Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Putin's Stagnation Much Worse and Promises Much Worse Outcome than Brezhnev’s, Geltser Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – The term “stagnation” was first used politically in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 to describe the state of that country under the reign Leonid Brezhnev. But in fact, Yury Geltser says, it is “a very typical social phenomenon” that has been manifest repeatedly in Russia over the past century and today.

            The term can be defined, the Moscow businessman and analyst says, as a situation in which portions of society feel the need for some change but that their demands articulated or not are opposed by the ruling hierarchy through the use of “force, lies, and hypocrisy” (

            Stagnation thus is a “socio-political” phenomenon, Geltser says; “but it is also a demographic one characterizing the arrival of a new generation which the powers that be are trying to force it to live according to the norms of the preceding generation.”  And as time passes, the authorities have to take ever more draconian steps.

            It is a profound mistake to view stagnation as a time of reforms deferred, the analyst continues.  “Contradictions must be resolved in a timely fashion. They must be removed before they acquire an antagonistic character.” By so doing, both sides can continue; if they become antagonistic, then one or the other of the sides must be “destroyed.”

            “The perestroika begun by Gorbachev with a delay of 25 or perhaps even 50 years was doomed to be transformed by the precise expression of Aleksandr Zinoviyev into ‘catastroika’ or more simply into a catastrophe” because one or another of the sides had to be destroyed given that the conflict had become antagonistic.

            That observation allows for the following conclusion: “a period of stagnation is that state of a social system when demand for social activity of the personality is lacking, but spontaneous or organized not by the state manifestations of such activity are suppressed in every possible way. It is an unstable state of a system approaching a critical and catastrophic state.”

            “The cause of stagnation is the lack of reform or a long delay in their implication. The growth of problems exceeds the capacity of those running the system to solve them. Contradictions aren’t resolved but rather become antagonistic.” The rulers try to hold things together quite often by searching for internal enemies or launching small foreign wars.

            The collapse of the USSR is instructive in this regard, Geltser argues. “The de-communization of Russian society and the attempt to return power to the Soviets ended with the disintegration of the USSR and a return to capitalist forms of production. The Soviets were replaced by a certain ‘simulacrum’ of democracy, the Duma.”

            In fact, “all election processes, including of the president, became a simulacrum of democracy” rather than the real thing.  “The social activity of the population for the most part was transformed into a process of survival,” one that acquired “a degraded character. It could not secure the growth in the importance of the personality” but instead reduced it still further.

            “Russia was transformed not simply into a country on the periphery but into a colony of the US, having taken from its colonizer the most offensive form of state-monopoly capitalism,” one based on the collection of rents rather than the production of anything of value, Geltser argues.

            As a result, he continues, “Russia having just gotten out of one period of stagnation fell into a new but much more critical one.”  By 2014, there was a new “crisis of generations,” outmigration was growing, but the protest movement had been weakened to the point that it could not successfully challenge the powers that be.

            This “new stagnation looks much worse than its predecessor: the economy continued to degrade rather than restore itself to the state of 1991; education, culture, and science are all in a horrific condition.” Forty percent of the population is poor. And that means that “the exit from stagnation could turn out to be even more catastrophic.”

            The contempt the intelligentsia shows toward ordinary Russians and their tolerance for putting up with whatever exists is misplaced. It ignores the geographic and especially climatic conditions of the country and reflects – and this is its “main error” – “an unjustified faith in meetings and revolutions.”

            Obviously, meetings will be a feature of society as stagnation intensifies and then ends, he continues. “But the main struggle of good and evil will occur not there. It rather will be an inalienable part of our daily life. And most often of all, it will be a moral struggle, a struggle with oneself.”

            “Therefore,” Geltser says, “the main question today is whether the people of Russia have sufficient moral strength to overcome this latest stagnation.” And “the task of honest people is to help it do so and thus to recognize what is its invincible strength” however powerful those in charge appear to be.

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