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Oligarchs in the clutches of dollargasm

After M. Khodorkovsky was thrown in the hoosegow, patriotic newspapers of both right-wing and left-wing orientations expressed their outrage at the “arbitrariness” of authority. There’s no surprise when an oligarch’s fate is bemoaned by the likes of Chubais, Berezovsky or Nemtsov – after all, the prisoner is one of their clan. However, the reaction of the so-called patriotic Left forces is surprising. For example, the newspaper Zavtra (28-10-2003) published an interview with one Alexei Kondaurov, a Communist Party candidate for the State Duma (who was formerly one of the top executive at YUKOS). This “Communist” asserted that Khodorkovsky is not an oligarch, even though the man’s controlling interest in YUKOS is worth $8 billion, and eight years ago “no one would give even a hundred million dollars for it.” So how did the entrepreneur earn the $8 billion? It turns out that “Khodorkovsky is a workaholic who works 20 hours each day, possesses a colossal amount of knowledge, stunning precision and speed of thinking and action.” This is a Communist speaking. The journalist calmly lets this fake Communist’s balderdash pass instead of explaining to Comrade Kondaurov that no matter how fine the brains, this kind of money cannot be earned – not even if putting in 30 or 50 hours per day (it cannot be earned in principle, not in any amount of time). This kind of Communist is worse than any anti-Communist. Here is another former Communist – Ivan Rybkin, currently either a Socialist or a social-capitalist, a candidate for the Presidency of Russia from the Liberal Russia party that is funded by B. Berezovsky. This is what he has to say about Khodorkovsky: “Gifted people should be working for Russia instead of sitting in jail” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG), 25 December 2003). Now what on Earth gives Mr. Rybkin the idea that the man in question, firstly, is “gifted”, and, secondly, that he works for Russia? This kind of judgment testifies only that either the intellectual level of such leftist-patriots has degraded to zero, or that they are not left-wing at all, but rather certified right-wingers who use leftist phraseology to advance their careers.

It turns out that the ordinary people are outraged, too. They showed on TV a group of “ordinary women” staging a demonstration near the Matrosskaya Tishina prison, brandishing placards that say “Freedom to Khodorkovsky”. However, it makes no sense to speak of ordinary people, since, judging by the elections and in general by the behavior of these folk, there is no longer a people in Russia – instead there is a duped populace called by the foreign word “electorate”. Since it is so full of sympathy for the talented Mr. Khodorkovsky, its destiny is quite fitting to it current impoverished situation.

Mr. Khodorkovsky isn’t the only gifted hard worker. Recently the American magazine Forbes published its annual list of the planet’s richest people for the year 2003; it included 17 Russian billionaires – that is 10 more than in the year before. Apart from Khodorkovsky, one more person from the list is currently in prison: Platon Lebedev. As for Leonid Nevzlin, the failed President of the Russian State University for Humanities, he managed to cheat fate so far and, just in case, left for Israel, the land of his ancestors, to stay out of trouble.

The Forbes list includes the most talented ones, although they should more correctly be called geniuses. The talents are most likely those who only work 15 hours per day – mere millionaires, nothing more. The English newspaper Guardian (18.04.2003) describes one of them – Alexander Khloponin, Governor of Krasnoyarsk region, who used to be the co-chairman of Norilsk Nickel Corporation. The paper writes that in 2002 this talent declared his income to be 1 million pounds per month (that is US$1,75m). Besides, he earned ₤30 million (about $53 million) in share dividends alone. There are quite a few such talents in Russia.

And this is how that same newspaper describes a “talent’s” realization in practice. The city of Norilsk every day blurts 5,000 tones of sulfur dioxides into the sky. Its impact is felt as far away as Norway and Canada; it is killing the taiga and the tundra for hundreds of miles around. The snow is yellow for 30 miles around the city. Practically all the people are sick because of the terrible ecologic situation. Life expectancy for factory workers is 10 years below the Russian average (on this indicator Russia is currently in 91st place in the world). It would take a whole article to describe the hell on Earth that is Norilsk, yet Mr. Khloponin, one of those responsible for the deadly situation in the city, was elected Governor of the region. Such is the consciousness level of the Russian population.

