Saturday, September 8, 2018

Russia has Not Yet Had a Post-Communist Political Revolution, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 7 – Unlike many other post-communist countries, Andrey Illarionov says, “not a single representative of the human rights, dissident or non-communist democratic movement has ever occupied any significant post in the federal executive power in Russia.” And that in turn means that “a political revolution in Russia has not yet occurred.”

            Speaking to the American Political Science Association national meeting in Boston a week ago, the Russian commentator says that “the main forces which came to power in present-day Russia (since 1991) were three social groups which at the turn from the 1980s to the 1990s had obvious political advantages” (   

            These were “the corporation of the employees of the communist special services,” “the systemic liberals who grew out of the communist bureaucracy and communist intelligentsia,” and “organized crime, the mafia in the most direct sense of this word.” Many of those involved belonged to more than one of these groups at any particular time.

            The systemic liberals achieved great power and influence after the August events of 1991, but they soon lost the support of the population and came to rely ever more heavily on the siloviki “and especially the employees of the special services” to whom power passed especially after the economic crisis of 1998.

            Likewise, Illarionov says, “from the totalitarian era, the present-day political regime inherited, albeit in a partially changed form, three important institutions: the political police, a quasi-monopoly party of bureaucrats and a machine of ideology and propaganda,” with their relative positions shifting away from the party toward the police. 

“The present propaganda machine does not have a direct connection with the ideological machine which existed in the times of the totalitarian regime. It was established anew, with new people and using new resources based on new technologies.”  But it has turned out to be not less and possibly even more effective than the propaganda machine of the late-totalitarian period.”

“The term ‘ideology,’ he continues, “is used here not in a narrow-partisan sense but rather in a broader way as a synonym for the denominate worldview,” a worldview defined by a commitment to great power status, imperialism, and “the total lack of ideas about individual freedoms and rights, the supremacy of law, democracy, and limited and divided state power.”

In the current system, functioning institutions for taking political decisions are either subordinate or completely absent, Illaironov says. As a result, decisions are taken through “special operations, the introduction of confusion, disinformation, deception, forced subordination, the use of force, and terror.”

“The widespread use of these political technologies is characteristic not only for the Putin but for the Yeltsin (Gaidar-Chubais) sub-periods of the existence of the current Russian political regime,” Illarionov continues. Quantitatively, their use is more widespread under Putin; but qualitatively, it is the same.

“Putin’s principle political-technological innovations are “open aggression against foreign states, the official annexation of territory, and the application of weapons of mass destruction against political opponents abroad – Litvinenko and the Skripals.” 

It is thus clear, Illarionov concludes, that the creation of a politically free regime in Russia is “impossible” as long as the rule of the present “triumvirate” is maintained, as long as the institutions inherited from the totalitarian past are kept in place, and as along as cadres with experience in the communist party and having “totalitarian-criminal worldviews” are present.

That is because such people in such institutions will continue to use the well-tested means of the past: “deception, force, and terror that are characteristic of totalitarian regimes.”

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