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Putin as a mirror of Russia gone mad

 


I don't need just any kind of loyalty. I need the kind of

loyalty when people kiss my ass in broad daylight and

exclaim: smells like roses.


Lyndon Johnson, President of the USA

 

Many link today’s climate of paranoia in Russia to the approaching elections. This is not quite right, for Russia became ill back in the early 1990s. Back then the disease was of a “physical” nature in the sense that it caused more than half of the Soviet economy to be destroyed, the population to start shrinking, and especially the average lifespan of men to shorten.

In the current decade the disease switched to the Russian people’s brains, or, to use a foreign word, to their “mentality” – “umostroi”, in Russian. Obviously, there are brains and then there are brains. For example, there are the brains of the philistines; they are formed by “eyeing”, “feeling” and by the bullshit that is fed to them by the mass media – television first of all. The philistine in the USA, the UK, France, Russia and in several other countries believes that his country is the best in the world, and it is thanks to his country that the world advances along the path of civilization. This attitude toward one’s Motherland is often called patriotism. In actual fact it is ignorance in the form of nationalism-chauvinism. It is useless to talk to such “patriots”, and the problem isn’t them. They never were the ones who made history (“we’re content for as long as there is chow”); they always lived following the principle of “I mind my own business”, so to the devil with them.

The problem has to do with the brains of those who are conventionally called the political or economic elite of society. It is on them that the vector of the state’s development depends. In today’s “civilized” world called the West the vectors are clearly pointed in the wrong direction, as evidenced by the general degradation of the white population, the crisis of political institutions, the growing proportion of the poor in advanced capitalist societies and, finally, in the physical shrinking of that white population. This all can be shown and demonstrated with figures, but right now it is not the West that interests me; this article is about Russia.

I repeat: Russia caught the disease of paranoia - or schizophrenia - in the current century, and its intensity has been increasing from year to year, keeping pace with the “successes” of Putin’s regime. During the election campaign the disease intensified to a feverish degree. Therefore I want to congratulate the current regime right away on one indubitable achievement: its ability to fool a very great part of Russia’s population. How is this manifested?

When talk about the successes of the country’s development comes from ordinary folk, from uneducated youths or from some weaver speaking from the lectern at the ruling party’s congress, it is understandable and even natural. When politicians talk of the same with wise expressions on their faces, it is less understandable, albeit explainable. Even if there are no successes, they have to say that there are; lying is their profession. However, when scholars and political scientists with all kinds of doctoral degrees and academy memberships pontificate in all seriousness on the regime’s achievements, I fail to understand it. It makes no sense to me, for example, when Putin is described as a leader without alternative by such people as A. Migranian, V. Tretiakov, S. Kurginian, G. Pavlovsky, M. Leontiev, A. Dugin, A. Prokhanov and other such “rulers of minds”. I thought at first that they keep telling these lies simply in order to get invited to speak on television or on radio – that is, to register in the public’s eye. However, I did hear such people say these things to me in private on several occasions – and they were speaking seriously and earnestly. There are only two possible conclusions in this connection: either they are all schizophrenic, or they have nothing to do with science; that is, all their “doctor” and “academician” titles are frauds. Let’s try to make sense of this.

Putin is, by the way, a major businessman in his own right. The mass media mentioned that he controls 37% of the shares of "Surgutneftegaz" – a corporation valued at $20 billion. Moreover, he controls 4.5% of the shares of "Gazprom". Through his friend/representative Gennady Timchenko he controls 50% of the oil-trading company Gunvor which last year has sales of $40 billion and profits of $8 billion.
Firstly, though, a few words on Putin: he really does make a favorable impression (unlike, say, the alcoholic Yeltsin.) He is a good speaker, witty and sufficiently well-read. Moreover, I think that he is much better educated than most leaders of the Western world (with the possible exception of Gordon Brown.) I think it is possible that he sincerely does seek the good of the people of Russia, and a greater place and role for Russia in the world. Despite the multitude of rumors about his enormous fortune, one can even believe in his officially declared income figures. A number of other personal qualities can probably also be mentioned that cast Mr. Putin in a favorable light. However, he is not just any Mister – he is his country’s President, that is, the state’s top bureaucrat. Such persons are judged not by their personal qualities, but by the country’s development under their rule. They say that Stalin was a bad person; however, when he took over Russians were still wearing straw sandals, and when he departed the country was a nuclear power. Peter the First was no lamb either; however, he did manage in just one generation to turn a feudal kingdom into a European-type state – at least in outward appearance. So let us take look at what Putin accomplished – this man whom some have started comparing to Peter the Great.

