A Liberal Breakthrough Versus a Conservative Deadlock
Speech by Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the Russian United Democratic Party YABLOKO, Russia
at the joint YABLOKO-ALDE conference Liberal Values Versus a Conservative Trend
in Politics and Public Life in Europe
I am deliberately using the notions of “liberalism” and “conservatism” in a very broad sense here, meaning complex ideological values, rather than logically coherent systems of beliefs.
The main difference between these ideologies is that conservatism requires that political order should comply withtraditional values, while liberalism means that political order will be in conformity with the values of freedom and personal responsibility.
These ideologies have undergone a complete inversion in Russia for the past 20 years. Liberalism has turned into anoppositional trend from the dominant trend of early 1990s, and conservatism has grown from a marginal trend into a virtually official ideology.
I will try to explain why it happened and what conclusions Russian liberals have to make out of this. But first of all, I would like to make two more remarks about the nature of these ideologies.
First. The liberal ideology has more universal content, since the values of freedom are universally important in different countries. The conservative ideology, in contrast, is highly variable, focusing in each country on its national traditions, and these traditions are very different. The Russian conservatism differs a lot from the conservatism of the European countries.
For some countries, such as the UK and the US, freedom refers to the basic values, and that is why it is supported by the ideology of conservatism. The concept of “liberal conservatism”is quite appropriate there. From the point of view of the Russian tradition, such a word combination represents an oxymoron.
The value of freedom had not been the basic value in the Russian tradition until late 20th century, in contrast to the values of statism, i.e. the “great power statehood” envisaging that a person should be unconditionally obedient to the will of the state.
A Russian politician claiming to occupy a niche representinga kind of liberal conservatism, risks falling into eclecticism. I can even give you the name of one such politician. This isVladimir Putin of 1999.
In his keynote speech, “Russia at the Turn of the Millennium” on the eve of the millennium, he appealed, on one hand, to “supranational, universal values” such as “freedom of speech, traveling abroad, other basic political rights and freedoms.”
But at the same time, he spoke of “another pivot for consolidation of the Russian society which may be called native, traditional values of Russians.” These are as follows:
1) “patriotism, as well as national pride and dignityassociated with it”;
2) “great power statehood or the might of the great power statehood”;
3) “statism: a strong state as the source and the guarantor of order, the initiator and the main driving force of any change”.
It is quite clear that implementation of these in fact traditional values as of their essence will in practice leave not a damn thing from the “universal” values. And this actually happened.
The imperative of freedom of choice, personal liberation underlying successful development in the 21st century has nothing to do with the cult of “statehood” and “statism” as “the driving force of any change.”
Anyone who at the beginning of 2000s asked the question: «Who is Mister Putin?» should have read that speech. Itcontained almost all the answers.
In the country that does not have deep liberal traditions, a policy towards effective modernisation is possible only in case a large number of traditional values are abolished. If it is not done, then there will be no liberal conservatism, because the conservative component in this eclecticism will quickly devour everything liberal.
In this context it is appropriate to recall the experience of modernisation in some Asian countries, where traditional culture also had little in common with liberal values. Successful reforms in these countries were conditioned by a sharp break and even fight against some traditions, rather than merely abolishing them. The most glaring example here is the reforms conducted by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey.
For the countries of catching-up development, including Russia, the role of liberalism and conservatism in politics is determined by the attitude of these philosophical systems to the problem of modernisation. The following question is putforward into the focus: are you for the changes in accordance with the development model of successful counties or are you against these changes? A positive answer may have different nuances (the “right” wing or the “left” wing), but such an answer will be liberal in principle, while a negative answer to this question will be, in fact, conservative. The left-wing and the right-wing, whether they wish this or not, should answer this question. The Russian Communist Party, for example, gives a sharply conservative response to this question at present, and its “left-wing” stance or “communist” are overshadowed against this background.