I have no intention of analyzing here the activity of oligarchs in Russia, the ways in which they made their millions and billions. A lot is currently being written on these topics. The brainier citizens realize full well that the oligarchs’ activity is one of reasons why the country is in such deep shit; the fairy tales about working 15-20 hours per day are either for nursery-age children, or for simpletons whose thinking is stuck at nursery-age level. I want to draw your attention here to the manner in which these “hard workers” of the oil and gas fields spend their “earnings”.

One NG correspondent in London described with delight how rich Russians “enjoy the good life” in the British capital where “the families and capitals of Russian moguls” started converging in recent years. Here are some tales from her report (28 November 2003). Firstly, the Russian rich have no difficulties in putting their children in prestigious English schools where annual tuition is only ₤18,000. (I want to add that apart from the oligarchs’ children, also “enjoying the good life” over there are the offspring of the State Duma nobility who were put in their seats by the populace-electorate.) To them, that kind of money is nothing. Secondly, it turns out that Russians are much fond of hunting. Since in Russia there is evidently no place for hunting, they travel to special places in England, paying ₤1,500 per day for each rifle. Thirdly, the Russians have surpassed the Arab billionaires in the business of buying residences. Among foreign investors in the London real estate market, the Russian “hard workers” - those gifted guys - already amount to one third. They buy homes in the most prestigious districts of London. A co-owner of an interior decoration firm reports: “They buy solidly. You should understand that apart from Mr. Abramovich, there are quite a few little-known people whose fortunes exceed your boldest guesses. Twice already this year I showed ₤15 million apartments, only to hear later that the client is buying the whole building.” This means that in Russia there are quite a few so-to-say “under the radar” billionaires who conceal their billions skillfully from tax inspectors.

Another lady, one who owns several stores in London, reports: “They love to spend money. My Russian customers see nothing unusual about paying several thousand pounds for just one thing. Those are trifles compared to their fortunes.” The biggest diamond sold recently also ended up in the hands of a Russian genius.

One more statistic for you: there are 250,000 Russians currently residing in London; 700 of them are multimillionaires. Who are they? It turns out that most of them are connected to oil, gas, Siberian lumber or minerals. Raw materials providers, so to say.

And this is how they vacation in the Alps. Vika Sarykina, own correspondent of the Moskovsky Komsomoletz (MK) newspaper, describes (in the issue of 2 December 2003) the arrival of Russians at the Alpine ski resorts – with a delight no lesser than that of the previous correspondent. She writes: ‘The main clients at resorts of the type of Courchevelle or Mejeve are owners and managers of oil, gas and aluminum companies. All these years they stay loyal to deluxe hotels such as “l’Annapurna”, “Carlina” or “Kilimandjaro”, where a week’s stay costs 10 000 euros." This is only part of their expenditures. Rough calculations show that a New Russian family spends on average almost 150,000 euros on a two-week vacation in the Northern Alps (there is no average figure, really, but the range appears to be between 500 and 20,000 euros per person per day).

This season, almost 20,000 Russians reserved places for December and January. January in Courchevelle is particularly important, because one of the oligarchs celebrates his birthday there at that time. All those whose “earnings” depend on personal contacts with the man gather to pay their respects.

I do believe that this stratum of living creatures (I’m not giving the terminological classification as yet) don’t make their payments abroad in shares. Comrade Kondaurov bullshits readers when he says that the oligarchs’ savings are in the form of stock shares. You can’t make payments shares. The answer is so simple it’s primitive: these laborers of the mineral fields constantly cash in their shares through transferring abroad the capital they stole in Russia.

Here are some data taken from NG (24 November 2003). The net outflow of capital from Russia in 2003 was $14.6 billion – that is $5.4 billion more than in the previous year. Over the last ten years, the net outflow of capital – the amount by which outflow exceeded inflow – totaled over $150 billion. So are the “talented” people really working for Russia? Or are they working for the West, where they squander their millions? Take the workaholic Abramovich, who shelled out $500 million for the soccer club Chelsea. Isn’t this withdrawal of capital from Russia? The money spent on carousing and on million-dollar homes is not earned by working – these funds are snatched away from the electorate (pardon the swear word). People part with money lightly only when they come by it lightly. It this connection, let me make a small twist of subject, albeit the topic stays the same. I want to talk about the special stratum of “female hard workers” who accompany the oligarchs and New Russians.

