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YABLOKO in hydrochloric acid
Grigory Yavlinsky: "The political elite shrunk to a nano-size"

Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky by Yulia Kalinina, MK
October 8, 2010

MK: What are you doing now, Grigory Alexeyevich?

Yavlinsky: I teach students and graduate students, I write books and help to the party.

MK: With advice?
Yavlinsky: With my work. I am a member of the Political Committee of the Yabloko party.

MK: What do you consider your greatest achievement for the recent years?

Yavlinsky: My book on the global economic crisis will be published by the Yale University Press next year.

MK: What is it about?

Yavlinsky: It is about the causes of the crisis linked with the specifics of the present world political system prevailing in the world. They are usually not examined, but they should be discussed. Otherwise we will not be able to amend anything.

MK: And what are these causes?

Yavlinsky: There are many of them, including incorrect interpretation of the end of the Cold War, the problems of civilised development, deformations taking place in the world political elite for the past 30 years.

MK: And what happened to the elite? Did it become petty?

Yavlinsky: It has not simply got petty, but it has shrunk to a nano-size. Today's political leaders are incompatible as their scale with the people who were engaged with, for example, the tasks of uniting Europe after the Second World War. And if the elite becomes petty, it is unable to solve the problems facing the mankind. It does not even see them. It is always preparing to some elections or unleashes senseless wars. It has transferred all the politics into "real politik" and discusses only gas prices, stock market prices and who paid whom and how much

MK: How do you explain the fact the elite has become petty?

Yavlinsky: The fear [we all had] after the Second World War has disappeared. Life has become very comfortable. There emerged an almost free world factory - China. All the work was shifted onto migrants and [the employers] could treat them as they wish. A new generation of politicians has no idea about the values the postwar pan-European civilisation has been basing on. They have no idea that global markets also base on the same principles. They think they can speak with their tongue in their cheek, bluff and play fraud. One can say that Iraq disposes of nuclear weapons, but tomorrow - not even recognise that it was a lie ... Unscrupulous methods of politicians in very ornate ways lead to the situation when everything come into a mess, including the economy. Business takes up this pattern and also begins acting this way.

MK: So, it comes out that your book is not about economics?

Yavlinsky: Economics does not provide answers to the fundamental questions here. Its rules should be set from the outside.

MK: Will your book be published in English?

Yavlinsky: Yes, first it will be published in New York and London, and later it will be published in Russian.

MK: Are you satisfied how the YABLOKO party functions without you?

Yavlinsky: The party is doing everything possible in such conditions. It swims in the hydrochloric acid and meanwhile should also preserve its face and human dignity, as well as its political line. It's very hard to perform.

MK: Do you observe reduction of the number of party members?

Yavlinsky: No, we do not observe this, but it is very difficult to maintain hope in people.

MK: ... the hope that the day will come when the party will be represented in the parliament?

Yavlinsky: No, I hope that it is the people who are of importance, that they can influence the situation, people as such rather than the YABLOKO party.

MK: Do you now regret that you have left the post of party Chairman?

Yavlinsky: No. The YABLOKO party was the first in Russias history to demonstrate that it is able to change the leader. All the leaders [in Russian parties] have been only removed when they began pushing up the daisies or by means of intrigues and revolutions.

MK: And you do not have any regret? Earlier the party has been linked with your name: YABLOKO Yavlinsky. But now it is not so. Now YABLOKO means Mitrokhin.

Yavlinsky: And it is well, really well. I have great respect for Sergei Mitrokhin and support him. And I have been watching with interest for his growth: now he is an absolutely different Mitrokhin than he was two years ago.

MK: You do not go to Triumphalnaya square, do you?

Yavlinsky: No, I dont.

MK: Why?

Yavlinsky: I respect the choice of the people who go there, but I myself prefer a different tactics and different strategies.

MK: Which precisely?

Yavlinsky: I think that if it will be possible to achieve changes in the foreseeable future, it will be only by an evolutionary way, rather than through constant clashes with the riot police. Generally speaking, I would not recommend to play with matches in a fuel truck.

