Saturday, February 14, 2009

Socialist Hell -- Part 2

From I Bertolt Brecht, Act I, Scene 4:

(From a PBS report):Interviewer: I am here with Pavel Voshanov, formerly press secretary of Boris Yeltsin. Mr. Voshanov, when we met a few months ago, you said that in many ways Russia has ended up just where it began. Can you describe those ways to me?

Voshanov: After I looked at everything that's taken place between 1985 and the year 2000, I began to realize that Russia had run in a strange, terrifying circle, and now finds itself almost in the same place where it was at the dawn of perestroika. In 1985-87, there was no multi-party system in Russia. . . . We came full circle and now find ourselves in a situation where we do not have a multi-party system. . . . There is only one political party, and that is the party of the bureaucracy. Second, we started the reform with a complete disregard for the rights of citizens and have arrived back at the same situation. A human being, with his concerns and opinions, is of no interest to the political elite. He was of very little interest to politicians back in 1985, just like in 2000. But what is the most frightening is that, in 1985, we started with a society that was angry and disoriented. We ran this circle and ended up with an angry and politically disoriented society that is ready to accept any political slogans that the elite offers them. The public is ravenous. In 1985, there was no society in our country--what was then the Soviet Union. There was a population; but no society, no public opinion, no public pressure, no public oversight for what the government does. Look at what we have now. Everything is the same. There is a population, but there is no society. That's why there is no public opinion, there is no public oversight, there is no public pressure on the authorities. None of this. And this population is as easily manipulated as it was in 1985. Only one thing has changed. Now those who were in power in 1985 are flying different colors and are singing different hymns than they did back then--although nothing, in essence, has changed. . . . If you look at the moral core of Russia's politicians, you'll see that we escaped the corruption of the Communist Party only to find an even greater corruption--this time by non-Party members--not within one specific party, but on the level of the state. This corruption is even worse, and hard to fight. So I really think that our country has come full circle. We failed to build democracy in Russia.

Interviewer: What are some of the reasons?

Voshanov: . . . What did all of our troubles start with? As soon as intellectuals said the word "market" aloud, bureaucrats sensed right away that the market was a new way to gain property. If you move from one to another, you need to divide property. How do you do that? You make sure that you become rich, and your relatives become rich, and those people who are connected with you become rich. So this doctrine of property distribution by the bureaucracy was feudal in nature. . . . Our reformers like to claim that the entire problem lies in the fact that the Russian people were used to living in a communist society, with its communist slogans and ideals, while they, the reformers, were trying to transform the people into a capitalist society, with its slogans and ideals. Their claim has nothing to do with what actually happened. These reformers were trying to take us back to feudalism, with rich and omnipotent lords and an impoverished and powerless population. So what we see today in Russia is this very feudalism, a feudalism with some elements of democracy. Every four years, serfs are allowed to elect their leader, to elect in such a way that the results of the elections have already been determined. Everyone knows the outcome. Even the serfs themselves know who will be elected. It'll probably take a long time before democratic ideas will become appealing to Russians. For the time being, democratic ideas have been discredited. . . . One may charge Yeltsin with many wrongdoings: corruption, economic chaos, a huge bureaucracy. And all of this is true. But Yeltsin's main crime lies in the fact that he has discredited the very idea of a democratic society. This is the biggest loss of the last ten years. It is hardly possible to restore it over the next five or ten years. It'll take a long time. We are doomed to live in a very strange political system for a number of years. We are going to live under a "party-less" authoritarianism, with some elements of democracy.

[Midway through the above interview, BB recites the following, in a loud voice: ]

BB: "Wenn die Verbrechen sich haeufen, werden sie unsichbar. Wenn die Leiden unertraeglich werden, hoert man die Schreie nicht mehr. Auch die Schreie fallen wie der Sommmerregen." [see Brecht, Collected Poems, Suhrkamp, pp. 552]

T: [Simulateous with BB's recitation, also in a loud voice] When crimes multiply, they grow invisible. When suffering becomes unendurable, one no longer hears the cries of the sufferers. They fall like summer rain.

(to be continued . . . )

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