Thursday, February 20, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukrainian Events Pushing Kremlin to Take Harsher Line against Creative Class

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 20 – In much the same way that Orange Revolution in 2004 did, events in Ukraine now are pushing the Kremlin to take a much harder line against the creative class, leading to “the rebirth of an ideology” which, in calmer times, the Russian authorities “have tried to hide.”

            That is the conclusion Mariya Glebova of reaches on the basis of a speech this week by Igor Kholmansikh, presidential plenipotentiary in the Urals Federal District, to a Moscow meeting of the iIzborsky and Tagil Clubs when he was forced by the press of events to drop the discussion of Russia’s military industry and focus instead on Ukrainian developments.

            Igor Kholmansikh told a meeting of the influential Izborsky and Tagil Clubs in Moscow this week that Russia’s leaders need to “decide what to do with them” in terms that’s Mariya Glebova suggested mark “the rebirth of an ideology which in peace time [Russian leaders] have tried to hide” (

            Arguing that Kholmansikh’s words are “the first reaction of [Russia’s] authorities to the war in Kyiv, Glebova says that they suggest the regime is “returning to the rhetoric of the conflict between workers,” on the one hand, and “hipsters,” as members of the creative class are often called, on the other.

            That represents a return to the rhetoric Moscow employed at the time of the Orange Revolution, the journalist says, a time when the Maidan was able to replace the president of Ukraine but when “in Russia, this led to a toughening of the regime.”

            Kholmenskikh had been scheduled to talk about Russia’s defense industry the day before yesterday, but given what was taking place in Ukraine, few at the meeting were prepared to focus on that, and consequently, the presidential plenipotentiary spoke at large and perhaps more extemporaneously about Ukraine and its meaning for Russia.

            His words, Glebova argues, show “the rebirth of an ideology which [the Russian leadership] in peaceful times has attempted to hide.”

            The key passage in Kholmenskikh’s speech, the journalist suggests is the following: “There exists an entire social strata, the representatives of which earn their living by talking about the impermissibility of the militarization of our society, about how it is impossible to develop advanced technology in Russia, about how [only] tired and out of date people work in the factories, because everything contemporary is to be found in coffee shops in the capital.”

            Then, the plenipotentiary proposed that the audience talk about “what should be done with this creative class which in his opinion ‘had become a certain brake on the development of our society and anti-social force.”

            That was enough to spark a discussion among some members of the audience who proposed various ways to “do away with” such “hipsters.”  Some, for example, suggested that their place should be taken by “muscular” workers, and others said they should be forced to work in military industry. Others, however, perhaps because they were appalled simply left early.

            Kholmanskikh reacted by saying that “it sounds as if I am calling for a judgment of the creative class. But I [simply] asked what should be done with it.”

            Aleksandr Prokhanov, the leader of the Izborsky Club, commented that “perhaps we will hold [the next meetings of the group] not opposite the Kremlin in the National Hotel but somewhere” like “the permafrost zone” of the Russian Far North.

            Makhaevism, the view that those who engage in intellectual activity, not just the capitalists, are the real enemies of the working people, has never been far beneath the surface of Russian politics despite all the criticism the early 20th century works of Jan Machajski, a Polish anarcho-syndicalist theorist, in Soviet times and since.

            It would be truly tragic if the efforts of Ukrainians to block the rise of a dictatorship in their country should become the occasion for a new round of Makhaevism in Russia, one that would seek to redirect popular discontent away from the new Russian capitalists to the Russian creative class. 

Unfortunately, as the comments of Kholmanskikh and the reactions of the Izborsky Club suggest, that is all too real a possibility now.

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