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Gorbachev on the New World Order
December 29, 2011 11:58 AM   Subscribe

"In short, the world without the Soviet Union has not become safer, more just or more stable. Instead of a new world order—that is, enough global governance to prevent international affairs from becoming dangerously unpredictable—we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters." -- Mikhail Gorbachev writes about the world after the Cold War in The Nation.
posted by empath (26 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's an interesting essay, and Gorbachev is certainly right about how poisonous victory disease and end-of-history triumphalism were to the minds of American policymakers. However, he's being quite disingenuous on a couple of points regarding the former Russian vassal states in both the Soviet Union and the wider Warsaw Pact.

First, he claims that, "the results of [the EU's] expansion have been ambiguous, as has become particularly clear in recent months with Europe’s unprecedented financial and economic crisis," which is a silly insinuation to make when the Eastern European expansion countries are mostly on a much sounder fiscal and economic footing than the legacy-EU PIGS countries at the center of the crisis.

Second, he says that the Cold War ended in 1989 with the Malta Summit, so the breakup of the Soviet Union didn't represent a victory for the West - maybe that's true, but I think by Malta the breakup of the Union had already become inevitable. Once the Warsaw Pact countries democratized, what possible way, short of ending perestroika and applying massive military force, could the the subsidiary Soviet Republics have been kept in the Union?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:27 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If the Soviet Union had not collapsed, most of the chaos in the rest of the world would have happened anyway, just with one more meddling outsider 'Superpower' adding fuel to some of the fires. Of course, Gorbachev is wrong, just as he was wrong when he thought the reforms he brought (or tried to bring) to Soviet Communism would strengthen the USSR. The world is thankful for that misjudgment.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2011


I too am nostalgic for the time in which I headed a superpower, although I will accept being feted intermittently in a magazine partially owned and edited by one of my longtime hagiographers.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Enjoyed another article from the same issue (link to different site to avoid paywall) in which Vadim Nikitin looks at the surviving nostalgia for the USSR among many Russians and explores some explanations for the phenomenon.
posted by Abiezer at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eh. I expect keener insight from Mikhail Gorbachev. Yes, yes, international pluralism and consensus-building are good, triumphalism is bad, integrating Russia into the community of nations could have been done better. None of this is novel stuff, and none of it constitutes a real argument that the end of the Soviet Union was regrettable.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 1:25 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps a reformed, post-perestroika Soviet Union could have lead to Gorbachev's idea of a "common European home", but Perestroika was cooked up twenty years too late to keep the USSR's satellite states from bolting.

Mr. Gorbachev identifies the destruction of the Soviet Union as political, but corruption and economic stagnation was the rot that weakened the system.

The world is slightly safer without the USSR. Mr. Gorbachev is correct that the West needs to get its priorities straight, but I am relieved and amazed that mutually assured destruction is behind us.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 1:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone noticed that Gorbachev is not in fact claiming to be nostalgic for the USSR in this article and is merely pointing out that the West post-USSR has squandered a lot of opportunities to make the world a better place? These are hardly controversial claims.

...I too am nostalgic for the time in which I headed a superpower...

...If the Soviet Union had not collapsed...

...none of it constitutes a real argument that the end of the Soviet Union was regrettable...

...in which Vadim Nikitin looks at the surviving nostalgia for the USSR...


what in the hell are you guys even talking about. There is no argument in here suggesting that the world would be better off with the USSR still in the picture. The closest Gorbachev gets is to imply that the USSR/former-USSR states would have likely been better off if reforms had come sooner and reached fruition instead of the whole thing being torn down and thrown back together again piecemeal. And he's probably right about that regardless of whether the USSR survived or not. And it's not even the point of the article.
posted by Hoopo at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Chinese Jet Pilot: "[…] I am relieved and amazed that mutually assured destruction is behind us."

For now.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2011


what in the hell are you guys even talking about.
Well, in my case I was pointing out another interesting article in the same edition of the magazine, wasn't intended as a comment on Gorbachev's piece.
posted by Abiezer at 1:47 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looks like he's still bitter about the stunt Yeltsin pulled on him. But would he be really happier if he had to over and over again explain to people how this Soviet Union is really reformed and not responsible of the crimes of this bad old one?
posted by hat_eater at 2:04 PM on December 29, 2011


The world is thankful for that misjudgment.