Its ideology presents the legacy of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and even Vladimir Lenin in a very fragmented way, and these fragments are cooked in a thick broth of conservative eclecticism related primarily to the cult of a despotic statepersonified by Joseph Stalin. The leader of the Communist Party exchanges medals with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and constantly appeals to the authority of the Tsars who are most popular with the nation.
However, communism alone, in its “pure form”, bequeathed by Karl Marx and even adapted by Vladimir Lenin to his goals, can be found only among the leftist fringe politicians. Why is it so? The fact is that classical communism is directedsimultaneously against the Western “bourgeois liberalism” and the Russian autocratic conservatism. Therefore, there is no place for it in the modern “ideological struggles”.
Therefore, the leftism of the Communist Party today is itssecondary political trait as compared to its conservatism, which is its primary feature. On this basis Communists consolidatewith the [ruling] United Russia, [Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s] LDPR and a Just Russia [which positions itself as a social-democratic party], i.e. all other parties represented in the State Duma, thatalso have their political differences, but the latter are also secondary here. A Just Russia, for example, demonstrates that its rhetoric in the spirit of European social democracts is secondary for them. Their key votings in the State Duma contradict this rhetoric.
3. Modernisation: a Success Factor
More or less successful modernisation generates a quite broad and steady support of liberal values, movements and parties in the society. The more successful the results of modernisation are, the stronger is the social request for its further development and the better is the response to the promotion of liberal values.
Well-known experts on the comparative studies of the evolution of values in the world Ronald Inglehart and ChristianWelzel wrote about this basing on the World Values Survey (World Values Survey http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs.jsp)
“Modernisation of the socio-economic sphere creates objective prerequisites allowing people to build their lives on the basis of their own choice. … People begin demandingfreedom of choice and defend it.”
This is demonstrated by the Russian experience of positive, but incomplete reforms by [Emperor of Russia] Alexander II, that gave birth to the mostly liberal zemstvo movement (Ed. A bourgeois opposition movement of Russian liberal landlords, which demanded some political concessiosfrom thegovernment and an expansion of the rights of the zemstvos – bodies of local self-government), which in 1870s began to formulate its political demands, including adoption of the Constitution and convening of a Constituent Assembly.
Dictators who conducted successful economic reforms, for example, in Spain at the end of the reign of General Franco, in Taiwan, South Korea, etc. produced the same effect. They didnot have any liberal democratic plans, but they inevitably became the “fathers” of liberal democracy.
Successful modernisation is a fresh wind in the sails of liberalism, as well as other ships too. This wind allows a whiff of freedom into conservatism too making it liberal, and intosocialism guiding it into the mainstream of social democracy.
As good example here can be Social Democratic Party of Germany, which in 1959 formally abolished the concept of a class-based party and Marxist principles, including into its programme “the need to protect and develop private ownership of the means of production”. Obviously, this programme change occurred under the influence of successful reforms of Ludwig Erhard that gave rise to the “German economic miracle.”
Failed modernisation produces absolutely different results.
In this case, the conservative response is so strong that there emerges a phenomenon of “reactionary” conservatism rejectingany values that are contrary to its understanding of tradition. It has no place for concessions to modernisation and liberal values.
This is apparently the reason for the victory of religious fundamentalist, for example, in Iran.
Russia in the early 21st century experienced something of the kind, possibly even more tragic. Rezā Shāh’s reforms couldhave been essentially correct, but they were too radical. The reforms of 1990s in Russia were both radical and wrong, and destructive for the economy and society.
The Russian society rejected these reforms with such a force that a sharp turn in its values took place in the following 20 years. The values of liberalism and democracy weredramatically discredited.
Another result of the reforms was the creation of anoligarchic economy which served as a basis for formation of an authoritarian system of government.
3. A Rentier State
However, an objective need for a political course towards modernisation existed at least in connection with the fact that profound de-industrialisation of the country took place in 1990s, which in terms of its industrial development virtually threw the country 100 years back.
