Staunton, April 11 – Mikhail Gorbachev’s call for a new perestroika has sparked a discussion which rests on the idea that “if the medicine (perestroika) would kill the cancer patient (Russia in its current state), then it is necessary to put up with the cancer as long as possible,” according to a Moscow commentator.
In an essay on the nationalist “Russky zhurnal” portal, Sergey Mitrofanov says that Gorbachev’s suggestion represents “a traditional apple of discord” for Russia’s political class, especially now when Russia like the Soviet Union of the early 1980s is suffering from stagnation (russ.ru/Mirovaya-povestka/Stradaniya-po-perestrojke).
“The absence of promised economic growth, the unceasing flight of capital abroad, the continuous scandals around the political Olympus, and the daily outbreaks of public dissatisfaction” with which neither propaganda nor police measures can contain, he suggests, is forcing the establishment to find another basis for support.
And today, as in the past, the leadership has decided that if it can’t gather support from the people as a result of its own policies, it can do so by frightening them with enemies who supposedly are out to destroy Russia. “As always, America with its Magnitsky list, ‘NATO at the gates,’” and such like “ideally” serve to mobilize the population.
The existence of those enemies mean, in the view of the leadership, that Russia must “’overcome’” mistakes of the past, and “the most politically correct” version of that includes “the consequences of perestroika and the 1990s” rather than anything that has been done in the last 12 years.
The statements of past and present communists, Mitrofanov says, only contribute to that notion and thus spark a broader discussion. “But the absurdity of the present discourse consists not just in the substitution of terms and the artificial simplification of the civilizational drama,” he argues. It also completely ignores what is wrong now and in fact preaches passivity.
Television polls suggest that two-thirds of the Russian people agree that any new dose of perestroika would “kill” Russia in its current condition and consequently that they and it must put up with all the current problems as long as possible rather than do anything about them, Mitrofanov continues.
With a few exceptions, he suggests, “liberal doctrine also can do little to oppose the presumed need for caution and gradualness,” itself also a reflection of its advocates having “experienced the collapse of the USSR on their own skins” and being unwilling “to take responsibility” for steps that might lead to their own and their country’s “suicide.”
“When the overwhelming majority of the careful population” accepts careerist logic and decide that it is better to go along than to rock the boat, then the regime will continue until someone within it decides otherwise. That was the way in was in the Soviet Union in 1985, Mitrofanov says, and that is the way things appear likely to proceed again.
Whether what happens as a result will eventually be called “perestroika or catastroika,” however, remains “another question.”
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