I'm here to tell you that the world would be better with a reformed USSR in the fashion Gorbachev envisioned. The Baltics and maybe Ukraine were likely to go, but the level of brutality, corruption, falling standards of life in all respects in the ex-USSR has been a tragedy for those experiencing it. That tragedy has been compounded at the international level by the chest thumping of those in the US who have built up the lie that "Reagan won" and the US has no need to act with any sense of restraint or multilateralism on the world stage.

We are living in one of the worst possible timelines from 1989 forwards. It reminds me of Watchmen - "What about the American Dream?" "This is it, we're living in it, it came true."
posted by Meatbomb at 2:29 PM on December 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


It was shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed that I heard a couple of global security analysts say the world was changing from "high tension: high security to one of low tension:low security. Those guys were pretty much spot on.

However, though they were looking at the big picture, I am sure they missed the "bigger" picture. Stability through tension simply means that conflicts are going unresolved. The base causes of national conflict: economic inequality, ethnic instability, religious tension, border issues, and so on, ultimately need some form of positive, satisfactory conclusion. Removing the basis of tension/security can yield ugly results. The classic, most recent example is the collapse of Yugoslavia. It was fairly miraculous that the Soviet Union descended rapidly into oligarchy instead of anarchy.

I am not suggesting that resolution to tensions are happy events. The tension between the First Nations and European Americans was resolved primarily by genocide and ethnic cleansing. (Though the First Nations still pursue resolution of their legitimate grievances with the United States, there simply aren't enough Indians wielding political political power to force anyone's hand. Resolution is coming in small bites at the whim of the government.)

To make a long story short, yes, conflict becomes more likely when you remove the interests of those with the power and desire to prevent it. But once the deed is done, it's done.
posted by Xoebe at 2:54 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eh. I expect keener insight from Mikhail Gorbachev.

Why? The man showed absolutely no insight into a) the natural results of his reform attempts (the fall of the USSR), b) the natural reaction of the old-school Soviet elite to said results (the coup attempt), or c) the way Yeltsin played him before and during the breakup. There's a lot to be said for Gorbachev as a decent human being - the first and last to ever head the Soviet Union - but his career has never shown him to have any great predictive or analytical skill.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:01 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the comments section:

I haven't forgotten that my parents had to pay you for the pleasure of leaving the Soviet Union. I haven't forgotten about the Jewish quotas.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, maybe there is an increased risk of war (even though that argument from you is clearly retarded self-serving bullsh*t), PEOPLE are much more safe from their governments. Maybe pieces of crap like you are less safe, but I think that's all to the good.

Screw you Gorby,
Mike


I have no particular knowledge or insight into the problems of the Eastern Bloc countries. I am, however, grateful for a future that -- while sucking as it often does -- has given ordinary people the chance to pin comments like this right below the words of world leaders, for all to see.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:00 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


We are living in one of the worst possible timelines from 1989 forwards.

Really? The 1991-2011 period is a remarkably peaceful era in world history. From Joshua Goldstein (author of the highly informative Winning the War on War): "Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper. Far from being an age of killer anarchy, the 20 years since the Cold War ended have been an era of rapid progress toward peace." I have a hard time seeing people in 1989 mapping possible timelines and seeing one where war deaths fall by around 3/4 as particularly horrible. I cannot imagine how Gorbachev could possibly assert that "The world without the Soviet Union has not become safer, more just or more stable" in light of this well-documented trend.
posted by dsfan at 8:21 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I came loaded for bear*, but he's dead on.

*no pun int'd

but I am relieved and amazed that mutually assured destruction is behind us.

You'd think so, but here we are.

It's not so much the one superpower thing. It's that the world's interests have become monopolar.
Back in the 60s,70s,80s, there was another side for less ... what, involved? less wealthy? Less powerful? countries. Countries that had less of a voice in world affairs could augment that voice by playing Uncle Sugar v Uncle Salt.
Not so much now.

Their counterpoint(s) are not alternatives, but degrees. How fast they can become like the west in lifestyle, not an alternative to that lifestyle.

And what with democracy, the U.S. has thought this was swell. And, it kind of is.

But Gorby - and perhaps he's right in pointing up that the U.S. thought of the Soviets as a vanquished enemy first and that this mindset led, perhaps inexorably to a world filled with lesser enemies; perhaps a shattered world or perhaps a world of lesser powers, but whatever the case, still adversaries to be conquered; and this has prevented us of seeking cooperative solutions globally.