However, very soon this need faded away. This happened under the influence of such a powerful factor as an abrupt rise ofoil prices.
In the situation of rising oil prices the task of rebuilding the economy simply fell off. It turned out that the results of the industrial development could be bought from other countries with the income from oil and gas sales. Huge raw material resources were in disposal of the state. This decided the fate of modernisation. It simply ended.
The “line of least resistance” prevailed in politics, and it very quickly led to the creation of a rentier state.
For Russia’s population the rise of oil prices meant growth of incomes and improvement of living standards. Therefore, there was an impression that it was the rejection of any reforms whichwas the key reason behind such favourable changes.
Readily available raw materials create a temptation that is hard to overcome. Instead of reform efforts aimed at the economic development, but fraught with serious risks for the reformers, one can immediately buy the results of the development from other countries. It is the same like trying to become healthy by means of buying pharmaceuticals in apharmacy rather than through long exercises in the gym.
The phenomenon of a rentier state was very well studied long before the 2000s, mainly on the example of the Arab oil countries and this analysis led to a better understanding of the phenomenon of a “rentier state” and an extremely negative role of abundance of raw materials for the development of democracy.
Controlling huge profits from the sale of resources, the government does not need to agree these revenues with the society and its representative institutions. This situation is very different from the position of governments in countries without large resources, where governments are forced to reconcile the revenue with the society which is their only source of the revenue.
However, a rentier state is more comfortable in manipulatingthe society, which is manifest both in paternalism toward loyalgroups and reduction of the impact of potentially independent groups.
Manipulation is facilitated by the fact that the society is in a relaxed and mollified condition. Rental income leads to reduction of economic and business activity which inhibits civil society development. Monopolisation of the key sources of income results in the reduction of the number of independent economic actors, and a huge part of the population falls into financial dependence on the state.
On the one hand, the elite of the rentier state does not need to change the existing institutions. On the other hand, Western-style modernisation requires reforms limiting the power as of its volume and period of time. But power is so desirable in circumstances where it can dispose of such a large volume of resources. There emerges a desire to become the center of the world, conduct the Olympic Games and championships, redraw the geographical map, etc.
The availability of huge resources generates a temptation to hold these resources as long as possible.
Yet there is always the threat from the minority living in large cities, educated and young, who are unhappy with their situation in the rentier state, and have the living standards focused on development. Basically it is that part of the population, whose economic activity is associated with servicing of technologies, products and services imported from the developed countries, i.e., with the part of the post-industrial economy, which is purchased by the rentier state from other countries at the expense of its natural resource revenues.
This is the “creative class”, which is a segment of the middle class, but it stands out due to higher living standards and, therefore, the request for a change.
Quite naturally, the elite of the rentier state regards this creative class as a threat to its dominance, which provides the elite the benefits of appropriating the rent, but hinders the development of the country.
Therefore, in order to avoid social upheaval, a part of this rent should be invested in the suppression of any uncontrolled social activism, the opposition and initiatives.
The objectives of maintaining of this unlimited power and the related resources dramatically increase the request for conservative values and ideologies, and their meaning is reduced to resistance to modernisation by contrasting it to the traditional values and institutions. It is common knowledge that conservatism is very efficient as a protective ideology that safeguarding the existing order.
There is also an analogy with the Arab oil countries where Islam in its most conservative variant is contra positioned to the challenges of modernisation.
Conservatism is of particular value for the ruling elite also because it may distract public attention from the crimes of the elite. Let me quote a well-known maxim by Samuel Johnsonthat “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.
This maxim deals with the political value arising strong emotions, rather than a natural feeling of love to one’s motherland. If we take, for example, a corrupt person, then it’seasier for him to distract public attention from this unpleasantsituation switching the attention onto topics causing such emotions. Therefore, it is to the benefit of such persons to heatup patriotism to xenophobia and chauvinism.
