Putinism, Igor Eidman says, is “a combination of the practice and ideology of the authoritarian regime of Putin, which operates on a corrupt bureaucratic oligarchy and is in many respects close to a fascist dictatorship,” with its “aggressive annexationist foreign policy, state-monopoly capitalism, force structures, and chauvinism and traditionalism” promoted by state propaganda.
As such, Putinism is larger than Putin and may extend beyond the period of his personal rule, the Moscow commentator says. In any case, the outlines of this new system are now clear and it is possible to describe its ideology and practice in some detail. That is what Eidman has now done.
Putinist ideology has “a right-conservative character and is close to a fascist one. Its basic elements are chauvinism, clericalism and xenophobia.” It also includes “imperial revanchism and the cult of a strong aggressive state,” “aggressive anti-Westernism, anti-Americanism, and anti-liberalism.”
It postulates “a theory of a conspiracy of the West (the United States, the Anglo-Saxons, and Atlantic civilization) against Russia.” It promotes “a cult of an authoritarian ruler and national leader.” And an important element of this ideology is the union of church and state, which presupposes state support of religious propaganda.”
At the same time, Eidman says, “Putinism promotes class peace and the unification of all social groups around the state and the national leader in the struggle with external and internal enemies (national traitors). In contrast to the majority of other forms of fascism, Putinism is free from ethno-nationalism.”
In terms of political practice, Putinism is based on “imitation democracy,” an imitation “’opposition’” and “the authoritarian power of the president.” Economically, it involves the fusion of the bureaucracy and the major bourgeoisie, systematic corruption, and state control of key sectors of the economy.
Putinism is distinguished as well by “the absence of a social state, a very high division in the level of incomes between the richest and poorest, a weak and small middle class, low levels of pensions, and extremely low social supports.” Education and health care are corrupt and ineffective, and labor unions are “completely controlled by the state.”
And in terms of foreign policy, “the most important and most dangerous part of the practice of Putinism has become an aggressive annexationist foreign policy course,” the Moscow commentator continues.
Putinism has its origins in the events and ideas of the 1990s, Eidman says. Economically, it emerged “under the influence of two main forces: the neo-liberal economists and the conservative bureaucracy connected with state corporations.” From the first, it adopted the model of the anti-social state, and from the second, a continuing role for the bureaucracy in the economy and an authoritarian political system.
The ideology of Putinism, Eidman insists, “arose much later,” only after “the Putin system of power was formed.” It has been “aggressively propagandized by the state” ever since.
Putinism resembles “the fascist and anti-democratic regimes in Europe of the 1920s through 1960s.” It is different from German Nazism and Italian fascism in that it is authoritarian rather than totalitarian, it has “a negative attitude toward ethno-nationalism and anti-Semitism,” and is not a social state.
According to Eidman, it is “closer to the right-conservative regimes of the type of Franco in Spain, the clerical fascism of Dolphus-Shuschnigg in Austria and Salazar in Portugal, the Hungarian regime of Horthy and so on. But its closest analogues are “the authoritarian, etatist, state-capitalist regimes in the developing countries” over the last 60 years.
Among these are those of Saddat and Mubarak in Egypt, Saddam Husein in Iraq, the Assads in Syria, Marcos in the Philippines, and Suharto in Indonesia. Ideologically, it is close to the right-wing military dictatorships in Latin America and southeast Asia, although its economic approach is very different than theirs.
In conclusion, Eidman says, “Putinism could exist even after the departure of Putin. In this case, in place of the founding father of this system, the role of the key figure of the regime will be played by the latest successor. Such modernization of the façade could be useful to the financial-bureaucratic oligarchy because it would allow their business to avoid international sanctions and isolation.”
Given that, he concludes, “the task of the democratic movement is the destruction of the Putinist system and not the [mere] replacement of the individual in power.”