Sunday, November 4, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Putin is Redefining ‘People’ in a Corporatist Sense, Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 4 – National Unity Day, a holiday whose specific content had been far from obvious in the past, is “acquiring meaning” because Vladimir Putin now in his third term as president is using it to redefine the nature of “the people,” according to a Moscow commentator.

            In the past, “the people was simply a synonym for the population of [the country],” Aleksandr Morozov writes. “But in its new sense it includes [only] those who swear loyalty to the third term of Putin.” Those who don’t – and this is not about loyalty to the Constitution or the state but to Putin -- are not part of  “the people.”

            Russian “courts do not take up for consideration declarations [by those not included in ‘the people’] about any violations. They are not recognized as defense witnesses in judicial cases. If they have some point of view, they are simply dismissed by ritual assertions that this view comes from outside and from the geopolitical enemies of the state.”

            This concept of “the people,” Morozov says, is “’exclusive,’ that is, it has as its goal ‘the exclusion’ and thus symbolic destruction or segregation of specific social groups.”  (

            First to be subject to this process of exclusion, the commentator continues, have been “’the liberals’ and ‘the left.’ Then representatives of ‘degenerative art.’ Then disloyal members of the priesthood. Then persons who do not lead a healthy way of life. And then the last in line, representatives of the university corporation.”

            Such exclusions do not mean everyone who falls into one or another category is truly outside the people because “all this ‘exclusion’ is realized rhetorically. It is not required that it lead to any mass murders or deportations.  This rhetorical machine thus is not created  to justify ideologically repression.”

            The goal of the introduction of this definition of “the people” and its celebration at holidays like National Unity Day is “quite different: it corresponds to the task of an anthropological revolution, that is, its declared goal is ‘the creation of another man,’ distinguished in principle from ‘the old man.’”

            According to the writer, “the transformation of people into ‘the people’ of a corporative state takes approximately a decade.” The division of the population into “the people” and others can lead to the worst sorts of repression, “but usually everything is somewhat softer” and takes the form of a three-level society.

            At the bottom are “the cast offs, the ‘former’ people.”  In the middle is “the people.’” And at the top is “a special elite, ‘an order.’” Such social arrangements are “very attractive” to many people. “At a minimum, 12 countries during the interwar period developed corporative states resting on the basis of “the people.”

            One of the most important functions of this concept, Morozov argues, is that it forces a kind of conformity even on the intelligent who find themselves forced to ask before taking any action “are we ‘the people’?”

National Unity Day is central to this process in Russia because it celebrates not the anniversary of the establishment of independence or a constitution but rather “the day when ‘the people’ expelled from itself ‘the non-people.’” Republics and constitutions don’t matter; instead, “the very construct of ‘the people’ is because in its name the system can take any actions” at all.

This arrangement is so “inspiring” that it now finds supporters everywhere” and hardly just in Russia. “In all countries there are to be found people who recall the arrangement of life of their peoples between the two world wars as a model worthy of repetition. In some lands, there are more of such people; in others, less.

“Let us raise our bottles,” Morozov says, because with Putin we have entered into the period of “the formation of the concept of ‘the people.’” His efforts in this regard are “successfully proceeding.” Even some religious are using “the expression ‘enemy of the state’” in their public commentaries.

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