4. The Scarecrow of the “Orange Revolutions”
An additional impulse in speeding up of the final breach of Vladimir Putin’s regime with the modernisation policy were the “orange revolutions” in different countries, first of all the one in Ukraine in 2004, also the Moscow rallies of 2011 – 2012 showed that such scenarios were real for Russia too.
Consequently, the fear of the “orange revolution” phantomhas become a major factor behind the evolution of the regime.
Aiming at maintaining the power, the authorities intensified reprisals against the opposition and launched an attack on civil rights and liberties. An open propaganda against liberal valuesbegan and a course towards an open confrontation with the Westwas adopted.
Therefore, during all these ten years the Kremlin has been continuously developing a programme of preventive measures to forestall any attempt to overthrow the regime. Above all, it included intensification of reprisals against the opposition, draconian laws against the civil society, curbing of human rights and freedoms, etc.
In line with these policies the regime undertook a radical ideological turn towards an anti-Western vector and,respectively, towards confrontation with the West.
During Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency, this turning was not stopped, it was only covered and slightly slowed down by moderately liberal and modernisation-focused rhetoric.
After Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency, the authorities launched another attack against the opposition and civil society, which was largely due to the fear of mass rallies in Moscow.
5.Transformation of the Values: the Conservative Trend
The ruling elite did not simply adopted reactionary conservatism as an ideology, it is has been actively introducing it into public consciousness. Simultaneously it has been solving the task of diverting public attention from the most urgent problems: corruption, sharp social stratification, poor quality of public institutions, etc.
It does not represent an attempt to build some logically coherent system. Everything that can heat up anti-Western xenophobia and chauvinism is readily borrowed from the historical tradition.
Maintaining a high degree of chauvinist hysteria is undoubtedly one of the foreign policy goals. The entire 2014 was marked by consolidation of the Russian state and the society against another Maidan in Ukraine.
All this leads to a substantial transformation of public moods and values.
To get an idea about it, I propose using an already familiar methodology by Ronald Inglehart, Christian Welzel et al. quoted above and developed during 20 years of implementation of a large-scale project of the World Values Survey (WVS) allowingto compare the basic values of residents of most countries of the world.
According to their theory, a transition from the traditional to a more rational and less associated with religion (secularized)system of values takes place in the course of industrialisation. The transition from the industrial to the post-industrial era which marked by a knowledge-based economy, demonstrates the rejection of the so-called “survival values” in favour of the self-expression values focused around an independent creative individual.
In terms of generalisation, we can say that the values of tradition and survival usually form the backbone forconservatism, and the values of rationality and self-expression create the basis for a liberal ideology in the broad sense of the word.
Transition from an agrarian society to an industrial one can demonstrate that the fate of traditional values and attitudes may be different. In case of a relatively rapid growth of the welfare, people gradually change their basic values to more “liberal”ones.
If life remains hard during industrialisation, the societyremains committed to “anti-liberal” values, although they become more rational. This is because the goals of physical survival and safety come to the forefront.
The traditional complex includes also increased “national pride” and xenophobia and intolerance (e.g., to sexual minorities) and on the contrary, decreased level of trust towards those who are outside the family. But the most important thing in this complex is non-critical trust in the authorities whichnaturally results from a traditional need for a person to delegate responsibility for their fate to some superior authority (both divine and human).
Industrialisation according to the tougher variant conservesthese anti-liberal values in a somewhat rationalised and secular form, and their desacralisation takes place. For example, xenophobia switches from people of different faith onto people of other nationalities, and devotion to the authorities switches from its divine source onto the personal “charisma” of the ruler, etc.
As for the post-industrial transition, there is no alternative to the liberal trend here. The values of the freedom of choice, personal independence, responsibility of an individual for himself/herself and the society are fundamental values for the information society and knowledge-based economy.
Accordingly, considerable changes are taking place in the relationship of a person with the authorities. Desacralisation of power takes place in the transition from a traditional society to an industrial one, and the movement towards a postindustrialsociety demonstrates that there begins emancipation from it.
