The keynote speech by Grigory Yavlinsky, a candidate for President of Russia
These days the topic of presidential election of 2018 gained the attention of mass media and social networkers. YABLOKO was the first political party to nominate its candidate for the presidential race. In February 2016 YABLOKO Congress officially nominated Grigory Yavlinsky to run for President of Russia.
We are posting Grigory Yavlinsky’s full speech at the Congress and the videotaped performance:
The main sensation of today is the one of a deadlock. Both the demonstration and the sentiments of people, and, by the way, the number of people who came there yesterday is the sensation of a deadlock. And the major threat is the loss of the historical perspective of our country. There is no clear, understandable idea where our country should arrive at in 20, 30, 50 years’ time. This state of affairs depreciates any electoral programmes, any strategies, any efforts and results which should be displayed, let us say, in the mid-term and indeed in the short-term outlook, not to mention the long-term outlook.
If a country is unaware of what is does, what it creates and constructs, dragging stones from one heap to another is a pointless exercise. And we observe it daily. We have already spent enormous resources which the country received due to a specific state of the oil markets. The resources were truly enormous. Never in its history has Russia possessed such resources! We have held prestigious events of all kinds, and now we do not know what to do with their results. Huge sums of money have been wasted on buying our so-called geopolitical allies who openly consider their position as [Russia’s] younger brothers to be a burden. They may easily change their orientation for a contribution from anybody’s part, which will be insignificant in comparison with the sum of money [granted by Russia]. Such things happened more than once.
Now we have deployed defense programmes unprecedented within the past 40 years. The major part of free resources is wasted on armament, rearmament and, most importantly, on the demonstration of this armament to the rest of the world. Is it really difficult to understand that formidable armed forces cannot exist without a strong economy in the long run? They simply cannot exist, and that is all. Therefore, what is going on now is just window dressing. And the fact that this window dressing is being broadcasted on TV all the time changes nothing.
The window dressing creates a certain image, but there is nothing behind it. The reason for this is the lack of this very economy which is capable of creating it. This can be compared with building bridges without having any roads or inventing trains without having any railway tracks, or building pipelines (and we are building an enormous number of pipelines) to the places where they are already of no use, but we do go on building them. And we already depend on our consumers to a greater extent than they depend on us, but there is lack of understanding of the situation. It is all about these blatant social retirement plans which are being announced constantly instead of being subsidised, and all that.
On the whole, the absence of a long standing objective leads to the situation when the country dissipates its resources and, above all, its talents, and loses its advantages. And what is the main advantage which our country is losing?
I will tell you: the time. The time is the most precious and irreplaceable resource. The waste of time affects everyone, including those, who consider themselves to be the winners, who are immensely rich and successful at the moment, who possess power and private income. But young and talented people, who are full of strength and ambitions and who are able to work hard, who are able to be productive and honest are losing in the first place. There is no serious personal perspective and there can be no serious personal perspective if the country where you live has no such a perspective.
There is no such a person in the government who is able to intelligibly explain such simple but important things as what kind of a country we are creating, what we are doing, why we are doing it and what it will result into. The government even placed its bailout plan report on a secret list. This is another small proof of the total deadlock and the total lack of understanding of both what is going on and what should be done. There is no use asking what we are going to do in six months, there is no use asking what the country is going to do in a year, and, moreover, in 5 years’ time. What target should people make? What sort of perspectives should people design? By what reference points should they be guided? There is no answer to any of these questions.
They tell us that the country must be strong. Does anyone actually oppose it?
They tell us that we must be respected. I do not know who must respect whom but, anyway, there seems to be no objections to it. Does anyone oppose it?
But here I must say one thing, the strength which is respected does not signify the ability, I beg your pardon, to do dirt on a neighbour’s door, it does not signify the ability to intimidate, blackmail everyone all the time, it does not signify the ability to tell everybody that they will not be able to solve any of their problems without us, it does not signify the ability to get involved in every conflict and make it insoluble. We will not be respected for such a conduct.
