Genscher, Liberalism and Khodorkovsky

Genscher, Liberalism and Khodorkovsky

Genscher was the old school of liberalism. Social market economy, a balanced vision of market, social justice and civil rights (remember Ralf Dahrendorf!Hirsch, Baum, Hamm-Brücher). His successors, the greedy Yuppie-boy group around Westerwelle, Rössler and Lindner just perceived liberalism as neoliberalism, which made them appear as the new robber barons of casino capitalism. They focused only on the Washington consensus: More and more market, privatization, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of the financial markets (which lead to the financial crisis in 2008). Therefore the FDP was seen by many Germans as radical capitalist ideologues. Genscher was very unhappy about this development. And most liberals around the world had a similar development including the liberal party Yabloko in Russia, discrediting the idea of liberalism and making place for populist, authotarian, illiberal politicans like Putin or Chavez.

Genscher supported Khodorkovsky . The question is: Is  Khodorkovsky a liberal or what did Genscher hope to achieve. I´ve read Khodorkovsky´s book, especially the chapter ” Russia`s Future”. Khodorkovsky openly says that the Russian culture is an obstacle to all development, especially the authotarian traditions and the reliance of the population on autocrats and the state.However,  Khodorkovsky also claims that he is for a strong state and not a liberal.Vice versa he says that Russia at the moment is too dependent on oil, gas and raw materials , but that it would be wrong to build up new traditional industries like cars, chemistry,etc. as they already exist on the world market with China and emerging countries as competitors. From this Russia wouldn´t have anything to gain.Therefore he thinks that Russia must leapfrog the development and built IT- and innovative new industries.

Most people think of  Khodorkovsky as head of oil giant Yukos, another greedy oligarch who ripped off society and Russia and wanted to sell out Russia´s resources to foreign powers and multinational companies in order to enrich himself. However, many people forget that he started his carreer in the IT- and computer technology and realized the backwardness of Russia in this and in other aspects.For Khodorkovsky  it is decisive that there is a liberal awakening in Russia. A spirit of freedom without mindcontroll: creativity and openness to new thoughts and ideas and the rule of law would be the precondition that Russia can develop as a economy and a society towards a modern state.However, his idea just to” leapfrog”the phases of economic development seems to be risky. Not so much risky as impossible, though phases can be shortened. The fact of that: Russia is not developing in the direction Mikhail Khodorkovsky would have liked. Russian culture, as having gone through 73 years of Communism directly from Tsarist backwardness (the 1905 revolution had hardly time to change anything), is an obstacle. Of course it will change, it is changing, but it will take the next generation at least for a democratic and free-market society to evolve. Right now on the political side Russia is going in the opposite direction

An interesting question is if Genscher as main representative of liberalism saw a real chance for a liberal-democratic Russia. The liberals of Yabloko under Jelzin made a neoliberal economic programme, the 100 day big bang privatization designed by the US economist Sachs which was a economic catastropohe, bringing down average Russian life expectency by 10 years and creating oligarchs, but there were no real political reforms towards liberalism. Under these conditions of desperation(also because Jelzin lost the war in Chechenya) it was easy for Putin to seize power. With the exception of Chodorkowsky who also is no real liberal and the Jabloko party there are no real liberal groups or parties or leaders in Russia and they are discredited.

Jabloko which was also financed by Khodorkovsky is also a bunch of hypocrats. They critizise Putin as gatekeeper of the neoliberal privatization of the 1990s which Jabloko at that time activly supported:

http://eng.yabloko.ru/?p=12609

The Russians haven´t forgotten their experience with liberalism which was mainly neoliberal and radical privatization which made a few oligarchs rich and forgot about the rest of the population. Therefore many Russians perceive Khodorkovsky,  Jabloko and other democratic groups not as liberal liberators, but as greedy turbocapitalist neoliberal oligarchs who don´t bring freedom, but chaos.

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