Once upon a time the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation helped to maintain a certain focus. America and its European allies were supposedly upholding capitalism and freedom against Soviet Communism. Then the Soviet Union broke apart and we got our hands on the “peace dividend.” Money could be diverted from weapons to social programs. The West was free to pursue its own socialism – leading to bankruptcy.
In 1990 a Soviet dissident named Sergei Grigoryants, who was twice imprisoned by the KGB, gave a speech in which he warned of the deceptive reality behind of the collapse of Communism. According to Grigoryants, “Perestroika was a giant project undertaken by the KGB and the Soviet leadership for over 15 years.” Such a project, undertaken by a totalitarian power, could not result in something good. Real democracy was not a Communist goal. Instead, Grigoryants suggested, Russia would be treated to a new type of totalitarianism.
“They figured that the totalitarian system could perfectly coexist with private enterprise,” Grigoryants noted. “These people are not limited by anything, and they can perfectly coexist with private property.” What we call capitalism is a necessary but insufficient condition for democracy. Capitalism, properly controlled, is not a threat to authoritarian rulers who know how to consolidate their power. “All that is needed for authoritarian rule is the bureaucratic apparatus, army and KGB,” Grigoryants explained. The Communist rulers of Russia, he added, have figured out that a large number of competing political parties are easier to handle than a united opposition. In fact, a system with many political parties “also serves as a decorative ornament” of false democracy. It will help the regime’s daily functioning, “and will be better for absorbing Western technology and wealth.”
Grigoryants also foresaw that conflict within the borders of the former Soviet Union would serve the secret rulers in Moscow. “Baku TV reported the death of two Azerbaijanis,” he said. “For some reason they omitted the fact that Armenians had nothing to do with it. This sufficed to ignite events in Sumgait [see Sumgait pogram] that opened the present round of wars in the Caucasus.” The old imperial game of divide and conquer was at work. Let the Armenians hate the Azerbaijanis, and the Russians hate the Chechens. Ethnic conflict is a good pretext for KGB operations and live fire military exercises.
The new Russian economy, of course, would not be capitalistic according to the Western model. “The CPSU and party elite will never allow an outsider to have serious money or be a big stockholder in any joint venture or publicly held company,” Grigoryants explained. “Wealth and money-power have become a vivid and undoubted prerogative of the same ruling group. The camps and psychiatric prisons are substituted with special operations units and well organized nationalist and hooligan radical elements. Already we have more people murdered in the country than the regime would have imprisoned.” He further added that “power, money and violence are still concentrated in the same hands.”
The great deception was working in 1990, and it has continued to work. “The new authoritarian regime is supported not only by tanks and KGB, but by all of us to a large extent,” Grigoryants lamented. It might be added, as well, that the capitalist world was and is willing to bend over backward to do business with Russia. They will look the other way when the regime shows its real face. And make no mistake; this new regime is more dangerous than the old. “When they give up the bloody methods of the fanatic, they develop new and more dangerous methods,” Grigoryants noted.
When everyone was cheering for the new Russia, when everyone thought democracy would triumph, Grigoryants offered a warning. “The foreign policy of the USSR after Stalin became more dynamic and dangerous and brought humanity to the verge of catastrophe – like the placement of Soviet rockets in Cuba, and worldwide explosions of terrorism and local wars,” he explained. “It is hard to grasp all the elements of the new regime, but its promise of catastrophe is clearly visible.” According to Grigoryants, the “infiltration” of Russians and other Soviet persons into Western Europe would take place on a massive scale. People brought up under the Soviet Union can be dynamic and highly effective. Yet they were raised to have a slave-type psychology. Few had the inner strength or resources to resist the regime. “We had a situation,” he explained, “when every year at least half a million people were released from the prison system. Many were stripped of ethical, moral and cultural norms and standards that are the foundation of European civilization. Now these people are coming to Western Europe. And this is a threat to European culture and civilization because it can destroy the spiritual climate in Europe.”
But the real danger comes with the West’s willingness to go along with Moscow’s lies. “The fantastic success in recent years of the disinformation campaign against the West confirms this,” Grigoryants noted. “One may say that through the whole Soviet period Western public opinion was never, until now, such a prisoner of so many massive and unreal misperceptions.” By 1990 Moscow’s disinformation schemes had managed to unite hawks and doves, Marxists and Christian Democrats. All are prisoners, all are taken in. According to Grigoryants, “The KGB is creating multiple information firms, groups, publishing houses, radio and TV stations and countless enterprises of this nature in the Soviet Union and abroad.” Much of this is paid for with Western money. Grigoryants added, “The KGB is a unique organization in human history, with more projects outside the country than inside. The KGB is the organization that simultaneously completed the perestroika program inside the country, and the disinformation program outside. How the KGB will use [these programs] and what it is planning for the future is a burning question that should trouble all humanity. As a colleague said, we have had brown and red totalitarianism but now we will learn of a new color.”
With the death of the Soviet Union in 1991 Grogoryants’ warning was not heeded. The West ceased to fear Communism. After all, there were no more Communists. Perhaps this “fact” could be explained to the people of Venezuela, Nicaragua, South Africa and the Congo. Communism has continued to swallow countries because resistance to Communism fell away after 1991. It has to be understood that the adoption of a private property system in Russia did not signify the triumph of capitalism. It signified a new kind of danger which involves the subversion of capitalism through capitalism itself. It was the substitution of a new threat for the old.