Staunton,November 8 – Something very ugly and dangerous is happening in Russia today,Aleksandr Tsipko says. Elites increasingly are expressing their contempt forordinary Russians, failing to see that this attitude means that ever fewer ofthe latter are going to be impressed by imperial games or willing to sacrificeanything to achieve them.
Whatis especially bad, the Moscow social commentator continues, is that the elitesare willing to mouth the lines of the Kremlin that the ordinary people shouldsacrifice themselves for imperial greatness even while it is all too obviousthat the elites aren’t prepared to sacrifice anything for anyone except theirown wealth and position (ej.ru/?a=note&id=33100).
The calculation of these elites is“simple,” Tsipko says. “As long as Putin is alive, he won’t give up power toanyone and consequently will never give up what he considers his victories inforeign policy. “if we want to remain in power,” they say, “we must profess anddefend the absurd” and try to convince “the simple people” they should bewilling to suffer.
“This open distain of thepresent-day political elite to how the simple man lives and what bothers him”is rapidly landing the Russian elites in trouble, the commentator says. Theyhave lost their bearings and show no signs of getting them back, and they haveeven forgotten that when elites behaved like this at the end of Soviet times,they lost their country.
“The constant stress on the ideologyof great power status combined with the eternal Soviet deficit led in the endto the complete de-ideologization of the population, to the appearance in thepopulation of a desire to reject everything” and to cease to be moved by anyappeals to them at all, Tsipko recalls.
What makes the current moment evenmore dangerous, however, is that within living memory Russians lived betterthan they do now and did not see the fact that the rich are getting richer andthe poor poorer as the defining factor of their lives.As a result, Russians today are even more putoff by what the elites are saying than they were at the end of the 1980s.
“People are beginning to exit fromthe paradigm of the besieged fortress,” Tsipko argues. “They are tied about allthis talk of eternal enemies who supposedly surround us on all sides. And themost dangerous thing for the authorities and for our political stability” isthat they see their leaders don’t care what happens to them as long as theelites are taken care of.
Tsipko says that he “alwaysdistances himself from the catastrophism of Sergey Kurginyan, but in [his]view, there is truth in his latest interviews where he directs the attention ofthe powers to the fact that many of the representatives of ‘Crimea is Ours’Russia are beginning to look at the powers with the eyes” of those who want “avelvet revolution.”
“Our present-day political elitesomehow doesn’t take into consideration the possibility that the people couldbecome tired of their open lying” and that as a result, the population is“losing faith not only in them but in the powers that be as a whole.”Increasingly, ordinary Russians view the elites as having sold out to thepowers for money not Russia.
Russians still watch these “talkingheads” but they do so “with new eyes.” They are no longer persuaded. Instead,they start with the assumption that they are going to be lied to but need towatch to know what new horrors the regime and the elites around it are planningto visit upon them next.
That is because ordinary Russians asa result of income differentiation driven by state power increasing look atthemselves, their own lives, the current powers that be, and itsrepresentatives not as one common thing but rather “through the prison of theopposition of the poor and the rich.”
Ordinary Russians have lost allinterest what is going on in the Donbass, Syria or even Crimea.They place ever fewer hopes in the state andaren’t persuaded by the propaganda or some new foreign policy “triumph.”Instead, they see these things as just another means to keep those on top thereand those like themselves on the bottom there.
And that is extremely dangerousbecause the situation Russia finds itself in today is at a dead end, the Moscowsocial analyst says. No Russian government is going to give up Crimea, but noRussian government knows how to live and develop if sanctions continue as theymay for decades.
The Russian people don’t want togive up Crimea either, but they will not sit still for long “with the negativeconsequences” that sanctions are bringing. “Now it is becoming clear” that theyno longer think Putin can provide them with a better life or that they shouldback him no matter what.
“In my view,” Tsipko says, “thepresent-day powers, in contrast to the CPSU will fine it ever more difficult tojustify the negative consequences of these sanctions seriously and for a alongtime.” They aren’t offering an image of the country as one in which everyone ismaking sacrifices but only one in which those without power are.
As a result, “instead of the Sovietequality of poverty has arrived the disturbing in equality between those whochoose among the capitals of Europe as the place for their children to live andstudy and those who do not know where they will find enough money to pay forsummer school holidays.”
The latter aren’t going to be bought off withimages of victory in some new war, Tsipko continues. Instead, they are likelyto ask more questions about why the situation in Russia is what it is.And that ought to lead the elites to ask thepeople the following question: “does it want to die in the name of the greatpower ambitions of the present-day powers that be?”
The answer almost certainly will soonbe if it is not already a resounding “NO.”