Neocons and Oligarchs

John Zmirak–a writer I sincerely respect–poured out this invective onto his adversaries in a speech last year (“Neocons or Vichy Cons?”):

America’s governing elites increasingly rule the American people as if they were an occupying army, dictating its ideology and imposing its raw power on a defeated, prostrate nation.

This maxim curiously reminds me of the rhetoric of the Russian anti-Yeltsin opposition in the 1990s–a mixed bag of crude blood-and-soilers, Communists-cum-nationalists, and sincere patriots. “Yeltsin’s occupation regime,” they would call it, “the rule of the anti-Russian comprador bourgeoisie, of the oligarchs.” Some would specify, “Jewish oligarchs.”

Purified from the animus and prejudice, their bitterness still captured a grain of truth. The oligarchs’ ethnic origin is not particularly important here; the alienation of the nation’s elites from the hoi polloi is. It dates back, not to Brezhnev or Stalin years certainly not to 1917 but to a time buried deep under the ages. However, there were also times in Russian history when upward social movement was possible for millions, but those windows of opportunity did not stay open long.

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