Former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin dies
#1
MOSCOW - Former President Boris Yeltsin, who engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, died Monday. He was 76. Kremlin spokesman Alexander Smirnov confirmed Yeltsin's death, and Russian news agencies cited Sergei Mironov, head of the presidential administration's medical center, as saying the former president died Monday of heart failure at the Central Clinical Hospital.

Although Yeltsin pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, many of its citizens will remember him mostly for presiding over the country's steep decline.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, summed up the complexity of Yeltsin's legacy in a condolence statement minutes after the death was announced. He referred to Yeltsin as one "on whose shoulders are both great deeds for the country and serious errors," according to the news agency Interfax.

Read the rest here.

When I was in high school I developed an extemporaneous speech on Boris Yeltsin just prior to him taking over leadership of Russia. It wasn't foresight though, Yeltsin was rapidly emerging as the leading power in Russia.
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#2
What I don't get is how the various media are lionizing him... he's darn corrupt, bankrupted his country and enriched his cronies. Ack!

I saw llittle such coverage when Deng Xiaoping died in 1996 (or 95,96,97,98,99)
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"Oh my God! There's an axe in my head!" :worry:

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#3
Coconut Ent Wrote:What I don't get is how the various media are lionizing him... he's darn corrupt, bankrupted his country and enriched his cronies. Ack!

The man was a study in contradictions. He had been a hard-line communist, but then aided and supported Gorbachev, and finally signed the death-warrant on Communism in Russia. He was democratically elected, but created such vast powers under the constitution that Vladimir Putin has now been able to become an autocrat. Yet Yeltsin generally didn't attempt to use those powers. He also ran on a campaign of anti-corruption, but as you have stated, his administration was widely known for its corruption.

Still, the image that most people have of the man is during the failed coup attempt by hard-line communists when he stood ontop of a tank and became a symbol for change to the people. A symbol is a hard thing to destroy, even if the man doesn't live up to the legend he created.
All your base are belong to us.

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#4
Yeltsin grew up and entered public service under Stalin's Soviet Union, yet could conclude that the Soviet Communist system was wrong, a "house of horrors," and doomed.

The decline with which he was associated was already well underway, the legacy of the bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire & its collapse. Gorbachev had hoped to 'have his cake and eat it too' in salvaging the Soviet Union as such with its Communist Party monopoly, by granting the masses more freedoms of speech, association, assembly, and to engage in private business. Yeltsin became his gadfly, constantly challenging Gorbachev's government to carry glasnost to its logical endpoint - democracy, rule of law, and the end of a monopoly political party. When it came to the fateful decision point of whether the USSR would take that last step or turn back into a crumbling hollow Stalinism, Yeltsin and a brave group of followers risked their positions, and perhaps their freedom if not their lives, to publicly oppose any such turning back into dictatorship, but to press on into an experiment in democracy and free enterprise.

(I have to wonder what Americans and Western Europeans of the late 1940's or 1950's would have thought if they were told that the last President of the Soviet Union would have a post-retirement career globetrotting around giving speeches at Western universities?)

Some say he failed insomuch as his successor has been much more authoritarian, but (I am given to understand) the powers wielded by the Russian President are written into the Russian Constitution adopted under Yeltsin. Yeltsin IaG2U simply declined to use the full potential constitutional power of his office where it would infringe on democracy. There's a lesson here, perhaps.

To the extent Yeltsin 'failed,' I don't think he need bear much blame. Considering the condition of the crumbling Soviet empire he inherited, the undertaking was vast beyond imagining, perhaps the greatest political challenge any one chief executive has ever faced short of all-out world war. Furthermore, while the Communists were no longer the monopoly political force, they were still very powerful and controlled a majority of the legislative seats. Much of the more scurrilous and heated criticism aimed at him probably originated with Communists and his other numerous and influential political enemies. Okay, he liked his vodka. That's really unusual among Russian men, isn't it?

He didn't invent the corruption, corruption had permeated the system since at least the days of Lenin. He didn't create the gangsters, they had always been around perhaps since before Ivan the Terrible. He had to try to instill democratic free-enterprise values into a people indoctrinated into rigid top-down totalitarianism. He soldiered on with his vision of a democratic, lawful, prosperous, peaceful Russia until his term as President ended. At that point, he followed the Constitution under which he served and relinquished his office to his successor.

Boris Yeltsin, at times a tragic or even comic figure, but a leader of vision, hope, and courage nonetheless, a flower sprung from the cracks of the broken sterile pavement Lenin and Stalin built, RIP.

An article on Yeltsin's career.
Many Defeats & Many Fruitless Victories Memoirs Gateway
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#5
Alvin Eriol Wrote:Boris Yeltsin, at times a tragic or even comic figure, but a leader of vision, hope, and courage nonetheless, a flower sprung from the cracks of the broken sterile pavement Lenin and Stalin built, RIP.

I like this as much for its poetry as its sentiment.

