Behind the news: The Clinton-Yeltsin summit in Helsinki
By Gus Hall, People's Weekly World, 29 March 1997
The first thing to note about the recent summit between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton is that this was not a meeting between the top leaders of two different, opposite social systems, capitalism and socialism.
On the contrary, this was a coming together of two advocates of capitalism, two promoters of capitalism in the Russian Federation. And it was most certainly not a meeting between equals. President Clinton went to Finland representing U.S. state-monopoly - Wall Street and Washington - with a big stake in a capitalist Russia.
Clinton went to Helsinki to meet with a supplicant leader, to speed up the transition of Russia from a socialist to a "newly developing capitalist system" and to shore up Yeltsin's credibility within and outside the country.
Clinton went to Helsinki to get assurances and agreements that will make it more attractive for U.S. corporate and banking interests to go in, buy off and plunder what is left of socialist property and resources.
Disarray & chaos
Clinton went to Finland because Washington and wall street are justifiably worried about developments in Russia. in many ways the Russian Federation is falling apart. Anarchy, disarray and even chaos reigns in many areas. Crime, corruption and thievery have taken hold. Taxes are not being paid by many of the 89 regions. and the central government seems incapable of collecting them - or, for that matter, asserting any central authority.
The central government is unable to meet its responsibilities to deliver many basic services and meet payrolls. millions have not been paid for months and are being forced to move in with relatives, to live in abject poverty. unemployment is rampant. As in prerevolutionary times, mass starvation once again threatens. The mass mood is turning into mass despair about the future. and despair is fanning the flames of protest and rebellion.
The country is in great debt, mainly to the international monetary fund, to western capitalist banks. Russia is way over its head in debt and way behind in loan repayments. total bankruptcy is a growing danger.
On the other hand, accumulation of great wealth in a small sector is creating a rapacious, insatiable, growing capitalist class, living in obscene luxury, with a murderous Russian mafia to protect it.
"Investibility" of Russia
So, bottom line, Clinton went to the summit to check out the "investibility" of Russia, to discuss ways to strengthen the development of privatization and accelerate the capitalist path - and to express concern about Yeltsin's ability to check the growing chaos and protest.
The Clinton goal was to secure agreements and promises. and he got them from a compliant Yeltsin, who promised to introduce new laws making it easier and much more lucrative to invest.
In exchange, Clinton promised to push for more U.S. economic aid and perks to entice corporations into Russia.
On NATO expansion
Besides privatization and capitalism, other questions emerged. most importantly NATO's burning desire to expand eastward.
Yeltsin did a lot of posturing against NATO expansion, but face-to-face with "Bill" he "agreed to disagree" and do nothing to prevent it. Countries like Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland will be invited to join NATO, but as second class, junior partners. This would put NATO right on Russia's doorstep.
The NATO promise that it will not station alliance troops or weapons on the new eastern European members' territories should be no comfort to countries that were under siege by NATO for over 50 years. It is not clear how the people and the Communist parties of these countries will respond to such a prospect.
Furthermore, Russia was not offered membership in NATO. Russia was invited to sit in and listen, with no voice or vote.
But Clinton convinced Yeltsin not to object to other eastern European countries joining by offering Russia Washington's support for membership in several elite capitalist clubs like the group of seven major industrial countries (the G-7), the world trade organization and the Paris club, which renegotiates the terms of government-to- government debt.
However, even this gesture rings phony. Clinton said he will support these memberships "only when Russia's economic and legal systems improve." Translation: only when Russia's path to privatization and capitalism are well advanced and irreversible.
After the summit meeting, the head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gennady Zhuganov, made a sharp public accusation that Yeltsin's behavior at the summit was a betrayal of Russian interests. This creates a new problem for the Yeltsin government, especially since Communists are a part of the Russian parliament.
Zhuganov's remarks may also reflect the public sentiment of a people who are suffering severe economic deprivation, denied their socialist economic and social rights, and are now being asked to abandon their national security and national pride to submit to total U.S. military domination, with NATO on their borders.
NATO, yesterday & today
Since the end of World War II and especially all during the Cold War, NATO has been the main imperialist weapon against the socialist world - and the main threat to world peace.
Today, NATO remains the political and military arm of world imperialism, now dominated by the "one superpower" - U.S. imperialism. Today the world is a much more dangerous place without the socialist counterforce and NATO's fingers still on the nuclear button.
Yesterday, NATO was a military alliance against the socialist world and especially the soviet union. today, it remains an obstacle to peace, progress and socialism. Today, NATO seeks to achieve what it could not when the world was protected by the peace-loving counterforce of the USSR and the socialist community of nations.
The current NATO drive is to expand, to establish a new military dominance over Russia and eastern Europe. Using the carrot and the stick, the U.S. enticed Yeltsin into passive compliance with promises of dollars and threats of economic aid cutoffs.
However, the main focus of the summit was on how to make it easier, legally, for U.S. corporations to invest in Russia and how to help the Yeltsin government, with its new "market reformers" in the cabinet, steer a straight, accelerated capitalist path.
We have yet to hear the response of the Russian people to Yeltsin's cave in to Clinton. the sharpness of Zhuganov's statement, however, indicates that perhaps the people will not respond well, that they may even reject Yeltsin's agreements and promises.
The March 25 New York Times report that the 89 regions in Russia have refused to pay taxes or adhere to the laws of the land is a strong indication that the people are sick and tired of no wages or pensions, dilapidated and heatless homes, a health and education system in tatters.
One of the biggest capitalist heists in history is taking place in Russia and the ex-socialist republics. That is why 86,000 in a dozen cities in Ukraine, organized by the Communist Party, were demonstrating in the streets calling for the return to power of the Communist Party.
That is why the 89 regions of the Russian Federation are revolting and refusing to pay taxes or obey Russian laws. Not one region has received the federal money it needs to pay pensions and salaries for essential workers. A one-day national strike on March 27 demanded $10 billion in unpaid wages and pensions.
Millions in the ex-socialist lands are protesting because their constitutional right to a job, their free health and education systems, their socially-owned industries and resources are being sold to the highest bidder by the Yeltsin gang, leaving chaos and devastation in the wake of mass privatization. The fabric of 75 years of a socialist society is being torn asunder.
The Clinton-Yeltsin summit will intensify the struggle. The Yeltsin promise of acceleration of capitalist penetration and plunder also creates new opportunities for struggle.
CPUSA to CPRF congress
On invitation from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, our Party will send a delegate to their coming congress in April. At this congress we will get a much better picture of the struggles taking place in Russia and the republics, as well as have a chance to exchange views with most of the world's Communist and workers' parties.
We will try to describe to the congress the deepening, emergency crisis of capitalism in our country. We will tell the congress about the growing hunger, homelessness, joblessness, poverty, deprivation, misery and racism - the growing divide between rich and poor - that is on the rise in this richest capitalist country in the world, as the class struggle deepens and sharpens.
From our vantage point as the Communist Party in the belly of the U.S. capitalist beast, we will try to convince especially the Communist parties of the ex-socialist countries that the capitalist path is going backwards; that capitalism kills; that it has no future.
Only a return to socialism can bring back the 75 years of socialist progress in providing basic human needs and satisfying human wants. Only by reclaiming their socialist system can they reclaim the rights and benefits of being truly human beings in a socialist society.
-Gus Hall is national chair of the Communist Party USA.
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