Almost exactly 60 years prior to our recent election, the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, had a few thoughts and words for ambassadors from the West. The date was Nov. 18, 1956, barely 10 years after the end of World War II, before the Berlin Wall was erected, but at the time when the figurative Iron Curtain was descending to divide East from West. Khrushchev informed the diplomats that history was on the side of Communist states, that capitalism would fall, and “we will bury you.”
The correct translation of those four words has been debated. Even their least offensive meaning could be “we will attend your [capitalism’s] funeral.” In 1963, in then-Yugoslavia, Khrushchev explained to the capitalistic West, and the United States in particular, “Your own working class will bury you,” in reference to Marxist thinking that the bourgeoisie produces its own gravediggers or undertakers. Khrushchev was semi-prescient: in the recent election, the working class did usher in a change, just not the change he envisioned.
Khrushchev certainly could not have anticipated the Soviet Empire would last only a generation and Mother Russia would devolve into an elitist oligarchy run by plutocrats, the chief among them the head of the Russian state. And likewise he could not have anticipated the American working class would joyfully hand over the national government to American plutocrats, the very group most antithetical to working class concerns.
And now we know the current embodiment of the Russian state inserted itself in our recent election and quite possibly actually impacted the outcome. I dare say most Americans and probably a high percentage of the new president’s supporters could care less about any Russian intervention, any compromising of the election process. The end justifies the means after all. And exactly what is that end?
For the most part Americans’ knowledge and sense of national history is pretty short, generally going back hardly more than a generation. Our own national character is juvenile despite our power and influence. Russia by comparison is a very old, mature country, with a long history of being both isolated and imperialistic, and it has never been democratic, not even today. The free flow of ideas does not occur. Opposition has always been ruthlessly put down inside and outside the national boundaries, whether the government was monarchist, communist, or oligarchic as it is now.
The democratic experiment America embarked on more than 200 years ago has over time extended and become more inclusive, often begrudgingly so. But in recent years we have seen a roll back of rights and opportunities for average citizens, the backbone of the country. At the same time we have seen huge advances in plutocratic wealth acquisition, power, and governmental influence. Now, quite unexpectedly, an oligarch with Russian strings attached is living in the White House. Khrushchev would be so proud.
Ellison Bay, Wis.