By R S Ahthion
“A remarkable 72% of Hungarians say that most people in their country are actually worse off today economically than they were under communism. Only 8% say most people in Hungary are better off, and 16% say things are about the same. In no other Central or Eastern European country surveyed did so many believe that economic life is worse now than during the communist era. This is the result of almost universal displeasure with the economy. Fully 94% describe the country’s economy as bad, the highest level of economic discontent in the hard hit region of Central and Eastern Europe. Just 46% of Hungarians approve of their country’s switch from a state-controlled economy to a market economy; 42% disapprove of the move away from communism. The public is even more negative toward Hungary’s integration into Europe; 71% say their country has been weakened by the process.
In 2010, an entire generation after the Berlin wall had fallen, a poll was taken of East Germans about their former East Germany: “
“Today, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 57 percent, or an absolute majority, of eastern Germans defend the former East Germany. “The GDR had more good sides than bad sides. There were some problems, but life was good there,” say 49 percent of those polled. Eight percent of eastern Germans flatly oppose all criticism of their former home and agree with the statement: “The GDR had, for the most part, good sides. Life there was happier and better than in reunified Germany today.”
The most incredible result was registered in a July 2010 IRES (Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy) poll, according to which 41% of the respondents would have voted for Ceausescu, had he run for the position of president. And 63% of the survey participants said their life was better during communism, while only 23% attested that their life was worse then. Some 68% declared that communism was a good idea, just one that had been poorly applied.
Roughly 28 percent of Czechs say they were better off under the Communist regime, according to a poll conducted by the polling institute SC&C and released Sunday.
Only 23 percent said they had a better life now.
More goods in shops, open borders and better cultural offer are considered the biggest successes of the system that was installed after 1989.
On the other hand, the voucher privatisation, the worsening of human relations and work of the civil service are its biggest flaws, most Czechs said.
A poll shows that as many as 81 per cent of Serbians believe they lived best in the former Yugoslavia -“during the time of socialism”.
The survey focused on the respondents’ views on the transition “from socialism to capitalism”, and a clear majority said they trusted social institutions the most during the rule of Yugoslav communist president Josip Broz Tito.
The standard of living during Tito’s rule from the Second World War to the 1980s was also assessed as best, whereas the Milosevic decade of the 1990s, and the subsequent decade since the fall of his regime are seen as “more or less the same”.
45 percent said they trusted social institutions most under communism with 23 percent chosing the 2001-2003 period when Zoran Djinđic was prime minister. Only 19 per cent selected present-day institutions.
The majority of Russians polled in a 2016 study said they would prefer living under the old Soviet Union and would like to see the socialist system and the Soviet state restored.
Reflecting back on the breakup of the Soviet Union that happened 22 years ago next week, residents in seven out of 11 countries that were part of the union are more likely to believe its collapse harmed their countries than benefited them. Only Azerbaijanis, Kazakhstanis, and Turkmens are more likely to see benefit than harm from the breakup. Georgians are divided.
Ukraine, Lithuania and Bulgaria
The poll showed 30 percent of Ukrainians approved of the change to democracy in 2009, down from 72 percent in 1991. In Bulgaria and Lithuania the slide was to just over half the population from nearer three-quarters in 1991.
People in the former Yugoslav countries, scarred by the ethnic wars from the 1990s and still outside the EU, are nostalgic for the socialist era of Josip Broz Tito when, unlike now, they traveled across Europe without visa.
“Everything was better then. There was no street crime, jobs were safe and salaries were enough for decent living,” said Belgrade pensioner Koviljka Markovic, 70. “Today I can hardly survive with my pension of 250 euros ($370 a month).”
Bulgaria (seen as a golden era)
In Bulgaria, the 33-year rule of the late dictator Todor Zhivkov begins to seem a golden era to some in comparison with the raging corruption and crime that followed his demise.