One can cope with it for a long time and even form alliances of convenience with us, which will be profitable to some party. But it is for sure that we will not be respected. They will try to isolate us from the resources and push us as far as possible in the long view at the earliest available opportunity. We find ourselves in such a situation nowadays.
Yet at present no one is able to decide on the positive programme. It simply does not exist. The calls to fight everyone, despise everyone, hate everyone cannot substitute a positive programme. But the first thing which must be done in order to develop such a programme is to honestly define the situation in which we have found ourselves. Honestly and soberly. In particular, we must admit that in our country we have an inefficient economy which is very simple in terms of its structure and small in terms of its scale. It is just absurd to claim to be a global power having such an economy. It is high time we finally admit that our economy is organically interdependent on the world and that curtailing relations with major economies this time will not result into crisis but into a collapse.Why should we deceive ourselves by telling stories that this isolation will supposedly force someone to carry out some unknown reforms which will later suddenly produce miraculous results?
This is nonsense. This is no going to happen. It is really absurd.
In the second place, it would be a good thing to know that our big nuclear weapons and missile capability is a means of non-proliferation, not an instrument of influence and dominance.Though it is important, it will never be able to substitute the development of economy and society or even enable a normal life. We began to blackmail and intimidate everyone but it will only lead us to the condition that we will be absorbing in the state of a besieged fortress more and more. We will be increasingly giving rise to counter-moves which will actually lead to the situation when we will be surrounded by quite dangerous constructions in terms of military strategic and politics. We are looking for trouble and provoking such a situation ourselves.
Finally, it is time we confess that we have failed to create at least any instrument of self-development within 25 years – neither mechanisms, nor institutions – nothing was ever made. And without these instruments the economic and public life will stagnate and degenerate. We can observe this very process at the moment.
In the second place, we must decide on our geopolitical priorities at the large scale. We must answer the question.
We have a road fork: what are we going to do – carry out geopolitical adventures and maneuvering or develop and modernise our own country? We cannot combine both activities, one must not count on that. A country must be a superpower in order to behave like a superpower. And this is not possible with the economy that we are having today.
And in the third place, we need to propose a real programme to the country. Now I am talking about the economy, in a point of fact. There is such a programme. Moreover, everybody knows about it. All competent and even semi-competent economists already know what the programme is about. I do not even want to reiterate it. We have talked about it a hundred times. Therefore, it is absolutely clear what should be done. All the prescriptions were written and one does not need to reinvent the wheel at all. As for some specific figures, some macroeconomic indicators- one can calculate them in no time. It is absolutely clear that this programme must target at the specific situation with our economy and global economy. And the main thing is that this programme has really been implemented by a large number of countries, and it was a success.
Roughly speaking, it is clear what must be done. But the question is – can it be done? Can this programme, even if we proclaim it, be implemented? And what is the main obstacle in its way? And the main obstacle is that people believe in nothing! Now I approached my major point. You can read everything that I have just said in different articles. A large number of people know it and realise it.
People have no trust. People avoid participation in politics and public life of the country. This is the worst thing, this is the result of the policy that is begin carried out. This is why the collapse of the Russian state takes place when the gap between people and the government becomes unbridgeable. People are ready to say that 85 per cent [of the population] approve of Vladimir Putin, 146 per cent approve of Vladimir Putin, 330 per cent – they do not care about it. They want to be left alone. People do not believe all this any longer. And they do not feel like participating in it.
Moreover, what is it- all this opinion polls and their results? I do not know whether they are true or not. But I assume that the approval rating is high. What does it mean? It means that people no longer think big. And in these terms the policy which was initiated in 1992 and is being carried out up to now in different modifications led people to this very condition. They by no means believe in their success in politics, by now they do not believe that they can succeed in business, they no longer believe that they can succeed in anything at all. And all this disappointment will grow quickly now. And why will it grow quickly now? Because all the economic trends, as the economists say, will be downward. The economic situation will decline. The social life will deteriorate. Last year [the population] lost about 10 per cent of their real income, of their real salaries. Everything is going to deteriorate.
