The annual slow-down of capitalism in the 'West' over Christmas and New Year provides a bit of time to read and reflect.
This Christmas I was a given a book as a present called "Secondhand Time - The Last Of The Soviets" by Svetlana Alexierich.
Alexierich is Ukrainian-born but has spent considerable time in Russia and Belarus interviewing people of diverse occupations and age groups. She attempts to capture what she describes as 20th Century "Soviet civilization", its collapse and its capitalist aftermath through the day to day experience of its people.
Alexierich is no lover of socialism, and even less a lover of Lenin’s and Stalin's leadership of the Soviet Union. What emerges for the reader is a picture of Russia which has always been an enemy of the West since the Bolshevik led Revolution of 1917 through to the present day as a competing capitalist power.
The book starts off with older-aged Russians criticizing the "free market" ideology of the capitalist restoration in Russia and the attempts by the new gangster capitalist ruling class to obliterate from history the initial successes of building socialism in one country and defeat of Nazi German imperialism in the Second World War.
Alexierich "balances" the older Russians' views on the restoration of capitalism with interviews with people who were in their twenties and thirties in the 1990s who expressed support for the "freedom" of the capitalist market economics.
Alexierich favours "free market" economics, but she is critical of how the gangster capitalists have implemented it and as a Ukrainian, falls firmly on the side of the West against Russia as a rival imperialist power.
An irony of the book though is that she perhaps unwittingly provides another alternative path that awaits Russia. She interviews an unnamed (for good reasons!) university professor who says: "At the end of the nineties, my students would laugh when I told them stories about the Soviet Union. They were sure that a new future awaited them. Now it's a different story...Today's students have truly seen and felt capitalism: the inequality, the poverty, the shameless wealth. They've witnessed the lives of their parents...and they're oriented toward radicalism. They dream of their own revolution, they wear red T-shirts with pictures of Lenin and Guevara".
Experience is a great teacher and in the year of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, perhaps the seeds of a second revolution are being sown. Trump's alleged desire for closer ties with Russia may be more far sighted than one thinks as the US would no doubt prefer a Russian imperial rival rather than an even more dreaded new socialist rival!
Further reading: http://rbth.com/politics_and_society/2016/11/04/why-more-than-half-of-russians-miss-the-soviet-union_643655