Over 60 percent say they lived better in the past, even though shopping queues were routine, social connections were the only way to obtain more valuable goods, jeans and Coca Cola were off-limits and it took up to 10 years’ waiting to buy a car.
“For part of the Bulgarians (social) security turned out to be more precious than freedom,” wrote historians Andrei Pantev and Bozhidar Gavrilov in a book on the 100 most influential people in the Balkan country’s history.
Which is remarkable that this propaganda as the West being the penultimate of human achievement is still peddled by Guardian writers such as above. You see, when the above countries were opening up to market liberalisation they were motivated by 2 factors which I will identify then expand upon:
1) The desire to end the antagonistic relationship with the west and be “implemented” into the world capitalist system.
2) To be as materially well off as Western Europe/North America and Japan (the heartlands of the global capitalist system)
The first point is laughable in the opening weeks of 2018. Russia was threatening to target European cities with nukes as far back as 2007, and by 2014 the US and Russia were back to their previous game of proxy wars in Ukraine and Syria. The “end of history and world peace” disappeared within 20 years of the Berlin wall falling—and, it should be noted, the blame belongs to the US-led west, which has polluted and destroyed any possibility of a peaceful coexistence with Russia, China and any emerging power for generations in its quest for unquestioned global dominance.
Recently, the US had decided it’s willing to loosen restraints on nukes to make them smaller and therefore useable. The much sought after world peace is thereby further removed from the realm of implementation.
The second point starts with the socialist countries opening for “socialism with a human face.” They wanted more freedoms to travel more/less police repression. And when they realised that their economies were being pushed towards capitalism and integration into the American dominated global system they thought that prosperity would be around the corner.
In most cases what those countries received instead was outright annexation by the west. The west quickly de-industrialised those countries by buying up all their major industries, laying off the workers of those companies. Once that was achieved those countries had their markets swallowed up by Western Europe and they were treated as cheap labour pools.
Germany/US/UK and France exported their goods to the Eastern bloc. And in turn the young of the eastern bloc had to move west to get a job.
The key problem liberals like Rafael Behr forget about capitalism (compared to the existing socialist states) is that its primary drive is profit and capital accumulation rather than —as is the case with nationalised industry—industry built on a needs basis. This capital accumulation to penetrate new markets to accumulate ever more capital is a key component of capitalism and the reason imperialism exists. In its quest to flood over the globe to seek more profit for more capital accumulation to invest more capital to accumulate more (and on and on) it brings battering rams to knock down nation states that refuse to open their land, natural resources and labour to the global market.
The Eastern European nations thought they would be joining into prosperity but instead had the young and baby making age group of their society (20-35) exported wholesale to the west to make up for deficient birth rates in the West and the general birth rate decline in the west. Instead of becoming like capitalist Germany/UK/US/Canada they became like capitalist Brazil or capitalist Mexico.
After the fall of the eastern bloc Poland was oft cited as the golden child of ex-communist integration. Investment after investment was pumped into Poland over the years from the EU. And even despite these attempts to pump the country full of investment a remarkable 25 percent of Polish society still believe they’d be better off under communism:
A read of this Express article highlights how damaging the brain drain of their youth to Polish society.
“What was predicted by many to be a short-term shift in population has turned into a long-term brain drain. If anything the loss of population from Poland is accelerating. In 2013 alone 500,000 Poles emigrated.”
Poland is in a more dramatic version of the cycle of decline in which Britain found itself during the 1970s when we lost a net half a million residents over several years. As people leave, the economy is suppressed which encourages yet more people to up sticks and seek better opportunities abroad.
And of course it tends to be the most entrepreneurial people who leave, while more conservative-minded workers stay behind. Job-creating businesses which might have been set up in Warsaw or Krakow end up being established in London or Berlin.
True, many Polish workers send some earnings home which gives a small boost to the Polish economy. But that is a poor substitute for the wealth which would have been created had more entrepreneurial citizens stayed.”
