The false myth of a post-Gorbachev Russia plundered by Western capitalism – Corriere.it

The false myth of a post-Gorbachev Russia plundered by Western capitalism – Corriere.it
The false myth of a post-Gorbachev Russia plundered by Western capitalism – Corriere.it
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In Moscow as well as in the West, Gorbachev’s death was the occasion for exhuming a myth dear to both nostalgic veteromarxists and putinians: the one on Western responsibilities in Russia’s disastrous transition from communism to capitalism. In this as in other fields, we have seen the Pavlovian reflex in action for which it is always our fault. In the specific case, the belief that Russian privatizations during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin would have their real direction in New York (Wall Street finance) and Washington (World Bank, International Monetary Fund). Basically, this is a fairy tale. The role of Western finance was marginal, that great looting that was the Russian privatization was perpetrated by a Russian elite against the Russian people. This was demonstrated by one of the leading experts in Soviet history, Princeton professor Stephen Kotkin, author of a masterful biography of Stalin and also of the essay A step from the Apocalypse on the transition from Gorbachev to Yeltsin-Putin (recently republished in the geopolitical series of the Courier).

Kotkin recalls that in the 1990s foreign investment in Russia amounted to a few billion dollars a year, less than in small Hungary. On the other hand, during that decade capital flight from Russia reached $ 150 billion: almost four times the amount of loans granted by the International Monetary Fund. so they were born the great fortunes of the oligarchs, some of which were secured in Swiss or British banks, or in Monte Carlo, Dubai and Hong Kong. According to an old joke, Russia is the richest country in the world, because although everyone has stolen from the state for nearly sixty years, there is still something to steal. Foreigners were almost always excluded from these thefts. An example: in 1991 Fiat had offered two billion dollars to buy the Russian car factory AvtoVaz, which was instead sold (or better said) to local investors for 45 million dollars. with these sales, robberies, favoritism, which was created a new class of Russian capitalistsi, very often former officials of the state or the communist party.

From the turn of the millennium onwards, to preside over this operation of primitive accumulation – to use a Marxian jargon – Putin intervened, first expression of the oligarch caste, then a master in the game of blackmailing them, enslaving them, maneuvering them.

Kotkin emphasizes how much continuity exists between the two historical phases, and how much communism (or Leninism, or Stalinism) has impregnated Putin, its circle of power, the ruling class in the broad sense. The crucial historical arc begins when the Soviet system shows the first signs of crisis in competition with the West; it ends with Putin firmly installed in power, even at the debut of his external aggression operations.

The reconstruction helps dispel other myths that have taken root in Italy. Among them is the idea that the attack on Ukraine in 2014 and then in 2022 is Putin’s reaction to a series of humiliations inflicted by the West (America in the lead), which after the collapse of the USSR would have kept Russia on the fringes of the international community. Those who support this thesis usually omit two significant events that occurred in the late 1990s: the inclusion of Russia in the G7 that with it became a G8; the offer to Moscow of a partnership with NATO which for a few years was accepted. Why were these forms of Russian association with the West not enough to quench its thirst for revenge? An answer is even found in a Russian history school textbook that quotes Kotkin, influenced by the Kremlin and explicit in his intentions to restore the sense of patriotism. That school text teaches that entry into the club of democratic nations it implies the cession of part of its national sovereignty to the US. Each of us is free to form our own opinion on this statement: whether Germany or France or Italy cede sovereignty to the United States simply by participating in the G7, or whether these international forums are instead a place for sharing decisions through the search for consensus, a geopolitical format that represents the overcoming of imperial coercions.

The point for another. If for Putin any association with our community is a subordinate entry that implies transfers of sovereignty, then the only scenario his Russia is aiming at is the return to the status quo ante: the stalemate between openly hostile superpowers, the balance of terror that marked the first phase of the Cold War (1946-89) and threatened to mark the second phase opened in 2022 as well.

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This is confirmed by the fact that, according to Kotkin, a large part of the Russian ruling class, like its American counterpart, believed to be invested with a special mission, even if an exaggerated application of the principle had led to Tsarist Russia and the USSR itself. to a quick porthole. Thus, Russia and America shared the idea of ​​being exceptional nations. But for the United States, this messianic vision of its role – under the banner of Manifest Destiny – has been subjected to ferocious internal criticism, has split the country and destroyed presidencies, even when it is embodied in the illusion or imposture of wanting to export democracy. and human rights. In Russia instead Putin has resurrected the exceptional fate reserved for Russia giving him back the halo of religious sacredness, of the clash of civilizations with a decadent and cowardly, sinful and licentious West. The more America became doubtful and skeptical of its universal role, the more Russia charged her with an ancestral reactionary ideology. An example of this gap in the trajectory between the two superpowers occurred precisely in this 2022, the year of the second Russian military aggression against Ukraine. While in Moscow on the occasion of the conflict it strengthened more than ever the alliance between political and religious power (Putin and the Orthodox patriarch), in America the Supreme Court ruling that canceled the constitutional right to abortion offered the spectacle of a rift between Catholic politicians (Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi) and the church (Pope Francis applauded the sentence of the constitutional court).

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September 1, 2022, 10:15 am – change September 1, 2022 | 10:15

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The article is in Italian

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