The Ghost of Margaret Thatcher

When the USSR disbanded, citizens from across the Union discovered that their citizenship had been revoked. In a short period of time, people discovered that being “Soviet” no longer held substance under the new democracy. 

While many in the West celebrated the triumph of Capitalism over Communism, for people whose lives had been shaped by the freedom of movement around the Soviet Union, there was a shock that in many of the new republics, they were no longer welcome.

Poles, Russians, Czechs, Bosnians, Serbs, Germans and Hungarians. These were just some of the nationalities who found that after the fall of the USSR, their economic contributions to the shaping of a Communist society no longer held value but with the deregulation of Soviet industry, came the culture shocks. 

Racism, xenophobia and nationalism. The combination of these elements, along with the mass poverty which fell across Eastern Europe in the 1990’s, caused years of stagnation. The reintroduction of borders under the former worker’s states, caused a ripple affect, where skilled labour and intellect quickly faded back to their countries of origin. 

The ripple affect then expanded into those countries, where former Soviet citizens originated from. And as corruption, nepotism and in some cases superficial regime changes, caused further economic stagnation, those same workers then chose to move West. 

In the post Cold War era, the West benefited from regime changes in Eastern Europe, as economic crisis allowed Western Europe to welcome these new “immigrants”. Their skills and qualifications were varied, their abilities to speak a multiple of languages were often utilised in politics, education and business. 

In the late 1990’s and into the millennium, Eastern Europe began to emerge out of the economic wilderness and German re-unification brought stability to the West of Europe. Mutual trading agreements in energy, produce and manufacturing, opened the doors for greater migration across the European continent. 

Out of the poverty brought by the end of Communism, a new world opened up without the constraints of borders, threats of war and intelligence services monitoring peoples movements. In a world where money could be made and invested, these workers embraced “free market economics", which the British themselves claimed triumphant at the fall of the Soviet Union. 

by Hussein Al-alak, editor of Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra). 

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