Friday, January 28, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Reading Habits Highlight ‘Leftward Drift’ in Russian Society, Moscow Paper Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, January 28 – Booksellers in the Russian capital, the editors of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” note today, report that demand is growing among their young educated customers for Marxist and neo-Marxist literature, something for which there was almost no demand in the first post-communist decade.
Some people will see this as something completely unexpected, the editors say, but others will view it as completely logical, a “leftward drift” in reading habits that has been “taking place in the entire world” as economic conditions have worsened but that is occurring in Russia “with a certain delay” (
In the West, where the opposition of “leftist intellectuals” and “a rightist establishment” is something “traditional,” so too has been the demand for Marxist literature especially when economic times are tough. But in Russia, direct experience with communism and with the post-Soviet Communist Party of the Russian Federation had immunized most against this.
Now, however, “with the onset of the world financial crisis, the situation has changed.” If the 1990s, young people could count on “a social elevator” to boost their careers, now, “the elevator has stalled,” and over the last decade, “social status began to depend not on individual initiative and effort but on [connections like in earlier times].”
Not surprisingly, the editors continue, many young people turned to Marx’s Das Kapital and other Marxist works for explanations of their situation, especially one in which the rich seemed to get richer, the poor poorer and the gap between the two ever wider in post-Soviet Russia.
“The euphoria of the 1990s” with its “doubtful injection of optimism” about the end of history has passed, the editors say, and the educated young are trying to find explanations for the world as they find it. While some are looking to neo-capitalist writings, an increasing share are disappointed in the market and are turning to Marxist ones.
This interest in leftist ideology, the editors suggest, has little or nothing to do with the Communist Party which has served as “a factor of stability” in the Russian Federation and elsewhere in the post-Soviet space. Instead, it reflects a deeper search for justice in a world that appears unjust and a desire for explanations that people can use to cope.
Consequently, this new interest in Marxist and neo-Marxist texts does not necessarily portend any increase in support for the KPRF. Instead, it points to the rise of a new element among the educated one, an element less enamored of market ideology and more willing to consider non-market-based ideas and solutions.
At the very least, the rise of this group will provoke a renewed debate over what role the state should play in Russian life and the economy. And more speculatively, this renewed interest in ideologues of the left may help prepare the ground for the rise of a new leftist party, one that could appeal to those who have been left behind far more effectively than the communists can.

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