November 25, 2011

20 years of the last century's greatest tragedy!

Growing up in a Bengali neighborhood, in Delhi's C.R.Park, meant even at an early age of ten, there were friends who knew the basic difference between capitalism and communism, and had clear-cut preferences! Of course, these preferences would be heavily influenced by their parents! And my father is perhaps the only Indian who did a full fledged Master’s Degree in National Economic Planning from an erstwhile communist nation, the erstwhile East Germany. Needless to say, my first story books were on Lenin's life and I had been totally charmed by him into believing in the positive aspects of communism, and till date remain so. And on the giant world map that hung in front of his study table, the country that I heard and studied most about till I passed out of my school in 1989 was a country many of my readers today aren't even aware of! A country called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics! Ruled by leaders who followed and most importantly understood to a large extent the ideology of Karl Marx – voted by the BBC as the world’s greatest intellectual of the last millennium – USSR on the world map looked like half of the world; and for Indians then, they were the nation which was there to protect us finally in the eventuality of any real war.

They had given us steel plants, military aircraft and were our biggest friends. And for those of us who used to hate the Americans for their military aid to Pakistan, celebrating every success of USSR was a must! Actually, India still was a distant ally, if one were to take a look at the East European countries that USSR protected and developed like their own nation. Those who have visited the East European regions in those days, would swear that the benevolence of USSR was such that they gave those countries invariably a better standard of living than that enjoyed by the Soviet people. To understand what USSR was in all its glory and magnanimity, one really needed to compare its development with that of USA till 1989! From CIA to topmost economists and historians of that time, all used to agree then that USSR had become 40% of the Americans in terms of standards of living. What it meant in essence was that despite bearing the biggest brunt of the second world war, thereafter investing about 33% of their GDP on defense, taking care of the entire Eastern Europe – from East Germany to Poland – USSR, in a short span of 45 years, had reached the enviable position of being 40% of the American per capita income; but more importantly, absolutely equal, if not superior, as far as military might and space war were concerned. It also meant that it was technologically extremely advanced, just that it had not yet started using that ability to make the consumer’s life more luxurious. But on the streets of USSR you could never spot a malnutritioned child, someone without full access to education or healthcare! That was USSR, the saviour of the world from greedy capitalist aggression, humane in terms of its development priorities and a country that was reason why the world spent 45 years in complete peace; compare that with the next 20 years that we have seen of unbridled capitalist greed driven aggression.

This difference between the far, far more peaceful time post the second world war and now, is a direct result of what happened exactly twenty years back! History was literally rewritten on December 25, 1991, at 7:20 pm when Mikhail Gorbachev – doubted by many as an ideological spy of CIA, if not an actual one – aired his speech announcing his resignation as President of the Soviet Union. A couple of minutes later, the flag of the Soviet Union from Kremlin was replaced with a new tricoloured flag of Russia. And thus, the whole world map was reconstructed with a demise of not only a union, but the demise of a political ideology in itself. The massive Soviet Union that had stood tall for seventy four years acting as a bulwark to the hegemony of United States and its allies, was broken to pieces as Mikhail Gorbachev (the General Secretary or the first secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union) could not handle a pro-democratic wave in the streets of Moscow and elsewhere led by Boris Yeltsin – later clearly branded as a fun-loving drunkard devoid of any ideology. Boris Yeltsin aspired to become the President of independent Russia, a country which till then was ruled by a spate of extremely ideologically driven leaders, who, albeit authoritarianism, were committed to not just their country but the globe on the whole.

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14 comments:

shruti kakad said...

The economy was characterised by state control of investment, public ownership of industrial assets, and during the last 20 years of its existence, pervasive corruption and socioeconomic stagnation.

simran said...

The USSR and the USA were separated by a huge ideological gulf. So the only thing that held the allies together was the need to destroy Hitler’s Nazis.

mohit said...

When the Soviet Union collapsed it had a devastating economic impact on the countries that had once received its aid and assistance. For Cuba it meant a special period of austerity. Vietnam was forced to let in Western capital. For India it meant opening up to harsh dictates from the IMF and World Trade Organization--privatizing state-owned industries, layoffs, cuts in social benefits, lowering of protective tariffs, and so on. In Central America the armed liberation movement was forced to compromise. Some 90 countries have been forced to accept structural adjustment programs in the last 10 years by the forces of capitalist globalization. As a result there's been a huge surge in poverty, especially in Africa, South and Southeast Asia.

RAVI KUMAR said...

The USSR came into being after the Russian revolution. It largely consisted of Russia, but other countries either joined the USSR voluntarily or were dragged along by their earlier associations with Imperialist Russia. Since the break up of the USSR, all of these SSR's have returned to independent states although some still rely to varying degrees on Russia for some government functions. Also, some of them have resumed the various ethnic hostilities that the USSR had kept in check for many years.

Dinesh Kumar said...

In order to revive the stagnant Soviet economy, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev initiated a process of increasing political liberalization (glasnost/perestroika) in the erstwhile totalitarian, communist one-party state. However, this liberalization led to the emergence of long-repressed nationalist movements and ethnic disputes within the diverse republics of the Soviet Union. The Revolutions of 1989 led to the fall of the socialist states allied to the Soviet Union and increased pressure on Gorbachev to introduce greater democracy and autonomy for the Soviet Union's constituent republics.

Abhishek Chaudhuri said...

In the countries of the former USSR, the outcomes of the dissolution were mixed. Although the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia established democratic systems of government, Ukraine, Belarus and the Central Asian republics saw the retention of authoritarian rulers. Russia underwent a period of political instability and economic decline before achieving stability and economic growth during the presidency of Vladimir Putin.

manjeet kumar said...

Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the USSR in 1985. He believed in democratizing communism, which would be better than capitalism. He could not reform the fundamentals of the former Soviet State (Lenin, Stalin. By 1990, all major aspects of the USSR were gone - one party, one monopoly, etc. Popular opposition and Nationalism killed the USSR.

sunil said...

Yeltsin created the CIS - Commonwealth of Independent States to get rid of the USSR and Gorbachev. Gorbachev signed the documents to create CIS on Christmas day 1991.

rajan said...

The breakup of the Soviet Union is surely one of the most important events in recent history.

manjeet kumar said...

Mikhail Gorbachev is credited with ending the cold war. But, the break up of the USSR can be traced back to Gorbachevs appointment and his early reforms. Gorbachev introduced a wide ranging program of reform. His major reforms were glasnost, perestroika and democratisation. These reforms allowed the problems of the USSR to be uncovered and become public knowledge.

BharaniDharan said...

Since i am following ur column i taught ur capitalist guru because of u being management guru....after reading ur article in sunday india i feel pride of following a communist columnist with top comrade ideology....sir my humble request to u have a regular column abt communism,economic,revolution etc.....@bharani,ytears.blogspot.com,salem,tamilnadu

Dhruva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dhruva said...

Even Hitler had great ideas about an ideal state like the communists had. To achieve anything great not only ends are important but also the means. The communists may pride themselves that they have created an ideal state. But the people under the communists regime will know the pain of living there. There will be no freedom of any kind. The very fact that the failure of all the nations which have adopted the communist ideology is the testimony to the fact that the ideology is lofty but shallow one.

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