Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Window on Eurasia: ‘What Awaits Russia if a National Revolution Wins Out?’ Moscow Analyst Asks

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 1 – The revolutionary events in Tunisia and Egypt raise the possibility, one Moscow analyst says, that Russia too may be on the verge of its own, “sixth” revolution, one that would likely be far bloodier and more violent than the 1991 events and that could resolve some of Russia’s fundamental contradictions but only at an enormous cost.
In an essay entitled “Thoughts about the Unthinkable,” Grani.ru essayist Yevgeny Ikhlov says that because “every thoughtful statesman” should be thinking about that possibility in the wake of recent events, it is time to ask “what awaits Russia in the event of a victory of its National Revolution?’ (www.grani.ru/blogs/free/entries/185802.html).
(Ikhlov adds in a footnote that “only now has become clear the wisdowm of the neo-conservatives of the Bush team, who insisted on pushing democratic reforms across the entire world and in the first instance in the Near East, and all the idiotism of their post-liberal critics who asserted that enlightened authoritarianism is more useful for non-Western peoples.)
“The pan-Arab democratic revolution” is occurring at just the time when “the end of Putinism” appears to be at hand, Ikhlov says, and he suggests that Russia may face what some of the Arab countries have: a revolution when the armed forces, who had been willing to crush opponents, refuse to move “against His Highness the People.”
According to Ikhlov, “the Tunisian regime was not only headed by an Arab Medvedev, it literally fulfilled all the plans of step by step modernization, literally according to the INSOR ‘reminiscence about the future.’ And this was the result:” an Arab revolution, “anti-corruption and anti-authoritarian at its base” recalling “the chain reaction” in Eastern Europe 20 years ago.
In the Tunisian events, he continues, “there was no anti-modernist egalitarian impulse so much a part of the Islamist revolution of Khomeini [in Iran in 1979] and ‘popular Bolshevism’ [in Russia] in 1917-1920,” despite the predictions of many that these latest events would proceed along the same path.
Ikhlov argues that one of the most interesting aspects of such repetitions in history is the tendency of each new phase to deal with issues that defined the previous period and structures and that could not be solved by it. Indeed, sometimes the real success of one revolution comes only in the next one, with the victory of March 1917 happening only in August 1991.
But the process of revolutionary change varied widely, and Ikhlov suggests that the approaching “fifth Russian revolution will not be so touchingly ‘velvet’ … or ‘orange’ [as were its predecessors] but on the contrary will be very harsh, sudden and literally a reversal of course as it was in Romania, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia and Egypt …”
After the Manezh violence on December 11th, most Russian analysts focused on the likely “role of the Russian nationalist movement” in any such cataclysm. But Ikhlov says that it appears to him that “in the course of genuinely mass actions, the national-xenophobic, chauvinist component” is likely to quickly decline in importance.
That possibility, he suggests, makes it even more important to “look into the unthinkable.” And he calls for considering the December 11 events as “the beginning of the Great Russian National Revolution; in other words, that the moving force of the fifth Russian Revolution will become Russian neo-Nazism or revolutionary fascism” of the Mussolini-type.
Would such a revolution be capable of dealing with the growing problems Russia faces? Ikhlov suggests that it would have to address a large number of issues and would be forced to make “a complete break with the imperial inheritance. “In the case of a National Revolution … would arise an [ethnic] Russian state.”
“This would end,” Ikhlov says, “the 500-year-long argument of two tendencies in post-Horde Russian history – between the striving to the elaboration of a continental empire and the striving to the formation of a national state of the European type.”
Relatively few “have taken note,” he says, that in the past year, a cardinal change of direction has occurred within Russian nationalism.” Pan-Slavist dreams have been forgotten, unification with Belarus dropped, the division of Ukraine no longer discussed. Instead, “the dominant theme” has been “’the exclusion’ of the Caucasus from Russia.”
The second “historic task” of such a revolution, Ikhlov suggests, is “the liquidation” of the trauma Russians still feel as a result of the use of force by the state against the population as in 1937. Until Russia overcomes this almost “genetic fear of Chekist actions,” the Russian “will remain psychologically a slave.”
The third task of this revolution, he says, will be “the destruction of such a phenomena as ‘the nomenklatura,’ that is the monopolistically ruling closed social corporation which fills its ranks by ‘cooptation’ and the distinctive characteristic of which is the subordination of the division of social-political functions in the distribution of social-political roles.”
“Any mass revolution will liquidate the nomenklatura” and “in the harshest way” eliminate corruption and destroy the existing system of parties and elections. Bureaucrats will be afraid just as they were in 1989-1992, and Russia will emerge as a society without strata of that kind and with a power that has been deprived of its “sacredness” in the eyes of the population.
Such steps, Ikhlov argues, “are a necessary condition for the establishment of a contemporary civic nation.” But he adds, “everything just said does not mean that a nazi revolution is a good thing.” Rather such “thinking the unthinkable” should remind everyone of the tasks that Russia faces and that must be addressed to avoid a disaster.

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