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.