Gorby was like a chicken in pieces, but he sang nicely
In the West, Gorbachev is the hero of our time, and in Russia he is considered Judas Iscariot. This discrepancy in estimation often occurs with great men.
For example, the Georgian reformer Mikheil Saakashvili is an angel in the West, but he is a criminal in Georgia itself. Josip Broz Tito is a messiah in Serbia, but a communist villain in his native Croatia. Churchill is a monster in India, Alexander the Great in Central Asia, and Napoleon is the very Antichrist in Russia and Great Britain.
But Gorby is unique. Since the time of Socrates, it has been believed that if a man has a bad wife, he becomes a philosopher. What if your wife is a philosopher?
There are two such leaders in Russian history – Emperor Nicholas II and Mikhail Gorbachev. Both are men under a slipper, both guided by the wits of their female philosophers. The first brought down the Russian Empire, and the second – the USSR.
This historical experience probably refutes the thesis of Plato and the Russian sage Alexander Dugin that states should be ruled by philosopher kings. Plato himself tries to build the ideal state in Sicily and makes such a mess that the Sicilian ruler sells him into slavery as punishment. That is why today Putin keeps Dugin away. Affairs of state require men of the case. Therefore, in 1991, Russia retired Gorby and appointed Yeltsin. For us, Gorby is the man who created perestroika and glasnost, overthrew Todor Zhivkov, dissolved the Soviet Union and freed Eastern Europe from its shackles. These are all great deeds, but are they due to him? Or did they rise in spite of him?
Naturally, if you live in another country 2 thousand kilometers away and have almost no information, you will associate everything that happens in Moscow with the name of the leader.
But if you are inside the Russian borscht and do journalism, the picture is radically different. Then you see a confused and indecisive leader who is always overtaken by events.
Gorby came to power in March 1985. He already had a reform program ready – the so-called acceleration, which proposed more of the same – even more resources to be thrown into heavy industry, mobilization of reserves, strengthening of labor discipline. Stalinism again. There was no talk of any publicity or perestroika.
This plan was nipped in the bud as world oil prices plummeted and the USSR fell into a debt crisis. At the same time, the war in Afghanistan was draining 40 percent of the country’s resources, and Reagan banned the export of any technology to the USSR and the countries of the socialist camp.
The acceleration accelerated the lag.
On top of that, Reagan lied to the world that the US was developing a space shield that would shoot down Soviet ballistic missiles with a laser. There is no such miracle to this day, but the Soviet leaders’ hair stood on end.
In April 1986, the Chernobyl accident happened, and after a brief attempt to hide it, the leadership of the USSR became so desperate that it bet on complete transparency – it opened up, received all possible experts and delegations from abroad, gave 3-4 international press conferences a day with all available information. Thus began glasnost, and after it perestroika.
At that time, accidents became more frequent. In August 1986, somewhere in front of Sochi, the ships “Pyotr Vasev” and “Admiral Nakhimov” collided. Over 400 passengers drowned. Then an anecdote started – why did the ships collide? Answer: “They sped up, but they didn’t rebuild.”
As it turned out, the crews were screwed. In the apparatus room of “Chernobyl” they also croaked. In fact, perestroika began with a decree “On measures to overcome drunkenness and alcoholism”. From 199 million deciliters (1 deciliter = 10 liters) of absolute alcohol in 1986, production dropped to 121 million deciliters, in 1987 – 93 million.
The people went crazy. In front of the liquor stores there were long queues, where anyone who tried to get in line was torn apart. I have seen with my own eyes young boys in sneakers run over people’s heads and jump right in front of the counter where no one can chase them away.
But worst of all, the lack of alcohol freed up huge funds, which bought up other goods and left a terrible deficit. All trade went into the black. Above the counter – zero. In the back of the warehouse – whatever you want, but at super prices.
A century and a half earlier, the reforms of Alexander II, who freed the serfs, were called perestroika. But the way it does it enslaves them even more – they get plots of land that they have to pay back over decades. Until now, they have developed the same plots, but as part of the municipal land.
This is the characteristic Russian “revolution from above” – social changes that were not won by the masses, but were brought down by the mercy of the elite in its quest both to stop the collapse of the state and to be in favor.
Gorby’s perestroika was the same “revolution from above”. Big business is privatized by a small elite, while “small privatization” is postponed indefinitely. Private banks – state hair salons. Everything upside down, everything backwards.
Take for example the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In 1987, he took advantage of the first loopholes of perestroika to found, along the lines of the Komsomol, the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific and Technical Creativity of Youth (NTTM). The center receives foreign currency from government bodies, with which it buys Asian computers and sells them to government agencies at ten-dollar prices. The same way he buys and sells jeans, whiskey, whatever. The secret of success is that NTTM receives dollars at the official rate (1 dollar = 60 kopecks), and sells the goods at the price of the black market (1 dollar = 10 or 20 rubles). Very soon, 600 such Komsomol NTTMs swarmed, which literally sucked the state institutions and enterprises “at the entrance and at the exit”.
At the same time – I repeat again – hairdressing salons, cafes, sewing workshops and other small businesses are still state-owned. The Komsomol trades, but it is not given to the common people. The revolution is going on, but at the top. And from below, on their own initiative, gangs, extortion and the black market invade. In 1989, thanks to connections in high places, Khodorkovsky founded the Cooperative Bank, which became the “Interbank Union for Scientific and Technical Progress” – and so on, until already under Yeltsin he managed to privatize almost a third of Russian oil without money . For nothing.
And again “revolution from above”. The same revolutionary methods, and under instructions from Moscow, were applied in our country. In 1989-1990, by order of Prime Minister Lukanov, BNB branches were converted into joint-stock companies and privatized under the counter, and private companies stood “at the entrance and exit” of large enterprises and state-owned trading companies. Did I mention that hairdressers were still state owned? And the banks – no. Lukanov was Gorbachev’s man in Bulgaria. Again on the recommendation of Moscow, he invited extreme libertarians Ran and Ut to teach us how to ruin our economy. Once learned, it is hard to unlearn.
Gorby’s political reform was another name for chaos.
In 1989 he decided to introduce pluralism and convened a sort of parliament called the Congress of People’s Deputies.
In it, 750 deputies were elected by majority in districts. Another 750 were broadcast by territorial authorities. Another 750 were appointed by public organizations, parties, scientific and creative unions. Total – 2250 deputies. Complete chaos. But they elected a smaller body of 180 deputies – the so-called Supreme Council. Since the nomenclature prevailed in the great body, only old apparatchiks got into the Supreme Council, and the reformers remained outside howling like kebab cats. And perestroika got stuck up to its ears in the mud.
Gorby was a good man, in the absence of his wife he liked to drink and sing Russian romances in a pleasant baritone. But he had no idea how to make a transition to a market economy. And Yeltsin was not there. Under Putin, things are already irreversible – Russia is in the hands of the oligarchs, and they are, by virtue of natural selection, aggressive and greedy.
You will say – could it have been better? Of course he could. Look at China!