Staunton, September 23 – On election day two weeks ago, Konstantin Gaaze says, “the largest coalition of support for the existing authorities since 1991, the so-called ‘Crimean consensus,’ has disappeared,” ending “four years of ‘the golden age’ of Russian authoritarianism” and thus forcing the Kremlin to take new measures to maintain its power.
As a result, the Moscow commentator says, the regime will be launching in the coming months an attack “not on those on the right side of the political spectrum but against the new left headed by [Aleksey] Navalny” and including young people in the two capitals (carnegie.ru/commentary/77231 reposted at newizv.ru/article/general/16-09-2018/konstantin-gaaze-kreml-gotovit-osennee-nastuplenie-na-pyatuyu-kolonnu).
Such people, Gaaze continues, “are the ideal victim of a major campaign against the enemies of Russia” and the recent case involving the Novoye Velichiye group thus represents a testing of the waters by the FSB for the organization of similar but larger and more numerous operations of that kind in the near future.
Attacking such groups is the logical consequence of the system Putin had created and that he now must modify in order to survive, the commentator continues. “In 2014, Putin finally was able to construction that mythical Putinism that was simultaneously ‘national’ and ‘global,’ ‘socialist’ and ‘capitalist.’”
“Hands’ on management and informal deals of the government with business … did not eliminate social inequality as such but allowed its softening in each specific case by targeted interference,” Gaaze says. As a result, while the standard of living didn’t rise, both businessmen and the population remained in the Kremlin’s corner.
“Friends of the president were transformed from middle-ranking entrepreneurs to people fulfilling the most important geopolitical tasks, and oligarchs saved during the crisis received helped but were lowered in rank. Ministers and deputy prime ministers … became their ‘senior comrades as they were customarily called in the Soviet Komsomol,” while “oligarchs became ordinary deputy ministers and deputy ministers ordinary oligarchs.”
According to Gaaze, in this arrangement, Putin himself played the role of a professional mediator: all business, all the elite, and all those whom Putin promised to share with ‘simple people’ became his subordinates.” But that created a problem which has now surfaced and called these arrangements into question.
“Nikos Poulantzas, one of the most important Marxist theoreticians of the second half of the 20th century,” according to the Moscow commentator, “asserted that the chief conflict within dictatorial regimes is that between the comprador (globally oriented) and national (locally oriented) bourgeoisie.”
This conflict, Poulantzas argued, “in the end destroys dictatorships.” What has happened in Russia, Gaaze suggests, is that by 2016, “a comprador bourgeoisie did not remain,” with capitalists focusing on the West fleeing abroad. But at the same time, “there isn’t a national bourgeoisie” because it isn’t a bourgeoisie in the classical sense – it is part of the state.
As a result, the Kremlin combined within itself all these various forces and occasionally offered some sop or other to the population. But that means, especially when the oil money ran out, that “any protest against even ‘liberal’ initiatives [has become] a protest against the powers that be,” Gaaze continues.
Faced with growing popular unhappiness with government policies that benefit businesses and the regime at the expense of everyone else, Putin is being forced to use repression “against the enemies of Russia,” the notorious “’fifth column.’” And he is “preparing to play this card it appears this fall precisely against the left rather than the right.
That will shore up the regime’s power with the elites, but it will create a situation in which ever more repression is likely to be necessary to keep the population in line. And that in turn will create problems for development that at present the Putin regime does not appear to have any solutions for.
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