MK: Dont you think that the clashes in Triumphalnaya Square can facilitate such evolutionary changes in the authorities understanding how they should behave with the people?

Yavlinsky: I believe that both strategies work. If rallies in Triumphalnaya Square are not a political event privatised by someone for personal reasons, then they certainly have the right to exist.

MK: And in your opinion, they are privatised?

Yavlinsky: I do not go there, so I do not want to talk about it calling some names. For myself I know that it's wrong to go there. But if rallies begin increasingly turning into a slaughter, we (the YABLOKO party) will start going there. It would be no longer a matter of policies, it will turn into a matter of principle: why people are beaten simply because they want to hold a peaceful meeting?

MK: Where, in your opinion, lies the mistake of the organisers of the actions in Triumphalnaya square?

Yavlinsky: A distinct trait of these people is that they keep the Bolshevik way of yelling that only they are right while all the other are wrong and only they know the truth. This is a big mistake, but it is very typical of them. Because there virtually can be a great variety of strategies. And nobody knows which one will succeed.

MK: How do you assess the dismissal of [Moscow Mayor] Yuri Luzhkov? How this can affect Moscow?

Yavlinsky: We will be able to discuss how this affects Moscow only after the appointment of a new mayor. And speaking about the dismissal, I advocate direct elections of the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and I believe that this dismissal took place in a way unacceptable for civilised politics and considerably reduced the quality of Russian politics.

MK: You've never been Luzhkovs political ally. Do you sympathize with him now or, on the opposite, feel that he has been in office for too long?

Yavlinsky: I've known him for 20 years. Really, we've never been allies, but we have always had good relations. I met with him and we discussed all sorts of topics, I came to him in his office, and I can not consider this sudden collective mass awakening within a week normal, when all the electronic media suddenly came down on him and began mobbing him.

MK: Did you read the draft law on police? Can it stop the collapse of the law enforcement system?

Yavlinsky: The draft law has three [key] aspects: 1) the relationship between the law enforcement and the citizens, 2) the relationship between the law enforcement and the business, and 3) the relationship between the law enforcement and crime. The draft law has nothing new in any of these aspects compared to the present practices. On the opposite it legalises the present system. That is why, according to President Medvedev, 90 percent of reviews on the draft law were negative.

MK: Why do you think the Interior Ministry system has been falling apart?

Yavlinsky: Because we have neglected the key dogmas. The modern state can not exist without division of powers, equality of everyone before law, priority of private property protection on behalf of the state. And we have nothing of this. Therefore, entire state subsystems are collapsing.

MK: But why is it the police that is collapsing, and not, say, medicine or healthcare?

Yavlinsky: Everything is falling apart, but it is less conspicuous in other subsystems. For example, one can get treatment through personal contacts or money. The same refers to education. We do not notice the collapse in the army, as it is inactive. However, the police is active, and we come into contact with it daily, and it can not be replaced by anything.

MK: Can we assemble the collapsing systems with the help of modernisation?

Yavlinsky: If under modernisation we understand merely technological innovations, then we can not.

MK: What does modernisation mean for Russia?

Yavlinsky: Modernisation of Russia means changing the rules of social relations inside the state, set the same law for everyone, introduction of independent court, putting the government under public control, formation of the legislative authority with account to the opinion of a large part of the society, rather than some bureaucratic group. This is what modernisation is about.

MK: Are you going to return to politics?

Yavlinsky: There is nothing to return to. There is no politics.

MK: Then maybe to the system of state governing?

Yavlinsky: I have not considered such a task.

MK: Where would you move the [notorious and labeled as the worst monument ever] monument to the Peter the Great [in Moscow]?

Yavlinsky: There is a park not far from its present site with many different monuments and sculptures. It can be moved there. But generally speaking, it is not where we should start. Certainly, I have my own attitude to this monument and it is clear. But this is not the number one issue.

See also:

the original in Russian

Modernisation in Russia

October 8, 2010