Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unhappy Birthday

While I am certainly no great fan of the former Soviet Union, I can't help but feel sickened by this article on Mikhail Gorbachev’s 80th birthday party. Apparently Gorby was thrown a huge birthday party in London. The event was attended by business moguls, Hollywood actors, and various other pop celebrities. But as Bridget Kendall notes at the end of her article, many Russians would not be singing "Happy Birthday to You" to the former Soviet leader. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought immense suffering to millions of Russians as neoliberal shock therapy resulted in much of the economy being handed over to gangster-like oligarchs while the Russian people saw their living standards plummet dramatically.

In his defense, Gorbachev has also criticized the Washington Consensus model of neoliberalism that has brought so much suffering to millions around the globe. Unfortunately, Gorbachev's own country did not escape the ravages of the Harvard Boys and other neoliberal technocrats who replaced the failing system of communist central planning with a kind of vulture capitalism. Keeping these realities in mind, it is difficult for me to avoid becoming angry witnessing all of this cheesy sentimentality and hallow glitz poured out over the collapse of communism and the current revolutionary waves in the Middle East when it is painfully obvious that the global elite is only interested in trendy revolutionaries that won't harm the interests of global capital.

For example, one of the hosts of Gorbachev’s party, Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, characterized the current world protests as people "… fighting for the very kind of freedoms and access and ability to cross borders that Mikhail Gorbachev did so many years ago.” Spacey apparently fails to take into account the problem of massive unemployment and underemployment that is likely fueling much of the rage across the Middle East and elsewhere. If anything, young people are likely to have many opportunities to cross borders as they leave their homelands to look for work in foreign countries.


  1. Russia is now emerging from the gangster capitalism that has followed Communism ever since the events that you describe set the unhappy, unnecessary pattern. She once again recognises herself as pre-eminent among the Slavs in their mission as the age-old gatekeepers of our Biblical-Classical civilisation, whether against Islam, against Far Eastern domination, or now also against the godless, rootless, stupefied, promiscuous, usury-based, metrosexual, war-hungry pseudo-West that holds up Israel, Georgia and Taiwan as supposedly plucky and inspiring outposts.

    Attempts to drag Russia into the pseudo-West were not only always doomed, although guaranteed to cause immense pain in being proved so, but they also failed to take account of the seeds of hope even within the Soviet system as such, notably the strong patriotism, and the very traditional system of education, in which teachers who were universally assumed to know more than their pupils stood in front of orderly rows of uniformed young charges and simply imparted their knowledge, with the result that, once the veneer of Marxist vocabulary was stripped away, that system's products were often significantly better-educated than many of their Western contemporaries.

    And just as pre-Communist Russia always remained the country’s true character, so very pre-Communist China remains the country’s true character. That character reveres tradition and ritual, upholds government by moral rather than physical force, affirms the Golden Rule, is Agrarian and Distributist, and has barely started an external war since China became China five thousand years ago. It is especially open to completion by, in, through and as classical Christianity. China has already moved from Maoism to the equal repressiveness of unbridled capitalism. The reassertion of her own culture is to be encouraged by every means of "soft" (in reality, truly hard) power, and the same is true of the wider Confucian world. But economic, or any other, dependence on a foreign power remains totally unacceptable.

    The Carter Administration, whence came Madeleine Albright and the late Richard Holbrooke, was particularly bad for abusing the noble cause of anti-Communism by emphasising Soviet human rights abuses while ignoring Chinese and Romanian ones. It even happily allowed the Chinese-backed Pol Pot to retain control of the Cambodian seat at the UN after Phnom Penh had fallen to the rival forces backed by Vietnam and therefore by the Soviet Union. Similar paw prints were also evident on Margaret Thatcher’s holding out for the Chinese-backed Robert Mugabe, for whom she arranged a knighthood, as if he would have been any better than the Soviet-backed Joshua Nkomo.

  2. To be fair I wouldn't blame Gorbachev for the shock therapy, though on the other hand the USSR was already imploding. Certainly by BBC standards that was one of the better articles I've read.

    I was quite stunned though by the crassness of Spacey's comments:

    Kevin: " Well, we wouldn't be in this room tonight and Chelsea football team wouldn't be able to afford its new players."

    Hoho. Try telling that to the Russians who had to sell all their possessions or scrape subsistence from allotments whilst Abramovich was spending a fortune in football. Demonstrates just what kind of 'liberal' most Hollywood liberals are.

  3. Hi Gregor,

    Thank you for the comment. You are right about Gorbachev and the quality of the article, perhaps I was intemperate.

    I agree with your comment regarding Kevin Spacey. It is unfortunate that Hollywood stars have become a symbol of left-wing politics, particularly in the United States.

    It is quite convenient for the Republicans to use “Hollyweird” as a way of tarring the Left, even though it is clear that Hollywood is not exactly a bastion of the economic Left at least. After all, Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor and the young Ayn Rand cut her teeth in Hollywood and was always attached to Hollywood culture.