But of course this is not a random happenstance. The UK could’ve closed it’s borders to the eastern bloc for several years and chose not to. But the capitalists and their bought and paid for servants in the House of Commons chose to allow migration from the get go because it provides a two fold function for British capitalist society:
1) It captures the young of a poor country who are willing to work for less and who’re unsure of their workers rights
2) It further smashes the ability of the local brits to organise in unions and fight for better working conditions
What’s more the UK and their local governments enacted austerity over this period whilst accepting and receiving more in taxes from the extra migrants. So instead of keeping public services financed to a good degree and increasing that finance proportionally as more migrants came to the UK instead public services and goods were scrapped whilst the population increased, mostly in part because the ruling clique is ideologically wedded to neoliberalism.
But lets’ be clear about neoliberalism for those keynsians that wax poetical about Keynsianism and capitalism with a human face. The Soviet Union, as well as Yugoslavia and Cuba and China, provided the material conditions for capitalism to compete on a basis of providing a “human face”. They needed the threat of an external system that worked very effectively. (The Soviet Union achieved in 30 years what took capitalism over 100 years in the US and UK. The only other country to develop quicker than the Soviet Union is Communist China.) That coupled with the strong trade unions and socialist and communist parties across Europe and N.America provided an incentive for the capitalist nations to provide a better standard of living for their populations.
The absence of a competing communist system and the utter suppression of ideas outside of the neoliberal window have led us to the position we’re now in. (Take Ed Milliband in the UK for the 2015 UK election who was told he wanted to live in a “Marxist Universe” for wanting to enact a slightly nicer neoliberalism than the conservatives.
Or Jeremy Corbyn who is running on a mild platform of social democracy and has been declared everything from a Marxist to a Maoist.)
In short, once you’ve monopolised the board you no longer need to make concessions to your citizens. This is why capitalism, even in the west (it never had to in the global south like Latin America/Africa and the Middle east) is providing increasingly worse living standards for its citizens. In the UK the mortality rates that were falling over time (ie. We’re living longer due to healthier lives/improved surgery etc.) are starting to reverse.
The same is happening in the US,
Rafael also makes the point on the worlds turn to right wing nationalism and flirtation with fascism—
“Worryingly, liberalism doesn’t have as good a record of winning by argument alone as its advocates like to imagine. Fascism, its deadliest enemy, wasn’t debated into submission or outrun in an economic race: it was beaten by military force in a fight to the death, started by the fascists.”
Which is strange, to me, as I seem to recall liberalism working hand in hand in glove with fascists for the entire 20th century. Afterall Coca cola has been hiring goons to murder trade unionists in the global south for years now.
“The unions claim Coca-Cola bottlers hired far-right militias of the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) to murder nine union members at Colombian bottling plants in the past 13 years.”
The truth is liberalism has always facilitated fascism’s rise. Particularly as a point of call to prevent capitalism being overthrown. Wherever fascists came to power they did not depose the capitalist system – they strengthened it. Using violence against trade unionists and socialists and communists and consolidating power to corporations to ensure that the system remained in place and kept on ticking. This happened time and time again in the 20th century from Germany 1918, to the rise of the Nazis’ in the 30s, Mussolini in Italy to Pinochet in Chile
And if I recall it wasn’t the liberal nations that fought to the death to end Nazi’ism. It was the Soviet Union that saw 22 million of it’s people murdered on the eastern front. (7 out of 8 German soldiers died on the eastern front). The United States stayed out of the war as long as possible for war profiteering and is defacto how it became the Super Power of the globe after 1945. To quote Truman during World War 2:
“If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.” -Harry Truman
Smacks less of its “deadliest enemy” and more of an opportunistic ideology willing to take advantage of any circumstance even while it fires up the ovens for jews, socialists and communists and other “undesirables”. Again if you don’t believe me you need only look at the United States willingness to snap up Nazi members and leaders in Operation Paperclip, just so they could beat the Soviet Union in the space race.
