Better Off Red?

Twenty Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Recalling the Liberal Media's Blindness to the Evils of Communism

"The Workers' Paradise Has Become a Homeless Hell"

On August 18, 1991, the hardline communist “Gang of Eight” arrested Soviet party boss Mikhail Gorbachev in an attempted coup. Over the next three days, resistance was led by Boris Yeltsin, a one-time Politburo member who was now the anti-communist President of the Russian Federation. The coup collapsed August 21 and Gorbachev returned to Moscow, but over the next few months, several Soviet republics sought their independence from the U.S.S.R. On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist; the Cold War was finally over.

Even before the official end, liberal reporters reacted to the sudden end of Soviet communism much as they had to the liberation of Eastern Europe, complaining of the “uncertainty” and “hardship” that the “painful shift” to capitalism and freedom would bring to the ex-Soviet states.


“Many Soviets viewing the current chaos and nationalist unrest under Gorbachev look back almost longingly to the era of brutal order under Stalin.”
— CBS’s Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, February 11, 1990.

“Congress changed the Soviet Constitution to permit limited private ownership of small factories, although laws remain against exploitation of everyone else.”
— NBC Moscow reporter Bob Abernethy on Nightly News, March 13, 1990.


“Soviet people have become accustomed to security if nothing else. Life isn’t good here, but people don’t go hungry, homeless; a job has always been guaranteed. Now all socialist bets are off. A market economy looms, and the social contract that has held Soviet society together for 72 years no longer applies. The people seem baffled, disappointed, let down. Many don’t like the prospect of their nation becoming just another capitalist machine.”
— CNN Moscow reporter Steve Hurst on PrimeNews, May 24, 1990.

“Lines might be long, freedoms might be few, but one thing the state guaranteed was security from the cradle to the grave....But with the novel forces of democratization, decentralization, and freer expression came the hard truths of poverty, dislocation, crime, ethnic hatred and the erosion of the state’s omnipotence. Beggars and cripples emerged from the shadows, the injured and humiliated took to venting their grievances in the streets, and ever-worsening shortages pushed masses over the threshold of poverty.”
New York Times reporter Serge Schmemann on the Soviet Union, March 13, 1991.

“In towns like Pushkino (pop. 90,000), many Russians view the tumult sweeping Moscow with more anxiety and skepticism than do their big-city compatriots....They wonder if the destruction of Soviet communism will bring them anything more than uncertainty and hardship.”
Time reporter James Carney, September 9, 1991.

“Inefficient as the old communist economy was, it did provide jobs of a sort for everybody and a steady, if meager, supply of basic goods at low, subsidized prices; Soviet citizens for more than 70 years were conditioned to expect that from their government. Says a Moscow worker: ‘We had everything during [Leonid] Brezhnev’s times. There was sausage in the stores. We could buy vodka. Things were normal.’”
Time Associate Editor George J. Church, September 23, 1991.


“It’s short of soap, so there are lice in hospitals. It’s short of pantyhose, so women’s legs go bare. It’s short snowsuits, so babies stay home in winter...The problem isn’t communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages.”
— Commentator and ex-anchor John Chancellor on the August 21, 1991 NBC Nightly News.

“In the old Soviet Union, you never saw faces like these: the poor, the homeless, and the desperation of the Russian winter. Their numbers are growing. Tonight — is this what democracy does? A look at the Russia you haven’t seen before....The people of Russia are learning this winter that the price of freedom can be painfully high.”
— ABC’s Barbara Walters opening Nightline, January 14, 1992.

TextBox2a“The painful shift to a market system has pushed thousands of citizens, once able to maintain an acceptable living standard with the help of government subsidies and benefits, below the poverty line. Homelessness, derided by the communists as a plague of the West, is becoming common-place. The old Soviet guarantees of work, housing, and low fixed prices are gone, and the welfare net, designed to catch the rare social dropout, has sprung gaping holes.”
Time Moscow reporter Ann M. Simmons in a July 13, 1992 article subheadlined: “The capitalist revolution is bringing the plagues of poverty, homelessness and unemployment to Russians, who miss the safety net of the old system.”

“But for the simple folk of Uzbekistan, people like Kurban Manizayov, these are mind-wrenching times. Their simple wants were nicely cared for by the communists. But now they’ve been thrust into the hurly-burly world of market capitalism, and nobody even bothered to ask if it was all right.”
— CNN Moscow reporter Steve Hurst, August 31, 1992 World News.

“Many here long for the days of Brezhnev. At least then, they say, they had their dignity.”
— CBS reporter Tom Fenton, September 24, 1993 Evening News.


“For more than 70 years, Russia dreamed the Soviet dream: the dream of a classless society, the dream of a workers’ paradise. The classless state is now a state with a growing population of haves and an exploding population of have-nots. For many, the workers’ paradise has become a homeless hell.”
— ABC’s Morton Dean, January 14, 1994 Good Morning America.