Dmitry Oreshkin: "If the security forces could find something, Chubais would have been in Siberia for a long time"

Dmitry Oreshkin: "If the security forces could find something, Chubais would have been in Siberia for a long time"

4 December 2020, 17:20
The attitude towards Anatoly Chubais in Russian society is ambiguous. It evokes hatred both on the part of people who want to return to the Soviet Union, and on the part of liberals who want us to have it like in Germany. Why was only the privatization carried out by Chubais possible, says Dmitry Oreshkin.

- Chubais in Russia will always be associated with vouchers. How, in your opinion, did the privatization go in the 90s?

- Anatoly Chubais is the most important pragmatist of Russian democracy. Naturally, his opponents will say that he is the main cynic. His merit to the fatherland is three things: the revival of private property, the revival of the market economy, which is associated with private property, and currency conversion, the transition to a normal monetary system. All this was monstrously difficult to do. Resisted this and Gorbachev, and even more so Ligachev, and Zyuganov. Although now Zyuganov does not object to the market economy, he does object to Chubais.

He proceeded from a pragmatic situation. For the sake of these three parameters, he had to overcome the resistance of the party and power nomenclature of the Soviet Union. There were two options for action: either to suppress this resistance, as Comrade Stalin would have acted, or to co-opt them, buy them, motivate them. Chubais chose the second path. A direct consequence of this was an intermediate model, when there is a nomenclature, this nomenclature is technologically interested in capitalism, but state, corruption, because the Kremlin, the basis of the vertical, is buying up the loyalty of the regions, primarily the regional elites. It is bought up at the expense of corruption rent. By the way, Chubais did not hide this. It's just that no one wants to remember it. He said that it was necessary to preserve these nomenklatura characters, but explain to them that it would be more profitable and better for them to operate in a market economy. Because before the situation was quite sad, when the "red directors" paid for their private interests at the expense of the state budget, and pocketed the profits through cooperatives, which proliferated under large state structures, through offices in cash. The task was to make these people real owners. Some of these people could become the owner, some could not. This was necessary in order to translate the problem into a competitive market environment. And this plan worked. Groceries appeared in stores, normal money appeared, which made sense to earn, in contrast to Soviet "wooden" rubles, for which there was nothing to buy, so-called "non-cash rubles" disappeared, for which a huge number of offices received their margin. A new economic model has emerged called state, or nomenclature capitalism. I call it “burbiz” to myself - the union of bureaucracy with business. Business kicks back bureaucrats, bureaucrats allow this business to protect itself from competition and eliminate unnecessary competitors. This model is absolutely suboptimal, but much more effective than the Soviet model, because these “bureaucrats” have an interest in producing what is in effective demand of the population. And the population is in effective demand for food, clothing, housing. And it all appeared.

But they didn't say thank you.

“But no one will ever say“ thanks ”to Chubais for this. On the contrary, he will be accused that this system is corrupt, vertical, the system of state capitalism, monopoly, and so on. Which is perfectly fair. The way it is. Chubais proceeded from the fact (and this was his mistake) that the country was organized rationally. That is, realizing that the market economy is working, the country will move on this path further, strengthen market institutions that protect competition and the legal framework. Instead, it turned out that a much more competitive model - "bureauz", provides the minimum risk for the nomenklatura, which means that they practically do not invest their money, investing their political influence. As Mr. Simon Kordonsky once said, we are talking about converting administrative currency into real money. The problem was solved. Now everything is determined by money. Yes, bribery, but corruption. I do not see a single post-Soviet or post-communist state where there would be no problem of corruption. Starting from Hungary, ending with Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Because people in power have understood that they need money. Now they are interested not only in the benevolence of the first person, but also in producing goods that people buy. As a result, we have mobile phones, compared to the Soviet Union, the number of square meters of housing per capita has increased threefold - from 7 square meters to 25 square meters. Housing is being built because it is commercially viable. Computers and cars, clothes and food in stores appeared because it was commercially viable. The built system is absolutely uncompetitive compared to Western countries, and this is the main complaint against Chubais now, but it is much more effective than the Soviet one. Chubais took a step that was deliberately unpopular, deliberately half-hearted, but what was the alternative? How could he otherwise introduce private property in a country where the private interest of the nomenklatura for three generations was to control everything, not let anyone go anywhere, and to produce weapons instead of consumer goods? The economy now mainly produces consumer goods. It also produces weapons, but not on the limitless scale that was characteristic of the USSR economy.

