Aug 20, 2014

A Look Back: Anne Williamson and the Rape of Russia


Yeltsin and Clinton laugh all the way to the bank

This article tells a story that, given the current Western “policies” vis-a-vis the Ukraine and Russia, we would do well to remember, for it adequately outlines, I believe, how the USA is being perceived in Russia, both by the general population and by its leaders, and why. The article also provides some much-needed context in which to view the rise of the BRICSA bloc and the Russian foreign policy under Mr. Putin. Here is the link:

Testimony of Anne Williamson Before the Committee on Banking and Financial Services of the United States House of Representatives September 21, 1999

Having taught Russian history at one time at the college level, I personally deeply appreciate Ms. Williamson’s understanding of Russian cultural institutions, and the effect they have had on the development of Russian culture and economy(see, for example, her comments on the votchina) . She is, in my opinion, sadly unique in this respect. I would personally have wished only for her to have mentioned the de-feudalization program of rolling back the obrok and barshchina systems of feudalism that had prevailed - for that in effect was what it was – that was undertaken by the Tsardom in the late 19th century, a program whereby Russian serfs were to buy their own land, on the basis of low interest loans from the government, which were in turn financed by Russian government bonds. (Communism, through collectivization of the farms, rolled all this back into yet another form of serfdom, this time sponsored by the Bolsheviks.) During the late 19th century, Russian agriculture, as a result, slowly began to modernize, and began to prosper and Russia began to be a net exporter of agricultural goods. All that changed of course under the Communists.

There are several points this article makes, and I will simply lay them out seriatim, so that the reader can see the historical development outlined in Ms. Williamson’s testimony to Congress.

Point one: Russia was looted by the Russian oligarchs, many former Communists, with the aid of the USA, and this money was invested in the USA equities and real estate markets:
And there is no mistake as to who the victims are, i.e. Western, principally U.S., taxpayers and Russian citizens’ whose national legacy was stolen only to be squandered and/or invested in Western real estate and equities markets.
Point two: the Russian oligarchy – again, largely former Communist nomenklatura -  was essentially bought by Western financial institutions, which aided Yeltsin in creating the oligarchical class that was the basis of his political power and “popularity”:
Western assistance, IMF lending and the targeted division of national assets are what provided Boris Yeltsin the initial wherewithal to purchase his constituency of ex-Komsomol [Communist Youth League] bank chiefs, who were given the freedom and the mechanisms to plunder their own country in tandem with a resurgent and more economically competent criminal class. The new elite learned everything about the confiscation of wealth, but nothing about its creation. Worse yet, this new elite thrives in the conditions of chaos and eschews the very stability for which the United States so fervently hopes knowing full well, as they do, that stability will severely hamper their ability to obtain outrageous profits. Consequently, Yeltsin’s “reform” government was and is doomed to sustain this parasitic political base composed of the banking oligarchy.
Point three: the Western financiers and newly-minted Russian oligarchy were completely ignoring Russian reformers who wanted, not the mercantilist system imposed on Russia by Yeltsin, the IMF, and the West, but a genuinely capitalist system in which the Russian people were given full property rights (recall the 19th century reforms of serfdom under the Tsars, vs the collectivization schemes of the Communists):
Ironically, the nontransferability of the votchina system’s entitlement was the very flaw a shareholding culture and an equities market could have addressed successfully had Lenin’s revolutionary dictum of “Property to the people! Factories to the workers!” been realized. And such a program existed. It was designed by Larisa Piasheva, a free market Russian economist who was appointed by Moscow mayor Gavriil Popov to design and execute a program for the privatization of Moscow’s assets. Ms. Piasheva’s program was a fearless and rapid plunge into the market which would have distributed property widely into Russia’s many eager hands. Further, the program – inspired as it was by the policies of Ludwig Erhard and his adviser, the renowned Austrian economist Wilhem Ropke – did not rely upon Western lending but instead tailored itself to maximize direct Western investment.

When the Administration says it had no choice but to rely upon the bad actors it did select for American largesse, Congress should recall Larisa Piasheva. How different today’s Russia might have been had only the Bush Administration and the many Western advisers from the IMF, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Harvard Institute of International Development then on the ground in Moscow chosen to champion Ms. Piasheva’s vision of a rapid disbursement of property to the people rather than to the “golden children” of the Soviet nomenklatura.

Read the rest of this article at -