Staunton, July 24 – Machiavelli advised that repressing people when there is a real threat to them and the prince is a good thing but continuing to repress them when there is no such threat creates dangers because if the population accepts the use of force in the first instance as justified, it sees its use in the second as a form of petty tyranny.
Unfortunately, since the start of this year, Vladimir Putin appears to have forgotten this wise maxim, according to Abbas Gallyamov, a Moscow political commentator who once served as speechwriter for the Kremlin leader. And that opens the way for a far more dangerous future than would otherwise be the case (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2876388-echo/).
When there is a real threat to the authorities, even those who oppose them understand why the powers that be are acting as they are and accept it, he continues. But when there is no such threat, people start to ask why the powers are acting as they are and to draw conclusions about their adequacy as powers.
At the start of the year when there were mass demonstrations and calls for Putin’s retirement, everyone could see that the Kremlin was threatened and thus understood its use of force, Gallyamov says. But now, no one is in the streets or making demands, raising the question as to what kind of a threat there is.
And that means this, he argues. “From an instrument of necessary self-defense, repressions are now being transformed into purely arbitrary actions. The authorities are losing the sense of moral justification not only in the eyes of the population but also from the oint of view of elites.”
That change can open the way to a revolution because “when protests grow, the basis for suppressing them grows as well,” but when they are suppressed and do not exist openly, the powers must take steps to eliminate the causes of protest. If they don’t, then repression in the absence of threats ends by creating a bigger threat.
The Putin regime would do well to remember this ancient lesson of the politics of repression, Gallyamov says.