Lev Shlosberg: Russia at the Crossroads
Lev Shlosberg, member of YABLOKO’s Federal Political Council, 27.05.2016
The upcoming 2016 parliamentary elections provoked the discussion of the key Russian election campaign – the presidential. It happened so in the past 20 years that the trajectory of the whole country depends on the presidential election. This is wrong, and this has already led to many mistakes and even tragedies, but it is like this today. The vivid part of the Russian society maintaining clear mind is looking for a political alternative, a way to break the fatal vicious circle absorbing the country. 2018 election will inevitably come after the 2016 [parliamentary] election.
In April 2015 YABLOKO’s Political Committee stated that Grigory Yavlinsky will represent the alternative to Vladimir Putin in 2018. For one and a half month this statement did not get public attention, but in May it detonated in almost all the groups of the politically active segment of the society. And, as it often happens, the discussion was not about the content of political proposals, but around the personality of the politician. Such is the fate of politician: you are telling the world about peace and the world is speaking about you. Nevertheless, let us recollect the past quarter of a century.
Grigory Yavlinsky, and then the YABLOKO party have been a political alternative to the policies of the government since YABLOKO emerged in the Russian (and even, first, in the Soviet) politics.
Several dozens of times over the years, in the landmark moments of the [Russian] history, Yavlinsky and YABLOKO proposed the best solutions for the country – something that was once called “Reforms for the Majority” on the programmen level [in YABLOKO], the majority that in the late 1980s was with the reformers, and was already against them five years later.
The reforms for the majority did not take place. The reforms carried under the slogan “democracy” did not have anything to do with democracy, but they discredited democracy and democrats. “All of you are come the 1990s, you were all together in those ‘reforms’,” such is a common perception model in the society. It emerged not incidentally. It is a way to blur the picture of history.
Meanwhile, at all the principal crossroads of the [Russian] history, that in the end culminated in the worst choice, Yavlinsky and YABLOKO offered the best.
There was a programme of economic reform for the Soviet Union, the 500 Days Plan, which did not change the USSR, because the Federal Government and the President chose the Soviet variant of conservation of the crisis. Consequently, the story of the USSR came to an end.
There was a project Novoogarevsky Union Treaty, which in 1991 could reform the Soviet Union into the European type of federation of independent states. But the Soviet elite responded to this in August 1991 coup.
There was a programme of European-style reform of the Russian economy, rejected by Boris Yeltsin in favour of the “shock therapy”.
There was another programme of privatisation of state and municipal property – not in favour of the bureaucracy and emerging (exactly through privatisation) oligarchs, but to the benefit of citizens.
But the elite chose loans-for-shares auctions that helped in the organise devaluation [of the state assets] and rob the state.
There were alternative proposals for the Constitution of Russia in 1993 so that to avoid the imperial version of governing in the country and well protect the rights of citizens, the rights of regions.
There were proposals for a civilized solution to the conflict with the Chechen leadership – so that to avoid war, many thousands of victims, discreditation of the army and economic crimes.
There were presidential elections of 1996, when the country had a choice in favour of the European way of development, and this choice was represented by Grigory Yavlinsky.
But the elite chose a burglarious collusion of officials and oligarchs.
There was a possibility to avoid the default of 1998, but Boris Yeltsin in the twilight of his career was not ready for Yavlinsky – the Prime Minister.
Finally, there was 2000, when Grigory Yavlinsky was again proposed as an alternative to Vladimir Putin to the Russian society, exhausted by political and economic bullying. People did not want to see deeply into politics and adopted a shadow solution prepared for them in the Kremlin, and then politics took care of people.
There were parliamentary elections of 2003, when the society getting nostalgic for the USSR swallowed a million ballots falsification of voting results, and democratically minded citizens of Russia lost their representation in the Russian parliament.
After all this, only two solutions could be adopted: 1) to give up, and 2) to go on.
Politics is such that nine out of ten politicians choose the first option. But there is always a single one who chooses to go on.
Yavlinsky and YABLOKO went further on.
The scale of the historic deadlock where Russia found itself after the past 25 years, can be realized only when you see all these life-changing crossroads in front of you: between freedom and lack of freedom, life and death, right and lawlessness, honour and shame, dignity and meanness, well-being and poverty.
We can say that the fate of our country is such that in any choice it chose the worst, the most dangerous and the most disastrous for people.
However, we can insist that there is another way, another option and another history line. And we can do all so that this choice would take place.
History draws many variants of historical path for countries and peoples. Only one of them becomes the life of millions, or the death of millions. Russia has a lot to recollect.
And the memory of those who lived here and love for those living here oblige those who feel their duty before the community to go further.
As long as we are alive, we have a choice.