According to international polls within the framework of World Values Survey, the value system of the population of ex-communist countries (in its averaged form) considerably advanced from the traditional towards the secular-rational values, i.e., towards a transfer to the industrial society, and veryinsignificantly towards the “post-industrial” society, from the values of survival to the self-expression values.
A quite sharp withdrawal from the traditional values is associated primarily with atheism – the official ideology of these countries in the 20th century. At the same time, the realities of industrialisation, urbanisation, growth of education and so onfacilitated the development of the rationalist mentality.
Figure 1. Value-Based Preferences of People in Different Countries of the World in 2000.
Comparing the “cultural map” of 2000 and 2013, we can see that in a number of post-communist countries demonstrated some recoil: a movement back from the secular-rational to the traditional values; whereas the largest recoil took place in Russia.
Figure 2. The same as of 2013 showing Russia’s slipping down the axis of “traditional”-“secular-rational” values from 1.0 to 0.5.
Academics working on the WVS project noticed this “uniquefeature” of Russia long ago. The trend of “recoil” towardsarchaic value systems distinguishes Russia not only in a global context, but even compared to other post-communist countries.
Figure 3. It demonstrates that the RF has not been simply lagging behind the general and largely liberal trend of the world socio-cultural development, but has been moving in the opposite direction.
The reasons behind this process may be conditioned be the following: 1) the country of failed reforms experienced deep de-industrialisation, although 2) it did not even begun the transition to the knowledge-based economy requiring further rationalisation. Thus, occupation of a large part of the working population is now less associated with rationally organisedtechonological processes.
It is also obvious, that a significant role was played by the gradual substitution in the ideology of the ruling elite, which was demonstrating increasing support to the creeping clericalisation of the society. Therefore, an increasingly great number of Russian citizens have been responding positively to the question about “the role of God in your life”, the key issue for the traditional type of personality.
6. A Conservative Attack on the Society
The specifics of such regression of values is that it has been developing with an active support of the state. The government of the rentier state have been trying to adapt the structures of the mass consciousness to its basic needs, resuscitating its archaic complexes formed at earlier stages of development.
These complexes launch such moods as “a heightened sense of national pride” and “greater respect for the authority of the government” that were extremely beneficial for the government. In view of this, the traditional complex includes a mechanism of delegation of responsibility in favour of a higher instance, and the role of this instance can be played by God or an authoritarian leader.
However, restoration of a traditional religion after decades of atheistic propaganda is quite problematic. So this is performedwith an open support of the state and quite aggressively: in education, public space, through the state media, and so on. Such clerical propaganda does not lead to a revival of a sincere religious faith, but plants in its surrogate focusing on external ritualism. This gives rise to the phenomenon of religiosity not related to morality.
This traditional complex is also characterised by political apathy, priority of the family compared to broader “circles of trust”, which hinders the creation of civil society structures.
The “survival values” complex is characterised by xenophobia and homophobia, sexism as regards the role of women in society, priority of the state ownership over private ownership, etc. There is no absolute priority of the values of democracy, on the contrary, there is a tendency to support a strong leader with unlimited power. A respondent of such a type is less inclined to social activism and does not like signingpetitions.
This quick and selective enumeration gives an idea of what are the values of the modern Russian conservatism are.
Components archaic complexes causing the most powerful mass emotions are used for discrediting of the liberal values.This is the meaning of the homophobic campaign launched in connection with the adoption of the law banning propaganda of homosexuality.
Such “conservative” policies may be compared to an attempt of parents to return their growing child into the psychological state of a teenager in order to keep him in check through controlling all the well-known and familiar teenage complexes. However, in the process of raising and educating the child the teachers themselves have to inevitably adapt their psyche to that of a teenager.
7.The Consequences of the Conservative Turn
The consequences of the conservative turn are very sad for Russia. However, not all of them are obvious, but some of them have been already manifest.
