The Soviet Union fell because its foundation was made of too many lies and one big lie in particular.
Mikhail Gorbachev was one of the most practically ethical political leaders of his time. The hindsight historical view positions him clearly above his American counterpart, Ronald Reagan. But an irony that is sometimes noted (though not often enough) is that this very quality in Gorbachev removed the old bastions and buttresses that kept the system from collapsing outright. Rather than his reformist innovations strengthening the Union, they revealed that the Union was rotten to the core and could not be salvaged. It crumbled, to extend Gorbachev's figure, "like a dry saltine cracker."
Then it didn't take long for the capitalist wolves to begin swarming across the disintegrating scene.
It had taken about 70 years for the rot to build up to this point of no hope. That is not long -- one person's lifetime. Many people born in 1920 in Soviet Russia lived to see the Fall. People are deceived by the density of history into thinking that it moves slowly -- it doesn't. It will pass you by before you have a chance to get a good look at it.
I think the reason Gorbachev was not assassinated was that the people who could have done it knew that it was too late for that to have any meaning. They were already on their way into the new capitalist world.
My wife grew up in the Soviet Union and she was a loyal communist. She sincerely believed in the Union and in 'bratstvo -- Brotherhood. She was a factory director -- a brewing factory. That was quite an achievement for a woman. She was a tough girl. But she sincerely believed in 'bratstvo and to this day she is shocked by how easily many powerful people in the Soviet system turned and scornfully spit on the Hammer and Sickle when the system began to crumble. It became all about personal survival and money. I could write a book on what the Fall did psychologically to people like my wife who suddenly found themselves in a forest swarming with wolves.
She came with me to America divided between high hopes and deep suspicion and resentment. She was driven by a genuine liking for me and a genuine fear of not surviving with a life worth living. She would have preferred to stay in Russia, but it became unfeasible in her case. I could write a book on her reaction to what she called bol'shaya protivoryechniye -- "the great contradiction" of the USA.
What if Mikhail Gorbachev became the new president of the USA? What would he be looking at and what would he do? My wife jokes and says, in English, What would he do? He would commit suicide. But she is making a real point inside her joke which is that there would probably be nothing he could do and if he did do something real it would probably cost him his life. It is a subtle joke from a woman who has seen a lot.
The superstructure of the USA is not really based on the US Constitution, which has been violated so many times and in so many ways, that the Constitution is now like an old harlot in spite of herself. In her virgin maidenhood the Constitution proclaimed the "inalienable rights" of everyone. Now the Constitution is like an old cynic that just laughs at those words. And the Constitution talks in her low gritty voice about how the system is so polluted with "property rights" opposing "inalienable rights" that the dream of her maidenhood is just a dream. The Constitution says, At this point, if someone truly came to my defense and raised me up out the darkness and into the light, my old bones would crumble like a dry saltine cracker.
My wife says the failure of 'bratstvo in the Soviet Union is not different from the failure of Inalienable Rights in the USA. And the consequences will be the same.
When the Soviet Union fell it opened the door for a nameless man, whose paternal grandfather had been a cook in Lenin's house, and then a cook in Stalin's house. This man of a cook came from an obscure background that disappeared in the realms of undocumented poverty. He deftly climbed the dark twisted ladder to the top and became the now famous/infamous world figure called Vladimir Putin. What does this man really stand for? We are now in the process of trying to answer that question. But there is a correlative question that rises. When the walls of America crumble because its foundation is made of too many lies and one big lie in particular, what man or woman will climb the dark twisted ladder to the top? What will he or she really stand for?
If Bernie Sanders is actually what he claims to be (I have openly serious doubts about this) he could very well just be the trigger that starts the crumbling of the rotten American walls as Gorbachev was in the Soviet Union. And then who rises?
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