Staunton, February 16 – Perhaps the most dangerous development in recent weeks is that some in the Kremlin and many of its propagandists are talking more about fighting enemies rather than punishing criminals when it comes to discussions about those who oppose the current regime, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.
That shift as yet far from complete takes Russia back to the Stalinist era, the Russian commentator says, because Russians have always had a far more negative attitude toward and willingness to accept abuse of enemies than they have with regard to those who merely violate laws (mk.ru/politics/2021/02/16/uk-dlya-nesoglasnykh-vernutsya-li-zakony-k-stalinskim-normam.html).
This distinction in handling regime opponents was obliterated by the notorious Article 58 of the RSFSR criminal code concerning “counter-revolutionary activity,” a measure that gave the Soviet authorities the supposedly legal right to repress their political opponents. But in doing so, the regime was engaged in defending itself against enemies rather than enforcing the law.
Nothing equivalent to this yet exists in the Russian Federation legal code, Inozemtsev says. And that means that as of now, “the fundamental distinction” between the Soviet and Russian codes are the former’s reliance on the concepts of “’revolutionary self-consciousness’” and “’the interests of the proletariat.’”
In Soviet times at least until Khrushchev, the state viewed that it had the right to suppress its opponents because they were enemies not just law breakers; but now, the Russian state again as yet makes no such claim. And that means that the Russian state can’t on a legal basis persecute its opponents as enemies, despite calls to do just that.
Beyond doubt, the Russian authorities will continue to put pressure on those who don’t agree with it, but for that to go as far as treating them as enemies, Moscow would have to restore to the Constitution and legal code “norms which even in the USSR were in large measure discarded in 1958 and finally done away with in the 1980s.”
“For this,” the analyst says, “there is no basis because Russia is not the Soviet Union.” Indeed, “the chief success of the 20 years of Putin’s power has been the articulation of a system in which personal freedoms, free exit from the country and information openness do not present an obstacle to harsh control over the political sphere and the rule of the state apparatus.”
If the regime wants to go further, it will “sooner or later have to turn back to the Soviet legal system and then to ‘revolutionary jurisprudence’ which was the most importance basis of repression against anti-Soviet inclined people at the start of the 1920s,” Inozemtsev argues. It will thus have to “discard” current legal arrangements and go back to that.
Moscow’s use of the designation of foreign agent is not sufficient for that because the law does not impose all that many restrictions, and consequently, the Russian powers that be now are inclined to use other provisions of the criminal code against those who come out against it.
But it is rapidly becoming obvious that this tactic is not sufficient for the regime’s purposes and that it may soon go further. If that is the case then the old Stalinist idea “about the intensification of the class struggle as advancement toward communism occurs (modified according to current circumstances) remains more than applicable to our situaiton.”