To some shock is hell, to others a kindly mother. Part Two

22:29 17.06.2010 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine" argues that instead of a "spineless" Gorbachev, for a radical reform of the Soviet Union, the West sought a Russian Pinochet and found him in the person of Boris Yeltsin. Of course, in political terms, this comparison is "lame." Yeltsin built a concentration camp on the football field at the Luzhniki Stadium, but did not physically eliminate tens of thousands of members of the opposition, he did not throw in jail those disgruntled with the regime, and they were not subjected to severe torture. Even the shooting of the White House in Moscow can’t be put on same par with the Chilean general. So the question is: "Who was looking for whom: was the West looking for Yeltsin, or was Yeltsin looking for the West?" The question remains open. Apparently, the movement was mutual...

There is another significant factor that makes the comparison invalid. In the relatively small Latin American country there was a committed well-organized coup supported by the United States, and the military junta came to power in a matter of hours. The West’s long awaited for collapse of the Soviet Union was an unexpected event, an absolute historical surprise, which casts doubt on the thesis of a victory in the Cold War. In fact, what kind of victory is it, that was overlooked in all the ideological headquarters, and which was not recognized by any of the authoritative “think tanks”, let alone the fateful events of 1991 in Russia being predicted in any rough outlines?

When you hear the opinion expressed that a consistent policy to weaken the Soviet Union launched a mechanism, which at one point worked with great destructive power and engulfed much of Eurasia, it is nothing more than an attempt at wishful thinking, to justify the enormous costs and to attribute to themselves a historic role that did not actually exist.

It should be noted that since the Crimean War, any power that has hatched a plan hostile to Russia, trying to convince themselves and the whole world that Russia is nothing more than a colossus with feet of clay, which will crumble at the first push from the outside, is deluded. But the history of Russia presents an obvious lesson that, unfortunately, is not completely digested abroad, nor at home, so any external pressure, in general, or any external threat has always led to a concentration of the internal forces of the people and the state. A weakened Russia was not the result of external pressure and intrigue, but internal turmoil, betrayal and, and in the apt words of a politician of Gorbachev's era, "ideological confusion", in other words, the loss of conscious purpose of its existence as a nation.

Namely, a loss of purpose of existence of the "new community" called the "Soviet people" led to the collapse of the USSR. "Perestroika" and "glasnost" could not take the place of a national ideology of building socialism and communism, "the most just society in the world." The new concepts were not only secondhand, but also carried a doubt about the results achieved by the nation-wide construction of developed socialism. "Perestroika", "glasnost", "boost" reflected a romantic impulse, the "wind of change" movement, a "fermentation vat", which was opposed to the concept of social stagnation and economic degradation.

Also, some lessons can be learned from this by the post Gorbachev generation of politicians. "Perestroika" and "modernization" are close concepts, but today, in contrast to the 1980s, in modernization we see the necessary condition for the survival imperative of the country's existence, but not a neo nationalist idea. Gorbachev's era led to a sobering policy in the sense that none of the slogans: "Long live Russia!" or "Forward, Russia!" could be substituted for the nationalist idea. Bronstein's philosophy of "Movement is everything, and the goal is nothing," that the West accepts it has no alternative offer as the paradigm of post-industrial society cannot be applied to Russia, for which the main question always remains: "Forward to where, why forward, and to what purpose?" Otherwise we would be dealing with a paraphrase from the dialogue of a beloved film in which the main character replies to the driver’s question: "where to?"  And he answers: "there!"

During his time, de Gaulle, warned the French, saying that the idea of the growth of material well-being can never become a national idea for France. Especially for Russia ... Madame de Stael, avoiding political persecution by the Bonapartists, on the eve of war, crossed the border with Russia. The first thing that struck her in Russia were the peasants - they were often seen with their eyes facing towards heaven, "their aspiration for a higher meaning to life," reminded her of a highly educated person, the former youth in Europe. Incidentally, Madame de Stael’s writer's gift and love of travel developed the ability in her of an observant and accurate observer. Later she noticed this "vertical" Russian consciousness in the nobility. Even while no one directly attributed to Madame de Stael a quote from the Gospel, which says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and everything else shall be added unto you," so she was surprised to discover the vitality of this attitude in the most simple and solid manifestations of Russian life.

The Communist doctrine in Russia drew heavily on Russian idealism, which does not recognize the primacy of material benefit in relation to spiritual benefit. Gorbachev’s "horizontal" appeals injected into society, swept over the Soviet Union with the "winds of change," without having sown anything new in the people‘s souls, arousing, however, the common hope for change for the better, which was not followed through. The crew and passengers, feeling a tailwind, shouted "Hurrah!" But soon found that they did not have any sails...

However, let us return to the events of nearly two decades ago and agree with Ms. Klein in the sense that as with the coming to power of Pinochet in Chile, the coming to power of Boris Yeltsin in Russia marked the beginning of an economic experiment called "shock therapy." And, it was in its most extreme form, as developed by the "Chicago School" of Milton Friedman. Naomi Klein managed to have an unusually frank and exclusive interview with one of the most famous "shock therapists," Jeffrey Sachs. He was in the Kremlin at the very moment when Yeltsin announced the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sachs recalls, the Russian president said," Gentlemen, I want to let you know that the Soviet Union has ceased to exist ... " So I said," Wow! You know, such a thing could happen only once in 100 years. This is absolutely incredible (sic!), it is unimaginable, it's true liberation, and we need to help this nation." Yeltsin invited Sachs to Russia as an advisor, and Sachs agreed with pleasure.

And the work began...


(To be continued)


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