Thursday, October 29, 2020

Putin Preservationists aren’t Conservatives but Reactionaries Setting Stage for Revolution, Kildyushov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 27 – Those who work for the Putin regime often describe themselves as conservatives, interested in maintaining the state against the threat of disintegration should the people play a greater role, a Hobbesian vision which justifies supporting repression as a price to be paid to prevent something worse, Oleg Kildyushov says.

            But just as was true at the end of both imperial and Soviet times, the sociological theorist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics says, these people aren’t conservatives at all but rather reactionaries who deify the state and reject any role for the nation, a position that leaves Russia at odds with the rest of Europe and sets the stage for new revolutions.

            Many ask why so many Russians freely choose tyranny, but it reflects the effective manipulation of their consciousness by the ruler, another case of the Stockholm syndrome, and the benefits the Russian state provides to those who support it against the population, Kildyushov argues (

            Because many of those who seek to preserve Putin’s power despite everything have experienced the negative consequences of any loosening of control and can see in neighboring republics still more, they accept a Hobbesian version of reality rather than one reflecting Locke and Burke, the two thinkers who have shaped political thought in the West.

            For this reason, the sociologist continues, “Russian preservers are not conservatives in the modern sense of the word since they support the unlimited and super-legal power of a pre-modern kind that has been delegitimized elsewhere by means of free democratic expression of opinion.”

            These Putin preservationists, because of their experiences and worldview, feel that “a return of dictatorship does not have a traumatic character but represents for them a more or less problem-free return to a former normality.”  They cover this desire for dictatorship by speaking about “a certain civilizational alternative.”

            “An important function of the preservers is convincing their fellow citizens in the eternal lack of preparedness of Russians as a nation for rights and freedoms of a contemporary kind. They constantly talk about the danger of the very idea of democratization of Russia” and suggest it will lead to one disaster after another, ending in disintegration.

            “In this sense,” Kildyushov continues, “the domestic heirs of Hobbes quite successfully play on the fears” that many Russians in fact have when they consider their own immediate past and look at what is going on in Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan or Belarus.   

            As long as the preservers speak about dangers, they are on solid ground. But their problems begin when they try to come up with any positive image of the future. “The exhaustion of the Putin model of rule cannot by covered by constant mantras about a Maidan. More than that, regular invocation of this theme … leads to a definite inflation of threats.” 

            And one begins to hear certain “racist notes” in this narrative “because according to this picture of the world, Russians are the only European people for whom democratic procedures are counter-indicated.” At the very least, this notion is “if not anti-, then pre-national in character,” the sociologist says.

            In the picture of the world that the Putin regime and its preservers have, “there is no Russian nation as a self-administered and self-organizing community of compatriots. Here exists only one subject of political action, the supreme power.”  And that forces the preservers to defend ever more outrageous actions by that power because of their fear of the people.

            “In this sense,” Kildyushov continues, “with each post or article about the terrors of a dawning democratization, the preservers betray real Russian national interests on behalf of the absolutization of a fantom union with the Supreme Power, supposedly the only thing capable of maintaining order in our land.”

            He continues: “their real or consciously cultivated fear of Russian freedom transforms the eternal present with an increasingly out of touch leader into the only possible option, despite how unacceptable this is becoming for an ever greater number of their fellow citizens.”

            “And while many preservers understand that such a varied and complicated country cannot be run while remaining in the bunker, this picture of the world does not permit them to think about any variety for the future “outside of remaining attached to a discredited present.”  That is what Putin is counting on; it was also what Nicholas II and the CPSU did as well.

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