The communists of the Soviet Union on the other hand paid the price of ending the Nazi regime with the blood of 14 percent (some 27 million people) of their population (about 196 million in 1941) and rather than being opportunists presented a pact to Britain and France in August 15th 1939 to snuff the Nazi baby out in its cradle. France and Britain remained silent – no doubt toeing the American line of bait and bleed. The price the world paid for liberalism’s opportunism led by liberal opportunists was the slaughter of World War 2.
And what’s more in recent years the West has been on a mission to rehabiliate fascism and is partly the reason openly fascistic parties and personalities are now making their way to power. Take the NATO film lionising Nazi collaborators that murdered jews in the Baltics celebrated in this short video
Which is entirely consistent with liberal ideology and why in recent years what was beyond the pale in previous years (comparing the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany) is in vogue today. Stalin as bad as Hitler, anyone?
It’s also why the United States voted against a UN resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism (the other two countries were the tellinglyUkraine and Palau).
Because nothing says “fascism is liberalism’s most deadliest enemy” unless liberalism can use fascism (and neo-nazi parties like Svoboda in Ukraine) to open that country to the west so the west can profit off its markets, its land, its natural resources, its labour and geopolitically strategic position.
Capitalism is in a state of crisis and as in Germany in the 30s, liberals would prefer fascism over any attempt to change or remove their system.
Rafael would do well to remember that capitalism has nothing to prove to anyone now that the socialist countries have disappeared. All capitalism has ever wanted is everything: it doesn’t leave a social program or service in place where it can instead make a profit (and degrade it to intolerable conditions).
Even if this profit comes at the expense of the horrifying American healthcare system that sees people routinely become bankrupt due to medical bills. https://www.cnbc.com/id/100840148
Or the for-profit prison system that now sees the United States with the highest incarceration rate in the world. With 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the total world’s prison population the “freedom” Americans continually talk about in their propaganda looks laughable. To put this in context the United States now imprisons more people than the Soviet Union did at the height of the gulag period [itself widely magnified and distorted as per same western propaganda], and more than current day Russia, China or Iran.
This is the same system that has made education into a commodity to be bought at increasingly unaffordable prices, burdening each new generation with mortgage-style debt at the precise outset of their adult lives.
It doesn’t leave a standing amazon forest if it can profit from the timber and would happily fish the seas to death. (It is doing precisely that, besides polluting the waters to virtual death for all creatures. The Gulf of Mexico basin is a case in point. Thousands of oil platforms continually threaten the ocean with terminal poisoning, despite BP’s Deepewater Horizon disaster serving eloquent warning.] It doesn’t leave a worker with a fair wage and unexploited or a family feeling safe. Capitalism truly is an astonishing system: the very construction workers who build the skyscrapers that line the skylines of our cities (and basically everything) can be found one day sleeping in their doorways.
It is time to stop being a liberal apologist and transition to a more egalitarian society whereby a small number of people cannot earn wealth beyond what they could ever hope to spend in 200,000 lifetimes off the backs of the labour of others.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
Parting shot—a word from the editors
The Best Definition of Donald Trump We Have Found
In his zeal to prove to his antagonists in the War Party that he is as bloodthirsty as their champion, Hillary Clinton, and more manly than Barack Obama, Trump seems to have gone “play-crazy” — acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon.However, the “play-crazy” gambit can only work when the leader is, in real life, a disciplined and intelligent actor, who knows precisely what actual boundaries must not be crossed. That ain’t Donald Trump — a pitifully shallow and ill-disciplined man, emotionally handicapped by obscene privilege and cognitively crippled by white American chauvinism. By pushing Trump into a corner and demanding that he display his most bellicose self, or be ceaselessly mocked as a “puppet” and minion of Russia, a lesser power, the War Party and its media and clandestine services have created a perfect storm of mayhem that may consume us all.— Glen Ford, Editor in Chief, Black Agenda Report