In Defense of Society: An Open Platform

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Image translation: “You are blocking the future. Move!” © Молодой дальневосточник.

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Editorial note: This manifesto was penned by a group of Russian activists and intellectuals about the current political situation in Russia, and what must be done to change it. The manifesto was originally published in Russian on Colta.ru, and available in English in full on e-flux conversations.
The ruling elite has made full use of the apathy and fragmentation of our society. The state media bursts with loyalist propaganda, presenting all protests as the result of manipulation by foreign enemies, while its main opposition is dominated by right-wing liberals: apologists of the free market and privatization. A position that would connect the left with democratic agendas is virtually never expressed. We believe that the only alternative to poverty, barbarism and the disintegration of society is an alliance for the development of common political positions and programs for collective action.

Today in Russia everyone is talking about the crisis. However, its causes are much deeper than the foreign policy of the government, corruption and pressure from the West. The causes can be found in the exhaustion of the post-Soviet capitalist model established in the 1990s. This is the foundation on which the current regime has grown. In this model, the privatization of Soviet property has been inextricably linked with the privatization of political power. Economic violence was an inevitable consequence of the turn towards authoritarian presidential power that began in 1993. Defined by nationwide de-industrialization and the predatory exploitation of natural resources in the interests of the elite, the Putin regime is simply a natural evolution of Yeltsin’s. The irony of this situation is that Russia, with its vast natural resources, is fully capable of generating sufficient revenue from the export of raw materials to strengthen its collective economic and social wellbeing. Instead, the Russian government has introduced a domestic policy of austerity, similar to what EU has forced on Greece.

Degradation—political, intellectual, and social—has become the essence of this system. The result is not only the fragmentation of society, but also its helplessness in the face of repression, religious obscurantism and, most importantly, the continuous attack on social rights.

In the early 2000s, the authorities opted for “de-politicization” proclaiming stability to be the main objective. The conflict in Ukraine and the active complicity of Russian authorities have contributed to the simulation of a new patriotic consensus. But this is based on a dishonest and unsustainable ideology. The declared unity of the people is false. Official propaganda pursues a strategy of constant distraction as developments in foreign policy have become the justification for anti-social policies and the suppression of basic civil liberties.

The “anti-crisis” plan of the government is effectively identical to the prescriptions of the so-called austerity policies that have been implemented in Greece, Spain, and Italy since the late 2000s. These policies have led to increasing impoverishment and unemployment in these countries. The government’s plan includes financial support of big banks and corporations, permanent extraction of funds from the population through an increase in direct and indirect taxes, the raising of retirement age, cuts in social programs, and the increasing privatization of the public sector.

In Russia, such measures are combined with the sharp devaluation of the ruble, the government’s refusal of salary and pension indexation, in addition to corruption and the embezzlement of the national budget. But if the European elites expropriate their wealth from the population in the name of economic growth, the Russian government does not even offer this pretense. It has no clear plans or prospects and lives only for the moment. Instead of a long-term strategy, it has resorted to filling the holes in the budget by implementing massive cuts to education and health care. Next on the agenda is an increase in retirement age.
Read the full manifesto on e-flux conversations.

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