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Political boomerang

(in connection with the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya)

Another high-profile assassination took place in Russia. There’s nothing unusual about that; over 30,000 people are killed in the country each year. Hardly anyone even pays attention anymore; murder has become an everyday occurrence. Even the preceding assassination of an influential banker only “excited” the public for two-three days. The assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, however, agitated not just the Russian public, but the world public opinion as well. The victim was not just any journalist: she was a pro-democracy journalist who criticized the regime for its policy in Chechnya; and not just merely a pro-democracy activist, but a citizen of the USA. Even that in itself, however, is no cause for outrage. When journalist Paul Khlebnikov, a US citizen, was murdered in 2004, the world public opinion did not react so tumultuously. The murder of Politkovskaya, on the other hand, made the West explode. Why is that?

No mystery here, actually. President Putin’s policies over the past two-three years have been irritating the West. Now he tightens the screws on the press, now he shuts down international organizations; now he jails an oligarch, now he uses natural-gas blackmail against the Ukrainians; now he “hyper-reacts” to the actions of Georgia’s half-mad President. In short, Putin’s KGB past appears to be reasserting itself; he is dragging Russia into socialism again, which means totalitarianism or at least authoritarianism. This trend is confirmed by the assassination of democratic journalist Politkovskaya – a bold critic of the regime. It all has to have been planned by the Kremlin.

Let’s leave aside the West with its double standards and its strategic hatred of Russia. Let’s try to figure out who – or what – killed Politkovskaya?

I will start right away with the claim that she was killed by the system which she championed, the system she fought for during the last third of her life. Deciphering: she was killed by the capitalist system that emerged as a result of the bourgeois revolution in the 1990s.

As a true democrat, she supported the forces that were destroying the Soviet Union, introducing the market economy and democracy to Russia. They were democrats of the first wave who hated socialism and the Soviet system. They were the Yeltsin cohorts consisting of Gaidar, Chubais, Sobchak, Popov, Afanassiev and their like. Their dream was to quickly build a prospering capitalism of the Western type in place of the demolished Soviet Union. They succeeded admirably in demolishing socialism, but failed to build capitalism of the Western model. Russia showed resistance to such capitalism for some reason. It chose a different version: capitalism with its marketplace… controlled by the state; democracy, yes, but a managed one.

It is known from world history that all revolutionaries who move forward with a lead over the rest are doomed to the guillotine. Recall the French Jacobins or the Lenin Guard. No kind of society can accomplish the “advance guard’s” objectives instantly after the revolution. There are too many historical “tails” left after revolutions. What happens is that the “middle-of-the-road” characters crawl into the arena; they remove the “odious” traits of old structures while implementing elements of “new revolutionary ideas.” In France, the Girondists were these middle-road types; in Russia – the Stalinists (during the New Economic Policy period.) Next comes the stage of “who comes out on top?”

Occasionally restoration of the old regime does take place: thus, monarchy was restored in France (so called “bourgeois monarchy” in the July revolution of 1830), then another revolution took place in 1848, followed by another restoration, and so on until the final victory of capitalism. At times more paradoxical developments take place: for example, in Russia the progressive, more or less just socialist system was replaced by capitalism which is historically outliving itself.

What I’m getting at is that Politkovskaya belonged to the “advance guard”; she wanted modern capitalism just like in the West, and she wanted it “now”. The “avant-guardists of capitalism” with Yeltsin at the helm tormented Russia for ten years, but Western capitalism failed to hatch in the country. The “middle-road statists” came to power. They did not feed the advance-guard ideologues to the guillotine (though they should have), yet they pushed them out of the political arena. Despite this, Politkovskaya never betrayed the ideals of Western capitalism; she went right on criticizing - as a journalist - the “bad” criminal capitalism, especially on account of its brutalities in Chechnya. Naturally, it never occurred to her that the mess in today’s Chechnya was not created by Putin – it is a consequence of the collapse of socialism and, most importantly, of the Soviet system, and its replacement with the capitalist system in which the main idea is money. The latter system, being based on democracy, formally gives any republic the right to territorial separation from the “mother” state. Western democracy would have arranged for a referendum in such a case, and in the event of a “yes” vote the territory in question would have separated. In Canada, for example, the “yes” vote in Quebec fell just 1% short of separation from “the rest of Canada.”

I expect to hear the objection right away: in Chechnya they had a referendum too. I will remind right back that in Russia any measure to establish the political will of the people - be it referendum, elections or whatever – will have an outcome conforming to the objectives set in the Kremlin. It is obvious that in Chechnya, too, the referendum was organized “properly”. There is nothing surprising about this. I repeat again: the Kremlin is at present the summit of the CAPITALIST Russian state. Russian capitalism is special; for a number of reasons it tends to centralization, to authoritarian power rather than democracy. It isn’t just because of the current power’s stupidity; any kind of bourgeois regime in Russia would have done the same, be it ultra-liberal or authoritarian. No kind of regime would “set free” Chechnya or any other Caucasian republic that may desire to separate from Russia. In order to hold on to all these territories (which Russia does not really need) any regime would act in exactly the same way as the current one.

Politkovskaya, however, failing to understand the character of Russian capitalism, kept criticizing the Kremlin and its cronies in the Chechen capital of Grozny for their inhuman policies in Chechnya. She did not realize that she was criticizing a regime created by the system she herself had helped bring into existence – together with the West, by the way. You wanted capitalism? There, you have it. It is not of the Western type, of course, not American, yet it is capitalism all the same. Too little democracy, you say? Where, then, do they have lots of it? How do you measure it, anyway?

Using “a rough visual estimate”, however, I can assure you that even under Putin’s “authoritarian” regime there is a lot more democracy in Russia (in the capitalist sense of the word) than in the West. (I could prove it, but this is not the place.) The late journalist could not grasp this fact. She can be excused; she was female, after all, and a journalist to boot. Journalists in general have little understanding even of the things they write about. However, many other democrats of the pro-Western orientation think similarly. They all fail to understand that capitalism cannot take root in Russia in principle - especially its Western variety.

Right now everyone is guessing: who killed Politkovskaya? Some think she was killed by the henchmen of Kadyrov (notorious Chechen warlord). That is possible. Some hint at those who are involved in the flow of funds to Chechnya. That, too, is possible. Some nod toward the Kremlin. That, too, is a possibility. Anything is possible. In actual fact it matters not at all in this case who concretely was the killer. Politkovskaya was killed by the system she championed, the system she had fought for as a democracy activist and a journalist. That system is called capitalism.

However, not just Politkovskaya alone is a victim of this system. The Russian people as a whole is its victim. Over the years of “capitalist reforms” this system has already wiped out about 10 million people, and it shows no intention of stopping. Unless the people realizes that all its problems stem from the capitalist system, rather from concrete persons, from this or that President – something the brave journalist failed to realize – its fate will be no different from that of Politkovskaya. Realization is the first step. The second stage is action – that means, staging a revolution against the counterrevolution that had been manufactured by Yeltsin’s gang. A second socialist revolution in Russia is inevitable!

Oleg Arin

18. 10. 2006