(A far-sighted article from April this year. The author, a Soviet political prisoner, victim of a stabbing in St. Petersburg in the summer, offers an insight into the devastation Putin’s Crimea adventure has caused to the alliance of his opponents)
Putin’s move to an openly Hitlerite foreign policy fundamentally alters the political configuration within Russia. In particular, the United Anti-Putin Opposition has been completely removed from the political agenda. In Hitlerite style, Putin has succeeded in using the “post-Versailles syndrome”, igniting mass imperialist-chauvinist psychosis and winning the support of a significant majority for his aggression. A large part of the opposition has gone over to him. First and foremost, system and Duma opposition, but not only them.
Mass imperial-chauvinist psychosis is a very dangerous and serious illness. When it envelops the country, it is very difficult to resist. In particular, many opponents to the Kremlin initially had, to put it mildly, a rather weak immunity against the disease.
Was the attempt right to unite the principled opponents of the imperial politics and state model with the fans of these lovely things in a civil protest movement for free elections, political freedom and the liquidation of the kleptocratic Putin regime?
I am convinced that this is right. The horror stories that democrats could bring people to power who would be even worse than Putin are nothing more than demagoguery. If indeed such a motley “United Opposition” did succeed in overthrowing the Putin regime, it would be replaced by a coalition government in which the great revenge seekers would not be the only political force.
Furthermore, they would have to act with an eye towards their partners. And even if initially things would not be decided by foreign adventures. After all, the new government would have to deal with the country’s urgent domestic problems. In addition, regime change is inevitable, at least temporarily would destroy central control over the information environment, against which the virus of the current government’s revanchism is spreading.
This train however has already departed. People with differing, even opposing values could find a common language when what unites them, even if temporary in nature, is more important than what divides them. People who are spellbound by the charm of the imperial idea can only be handled before their dreams of empire become reality.
When the reborn Spirit of Empire has materialised, its agents enter into a state of ecstatic trance. They lose the ability to adequately perceive reality. They become disconnected from moral restraint. They do not notice lies and dishonesty, others’ pain, and the death and suffering of thousands.
There is nothing more fascinating than the dream of a Great Empire, building its cities and roads. There is nothing more disgusting and dirty than the Great Empire in the flesh. And now the half-drunk company, inspired by the joint playing on guitar of Eagle of the Sixth Legion, enthusiastically yell “I am a descendant of Khan Mamay”
“I have a letter from the Russian prince.
Addressed to a rascal
I trampled it in the mud
Under the gleeful roar of the Horde”
Here it is – your empire. Conquer, unite, trample. Everything else is details and trinkets. Only all empires end with an arrow to the chest.
The Russian state aggression against Ukraine demonstrates that the most fundamental divide within society is not simply ideological, but mental. It concerns the attitude towards imperial politics. The most differing forces excluded from the governing kleptocracy can find a common voice on all other issues. It is possible to reach an understanding and find compromise on economic and social policies in relation to property and the market.
However, with regard to the expansion of the Empire, there are no compromises to be reached, because the expansion of the empire means war. When war rages, opponents cannot even agree on politically neutral subjects like defending towns. There can be no cooperation with those who regard the annexation of the Crimea as an act of meanness and disgrace, and those who see it as heroic robbery.
This new reality is genuinely felt by Yelena Tkach, who has gone over to the Empire side. Her exotic suggestion to withdraw citizenship for anti-state behaviour absolutely clearly reflects another new reality: the belligerent empire doomed to become totalitarian. She might tolerate a debate on the budget and taxation. But he who speaks out against imperial politics and the imperial model moves from the category of opponent to enemy, with ensuing loss of legal rights.
There are no doubts whatsoever that such statements will very soon become criminal in one form or another, and the purely totalitarian understanding of “anti-state propaganda” will be re-legalised.
Imperial expansion and colonial wars are incompatible with democracy and political freedom. At least not in the long historical perspective. Either democracy will kill the colonial war, or vice versa. Western democracies faced with this dilemma gave up their colonial possessions. The fledgling Russian democracy was dealt a mortal blow by the war in Chechnya. Putin retained some trappings of democracy and residual political freedom as he was not yet ready for an open rupture with the West. Now, as the rupture is a reality, the logic of confrontation not only frees the Kremlin Godfather of the need to maintain the appearance of decency, but also makes the rejection of Western human rights his banner.
The democratic anti-imperial opposition will have to go through the martyrdom of repression. In the foreseeable future, it is doomed to being the outcast of political and ideological isolation. Any political cooperation with the Russian Communist Party and the fair-minded who actively, out of conviction rather than fear, take part in the destruction of the remnants of civil rights, is today aiding fascism. But with the part of the non-system opposition that has gone over to imperial expansion, which does not demand repression yet has exposed itself to that repression, in the best case only distant contact on external issues, humanitarian and human rights issues will be possible.
Of course, denunciations for ideological motives should be completely excluded. I have always been against prosecution for expressing any views, including Nazi ones. Even if the one expressing the Nazi views (a journalist) is not some shocking extremist but some prosperous, zealous lackey of the ruling Kleptocracy. Let them consider Hitler to be a great politician. But to show solidarity with a Nazi who in his fascist speech only denounced the government of a neighbouring country – this already means standing on the side of Nazism.