When living in Tallinn in the nineties I quite often heard my acquaintancies say that ”just you wait, when Gorbatjov and Jeltsin are gone the old russians will be back”. I was sceptical and saw things a little bit more rosy with a pluralistic democratic development in Russia as the most likely scenario for the future. I was wrong.
So today what are the components of the cleavage between Russia and the Ukraine? Is it only about geopolitics, sphers of influence, natural gas pipes and money not to mention the catastrophic, by Stalinist policies created, famine in the early thirties in the Urkraine or is there a real ideological core in the conflict that calls for closer examination. Has the Russian state, inheritor of the Soviet system, completely and irrevocably morfed into kleptocracy?
What was the Soviet system? Well on the positive side and something which is not totally lacking of interest in todays world of mass unemployment, is the fact that the Soviet Union was a society of full employment, albeit with manpower allocated very inefficently.
If people had skills and higher education they were expected to contribute to society and if unwilling to work were put under some preasure to do so.
On the negative side you were supposed to shut up when it came to critizing the regime. If one did not adhere to the principle of shutting up, death, imprisonment, ostracization or exile could follow.
The blueprint of the Soviet union can be traced back to Lenins, in 1920, stipulated criteria for allowing socialist organizations to join the Comintern. Among these criteria was the acceptance of Democratic Centralism which meant handing over very farreaching powers to a small communist elite, doing away with what we consider fair democratic procedures, accepting the complete subservience of media to the communist party and abolishing free speach.
Marxism leninism was supposed to be the guiding star. In everyday conversations in our time this concept of Marxism Leninism is often treated as an integral concept. As I remember, the difference between Marxism and Leninism, Marxim being a tool for analyzing capital accumulation and Leninism being a political ideology, was sometimes pointed out by my leftwing inclined fellow students at the Stockholm School of Economics in the early seventies. This ”fine point” was however not something that, at that time, lingered on my mind it probably quickly bounced of , there were other concerns.
So how should one look on Russia today, mainly as a caretaker of Marxist ideas or as a derailed leninist kleptocracy? My gutfeeling says that it is mostly the latter reality that calls the shots but I can also hear a feeble voice wispering that the Marxist legacy is not completely dead. When this feeble voice meets fresh statistics about accelerating and worrysome inequalities in the West, including Sweden ground for some interesting conversations materializes.