 

 

Achievements in the national economy?

 

Then again: what is meant by a country’s “development”? Very many people understand this word to mean the growth of gross domestic product (GDP). I make frequent use of that indicator myself. However, it is only an indirect indicator of “development”, since a lot depends on the proportions in which this GDP is distributed between different strata of the population. The growth rate may be very high (between 10% and 20%), yet in the capitalist system this in itself means nothing. It is usually the top strata who get to enjoy the “fruits” of this growth, while the middle and especially the lower strata get only to gnaw on the “roots”. The economist Sergei Batchikov described these mechanics very well, using the example of Russia, in one his articles in the newspaper Zavtra (February 14, 2007). Let me remind you that Indonesia enjoyed GDP growth of between 10% and 17% for 20 years, which did no good to the country’s President, Sukharto – the masses chased him out. In the early 20th century Russia enjoyed one of the highest growth rates of industrial production in the world (along with the USA and Japan); nonetheless it did not escape three revolutions. Therefore it’s not about GDP alone; it does not necessarily reflect the level of the population’s well-being, although in its essence it does imply such a “mission”. Let us acknowledge, though, this indicator’s “mission” in today’s Russia. Has it really grown to the volumes that the country’s leaders talk about?

Let me remind you: at the “G-7 plus Russia” summit meeting in Lisbon in October President Putin boasted that Russia’s GDP had exceeded that of Italy and will soon overtake France. Apparently he was persuaded of this by his advisors Kudrin and Medvedev who had said the same thing many times. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade has recently published yet another propaganda-filled forecast, predicting that Russia will join “the leaders of the world economy” by the year 2020.

Where did they get that nonsense? Putin referred to some data from international organizations, without naming any. Well then, let us take the figures from the World Bank – that most authoritative of international organizations. Here are the figures for 2006 in US dollars, in current prices (these are the latest data), published in April 2007:

 




Note: GDP – gross domestic product; GNI – gross national income (GNI = GDP + net balance of primary incomes received from abroad and transferred abroad). GDP and GNI are indicators that are close in meaning, with the latter being of higher quality. In advanced economies GNI is usually higher than GDP, while in underdeveloped countries it is lower.

So instead of being ahead of Italy, Russia is behind by a factor of almost two. Moreover, Russia is way behind even that less-developed country – Spain – which has a population less than a third that of Russia. I won’t even mention other countries or the per capita figures that show Russia separated by an abyss from the advanced economies.

Some “sage” may argue that Putin probably meant GDP at purchasing-power parity (PPP). If so, Putin must explain that PPP is an indicator of the social-economic situation and not an indicator of the country’s development. Generally speaking, the only use of PPP is to enable some kind of comparisons between the economies of developed and underdeveloped countries. I repeat: it is perfectly useless for analyzing a country’s development. If the President of Russia and his assistants don’t understand such elementary things, they are worthless as managers.

I see another possible objection: oh well, so Russia is still behind Italy, but didn’t Russia’s GDP grow on Putin’s watch – at an annual rate of about 7%? Formally it was indeed so: Russia’s GNI was $250 bln in 2000, $639 bln in 2005 and $822 bln in 2006 (accordingly, Russia’s share of the world’s GNI was 0.8%, 1.4% and 1.7% respectively.) Isn’t it obvious, though, that this growth was mostly due to the unprecedented growth of prices for oil and gas? As the writer Mikhail Weller noted with perfect justification, with such prices Russia would have flourished even under Gorbachev – the man who brought more destruction on the country than Hitler.

Thus it should be admitted that all self-congratulations on account of Russia’s economy surpassing that of Italy are nothing more than idle talk from unprofessional rulers and sham scholars. Russia is still somewhere near 15th place in the list of the world’s biggest economies – same as at the start of Putin’s rule.

