Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Changing Russia’s Political Paradigm without War

In a written statement addressed to the participants of the eighth Khodorkovsky readings taking place in Moscow, Mikhail Khodorkovsky stated that “the role of our generation – is to attempt to change the paradigm without a civil war.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s address stated the following:

Dear participants in the Khodorkovsky Readings!

It gives me great pleasure to be able to address you today, even though I am unable to be with you in person.

Great pleasure because in the year 2012, after the shamelessly false Duma elections and on the eve of what seem to be no-alternative presidential elections, serious changes have finally taken place in the public consciousness.

To my view, they are best explained by two factors:

1. The fact that we are approaching the end of a “big political cycle”, which usually comprises 15 years (VVP has got – 12 already). I.e. people have gotten fed up with him and he has lost effectiveness on account of becoming “overgrown” with people, habits, because he’s gotten tired, which is perfectly normal for a person to do.

2. The fact that the proportion of the educated middle class has increased among the population. The power, entirely in keeping with “Marxist-Leninist teaching”, is itself giving birth to its own gravediggers – the modern “proletariat” of office labour.

We know of VVP’s personal peculiarities, the consequence of which is a certain “filter” in his brain, which does not let through information that contradicts his established views.

As for these views, they consist of a genuine belief that he is doing everything correctly, is achieving excellent results and, consequently, only either urban lunatics or Washington hirelings could come out against him. To break through the wall of such a consciousness is very difficult (if it is possible at all), taking into account the counteraction of the grovelling toadies surrounding him.

Such “psychoanalytical” details are imperative to me in order to clarify my own notion of the future.

The power’s political toolkit for the next year or two
I consider that what awaits us is a conservative scenario in politics (both in state policy and in the policy of the siloviki structures) along with more a or less liberal economy.

However, it is understandable – only extremely limited “liberalness” in the economy under such politics.

What is going to be spoken of is extending the liberal approach in macroeconomics (with an adjustment for the lobbying of the siloviki), and this means – an attempt to “suppress” the social sector is inevitable.

Suppression of the social sector hits one’s rating numbers, it is imperative to satisfy the interests of the civilian bureaucracy, plus, taking into account the low quality of state administration, local points of tension are going to arise. In general, understandable – it is not going to be easy.

Two types of reaction to the inevitable problems are possible (theoretically).

1. A certain democratisation with the offloading of responsibility onto new “centres of power”, like regional ones, onto the legislative assembly, onto the government (the last one is not going to work out, since Medvedev is considered to be a clone of Putin).

2. The methods of the special services: provocations, power games, pressuring with the use of force.

I rule out real democratisation and liberalisation as not organic for VVP, and, what is even more important, – for his siloviki entourage, which, after the drop in the rating numbers, is gradually, in an ever greater degree, becoming Putin’s sole support.

Out of those same considerations I rule out a real strengthening of the powers of the legislative assembly and the government.

But then the promises to the “regionals” could end up being fulfilled – a direct political threat is not visible, the possibility of additional gain for the bureaucratic officials appears, and the leverage, especially at elections, – is serious.

This coin has an opposite side as well. The most submissive, and, this means, – “rewarded”, become the nationality peripheries, which evokes the sharp indignation of the ethnic-Russian population, moving at times into extreme forms. Radical nationalism is picking up strength. It is precisely it that the power is making use of, as a bogeyman for Russia’s educated class and for the West.

The results of such a policy have been observed on numerous occasions in world history – they are playing with fire. When and where – it is complex to say, but the end of the political cycle is not far off. They are going to pull out all the stops in order to conduct the Olympiad in a worthy fashion, but after it the “raped” economy and society are going to “recoil”.

From 2015, any crisis for our power may turn out to be the last.

In such conditions, I believe extremely little in the modernisation of the economy, in the changing of its archaic structure, in a truly “new industrialisation”.

The most likely variant of such attempts is going to become the expenditure of huge funds on a copy of the “Chinese industrial miracle”, but without the Chinese, their cheap labour force and technology of creating a completely export-oriented industry (a technology that is mentally absolutely unacceptable either for the power or for the population of Russia).

The result of such an attempt – a “sawing up” of the budget and the creation of a whole bunch of uncompetitive production operations.

Today’s power is absolutely unfit to work out and carry out a serious industrial policy. In the first place, because the key word for Putin is “distrust”. Distrust of things he can not understand. But for a person, alas, who had never in his life seriously engaged in industry, to understand a new industrial paradigm at the age of 60, – impossible.

There is also an “in the second place”, and an “in the third place”…

As long as they continue to “ship out” the O&G, – we can keep on playing, including by creating window-dressing projects. Then – we’ll drop them. Fortunately, the absence of external investments anywhere besides O&G is not going to allow them to “mess things up” too much.
In general, there aren’t going to be any breakthroughs, we will burn the money, but I don’t see a tragedy.


