Eastern Europe: Stalinist bureaucracy and capitalist rapine From Chernobyl to Putin´s toxic landfills

One refers to the successful HBO series about the catastrophe of the nuclear reactor 4 in Ukraine, in 1986. The other, the landfills, refers to the socio-environmental disaster of the Putin´s government. In both cases, the contrast between bureaucrats, capitalists and the working people stand out. Our reflections and a proposal for militant action. 

The series is impressive, because of the expressive force of the narration and its historical rigour. HBO is property of Warner Bros., therefore a key part of the US capitalist media industry. The five chapters of Chernobyl a priori have an objective: to discredit socialism as an obsolete and incompetent system, in decay and tragically utopian. However, the development of the series corroborates another thesis: Chernobyl, its thousands of deaths and dramatic reach, can be explained by the Stalinist bureaucracy. This means that it was not the result of socialism itself, but rather, the consequence of its antagonistic negation, the dictatorship of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The series reveals impressive aspects of the Stalinist model in the former USSR:

  • The arrogant ignorance of the governing elite, the Communist Party.
  • The concealment of all the alarms that honest scientists sounded, personified by professor Legasov.
  • The absurd competition of production capacity, measured in GNP, of the former USSR with the US.
  • The dignity of the working class, its various expressions of solidarity, humanity and personal courage that reduced the mortal impact of the disaster.
  • The complete anarchy of bureaucratic production, without the participation of workers in planning and control, even in extreme situations in which Stalinist verticality was prioritized.

Finally: differing opinions on nuclear energy aside, in the hands of the rotten caste of the CP nuclear power became an atomic bomb against the people. An important final and symptomatic fact. The first furious reactions against the HBO series came from the current Russian CP (logical). What is surprising is that even Putin himself threatened to produce a Russian version of the explosion of the reactor, furious about what he considers a slander against his country and his past, since the Russian president was a KGB agent. The thesis of the Russian government is the inherited repetition of the old nomenclature that blames the CIA for an infiltration that could have provoked everything. Meanwhile, renoun (and persecuted) voices of the Russian Academy of Sciences calculates over 200,000 deaths in Chernobyl, a number equal to the result of the atomic bombs of Hiroshima y Nagasaki.

Russia, a landfill

A combination of economic stagnation, corruption and authoritarianism have been eroding the figure of Putin. His capitalist program includes oppression and inequality in several senses. On one hand, it is Russia against the former republics of the USSR, with which it has asymmetrical rules of subordination when it comes to trade. At the same time, there is tension between Moscow and the periphery, because the capital produces millions of tons of garbage that it deposits in gigantic mountains of trash in bordering regions. The collection and transportation of garbage is a great capitalist business, that is why Putin´s government does not promote separation in origin, recycling or a state service with social control. It multiplies the landfills in Russia and has even offered lands to for European powers to deposit of nuclear waste in. After crossing hostile territories, the project attempts to build a landfill in Shiyes, 30 km north of Moscow. The people of the area, mostly the youth, have built a protest movement against this. They demand a referendum so the people can decide. Moscow rejects it. An public audience was recently held and the residents of Shiyes were not allowed to enter, while they saw buses of unemployed workers led in to guarantee the fraud. The protesters reject the promise of work and other compensations for the people. Putin and his capitalist friends do businesses with the people’s health and violently repress. In 1986 the bureaucrats and the regime of the former USSR caused the disaster of Chernobyl. Now, the authoritarian government of Putin represses the environmental struggle in Shiyes. That is why we must spread the campaign in demand of the closing of this toxic landfill internationally. The International Socialist League, with the MST and the Ecosocialist Network, take on this task of militant solidarity.

Socialism with democracy, sustainable planning

The socio-environmental balance sheet of Stalinism is terrible. However, this does not discredit socialism as a system, but its qualitative distortion, the dictatorship of the bureaucracy. Productive anarchy or bureaucratic planning (which in the end are the same), have a series of privileges as incentives, with economic bonuses for the bosses according to the volume produced: a race of irrational productivism and incompetence. We share the openness Lenin demonstrated in the middle of the revolution and the civil war, to facilitate large-scale experiences in reserves of thousands of square kilometres, in response to the petition of scientists that proposed this as a project. Capitalism causes much more environmental damage than bureaucratic socialism, in this case, through the logic of the private profit.

For all of this, we want to raise the banner of activism that protests against the landfills in Russia and, in particular, in Shiyes. We are going to take this banner to workplaces, universities and neighbourhoods as our own.

On the other hand, we do want to point out some of our environmental policies:

  • Capital works with the logic of profit, therefore destroying and contaminating. These consequences cannot be erased without questioning the current system and its democracy.
  • We question the entire ideological experience of Stalinism. It is not our point of reference, on the contrary.
  • Our proposal is to produce without destroying, with democratic and eco-socialist planning. At the same time, incorporating technology in processing, recycling and recovering.
  • Having the parameter of calculating production without wasting common goods, but according to social needs, and not of the market. So the volume of goods produced would be significantly reduced.
  • Incorporating environmental education at every level of schooling.
  • Democratizing everything, from introducing binding referendums to reducing the privilege salaries of politicians.

In the end: in the short term, we will carry out the campaign against Putin´s toxic landfill while also spreading our anti-capitalist and eco-socialist vision of the relationship between social production and its environmental impact. This is a necessity of the working class, the people and the youth.

Mariano Rosa, coordinator of the Eco-socialist Network