 

 

Life became better?

 

 As for the real situation of the main mass of the population, it only grew worse. Even the official statisticians publish figures such as these:

According to surveys conducted in April 2007, approximately 30% of Russians have salaries that are below the subsistence minimum - on the average, that is. In agriculture 70% of workers have such salaries, in the sphere of culture and arts – more than half, in education - 45%, in health care - almost 40%.

In the fossil fuel industry the situation is the opposite: half of all workers earn wages that are at over 20 times the subsistence minimum. In the banking industry over a third of all employees earn more than 26 times the subsistence minimum. Small wonder that the income gap between the best-paid and the worst-paid Russians is close to 28 times.

I stress that we are dealing here with «sparing» statistical data, i.e. skewed toward exaggerations concerning the poor and underestimations concerning the rich.[i]

In actual fact the situation is much worse, as evidenced indirectly by the income gap between the top strata and the lower strata. Here are some figures:

The Statistical Service of Russia published data on the difference between the incomes of the rich and the poor in 2007. According to officials’ data, the difference is 20 times. Independent sources speak of a difference of 40 times. I’m adding this information: in Moscow the difference is 60 times.

All you who worship Putin, consider this: Putin, that supposed champion of fairness and “the working masses”, tolerates in the position of Governor of Chukotka the well-known Mr. Abramovich who lives in London and is absolutely not involved in the affairs of his region. Mr. Migranian, speaking recently on television, praised Putin for suppressing the oligarchs who committed all kinds of excesses in the 1990s (all of the so-called opponents agreed with him.). I have no idea which oligarchs this “analyst” was talking about; in reality Putin only suppressed one tycoon – M. Khodorkovsky (several others escaped abroad with no difficulty.) Now count the number of new billionaire oligarchs who emerged under Putin: as recently as 2002 there were only 7; in 2006 there were 61. Then count the share of Russia’s incomes owned by this bunch of parasites – and the share of the working people. I do have the figures, but I suggest that the reader do a little work for some brain exercise.

While you’re at it, calculate the efficiency of all the national-scale projects. From time to time you are shown on television a beaming mother who received some kind of benefit within the framework of the health care project, or a hospital outfitted with new equipment, or some fortunate individual who received an apartment in a brand-new building. Sometimes, though, you are shown villages where the “infrastructure” resembles the times of Ivan the Terrible. Isn’t it obvious that even if all the funds allotted under these national projects really reached their destination (in reality more than half of the monies are inevitably stolen), this won’t resolve any problem decidedly because Russia’s entire budget is smaller than that of one US state, for example California.

Russia’s budget is only good enough to patch the holes that will keep multiplying and growing, since Russia’s entire infrastructure, created in the Soviet times, is decaying; hence the endless fires and collapses of structures. Let us, however, take a closer look at the current budget: where does most of the money go? I’m not even talking of the inordinately high shares that go to the state apparatus, the army, the law enforcement organs and many other parasitic structures.

Just think: over a third of Russian mothers are single! Every year the number of children living with single mothers increases by 400,000. Two million (!) fathers are deadbeats avoiding alimony payments; unmarried women with little children have enormous difficulty finding work. Single mothers are a large proportion of workers, but instead of benefits or shortened workdays they get these instructions from their bosses: have a nanny or a grandmother look after the child, work your ass off and don’t dare mention days off, or else we will hire a childless woman in your place.

Here is one of the horrifying figures: in 2006 1.5 billion rubles was invested in the development of Russian football. Enormous sums are spent on football, on entertainments while across the land villages

and towns are disappearing. In Moscow an expensive golf course is planned for the

enjoyment of the parasitic rich while research institutes are unable to pay the rent for their buildings. Various luxury “cities” and “towns” are built for those same parasites while millions of people live in slums in so-called homes where there is no indoor plumbing and no heating.

The apex of marasmus is this: the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi are hyped as an event of universal importance – the Olympiad of the century, so to say. They are planning to invest up to $20 billion in this event – this in a country where half the population are practically paupers. This anti-people project has the support of the President who supposedly cares about the people; in actual fact he cares about the oligarchs. It is they, plus the top officials, who will benefit from this “project”; the people will be left yet again with their ears full of BS.