Public control on the part of unindifferent citizens
The probability of winning in a struggle for power whilst playing by the rules dictated by Putin is impossible. If they contrived to “add” 15 percentage points as a minimum to UR at the elections in Moscow, which were of relatively little import, this means there are no “boundaries” whatsoever.

Violent confrontation with the power – is an absolutely real thing for a younger generation. As for us, we can probably imagine the consequences all too well.

Luckily for Putin, the young generation in Russia is not as numerically large as in the Arab countries, which signifies but one thing – a bit more time is going to be required to gather a critical mass. According to the rough estimates of demographers, the middle class, politically not represented in power, will comprise a majority in some ten years’ time. That is, from this point of view as well we are going to enter into a zone of turbulence by the year 2015 (a third – that’s a lot).

And so, to play by “their” rules is pointless. Violent confrontation – not our method.

So what is to be done then?

In actuality, the line of behaviour is unconsciously understood: public control. To put the power before a public choice: either truly honest behaviour, and then – creation of a rule-of-law state, with its institutions, where the finding of certain guarantees is possible; or rejection of the supremacy of law, recognition of “might makes right”, and, this means, – the destruction of the country (modern states living with nary a glance at the law, – do not exist); the result – the absence of any guarantees of when the unavoidable flow of time or a chance crisis will wash away at the supports of the current elite’s power framework.

Concurrently with the system of public control over the current power, a structure of interrelations within civil society must (and will be) built up, a system of mutual obligations, which will allow us to attempt to avoid the worst-case scenario of the development of events, connected with the radicalisation of protest.

Today is not the time to create new parties and to attempt to impose some kind of specific opposition ideology on the middle class.

They’ll get there. Everything in its own time.

The thing that all unindifferent citizens need to be working at right now – this is raising the significance in society of the idea of the recently created “League” and other associations of voters. These organisations must set themselves a task: to do everything possible so that the presidential elections would pass honesty.

It is obvious that with the right approach and a fortunate confluence of circumstances, from such, for example, an amalgamation there could emerge a long-term coalition of various forces of civil society for control over the bureaucracy. Non-partisan, naturally.

There will, of course, be attempts to attach a party ideology to this business, but I consider it important not to yield to them, retaining a position of being “above and beyond partisanship” and the main objective: to attain the “morality” of the power.

Morality in the given situation – this is honesty, modesty (the absence of conspicuous consumption), the unacceptability of nepotism and corruption in the broad sense (for some reason in our country they consider only a bribe to be corruption, but in fact there is a very clear-cut definition, which includes also “the granting of job-related benefits and privileges in exchange for loyalty”).

It would be well worth starting with such organisational work. There is not all that much time, but to get it done – is quite possible.

The role and place of bureaucrats

And if we are speaking of the medium term (until the year 2015), I would consider it right to adhere to the technology of “engaging” the bureaucracy. Determine certain moral criteria that make interaction unacceptable, and a person – “someone whose hand people will refuse to shake”. Pursue such “public figures” with all uncompromisingness, but do not try to expand their number infinitely.

The Magnitsky list – not a bad start; however, the greater part of such problems can be resolved right here, in Russia, with enough persistence.

An example – the “pearl warrant officer” (Boyko). By the way, I shall note: 3.5 years suspended – is not at all a soft sentence, especially if civic control is retained, which will not allow the sentence to be quietly reconsidered, or the control over a convict with a suspended sentence that is required by the law not to be implemented over Boyko. Now here is something it would be worthwhile for someone to engage in (for example, Public Verdict).

But let me get back to “engagement”. The remaining part of officialdom, incl. party officials, can easily be gotten involved in the work of civil society.

Those same Kudrin and his colleagues from the Putinite entourage should not be rejected. Yes, Putin sees them as his “agents of influence”, but we must see them as fellow citizens, which is what they are in actuality.

They have their own views, they have done and will still do quite a lot that we aren’t going to like, but who of us is without sin?

There is such a book, Schindler’s List. Reading it, I was thinking: how easy it was to make a person into an enemy (moreover, in real life it is even simpler than in the book). No doubt a multitude of sins lay on him, and how heavy is the work of reconciliation. But it was just this that saved dozens of lives.

And after all, we – are fellow citizens, and the stakes are not any lower. What is being spoken of is nothing more and nothing less than – getting by without civil war!
It is important to understand what in the actions of the power the officials themselves consider not right, but amoral, and to offer to help in the struggle with this specifically.

The budget – deficit/surplus – all trifles (well, or not trifles, but not our affair in that paradigm that is being spoken of), – the paradigm of the morality/amorality of the power. Right now the question stands just this way. The country is being destroyed by amorality, ceaseless lying of which they are not embarrassed. Corruption of which they are not ashamed. Cruelty and loutish behaviour that they regard as brutality and of which they are proud.

