By Joe Sims
Guess what folks? Gorby is in town. Read in the paper this morning that he attended a Harvard conference on getting rid of nuclear weapons. And that reminded me that a few days ago I saw that he had visited New Orleans’s 9th ward, and called for a “revolution” if more progress in rebuilding was not achieved by the time of his next visit: strange words coming from someone who almost 20 years ago claimed “the days of storming the Bastille are over.”
Gorbachev apparently called for keeping in place existing treatings on medium range missiles (anybody remember the Cruise, Pershings and SS20s)? Russia, in the face of Bush’s new defense shield, wants to get out of the treaty, and just ditched participation in one dealing with conventional weapons in Europe. Bad move says Mr. Gorbachev, better to stick with exiting frameworks and protocols. One can imagine that 20 years after the fact (and I think yesterday was the anniversary of the medium range treaty) there must be a whole new generation of nuclear weapons, capable of beating the crap out of those old fogy medium range dinosaurs.
But then I’m reminded that no one ever talks about nuclear weapons anymore: unless of course it’s a Muslim country, or an Asian country in which case Bush threatens to nuke em all. But you must admit there is no international anti-nuclear movement, now that the Cold War is over and free marketers control the Russian stockpile (and the other stockpiles in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and elsewhere). And certainly no one is taking the example of South Africa and dismantling their ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
So Gorby is here, hat in hand, to help bring attention to it: a consciousness raising mission, bless his heart. Seemed he stopped by the remains of the Berlin Wall to do a Louis Vittone luggage commercial on the way, prompting the New York Times a few days ago to write an editorial entitled Gorbachev’s Baggage, apt headline, that one. It was interesting: while ceding him the right to make money by selling his image, the Times editors lamented he had to do so, pointing to the complete lack of desire on the part of his fellow Russians to have him in any way involved in politics there. The editors of the Times pondered his journey and what led him along so lonely a road and toward so dismal a future as to prostitute his image to the pimps of high fashion.
Perhaps this is a fitting fate perhaps for a vain and foolish man. But Gorbachev is not repentant, claiming perestroika will go down as a historic event. It’s just that we can’t see it now. Oh, I see. But maybe he has a point, albeit in the wrong way. I wonder some times if the ‘reforms” revealed a deeper problem than some are wont to admit. Looking today at the mixed economy undertaken by China, the thought occurs from an economic standpoint is it really so different than what Gorby and company sought for the USSR? The Chinese at the time said with not a little glee that they were “relieved” by the USSR’s “suicide” the attempt to carry on a political reform in the midst of overturning the old state forms of property. One wonders what would have happened if the opposite had been attempted: keeping the form of property while transforming the political system.
China too will one day face the challenge of grappling with it’s political structure, if for no other reason than the imperatives of the internet and other technologies. But
in any event we’ll never know. What we do know is that trying to build an advanced society in conditions of backwardness is a near impossible undertaking, which laid the foundation for Gorbachev’s betrayal. But it also laid the basis for the inability or unwillingness of the party, trade unions and others to respond. And here may lie what’s inside Gorbachev’s baggage. Opinions?