 

 

Bullcrap, bullstuff and more bull

 

All you who adore Putin: make the effort even once to analyze any sphere of his government’s activity using statistical data instead of testimony from content philistines; specifically, data comparing the situation in the year 2000 and the year 2007. I challenge you to find even one “bright spot”.

Putin promised to eradicate corruption; yet it continues to flourish. Apart from their unofficial incomes, officials’ incomes grew by a factor of 4 to 5.

He promised to end the war in Chechnya. – Apart from the fact that there are still frequent killings and bombings both in Chechnya and in neighboring regions of the Caucasus (Ingushetia, Dagestan), it should be acknowledged that Chechnya simply removed itself the Constitutional playing field of the Russian Federation. It is in fact an independent enclave with its own feudal laws and traditions. Thus, the problem has been “solved” in such a fashion that the Russian state is financing a territory that is not subject to it.

Ecology: Countries with worse ecological situations are hard to find outside Russia. Whole regions are within boundaries of ecological risk zones. The air in cities is un-breathable. Even in Moscow it takes me - a resident of Paris and an individual of extremely low sensitivity - two-three weeks to adapt to the city’s air. Ecological disasters are a separate topic; one recent example is the catastrophe in the strait of Kerch’.

Agriculture has collapsed utterly. Russia’s dependence on imported foodstuffs has exceeded all marginal norms of economic security. From now on foreign producers’ every sneeze will resonate in Russia.

“Over the first 10 months of this year contract servicemen committed over 3,500 crimes – a quarter more that in the same period of last year. This increase is ongoing,” – so said Sergei Fridinsky, Chief Military Prosecutor, opening a coordination meeting dedicated to combating crime in the military. He was speaking of the enlisted ranks.
The armed forces are mired in endless reforms that are currently being implemented under the leadership of an accountant. 

Health care: There is a lot of talk about increased funding for this sphere. Once they showed on television some medical center in the city of Astrakhan that had received new equipment. The center does indeed look impressive; however, I know that city very well since I have relatives there and visit my hometown from time to time. I know fairly well some physicians from that city with the rank of Professor; the medical institute there used to be one of the best, at least in the Volga region. Despite all this, medical technology in Astrakhan is at the level of late feudal times. Inflammation of the middle ear is to this day treated with boron alcohol. Neither equipment nor specialists are available for simple operations such as the hip joint or the “patching” of holes and cracks in the eardrum (these are routine operations in the West.) The physicians don’t know Western medical magazines and don’t even read their own Russian magazines on a regular basis; that means they don’t develop, doing everything the old way based on personal experience. Many of Moscow’s medical establishments which boast about their technical capabilities are in reality no better than those in Astrakhan. There are some rare exceptions, but on the whole Russia is at least two generations behind the West in the area of medical technology.

This is my judgment from my personal experience. However, that experience (in this case merely an “opinion”) is supported by that simplest statistical fact: the country’s population keeps shrinking. It was 147 million when Putin came to power; it is 142 million now. That is the aggregate indicator for all spheres of the state’s activity; it is precisely the one used to determine whether the country’s leader was successful or not. The matter isn’t just the declining birth rate (it declines in the West, too); the main factor is the growing death rate and the declining average life expectancy (ALE). Under Putin it did not decline, but neither did it grow, i.e. on this criterion Russia is still in the second hundred of states (in 118th place). I’ve grown tired of writing on this topic, but it makes sense for Putin’s admirers to compare the ALE statistics of Russia with other countries, and in particular the ALE gap between men and women. Nothing like these figures will be found in any advanced country of the world.

Education: The official propaganda boasts that Russia now has more universities and other higher schools, and accordingly more students, than the Soviet Union used to have. Have they no shame? I probably won’t be off the mark if I say that at least three quarters of these higher schools are plain frauds. All these private and semi-private “universities” and “academies” are at the level of rural parish schools. What’s the use talking about them, anyhow, when even graduates of the Economics faculty of the Moscow Institute of International Relations are unable to explain coherently in a job interview (a banker friend of mine told me about it) the difference between GNP, GDP and GNI. When asked about the population of China, the students would give figures between ten million and ten billion (this one is from my experience.)

