World Press Freedom Day: part 2 – Russia and the fall of pseudo-communism

Curiously enough it is coming on 100 years ago in 1917 when Russia, flooded with overwhelming numbers of oppressed peasants, via Lenin, along with Trotsky as military leader and Stalin running the press, overthrew the Tzar of Russia in original revolutionary spirit. A spirit we are starting to see again in the world and back home today.

World press freedom dayDemocracy almost took hold then, but when the same multitude of peasants started winning elections against the Bolsheviks, democracy was soon put en end to, nipped in the bud. Bolshevism then led to tyranny, famine (like China with Mao Zedong) and oppression. Lenin eventually became ill and died failing in his attempt to oust a tyrannical successor he himself had created in Stalin. The revolutionary party was unable to make the transition to ruling party, some would say somewhat like the ANC in South Africa today. Even in China the transition was harsh and unduly cruel. Fortunately things are changing, but only some things though, for some of the people more than others.

In Russia the power hungry psychopath won out over the true man of the people when Stalin – not even a Russian by birth – forced out Trotsky and usurped the Russian Communist party. 20 million died proving the pathology of the tyrant who would be another Asian Atilla. Such men seem to speckle the pages of history with the blood spatters of their madness, and despite us being able to learn from our past, still the madness grips some like a disease even to this day throughout the globe. Let’s hope our own land – SA – now also seeing red, in the midst of a succession battle fermented by another revolutionary movement, keeps its senses and is not swept away in the fervour and rhetoric of a new upstart, fuelled by hunger, economic collapse, and a growing income gap, to take to the streets and unwittingly install a greater tyrant than the one they are toppling with such hope.

Russia – Today’s angry capitalist

Russia, like SA, gained its freedom in the early nineties, accompanied by a new-found freedom to question authority as well as an era of the gold-digging elite siding with the underworld to divide up the spoils. BEE allowed “cronyism” at its best in South Africa, along with “tederpreneurship” in many major industries that were hired by government to build the country. Fortunately here we had some checks and balances in our systems, unlike Russia who privatised all its oil business, selling them to fortunate oligarchs without much oversight at rock bottom prices. Without oversight, the state was robbed by the elite as civil servants went without pay for months on end and schools and hospitals became dilapidated. But despite our checks and balances, our public services are also in trouble, though it just took us longer to reach this predicament. On the bright side at least both Russia and SA were swept into a new era of press freedoms. Russia however, was bought by the oligarchs when they bankrolled Putin into power, for the price of leaving them undisturbed in their business operations. Unfortunately Putin quickly usurped the press and ousted the very oligarchs who put him in power, handing them and other institutions over to his cronies so that industry and state worked hand in glove to enrich the elite once again. The tyrant was tolerated because he allowed his circle to flourish as long as he got a cut, so they were happy to say nothing, while the masses were literally unable to say a thing about it. Although as a result 3 out of 4 people in Russia grow some of their own food to survive. Thus runs the way of the Communist, setting the example for eager aspiring despots here back home in Rainbowland. Communism in name only, which seems to be simply another form of fascism, the new brand of corporatocracy dictatorship trending from sea to shining sea nowadays. In Russia it was even called by some “Kremlin Inc.”

In the west “lobbyists” and corporations pretty much buy out the government anyway. And in South Africa we have the Guptas to set the trend for us. Now that they have been whisked away, who else is there to rise to the occasion? More Oppenheimers, Ruperts or De Beers? No nowadays the names are African but the favours are the same. From the start Putin’s Russia, the Russia of the new millennium, has seen neighbouring countries tempted away by NATO and EU membership, while NATO military came closer and closer to its borders, from Georgia to Ukraine, Poland to Czechia (Czech Rep.) to Chechnya. Russia regularly comes 140th out of 170 countries for press freedom, right down there with Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, though still ahead of Singapore and China. 200 dead reporters in a decade with no convictions makes Russia the 3rd most deadly place for journalists. Even Turkey would be impressed. Let the position of the free press be the canary in the coal mine for our democracy’s real state of health.

Still under Putin Russia’s economy has grown and stability is the best in a generation with free apartments provided for all. Still, vulnerable members of the community continue to suffer. The minority elite, as usual, do disproportionately well, with sufficient freedoms and room for capitalism to keep them quiet about the dictatorship. Civil servants are being paid again. Democracy almost took hold again at the transition from the old to the new Russia at the fall of the wall, but as in earlier times in history, it was quickly stifled by the tyrannical fist of the alpha at the top of the pile. Here as in China, self-censorship is favoured lest the benefits attained are removed again. And Britain happily played along, creating a “Londongrad” of a quarter of a million Russian land owners in one of the most expensive capitals in the world by facilitating deals with whoever wanted to launder their oil money. It seems even the Empire will accept the currency of pirates and tyrants and human traffickers. Top EU and Whitehall politicians have been known to regularly solicit donations or party on the yachts of known Russian oligarchs and criminals, so money talks and morals walk the plank as usual amongst the elite of our democracies and autocracies alike. British lawyers will even defend oligarchs against journalists who pry into their earnings.

Economics outweighs human rights every time and in every country around the globe. Russia, like China, seems to have become lost in transition, adopting market capitalism for the elite while employing totalitarian dictatorship style politics for the masses. I wonder if SA will get equally lost in transition going the other way. Adopting socialism while keeping a semblance of democracy? With a tripartate government comprised of the Communist Party, the labour union COSATU, and the revolutionary ANC (or soon to be EFF) I wouldn’t be surprised. Even America had to use the state to bail out private companies during the global financial collapse of 2008. Capitalism being rescued from total collapse by socialist practices. Yet how safe are the poor masses really when tyrants take hold in the name of Communism or Socialism. History does not favour the poorest and weakest of us at all.

Reference: Freedom for sale – How we made money and lost our liberty

by John Kampfner 2009