We are now facing a fork on a different level - to move from state capitalism to normal, competitive, market-based, liberal capitalism. When the Yabloko people criticize Chubais, they say that we must have an open, liberal market economy. But what will you do with the several million beneficiaries of the nomenclature system? If their interests are not taken into account, they will put a spoke in your wheels. Chubais is a transmission link, a man who was able to sacrifice his name in order to create this hybrid transitional semi-capitalism - semi-socialism without terror and repression against the leadership. It seems to me that this is a very great merit, which no one will ever appreciate and will not say "thank you", because it is much easier to say that they are thieves, swindlers and bribes. This is all true, but we must bear in mind that such ideological opponents of Chubais as Comrade Luzhkov, who fought against Chubais, branded him, said that we passed the Chubais station a long time ago, in fact turned out to be much more corrupt. The wife of an outstanding patriot, sovereign and "anti-chubaisyatnik" Yuri Mikhailovich Luzhkov earned 5 billion dollars, because her husband was the boss, who allocated land for building to INTECO firm. He was the embodiment of Chubais state capitalism. Luzhkov watered Chubais with all his guns, but the difference is that Chubais is a millionaire and Luzhkov is a billionaire. The volume of his fortune is 1000 times higher than that earned by Chubais. At the same time, Luzhkov told the people how disgusting Chubais was, being the beneficiary of the system he created. This is approximately how the entire Putin vertical is acting now. They are happy to feed on the vertical of this bureaucracy and tell people what a bastard Chubais is. He is like an intelligent person, he understands this, but he knows that fundamental goals have been achieved. And now Russia has a choice: to further strengthen nomenklatura capitalism or to fight for liberal capitalism of the European and American model, where there is protection of competition, democracy, fair elections and independent courts. You cannot jump over the stage of corrupt nomenklatura capitalism. It's impossible. Chubais evokes hatred both from people who want to return to the Soviet Union and from well-meaning liberals who want us to have it like in Germany. It is impossible to jump from the slave system immediately to the bourgeois - competitive and free, bypassing the phase of state capitalism.

- For 11 years of rule, Thatcher has privatized 600 enterprises. She was hated in the UK, but now no one denies what tremendous economic success the country has achieved during her years as prime minister. Chubais privatized thousands of enterprises, the country moved to a market economy. Why is he not forgiven for loans-for-shares auctions?

- Chubais himself also said about the loans-for-shares auctions that it was a mistake. It was about the fact that it was necessary to very quickly transfer large enterprises into the hands of politically loyal forces. This was done in a rather cynical and rather frank manner. The meaning was as follows. No one had any money. The state seemed to give the "right" people like Deripaska and Potanin, who was also a deputy prime minister, government loans, and then for these loans they bought the largest enterprises ten times cheaper, knowingly knocking down the price. But, if it were exposed to an external competitive market, then the price would probably be higher, but maybe not. Not many people from abroad were ready to buy Norilsk Nickel. Not because Norilsk Nickel is bad, but because its administrative fate, political prospects, political guarantees of this private property were not clear. If the communists came to power, they would nationalize this Norilsk Nickel again. Of course, when buying, you need to be sure that you are in control of the situation. This means that you have to be with the levers of power. In a market economy terminal, loans-for-shares auctions were criminal. Chubais himself said that it was a bad idea and poorly implemented. But people mostly confuse check privatization (voucher) and loans-for-shares auctions. And these are different things. Leveraged auctions took place after 1995, and voucher privatization earlier.

