Staunton, August 10 – Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s call for imposing criminal sanctions on anyone who equates Stalin and Hitler, a call that has support from United Russia deputies and some former security officers in the Russian government, has consequences that its backers clearly haven’t considered, according to Aleksandr Tsipko.
In a commentary in “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” the senior IMEMO scholar and longtime Russian commentator argues that “if the Soviet regime of the Stalin era is sacred and beyond criticism, if God forbid, one must not speak the truth” about its similarities with Hitler’s, “then, to be consistent, Gorbachev and Yeltsin are ‘traitors’ (ng.ru/ideas/2015-08-05/5_ideology.html).
Moreover, Tsipko continues, “it means that if perestroika and August 1991 were thus the result of a conspiracy against Russia, again as suppose certain current politicians, then those who became political figures of an all-Russian scale as a result of these events are the result of a CIA conspiracy.”
And thus, “the ban on truth about Soviet history undermines the historical legitimacy of the ruling elite, including President Putin.” That is something that those in his United Russia party ought to be thinking about before coming out in support of Zhirinovsky’s clearly poorly-thought-through proposal.
Even more, Tsipko continues, Moscow “again risks restoring the latest Russian absurdity. On the one hand, Berdyaev for [Putin] is an undoubted authority on conservatism. But on the other, [with this measure] we would be putting in jail those who repeat Berdyaev’s thoughts about the ideological and political similarity of Russian communism and national socialism.”
That Zhirinovsky could make such a proposal now reflects “the serious change of the political and ideological situation [in Russia] after the events in Ukraine,” Tsipko says. Prior to that time, even committed ideologues of sovietism like Sergey Kara-Murza admitted that Bolshevism and Hiterism were “two messianic projects” which resembled one another.
Thus, the IMEMO analyst continues, one must look for the “roots of legislative initiatives banning under fear of jail any recollection of the punitive and repressive essence” of the Soviet system in the attitudes now dominant in the ruling elite which have been “provoked by the second edition of the cold war.”
“In a moral and political situation when war in the name of the preservation of national dignity and the restoration of state sovereignty of Russia as a great power has become the new agenda, it became inevitable that the question about the complete rehabilitation of the Soviet system would be raised.”
According to Tsipko, “Russia was a great power in a military sense only in the Soviet era;” and the desire to restore that has driven out the pale “liberal” patriotism which Putin used to promote in favor of “Stalinist kvas patriotism” with its “Soviet traditions of the struggle with enemies of the Soviet regime.”
“If the West is again our main enemy, as the authorities assert,” Tsipko says, “if the question of the day is ‘to be or not to be?’ then, by the logic of military times all ideological problems are simplified,” where everything is reduced to “either-or” and no nuances are welcome or even allowed.
“The militarization of consciousness inevitably leads to its primitivization,” and “the logic of the cold war inevitably leads to the primitivization of patriotism by denying the possibility that a Russian has the ability to love his country and the truth inspite of the catastrophes and tragedies which befell it in the 20th century.”
Moreover, he continues, “by insisting that ‘Russia is not the West,’ that the values of bourgeois freedom and bourgeois individualism are alien to us … the current political elite [of the Russian Federation] repeats Hitler word for word.”
As a result of its ignorance, this elite “does not know that the ideology of national socialism is a revolt against bourgeois values and above all against individualism and the right of the individual to a dignified life.” Learning about that is critical because otherwise Russia will find itself “on the path of fascism.”
If one analyzes the texts of Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler as Tsipko says he has done, it turns about that all of them called for murder and for victims. To be sure, Lenin and the Bolsheviks attacked people on a class basis and Hitler on an ethno-religious one, but both wanted victims.
Consequently, Tsipko says, “Berdyaev was right: the sacralization of both Marxism and fascism was necessary for their leaders in order to justify their incredible cruelty and their passion for murder and for death.”
Unless people recognize this, he continues, “we will never learn the main lesson of the horrific 20th century: the instinct of suicide and self-destruction always lives in human beings, and it can manifest itself at any time and in any era.” In that century, first Russia and then Germany and Italy followed that path of violence.
There is no doubt, Tsipko says, that “both Russian communism and fascism were ideologies of death.” And one must also recognize that it is much easier to recreate such things in Russia than in Western countries by “the psychosis of militaristic attitudes, a passion for war and a desire for struggle with enemies, included invented ones.”
Indeed, he concludes, “inflected by the psychosis of war and militaristic attitudes, we Russian can shut down our wisdom and lose the remnants of the instinct of self-preservation and the instinct of humanity.” And in that event, from the commitment to statism “at any price,” it is “only one step to fascism.”