Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ukrainians Better Be Careful What They Wish For

"Necessitous men cannot be free men",  

-----  Franklin D Roosevelt,

"At the heart of neoliberal narratives are ideologies, modes of governance, and policies that embrace a pathological individualism, a distorted notion of freedom, and a willingness both to employ state violence to suppress dissent and abandon those suffering from a collection of social problems ranging from dire poverty and joblessness to homelessness" - Henry Giroux, 'The Politics of Cruelty - America's Descent Into Madness' (

With the news that former Ukraine President Viktor F. Yanukovych has abruptly left his opulent mansion behind, Ukrainians are elated now at the prospect of "freedom" and stronger ties with the European Union.  There is now a vacuum left by Yanukovych's departure and that means varied interests will contend for ultimate control.

But that's not the biggest concern. The biggest worry, according to a Sunday New York Times piece (p. 14, 'With President's Departure Ukraine Moves Toward a Murky Future') is "who will help fill the depleted coffers of a country on the brink of bankruptcy and crippled by arguably one of the most troubled economies in the world".

Well, Russia had stepped up, offering $15b in cash infusion as well as cheap natural gas (ibid.). But the Ukrainians, who glance at the European Union and behold all its  material offerings and apparent freedoms, want more, They want to be part of the EU and on their own terms.

They are dreaming.

No one in Europe or the EU wants the "red headed" poor stepchild. A point also made clear in the article. 
Ukraine’s democracy fighters ought to be very careful before they jump head first into the Western Neoliberal orbit. As the Times noted, quoting Mark Leonard, the Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations :
"Nobody (in the West) wants to end up owning all the problems that Ukraine faces. The country is bankrupt. It has a terrible, broken system of government and insane levels of corruption

The article goes on to say that with this in mind, Europe and the U.S. have “largely contracted the job out to the IMF with a package that – unlike the money offered by Moscow – has numerous strings attached”
The piece mentions requirements to cut up all kinds of regulations, and cut subsidies that keep domestic energy prices low – oh and “cripple the government’s finances”.  If it’s anything like what Barbados is experiencing, it ain’t gonna to be sweet bread. We’re talking about sky high food and oil prices, as well as pensions privatized or cut and thousands of workers let go. Y’all really want that? Go for it then! And good luck, future necessitous men...and women... of the Ukraine.
Hey, Ukraine! Welcome to the Neoliberal Imperative!
In other words, the path to the future of the Ukraine, if they choose the Neoliberal imperative, is not only murky  - but likely impoverished for most of their people. If they need some fact checks on what they're in for they can Google "Greek Sovereign Debt crisis"  or examine what happened to Mother Russia after Neoliberalism crept in and replaced communism.
Author Naomi Klein gives the key information in her book 'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' (2007).   In  her chapter on the Russian capitalist "experiment" (pp. 282-87) she documents how a cabal of gangster capitalists under the IMF and the "Chicago gang of Milton Friedman" attempted to brutally re-make the existing Russian centrally planned economy into a Neoliberal free market outpost of  the West. The process was long and painful, entailing first getting rid of Mikhail Gorbachev - who through his glasnost and perestroika did far more than Reagan to render the world more peaceful, never mind the propaganda.

Klein makes no bones about the fact that the Friedman "school of economics" - tracing its lineage to Friedrich von Hayek (the same creep that was responsible for bringing about the economic collapse of  the Weimar Republic - opening it to Nazi takeover) was responsible largely for the ideological ruthlessness that laid waste to Russia in the early 1990s.  They only needed (Boris) Yeltsin to help dissolve the former Soviet Union.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz (p. 283) called Russia's pro-capitalist market experimenters "market Bolsheviks". As Klein put it (ibid.):

"However, where the original Bolsheviks fully intended to build their centrally planned state in the ashes of the old, the market Bolsheviks believed in a kind of magic: if the optimal conditions for profit were created - the country would rebuild itself- no planning required."

U.S. Neoliberal puppet Boris Yeltsin, meanwhile, made reckless promises that things would only be hard "for six months"  and "very soon" Russia would be an economic titan. Never happened! As Klein notes (ibid.):

"The logic of so-called creative destruction resulted in scarce creation and spiraling destruction"

Newspapers, magazines from the period (which I still have and can peruse anytime) depict horrific suffering by ordinary Russians as they had to beg, borrow or steal to survive - thanks to the Neoliberal market barbarians. Is this being an "American traitor" to reveal this, probably something most Americans don't know? Nope, because one can't be a traitor to an economic paradigm he never accepted in the first place! (And which he further condemns as itself being a betrayal to the aspirations of most people in the world.)

The sad facts?  After only a year of Neoliberal thuggery and "market therapy" millions of Russians had lost their life savings when the ruble lost nearly all its value (similar to what happened to Germans and their Deutsch mark, thanks to von Hayek). Adding insult to injury, abrupt cuts in government subsidies meant that millions of workers had not been paid in months. Consumption? The average Russian consumed 40 percent less in 1992 than 1991 - and they weren't even consuming that much in '91!

Basically, to survive, the Russian middle class was forced to sell all or most of their belongings - setting up card tables on the streets to do so. As Klein describes this travesty:

"Desperate acts, that the Chicago School of Economics praised as 'entrepreneurial' and proof that a capitalist renaissance was indeed under way."

Wonder why the Russians of today are deeply skeptical and affronted by the Neoliberal rogues and puppets of the West?   Look no further than recent Russian history and how the uber - capitalists twisted and perverted the country's whole economic foundation in order to force it into a globalized capital new world order.

If the Ukrainians are prepared to jump to the EU side and the promised "freedom" they have so yearned for, they  better look at it too!

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