The so-called oligarchs in Russia and other ex-communist countries are a bourgeois counterpart to what Marx called the lumpen-proletariat: an unthinking cohort susceptible to political manipulation because its members have no class consciousness or revolutionary potential of their own.

Unlike the proletariat, however, the lumpen-bourgeoisie who emerged in these countries from the late 1980s onward control capital — lots of it — thanks to wild “privatization” of state-owned assets.

An exemplary case is Rok Snezic, a collaborator and friend of Slovenia’s rightwing prime minister, Janez Jansa. An “independent tax adviser,” Snezic helps Slovene companies redomicile in the lower-tax jurisdiction of Republika Srpska (the Serb part of Bosnia and Herzegovina). He apparently has no private possessions, and he has erased his own past tax bills by declaring bankruptcy.