Thursday, September 3, 2009

Russia revives Stalinism at its peril

The above article was written by Paul Goble. It is entitled, “Russian Elites Put at Risk their own future, Moscow Commentator Says.” I’ll quote from it and then comment below:

“The current Russian elite is defending Stalin because of the late Soviet dictator’s foreign policy and not because of what he did domestically, but many ordinary Russians, while not opposed to the former, also value the latter, especially because they view Stalin as someone who struck down a grasping bureaucracy.

“And consequently, Yevgeny Ikhlov argues in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” by promoting Stalin as the Russian political elite has been doing in recent months, the members of that elite are ‘by a supreme historical irony’ putting themselves at risk of being swept aside by others prepared to implement Stalinism at home . . .”

“There is no problem in explaining ‘why [Russia’s] special services elite and its ideological supporters honor and justify Stalinist imperialism,’ just as there is not problem in understanding why the members of this same elite are not interested in promoting the restoration of “’domestic’ Stalinism.”

“The current rulers like ‘the naked and total imperialism’ of Stalin, especially of the particularly ‘brutal’ period following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact because they like to see themselves as behaving in the same tough-minded manner, even though so far they have not had much opportunity. After all, ‘South Ossetia is a poor substitute for the Sudetenland.’

“But understanding why the Russian people ‘in its majority’ is ‘nostalgic for Stalin’ is more difficult . . . . According to Ikhlov, there are two reasons for ‘the popular apologia of Stalinism.’ On the one hand, and this is most often found among older people, is ‘the dream” of seeing members of the bureaucracy, non-Russians and intellectuals get their comeuppance from a powerful tsar-like figure.

“And on the other, and this view is found among younger people, there are ‘almost erotic dreams’ about having someone in power who will show everyone who is boss both at home and abroad, forcing ‘everyone to go down on their knees’ . . . the attitudes of what might be called popular Stalinism [might] push Russia ‘toward a grandiose and possibly the last historic catastrophe for our unhappy country – mass terror or a full-blown war.’

“. . .some in the Russian elites now recognize . . . that what they are promoting with their ‘playing with Stalinism’ is a kind of ‘velvet fascism,’ a set of ideas that once taken up by the broader population could set the country off toward a truly frightening future.”

“Russia has already seen example of this in the “almost animal-like satisfaction” that greeted the arrest of Khodorkovsky and the invasion of Georgia, and precisely because of the way in which those events mobilized the population, it is likely Ikhlov suggests that some leaders will take even more such actions in the future.

“Given the likelihood that at least some of the members of the current ruling elite would be among the victims of such a change, their ‘fatal nearsightedness’ is striking and their enthusiasm for ‘releasing the genie of terrorist despotism’ . . . by promoting Stalin and Stalinism among the population [is] anything but encouraging.

“Indeed . . . whether there is Stalinism at home or Stalinism in foreign affairs . . . either course [may] lead to a situation in which they will be swept away.

“[This could happen through] a popular revolutionary government with its unending lists [of those who need to be purged] or by occupiers . . . the administration of NATO peacekeepers with their carefully dosed out humanism and de-totalitarianization programs.’

“Some in the elite may think they can easily back away from this outcome by doing what Vladimir Putin did when he finally decided to call the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact ‘amoral.’ But in fact, Ikhlov points out [that] in a note, Putin’s remarks recall Stalin’s own ‘Dizzy with Success’ speech at the height of collectivization rather than represent a departure from the master.”


I quite agree with Ikhlov that the current “elite” is wrong in honoring Stalin. Stalin does not deserve the respect he is getting in Russia, but I can’t see either of Ikhlov’s worst-case scenarios happening.

Does Iklov really think that the aging population of Russia is up to another Revolution? I can’t the sort of revolution Iklov describes ever happening. Russia has lived through a Cold War with its risk of utter annihilation. It has endured a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan. It has seen the breakup of the USSR. It has sacrificed enough. The modern day Russian has spent enough time fighting. He is too old to want to do any more of it, and he doesn’t want his sons to do it either.

As to the idea of NATO invading Russia and engaging in a “detotalitarianization” program, I almost choked on my espresso when I read that. NATO is not a serious fighting force. Yes, it can do some peacekeeping after someone else has done the fighting, but it is not going to act on its own. So the real question would be to ask, what are the circumstances that would cause the US and Britain to invade Russia? My answer is that there aren’t any. It isn’t going to happen, unless . . .

From the standpoint of the US and Britain, there will be no invasion to disrupt Russia’s domestic totalitarianism. If, on the other hand Russia acquires a Stalinistic regime that decides to conquer its neighbors and create a new empire; then yes, there would be war, but much of what I say above about “revolution” would also apply here. Despite their getting excited about a Georgian invasion, I can’t see them wanting to take on “the West.” They are way, way, way too tired for that.

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