Staunton, April 19 – No one should be surprised that polls show that the Russian people have a positive attitude about Stalin, Grigory Yavlinsky says. After all, it reflects the survival of Soviet values, the continuation of the “end justifies the means” during what he calls “market bolshevism’ in the 1990s, and Vladimir Putin’s drive to create “capitalism with a Stalinist face.”
The opposition politician who founded the Yabloko Party says this new-old system is based on a lack of respect for human rights, an authoritarian power, conditional rather than absolute property rights, “grayness among the powers that be,” corruption, and a readiness to charge anyone with any crime at any time (echo.msk.ru/blog/yavlinsky_g/2410725-echo/).
“The current powers that be,” Yavlinsky continues, “feel themselves to be the heirs of the Bolsheviks” and views Stalin as the central figure of that inheritance. “To the point of mass repressions, the situation has not yet gone, but all the preconditions” for such aggression against the Russian population “are present.”
According to Yavlinsky, “repressions may begin under the banner of the struggle against corruption or with lack of respect to the authorities or with terrorism … Under conditions of rightlessness, one can always think up something. The atmosphere in the country, judging from the polls, is suitable.”
It must be “repeated again and again,” he says, that “Putin is leading he country along a path which leads nowhere” (see his article on this at novayagazeta.ru/articles/2015/10/19/66048-grigoriy-yavlinskiy-171-put-kotorogo-net-187and that “Stalinism is one of the darkest dead ends along this path.
Many other Moscow commentators are making similar points and even extending the analogy between Stalinism and Putinism still further. One who does so with particular force is Maksim Shevchenko who discusses what “Stalinized Putinism” is likely to lead to in the first instance with regard to the regime’s opponents (nakanune.ru/articles/115074/).
Polls showing positive feelings about the Soviet dictator, he argues, of course, “are not about Stalin but about Putin.” They reflect the work of Kremlin propagandists who have sought to portray Stalin as “the gravedigger of revolution and any troubles, the defender of the Russian world, and secret White Guard, and almost an Orthodox monarchist.”
In short, these propagandists have presented Stalin as someone who supposedly overcame the consequences of the 1917 revolution, just as Putin supposedly is overcoming the consequences of the 1991 overthrow” and the time of troubles which followed in the ensuing decade.
According to Shevchenko, “the present-day left opposition which really represents a problem for the regime will be presented in the Kremlin media as the anti-state and anti-national Trotskyite opposition who undermined the tasks of national and economic development of the country.
After all, “who was against Stalin? The Trotskyites. And who is against Putin? The present-day Trotskyites.” And these people are being fought by Putin and the neo-Stalinists who include all “the true ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ servants of the regime who “have been solving the tasks’ of strengthening the vertical and carrying out national projects.”
In this way, the journalist argues, Putin sets the stage “for repressions against the real left,” after all, “Stalin repressed them” to the same ends. But just like Stalin, Putin will go even further to “destroy or discredit the nationally thinking social opposition” and “keep the people in the position of a herd of consumers.”
As a result, Shevchenko suggests, “the international press will curse Putin for ‘tyranny’ and the rehabilitation of Stalin.” But those who want him to control the situation for the benefit of international capital will be pleased and Russian elites will not see their standard of living affected.
And that points to one fundamental difference between Stalin and Putin, he argues. Stalin was “a Bolshevik, a revolutionary, a socialist, a fighter for justice and the construction of a never before seen social state of a union of peoples.” But those things, which many Russians admire, aren’t going to inform Putin.
With “the new Putin-Stalin,” all those things will be jettisoned. What will be left will be cruelty alone and without a purpose besides enriching Putin and his cronies.