as General Wesley Clark, once NATO supreme allied commander for Europe. The group’s vice-chairman is the former congressman Stephen Solarz, once described as ‘the Israel lobby’s chief legislative tactician on Capitol Hill’ and a signatory, along with the likes of Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, to a notorious letter to President Clinton in 1998 calling for a ‘comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime’.”
(See also http://www.mindfully.org/WTO/2003/George-Soros-Statesman2jun03.htm by Neil Clark that the above extracts are based upon)
No doubt that the hegemonic Communist Party and its schlerotic nomenclatura contributed to the demise, after all, look where the gangster capitalists come from, but perhaps without outside intervention and subversion it may have been able to make some kind of rational transition to a more viable form of socialism. We’ll never know. Instead, George Soros and co facilitated the delivery of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe into the hands of a gangster capitalism, both here and there, that has impoverished tens of millions of people and seen what gains there were evaporate in the space of a decade, in a process that directly parallels the rollback in the rest of the poor world.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. From the 1970s onwards we have seen the biggest transfer of wealth from working people and the poor to the rich, the world has ever seen. Since 1990 country after country have seen their economies brought to their knees by the policies of the imperium. The much vaunted ‘neo-liberal’ economic policies initiated during the Reagan/Thatcher period, whilst benefiting some, has been paid for by the vast majority of the planet’s population and the environment, our birthright.
Even countries like the UK, now the fourth richest in the world by virtue of its pivotal position in the global financial network of capitalism, has seen the destruction of its indigenous economy and the skills and communities that built it. It is mere convenience and an accident of history that the main financial markets are in London, for in the age of the Internet, they could be anywhere and still ripoff the planet. As a ‘citizen’ of the UK, whatever benefits I might have accrued, are merely crumbs off the table by comparison.
Fundamental to my analysis is exploding the myth that the policies of the imperium are motivated chiefly by the fantasy that the ‘free market’ unlocks peoples ‘entrepeneurial spirit’ and frees them from ‘dependency’ on the state. A terrible irony when you consider the degree to which the state on the one hand tightens its grip over us and on the other, gives free reign to the predations of capital to use the state as a bottomless bucket of handouts.
What does this all mean? Well I suppose in part it’s an appeal to reason, to see that the imperium of today is no different than the one that devastated Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. What is different is that today, the only opposition it’s got is us, its citizens. And whilst one can argue over the rights and wrongs of the past, the reality is what kind of future do we have if the imperium is allowed to continue raping the planet and its people? And to forestall this, we need a viable alternative that I maintain is still socialism, even if we continue to argue over its form. Time is running out folks.