7.1. A Threat of Territorial Expansion
Here I mean the territorial expansion such as the annexation of Crimea and the present adventurism of the Kremlin in the East of Ukraine.
Aggressive promotion of conservative values is not limitedby words only. It has to be underpinned by some deeds. Values need activism so that to be asserted.
Therefore, each ideological project in addition to its value component must have some practical goal approved by the society. The goal of the liberal project is to modernise the country making it prosperous. The goal of the conservativeproject is to expand the territory of the country.
7. 2. A Threat of Fascism
In addition, I should also mention such a result of the conservative mobilisation as the rise of nationalism, which is a natural consequence of chauvinistic xenophobia. Nationalism can also take an ethnic form, which is prone of explosions in such a multinational country as Russia.
The prognosis on strengthening of radical nationalist trends in Russian politics is as sinister as the prospects of instability. The authorities who are going to solve their current problems today by awakening of the dark instincts of the crowd are running the risks of turning into a victim of these instincts tomorrow, when these instincts come out of its control and get under control of a much tougher force.
7. 3. A Threat to Human Capital
If we manage to somehow avoid these threats, nevertheless we will not be able to avoid the consequences of reactionary conservatism for the country development.
After a comparative study of the relationship of national cultural traditions with the rate of economic development many academics came to similar conclusions, that these traditions hadthe elements both promoting and blocking the development.
Successful modernisation is as a rule associated not only with successful economic policies, but also with overcoming the blocking elements of the tradition, including those especially harmful norms and attitudes demanding to yield to the authority, suppressing personal independence and curbing individual(including the entrepreneurial) initiative.
The Russian tradition has a lot of such blocking elements and they prevent the release of absolutely different potencies of the “Russian soul”, that could become the engine of the national development.
These potencies were in the focus of attention of not only to Russian writers (such as Leskov in his story “Lefty”), but also of foreign researchers.
An American expert on the history of technology Loren Graham devoted an entire book to a unique paradox of the Russian culture. He notes that Russian people are extremely rich in talents, not only artistic, but also scientific and inventive. Butthis abundance of talent is in sharp contrast with the chronic underdevelopment of technology. There are many talents, but there are even more barriers to their development and realization erected not only by the state with its repressive suspicion tohuman rights and freedoms, but also the society burdened by the cultural tradition of prejudice to private initiative, entrepreneurship, etc.
Therefore, a Yablochkov electric candle first lit the streets of Paris and London, rather than Moscow and St. Petersburg; Loran Graham brings many examples of this kind.
It is as follows: the Russian culture has a very large “reserve” for accumulation of human capital, which allows to make a breakthrough into the modern knowledge-based economy andthe post-industrial society based on it, but there are also reactionary components completely blocking this opportunity, and in the 21st century they go on pushing the “brains” out from Russia to other countries on a much larger scale than they did in the 19th century.
As a result, Russia is a free donor for more developed countries of the “gray matter” which should help us catch up by these countries.
The “stash” lies in the pod from which the host distributes it:free and without any benefit for himself.
The main crime of the reactionary conservatism before future generations of Russians lies in the fact that it suppresses the unique development potency in our people, that would allowRussia to compete with the most advanced countries of the modern world and in the future.
The knowledge-based economy of the 21st century does not bear with slavery and strict regulations, subjection to pressure and coercion that were in principle compatible with the strategies of industrialisation of the 20th century. The post-industrial development requires individualisation of the worker’s labour, growth of its independence and the level of autonomy in decision-making. All that is necessary for enhancing creativity of the work, without which it is impossible to improve labour productivity and competitiveness in the knowledge-based economy.
The conservative project prevents such development, and the liberal project requires it and supports it.
Liberalism is a key to Russia’s development, and reactionary conservatism is a lock on its modernisation.