I certainly don't think we're in the worst of all worlds. But we have taken many large steps away from what could have been a far better one. One of which being, immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union we did not - and to be fair perhaps could not - help more.

Whether that was resistance by the authoritarian elements of Soviet rule or our own dislike of socialist (I mean actual, real socialist) economies is probably a blend.

It could have been done though.

The title of the piece is pretty misleading.

The flip side of Gorbachev's argument isn't that the would would be more stable with the U.S.S.R., but that the collapse failed to bring about expected changes in the west. Or, indeed, any kind of change at all. Clinton, certainly, but most particularly with the Bush presidency in the rear view.

From the FPP
It makes me wonder whether every time there is a crisis or conflict, leaders will try to resolve them by resorting to military force. The only way to break this vicious circle is to reassert the principles of mutual security, which formed the core of our new political thinking more than twenty years ago.


We're still in that cycle and bearing the burden of it. As long as we don't shift out of that thinking any changes in the world along those lines are just matters of degree, not of kind.

I mean there were politicians in the U.S. actively obstructing moving SALT forward. Think about that. Then think about the possibility of rogue nuclear weapons.
Just recently one of Russia's submarines caught fire. Funny for a second ('cause ha ha idiots, struggling to be relevant) until you think about the implications.
And shuffling those implications into the deck in our head, it's perfectly obvious how interconnected and overlapping our security concerns are.

If a 10 meter flames shooting out of a Delta IV that can carry 16 ICBMs doesn't put your nuts in your throat (testicles or ovaries respectively) you, sir or ma'am are disconnected from reality or cut off from it because of some paranoia or hatred in vast scope or in some so serene blissed out zen state of mind that it would escape your notice that vastly powerful nuclear weapons aimed with murderous, but well controlled intent are significantly less fearsome than vastly powerful nuclear weapons subject to the capriciousness of fortune.

It is, suffice it to say, a useful symbol of what's going on here.
We've 'won' their once proud Navy should be in mothballs, but goddamn if the overall situation isn't more dangerous for no reason other than we think we've "won."

Seriously, what was supposed to happen? They all leave Earth with their toys? Anyone read "The Stand"? Scariest bit in the book isn't the guy shouting to Stu to come down and eat chicken with him in the dark ... although, yeah, that was pretty chilling, ok ... it was the realization that all the tools of destruction mankind has made are just LAYING there where anyone can pick them up.

One of the things that keeps me sane is the knowledge that it is just as important to know how to put down a weapon as how to pick one up.

But the war isn't really over until you literally beat the son of a bitch into a ploughshare.
Typically, in addition to the perk of writing the histories, that's one of the things the victors get to do.
We haven't. And the world is a more dangerous place for it.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


What Smedleyman said...
Seriously, we should have sent in people who know how the political process works in a democratic type of government...
We should have exported the American Revolution, and let the East Block countries learn how to use it for their benefit.
We perhaps should have helped financially, and helped round up all the nukes.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2011


It's neither been an unalloyed good nor an unalloyed bad that the world became monopolar after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On the one hand, no more proxy wars that, had they gotten too contentious or out of control, that one side could've simply pushed the big red button.

On the other hand, because there wasn't the risk of that big red button, a certain dim-witted American President fell in line with a dangerously hawkish crowd and started playing World Police with real Americans and real Iraqis, making entirely too many of them horribly maimed or dead.

It's fairly amusing (for certain sad, hollow values of "amusing") how a couple dozen assholes with box cutters somehow put more fear into the US than a bunch of very sour old Soviet generals did with ICBMs.
posted by chimaera at 11:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The history of the world since 1989 has been like any other era, one with mixed results. The breakup of the Soviet Union is like that of the Roman Empire, too soon to tell what the end result will be, but remarkably peaceful so far, though obviously with some conflict (Armenia v Azerbyjan (sp?), Georgia, the Caucasus and so on). Meanwhile the threat of MAD is largely gone though still dormant and while a terrorist nuking of NYC would be unpleasant, it's nowhere near as scary as what would've happened if Stanislav Petrov had been slightly less skeptical or the Soviets had taken Able Archer slightly more serious; in a lot of timelines we'd be a hunka hunka of burnign radioactive rock by now...
posted by MartinWisse at 3:51 AM on December 30, 2011


As someone born in what was then the Estonian SSR, as someone who was standing next to the tanks his orders sent out, I have one thing to say to Gorby:

Go fuck yourself, war criminal.
posted by unigolyn at 4:26 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm here to tell you that the world would be better with a reformed USSR in the fashion Gorbachev envisioned. The Baltics and maybe Ukraine were likely to go, but the level of brutality, corruption, falling standards of life in all respects in the ex-USSR has been a tragedy for those experiencing it.

