Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/563/6785

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2009

Russia and Eastern Europe in the 1990s

Capitalism kills, concludes study of privatisation era

"SHOCK THERAPY sell-offs blamed for one million deaths" was the stunning headline in the Financial Times of 15 January. Research into the deaths of three million men of working age in the 'former communist countries' of Eastern Europe in the early 1990s was being published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

Clare Doyle

It had found that "at least one third were victims of mass privatisation, which led to widespread unemployment and social disruption". The paper continued: "The study adds to a growing body of research... demonstrating how far the economic transition led to widespread suffering through death and physical and mental illness".

I lived in Russia at the time, working for the Committee for a Workers' International (to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) and strenuously trying to warn workers and young people against the 'voucherisation/privatisation' trick.

In a huge propaganda campaign, the government aimed to make workers feel they were going to have a real stake in their enterprises. They had suffered decades of state ownership with no workers' control and management and the stultifying one-party dictatorship of Stalinism.

Privatisation looked like a better bet. But, two years ensued in which, as the study mentions, at least one quarter of state factories were privatised (one-third by 1993), inflation was reaching Latin American proportions, and unemployment, unknown in the planned economy, hit millions of workers who received no benefits. The president, Boris Yeltsin, showed himself to be a new dictator and the economy collapsed by 50%. Of course it killed people!

Alcoholism and poor diet have been historical problems, but, as the report also confirms, the stress of the sudden destruction of everything that had been taken as given before, was a nightmare that was bound to take its toll on the working class in the most horrific of ways. Even the vodka sold on the street was adulterated and deadly.

Oligarchs

The people who won out from this process, driving the Russian working class into misery, were a few well-placed party hacks and cronies of the president who grabbed the factories, mines, steelworks, oil and gas concerns to accumulate vast fortunes.

Sometimes it was through buying up vouchers from cash-hungry workers for a few roubles each, sometimes through setting up banks and sometimes through sheer gangsterism. It involved not a few daylight killings - of rivals, politicians and journalists - and still does.

Oligarchs who got on the wrong side of the Kremlin, like Khordokovsky and Berezovsky ended up in jail or exile. Some like British politicians' friend Derepaska, or Potanin or Prokhorov ended up in Putin's court camarilla [clique]. Others, like Abramovich, can hold high office in Siberia and spend vast sums on football teams in England!

Most galling in a week when this report of mass human suffering and a million deaths came to light, was to see one of the robber barons responsible for these crimes - ex-KGB agent, Lebedev - talking blithely of indulging his long-held desire to buy up the London Evening Standard. The 'credit crunch' has taken his vast wealth down to a mere $2.5 billion!

Some others of his ilk have suffered a blow recently with the collapse in the price of oil and the financial crisis worldwide. It has seen billions wiped off share values and the state moving in to take a more direct role in their companies.

But none of them is going to be on the streets, begging for a piece of bread, as so many of the Russian masses have done and will do, as long as capitalism survives.

Prime minister Putin now says the collapse of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the 20th century" but he was not amongst those who opposed the return to capitalism at the time.

Capitalism today

The researchers pointed to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia along with Russia and Kazahkstan as the worst affected in the early 1990s with a 42% increase in the male death rate between 1991 and 1994. Now, these countries are amongst the first to be hit by the new tsunami of capitalist destruction.

Russia has seen mass protests in more than 50 cities against the government's attempts to make workers and middle class people pay for the crisis of their chosen system. Latvia and Lithuania (as well as Bulgaria) have seen street battles between police and angry protesters last week. Estonia has gone, like them, from a high growth rate to a contraction of 3.5% and its government's popularity is plummeting.

As workers and students in Eastern Europe begin to identify with and follow the example of those in Athens, Paris and Rome, a new era opens up. Millions were killed and maimed under Stalin.

More millions have had their lives wrecked by capitalism. Now mass struggle for a genuine democratic socialist alternative is firmly back on the agenda.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 21 January 2009:

No more bailouts for bosses!

Fast news: My Lords, Ladies and cash dispenser


War and occupation

Gaza war paves way for further conflict

Protesting against Gaza attacks

Egypt: Gaza conflict fuels anti-Mubarak opposition

Readers' comment: media reporting on Gaza


Socialist Party campaigns

Hands off Royal Mail

Wirral anti-cuts campaign

Save jobs - nationalise JCB

Fighting the cuts in Greenwich

Shop workers need a fighting trade union leadership

Campaigning in Exeter

Hoover workers march in protest at job losses

Amicus election

Glasgow Unison


Socialist Party feature

Obama takes power: What change will the Democrats bring?


International socialist news and analysis

Refugees and repression in war ravaged Sri Lanka

Exiled Zimbabweans demand Brown acts

Capitalism kills, concludes study of privatisation era

Lawyer assassinated


Environment and socialism

Opposing the expansion of Heathrow

Waltham Forest anti-incinerator campaign: Residents get results

Campaigners fight attacks on education and the environment


Socialist Students

Students fight academy status


Socialist Party review

What's going on? The meanderings of a comic mind in confusion, by Mark Steel


 

Home   |   The Socialist 21 January 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Russia:

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Why we need a party

triangleWest London Socialist Party: 100 years since the October revolution in Russia

triangleWell-deserved ridicule of Stalinism is impressive, funny but flawed

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleRussia, October 1917: When workers took power

Privatisation:

triangleSchool staff strike against privatisation

triangleLabour council Blairites deselected

triangleDWP to outsource more work to Capita

triangleCorbyn must challenge pro-gentrification council leader or others will

Capitalism:

triangleFighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

triangleBristol North Socialist Party: 'You can't have capitalism without racism' - was Malcolm X correct?

triangleWhy I joined the Socialist Party: "I started to question whether there was a better way"

Eastern Europe:

triangleBristol North Socialist Party: Populism in Eastern Europe

triangleSchool spend is behind eastern Europe

Economy:

triangleAmber warning lights flash on British economy

International

International

6/12/17

US

Trump's tax plan: Robin Hood in reverse

6/12/17

Ireland

Irish capitalist state: rotten to the core

6/12/17

Women

Fighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

22/11/17

US

Trump's tax attacks

22/11/17

Australia

Australia: massive yes vote for marriage equality

21/11/17

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Mugabe gone - but his regime remains in power

15/11/17

Minneapolis

USA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

10/11/17

Minneapolis

US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

8/11/17

Sweden

Sweden: 'Revolution2017' success

8/11/17

Spain

Spain: Madrid rally celebrates October revolution

8/11/17

Minneapolis

US: Minneapolis Socialist chimes with voters

8/11/17

Ireland

Ireland: rail workers demand share of 'recovery'

8/11/17

Ireland

Ireland: dangerous ideas for the ruling class

31/10/17

Catalonia

Catalonia: Rajoy's furious response to proclamation of Republic

25/10/17

Kurdistan

Kurdish referendum declared illegal

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the full 5% claim

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

triangle30 Nov Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

More ...

triangle12 Dec Birmingham South East Socialist Party: Can the Labour Party be changed?

triangle12 Dec Liverpool Socialist Party: Fighting council cuts

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2