I wouldn't have lumped Lenin in with Stalin though. What Lenin grew, Stalin poisoned. It's unfortunate that Trotsky wasn't able to battle Stalin more effectively, or manuever Stalin out of politics as Stalin manuevered Trotsky. But that's just hindsight wishful thinking.

What I wanted to add to this is how open Yeltsin was, about the pressures, the depression, the drinking and even the second-thoughts. There were times that Yeltsin feared greatly that his choices would bring nothing but ruin to the Russian people. It's hard now to say what legacy he has left them, or what his legacy is.

Are the Russians better off now than they were under Communism?
All your base are belong to us.

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#6
RobRoy Wrote:I like this as much for its poetry as its sentiment.

I wouldn't have lumped Lenin in with Stalin though. What Lenin grew, Stalin poisoned. It's unfortunate that Trotsky wasn't able to battle Stalin more effectively, or manuever Stalin out of politics as Stalin manuevered Trotsky. But that's just hindsight wishful thinking.

I don't know if I'd agree with that.

Whereas I do not wish to be an apologist for any form of asassination or political violence, many of Trotsky's ideas were and are highly dangerous. His ideas of radically exporting revolution through violence would have cast large parts of the world into enduring turmoil and costs millions of people their lives. Stalin's policy of attempting to sparking revolution through good example, although it also failed, did prevent a lot of bloodshed in the rest of the world.
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#7
Alvin Eriol Wrote:The decline with which he was associated was already well underway, the legacy of the bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire & its collapse. Gorbachev had hoped to 'have his cake and eat it too' in salvaging the Soviet Union as such with its Communist Party monopoly, by granting the masses more freedoms of speech, association, assembly, and to engage in private business. [/URL]


The problem was not political. You can give people economic freedom and even widespread rights of ownership while still salavaging the rigid all-poweful one-party state. China is the prime example of that happening.

The underlying reason is that revolutions and uprisings are not caused by political motives. They are caused by discontentment and poverty. I'm probably wrong here but cannot think of one example of a rich and prosperous nation that ever revolted and overthrew its government.

If the Soviet Union failed, it did so not because it failed to give its people sufficient freedom, but because it failed to stop their slide into poverty and discontentment.
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#8
shadowfax Wrote:I don't know if I'd agree with that.

Whereas I do not wish to be an apologist for any form of asassination or political violence, many of Trotsky's ideas were and are highly dangerous. His ideas of radically exporting revolution through violence would have cast large parts of the world into enduring turmoil and costs millions of people their lives.

Trotsky was certainly no angel, being the Commissar of War, but I don't recall him having a concept of "radically exporting revolution through violence". I'm no Totsky scholar, to be sure. Are you referencing Trotsky's belief in "permanent revolution" or perhaps his belief the in "revolutionary defensism". They certainly had a violent-tinge to them in exporting the revolution, but different from a concept of exporting violence.

Quote:Stalin's policy of attempting to sparking revolution through good example, although it also failed, did prevent a lot of bloodshed in the rest of the world.

Sorry, but while this may have been Stalin's party line, this certainly wasn't what he was doing. His purges, gulags, the Holodomor cost millions of lives. Unless you're Idi Amin, this is hardly a leading "good example".

Outside of the USSR, he and his government provided financial and military support for all kinds of "revolutionaries" including Kim Il Sung in North Korea, Greek communists in their civil war, Finland, and the entire Communist Bloc in Eastern Europe, again, not much of "sparking revolution through good example."
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#9
RobRoy Wrote:Sorry, but while this may have been Stalin's party line, this certainly wasn't what he was doing. His purges, gulags, the Holodomor cost millions of lives. Unless you're Idi Amin, this is hardly a leading "good example".

Outside of the USSR, he and his government provided financial and military support for all kinds of "revolutionaries" including Kim Il Sung in North Korea, Greek communists in their civil war, Finland, and the entire Communist Bloc in Eastern Europe, again, not much of "sparking revolution through good example."

Definitely, I agree. Stalin was good at preaching one thing and doing another. As is so often the case with political leaders, they have to compromise the integrity of their original dogmas and beliefs in view of reality. But had Trotzky come to power we would have been seeing much more of this and on a much larger scale. Although Stalin never missed an opportunity to increase his power and influence when the opportunity arose, he also tried to establish normal relations with other countries. In this he was succesful. Post revolution Russia was basically shunned by the rest of the world and nobody recognised the legitimacy of the government. Stalin basically normalised relations. I think Trotky, with his all-out revolutionary attitude would have made more enemies than Stralin ever did.
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#10
shadowfax Wrote:Definitely, I agree. Stalin was good at preaching one thing and doing another. As is so often the case with political leaders, they have to compromise the integrity of their original dogmas and beliefs in view of reality. But had Trotzky come to power . . . [snip]

Quick question: Are you equating "revolution" with violence? The two concepts were not synonymous to Trotsky's political philosophy.

I think you said it best above, "As is so often the case with political leaders, they have to compromise the integrity of their original dogmas . . ." Right or wrong, Trotsky was a big believer in the masses. Stalin just rode them to power, and then crushed them beneath his heal.

