Konstantin over at Russian Blog has taken exception to my thoughts on the Gazprom-Ukraine dispute and has provided some interesting counterpoints. I urge readers to check it out.
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Most assume that utopianism had all but vanished from the Soviet landscape by the time Brezhnev’s walking corpse stumbled down the Kremlin halls. After all, socialism was all but ossified in content and form. Brezhnev’s speeches sounded like cobbled together phrases lifted from his past speeches. Still among some among the USSR’s aspiring engineers, utopian innovation still stirred the imagination. Take, for example, Viktor K. Gordeyev’s gas powered boots. One day they would, in his words, “become a device for moving humanity.”
Well they didn’t. And though Gordeyev and his colleagues at Ufa State Aviation Technical University showcased the boots to the Soviet Army, which caused them to be classified as a military secret until 1994, in the epoch of Russian capitalism, they found that there is just no market for gas powered boots. Thus, for the NY Times, Gordeyev’s boots are yet one example of Russia’s “inability to convert that talent into useful — and commercial — merchandise outside of the weapons business.”
But back to the boots. I mean who really cares about social-economic symbolism when you have gas powered boots. How do they work you ask?
A step down compresses air in the shoe as in a typical sneaker, said Mr. Enikeev, who was a designer on the project. But then, a tiny carburetor injects gasoline into the compressed air and a spark plug fires it off. Instead of fastening a seat belt, the institute’s test runner, Marat D. Garipov, an assistant professor of engineering, strapped on shin belts at a recent demonstration. Then he flicked an ignition switch.
Before running down a university corridor, he jumped in place a few times to warm up the engine. Mr. Garipov then ran laps for about 10 minutes, going about 12 miles per hour, with the two-stroke boots emitting small puffs of exhaust.
A test runner once topped out at 21.7 miles per hour, despite the risk of being sent off-balance.
The tanks in the shoes hold a third of a cup of gasoline each and will take the runner three miles; that means the boots get about 70 miles per gallon.
Don’t believe the Times? Just watch the running fool in the video above.
But alas the problem with the boots is not just that they “throw a wearer off balance or cause knees to buckle.” It’s that their two pound weight makes it “more tiring to run with the motorized footwear than without it.” So much for moving humanity.
As Anfis G. Saibakov, a former student who demonstrated the boots at Disney World in 1998 told the Times, “They should work like a Kalashnikov. Reliable in anybody’s hands.”Post Views: 195
Posts are going to be light over the next two weeks as I concentrate on finishing my dissertation chapter on the legacy of the Russian Civil War in the Komsomol. Just thought I make an announcement in case anyone is wondering about the lack of posting.Post Views: 148
A few weeks ago Forbes released its World’s Billionaire List. Most commentators have noted the increase in Chinese, Indian, and Russian presence on the list. This is not surprising. The three countries are some of the most economically robust countries in the world.
serves as the global center of cheap labor. China an increasing center of high tech and service. India the world’s oil and gas supplier. Taken together the three nations provide the pillars of a global economy—labor, communications, and fuel. Russia
It is no wonder then that the global ruling class is reflecting these nations.
Russiahas 53 billionaires (two shy of ), of which 19 are new to the list. Germany Chinahas 20 (41 if you include Hong Kong), 13 of which are new. has 36 with 14 newcomers. Billionaires are growing faster in India Russia, China, and than anywhere else in the world. India
What does this mean for the global ruling class? As James Petras notes in his article “Meet the Global Ruling Class,” this surge in billionaires has come with increasing polarization of the world’s wealth. “The total wealth of this global ruling class,” he writes, “grew 35 per cent year to year topping $3.5 trillion, while income levels for the lower 55 per cent of the world’s 6-billion-strong population declined or stagnated. Put another way, one hundred millionth of the world’s population (1/100,000,000) owns more than over 3 billion people.” I’ll repeat that in case you didn’t get it: One hundred millionth of the world’s population own more than 3 billion people. So much for the rising tide lifting all boats.
Petras also makes some important observations about
’s billionaires. They are young. Most “accumulated” their wealth in their mid-20s. Few are members of the old Communist leaders. Despite Western media assertions about Putin moving against Russia ’s oligarchs, “biographical evidence demonstrates that there is no rupture between the rise of the billionaires under Yeltsin and their consolidation and expansion under Putin.” And lastly, in response to Forbes‘ laughable assertions that these Russian billionaires were “self made,” Petras writes, “Of the top eight Russian billionaire oligarchs, all got their start from strong-arming their rivals, setting up ‘paper banks’ and taking over aluminum, oil, gas, nickel and steel production and the export of bauxite, iron and other minerals. Every sector of the former Communist economy was pillaged by the new billionaires: Construction, telecommunications, chemicals, real estate, agriculture, vodka, foods, land, media, automobiles, airlines etc..” Self-made indeed. Russia
But perhaps most interesting is how
Russiaand Latin Americacompare in this regard. Latin American and Russian elites got their wealth not like Bill Gates, but essentially by seizing state industries privatized in neo-liberal privatization schemes:
In both Latin America and Russia, the billionaires grabbed lucrative state assets under the aegis of orthodox neo-liberal regimes (Salinas-Zedillo regimes in Mexico, Collor-Cardoso in Brazil, Yeltsin in Russia) and consolidated and expanded under the rule of supposedly ‘reformist’ regimes (Putin in Russia, Lula in Brazil and Fox in Mexico). In the rest of Latin America (
Chile, Colombiaand ) the making of the billionaires resulted from the bloody military coups and regimes, which destroyed the socio-political movements and started the privatization process. This process was then even more energetically promoted by the subsequent electoral regimes of the right and ‘center-left’. Argentina
What is repeatedly demonstrated in both
Russiaand Latin Americais that the key factor leading to the quantum leap in wealth from millionaires to billionaires was the vast privatization and subsequent de-nationalization of lucrative public enterprises.
It is no wonder Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said that “property is theft.”Post Views: 161