Staunton, March 21 – Some Russians especially on the right believe that the best response to Vladimir Putin’s increasing repression is to keep one’s head down and wait for a better future after he leaves the scene, but that strategy is profoundly mistaken, Dimmitry Savvin says.
That is because the logic of Putin’s neo-Sovietism leads to ever harsher totalitarian forms of rule; and these mean both that “tomorrow will be worse than today” and that those who oppose the regime will find it harder to undermine it and instead are certain to become its victims, the editor of the Riga-based conservative Russian Harbin portal.
Unlike a dictatorship, Savvin continues, “totalitarianism always views the state as a closed cosmos in which everything must be reduced to a common denominator established by the state itself” and everyone must not only submit but show “enthusiasm” for that vision (harbin.lv/otsidetsya-ne-poluchitsya-oni-pridut-za-kazhdym).
“It is possible to dispute how far things have moved in this direction” under Putin, he says; “but there is no doubt about the vector” because “the objective cause of this wannabe-totalitarianism is essentially neo-Sovietism” whose bearers are those near the top of the Soviet system at the time of its collapse but who have survived and taken power now.
Given the nature of the times of their formation, “the conditions of socialism of a Stalinist model,” such people are “uncomfortable” with any other milieu. “And inevitably, regardless of official ideological labels,” they seek “the formation under them of a controlled space and try to return it to the ‘norm’ – socialist totalitarianism.”
The new cold war Putin “de facto” began in 2014 “by annexing Crimea and unleashing military actions in the Donbass,” have only deepened and accelerated this process, Savvin argues. “Any war, be it cold or hybrid, has its own logic, and this logic is simple:” Everyone must unite against the foreign enemy, and any enemy at home must be destroyed.
“The Kremlin’s domestic policy today is a purge of the real by punitive instruments and nothing more.” And as is always the case when totalitarianism is the goal, it is increasingly repressive, identifying more and more people within the country as enemies and taking ever harsher steps against them just as was the case in the Soviet past.
The horrific if absurd actions of today are thus “only for today,” the conservative Russian writer says. “The very logic of Putin’s hybrid war and the logic of re-Sovietization will lead to a situation in which the next stage will come tomorrow.” If today, only public lectures approved by the regime can take place, tomorrow independent private ones will be subject to repression.
As a result, “tomorrow will be worse than today.” And “the day after tomorrow,” such things won’t simply be attacked but those who engage in them will be arrested,” following the logic of the Soviet past which Putin is recreating at high speed. No one should be deceived into thinking that he or his system is about to turn from it.
This trend has an important message for those who oppose it: “the fewer will be the centers of different views not to speak of resistance, the greater will be the probability that the punitive organs will begin to shake down ‘the former people’” and send them to the camps so the regime can continue to function as it wants.
According to Savvin, “the only real way out of this swamp is Perestroika 2.0, broad liberalization at forced march launched from above.” That is to say, not real liberalization, but liberalization as a shift in the direction of totalitarian demands. Those who oppose it will be crushed rather than allowed to continue to dissent. The Russian right must be prepared for that.
Each must decide for himself or herself what to do, Savvin says. But this choice must be based on Russian realities rather than illusions. Russians have seen the onset of totalitarianism before, and they should not think that those who favor a totalitarian approach for whatever ends are going to disappear when they change directions.