I'm here to tell you that's a vile opinion. The only parts of the ex-USSR that are "tragic" are the parts that are still under the sway of the same group of totalitarian thugs who ran that evil empire for most of the 20th century.

I don't think it's your place to be an ivory tower Western leftist who decries the state of the world now that half of Europe are no longer slaves.
posted by unigolyn at 4:37 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm here to tell you that's a vile opinion. The only parts of the ex-USSR that are "tragic" are the parts that are still under the sway of the same group of totalitarian thugs who ran that evil empire for most of the 20th century.

That's why Meatbomb specified that we'd be better off with "the reformed USSR that Gorbechev envisioned". Whatever Gorbechev's faults, I doubt he dreamed of a nation run a long the lines of Turkmenistan or Tajikistan. But hey, who needs that ivory tower reading comprehension, right?
posted by Toby Dammit X at 6:02 AM on December 30, 2011


deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year

See there's yer problem. Not only are reports of war deaths highly contentious at the best of times, but the deaths related directly to violence aren't the only ones worth mentioning. We have estimates of the Iraq War's casualties as anywhere between 30,000 (per the White House) and 650,000 (per the Lancet) as of 2006. Furthermore, both the optimistic and pessimistic estimates of violent war deaths have the decline beginning well before Gorbachev's years in power and continuing throughout, with an uptick post-2001. The actual reduction in violent war deaths since 1991 doesn't actually seem to have dropped significantly.

Also, the way Goldstein presents his numbers doesn't actually make a lot of sense: "The 1991-2011 period is a remarkably peaceful era in world history...Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year)" So the implication you've madeabout the 1991-2011 period is that war deaths between 2000-2011 have been so low that the 100,000/year rate from the 90s has been almost halved when we factor the subsequent 11 years into the 1991-2011 period. Then he drops this: during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989). The difference between 1950 and 1989 is staggering, and does not speak to trends contemporary to Gorbachev's years in power.

So yes, I think Gorbachev is correct and the trend since 1950 or earlier is very much not what he's talking about, but rather the end years of the Soviet Union when violent war deaths had already been significantly reduced.
posted by Hoopo at 10:15 AM on December 30, 2011


So the implication you've madeabout the 1991-2011 period is that war deaths between 2000-2011 have been so low that the 100,000/year rate from the 90s has been almost halved when we factor the subsequent 11 years into the 1991-2011 period.

actually scratch that, I think I'm the one not making sense now. But yeah, basically there's a problem with the way these periods are being presented--they are abitrary start points used to make a point about the world post-USSR. The actual downward trend would not change much if you moved the start date back to 1985.
posted by Hoopo at 10:53 AM on December 30, 2011


But yeah, basically there's a problem with the way these periods are being presented--they are abitrary start points used to make a point about the world post-USSR. The actual downward trend would not change much if you moved the start date back to 1985.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if this were true. But it's somewhat shifting the goalposts, don't you think? Here is what Gorbachev says in his essay: "...we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters." Now, your argument seems to be along the lines of "things have probably gotten somewhat more peaceful, with appropriate caveats for measurement issues, but that was the trend direction before the USSR collapsed anyway." OK, the last twenty years have been far from perfect, but would it really be accurate to describe them as "global turmoil" compared to any other similar length period in the last century, at least? Certainly Russia's transition to democracy could have been handled better, but if you were sitting in 1989 and a time-traveler from 20 years in the future told you "war deaths have dropped, and a (somewhat) democratic Russia has replaced the USSR," would your reaction really be "wow, that is about as bad as it gets?" Remember, I was replying to a claim that we are in "one of the worst possible timelines" after the USSR fell. Maybe I'm an unreasonable pessimist, but I can imagine things having gone a hell of a lot worse than how they actually went.
posted by dsfan at 11:36 AM on December 30, 2011


I meant to post this in the obit post for Stalins daughter Ms. Peters, but it seems even more relevant here, owing to the "prison" aspect. Along with the lessons of what happens when a state strangles itself... falling into the grasp of Oligarchs has implications not only to Russians... we will all be aware of what the new Oligarchs mean to international relations soon. "Her" refers to Lana Peters. For the impact of the haphazard, unplanned, ultra-deregulation, extremely rapid, essentially self-imposed implosion of the Russian/Soviet State, see this
"Deliberate neglect and torture." An independent medical report implicates Moscow prison authorities in the death of a Russian lawyer who accused the police of corruption.