Among this mass of vacationers, one cannot help noticing the multitudes of beautiful young women: for the most part these are mistresses of the oligarchs and semi-oligarchs. Their wives are also gorgeous, since both the wives and the mistresses come more often than not from the modeling business. (The modeling business is an “artistic” form of pimping and prostitution disguised as photography-and-fashion business. It is a “trip to the short streetwalk”, where the “ladies” justify this art.) This special stratum of ladies “pleasant in all respects” has been proliferating lately with amazing speed. They are in demand, and therefore “supply” doesn’t keep waiting. After all, it is a law of sorts. The lasses come for the most part from the boondocks; this is where the pimps find them, offering foreign tours and the glamorous life. These women direct wonders of improbable energy at the attainment of one goal: to capture to a rich “sugar daddy” in Moscow. Many succeed. It is these provincial bipeds who are the beneficiaries of the Russian economy, on which the state reports so chirpily. It is they who are bedecked with diamonds, they who are considered “the fair face of Russia”. It is they who serve as company on the trips abroad to the resorts mentioned above. The wealth of Russia is spent on “the fair face of Russia”. Think about it! However, the status of a mistress who can be bought off with candies and gifts doesn’t satisfy some of them. They resort to blackmail, show wonders of skill in setting all kinds of traps, which the “hard workers” seek to escape by marrying these viruses. (This latter here is not a swear word, but rather their exact classification in the biological table of ranks.) Viruses are creatures that have no life of their own. They need a “body” to devour and exist at its expense. The idea is to receive everything without producing anything. As a result, many sponsors divorce their non-model wives and marry these bipeds. It decides nothing, of course, in this kind of marriages. Life goes on! Before long, the hydra becomes a “centipede”. All these multipeds are friends with each other, despite having one source in common that provides for their needs. Their strategic objectives are to extract their relatives from the boondocks, provide them with apartments in Moscow and other goodies, and then apply every effort to bring about emigration from Russia (this is up to the “sugar daddy’s” devices). They cannot be called people – it would be incorrect, since their goals are determined by instincts on the development level of viruses and bacteria. They exist at the expense of the organism they penetrated; it enables them to flourish. In this kind of marriages, they are not interested in having children, starting a family. These things cannot interest them in principle; for them it is merely the process of procreation, vegetation, so to say. These organisms pursue the purely biological goal of survival. It cannot even be defined from the perspective of human notions of good or bad. After all, we do not condemn a lion for being a lion; it’s the same with this infection. Its emergence is a regularity, since it is a product of today’s society. Even if these viruses do give birth to young such as themselves (translated in the language of morals, this is a form of hold or blackmail), they themselves do not nourish or raise the children. Different goals are pursued here, different motive forces are at work. All instincts of these bacteria-ladies are directed toward a life of luxury, which they associate with expensive purchases, with entertainment at resorts in those same Alps. Their intellect doesn’t bear talking about: compared to them, infusoria are “academicians”. Thus, the sponsor himself falls under the control of the whole provincial infusorian family. If he is not a multimillionaire, he goes broke; if he is very rich, he pays them off with a million bucks or two and bails out through divorce. I’m not inventing all this; this phenomenon has been described in the Russian press. One article in MK was titled simply The Family Dupe Game.

I touched on this object merely in order to show that within the top stratum of Russia’s capitalist class there has formed a whole stratum of genuine parasites and viruses who suck their juices (for clarification of terms, see the biological glossary).

