The revolution in the Soviet Union is something I never thought I’d live to see. It almost makes me wonder if we aren’t starting to see more democracy over there than over here.
You think I’m exaggerating? Let me tell you about two events–one in Moscow, one in Washington, D.C.
Last year I visited Moscow and I said (though it was unpopular at the time) that Gorbachev could not survive much longer. Why not? Because he was unwilling to abolish the ruling class.
As an ideology, Communism preaches a classless society. But every existing Communist society, including the Soviet Union, is sharply divided into 2 classes: the ordinary people and a ruling class made up of officials of the Communist Party (the apparatchik), the army, and the KGB.
These bureaucrats enjoy luxury apartments, private limousines, exclusive medical clinics, exotic vacation resorts??even separate stores where shelves are stocked with luxury items.
On my trip to the Soviet Union, we were part of an official delegation escorted by the KGB, and we got a taste of how the ruling class lives. We saw ordinary people standing in lines in the streets waiting to buy food–while we were ushered into restaurants and served lavish meals.
Soviet citizens stayed in filthy, run-down hotels–while we were escorted in black limousines to one of the most elegant places I’ve ever stayed.
At the airport, crowds pushed and shoved for exit visas??while we were served caviar, seated in plush leather chairs in a spacious lounge.
Well, the ordinary people in the Soviet Union wouldn’t stand for it any longer.
When the Communist Party was outlawed, we in the West viewed it as a great ideological triumph–the victory of democracy over Communism. And it was that. But for the Soviet people, it also meant something more practical: that the hated ruling class was stripped of its perks and privileges. From now on, they would have to live like ordinary citizens.
Now come with me to Washington–to an event that sounds completely unrelated. But it’s not.
At the end of August, the Senate voted itself a pay raise. Earlier attempts to pass a raise had been defeated by a great public outcry. So this time, the whole thing was done out of the public eye.
Senate leaders lined up their votes ahead of time so there would be no real debate when the measure hit the Senate floor. They even engineered a bald-faced lie: Right up to the end–as they were securing their final vote??the Senate leadership told the press they had no knowledge of the measure. And the vote itself was taken in the dead of night, after news reporters had gone home. The raise brought Senators’ salaries up to 125,000 dollars a year.
Now, I ask you: Where was democracy more evident this summer? In Moscow or in Washington?
Today the legislatures of Eastern Europe seethe with passionate debates??while the U.S. Senate stages a sham vote and makes a charade of democratic process.
Today, the ruling class in Soviet countries is being booted out of its luxurious life style–while the U.S. Senate votes itself a pay hike giving them an income 5 times that of the average American.
As Christians we are called to confront evil wherever we find it–whether the inhumanity in the Soviet system or the fraud and hypocrisy in our own.
It just may be that the Russians will end up teaching us a thing or two about real democracy.