8.The Mission of Liberlism
The historic mission of liberalism is to serve the emancipation of the creative potential of the Russian nation, channel it to the creative way of development bringing success and prosperity through the opportunities afforded by the guarantees of freedom and support of private initiative. Greatreforms of [Russian Emperor] Alexander II (that were unfortunately not completed) went along this way. In this sense, Russian liberalism is rooted in this historical tradition, and we should be guided by it.
The liberal idea paves the shortest way for Russia to a modern knowledge-based economy, the conservative trend gets it into a gloomy labyrinth where the country will lose the time for catching up with the leaders of world development, running the risks of staying in one of the dark dead ends of the labyrinth.
In order to perform this breakthrough mission, Russian liberals have much to do. I will outline only some of the bigchallenges.
8.1 Rehabilitation of Democracy
We must continue and intensify the work on rehabilitation of liberal and democratic values after their discrediting following the reforms of 1990s, when these values served as a cover for plundering the national wealth. It is clear that a number of approaches and postulates by Yegor Gaidar, Anatoly Chubaisand others had more in common with Bolshevism, rather than liberalism.
Also aiming at rehabilitation, it is necessary to explain to thesociety that the oligarchic system which emerged as a result of failed reforms and is flourishing now, has nothing to do with liberalism, as it rules out the liberal principle of equalopportunities. This incompatibility was “brilliantly” proved by the oligarchy, when in the course of its transformation, it completely threw away any hints of liberal preferences andbegan pursuing the way of reactionary conservatism.
Another important task is to work actively with the “creative class”, which has a natural inclination towards spontaneous liberalism, but at the same time does not have a system of more or less clear benchmarks. Consequently, some representatives of this class and its social groups easily fall victims of misleading influences.
Many of them are not immune to xenophobia and nationalism, as well as many other areas of the conservative propaganda. At the same time, this environment oftendemonstrates temptations to solve political problems through the destabilisation of the state, i.e., by means of different”revolutionary” scenarios.
Liberals should oppose these temptations with their strictly legal and constitutional approach, thus demonstrating the absolute compatibility of the values of freedom and order, if the latter is based on law. On the other hand, taking into account Russian history, it is essential to emphasize that in our country it is very difficult to come to a free society by means of revolutions, as it is much easier to come to a new dictatorshipthrough chaos. And revolutionary methods easily provoke the authorities to another ” tightening the screws”.
8.3. Formation of an Alternative
The political and economic system formed in Russia at present last forever. Its historic collapse is inevitable. To prevent the situation when our country may collapse together with the system, it is necessary to actively offer to the Russian people an alternative to this system.
We are absolutely aware of the fact that at present the liberal values and policies are not shared by the majority of the Russian population. However, even in our most recent history we witnessed how rapidly ideological trends may change.
Vladimir Putin’s regime has practically exhausted its public trust. The attempts to retain popularity by means of geopolitical adventurism require huge resources that are also on the verge of exhaustion.
Vladimir Putin’s system is unable to solve any of the vital problems of the country, and very soon it will be in the samesituation as that of the Soviet system of the mid 1980s.
Then issue of an alternative will rise again. In late 1980s – early 1990s there was no other alternative but the liberal one. At present the alternative has emerged again but this time in the form of aggressive nationalism generated by the conservative trend discussed above. Its victory or prevalence in in the Russian society is prone of chaos and destruction of the state in Russia.
Russia’s survival as an integral state, capable of competing in the modern world, can be associated only with the liberal alternative underlying the European development vector. Thenext historical stage means that Russia will become a European country or there will be no Russia at all.
9. Ariadne’s Thread
There is no need to worry much about the fact that today liberals are in the minority. Today, their role in Russian society can be compared with the role played by Ariadne in the ancient Greek myth. She gave Jason a thread that led him out of the labyrinth of the Minotaur.
The thread is something subtle but consistent. It is hard to feel it and easy to break. But all these weaknesses are superseded by one huge advantage: without it you can not get out of the labyrinth.
Posted: November 17th, 2014 under YABLOKO-ALDE conference 2014.