Justice for Sergei - English tv-version from ICU Documentaries. This is a huge, rapidly unfolding story with implications for the future of the Russian state, and particularly in relation to the rest of the world, it is definitely worth checking out; this short documentary, and see and explication of the extensive corruption occurring today.


The push-pull actions of time as history, and in particular, Soviet history, brings to light the immense challenge of balancing a strong, authoritative governmental body, able to advocate for it’s citizens, even as a vast variety of powerful interests operate with a goal of extracting benefit from the blood and sweat, the labour of the stakeholder citizens[1].
All the radio I heard about this suggested that she was a firm believer that injustice was done in the sole singular focus on her father (as comments above note, Stalin: Criminal/creep/bad dad as Hitler:Painter. Stalin was terrible (and not the 'great wonderful' definition of terrible of Ivan Terrible) he was sadistic, vain, paranoid. A villain, no excuses. But the Soviet machine took more than one man to drive. It was easy for those left with the bag as he dies to show him as a "one man Empire", for that is what Stalin himself propagandized, and attempted to project... but it was, like all forceful repressive systems of mass power application, it takes a village, it takes cities, it takes an army. The particularly pernicious part of the Soviet legacy (that best be remembered by 'good' and 'bad' alike, for the 'bad' will remember and implement, what the 'good' forget, and allow to return by creeping measure), targeted terror. It was precision like attacks, so images of "widespread fear of impending oppression", the reality was that targeted groups certainly expected this. Tyranny of the silent majority fueled the many Soviet terrors (it also fuels Naziism, and Right wing Radicalism).

A concept related to what I heard Mrs. Peters saying about her father, and a desire to have looked at a wider circle, an idea Michele Foucault relights on frequently is that of periodization (a concept also not unfamiliar to casual time historians of biological sciences, in the now generally deprecated idea of “punctuated equilibrium”, Stephen J. Gould’s model of evolutionary change [this has widely been replaced by a model focusing on fluidity, and continuous lines of change and distribution, where the influence of the 'losing' parties held on, but ultimately one faction, or gene, or narrative won out] also much like the ideas of New Global History), periodization essentially allows “the new power” to offload all of the implicit and explicit negatives and horrors of the “past” into just that… the “past”. Periods, each with clearly delineated markers of difference, where in actuality, there is perseverance of continuity. Each leader placing the blame on his predecessor, with Stalin, in his “totality” being a much more visible, and apt target (in a state where every tiny decision is relegated to “the will of the great Stalin”, an era which oversaw massive campaigns of targeted terrors, it is easy to see how citizens who were trained to essentially reify the imagery of (Papa [to the nation]) Stalin, and those who faced the super-heated-iron gaze of Stalin, could come to accept a “narrative” which laid all the failures, all the terrors, all of the excesses solely at the feet of Stalin). The ‘destalinization’ period did not break from the past; rather, it intensified the worst of the foolishness, the differentially distributed benefits of the “post revolution” prosperities.

Everything falls (which translates as ‘is placed squarely’) on Stalin’s back after he dies; yet, those hearing the “Secret Speech” are key beneficiaries of Stalin’s totalized, and brutal policies of targeted terror (it seems the terror was not 'constant fear among everyone. There is no addressing of the actual actors, the actual perpetrators, and those who benefitted from the practice of targeted terror campaigns. To judge history by the story told by those left in Stalin's wake it might seem as if Stalin had personally gone to each village, and singlehandedly committed each murder, as if Stalin had gone out alone in the wilderness and crafted the network of Gulags with his bare hands, afterwhich he had personally been judge, prison guard, and ultimately, executioner of each case. The struggle over ‘destalinization’ took place between 1954 and 1957, culminating with the “Secret Speech” and the Twentieth Party Congress of Februrary 1956. This led to further limited destalinization, and the so called “Khruschev Thaw” (a new doctrine of “Peaceful Coexistance” between East and West.

