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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EDITORIAL: Russia's Opposition Folds its Tents


Russia's Opposition Folds its Tents

What is it?

If you said "it's a hat I wouldn't be caught dead in," we're on the same page with you.

But actually, according to the Moscow Times, it's meant to be consumed . . . gulp . . . internally. It's a "New Year's cake with seasonal decorative icing" and costs 450 or 650 rubles ($20-$25) at what the MT refers to as a "democratic eatery" called Grabli in Moscow. We're not sure how "democratic" charging four hours' average wages for something that looks radioactive (and quite possibly is) can be viewed as being, but then of course we don't really accept the definition of "democratic" that seems to be in vogue in Russia these days. Apparently, there are any number of people in Russia would would line up to shell out good money for the chance to eat this thing, laden as it undoubtedly is with all manner of enviornmental toxins, to say nothing of the chemical substances that cause it to take on that ghastly hue. You can't stare at that "cake" even for a few seconds without understanding clearly why the average Russian man doesn't live to see his 6oth year.

And Russian attitudes towards politics are no different.

It's taken far too long, but as we report below the Yabloko political party has finally figured out, after more than a decade of total failure, that milquetoast Grigori Yavlinksy may not be the leader the need. They've jettisoned him in the upcoming presidential elections in favor of Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who may not even be eligible for placement on the ballot because of residency issues. Meanwhile, the Other Russia party simply gave up on efforts to register a presidential candidate after being blocked at every turn by the Kremlin as it sought to book a meeting hall for a convention, and the Union of Right Forces party appears to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse. None of the three major liberal parties hold a single seat in the parliament, an event of truly neo-Soviet barbarism.

We also report below the analysis of Vladimir Ryzhkov, who once seemed to be among the very brightest lights in the opposition firmament. But in the end it appears that he, like Yavlinsky and Other Russia's Garry Kasparov, are not prepared to risk life and limb for their country by doing anything really dramatic to stand up against the Kremlin as it makes the final moves to consolidate its malignant rule. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has formally announced that he will accept the invitation of Dmitri Medvedev to become prime minister once Medvedev has become president, thus neatly obviating the Russian presidency just as he has recently made the parliament obsolete.

Ryzhkov now sounds more like a professor than an opposition leader. He points out that there was far more division of power under Yeltsin than Putin, with a viable opposition media, independent local government and an array of diverse parties and independent members of the parliament. All this has now been totally stripped away by Putin, without even a semblance of public debate and discussion about Russia's future. Even if Putin were admitted to be a Holy Figure anointed by God with Perfect Judgment, he will not live forever. Into whose hands would the centralized regime he has created then slip? What would prevent a successor from becoming Stalin to Putin's Lenin? Nothing at all. Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it.

As Ryzhkov observes, this situation spells Russia's final doom:
Putin has accomplished what would seem to be the impossible. In forming his vertical-power model, he has taken some of the worst elements of Soviet rule and combined them with some of the worst Yeltsin attributes. In such a way, Putin has created a Soviet-oligarchic model: a synthesis of Soviet monopoly on political power combined with the nepotism and corruption from the 1990s. This grotesque amalgamation of Brezhnev with Abramovich constitutes the foundation of Putin's power structure. The Russian elite energetically rallied around this simple idea of seizing and dividing up enormous natural resource wealth among themselves -- and, what's worse, this was accomplished under the bombastic cries of the "rebirth of Russia's greatness."
We have made this point here on this blog many times before. Russians now find themselves in the worst of all possible worlds, with all the bad points of dictatorship and none of its benefits, and at the same time beset by a horrific array of demographic crises that the regime has neither the ability nor even the motivation to solve. After all, if wealth were distributed more fairly among the population, which was brought back to health, what would then keep that population from ejecting Putin's malignant forces from power? In the last election, less than a third of all Russians went to the polls to support Putin. Nothing would protect Putin's clan from a healthy, powerful population, and the malignant little troll clearly understands this. It's in his interests to keep the population sick, weak and helpless. So that's what he will do. As Ryzhkov states: "The gaps between the rich and poor and the largest cities and the regions are growing. The country is also falling behind the West in the technological sphere, and it is losing its ability to compete on global markets."

And the people of Russia just don't care. They shrugged when the Tsar fell, shrugged when his Bolshevik successors fell even more quickly, and shrugged when their "democratic" overthrowers were beaten down by the KGB. They appear blithely heedless of the fact that each new form of government is more untenable than the last, and that with each passing year their country becomes more and more like ghost, fading away into the recesses of history. Things are so bad now that nobody will step forward to lead the nation except a clan of oligarchs and secret police who care no more for the nation's legacy than they do for abstract notions of morality or civilization.

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