Staunton, November 22 – The adoption of a new law that allows the authorities to label anyone who draws support or information from abroad “a foreign agent” has far-reaching consequences for the Russian political system, Tamara Eidelman says, because it is intended to involve the entire population in a new fight against “enemies of the people.”
The modern source of the term “enemy of the people’ is Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play of that name in which a doctor exposes as deceptive claims about the curative powers of the waters n a small Norwegian town and is then attacked by the population which views itself as the victims of his exposure, the Moscow commentator says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5DD7BF4FAA069).
The doctor defends himself not so much against the state, Eidleman continues, but against the enraged majority of the population who had benefitted from the deception arguing that “the most dangerous enemies of truth and freedom among us is a close-knit majority” intolerant of both.
The term, of course, has much older antecedents, she says. Roman Emperor Sulla used it in 82 BC to justify attacks on anyone who challenged him or who questioned what his agents were doing. And during the French Revolution, many used “enemy of the people” as a term to designate those who were “’enemies of the revolution.’”
But its most prominent and widespread use was in the Soviet Union where the authorities employed it to mobilize the population against anyone the authorities didn’t approve of and to lead the people to conclude that any actions against those in that category were justified up to and including murder because such people were beyond the pale.
In each of these cases, the idea of the existence of “enemies of the people” was used less to unite the ruler and his minions than to ensure that the larger population – the Soviet people, the French poor, Sulla’s warriors, and the people of a Norwegian village – were united against those the leaders wanted them to be.
The Putin regime is now seeking to use the epithet “foreign agent” in exactly the same way, putting those on whom this label is imposed – and practically anyone could suffer that fate, Eidelman says – and both justifying and opening the way for “all possible means of struggle” against them, including the most horrific.
But there is still the possibility of resistance because now Dr. Stockman isn’t alone: “there are a multitude of people who do not belong to this tight majority and, however many of them are declared foreign agents, they will nonetheless remain normal people.” The scum unfortunately “will always remain scum.”