Avoiding a civil war

Once again I want to repeat my point of view: the role of our generation – is to attempt to change the paradigm without a civil war. And this means that remembering who did what, so that we all end up in a deep pit, – is not worth doing.

It is worth discussing only how a person sees the problem of the morality of the power now. If, as before, the same way as Machiavelli – he is not going the same way we are. But if life has forced him to want to “see the boundaries”, – let’s work together.

Working together – this is resolving the concrete problems of concrete citizens. Forcing various “boykos” if not to become a human being, then, at any rate, – to be afraid to show their beastly essence. To be afraid to display their corruptionally amassed wealth, to be afraid to lie about their education, their academic degrees. To be embarrassed when journalists catch them in a lie etc.

Then, in the process of this work, in the process of discussing different topics and teaching each other how to look for compromises, we will be able to not only improve the current situation a little, but also to resolve the crisis of power relatively gently when it does break out.

I am very much afraid of our “busybodies”, who see a revolution behind every street action, and therefore – do not consider regular practical work to be necessary.

Yes, revolution can break out unexpectedly, sweep away all plans, turn the entire country upside-down… I am not convinced that this will be all that good. And besides, I don’t believe in a swift and speedy revolution either. Now they’ve gone and done it.

I am more amenable to another way, slower and safer for the country: the gradual building up of influence over the power through cooperation or refusal to cooperate with its elements. Through persuasion and psychological pressure, through culture and education. More precisely – through the authority of their bearers. At the end of the day, through civic non-violent resistance.

This is not lethargic non-interference, but rather multiple-vector “coercion” towards decent, civilised behaviour irrespective of the presence of this or the other authority of power.

There are few who are absolutely unresponsive to the position of society. About the line with ones such as these, if their actions are deeply amoral, we have already spoken. Refusal to shake hands with them in the broad sense.

Demonstrations and rallies in this paradigm – is not the threshold of insurrection, when the ever growing throng goes for a storming of government buildings, but is a way of realising that one is a part of a community of people who are ready to act in order to attain a common goal.

We “demonstrate”, first of all, not to the power, but to ourselves: our views are not fringe, there are many of us, and we have the right to demand respect of our interests. And to strive to attain such respect. To those who will not listen, to those who will attempt to prove that the only true method – this is violence, we will show that in the 21st century such a position is erroneous. Delegitimisation, refusal to cooperate, public expression of scorn – this is not all that little by any means.

Such methods are hard to apply, if what is being spoken of is technical issues, along the lines of the budget, privatisation etc. But we intend to speak of universal human values after all, about the morality of power, about honestly, about humanism. It is important not to confuse the problems. In such a context the proposed technology is effective.

What to do on 4 March 2012

Today a refusal to participate in the voting would become a mistake – people have experienced a taste for elections.

We should not simply call like-minded people to the elections, we should “drag” them, spelling it out to them: Putin in a second round – this is a completely different Putin, a bit more inclined to listen, this is a different state, where the bureaucracy is thinking about the risk of losing its “roof”, and therefore – doesn’t act as if there are no limits to its behaviour. Putin in the first round – this is a course towards a police state and tomorrow’s revolution. Putin in the second round – a chance that the power will realise the unavoidability of changes. And also, as a “bonus”: politicians who have gathered 10 and more percent of the votes, – this is people who can not be ignored, this is at least some kind of voice of society, capable of articulating its demands.

But the main thing is – to be able to organise people who are ready to spend their time and efforts in order to defend their political rights. A solid and cohesive field of civic control, its organisation and institutionalisation – the main question of the current presidential elections.

By the way, I consider it useful to enlist the services of the so-called “public councils” alongside government agencies, demanding of them that they take upon themselves part of the responsibility for the honesty of those electoral procedures where “their” agencies are involved. What is being spoken of is also voting in the army, and the actions of the police at the polling stations, and the behaviour of the directors of the schools, hospitals, other institutions where polling stations are organised.

It is understood that the public councils in their majority – are servile. It is understood that the Public Chamber, for which it would be worthwhile to coordinate such work, is going to be very afraid. But they won’t really have anywhere particular to go, if the question is put to them directly, publicly and concretely: do you intend to assist in control over the observance of the law? Yes? – Let’s get to work. No? – You’re amoral. We will be speaking about this constantly and publicly, incl. in the State Duma during the time of the agencies’ report, personally during the conducting of the events of those civic organisations from which you were nominated, etc.

We have an undeniable advantage – we are talking not about politics (for Putin or against him), we’re – about honesty.

There is much work, and it is very concrete. But the main thing – with results. I am jealous. I wish you success.

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