Pastukhov: Any successor to Putin likely to be a dictator

Alexei Navalny (Image: vladtime.ru)

Alexei Navalny (Image: vladtime.ru) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

The current attacks on Alexei Navalny that suggest he will become a dictator if he manages somehow to defeat Vladimir Putin reflect the utopianism of the Russian intelligentsia and its failure to understand that anyone who succeeds the current Kremlin leader is likely to be one as long as society remains atomized and weak, Vladimir Pastukhov says.

The St. Antony’s College Russian historian says that those who are now asking “Who is Mr. Navalny?” much as many asked about Putin nearly two decades ago reveal more about themselves and the situation in Russia than about the opposition leader in their commentaries and attacks.

The problem is that being by their nature politically impotent … the liberal opposition constantly needs a political outsider: it first seeks him, then when it gets him, it immediately begins shouting about rape. The cause of this behavior is the impassable gap between ambitions and capacities, between aspirations and reality.”

“The liberal intelligentsia in Russia,” Pastukhov continues, “lives by a utopian dream about a hero who kills the dragon, takes power from him and then, on bended knee, hands it over to the outstanding representatives of the Russian intelligentsia (the best people)” in the country – in short that the victor must share power with those who didn’t make his victory possible.

But that isn’t how politics works and it isn’t how Navalny will behave, the historian says.

“Judged by his views, [Navalny] is a classical Bolshevik. His single goal is gaining power. How and under what pretext he gets it doesn’t interest him. Today, he is doing everything to help him gain power and then he will do everything that will help him keep it.”

That of course is what every politician does, Pastukhov points out.

“To accuse Navalny of seeking power is the same as accusing a predator that he wants meat. This is his nature: he is ‘a political animal.’ That isn’t an insult but rather a compliment because people who are otherwise do not achieve success in politics.” The only ones who can compete with such people are other “‘political animals.’”

Unfortunately, the liberal intelligentsia doesn’t include many of them. It is “too principled and too scrupulous. It is above politics, it isn’t interested in it, and it doesn’t get involved with it.” And thus, its members fail to recognize that what is possible politically is given “not so much by the moral worth of the leaders as by the restraining potential of society.”

Thus, the problem isn’t Navalny’s proclivities, Pastukhov argues, but the state of the minds of the Russian educated class, with its slavish mentality and inability to “unite in groups of more than three and with its lack of desire to consistently do something in order to achieve the goal it desires.”

“The antidote against a dictatorship is in the organized force of civil society and not in the castration of the leader,” he says. “If the intelligentsia so fears a new Putin,” then it needs in the first instance to get organized and help society get organized as well so that they and it will be factors to be reckoned with.

When someone asked Winston Churchill why there was no anti-Semitism in England, the British leader responded “because we do not consider ourselves more stupid than the Jews.” In like manner, Pastukhov says, “Navalny is not frightening to those who do not consider themselves weaker than he and who understand that it is possible to move against him in an organized way if something goes wrong.”

“But if society feels itself weak, then no warning letters will help. Any non-entity who comes to power [in such a society] can become a dictator.”

Thus, “the queston is not whether Navalny is bad or good and whether he has dictatorial manners or not and whether he will become or not become another Putin. Rather the question is whether in the real conditions of present-day Russia a refined liberal Westerner could come to power” and not be tempted to become a dictator given the weakness of society.”

“I fear,” Pastukhov says, “there are no such chances.”

“In any case, Navalny cannot become a second Putin” because Putin was and remains a product of specific historical circumstances … Navalny will be a product of other historical circumstances, also unique.” That doesn’t mean that he can’t become a dictator but it does mean that he won’t be a dictator just like Putin.

That is because in such circumstances, politics operates dialectically. The first “negation whatever it is always is one-sided and consequently is incomplete … And only a little later, at the stage of ‘the negation of the negation’ takes place the complete and final farewell to the past (its being overcome).”

Whoever comes to power after Putin be it Navalny or someone else, is “simply condemned to become a kind of anti-Putin or a Putin inside out who will be infinitely far from the liberal ideal,” Pastukhov says. In Russia, liberal democracy will emerge only after a long and difficult past: it isn’t the starting point.

“In order to prevent or at least soften the practically inevitable future ‘revolutionary’ dictator, an organized force, capable of imposing its political will on any potential dictatorship must be organized. If such a force within society is established, then Navalny or any other victor will be forced to deal with it” rather than act without regard to its concerns.

But “if such a force doesn’t exist in society, then no liberal incantations or appeals is going to help.”

What is especially worrisome just now, Pastukhov says, is that some of the criticism of Navalny is contributing the view among some Russians that Putin is the devil they know while Navalny is one they don’t — and that they would be better off to stay with the current leader than try another. That will make both Navalny’s task and the achievement of a better future in Russia far more difficult.

