One and a Half Newspapers and the Liberals’ Hypocrisy

October 29, 2013

There’s a word – liberal – and there’s some kind of problem with it lately. Either the liberals want to destroy the country, or they and their Bolotnaya [demonstrations] are causing Biryulyovo [ethnic riots]. The word bubbles up, embeds itself into curly narratives, passions rage, but one thing is not clear: who is all the fuss about? Where are these famous liberals? Perhaps I would like to defend them. And here I discover that there aren’t any liberals, and the argument, as often happens in Russia, is over nothing.

But there is someone in mind when they talk about liberals, and here Oleg Kashin suggests that “only one-and-a-half newspapers and a thousand people on Facebook remains” of them. Facebook means different things to different people, but by “newspaper” or “half-newspaper” he means most likely Novaya Gazeta. So you open up Novaya, and you see, for example, a column by Andrei Kolesnikov, written hot on the heels of the Biryulyovo events. In which you discover, for example, these words: “Bolotnaya – this is the middle class, this is educated, urban segments, including the elite, in the literal sense of the word, the cream of the nation. Biryulyovo is a dark mass of embittered people, in part for economic and social reasons, in part for psychological reasons (a xenophobic attitude).” And here the deep myopia of the government replaces the first with the second. And in that connection, it will not be visible in the near future, and Andrei Kolesnikov will then likely say, hadn’t he warned about this yesterday?

I was never in Biryulyovo, because I live in another city. But in our other city there are also outskirts, and these outskirts to no less a degree are seething with embittered people, like my own neighborhood in the center of St. Petersburg. And there are approximately as many of these educated people in our outskirts as there are in the center. Because people live everywhere, and they are different everywhere.

I also didn’t go to Bolotnaya, but for more than a year I have been following what has happened with those arrested in the Bolotnaya Affair. And among these arrested are people with different beliefs and different levels of education. There is the Ph.D. candidate Sergei Krivov, and there is, for example, the former metro worker Artyom Savelov. There are nationalists, and there are anarchists. There is the journalist Kovyazin and the former marine Lutskevich. And here I don’t understand, which of them specifically are the “cream of the nation,” who is the city elite and who is the middle class? The messenger from the Mega-Garant insurance police, Aleksei Polikhovich? Or the pensioner Kokhtareva? Or do they not count and there were only Liya Akhedzhakova and Boris Akunin at Bolotnaya?

Bolotnaya prisoner Ilya Gushchin has already replied to Andrei Kolesnikov. “I’m not a Bolotnik, I’m a Biryulyovets,” writes Gushchin. “I want an honest government and equal rights for all citizens, and not certain political gangs.” So it turns out that the national democrat Gushchin is more of a liberal than the author of one of the one-and-a-half liberal newspapers, Kolesnikov? It seems so out.

The problem of Russian “liberals from one-and-a-half newspapers” is not even that they disdain class or ethnic generalizations, impermissible for liberalism, but that in calling themselves liberals, they turn the very concept of liberalism inside out and create an entirely sovok atmosphere, inside of which nothing is ever called by its real name and behind each thesis there’s a winking remark, “well, you know what I mean.” I, of course, want equal rights for everyone, but you understand, for now only the “cream of the nation” deserves them. I, of course, am for religious tolerance, but you understand, they slaughter lambs in the yard. I, of course, and for free-thinking, but how can you speak of freedom of conscience regarding people with “a xenophobic attitude”? And so forth and so on in the same spirit as a militant Komsomol activist group.

The words of Abraham Lincoln from his letter to Joshua Fry Speed in 1855 are amazingly appropriate in that regard, and Georgy Osipov cited them in Facebook:

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy [sic].

The reference in the letter is to a law about Kansas and Nebraska which allowed these new territories to independently decide the question about legalizing slavery, thus upsetting the balance between the states of the North and South. Lincoln was deeply opposed to the spread of slavery, but there were no signs of civil war yet, and he took a purely expansionist position.

It is too bad that we have lost the Russia about which Lincoln writes and did not acquire a love of freedom in the process. At least, we did not acquire it at the level of “one-and-a-half liberal newspapers and a thousand people on Facebook.”