Staunton, November 10 – The primitivism in the thinking of Vladimir Putin and his entourage reflects the fact that he and they are members of the generation that was “the most Soviet of all those who arose after 1917,” cut off from those who could remember pre-1917 conditions and fully socialized in the communist system, according to Ekaterina Schulmann.
In today’s Vedomosti, the Moscow commentator points to a recent remark by Putin about competition, one that shows that he doesn’t accept the idea of free competition but rather believes that, as Soviet ideologists held, free competition opens the way for the full use of administrative resources of those in power.
For normal people, “a competitive struggle typically presupposes that the participants perform similar work and those who do it best win.” But what Putin believes as did his Soviet instructors is that competition is anything but free if he has the power to affect it not in the normal way but through the use of power.
That attitude about competition comes directly from Lenin, Schulman says, and it was inculcated into the minds of Soviet citizens and to none of them more than those now 50 and older who have power in the Russian Federation, “the most Soviet” of all generations arising since 1917.
This generation “was born after the war,” and its members were “cut off forever” from any memory about pre-Soviet Russia or those who could remember it. “They passed through the full course of ideological indoctrination … [and] they were taught Marxist-Leninist philosophy and political economy.”
Even as this generation has had to function in a post-communist environment, its members have nonetheless retained many of the values and views that they received at any earlier time. They thus have no problem with the notion that “bourgeois” competition can yield super profits – but now for them rather than for someone else.
Russians reformers in the 1990s, Schulmann writes, “considered that the transition of the economy ‘unto market rails’ by itself would create around itself a democratic political system because in their minds was the [Marxist] thesis about ‘base and superstructure,’” rather than any more sophisticated idea.
“The mystical vision of the universe as ‘a zero sum game,’ where changing actors struggle for an unchanged pie of ‘resources,’ also is an inheritance of a vulgarized proposition of Marxism with its word competition of imperialist powers,” and it is equally primitive and wrong, Schulmann says.
Many in post-Soviet Russia joke that capitalism is being built in their country according to the caricatures that used to be found in the Soviet humor magazine Krokodil, but those anecdotes carry with them a great deal of truth. The Putin generation remains trapped in the ideological framework of their primitive understanding of Marxism.
“What progress can there be” if such thinking remains? Schulman asks rhetorically. And she answers “none” at all. For those with this habit of mind, “the Internet arose as a CIA project and thus it has developed and always will be a CIA project. States will eternally fight for resources, domestic unhappiness will be provoked from outside, law is a formality, rules a piece of paper, and justice does not exist.”
As the Moscow writer says, “the doctrine of Marx is all powerful for those who believe in it.”