The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Yeltsin—Plundering in the Name of “Democracy”

Apr 30, 2007

The death of Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia from 1991 to 1999, brought forth condolences from Bush, Blair, Chirac and others who lauded this “historic figure,” this “remarkable man” who “allowed freedom to triumph.”

In Russia, he leaves behind many other memories. Yeltsin opened the doors to all those who enriched themselves by pillaging the country, those who are now called the oligarchy and who were formerly called the “new rich.” He set the example and left their hands free. Yeltsin was the boss of the most powerful clan of thieves, “the family” of which Putin, the current president, is the inheritor.

On the opposite side, Yeltsin’s period was one of rapid impoverishment for the workers, the retirees and all ordinary people. He presided over the return to begging, children left in the street, tuberculosis, non-paid wages, retirees living in famine and the end of medical care that previously had existed for everyone.

In 1985, Gorbachev had initiated what was called “Perestroika,” a policy aimed at reforming the functioning of the USSR of the bureaucrats. His aim was to reinforce his own power, but he also lifted at the same time a little of the dictatorial control that weighed on the country, including on the more comfortable social layers of the society and its leaders. The bureaucrats, big and small, both in Russia and in the Republics, pushed out into the open. Each one claimed his piece of power and above all, of the pie which went along with it.

Yeltsin was the head of the Communist Party of Moscow and a member of its central committee, that is, of the high “nomenklatura.” To gain political power, he rested on those bureaucrats who wanted to take apart the Soviet Union for their own benefit. In 1991, when he became president of Russia with their support, he was hailed by the West as a “democrat”–because he opposed a coup attempt led by some generals without troops. This produced the famous picture of him standing on a tank, with a megaphone in his hand.

The Soviet Union dissolved in this same year, adopting the contradictory name of the Confederation of Independent States. The economic fabric of the country began to rip apart because the Soviet economy had been integrated and planned on the level of the whole Union.

Economic regression was immediate, aggravated further by the pillage to which the different clans of bureaucrats helped themselves. The riches of the country were taken apart by anyone who had even a small amount of power. The higher up the bureaucrat, the more he enriched himself. Quickly this all became uncontrollable. In 10 years, some 150 billion dollars was taken out of Russia and placed in bank accounts opened up by these “new rich” in the West. All this pillage pushed the ex-USSR’s economy down from second place in the world to 72nd place.

This is what the representatives of imperialism salute today as Yeltsin’s contribution to re-establishing the market economy in the former USSR.

His support to “democracy” is just as worthless. Yeltsin started the first war in Chechnya, with its string of massacres. When the Russian parliament pretended to resist him in 1993, he had it bombed, killing 150 people. When “the family” found itself at the center of a number of financial scandals, Yeltsin himself chose his replacement, Putin, handing power over to him on New Years, 2000. Putin’s first measure was to push through a new law protecting Yeltsin and “the family” from any type of legal action against them.

Boris Yeltsin holds an important place in the slow process of degeneration of the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the workers state born out of the proletarian revolution of 1917 in Russia. The bureaucracy began under Stalin, usurping power and prospering as a parasite upon the planned economy. With Yeltsin, the bureaucrats took a step further. No longer content only to mistreat the tree and to steal its fruit, they took it upon themselves to cut up the trunk and sell it off as fire wood.