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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Robert

    “…the achievement of a better future in Russia…” … ?!? … maybe if you leave now and only consider returning after vlady himself creates “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the” 21st century… it seems quite clear he’s well on his way…

  • Ihor Dawydiak

    Should current circumstances persist, there are only two possible means for Aleksandr Navalny or someone else from the liberal intelligentsia to assume the position as President of the Russian Federation (or its successor). 1) A coup d’etat supported by the Russian Armed Forces, or 2) Another Russian Revolution not suppressed by the Russian Armed Forces. Why? The current power structures in Russia would not allow any other options other than; a) Putin’s incapacity or death, b) Putin’s forced resignation (a mini coup), c) Putin’s voluntary resignation or decision not to seek another term in office. However, in each of these three scenarios those same power structures would most assuredly appoint another dictator. So what can be done? Russia is well on its way to bankruptcy and possible implosion. The rest could be a repeat of 1917.

    • Scradje

      Navalny is hardly from the ‘liberal intelligencia’ though. He’s a Russian chauvinist who has made some very unpleasant comments about Georgians. That said, he’s still a thousand times better than fueherer pootler.

    • veth

      Azarov: I can return to power in Ukraine again, after the Poroshenko regime is fallen……….

  • veth

    Kadyrov will be the next President.

    • Scradje

      I didn’t think it possible : you actually managed to find someone even worse than fuehrer pootler!

      • veth

        That’s what I mean, from Russian point of view, it means better

        • Ihor Dawydiak

          On the other hand, while Kadyrov is unquestionably ruthless (a trait admired by Russian nationalists), he is also both a Chechen and a “devout” Muslim (which are both despised by Russian nationalists). However, should a situation arise where Kadyrov became an actual contestant for the leadership of the Russian Federation, that would pose an interesting dilemma for the putinistas as these hyenas would commence in tearing each other apart and subsequently could provide an impetus for a second or third Russian Revolution.

      • zorbatheturk

        LOL.

  • Victor Victory

    Even if every member of the Kremlin was killed Russia would still have a tyrant.

  • veth

    Kyiv’s Pechersk district made the decision that allows Prosecutor General’s Office to begin an investigation into the alleged crimes committed by former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in absentia. The May 31 ruling was published in the registry of court decisions on July 13.

    Run away former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov is suspected with misappropriation and embezzlement of state property. If found guilty he could face up to 12-year imprisonment and confiscation of property on the condition that Ukraine’s law enforcement could get hold of Azarov, currently living in Russia. This seems to be highly unlikely, given the Feb. 2016 refusal of Russian prosecutors to extradite former top governmental official to Ukraine.

  • Randolph Carter

    The Siberian tundra is melting. This is going to seriously impact every aspect of Russian life. Russia has 17.10
    million square kilometers, so this is going to cut the country in half
    horizontally. It will also eliminate many natural sources and reduce the
    GDP, and therefore there will be drastically less money for either military projects or aid for the people. Whomever they pick will have to deal with this, and it’s not something they can leave for their successor to handle. I don’t know the ultimate limit of the melt or if they have the technology to deal with it but even if they can work around it, it’s going to cost a lot.

    “Siberia’s climate is changing (ITAR-TASS) WASHINGTON, October 12, 2006 (RFE/RL) — The landscape of Siberia is transforming. New lakes are forming in the north, while existing lakes are getting larger. Some buildings and houses built upon the permafrost are sinking and starting to crack.

    Permafrost exists all over the world, but Russia has the largest patches of it. Scientists estimate that permafrost covers more than 10 million square kilometers of Russia. A Russian scientist, Mikhail Sumgin first coined the term permafrost, or “vechnaya merzlota” (eternal frost), in the late 1920s.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/75603e5559db55bf32f65a608a02e8041311bc630946956d741481afdfd58084.jpg

  • Eolone

    There seems little benefit having a six year term, especially a second term following. Russia might be better returning to a four year term.

  • zorbatheturk

    The Kremlin has thought much about the successor of Putin. Putin has no son, so the Assad route is out. That leaves only one possibility: cloning Putin. A team of top RuSSian scientists has been assembled to carry out this mission – to clone the Putin, so that a Putin will rule RuSSia forever. The Putin is dead, long live the Putin! Heil Putin!

    • Scradje

      And as you might have revealed in a previous post, pootler himself is the product of a bizarre but successful attempt to blend the DNA of hitler and a scorpion.

      • zorbatheturk

        DNA tests will prove Putin was hatched by a reptile.

      • Sania

        zombje,u write urself
        It is moveton, aka bad idea
        But it is smelly way of filth trolls, khe-khe…
        Sorry , I forget, it is hohloidea, too
        like khuev fascizm

  • Murf

    Of course the net leader will be a dictator.
    The Russian people as a whole only understand one type of relationship.
    Lord to Serf.
    Master to Slave.
    You are either one or the other.
    They only respect a leader they has Divine Right or the modern secular equivalent and Oligarch,one who is rich and has taken absolute power.
    Democracy?
    Meh! A man who has talked his way to power is nothing. A weakling.
    But a man who steals, kills, fights, and crushes his enemies; that is a man they can respect.
    They want a man of Iron.
    That’s why they worship Putin.
    That is why they want to love Trump.
    They want a new Stalin.
    Anything less is…well less