Most of the people were offended by the voucher privatization. She was not Chubais's. It was pushed through by the Communist Duma. Because the “red directors”, who had key positions in the State Duma after the elections, when the Communist Party won the majority, had no money. Like true Soviet people, there was no real money, but they wanted to participate in privatization. Today everyone has forgotten that there were two types of privatization - open and closed. Academic institutions and government offices were privatized openly. Everyone was given a voucher, and for that voucher they could buy a piece of something. Red directors pushed privatization not for money, which was not there, but for vouchers. It meant that every employee receives a voucher. For example, there are 10,000 workers at the conventional UralVagonzavod, they have 10,000 vouchers, they can be privatized according to the second type. We do not allow strangers, but we sell only among our own - the workers of the plant. This was beneficial to the “red directors”, because they would persuade their employees, explaining that if you sell them on the side, a foreign investor will come, the plant will close, and the machines will be sold for scrap. Everyone will be out of work. But there is an alternative - there is existing management (party and trade union organizations, plant director), if you give them the voucher and entrust them to manage, everything will remain the same. You will work, they will knock out resources, it will be as always. Gaidar proposed monetary privatization. But the money was in the hands of shadow workers, hucksters, those who made money in the first years of perestroika in cooperatives. This privatization would be much more efficient from a macroeconomic point of view. The budget would receive real money for specific properties, as Mrs Thatcher did. She had cash privatization. But she did not have to simultaneously solve the problem of creating a normal convertible currency. She existed with her. And she had a business that had this money. Therefore, the task was to sell an inefficient coal mine for real money to a person who is ready to take the risk and make a more efficient enterprise out of this mine. Chubais had a much more difficult task. He had to do privatization in such a way that the functioning management of enterprises, represented by red directors, who do not have money, but who want to retain their power, so that they receive this property and finally become responsible for it. As a result, an intermediate hybrid emerged, when the second type of privatization for vouchers took place. It was in the early 90s, and in the mid 90s, loans-for-shares auctions took place, which were even worse. Big bureaucrats, the same Potanin, wrote out a monetary loan from the state for himself, for this loan he bought himself Norilsk Nickel, sold nickel abroad, and returned it on credit. But this money has already depreciated. He bought for the ruble, sold products for foreign currency, returning the loan in depreciating rubles. Naturally, he made incredible profits, becoming a billionaire in just a year. Of course, this is justly annoying for people. What was the alternative? How can you privatize an enterprise, expel the old influential Soviet management, which does not know how to make competitive products, but knows how to kick money out of the federal center? Of course, Chubais's activities are not ideal. He can be criticized boldly, decisively and uncompromisingly, which is what Yabloko is doing. But I do not see what other options for privatization could be proposed. During the privatization of enterprises in Britain, Thatcher did not have to solve the problem of red directors, currency conversion, the British Communist Party is not an influential political force. Thatcher sold off ineffective businesses. For money. This problem, in comparison with what Chubais solved, is like peeling seeds.

- Chubais's most consistent critics note his honesty and dedication to work. And they emphasize that he worked not for this or that president, but for the country.

- I would agree with this point of view. Chubais is the son of a major, from a military family. He has a rather patriotic idea of Russia's priorities. He understood that Russia needed a market economy and a convertible currency. And he solved these problems. Our smart people are sure that Chubais has made a fortune. The only thing that can be incriminated to him is that he, on a crooked goat, traveled around the law on insider information on the market that did not exist in Russia at that time. It existed in the West, but we do not yet. Therefore, Chubais did not formally violate it. But during his reign, Alfred Koch created a market fund called Montes Auri, which became the largest player in the securities market. Since Koch and Chubais were close to privatization, it was necessary to be absolute fools not to use insider information, especially since this was not prohibited by law. Knowing that enterprise A would be privatized and realizing that the shares of the enterprise after privatization would grow 10 times, they bought shares, announced privatization, and then sold these shares. And so on. In this sense, they earned money illegally from the point of view of the West, but legal from the point of view of the Russian body of legal documents in a way. But as a result, when Chubais declares his income, they are absolutely transparent. If he had at least something that the security forces who hate him could catch hold of, he would have long been in hard labor in Siberia. Everything is clean with him according to the law. Chubais always acted much more conscientiously than the same Luzhkov, who allocated the best plots of land to his wife, taking advantage of the position of mayor of Moscow.

- Is the current resignation of Chubais a retirement?

- I think yes. If it had not been for his departure, he would have been offered another piece, Putin would have honored an audience, or at least awarded him some order. Putin is not going to risk his image for some Chubais. Thank you if you don't go to jail. It would be beneficial for Putin, the absolute majority of Russians would applaud him in the same way as after “Crimea is ours”.

- What will change after Chubais leaves?

- Chubais is an iconic figure. His departure is a gradual postponement, Putin is acting very carefully, gradually, from relying on the systemic liberals to the siloviki. We see that Nikita Belykh was imprisoned, Alexey Ulyukaev, Chubais was put aside. This is how neatly Putin builds up his Soviet vertical, relying on people in uniform.

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