Yeltsin: a Pinochet in the making?

Issue 

By Sean Healy

BUDAPEST — With the recent confrontation in Moscow, Russia seems to be entering a new stage. TAMAS KRAUSZ, a leader of the Hungarian Left Alternative and a member of the Institute for Russian Soviet Studies, spoke to Green Left Weekly about the significance of these events.

Krausz was in Moscow in the two weeks immediately before the attack on the parliament building, where he spoke to members of the Russian left and watched as the crisis unfolded. It was in large part on his initiative that a new group, Committee for Human Rights in Russia, was formed in Budapest.

"There are several prejudices put forward about this struggle", Krausz said. "The first is that this was a struggle between democracy led by Yeltsin and the communist-fascist mob led by Rutskoi and Khasbulatov.

"The demonstrators outside the parliament weren't like that. Yes, there were various Communist and Stalinist groups as well as nationalists and the like, but they were only one part.

"Also, Yeltsin has dissolved the parliament and called new elections and has banned various opposition parties. Newspapers as well, like Pravda. What kind of democrat sets up elections like that?"

The central conflict between the parliament and the president was over such things as the pace of the market reforms and privatisation. Parliament functioned as a major block to Yeltsin's program, amongst other things forcing the removal of his prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, and delaying his budget.

According to Krausz, the plan to dissolve parliament was a long time in the making. "For example, the Red Army general, Volkogonov, who was a Stalinist under the old regime, was in charge of the operation against parliament. Many of the diehard Stalinists in the army and the bureaucracy took a similar position."

At a public debate held here on October 9, in which Krausz was one of the keynote speakers, there was much discussion as to whether Yeltsin's victory was the beginning of a "Pinochet scenario".

"The significance of this move by Yeltsin", Krausz noted, "is that in eastern Europe it will help those, including those figures in Hungary, who favour such a way forward.

"For them, the number of victims, doesn't matter ... It's just a matter of economics."

This scenario and the so-called "Chile miracle" have been under discussion by "democrats" and neo-liberal economists for some time now. As far back as September 1991, Polish President Lech Walesa was quoted as saying that Poland needed "tough, strong, revolutionary methods — and fear — to reorient the economy".

Krausz sees Yeltsin's use of force to resolve the "dual power" between parliament and the presidency as part of an attempt to import such a model. Similarly with the orders to soviets in the regions to dissolve in favour of Yeltsin's appointees.

It is as yet very unclear whether Yeltsin will meet success in the regions. It would be a major reversal of the political and social tendencies of the last few years — which have been towards the further break-up and disintegration, not just of the Soviet Union, but of the Russian Federation.

In reply to speakers who, during the debate, implied that Yeltsin's action was the only choice other than chaos, Krausz replied, "I am not so pessimistic. There are never only two ways: a Yeltsin dictatorship or chaos. There are always many ways. And you can't say that Yeltsin's victory is a victory for democracy, which is what the media here have said. You can't have democracy through dictatorship.

"In this crisis", Krausz concluded, "the Russian people were not really on either side. They didn't think Yeltsin was in their interests, and they didn't think parliament was either. They viewed it simply as a spectacle. They stood and watched. I think that this will change very soon."

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