Editorial: The Liberal Revolution That Produced Slaves

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 21

In Russia, a wrathful prosecutor declared his inability to sentence Russian oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky to more than 10 years in prison, adding that miscreants still at large should bear this in mind. The guarantor of the Constitution – President Vladimir Putin – has not appealed to the Federation Council to dismiss the prosecutor general, under whose aegis such judicial officials continue to hold office. Let us assume that Putin cannot legally interfere in the Khodorkovsky case. But the appointment and dismissal of the prosecutor general is his official constitutional obligation. Several days after the prosecutor’s statement, those indirectly mentioned in this statement applauded a presidential speech presented at a convention of entrepreneurs that supported this style of prosecution.

I am convinced that in the future, ovations given to the guarantor of the Constitution will be recognized as the most visible consequence of a decade of liberal reforms in Russia. Those present at the convention represented the shock-workers (udarniks) of the capitalist construction process. Convention delegates were intended to represent free people, nurtured by a decade of reforms. But what we saw was a crowd of slaves trembling with fear. The decade of liberal revolution did not produce a single free man. But it did produce a new generation of slaves. And what is most striking is that, unlike communist slaves, the liberal revolution produced serfs who are burdened by the property that they accumulated and, because of that, are capable of foul deeds.

Let us pose the following question: what would prevent this or some other mean-spirited prosecutor from citing Andrei Vyshinsky’s statement, “Shoot them all like rabid dogs”? We have heard quotes borrowed from Nikolai Yezhov by officials who hold offices even higher than prosecutors. Which institutions of civil society, what political traditions, what constitutional guarantees prevent them from invoking Vyshinsky? Nothing stops them, except the goodwill of one person – the graduate of St. Petersburg University, who, among other things, prefers spending the night at Buckingham Palace or riding in his own Mercedes with President Chirac from the Elysee Palace to Orly Airport. However, in Putin, we see a person who is actually tired and irritated. And very soon he might become depressed with all this discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.

So now he carries a little note pad, which he opens with a characteristic gesture while humming “stop the hysteria now.” This note pad will become a part of history. And it appears that his appeal to stop the hysteria now is addressed not only to us, but also to himself, as he realizes that he is just as disoriented, depressed and inadequate to the challenges of the time as is our society – and especially our elite.

Putin and those who surround him have managed to skillfully formulate their ideology, which it has recently become fashionable to refer to as the “national idea.” In essence, it is a gendarme-bureaucratic version of capitalism, with the father of the nation at its helm. It is a transition from Yeltsin’s generation of oligarchs to the new so-called “patriotically-oriented” graduates of the special services, and the gargantuan oligarchy – a bureaucracy with armed branches and law enforcement structures. Moreover, it is truly amazing how dismal this ideology and the corresponding model appear, especially if judged by aesthetic and intellectual defectiveness. One could even become reconciled to this, were it not for the fact that the ideology and underpinning model are absolutely ineffective and condemn the country to marginalization, degradation and disintegration. Unlike during Brezhnev’s period of stagnation, today’s system cannot last for decades, even if we accept that oil and gas prices are likely to remain high for some time. I think that the system will fall apart simply as a result of economic and social crisis — possibly before the end of Putin’s second term.

The political force that built this authoritarian regime step by step, and which is based on the philosophy of a Russian Pinochet, who would steer the country with an iron hand onto a path of the liberal reforms, by default cannot challenge this regime. Each time there was a choice between the principles of freedom and property, “liberal reformers” deliberately disregarded freedom for the sake of “continuing reforms.” Suffice to recall their shameful role in suppressing NTV.

They can congratulate themselves. The principle of private property has triumphed in Russia forever. Any new oligarchs, former KGB officers, national-socialists, Orthodox Christian bankers, and simple bandits who come to power will continue to implement the principle of their private property by expropriating the property of others. Thus, thanks to the collective efforts of “liberals” and “patriots,” the space of freedom in Russia is constantly shrinking like a shagreen skin.