Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia
By Stephen Cohen
W.W. Norton
320 pages, $21.95

Stephen Cohen's superb new book, Failed Crusade, is indispensable--and not just as a fluent guide to the last 10 terrible years in Russia, where national production has dropped by half, transforming the unstable country, as Cohen argues persuasively, into a greater nuclear threat than the old Soviet Union. Failed Crusade also succeeds admirably in an even larger aim--proving the failure of free-market fundamentalist ideology, and documenting, with controlled but persuasive anger, the complicity of leading American journalists, academics and Clinton administration officials in a dishonest effort to cover up their own arrogant mistakes.

Cohen's expertise on the early years of the Soviet Union, demonstrated in his book

Down for the count.

Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, informs his understanding of this latest wave of ideological zealotry and brutal social engineering. In the '20s and '30s, central planning efforts of the Bolsheviks brutally transformed Russia; Cohen finds their modern counterparts in the Americans and other Westerners who (with some Russian junior partners) have conducted a new fundamentalist experiment on the Russian people. They took their blueprint not from Lenin, but from free-market textbooks. Overnight, they directed the privatization of the big state enterprises, cut social spending and eliminated the old Soviet safety net, in the hopes of encouraging Western lending and investment. This "shock therapy" was meant to jolt Russia into a functioning capitalist society.

The market Bolsheviks have had a decade. In Cohen's words, their efforts have led to "the worst peacetime industrial depression of the 20th century," making Russia a "beggar state" with "unprecedented dependence on imported goods" and "more new orphans than resulted from Russia's almost 30 million casualties in World War II."

In sum, the Russian regime is something new in history: a once highly industrialized country, once highly capable in military and space technology, that has plummeted down into the Third World. Today, Russia is ruled by a corrupt and unpatriotic oligarchy that earns foreign exchange by exporting raw materials--mainly oil, gas and minerals--that evades taxes and stashes its wealth abroad, and that dominates a semi-democratic system with money power, particularly by controlling the mass media. A Brazilian or a Nigerian would feel right at home in the new Russia.



Bottom Navigation Home Archives Contact Us About In These Times Subscribe to In These Times