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New Left Review I/198, March-April 1993

Michael Burawoy

The Economic Basis of Russia’s Political Crisis

The struggle between the Russian executive and legislature seems unhinged from the world around and dancing to its own tune. [*] For their comments we would like to thank Peter Fairbrother, Simon Clarke, Lewis Siegelbaum, John Walsh, Erik Wright, George Breslauer and the lively participants of a colloquium at Northwestern University. The Center for German and European Studies, Berkeley, and the Social Science Research Council provided funds for our research. An earlier version appeared in The Harriman Institute Forum, December 1992. Each side accuses the other of betraying democracy and plotting the restoration of totalitarian rule. The population looks on, bored by political brinkmanship as it tries to survive spiralling prices in a shortage economy. When characterized as more than a struggle for power, the stand-off between the President and the Supreme Soviet is presented as a struggle over economic reform, with Yeltsin seeking the rapid advance of a market economy and the legislature cautious or outright hostile. In this Moscow-centric view the state, now as before, appears as a centre of autonomous initiative. However, the state’s autonomy actually reflects its weakness, its remoteness from regional realities and above all its impotence to transform a resilient Soviet economy still dominated by huge powerful conglomerates including, of course, the military-industrial complex.

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Michael Burawoy, Pavel Krotov, ‘The Economic Basis of Russia’s Politicial Crisis’, NLR I/198: £3

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