The oligarchs' formula for modernization: the
citizens should work more, get less payment, and not complain
when they are dismissed without compensation.
People usually name the confrontation between the civil society
and a corrupt state be the key political conflict in modern
Russia. The latest statement by [tycoon] Mikhail Prokhorov,
who voiced the position of the Russian Union of Industrialists
and Entrepreneurs (RUIE) on labour legislation, showed the
people that there is one more serious conflict. It is called
‘open social confrontation’. Between business and hired labour.
The statement by RIUE sis very importnat.
Maybe for the first time for the past years the society has
been openly shown that large business has its own interests;
separate from both the "state" and the "public"
interests. During the heady "noughties", the large
business dressed up in the clothes of bureaucratic patriotism
and its face demonstrated a grin of "social responsibility"
when in public.
Now the mask has been dropped. The economy is marking time.
However, they really do not want to cut their consumption.
And who should pay for it? Certainly, the workers. It is quite
clear what the large business wants. A beautifully decorated
box with inscription "human capital as a means of economic
modernisation" has plain contents. They want to sack
people easier, quicker, and with reduced compensations. The
large business would also like Russia’s citizens to work more
and receive less benefits.
It is not only the large business that has been picking citizens'
pockets. A more influential corporation of bureacrats linked
with the so-called ‘state-owned companies’ can compete with
the large business in fishing our people’s money; for example,
by means of raising tariffs for housing and utilities services.
However, bureaucrats today at least pretend trying to restrain
the growth of tariffs and remove any extremes. However, in
case of the modernisers of human capital everything is quite
different. Here the same recklessness of gangster capitalism
can be seen from under the Courchevel gloss,
One have to be completely brainless politically to come up
with a declaration of tightening the labour legislation during
a period of growing social tension. It is unlikely that such
declarations will be easily translated into law. At least,
if the ruling group has some sense of self-preservation. If
labour laws are toughened any way, then the only possible
means of extinguishing social conflicts will be ‘manual control’.
When the law exists and you can dismiss people, just try.
In any case, the instability of the system will increase.
If we translate this from the primitive language of understandable
private interests into the language of social needs, then
here we can step on the same ‘rake’. They are called economic
modernisation at the expense of reduction people's living
standards. And this was already experienced in 1990s. Was
there any significant result achieved? Then why is it impossible
to take another path, without touching painful labour issues
and attempting to achieve an overall economic liberalisation?
After all, there are big reserves here, and consistent policies
towards the increase of competition can do much more for modernisation
of the economy than dangerous attempts to turn citizens into
speaking tools of labour.
Maybe it is the class instinct encouraging business to take
advantage of the authoritarian form of government to tear
as much as possible away from the yet weak trade union movement?
To push through the fictitious parliament and smiling President
speaking of modernisation something that will bring in billions
over years? By the way, all this without guaranteeing any
serious economic revival. The latter is probably closer to
The thoughts of our large business resemble the short thoughts
of Pinocchio, and in general the large business is always
ready to take risks, especially when there is confidence that
it can rely on the government. The open attack on the labour
legislation once again demonstrates the vacuum in Russia’s
society in the absence of an influential trade union movement,
as well as a strong political party based on trade unions
and defending a social democratic political programme. Is
contemporary modernisation possible without such forces? It
is probably impossible if we are talking about creating a
society similar to modern Western democracies.
Because the goal of the reform is not only an economy capable
of producing a quickly changing and rapidly growing set of
goods and services. This implies achieving of a quite high
social living standards for the citizens, who actually act
as the consumers of these goods and services and who have
an incentive to produce them. A certain balance is needed.
But it may emerge only when citizens are protected by strong
policies and defenders of the common interest – trade unions
and civil parties. If there are no influential trade unions
and social democratic parties, then things turn out as they
are here today, when people with diamond studs and golden
shoes expertly decide how ordinary people should live and
work, for the sake of great goals and other people's pockets.