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The boar in history, or how the USSR was dissolved

The boar in history, or how the USSR was dissolved
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Do you remember the USSR, the immense empire that to the minds of most people represented the model of «really existing socialism», a characterisation that was as incomprehensible as it was presumptuous, and that to the amazement of the entire world dissolved in the course of a few days during December 1991 much like snow on a hot tin roof? Well, today, finally, we know how it actually happened. To tell it to the special envoy of the rather scandalous Italian daily «La Repubblica» of December 7, 1996 was the ex-President of Belarus, Stanislav Shuskevich, to whom we are eternally grateful.

You must know, therefore, that between the 7 and 8 of December of that dank, dismal and lugubrious year, a number of good comrades amongst whom were Shuskevich, Boris Yeltsin, and Leonid Kravchuk president of Ukraine, gathered in a dacha of the splendid Belozhevskaya Pusha forest, and in the stillness of the Belorussian woods replayed a sort of Monopoly/Congress of Berlin in reverse: «You take that and I'll take this».

Jo hear it being recalled by Shuskevich, they must have been two unforgettable days. Amidst snow and woods, the good comrades, toasted and upped a shot of cognac every time they settled a «particularly difficult juridical point» during which he, Shuskevich, with the intent of being true to spades (One must always be cognisant of the verdict of history!) kept himself scrupulously in line - Read on! Read on! - «with the instructions approved by the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1966 governing the conduct of Soviet leaders abroad: thus, I remained completely abstemious.» Then, in the evening, they all joined in the sauna, before passing to the expert hands of a squadron of masseurs who had been flown in specially by the Belorus Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich. (Or were they masseuses? We will have to consult «the instructions of 1966...») Finally, at the end of the ordeal, they all went hunting in the forest adjoining the dacha. Except for Yeltsin. Perhaps he preferred to remain with the cognac... Pardon us! With the Monopoly. They returned with a magnificent boar that when prepared and cooked in all its splendour capped the dissolution of the USSR.

At that point, all that remained for the good comrades to do was to rush to the telephones and inform Bush and Gorbachev. With the latter there were problems: it seems that his line was always busy. Now, who the devil would call Mikhail at that hour of the night?

That's it.

Some simpletons had imagined a veritable earthquake - at least, so the papers and TV had led to believe, although, as we know, they always «stretch it» - given that they were moving back from «really existing socialism» to capitalism. Instead, no. All it took was a dacha, a forest, snow, cognac, a sauna, masseurs (or were they masseuses?), and finally a magnificent boar shot in the surrounding forest.

With all respect to the boar, we who do not believe that it had a particular vital role in history. We have always thought something else. Unfortunately, we are somewhat schematic dreamers and utopians.

For example, we always believed that the movement toward socialism in the USSR was derailed in the middle 1920s, when the socialist revolution in Western Europe, the only force able to rescue the USSR from its economic backwardness, failed to materialise leaving separated the two halves of socialism - the political half with the Soviet dictatorship of the proletariat and the economic half with the advanced economic development of the West - and then Stalin theorised «the building of socialism in one country».

And we always thought, we the somewhat schematic dreamers and utopians, that failure led to the counterrevolutionary blood bath of the 1930s in which Stalinism destroyed every trace of the Bolshevik old guard and some millions of proletarians and peasants, at the same time intensifying capitalistic accumulation under the aegis of state control.

It's a way of thinking, ours, that is found in many minutely detailed studies from the 1950s. To cite a few titles: «Economic and Social Structure of Today's Russia», «Russia and Revolution in Marxist Theory», «Dialogue with Stalin», and «Dialogue with the Dead». But those were the times when we were accused by the «left-wing intelligentsia» of being on the CIA payroll.

There's more. In more recent years, we the somewhat schematic dreamers and utopians analysed in other texts, «The Myth of «Socialist Planning» in Russia» (1976) and «The World Crisis Penetrates Russia» (1977), how internal economic pressures were forcing the whole structure of state capitalism existing in the USSR to change seeking to free it from state direction and controls once needed and now turned obstacles, as well as from pressures arising out of the external world crisis that had filtered into the East through the Iron Curtain.

But we know that these things are abstruse, bothersome, and difficult to understand.

It is easier to believe that one can pass from one mode of production to another using a dacha, cognac, a sauna, and playing a game.

How much easier to believe history-as-a-joke and the role of the boar in it.

Gentlemen, gospoda, dinner is served!

Source: »Internationalist Papers«, n. 6, may 1997

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