Gorbachev on the Collapse of the Soviet Union

In a recent interview In The Nation (Nov 16, 2009) Mikail Gorbachev makes some fascinating comments on the factors that led to the dissolution of the communist empire. While right-wing commentators in the West are fond of declaring that the communist system was “defeated” by the superiority of the Western capitalist system promoted by Reagan in his meetings with the Soviet premier. Gorbachev states that the fall of the empire was brought about by a series of steps, following the policies of perestroika and glasnost.  When asked what was most important – the circumstances of that time or the leaders? – Gorbachev replies:

“I’ll tell you something that is very important about what subsequently happened in your country. When people came to the conclusion that they had won the cold war, they concluded they didn’t need to change. Let others change. That point of view was mistaken, and it undermined what we (referring to his discussions with Reagan) had envisaged for Europe – mutual collective security for everyone and a new world order. All of that was lost because of this muddled thinking in your country, and which has now made it so difficult to work together. World leadership is now understood to mean that America gives the orders. People in your country became dizzy with imagined success: they saw everything as their victory.”

Gorbachev does not blame only the American arrogance for the failure of follow-through on the disarmament that he and Reagan had initiated. He continues:

“In Yeltsin, Washington ended up with a vassal who thought that because of his anti-communism he would be carried in their arms. Delegations came to Russia one after the other, including Bill Clinton, but then they stopped coming. It turned out no one needed Yeltsin. But by then half of Russia’s industry was in ruins, even 60 percent. It was a country with a noncompetitive economy wide open to the world market, and it became slavishly dependent on imports.”

I was reminded, in reading these remarks, of what I had written in my book The Roots of War and Domination:

In our time we have economic imperialism, dressed up in the camouflage terminology of “free trade” and “development,” which takes the form of privatization – where large multinational corporations take over the common wealth of a society or country (water, utilities infrastructure, etc). Increasingly, the enormous wealth accumulated by the large corporations (especially those involved in oil, ore, minerals and other primary resources, as well as military contractors), enables them to pursue their own growth agenda, using shadowy, behind-the-scenes, extra-legal maneuvering to free them from democratic oversight and accountability. Ensuring the malleability and compliance of national governments becomes, for such multinational gangs, just another “cost of doing business.” (p.33)

The same processes that Gorbachev described as bringing about the fall of the Soviet empire, can now be observed being replayed in the collapse of the American financial empire. A “financial coup-d’etat” in which a half-dozen Wall Street  mega-banks rake in billions in profits and bonuses, while the real productive economy of Main Street is tanking and tens of  millions of people have lost their homes and their jobs.

In Roots of War and Domination, I wrote that

“The building of nations and empires is irrevocably connected not only with genocide against various external “others,” but also with systemic violence against internal groups, as class warfare and exploitative domination of subject populations. The nagging question remains, how does it happen that societies, from ancient to modern times, have time and again failed to maintain a cooperative social order and have fallen victim to being taken over by tyrannical, war-like and imperialist elites, often with the complicity of priests, intellectuals and ideologues?” (p.34)

In that book, I go on to consider the possibility that there are hidden forces, secret societies, active in human civilization that push societies repeatedly into divisive and destructive conflicts, deliberately practicing the strategy of “divide and conquer.”

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