And the situation will result into the condition that people will doubt and grow disappointed about what is going on in our country more and more.The process of the demise of a system or a regime, if you like, creates a new situation with new regularities, opportunities, and dangers. Today our main obstacle in our path to the future is becoming not Vladimir Putin himself and his system but the apathy. The apathy and distrust. And this, specifically, political apathy is as serious a rival as those who are sitting in the Kremlin and the Duma. When the majority of people in the country are apathetic, the fringes begin to rule the day, crate and dictate the agenda. It is high time everyone admits that it is useless and even harmful to be torn between the romantic hope for the outburst of people’s indignation and a gloomy hopeless statement that Russians have slave mentality.
And people wonder – why do we find ourselves in such a situation? How did we come to this? Some people answer that the enemies from without are to blame. People say – yes, we have never had such a bad situation as under Barack Obama’s term in office. Some say the Russian fate is to blame, it is always like this in Russia, it is our natural course, getting out of it is impossible, let us have a drink. And here the conversation is over. And these are the most popular arguments – the enemies and the Russian natural course.
Still others, the most informed, say – all this is going on because you endure everything and vote in a wrong way. And people answer – we have recently voted “for any party but United Russia” at the request of one person, I am not going to name him – and what is the result? The result is that nothing changed. At that time [some people] also gave promises and wrote letters.
[translator’s note: Yavlinsky is talking about blogger Alexei Navalny’s campaign “vote for any party but United Russia” during the 2011 parliamentary campaign]
So, what is the problem then? This is our answer.We have found ourselves in such a situation because until now [the government] planned and implemented reforms and changes not for you, dear people, but for any other purpose: to build socialism, to build capitalism and market economy, to create an energy superpower for an unknown reason, to support and invade Novorossia, to make the world respect and grow afraid of the patriotic residents of the Kremlin – the reforms were implemented, the policy was carried out for any possible purpose but you.
And we want to say the following thing: we want to carry out such programmes and reforms so that they will work for you. And this has been our aim before as well. But now it is becoming absolutely obvious that the reforms must be implemented [in the interests] of the majority – for you, people, for you, citizens. This is our aim and task. And it is not true that you do not feel like working. You want to fulfill your potential with high efficiency, to do what you can do but so that the fruits of your labour would belong to yourself, so that no one would be able to take away what you earned and what belongs to you.
You are not afraid of competition, but you want it to be fair. For that to happen we need independent judiciary. You do not mind laws but you want them to be equal for everyone. And they must be the laws that will benefit you. You do not mind paying taxes but the taxes must be spent on creation and functioning of such police forces that will protect you, that you will not be afraid of but the one that will help you. This money needs to be spent on such an educational system that it will not make you have to worry about your child, about his or hers state of mind. And the same goes for healthcare and all the other services – you want to spend you taxes on these purposes. Well, we understand you. We are of the same opinion. Together we can make it so that the life in our country will be built in a humane way, not for the chosen ones, but for every person. In brief, my key idea is that a person is more important than any ideology – communist, nationalist, great power, liberal or conservative. There is nothing so much new about this idea neither for Yabloko, nor in general.
I insist (someone mentioned it today and I am very glad about it) that the only true national idea for Russia is respect for a person. This is the most true and clear formula of the European way of development and the European dream for Russia. People want to be respected. To realise this and to convince the country [that the idea is true] is the reform which can be compared only to the abolition of serfdom. We can and need to implement this reform in shorter terms than Russia came to the abolition of serfdom.
The essence of the reform is not the property or legal relations but the attitude towards each other. And this must be reflected in every step of the new president. So that people could respect themselves, their history, their true history, not the invented or falsified one. Those who are afflicted with a sense of inferiority falsify history. We, the people of Russia, want to respect our state, respect our government. But we demand that the state must respect us, that the government must respect us. And this is not fiction, this is not Utopia. Billions of people live this way. This is the European dream for Russia which must come true.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky used to say that “no good reality can ever be shaped without ideals. Yet we can positively say that nothing can come out of this but greater meanness”. My main ally on the way to make the dream come true is Russian people. I believe in them, in our people. Our mutual goal is to create a country where people respect themselves and each other, have the opportunity to become happy without violating the law but obey it, put trust in the future, believe in it and have protection.
