“Mistake of the Millennium” –
UN report damns the effects of restoration of capitalism in the USSR and Eastern Europe
Three days before the publication of a United Nations report to the effect that the transition to capitalism of the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has in reality been a Great Depression in terms of its disastrous effect on the people of the region, a letter appeared in the Ealing Gazette attacking the Socialist Labour Party policy of getting rid of capitalism. The correspondent, writing from an address in Bedford Park, an affluent West London suburb, denounced the SLP for having
“forgotten the sight of USSR bosses’ cars roaring down their exclusive lanes, of expensive apartments reserved for USSR bosses in Moscow, of Stalin’s gulags, of collectivisation – the list goes on. All these things were done to ‘get rid of capitalism’ …”
These fulminations of a no doubt very well-heeled supporter of capitalism, to whom the ills of capitalism – unemployment, hunger, illiteracy, war, racism, communalism, etc. – are but unimportant details were published at a particularly unfortunate time for the author. Three days later the UN Development Programme published a devastating report on the situation in the territories of the former Soviet Union and communist eastern Europe. Since restoration of capitalism more than 100 MILLION people in this region have been plunged into poverty, with millions more
“hovering precariously above subsistence”,
summary of the report, published on 25 August 1999. The UN report shows that while about 14 million people in the former communist bloc lived on less than $4 a day, that number had risen to about 147 million by the mid-1990s.
does not mention that if in 1989 there were indeed people in the area who had to survive on less than $4 a day, they did at least have access to health and education facilities and would have paid very little in rent, heating or lighting bills – certainly not the situation today.
Even in countries which in the opinion of the authors of the report have built relatively
“dynamic and efficient”
capitalist economies, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Baltic States, there are
“falling birth rates, high suicide rates, growing unemployment and widening income gaps”.
The restoration of capitalism has brought in its train a fall in life expectancy of at least four years. Indeed the latest figures from Russia show that the average age for men at death is 58!!
is forced to conclude that
“several million people have not survived the 1990s who would have done so if the life expectancy levels achieved by the start of the decade had been maintained.”
Early death is being caused by a surge in tuberculosis (a disease that thrives on poverty), and AIDS spread by the blossoming of prostitution and drug abuse.
The report also highlights the fact that the restoration of capitalism has meant a growing inequality between the sexes.
“The advent of more democratic
regimes has led, paradoxically, to lower percentages of women in decision-making positions. Women have been pushed out of public life, while the cuts in social services have affected them more. Violence against women has also risen, with physical abuse from spouses becoming more noticeable and more women falling victim to crime”.
Furthermore, abortion rates have risen in Russia to 66 for every 100 pregnancies, as women feel they can no longer afford to have children.
The cuts in
refers are the wholesale closure of public facilities for childcare, that has forced women back into the traditional housewife role, the domestic slave of her husband. Between 1991 and 1995 alone more than 30,000 pre-school facilities were closed down in the former Soviet Union. And as women lose their economic independence, they increasingly become the objects of abuse from men frustrated by the fact that their livelihood and wellbeing has disappeared and their apparent helplessness to do anything to remedy the situation.
Now that the cost in human misery of the restoration of capitalism can be seen – millions of premature deaths, even more millions of ruined lives – it is clear to all surely why those who advocated a return to capitalism in order to re-establish their right to exploit were considered criminals in the Soviet Union and were very properly confined to the gulags, where they could do little harm.
The widening gap between rich and poor means that alongside the teeming millions of the very poor in Moscow are to be found hundreds of new rich – infinitely more expensive cars and expensive luxury apartments than ever were to be found in the Soviet Union. There may have been ‘party bosses’ in the Soviet Union who abused their positions to enjoy a lavish lifestyle beyond the reach of the ordinary masses (who did, at least, however have access to the basic necessities of material and cultural life fit for human beings). Since the collapse of communism, however, luxurious living has proliferated alongside destitution. But since it is capitalists, thieves and flunkeys of imperialism rather than party bosses enjoying these ill-gotten gains, the Ealing Gazette’s correspondent would no doubt consider that the proper order of things has been restored: the woman is in the kitchen, the proletariat has been cut down to size, God is in his Heaven and all is well in the world!