As Russia’s election race heats up, the media seems preoccupied with billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and whether his bid’s a “Kremlin project”. You may well define the Kremlin narrowly as the Russian government, and PM Vladimir Putin as the country’s most powerful politician. Then, you’d probably agree with Prokhorov’s statement (in his interview with The Moscow News) that his bid isn’t an official project, but a “concession to society” after mass protests against alleged fraud in December’s parliamentary elections. However, if you see the Kremlin more broadly as the collective ruling élite of the country… top officials in the government and presidential administration, and the leaders of big business groups, state and private, who decide policy and carve up Russia’s riches… then, the picture isn’t so clear.
It’s true that, within Russia’s élite, there are strong differences of opinion about the way forward, as they fear both the economic crisis and mass protests, and it’s tempting to get carried away by an overly personality-driven analysis of politics. However, it’s more helpful to look at the economic interests of different groups in society as a whole, than to assume that a particular candidate personifies one wing or another of the élite. Prokhorov says that there’s a split in the élite between “liberals” and “statists”, but it’s more complicated than that. Within the élite, there are conflicting business interests, but also many intermingling and overlapping ones… between private oligarchs and top siloviki officials, for example.
Prokhorov himself is a prime example of this contradiction. He and partner Vladimir Potanin benefited massively from the loans-for-shares privatisation of Norilsk Nickel in the 1990s. While both oligarchs advocate liberal economic policies, both have relied heavily on support from the statists in government to “legitimise” their fortunes. Both the “liberal” and “statist” élite ultimately agree on the need to preserve the broad status quo in society, where a handful of well-connected insiders keep their hands firmly on the levers of wealth and power. Therefore, whilst Putin and Prokhorov may disagree about the pace of reform, such as cuts in social spending after the elections, their policies may well look remarkably similar to each other’s in the end.
2 February 2012
Mr Wall’s use of “liberal” and “statist” is a far better description of the political divide than the so-called “liberal” and “conservative” one used in the Anglosphere. For instance, US Republicans are “liberals”, and Democrats are “statists”. Yes, Virginia, Republicans are LIBERALS. They are more liberal than Democrats are. Notable Liberals worshipped by the GOP include Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman. The Republicans are NOT “conservative”… they’ve NEVER been conservatives. Abraham Lincoln was a Radical, unabashedly so. Theodore Roosevelt was one too, as well, again, unashamedly so. Lincoln was the architect of the Federal State (prior to 1861, the USA was a rather loose confederation) and Roosevelt was the founder of the Regulatory State. Again, one can see that all the “conservative” pundits are ignorant and lying weasels (where were they educated? At Podunk U?)… the Republican Party, traditionally, was the party of the Federal State, whilst the Democrat Party was the party of local subsidiarity, of “states’ rights”. After all, the War Between the States was about whether the USA would be a Centralised Federal State or a Confederacy (or a “split ticket”, with two states, each one embodying each of the two concepts).
What’s happened is that a wealthy group of amoral anarchistic (“libertarian”) buccaneers hijacked the Republican Party and refashioned it from a statist and regulatory party to one based on economic anarchy and populist race baiting. The first New Republican was Slobberin’ Ronnie Reagan… George H W Bush was an Old Republican (almost the last of the breed… Bob Dole was the last Old Republican)… George W Bush was a New Republican, emphatically so (remember his ties to Kenneth Lay, Enron, and WorldCom?). All of the new crop of GOP hopefuls are New Republicans… could you have imagined Sarah Palin in the Republican Party in the 1960s? She wouldn’t (and couldn’t) have fitted in with Ike, Jake Javits, or Rocky… Bob Taft wouldn’t have allowed her in the door… do note how McCarthy got the bum’s rush FROM OTHER REPUBLICANS. Ergo… Who are the RINOs? HUH?
Bear in mind that REAL conservatives believe that mankind’s inherently flawed, that it’s incapable of good action or direction without structure and hierarchy of one sort or another. Judged by that standard, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Ryan, Mona Charen, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Anne Coulter, and Sarah Palin are empathically NOT conservatives. They’re pure Liberals… of the most Radical sort, at that. They childishly believe that we can leave mankind without regulation from the state… the “invisible hand of the market” will control things. In the last economic meltdown, the banksters and their affluent effluent lackeys would have gone under, had it not been for Bush’s Bailout and the Obama Stimulus. The loud “conservatives” were silent on the “invisible hand”… they accepted the state’s handouts to pull themselves out of the hole that they dug (yet, they criticised the Stim payments loudly… only a blind boob could fail to see that). Look at Mitch Daniels… he attacked the Stimulus, yet, he took gobs of Stimulus money to balance his budget (to avoid having to raise taxes on his rich and affluent pals). THAT certainly colours it in a new way, doesn’t it! None dare call it filthy and low hypocrisy… especially on Fox News.
One could write a book on this… and I’ve only got 800 words! To keep it short, the demand of the rightwing commentariat for low tax rates on the rich, minimal government regulation, and no constraints on private economic activity are LIBERAL to the bone, and we must say it loud! Its basis is in a totally-flawed and overly-optimistic view of mankind taken by no true conservative. It’s servile and obsequious fawning to Mammon and all his glittering works… I don’t care how much “Christian” rhetoric they mouth.
No man can serve two masters… you can serve Almighty God and vote against the Republican Party (your conscience should be your guide as to whom you should vote “for”), or, you can serve Almighty Mammon and vote for the Republican Party. That’s your choice in this flawed world. Don’t vote for those who deny the Fall of Mankind… the Republicans do that… people can be left alone and they’ll “do the right thing”, they say. In a pig’s arse, I say. If it weren’t for government intervention, there’d still be kids in factories, fat racist sheriffs pummelling Negroes in the South, no Social Security, no free public schools, no Medicare, no 40-hour work week, and no minimum wage. The state’s a pain in the arse, emphatically so… but the alternative’s far worse. We’re a country of 300 million… we’ll have bureaucracy… either state or corporate. The former is galling… the latter would be a Hobbesian “war of all against all”, a dictatorship ruled by the idea that “the race goes to the swiftest”. There’s no doubt where decent people should stand!
Don’t be fooled by the “conservative” maunderings of the Radical Right. Vote ‘em out!