A person, the voters have one more important question which will be addressed to me and to us. It is the question when all this will take place, when all this expectations will come true, when the life will become decent. There is only one answer to this question – now. Not in the sense that after the election, no matter what the outcome is, the freebie profusion will rain from heaven, but in the sense that Andrei Sakharov spoke about at the congress once. Relying on what he was saying I will put it this way: I cannot make the judiciary system fair at once, I cannot stop the rise in prices and the cut of salaries, I cannot solve all the national issues at once, I cannot eliminate corruption all at once, I cannot bring back the clean air, water and forests to you at once. But to create political guarantees to solve these problems is what I must do, and this can be done at once as soon as the political course is changed, [I can create] the political guarantees in order to solve these problems.
If the political course is changed, people will feel it at once that life can crucially be more honest, just, and free. And then people will realise that their time has come and nobody will any longer tell them: pull in your belts and put up with the situation for some time whilst we are going to enrich ourselves, put up with it for a short while.
What political guarantees, that will make this European dream come true, can exist in our conditions? It is the belief in the dream, the nationwide belief. And what should be done to make people believe in it? We should talk to them honestly, openly, professionally, but most importantly – with love. So that they could feel that we are not indifferent to them, that we need them, that every fate, every soul matters to us. Then people will turn to us. And then we will be able to implement all those programmes on any topic that we can develop in abundance, the programmes that we had no opportunities to implement before. This is what Russian democrats and authorities have failed to understand for years and decades.
Disunity of the society, the lack of trust is the foundation of the well-being of everything: corruption, theft, cheating.
Cheaters are always present when there is no mutual understanding and supportiveness. Now then, it is very difficult to love people knowing what is going on around. And everybody knows it. These are not some rose-coloured talks about nothing. This is really very difficult. But this is the task of a president – to take away hatred from politics and public life. At the moment all the policies and public life are overfilled with hatred towards everybody and nearly everything. We need another policy – the policy for the people. Since there is no such a policy at the state level today, Russia needs a political party and a presidential candidate who will be associated with such a policy.
We need power not to force somebody to do something. We need power to understand our responsibility and realise it. We are taking up thr load of responsibility, not the right to give orders. Therefore our election platform is the protection of the life and dignity of a person and a citizen. We claim that no one has the right to put a person to death. No one can be arrested or committed to custody, deprived of their property, declared to an outlaw, or excluded from a country except in accordance with the law. And the laws is to be passed by a real elected parliament representing the interests of all the citizens of the country. We want to unite our people on the basis of protection of people and respect for a person, on the basis of history of our country which was torn by the Bolsheviks’ lawless rule. We want to unite the society and the state which are divided by the totalitarian and authoritarian relationship models. We want to create a state which represents the continuation of the civil society, that has no other goals than the realisation of the interests of the citizens, the state which is governed by the citizens. Running in parliamentary and presidential elections makes sense only if one has such a programme.
But our main value is that we do not need lies. We do not need to lie in order to stand up for our stance. We do not need to falsify history. We do not need to change our political biography on a post facto basis. And we accept our country and its history the way it is. It does not mean that we like everything about it or that we justify the evil. We say – this is the good and this is the bad. We know the difference between them. For us the essence of the revival of Russia’s tradition is the creation of the bridge between the society and the state, and creation of the process of truly active democratic institutions by means of their real work, by giving them real meaning. And the main thing is the non-derogable right of choice.
A state that respects the citizens still does not exist. To create such a state is our task. They failed to create it throughout centuries but we are bound to do it. Perhaps we will not manage to fulfill everything that we have planned. Is it possible that we will not manage to do everything? Yes, it is. But if we have no other chance, and we do not have it, it means that we must put all our strength, all our energy, all the resources to make this dream and this idea come true. Since there is no need to keep them for any other purpose. If we fail to complete [our work], others will complete it. But we must do our part of the work. I choose freedom – the freedom to do what is necessary for my country, the freedom to be myself. And you should know that I am not alone. Thank you.
Translated by Maria Efimova