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Positive News    H2'ed 5/13/22

Letters from Moscow: Education, Health Care, Unions, and Political Parties Across the Class Divide

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Confederation of Labor in Russia
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What follows is a series of emails from a comrade, HCE. He is a Russian citizen and has lived and worked in Moscow for many years. He is a Marxist-Leninist. The questions we asked him are in bold.

Dear Bruce:

Before I start answering more of your questions, I would like to make a comment on the very complicated situation concerning access to data which affects both my three previous letters and as well as any future letters.

Rocky times in the political economy and computerized and digital world

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia embarked on an extremely complicated process of switching from one political economy to another. This coincided with another drastic change, the computerization, digitization, and data organization of the whole state apparatus. This includes administration, health, education, defense, and industry. This process was difficult. We went through what I would call a "hybrid" stage in the late 1990s and up to the early 2000s.

A large number of the technical, medical, and administrative state employees were new to computers then and there was an urgent need to digitize a huge amount of data. At the same time, state facilities still had to function. The state cadres by the 1990s - 2000 were no spring chickens. They were around 45 years of age and were slower to learn about the computerized, digital world. I remember the problems of the customs. It was a real headache. Older doctors had to learn to use computers and databases, and all this did not come easily. Computers had become a necessity that accompanied a person everywhere. Nevertheless, Russia made a leap forward and covered a lot of ground rapidly in the digital world. This was true especially in programming due to the solid mathematical background offered in schools and universities established during Soviet times.

How much does each social class pay to go to grammar school, high school and college in the public and private sector?

The constitution of the Russian Federation clearly states that preschool, primary, high school or vocational schools are free of charge and compulsory. Higher education is also free of charge, and acceptance is on a competitive basis. Parallel to state sponsored education, there is private education that is available from kindergarten until university. The classes that have the luxury to pay for their children's education are the upper middle-class and the upper-class. Many of the children of the upper-class study abroad in the US and European countries.

In spite of all the advantages and benefits of n facilities and equipment in private schools, their performance is not better than state budget schools. This is because there are still traditions and quality remaining from Soviet times in state budget schools. There is a feature in Russian cultural history that defies elite education. Occasionally from the far regions come working-class nuggets that with their talent and persistence are able to reach the heights of the academic and artistic world.

What about the cost of healthcare for each social class?

The Soviet Union had an immense health care system that included general hospitals, specialized hospitals, hospitals for children and babies, and clinics tied to factories and universities. All this was inherited by Russia. Every Moscow resident is tied to a hospital in his administrative district. There are children's hospitals, too. According to the constitution, everyone has a right to health protection so medical care in state and municipal health care institutions is free of charge. The cost of healthcare if the patient goes to a state-owned hospital will be one and the same for all classes.

The private health care system is much smaller and cannot be compared to the state system. In my opinion, the private system has carved themselves a niche for upper-middle class and upper-class people. This is because there are no queues, accommodations are better, and for your money the doctor is willing to listen to your complaints not for 10 minutes but for 30 minutes. Otherwise, the doctors are the same.

The problems of the state health care system are more organizational than anything else (as mentioned at the beginning of my letter). There were some attempts to make changes according to western management practices. These were failures and much disliked by the majority of the people trying to innovate, digitize the data base, and streamline the administrative apparatus. Instead of having innovation that would serve the healthcare system you have innovation for its own sake. Gradually the system already in place is adjusting.

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Barbara MacLean and Bruce Lerro are co-founders and organizers for Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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