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Is Yeltsin-Era 'Reformer' Chubais Scarier than War?

Liberal reforms caused as much as or more damage to the country than war

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The author is a famous Russian economist, left-leaning politician and prominent media personality 

The results of an online survey on my website on which event was most damaging to Russia were shocking: among the many people who voted (proving the relevance of the topic), 81.4% chose “the liberal reforms by Gaidar-Chubais-Yasin-Kudrin-Medvedev and others”.

Russian liberal reformers are considered by the Russian Internet as a far bigger evil than “Hitler’s invasion” (only 11.5% voted for it), let alone “Stalin’s terror”. 7% respondents voted for that, almost confirming the European notion of equal harm by fascists and their conquerors; however, with the freedom of speech available to Hitler’s liberal fans, as well as participation in elections and teaching in higher-education institutions, it’s no wonder.

Of course, online surveys are largely unrepresentative (not to mention that one and the same person can vote several times via different social networks), nevertheless, the trend is clear.

The atrocious four-year war that ruined life of almost every Soviet family, led to the death of 27 million people (not to mention invalids, mental disorders, unborn children and untimely ends), is considered as less evil than liberal reforms. The demographic consequences of the latter (untimely ends and unborn children) amounted to only 12 million people in the 90’s. Yes, there were far more victims from “Stalin’s terror” (including economic disasters such as collectivization and hunger), equal to more than the population of Moscow – but far fewer people than we lost in the war!

Of course, time plays a huge part: our grandmothers’ and grandfathers’ tragedies are considered much less painful than the misery and ruined lives of our parents.

But the main reasons of such a keen perception are different. The respondents wrote about them a lot and in detail, we must give them credit.

First, the war, being a disaster itself (accompanied by millions of personal disasters) did not devastate society; on the contrary, it strengthened morale and raised self-esteem and national pride. We remember the war today also because it was a triumph for our nation, that was victorious, not thanks to resources and money but due to its spirit.

Liberal reforms, on the contrary, have been a triumph of depravity, a moral disaster with which every decent person identifies. “They let us lie and steal and called it democracy and the market”. - Nothing more specific was said, but liberal reformers remain respected members of the society they destroyed.

The horror of privatization was not about theft,  – that existed just before the collapse of Soviet power, especially during Perestroika under Gorbachev. It was about the cancellation of property as such. Under the official ban of private property (allowed only for factories), private property was sacred and harshly preserved; blatantly lawless and illegal privatization did away with property as a social institution. We have just started repairing the consequences of this disaster, which turned out to be worse for society than the war.

This disaster was part of a moral disaster: betrayal (of friends, country, let alone ideals and principles) became not simply a point of honor, courageous and heroic, but almost the only one way to survive in relative comfort. Those who did not want to take part in that, emigrated (and still do) reducing the level of social morality even more.

Another reason for such a keen perception of the liberal reforms is the fact that Hitler lost the war. But his followers now compare liberal educational standards with Hitler’s General Plan Ost).

They continue to implement their plan with inexhaustible enthusiasm. Hitler’s invasion lasted four years. Liberal reform, counting from the beginning of Perestroika in 1987, will mark its 30th anniversary, and Russia cam still not terminate them.

The thirty-year nightmare of triumphing national betrayal, still taking place, outweighs the four-year hell of war, which took place three generations or four generations ago.   

From the point of view of the evolution of human civilization, today’s liberalism, requiring that the state not serve its people but global business that is hostile to them, solves the same problem that fascism solved in the 1930s.  

Fascism was a social and political tool, by which the biggest businesses, closely allied to the state, provided obedience and even enthusiasm from the masses, the lower bourgeois, workers and peasants, who were denied their rights for its benefit.

Big business has changed, becoming global, subjugating and incorporating the largest states (including the USA), becoming financial and speculative, having been relieved of the duty to organize and maintain production, it became even more devastating, currently liquidating the middle class that has become useless in the “brave new world”, consuming too much and producing too little.

To ensure obedience and enthusiasm of the masses at the new level of evolution, new business uses a liberal ideology that touts superiority over “subhumans”, not based on nationality but on social status. Today it’s not Jews and Slaves who are subject to extermination (not in the furnaces of Auschwitz but in a more efficient way – but through poverty, hopelessness and artificially instigated civil wars) but nations who are  “not creative enough” and entire continents that are not attractive to global business. From this point of view, one and the same fate is in store for a Russian “ragtag”, an American “redneck”, and an African: the difference is in the details.

Seventy-five years ago, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers saved us from this fate. Yesterday and today, we and our fathers are incapable of saving our children from it. That’s why many Russians consider liberal reforms as a bigger evil, leading to bigger damage, than Hitler’s invasion.


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