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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another Original LR Translation: Is the Kremlin Weak or Strong?

Translator Vova Khavkin offers the following translation of a post about the "Other Russia" crackdown by the Kremlin from blogger Dmitriy Shusharin. Russian speakers can click through the link to read the exenstive comments, and ultra-blogger Anton Nossik has commented here with approval, also with numerous comments from readers. Nossik's remarks are translated following the Shusharin piece.

“An 'Other' View”

Russian Blogger Dmitriy Shusharin

It’s a new publication. They asked, so I spoke my mind.

I’ve heard that it’s been published. The editors came up with the title of their own. I don’t know what it was.

Generally, it’s about what people have been talking the whole week and will keep on talking about.

“In interpreting the events around the ‘Dissenters’ Marches’ which are (please note the present tense) taking place in various Russian cities, the following views prevail—to wit, that the authorities got scared, are showing weakness, and are despicable. Needless to say, I am talking about an interpretation of the current events by their participants and by those who are on their side. Or at least assume that no one has yet repealed the Constitution, although we are moving in that direction. So here it is: We are indeed moving in that direction. And this course of events does in no way attest to the authorities’ weakness; rather—to their decisiveness, assertiveness, and strength. The last word is certainly the key here, and it was uttered before me by Andrey Illarionov who spoke quite recently about a model of coercive government.

The only thing that might be added to this is that the coercive model is characterized in that the state institutions and statutory bodies become coercive. Thus, the Central Election Commission becomes a coercive agency. And what drives the activities of the supposedly public youth movements is not demagogy, which right in front of our eyes is being reduced to the logic of “Thank you, Comrade Putin, for our happy life,” but rather belligerent street actions. They are still confined to the streets, but the project “Dump the boss” reminds us of the Maoist “Fire on the staff” [炮打司令部] and, of course, oprichnina [extra-judicial rule by a violent inner circle during the time of Ivan the Terrible].

And keeping in mind that the cliché about the West’s support for the “dissenters” now goes hand-in-hand with the argument that Mikhail Kasyanov has maintained his links to Russia’s oligarchs and bureaucrats, one can expect that we should soon hear something similar to [Stalin’s] notion of intensification of class struggle as we progress towards socialism. The key here is “intensification of struggle” rather than the words “class” and “socialism.”

The initial impression is that the government’s actions are hysterical and obviously excessive. But I suppose that this is a false impression. The ruling clan has so far been able to get what it wants. Andrey Illarionov’s arguments miss the key point: An evaluation of the government’s actions from the viewpoint of the government itself and within the scope of the mission they themselves have defined. And if you use this approach you have to admit that all the objectives have been achieved. And now you have to exploit the gains.

It they will be exploited—through force and force alone—without any regard to the public opinion or the international community, without any concern for the legal or ethical standards; moreover, by rejecting, first and foremost, any moral obligations to the members of the political elite. If you look at it, they are already disregarding it—who are these Berezovskiy, Khodorkovskiy, and Kasyanov, if not former “kinfolk?”

Only the elite itself is capable of counteracting this—if it finds the strength to go beyond internecine squabbles. Lacking this, all marches and all street actions will simply be a part of the government’s confrontational game. Don’t console yourselves with the notion that the authorities are supposedly setting a trap for themselves. Those who consider themselves to be the opposition may end up in the trap—unless they are already there.”

Here's the take of uber-blogger Anton Nossik on the piece:

Strength or Weakness?

April 23, 2007

Blogger Anton Nosik

Dmitriy Shusharin posted on his LiveJournal blog page a column about the logic of the Russian authorities’ behavior regarding the dissenters’ marches. In his column the author argues with those of the “dissenters” who tend to interpret the disproportionate use of violence against peaceful demonstrators as a manifestation of the authorities’ fear and weakness. In fact, Shusharin argues, “this course of events does in no way attest to the authorities’ weakness; rather—to their decisiveness, assertiveness, and strength.”

Andrey Illarionov’s proposition that a coercive state is being built in Russia cannot be called either new or original. One does not need to attend any marches but simply listen to the Government’s paid propagandists who speak their master’s mind. Indeed, the enforcement bloc in the [power] “vertical” has long ago become superior to the economic [bloc]. And the further we go, the greater its role will be in all social processes, be that elections, rearing the young generation, mass media, Internet, or foreign trade.

Unfortunately, however, this does in no way obviate the fact that the authorities are paranoid, and therein is their weakness.

All totalitarian regimes, whose deeds are—one way or another—mentioned in Shusharin’s article, have been led by clinical paranoiacs fit to be tied: Both Russia in Ivan the Terrible’s time, and Stalin’s [Soviet] Union, and Mao’s China.

Supreme power’s paranoia is the root cause of the continually strengthening role of enforcement structures in the state—the security services first and foremost—whose mission is to identify and suppress domestic enemies. Because the paranoid authorities’ perception of their numbers is greatly exaggerated vs. the reality of it, the security services are given a mission which is quite consistent with their own interests: To breed enemies in a vacuum and concoct seditious conspiracies for the sake of subsequently unmasking them. This, first of all, is easier to do than fighting real enemies, like the terrorists who are well armed and fairly clandestine, and secondly, government’s “request for procurement” to multiply the number of public enemies is an excellent pretext for the enforcement agencies’ bloated staff, budget, and authority. As it was during Ivan the Terrible’s time, today this helps them, inter alia, greatly improve their own wellbeing.

So dealing with real threats—something for which the enforcement agencies have no time left—could simply be reduced to an information blockade which prevents the public at large from learning about their existence. Just as the public never knew at the time they happened about either Chernobyl or the anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk [now Yekaterinburg]. It’s been observed—by others—a long time ago: Troubles in the country happen because mass media report them…


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