All this is not surprising any longer, as religion is advancing in Russia at full tilt. Putin signed recently a decree that puts religious schools’ diplomas on a par with those of secular ones. I can’t rule out the possibility that some time from now Darwin will be relegated to the trash heap and teachers will start hammering into students’ brains the conception of the world’s origin that is presented on the first page of the Bible, as well as the views of the Flat Earth Society. They evidently propose to conquer outer space and build a Great Russia using this kind of brains. For some reason neither Putin or his entourage ponder, as they encourage religion, the fact that during the Middle Ages, when religion triumphed, for almost fifteen hundred years the population of Europe practically did not grow, while ALE was stuck at 25 years – until Renaissance and Enlightenment came and the influence of religion on social life dropped dramatically. Putin the reformer doesn’t reflect for some reason on the fact that Russia became a superpower precisely during the Soviet Union era – in times of atheism. The current introduction of religious obscurantism already drove the country back to the start of the 20th century, and if this process is not halted, the times of Ivan the Terrible will be back soon. In the 21st century it is precisely religion that will become – or, rather, has become already – the main source of conflicts and wars; Russia will not avoid them.

Science is in its death throes. Total funding for research in Russia is comparable to the budget of just one school like Harvard or MIT; for a country the size of Russia it’s ridiculous. The problem isn’t just quantity, though; it’s the quality. I intend to show in my next article, using the concrete example of a work by a Doctor of political science, the level of that “scholar’s” scientific literacy. This Doctor was recently appointed Editor-in-chief of an academic magazine. When I offered him an anti-religious article, he nearly suffered a stroke and barely managed to whisper: “absolutely not.” We shall revisit him.

*   *   *

I do believe that any thinking individual is capable of analyzing on his own the situation in the criminal sphere – an area where Russia has surged to the forefront of the world; the situation on the roads where 30,000 to 40,000 people are killed annually; and many other things that define the process of “development”.

All the topics mentioned above merit separate analysis. I want to move right on to the index that defines the face of a state in aggregate form. I presented it many times in my works; it is the Index of Human Development Potential (IHDP) that includes in the calculation: a) the average life expectancy; b) the literacy level of the adult population and the aggregate indicators of child schooling; c) per capita income in US dollars, adjusted to PPP.

So here: on this all-important index Russia placed 65th in 2006, while in 2000 it was in 60th place among 174 states – not only way behind all the advanced nations, but also behind many Asian, Latin American and African countries. It is noteworthy that in 1999, when Putin was Prime Minister, Russia was in 55th place, and over the years of his Presidency it dropped ten spots down. I repeat that this indicator encompasses practically all components of a country’s development: the economy, politics, social situation of the population, etc. President Putin should be judged based precisely on this indicator. One should also keep in mind that in 1990 – that is, during its worst period – the Soviet Union was in 33rd place as measured by this indicator. Thus, over 15 years almost 32 states managed to pass the post-reform Russia. This is called development? People who believe that are obviously in need of psychiatric treatment.

Myself, I conclude that from the perspective of domestic life the general situation not only didn’t improve during Putin’s years in power – it worsened substantially, as evidenced by the main generalizing indicator: decline of the population - decline on such a scale as was never seen in peacetime in any country of the world.

 

 

So what about the «mother of Kuz’ka»?

 

Let us now look at the picture Russia cuts in the world arena. In Moscow recently an acquaintance of mine – a Doctor of historical science – told, gloating, that the title of my book The 21st Century: the World without Russia had already failed the test of time; see how Russia pushes forward, how the West shivers in its boots. Such moods are the general leitmotif in the land: Russia has supposedly strengthened its positions, reclaimed the role of a great power, started exerting influence on the international situation once again. This was said many times by the President, by his assistants (which, I repeat, is explainable), and by all manner of hot-air-blowing political scientists and scholars with doctoral degrees, including the ones mentioned above. The dastardly West is supposedly annoyed by all this; it has allegedly started even feeling wary of the ascendant Russia.

