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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.

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