On Ukraine's "de-oligarchization"
When American institutions are pushing an anti-oligarch/anti-corruption campaign, run for the hills.
I’m working on some longer stuff but I wanted to highlight some really smart analysis of the oligarchic, regional, and centralized government power struggles happening in Ukraine in the background of this shitty war. It’s from Peter Korotaev, who also had a great article in Jacobin a week or so ago about Ukraine’s wartime neoliberalism.
I recommend reading the piece in full. Towards the end, he offers very bleak picture — one that I hadn’t considered. If the current crop of industrial oligarchs are destroyed through, in part, the actual physical destruction of their industrial assets — who will replace them as Ukraine’s ruling elite, and how will this affect the country’s internal and external politics? A good rule of thumb is that things can always get worse, and they usually do.
If Ukraine has no big business left, having deindustrialized under the twin push of ‘anti-corruption’ (which doubles as anti-industrial policy, see my article on this) legislation and trade liberalization with the EU (free trade is generally held up as a panacea to statist corruption), then who is left in charge of the country? Anti-corruption ‘activists’ funded either directly by the West, its NGOs like Transparency International, or by the Ukrainian state budget, which itself survives largely thanks to western aid.
A situation where the anti-corruption organs have total juridical power is one where the ruling political class (and the ‘anti-corruption civil society’ which controls these politicians), clearly has 0 interest in a rapprochement with Russia, since its income depends on saying and doing what the West wants – being anti-Russian. Unlike the oligarchs, it has no industrial assets whose profit might be increased through access to Russian (or separatist-controlled Donbass) markets or raw materials. One ends up with a ‘Lithuanian scenario’, where the government make anti-China, anti-Russia decisions which actively harm domestic business, supposedly in the name of ‘civilizational values’.
…the destruction of the Ukrainian oligarchic class will mean that the most powerful capitalists in Ukraine will be foreign, western capitalists, who also have little interest in overseeing a Ukrainian rapprochement with Russia, since this means competition from Russian business, and possibly the protectionist ideology generally espoused by ‘pro-Russian’ politicians in Ukraine.
The current ‘de-oligarchization’ and the victories of ‘anti-corruption activists’ is hence not really something to celebrate. It signifies the finale in the death of the Soviet industrial complex and the victory of an unproductive political class whose income depends on foreign hand-outs and political decisions which contradict national interests.
Read the rest here of his piece here: Ukrainian 'de-oligarchization and de-corruptionization'
My work is supported by readers like you. Consider becoming a paid subscriber.