Trotsky wasn't nearly as paranoid, psychopathic, or power-driven as Stalin. Given what we know of the two men, I'd rather have taken Trotsky over Stalin and given points.
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#11
RobRoy Wrote:Quick question: Are you equating "revolution" with violence? The two concepts were not synonymous to Trotsky's political philosophy.

I think you said it best above, "As is so often the case with political leaders, they have to compromise the integrity of their original dogmas . . ." Right or wrong, Trotsky was a big believer in the masses. Stalin just rode them to power, and then crushed them beneath his heal.

Trotsky wasn't nearly as paranoid, psychopathic, or power-driven as Stalin. Given what we know of the two men, I'd rather have taken Trotsky over Stalin and given points.

It's easy to make heroes of men who die young.

My history teacher said that had Hitler been assassinated circa 1933 he'd probably have gone into the history books as a great visionary. I'm not sure that I'd agree 100% with that, certain ideas were there from the beginning that just don't have uch to do with being a great visionary, at least not in a positive sense. But he definitely wouldn't have ended up as the demon that most people now see him as.

It's only when you are in power that you really get blood on your hands.

We can never know what Trotzky would have done. Had the fortunes of Trotzky and Stalin been reversed, maybe people would be saying much the same thing about Stalin that they are now saying about Trotzky.

None of Russia's revolutionaries were saints. None of them had a problem shedding blood if it furthered their aims. Trozky was no different. There wasn't space in the Kremlin for two big leaders so one of them had to go. Stalin decided it wasn't him.

Maybe today we can imagine a bloodless revolution. The fall of Apartheid and Communism are examples that come to mind, or in a broader sense you could include the Civil Rights movement in the USA or Mahatma Ghandi in India. But I doubt that in the day of Trotzky anybody could have foreseen such things. If there were differences of opinion among the communists of the day, they were about when to start and who to attack first and how. I don't think anybody believed they could pull off an all clapping and dancing revolution. There was no historical precedent. If you know that Trotzky fully believed in such a concept then I will happily stand corrected, but it is an aspect of his teachings that I haven't come across.
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#12
shadowfax Wrote:We can never know what Trotzky would have done. Had the fortunes of Trotzky and Stalin been reversed, maybe people would be saying much the same thing about Stalin that they are now saying about Trotzky.

We can know some things. Trotsky wasn't nearly as paranoid or self-delluded as Stalin. Trotsky wasn't nearly as power-hungry as Stalin. Given time, I agree, we can't say what Trotsky might have become, but again, I'd rather have Trotsky, and given points, than Stalin.

Quote:Maybe today we can imagine a bloodless revolution . . . [snip] There was no historical precedent.

Sure there are, but they are exceptions that prove the rule. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 when William of Orange invaded England and took it with almost (there was violence in Scotland and Ireland, but that's hardly new) no violence whatsoever. One-hundred-plus years later, Thoreau (1849) penned his treatise Civil Disobedience which outlined the concepts of personal duty against an abusive state. Then, a little under 100 years later, influenced by Thoreau, the first Satyagraha that you referenced in India occured in 1918, and Gandhi built on that success to its successful conclusion.

So while there weren't many historical precedents at all, they were there. But I would be remiss in stating that the Russian revolution (whether good or bad) would have succeeded without violence. That's simply not true, and Tsarist supporters, as well as Western agitators, simply wouldn't have allowed the Bolsheviks to succeed.

However, this doesn't prove that Trotsky was in favor of exporting violence or violence for its own ends. His concept of "permanent revolution" was a means by which the proletariat carried on continued change in political and social views to affect the industrial and eventually surpass the bourgeosie, whom Trotsky did not believe could carry out their portion of the changes, especially in Russia. It is interesting to note that Trotsky, in opposition to Stalin, believe that a new worker's state could not hold out against the pressures of capitalism on its own, but required other socialist countries, and that those countries would have to change as quickly as Russia appeared to be changing.

It's interesting that Trotsky appears to be correct. The socialist revolution didn't take hold in other countries nearly quickly enough, and not along the same lines, as the Russian socialist revolution, and this left Russia (USSR) pretty much on its own, and eventually it did collapse under the pressures of a "hostile" capitalist world. :bg: Communist China is trying to adapt to capitalism without giving up its socialist roots. If they're successful, they will appear as more capitalistic than communistic, falling in a similar philosophical structure as the USSR already has.

Quote:If you know that Trotzky fully believed in such a concept then I will happily stand corrected, but it is an aspect of his teachings that I haven't come across.

I can't say with certainty that he did. I'm not a Trotsky or socialist/communist scholar. I'm scrapping the bottom of my knowledge even now. I do know, though, that Trotsky's concept of revolution is not synonymous with violence. Revolution meant an overthrow of the current system and placing a new system, based on the Marx/Engel paradigm, and that he felt the revolution had to be a constant thing, or it would stagnate.

If he held the two terms as corollary, then he would have been proposing constant bloodshed, and that doesn't seem likely given his desire to create a better society.
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