Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Putin has Reversed the Roles Party and State Played in Soviet Times, Kashin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 24 – Drawing analogies between Putin’s United Russia Party and the CPSU has become the most banal and at the same time the most deceptive activities, Oleg Kashin says, because between the superficial similarities, the current Kremlin dictator has completely reversed the roles of the ruling party and the state apparatus.

            In Soviet times, he points out, the CPSU had a real corporate sense of itself and dominated the facade known as the state; in Putin's time, however, United Russia has no collective sense or ability to dominate the state. It is controlled entirely by that state instead
            Comparing the two parties nonetheless is a temptation many fall for, the Moscow commentator says. “The Soviet communists voted unanimously; the United Russia party members do the same. The communists greeted their leaders with ovations; the United Russia ones do the same; the communists talked about milk production and foreign policy, and so does United Russia.”

“How could one fail not to compare the one with the other?” Kashin asks rhetorically . But such a comparison, he argues, is “not only cheap but inexact and unjust.” United Russia “is not simply not the CPSU but it is its opposite, and the similarity of certain external manifestations only confuses things.”

The CPSU from Lenin’s time to almost the end of Gorbachev’s was “as Stalin precisely described it a kind of crusader order, an almost religious organization” initially based on fanaticism and then on corruption but one which “maintained its sectarian structure, iron discipline and independent essence,” the commentator says.

That “permitted the party structures over the course of the entire Soviet period to subordinate to itself the weak and almost in all regards decorative state to itself, Kashin says.

“With the United Russia party members, everything is strictly the reverse: their organization is a decorative structure which imitates a political party in the interests of a self-sufficient and expansionist state power.” It has none of the behind the scenes structures that allowed the CPSU to play the role that it did.

In fact, Kashin continues, “even in comparison with other semi-virtual and Kremlin-controlled systemic parties, United Russia looks paler than any other.” The KPRF, LDPR and others, “including the non-parliamentary parties, have at least limited opportunities for independent action and negotiation with the powers that be. United Russia doesn’t.

It is thus “the most unpolitical, the most fake and the weakest” of all Russian parties. It has no “I.” And in this it represents “the VIP version” of the exchange Russians are said to have made with the government, giving up any chance to influence policy in exchange for access to resources.

In “the best case,” United Russia follows the orders of the Kremlin; in the worst, its members are charged with crimes. As a result, future historians may describe it as “the most horrific political anomaly of the Putin period, a party which gives the impression that it exists” when it in fact doesn’t.

Were United Russia to “suddenly disappear,” this would have no consequences; and its existence in this form appears to reflect Vladimir Putin’s distrust of any organization or structure that might take a position independent of his own and thus opposed to him. He has subordinated everything else; with United Russia, he has “done the same thing with the Russian ruling class.”

With United Russia’s help, the Russian bureaucracy and those beyond it who are close to the Kremlin have had all ambitions stripped away and even the sense that the nobility had in tsarist times and the nomenklatura did in Soviet times that it has “any of its own rights and interests.”

Under the Putin system, “the Russian elite cannot have its own interests, and possibly that is why United Russia exists,” Kashin says.  It “reduces those who could have been a real ruling class to the role of a speechless and applauding mass.”

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