Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Russian Opposition Feels So Compelled to Criticize Regime It Ignores National Interests in the Current Crisis, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 27 – One of the more disturbing but not much commented upon aspects of the current political situation in Russia, Vladimir Pastukhov says, is that the opposition, which always feels compelled to condemn everything the government does, is doing that with regard to the government’s anti-pandemic measures rather than suggesting what it would do instead.

            It is entirely possible that the Kremlin will misuse the controls it has put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the London-based Russian analyst says; but what should be the more important question for the opposition is this: what would they do instead rather than focusing on this danger in the future? (

            Philistine attitudes which object to the counter-pandemic measures are widespread, he says. Today, “they are both the social foundation of the regime and the social base of the opposition.” They are very different on most things, but “in the quarantine, they are all the same together.”

            “The philistine loyalist is in an especially difficult position because the limiting measures [he doesn’t like] have been introduced by the powers which he a priori supports.” Consequently, Pastukhov says, he draws what for him seems the simple and obvious conclusion: “the government has fallen into the net of either those sowing panic or Masons.”

            But the opposition philistine finds himself in “a not much better position. It is hard to deny completely the need for restrictions, but to recognize their utility even in part is offensive” because “in Russia by definition, members of the opposition must reject everything that the powers do.”

            To get out of this psychological difficult, the philistine opposition member “concentrates all his attention on the distant political consequences of the quarantine,” describing “a coming catastrophe in a talented way but not explaining what we need to be doing now with the current catastrophe.”

            Under conditions of the quarantine, the Russian philistine in both camps has grown stronger and today “is provoking the development in Russia of a vulgar and aggressive ‘quarantine populism.’” That is especially offensive in the ranks of the opposition whose members say they are concerned about Russians. But it appears only in the long term.

            These philistines “promise to save Russia several steps down the road” failing to specify what they would do differently in response to the current crisis, Pastukhov says. “There is nothing new here. For the Russain opposition as before the very thought that the powers and especially the Russian ones can fulfill any socially significant functions is unbearable.”

            And thus their criticisms, by ignoring the current challenges, seem driven by a desire to bring down the entire house so that they will be in a position to rebuild it the way they want from the ground up, ignoring how many people will suffer from such an approach and how preventing  the destruction of the house itself may be the right way to defend national interests.

            That is what Lenin wanted when he sought the defeat of the Russian government in a war with its enemies so that he could come to power. Is the opposition in Russia today really prepared to follow the same path? Is it like the Bolshevik leader prepared to sacrifice all-national interests for partisan purposes?

            This “last question is purely rhetorical,” Pastukhov says, “because the majority of the speakers of the opposition consider the term ‘national interests’ a sham.”  Unfortunately, “this isn’t a new dilemma for the Russian opposition, and there is no single solution.” It may lead to the gallows as it did General Petr Krasnov whose opposition to the Soviets led him to cooperate with the Nazis.

            Or it may lead to a guillotine as it did for Princess Vera Obolenskaya who “refused to work with the Gestapo in the struggle with Bolshevism.”  Pastukhov says he feels much closer to the latter than the former because in the end, he isn’t prepared “to do away with the regime at the price of a national catastrophe – although, of course, there can be other points of view.”

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