Staunton, March 25 – Russian liberals continue to believe that Putin supporters are “Soviet” people, but that is not the case, Yevgeny Ikhlov says. While they have some Soviet characteristics, they in fact have more in common with Weimar Germans and can be appealed to successfully only if the opposition recognizes that reality.
Up to now, there is little evidence that it does, he says. Indeed, if Yabloko theorist Lev Shlosberg’s writings are any guide(e.g., gubernia.pskovregion.org/columns/rossiya-razvitogo-putinizma/), the opposition is misreading the Russian electorate and thus trying to reach it with the wrong messages (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AB73653E3630).
Shlosberg views the Putin voter as “Soviet imperialist” and choosing security in place of freedom, Ikhlov says. To be sure, “the Russian electorate is in many ways imperialist.” But voters in the non-Russian republics are hardly likely to have been animated by that. They behaved “precisely as the population of colonies administered despotically.”
But what is “most important,” Ikhlov says, is that “’the Putin man’ having many characteristics of ‘the soviet’ nevertheless is not a ‘Soviet’ but a ‘Weimar’ ‘man.’ The Soviet many did not know pluralism and open political struggle. But the ‘Weimar’ (and ‘Mussolini’ and ‘Franco’ men knew and consciously rejected these things.”
Fascism, the Russian commentator continues, “is distinguished from Bolshevism precisely by the fact fascism was a weapon for the destruction of a completely developed civil society and institutionalized democracy. It was a revolt against democracy” as such rather than being “anti-conservative” or “anti-liberal” as leftwing revolts have been.
“Putinism, while having many aspects of Stalinism (which itself became the uprising of the party masses against late Leninism),” Ikhlov continues, “and while it is in essence ‘market Stalinism,’ nevertheless is that very Russian imperial fascism which people predicted with fear from the end of the 1980s,’ although in a ‘velvet’ form” like that in Latin America.
Consequently, he continues, “anti-Putinist propaganda, that is an attack not against Putin but against the entire oprichnik-nomenklatura system must be conducted from an anti-fascist and anti-dictatorial position and not as a continuation of perestroika’s anti-Stalinist and anti-communist one.”
The Putin man is not ascetic as some Soviet people were. Instead, he is more like “the German peasant” dreaming of Ukrainian slave girls and a huge estate on the shores of “Mutter-Volga.” He had no interest in sacrificing his personal freedoms for any “’corporate ties’” as he rejected them, “fearing above all that his son would find himself a boyfriend on the Internet.”
“Don’t laugh,” Ikhlov says. The Kremlin deployed homophobia as “an ideal propaganda anti-liberal weapon of ‘the pre-Crimea period.’”
Moreover, he continues, the Putin man didn’t vote for the president because he had chosen “security instead of freedom.” Instead, he took part in the “election” as Germans did in the 1920s and 1930s and as Russians did before 1953, as a form of manifesting his “personal union” with the leader.
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