Putin: the cost of turning back history
volume 38
issue 1
February 2017

With Putin’s supposed meddling in the U.S. election making headlines, a deeper question surfaces: How did the world’s first workers’ state become a country that could produce such a repressive, war-mongering capitalist autocrat? The answer lies first in the decades of U.S.-led aggression aimed at starving and isolating the Russian Revolution — and then in the economic “shock therapy” that followed the Soviet Union’s demise.

Shock therapy is a tool promoted by the International Monetary Fund to “liberalize” economies presumed to be in crisis. Its methods include ending state subsidies, opening up trade, and privatizing public resources.

This strategy always causes increased hardship. In Russia, it was an unequivocal disaster. Enormous wealth created by the Soviet working class was transferred to a clique of robber barons. By 1995, the GDP had plunged by almost half, with poverty growing rapidly.

Today, the wealth gap in Russia is even higher than in the U.S. Wages are lower than in China for the first time since czarism — an invitation to rampant sweatshop production. These are conditions that, in the absence of a credible alternative, allow for the rise of a “strong man” promising national rejuvenation. For people in Russia — and in Syria as well — the alternative cannot come too soon.

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