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Issue #1521      5 October 2011

Culture & Life

Gorby and others of his ilk

A correspondent in the British Communist paper The New Worker recently caused a bit of a flap by quoting Gorbachev to back up the claim that the USSR was responsible for massacring Polish officers in the Katyn forest in WW2. Invoking Gorbachev to support anti-Soviet statements is hardly radical, of course: Gorby himself makes no secret of his longstanding anti-Sovietism (indeed, he bragged about it, and still does).


Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.

Like Gorby’s attacks on Stalin, his grovelling apology to post-socialist Poland for the “Soviet massacre” was part of Gorby’s overall stratagem for polishing his own image by denigrating socialism. As I wrote at the time, his revival of attacks on Stalin had nothing much to do with Stalin and everything to do with Gorby’s internal struggles within the CPSU (of which at the time he was still General Secretary): by identifying his Party critics as “Stalinists” rather than “anti-Gorbachevites” he successfully sidetracked the debate in the CPSU so that he was able to continue on his “reforming” way – straight towards dissolution of the Party and the USSR both.

The destructive part of his plan worked all too well, but when he ran for President he discovered that the Russian people viewed him with disdain. He got rid of the Soviet Union, leaving the US and NATO more or less unchallenged strategically, and yet he seems genuinely surprised that no one in Russia cares tuppence what he says or does now. Only the media of the West, which owes him big time, still gives him space for old times sake.

As for using Gorby to provide proof of historical accuracy, I think that falls into the category of a sick joke.

Russian Communists have denounced the Gorbachev claims, repeated by the Putin government, pointing out that the motive for this attempt to swing the blame for the Katyn atrocity from the Nazis to the Communists is to try to curry favour with the reactionary, Church-dominated Polish government.

Dave Danton, responding in The New Worker, noted that “documents, purporting to be orders signed by Beria, sanctioning the execution of thousands of interned Polish POWs, have been seriously challenged by Russian scholars and by the man who appeared on Moscow TV last year claiming to have been part of a team that forged them in the early 1990s on Yeltsin’s orders.”

That would seem to dispose of “Beria’s orders”, but Danton also notes that “the issue has been further muddied by a report of conversations between Lazar Kaganovich and a Russian academic between 1985 and 1991 in which the former top minister in the Stalin government admits that several thousand Polish prisoners were shot for war crimes committed during the Soviet-Polish war (1919-1921) and general serious offences during their period of internment in the USSR. But these were not those executed in the Katyn Woods.”

From slaughter in the Katyn Woods to slaughter in the stock-market: the chaos and losses on Wall St and other stock exchanges have played havoc with many workers’ superannuation funds, wiping out investments that were supposed to “look after them in their old age”. Emergency measures to deal with the crisis (or more accurately the series of crises) have less than unanimous support from within the capitalist camp, as some countries try to use it to strengthen their position vis á vis other capitalist groupings, searching as ever for a way to make a profit from any and all eventualities.

Greece has been “squeezed until the pips squeaked” and its government – which no one would describe as “left wing” – has actually dropped hints about leaving the Euro Zone, opting out of the monetary union created by the imperialist states of Europe to ensnare the smaller European countries. This went down very poorly with Germany and France, who are now striving to find a satisfactory formula that will keep Greece in the Eurozone while not upsetting the imperial ambitions of France and Germany. A tough call.

So tough indeed that many commentators see it as already stillborn. Although at time of writing, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy were still promoting their “plan”, which was basically predicated on the German and French governments using public money to prop up Greek banks (and other European banks holding wads of Greek IOUs) while setting a tax on financial transactions (guess who that will be passed on to). Just why the people of Europe should subsidise the machinations and schemes of Europe’s banks is something most people in Europe fail to see.

As Radio Havana reported, “actually, what less developed countries really wanted was to put to work the Eurobonds and increase their contingency fund to seek emergency funds in case of need.

“Faced with the grim and sinister scenario in the global economy, Venezuela’s initiatives, such as nationalising the gold industry to recover the international reserves in this metal and instead to redistribute the money in other geographical areas, are reasonable.

“The world is changing rapidly, and countries – especially those that prioritise the welfare of their people – have the full right to defend themselves against the darkness that lies ahead, whose death throes will strike everyone.”

The global financial situation is of course affected by the colossal diversion of funds from constructive production to war. I saw a photo recently of a demonstration against the ongoing war in Iraq. It was very simple: two people holding up a large banner saying “THE COST OF WAR” and underneath three lines of figures.

“US funding $387 billion.

“US troops killed 3,011.

“Iraqis killed 655,000.”

It’s worth noting (as Radio Havana did) that “in 2002, the average number of reported violent deaths in Iraq was 14 every month. Since the bombing started in late 2007, more than 1.2 million have been killed and another million wounded.”

And that does not include the people who will die from the effects of the 1,100 to 2,200 tons of weapons laden with depleted uranium that the US dropped on Iraq in 2003. A public health ticking time bomb.  

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