Sarajevo Film Festival 2024

Capitalism: A global system

CAPITALISM / A look back at the homeless children of post-Soviet Russia.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, millions of children have been left without a home in Russia and approximately 30,000 in the city of Moscow. The documentary directed by Andrzej Celinski and Hanna Polak, Dzieci z Leningradzkiego (The Children of Leningradsky), brings us closer to the daily life of those young people who have no other option but to sleep on the street, in metro stations, between the hot water supply pipes or in underground tunnels: young people ignored by the state and the society that surrounds them.

The Children of Leningradsky Hanna Polak, Andrzej Celinski
The Children of Leningradsky, a film by Hanna Polak, Andrzej Celinski

If we go back to the middle of the 20th century, Europe and the Soviet Union were devastated after the Second World War. The former needed the support and help of the United States to grow and develop its economy, but the USSR did it on its own. The union of the Soviet socialist republics led to very rapid industrial and economic growth, and by 1963 Russia had gone from a monarchic system with a backward agricultural economy to a 52-fold increase in its industrial volume 1. But in the early 1970s, Aleksey Kosyguin’s reforms began to decentralise the economy, and the economy began to slow down. Fifteen years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, to put things right, further liberalised the market with the restructuring of perestroika, but it did not work 2.

However, the free market arrived in Russia, and poverty increased. GDP was falling sharply, and organised crime was on the rise, corruption was widespread, many state-owned companies were put up for sale, and poverty was increasing in all the member countries of the USSR 3. As Marvin Harris 4 explains, we are presented with an even uglier picture of the inefficiency of the Soviet infrastructure, and this brings us to the epicentre of the situation. Many impoverished and hopeless families abandoned their children, took them to boarding schools or, on the contrary, it was the children themselves who decided to leave the homes, as many parents were living under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and coexistence was impossible. However, they consider that life on the streets is a better alternative to what they have already experienced, even at home.

The Children of Leningradsky Hanna Polak, Andrzej Celinski
The Children of Leningradsky, a film by Hanna Polak, Andrzej Celinski

These young people are victims of a government that has neglected basic social responsibility and has impoverished them to the point of establishing a society that lets these kinds of problems pass and accepts it by saying, «that’s the way things are» 5. Finally, the police, who are supposed to be government-employed and fulfil a social task, leave these children with no one to confide in. It must be understood, therefore, that the problem stems from a very deep social conscience, a mentality, and a very deep social conscience. Because communism, like capitalism and socialism, is a structure of society. It is not only an economic ideal, but it develops and determines the way of life of a society according to the ideals that each structure defends. And like any social and economic system, it causes patience or disagreement for those who do not adapt or who are not favoured by the systems adopted. In this sense, the way a state and a society treat the youth of its country is a direct reflection of the way the economy is configured and how it affects resources.

Considering questions such as these, it would be necessary to assess whether globalisation and market opening in countries in transition from communism to capitalism has been carried out in the best possible way. The International Monetary Fund has been more concerned with speed than manner, leaving aside very important aspects such as cultural adaptation, issues such as climate change, human rights, and social justice in general. As economist Joseph Stiglitz 6 rightly says, the IMF takes advantage of countries that are facing crises and are forced to accept the fund’s aid with the commitment to follow the advice it gives them. But the problem is not that they follow the IMF’s orders, but that these recommendations, in most cases, are not the most appropriate or go against their benefits.

This suggests that in countries such as Russia, Ethiopia, South Korea, , North Korea, Malawi, Kenya, Japan and China, the IMF has sought to promote market liberalisation with a clear objective: to privatise the large companies in these countries and, directly or indirectly, to globalise the capitalism that we know as neoliberal.

In conclusion, the globalisation of the capitalist economy has benefited the countries that have seized the opportunity, opening new markets for their explorations, welcoming foreign investment and taking charge of their own destiny, recognising the role that the state must play in development, without relying on the notion of a self-regulated market to solve its own problems.

Notes

1. Carlso Taibo: History of the Soviet Union (1917-1991). El deshielo Jrushchoviano, Un nuevo curso economico. Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2010, p.204-206.

2. Carlso Taibo: History of the Soviet Union (1917-1991). El deshielo Jrushchoviano, Un nuevo curso economico. Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2010, p.206.

3. Carlso Taibo: Historia de la Unión soviética (1917-1991). El estancamiento Brezhneviano, Los signos de la crisis: la extensión de los problemas sociales. Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2010, p.245-254.

4. Harris, Marvin [1999]: Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times, California, AltaMira Press, pp. 180-181. 5 Reference to the documentary Dzieci z Leningradzkiego (The Children of Leningrad).

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