Let us examine the degree to which the title of my book has failed the test of time. Since I live in the West myself, I can see better from here whether the West is indeed wary of Russia.

One has to admit that, judging by the number or articles in the leading newspapers and periodicals, the Western press has indeed been paying more attention to Russia. Russians should keep in mind, though, that those journalists’ attitude toward Russia is nothing like fear – it is annoyance: look at that puny mongrel with a GDP on the level of South Korea or Mexico spout invective against the West. While some articles merely mock Russia as “the flea that roared”, others take a threatening tone, suggesting that it’s time to put Russia in its place. Far and rare in between are articles that aspire to be “analytical”, attempting to analyze in earnest Russia’s real capabilities for influencing the international situation.

In actual fact Russia has influence in the world only insofar as allowed by its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council – a status inherited from the superpower called USSR. Outside the prerogatives of this status Moscow is powerless to resist even those actions that are directly aimed against Russia’s national interests. It is powerless, for example, to halt the advance of NATO toward Russia’s borders. Russia is not a structure-forming power in any area of world politics (the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America, Africa, Europe). The USA is still the only such power on the world scale, however hard the Russians try to dissuade themselves of this. In the Far East Russia’s place has been taken by China. In the Middle East the general situation is determined by the same USA; while for the time being they merely observe disapprovingly the game played between Russia and Iran, in the event that Iran seriously annoys them they will act without any “good advice” from Moscow. Do recall the history of the Iraq affair: Yevgenyi  Primakov was busy practicing shuttle diplomacy and proposing various initiatives – to which Washington did not even react. In Europe the geo-strategic situation is entirely controlled by the USA; recently even France started acting with “understanding” toward its old “non-friend”.

I could take any more or less meaningful aspect of international relations to show and prove that Russia has no influence on the resolution of any international problem. Some readers may remind me, though, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which supposedly challenges NATO or even the West as a whole; this nonsense is frequently spouted after every new summit meeting of the SCO. I won’t rule out that SCO is a useful organization for solving local Central Asian problems, but it has nothing to do with any “challenge” to the West. If anyone can prove the opposite, he’s welcome to try.  

Now a few select figures for evaluating Russia’s place in the world:

Competitive ability rating for 2007-2008: among 131 countries, Russia took 58th place.

The World Bank published on 26 September 2007 the results of an annual research on conditions for doing business in different countries (Doing Business 2008). In the experts’ opinion, Russia places 106th in the rating - ahead of only Tajikistan and Ukraine.

According to the Global Peace Index published just prior to the G8 leaders’ summit meeting, Russia was rated 118th among peaceful countries – fourth from the bottom, as the list includes 121 countries.

Many such figures can be presented here that testify to Russia’s “successes” in the world arena. One can add the fact that Russia is not – and has not become under Putin – a “pole”, that is, a center of economic might. On this indicator, it is somewhere in the middle of the second ten of states. Neither has it become a center of power, as determined by foreign policy potential. I’m not presenting the figures here, since I have written on this topic in detail in my article Russia: the West’s Illusions and the Russians’ Self-deception (see it on my website.)

I am therefore compelled to state with regret that the title of my book The 21st Century: the World without Russia is not outdated. I would dearly love to be wrong on this count, but for the time being the facts won’t let me.

 

 

We are not slaves, slaves are not us

 

Are there any indicators at all that testify to any advances at all made by Russia? – Yes, they say, pointing proudly to two things: in the international arena - a leading place in the world’s weapons trade; in the domestic arena – stability.

These claims appear to be irrefutable. Indeed, Russia owns a third of the world’s weapons market. In 2006 it was second only to the USA in total value of arms sold: $8.1 billion to $10.3 billion sold by the USA. The arms are sold not just to China and India; in similar proportions they are sold to countries of the Middle East region. Is that bad?