Let us return, however, to the talented hard workers of the oil-gas-timber fields – the oligarchs and semi-oligarchs. The question should arise naturally: are they as primitive as their girlfriends? The fact is, these hard workers are quite conforming to their women in their level of sophistication. Many have become convinced for some reason that the rich class is very intelligent. Their logic follows the silly saying: if you’re so clever, how come you’re not rich? And if you’re rich, then you are clever by definition. Such notions are caused in burghers’ heads by a misunderstanding of the word “intelligence”. From the scientific perspective, intelligence is such a state of activity of the human brain that is capable of consciously counteracting entropy growth. In plain language, this means that the function of intelligence is turning chaotic systems into ordered systems. This is possible when one learns the laws of the three worlds (inorganic, organic and social). Simpler still: an intelligent person is one who cognizes and discovers the laws of the world. There aren’t many of these; in any society they amount to about 0.003% of the total population. The majority of the population are laborers who invent nothing and discover nothing, but they reproduce the human race, which develops following the laws discovered by the intelligent part of the population. However, in society as well as in nature there is a stratum of parasites; these outnumber the intelligent stratum by far. This stratum has the property of living off the mass of laborers. This stratum always forms objectively, on the strength of the laws of social development. It initially emerges under chance circumstances in the form of ruling classes. It suffices to recall the history of the ruling class emergence in the slave-owning society: it was mainly comprised of chieftains and shamans. In all societies – slave-owning, feudal, capitalist – people found themselves in this class by chance and went on to solidify this chance development through social laws. All these things are described in detail in classical literature.

Let us now return to our oligarchs. The counterrevolution in Russia, i.e. the country’s transition to the capitalist road of development, naturally gave birth to this stratum in a very short time. (One has to admit, though, that it existed already in embryonic form during the so-called socialist period under Brezhnev.) The policies of Gaidar (devaluation of the currency) and Chubais (privatization) created the conditions for instant enrichment of a whole stratum of people. Neither intelligence or education was required; all it took was being in the right place at the right time, in order to receive all sorts of privileges (for example, for exporting goods or for starting banks), or to acquire title to social enterprises for a song.

Thus were the raw-materials oligarchs created. They were later joined by youngsters who received education – in business and economics, for the most part – in the West. Most of these people took to mastering the art of banking. Even in the USA any university graduate who goes to work for a bank is given a starting salary three times that of any professor. In Russia, such a graduate normally “earns” 30 times more than a professor, ruining his health in order to bedeck his class-like girlfriend with diamonds. I repeat: no intelligence is required here; it has nothing to do with intelligence. It is business – a trade, a skill, based on the principle “buy low, sell high”. This, then, is how the “talented” oligarchs sell stuff and sell themselves, turning Russia into a third-rank, fleeced and downtrodden country. 

One British newspaper described a curious incident that took place in America. One Jamie Johnson, a billionaire’s son, videotaped several get-togethers of his buddies, also offspring of billionaires. When he had a feature-length tape, he showed it on some TV channel. Thus did the American public get to hear by chance what the children of billionaires (of whom many are in business for themselves) talk and think about. The public was shocked by the primitive level of their thinking. A scandal ensued (see The Independent, Sunday issue, 16 November 2003). It is approximately the same level which I described in connection with the New Russians.

There is nothing surprising about it. Through the strength of certain circumstances, I got to socialize with some rich people. The New Russians, or oligarchs, are, as a rule, people of very limited intelligence. They know nothing of any world problems, any social or scientific problems, because they are simply not interested. I’m not talking about exceptions that always exist; I speak of the trend. But should the conversation touch on drinks, resorts, girls, they come very much alive and fully interested in the topic. In this area, their interests coincide entirely with those of their girlfriends.

However, they all really do possess one very important quality: the desire for riches. In order to fulfill this desire, another, no less important quality, is needed: complete absence of any morals whatsoever. Conscience, fairness, honor are notions that have nothing to do with business. This is a classical truth; I’m not discovering any Americas here. Conscience and wealth are ontologically incompatible; they are different forms of being. This applies to the “hard workers” in any country, not just Russia. One cannot be buying a bottle of wine for $1,000 or 40,000 euros (I saw the price myself on a menu in Nice) while preserving one’s conscience. One cannot be building palaces on the Rublevo Highway near Moscow while proclaiming, like Khodorkovsky does, that “I will be giving all of my strength to my country – Russia.” One cannot maintain a pack of mistress-prostitutes while repeating that you are creating jobs.

Actually, many of these rich folks don’t even really pretend to be moral. It is too evident to everyone that they are always at each other’s throats, always willing to mutually annihilate each other for the sake of luxurious life. Parasites have their internal struggles, too.

