Friday, December 20, 2019

Russians Tragically Again Fighting about the Past Rather than Thinking about the Future, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – Recent weeks, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, have been marked by the return of a longstanding Russian tradition: people are fighting about the past attacking this or that individual from the past rather than addressing the issues that those attacking and being attacked haven’t solved and that on whose resolution the future of the country depends.

            Like most in these debates, the Russian economist says, he received his education in Soviet times and remembers Marx’s warning “not to exaggerate the role of the individual personality in history.” And he adds that in his view, the Soviet Union could not have failed to collapse and Putinism could not have failed to arise regardless of the personalities involved (

                Of course, there might have been changes at the margins if different people had been in place at different times; but there is no reason to doubt that the underlying realities of the situation would have played out much as them have. And he provides a laundry list of these realities, many of them unpleasant and unwelcome.

            Among them are “our imperial syndrome, our raw-materials-based economy, technological backwardness, the unpreparedness of the population to insist on its rights, the historic identification of power and money, the absolutization of force as the main social resource, [and] the lack of understanding of the difference between laws and truth.”

             None of these things is being faced up to by those who seem to prefer to denounce one another or those in the past who cannot answer, Inozemtsev says; and to reinforce his point, he suggests that among the many issues Russians should be talking about are four questions, the answers to which will determine the future.

·         First, “what is more important, ‘the territorial integrity of the country or real federal ties among its parts?”  In 1994, Moscow chose the first and converted the country into “a de facto unitary state.”

·         Second, “should one respect property rights in the form in which they exist or redistribute it in order that the representatives of l'Ancien régime cannot use it for attempts at restoration?”  In 1996, the regime made a choice that resulted in “oligarchic capitalism.”  

·         Third, “are those who came to power after the destruction of the communist/anti-people/etc. junta guarantors of the transition or executors of the popular will?”  Again, in 1996, Russian elites made a choice and the country has been living with the results.

·         And fourth, “have we thought about the limits of our country and the burden of our history that too often have been intensified by people for whom ‘the borders of Russia do not end anywhere’? Expansionism, the conception of controlled instability on the post-Soviet space, the destabilization of neighboring countries, and the struggle for the rights of ‘compatriots’ are far from being Putin’s inventions and will not disappear with his departure.” 

These questions, Inozemtsev argues, “should be the subject of discussion to a far greater degree” than the denunciation and defense of “political processes of 20 years ago” because it is far more important to decide about what future one wants than to continue “to fight about the past.”

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