The brewing conflict between the Russian Oligarchy and the Russian people is reaching a crisis point. The side that prevails will determine the future of Russia and perhaps the world.
On 17 March 1991 a referendum was held in the Soviet Union on whether or not the USSR should continue to exist. There was an 80% turnout (some 185,647,355.00 of registered voters). The upshot of this election was that 113,512,812.00 voted to preserve the USSR. That’s 71.92%. Their wishes were disregarded, however. The entrenched bureaucracies and business interests, collectively the nomenklatura, decided that this was too good an opportunity to pass up; there was money to be made in this once in a lifetime situation. Which sounds eerily rather like EU referenda practise.
The sunny interlude of Gorbachov was to give way to the beginning of the Yeltsin catastrophe – a catastrophe not equalled since WW2. The emergence of the cosmopolitan business oligarchy and its political hangers-on was to consolidate its power and create a new kind of political, economic and social structure. At the time, and even today, the leading Russian capitalists’ over-riding aim was to realign their country into an assigned subordinate position in the world hierarchy of capitalist classes thus subjecting the Russian economy into a semi-peripheral extractive structure based on oil, gas, metallurgical products and military hardware.
As the old Soviet system was dismantled the scale of the looting was mind-boggling. The level of the subsidies which passed from the state sector to the private sector could be gauged from the sale of assets involved amounting to less than 5% of their market value. State enterprises were sold off at a mere 20th or even 30th of the value of their real worth.
The whole process was overseen by western advisers, such as Jeffrey Sachs, Andre Schleifer and the lawyer Jonathan Hay, all of which had a high degree of influence over Russia’s economic policy; a policy leverage which was unprecedented in a sovereign state. The whole operation was conducted under the auspices of institutions such the IMF and World Bank. Policy prescriptions emanating from these sources were predictable and banal: if it moves, privatise/deregulate it. Local additions to this retinue were the extremely dubious neo-liberal duo of Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais who were only too keen to join in the plunder.