The Academician Primakov recently offered a definition of an oligarch: “it is one who stuffs his pocket through various machinations, including cheating on taxes; one who is capable of tripping up his nearest partner, not to mention violating the rights of smaller proprietors; one who seeks to crudely get his way in politics, corrupts political parties and state officials; it is the big-time capitalist who is indifferent to the country’s real needs.” This definition is journalistic, of course, but apparently understandable to the simple folk. What the Academician did was scold them superficially, following common sense. The oligarchs are bad; there you have it. However, his own desire to stay in politics under all regimes; his failure to find ways to deliver the suffering Russian organism, despite having served in all the high posts where he could combat evil – all that is not much different in meaning.

Back in his time, Lenin in his classic publicist essay Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism gave an extended analysis of state-monopolistic capitalism, singling out parasitism as one of its principal traits. Lenin’s name has now become negative-infamous. Without being acquainted with the outstanding works of the country’s great son, prominent figures of all times, of all bureaucratic chairs are dragging the country into destruction, profaning in their forecasts. Was even one forecast by the Academician proven accurate? Where were the country’s real needs researched, and the ways found? In parties?

In one of my works (Russia in a Strategic Trap, 1997), I described many similarities between the capitalism pre-1917 and today’s capitalism in Russia. In that book I did not emphasize the parasitic character of contemporary capitalism, perhaps because that parasitism was not so clearly manifested back then. By now, it has become obvious, and its degree (if indeed parasitism can be defined in degrees) surpasses the Tsarist period. The difference is this: back then, the parasites who were robbing their country’s populace invested their capitals in the Russian economy. The current ones take their capitals out of Russia, as I mentioned already. Even those enterprises that are left they try to hand over to foreigners; for example, that same YUKOS is now headed by one Mr. Kukis. Who owns the corporations Sibneft’ and Russian Aluminum? Roman Abramovich. Whose companies are they? If this guy transfers $500 million abroad to buy an English football club, then who do these companies really serve? A trend has become manifest: the oligarchs are trying to sell their companies’ shares to Western corporations. It is perfectly clear why they are doing this. It is one of the methods used to transfer money through foreigners to the pockets of those same oligarchs (their children, their relatives) who are about to become settled, or will become settled, in the West, so that over here in London, in the Library Bar of Lainsborough Hotel, they can in the heat of dollargasm sip a class of Napoleon cognac priced at ₤1,000.

By the way, I don’t blame them for it. I don’t blame them for being stupid, for lacking morals, for behaving the way they do: robbing the populace, accumulating billions. How can one blame the law of the jungle when in the jungle? Blame a tiger or lion for tearing apart a poor antelope, blame vultures and jackals for eating carrion? It is their natural essence; they cannot be different. Parasitism is their social nature.

However, it is known from biology that if viruses are not destroyed, they destroy the host organisms. In the organic world, a mechanism of natural selection exists: the most fit ones survive. In the social world, various vaccines are invented to combat biological viruses. But what is to be done about social viruses? If they are not destroyed in a timely fashion, they multiply in unlimited quantities and are thus capable of destroying any body-state. The parasitic class destroyed the Roman Empire in its time (and many other empires before that). When civilized methods don’t help, one more invention of human society comes to the rescue: revolution. It is a natural barrier of sorts against the spreading of social parasites. Empires and states disappeared precisely in those places where a revolution failed to come about for some reason. Wherever revolutions did take place, states survived and continued to develop. Cromwell in his time destroyed the parasite King and his host. The French revolutionaries were not too late to kill an ever greater number of parasites with the guillotine. The American revolutionaries destroyed the British parasites. The Russian Bolsheviks also succeeded in destroying a whole class of parasites, and in consequence the country not only preserved its sovereignty, but became the number two power in the world. Stalin and Mao Zedong conducted regular purges for a reason: they cleaned out the parasites from their ranks. As soon as the process came to an end in Russia, the parasites proliferated and even managed to seize power.

I cannot judge which degree of parasitism has been reached by today’s Russia. However, I do know that revolutionaries are social cleansers of the environment, fighters against parasites. It is up to the Russian fighters to decide whether it is time to cleanse the society of parasites, or it is too early. The main thing is too make sure that it is not too late.

 Oleg Arin