Maybe not; but then, if you sell weapons to just anyone, you have no business proclaiming on every corner that you are combating terrorism, especially world terrorism. Does anyone really think that terrorists use weapons they made themselves? Isn’t it clear that all terrorists use weapons manufactured in the USA, Russia, the UK (these three account for 75% of the market) and other advanced capitalist countries? Isn’t it clear that the weapons trade is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – a proliferation that turns against the sellers. That is, Russia is a stimulator of world terrorism in the same degree that the USA is; these two boots make a pair. Selling weapons is a crime against humanity.

What stability are they talking about!? All those politicians and political scientists admitted to the trough are frothing at the mouth as they advertise stability as the main achievement of Putin’s regime. This factor is their main argument for keeping Putin in the President’s job for a third term. Allegedly there is no one else in Russia to continue his historic work of resurrecting the country.

All these champions of a third term for Putin don’t even realize how much they are humiliating Russia. If the current political course allows no alternative to the current President, if its implementation is entirely dependent on one man, then that course is worthless. It means that this course is beneficial only to him and to his party of comrades-in-arms – the top bureaucrats and the current oligarchs. They all need stability in order to preserve and later to multiply their privileges and their wealth. If this course really serves the needs of the broad masses of the population, then surely one person can be found among the 142 million of Russia’s residents who can continue implementing it. Has the Russian land become totally devoid of great personalities?

In actual fact the current stability is an indicator of the society’s decline. Stability in a country where corruption and criminals rule, where oligarchs and top officials are awash in luxury, while the greater part of the population struggles to survive yet supports the regime – such stability is the flip side of a very sick society that has ceased to realize what is good and what is bad. I already used several times in this connection a quote from Spinoza, from his Political Tractate. I will present it here once again, because Spinoza appeared to be specifically addressing today’s Russia from the 17th century. He wrote: “Peace is one thing when it is assured by the citizens’ prosperity, and another thing when it is preserved by the citizens’ passivity in the conditions of a decaying society. … A state where peace depends on the inertness of the citizens who are led like cattle just so they can learn servitude is more properly called an un-peopled desert than a state.” It is extremely important to Spinoza whether peace is achieved through good governance or through the citizens’ slavish behavior. “If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, there is nothing sadder for people than peace.”

On the day I was finishing this article strikes were taking place in France and in Germany. The French and German workers and employees were defending their human rights; they spit on stability, for they are not cattle, they are not slaves, they have their human dignity which they won’t let be trampled on by any Presidents or Chancellors, or any oligarchs. This is why their per capita GDP exceeds that of Russia by a factor of several times.

I know that in response to this article the hurrah-nationalist-patriots will once again accuse me of not believing in Russia, of not believing in its future, of not believing in the Russian people, of not believing even in Putin himself.

I will agree with them. I really don’t believe in an Orthodox-Christian-feudal Russia, I don’t believe in its future since feudalism is a historically doomed system, and religion in any form is specifically the ideology of feudalism. I don’t believe in today’s Russian people because it is nonexistent; instead there is an easily manipulated population with the consciousness of slaves, groveling before its lords and its tsars. I don’t believe in the economic elite that is mired in “dollargasm” or in the political elite that lulls itself with “what-if-ism”. And of course I don’t believe in Putin as a statesman; for during his rule Russia not only failed to develop – on the contrary, it was retreating, and not even to capitalism any more – it was retreating to feudalism. The result is a hybrid feudal-Orthodox-Christian capitalism which Russia’s paranoids call a great Orthodox Christian power.

Russia is currently experiencing one of its periods of self-destruction. I don’t know for how long this will go on; at least until there emerges in the land a galaxy of new people (I call them “Rosslians” - “people of Russia”[ii]) who will look the truth bravely in the eye and realize one simple truth for starters: that all Russia’s current troubles stem not from Putin, not from any other person in power, but from the system that is strangling Russia. This will be followed by… a struggle – the struggle for a new Russia, a country where it will be possible once again to proclaim proudly: we are not slaves, slaves are not us!

 

 17-11-2007


 


[i] I want to stress that the official statistics in Russia (for example, those published by Roskomstat) are falsified to a very large degree for the purpose of presenting «required» figures; in the opinion of independent experts, the deviation from the truth can be as large as 2-2.5 times.

[ii] A word analogous to the word “Budetlyane” (“people of the future”) invented by the poet Khlebnikov.