Where we see the Khruschev years of 1953 to 1964 attempting to purge all blame for the numerous terrors of Stalin’s era, we see this “destalinization”, and then, like the above mentioned "bank robbers", laundering money, only misdeeds and campaigns of violent repression and targeted terror were offloaded and made to be forgotten. Yezhovshchina? Yezov is a name, of a person, who mounted a campaign of terror, and then, despite pictures of him standing around in trench coats with Stalin, A decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on 24 January, 1941 deprived Yezhov of all state and special awards, and an airbrush is all that was needed. There have apparently been comments about Holodomor in recent Wikileaks cables; it would seem (though the original sources I saw before seem to be off the web now, and only stories about the story remain) from the cables that Medvediev has been asking for people who want trade and business relations to deny Holodomor(self-link to a page I put together with a bunch of resources on the background to Holodomor and the international silence, and collusion in covering up this massive extermination program).
On the 5th of March, 1953, an event took place which shattered Russia­ – the death of Stalin. I found it almost impossible to imagine him dead, so much had he been an indispensable part of life.

A sort of general paralysis came over the country. Trained to believe that Stalin was taking care of everyone, people were lost and bewildered without him. The whole of Russia wept. So did I. We wept sincerely with grief and perhaps also with fear for the future.

At a writers’ meeting, poets read out there poems in Stalin’s honour, their voices broken by sobs, Tvardovsky, a big and powerful man, recited in a trembling voice.

….

We were caught between the walls of houses on one side and a row of army trucks on the other.

‘Get the trucks out of the way!’ people howled. ‘Get them away!’

‘I can’t. I’ve got no instructions,’ a very young, fair, bewildered police officer shouted back from one of the trucks, almost crying with desperations. And people were being hurtled against the trucks by the crowd, and their heads smashed. The sides of the trucks were running with blood. All at once I felt a savage hatred for everything that had given birth to that ‘No instructions; shouted at a moment when people were dying of someone’s stupidity. For the first time in my life I thought with hatred of the man we were burying. He could not be innocent of the disaster. It was the ‘No instructions’ that had caused the chaos and bloodshed at his funeral. Now I saw once and for all that it’s no good waiting for instructions if human lives are at stake you must act. I don’t know how did it, but working energetically with my elbows and fists, I found myself thrusting people aside and shouting:

‘Form chains! Form Chains!’
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, A Precocious Autobiography, trans. by Andrew R. MacAndrew (London: Collins and Harvill Press, 1963). pp. 89-92.
As cited by Ronald Gregor Suny's wonderfully broad text (The Structure of Soviet History: Essays and Documents)

[1] As Stephen Holmes advocates in his essay included in the “Summing Up” section of Suny's text (The Structure of Soviet History ["What Russia Teaches Us Now: How Weak States Threaten Freedom”]), weakness of state is nearly as dangerous to citizens as a repressive, absolute, or totalitarian state. These dangers manifest first in losses felt primarily by the internal Russian people, and secondly by all citizens sharing our globally interconnected world. Where the repression and violence of the Soviet era Gulags surely helped form, sharpen, and direct some of the criminal minds of the prior century –today’s deadly, violent, oppressive, de-regulated prison system is churning out Russian Mafia members at a pace unmatched in history-but not unexpectedly, and as these people are not spending lifetimes in jail, as the Soviet era’s excesses would have done… they are released to the world after a “mild” comparatively short stint… not reformed, merely more educated, with more contacts into the ways of a brutal, wide-reaching globally connected oligarchical criminality that proliferated in the deregulation upon the destruction of the Soviet State, (the abundance, and proliferation of prisons fueling more and more criminality, rather than reform or re-integration with society, is a criticism that can equally be leveled against the other Cold War superpower, declining; The United States, as their prison population blossomed, state and local governments are daily less equipped to handle rising demands, and financial burdens of maintaining the most absolute form of socialism [a very few will starve, or freeze in a prison [it does happen, and will happen more as States are asked to run such expensive operations, or outsource such duties to the lowest bidders… meanwhile people die of hunger and cold daily on the streets, socialism for those who transgress norms, or perpetrators of arbitrary, victimless crimes doesn't seem fiscally conservative] prisons are perhaps the most totalitarian form of socialism available to humanity).

Stop socialism now, figure out what is really "bad", and then reduce the global prison population.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:45 PM on January 8, 2012


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