Staunton, August 4 – Many members of the Russian intelligentsia are repeating the mistake their predecessors made a century ago, engaging in what can be called an updated version of the “change of monuments” movement to justify collaboration with an authoritarian regime, according to Livejournal blogger Kitty Sanders.
In a post yesterday, she noted that “the smenovekhovtsy [‘change of monuments’] movement was an ideological trend of the collaborationist type connected with the transition of the oppositionally inclined Russian intelligentsia to the side of the Bolsheviks” which got its name from a book some of its adepts published (kitty-sanders.livejournal.com/577378.html).
Among the most notable of this group were Nikolay Ustryalov, Aleksandr Bobrishev-Pushkin, and Yury Klyuchnikov” who declared that ‘the Bolsheviks have changed’ and have begun to act in the interests of Russia.” Consequently, its members said, it was time to stop opposing them and start “cooperating with Soviet power.”
Most Bolsheviks, including Lenin, viewed these people as useful fools who could be played for propaganda purposes and then destroyed. And that attitude has led some to think that the Smenovekhovstsy were simply a Soviet plot. But in fact, the movement was too widespread as its repetition shows to have been or be only that.
The Change of Monuments people justified what they were doing by pointing to NEP as showing the Bolsheviks’ adaptation to the past, by noting its commonalities with some of the imperial forms of governance, and especially by arguing that “Russia is in danger” and that it “is threatened with disintegration.”
“Today,” the Russian blogger says, “history is repeating itself with surprising precision. The Russian intelligentsia, as in former times, is divided into socialist, national-patriotic, and liberal branches,” each of which talks about Russian traditions and populism and each of which has found its own reasons to engage in its own “change of monuments” moment now.
Members of each trend, sometimes with tears and sometimes in exaltation, are changing their attitudes toward the regime, shifting from “anti-imperial and anti-Kremlin” positions to the exact opposite on the basis of what they say they see as a change in the regime in the directions that they want.
The “master” to which they are subordinating themselves “characteristically remains the same: Putin is a neo-Bolshevik who was sufficiently clever to begin his career not with ‘war communism’ but with NEP,” and who then engaged in “the expropriation of the property of disloyal oligarchs.”
Little by little he has been building a new “iron curtain” and building alliances with “left-fascist countries and politicians,” all of whom are united by a hatred of the United States. It is worth recalling, the Russian blogger says, that “the Bolsheviks had exactly the same allies” at one point.
Moreover, like the Bolsheviks, Putin has been extending his system abroad into Georgia and now Ukraine just as Lenin tried to do in Georgia, Ukraine, Hungary and Poland, albeit with much less success in the case of the latter two. And like the Bolsheviks, Putin uses slogans about the need to protect an allied group abroad against European values.
In response, “the entire political spectrum of the Russian political intelligentsia is today going through its ‘change of monuments’” moment, and the Russian blogger devotes her attention to the evolution of the views of communists, nationalists, and liberals in that direction, noting that the change has been, again like 90 years ago, hardest for the nationalists.
“Very few people have preserved an adequate sense of reality and an understanding that ‘against the West for autarchy’ automatically means ‘badly’” because there is little chance that the current regime will develop or end well. And Russian liberals have fallen short especially often in the case of Ukraine, saying they are all for democracy but against what Russian television has taught them to call the Banderites.
“Unfortunately,” she continues, “history has not taught any of these politically active people anything.” They do not see that the authorities are not adapting to what they said they wanted; they are adapting to the authorities “in a one-sided manner.” And “they do not understand” that if history continues to repeat itself, “the result will be very predictable” and bad.
What makes the current form of collaborationism especially appalling, the blogger suggests, is that it is being engaged in by people who still have the chance to challenge the existing regime rather than those who won’t when the regime is fully established. That means that the collaborators are helping the regime not just to function but to be set up.
“If the classical collaborationist doesn’t ask whether he would find himself under the power of the aggressor, the change of monuments type seeks out the dictator in order to be under his power and to cooperate with him,” she writes. “He doesn’t simply ‘snitch to the Gestapo.’ He from the beginning does everything that the Gestapo will appear and then begins to snitch.”
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