Letter: Russia's real conservative forces

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Sir: 'A black day in Moscow', comments your leading article (15 December) on Boris Yeltsin's setback the previous day. The Independent, I believe, along with most of the British press, is making a serious mistake in its attitude towards recent Russian events. It is not surprising that the country 'yesterday took a dramatic step back from radical free-market reform', as Andrew Higgins described it. For the people are far worse off than previously.

There is little doubt that glasnost was a tremendous advance, providing - as it has done - greater freedom of speech, press and assembly than Russia has known in its history. Perestroika, however, is another story. It has brought the Russians massive unemployment, a 20 per cent drop in production, soaring inflation and the removal of the control of shop prices, transport charges and rents. Even worse lies ahead. It is little wonder they are angry. How would ordinary British people react to such inflictions? We should hardly react to them as 'reforms'.

Western big business is not concerned about establishing democracy in Russia but about changing the country into a fully capitalist state, securing access to her oil and minerals and to cheap labour. Yet opponents of the change are described by our newspapers as conservatives. Bankers in the West are telling the Russian government: adopt capitalism fast or we cut off your trade, withdraw technical advice and refuse all financial aid. But can working people in Britain feel that their system is such a success? It will be doubted by the millions of unemployed, very low paid, homeless, victims of racism, those suffering severe cuts in social services, health service, social security and housing, and, of course, their families.

The Independent carries a photograph of the newly elected prime minister with the caption: 'Mr Chernomyrdin: middle of the road between Communism and capitalism.' And Helen Womack writes that he 'promised to keep working towards a free market but not at the expense of social welfare'. Maybe that's not so terrible after all.

Ms Womack refers to the Congress of People's Deputies as 'the conservative assembly'. Rather it is the so-called radical reformers who are the conservative extremists, as they would be termed by many in Britain.

Yours sincerely,



16 December