Sunday, April 25, 2021

Putin Returns to Soviet Understanding of Rights and Freedoms, ‘Nezavisimaya gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 22 – Vladimir Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly “at first glance” did not appear to be about domestic policies, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say. “But in reality, almost all of it was about domestic policy and about how the powers see it” – a vision returning Russia to the understandings Soviet leaders had about what it is and what it isn’t.

            Because Putin said so little about the domestic concerns many Russians have, the editors argue, some felt he had not talked about domestic policy at all. But “in fact, he said all that he wanted” as far as domestic affairs are concerned, and what he said represents a genuine revolution or return to the past (

            Putin’s words about “constructive” forces speak volumes. If there are “constructive” forces, that means there are “destructive” ones; and for the Kremlin leader, the latter have their origins not in the country itself but rather as a result of the efforts of Russian’s enemies abroad and must be suppressed and driven from the political field.

            “Constructive forces on the other hand play by the rules of the system, know the limits of the permissible and therefore do not require any additional presidential discussions” beyond reference to the competent organs that are taking measures to exclude the “destructive” ones from causing problems.

            What this means is that the two groups have entirely different understandings of what domestic politics should consist of. For what Putin calls the “destructive” forces, politics is about a conversation between the powers and the peoples about the direction the country should take. For the “constructive” ones, in his vision, “what is important is different conversation.”

            For the rulers and those who accept its vision, “domestic politics is reduced to the resolution of specific socio-economic problems.” And “one can say,” the editors continue, that for the regime and its supporters, “there has been a turning back to Soviet ideas about rights and freedoms.”

            In that vision, “the individual has the right to security and consequently the state gives new powers to the corresponding organs. The individual as the right to work and so the state distributes money so that he will have a job and those who are unemployed will be taken care of.”

            “If the powers guarantee the citizen life and work, defend him from bandits and terrorists, and are ready to cure him and vaccinate him during a pandemic, then why should there be any social dissatisfaction?” The only possible source is from abroad, and the state has the right and power to block its impact on Russia.

            For Putin as for the Soviet leaders in the past, “laws and freedoms that are about more than that are viewed as bourgeois whims.” And as long as the leadership gives people “bread to eat, a roof over their heads and work,” it has no obligation to “play at parliamentarianism and democracy, the value of which appears illusory at best.”

            Evidence that this is how Putin views things now is provided by his discussion of the pandemic and the government’s response. Repeatedly, he talked about how poorly Western countries had performed as opposed to how well Russia has. Because “Russia solved the problem,” that means for him that “its system is the correct one.”

            This too is a turning back to Soviet understandings when all achievements were ascribed to “the superiority of the socialism system over the capitalist one” and all shortcomings to the interference of outside forces.  In sum, what Putin believes on this point as far as domestic politics is concerned is exactly like what his Soviet predecessors did.

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