Monday, August 20, 2012

Russia's prevailing ideological consensus: sovereignism and anti-capitalism

I thought I had seen in all, from the 100 year ban on homo parades in Moscow to the Pussy Riot circus, but it appears that a new front has opened in the West's "Free Sex and Blasphemy" crusade against Russia.

Under the title Madonna Sued in Russia for Supporting Gays the very serious Wall Street Journal reports the following:
MOSCOW—Some Russian activists have sued Madonna for millions of dollars, claiming they were offended by her support for gay rights during a recent concert in St. Petersburg. Antigay sentiment is strong in Russia. In St. Petersburg, a law passed in February makes it illegal to promote homosexuality to minors, and the author of that law has pointed to the presence of children as young as 12 at Madonna's concert on Aug. 9. Russian news agencies quote Alexander Pochuyev, a lawyer representing the nine activists, as saying the suit was filed Friday against Madonna, the organizer of her concert, and the hall where it was held, asking for damages totaling 333 million rubles, or nearly $10.5 million.

Responding to criticism that the plaintiffs were stuck in the Middle Ages, the lawyer said they were using civilized, modern methods to defend their rights. "No one is burning anyone at the stake or carrying out an Inquisition," Mr. Pochuyev was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying. "Modern civilization requires tolerance and respect for different values."

The complaint includes a video taken at the concert showing Madonna stomping on an Orthodox cross and asking fans to raise their hands to show the pink armbands in support of gays and lesbians that were distributed among the audience, the new agency reported.

Madonna also has angered conservative Russians with her support for Pussy Riot. Three members of the punk band were sentenced Friday to two years in prison for a protest inside Moscow's main cathedral against Vladimir Putin and his cozy ties to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Madonna spoke out in support of the group during her concert in St. Petersburg and two days earlier in Moscow. After the verdict was issued, Madonna called on "all those who love freedom to condemn this unjust punishment."
The new thing this time is that rather than the Russian government taking action, a group of private individuals decided to act and, to make things even more interesting, they are using the Russian courts to get to Madonna were it hurts: money.

This is really very new. The idea of suing somebody for money is totally alien to the Russian culture, nevermind asking for 333-million-ruble ($10.3 million) in damages! (It sure looks like the Russians are slowly learning some very Western, I would even say "American", tactics).

It thus appears that we are having somewhat of a major struggle under way here: On one hand, the West is dead set in getting Russia to comply with its views on sex and, what one could call, the "right to blasphemy".  In return, the Russians are equally determined to prevent the West's moral "навозная жижа" (manure slurry) from replacing traditional Russian cultural and religious norms. Characteristically, both sides claim to stand up for fundamental civil rights and against obscurantism.  Homos versus babushkas - who would have thought?  And yet, this is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

First, there was the "Russia - butcher of Chechen freedom fighters".  Then, Russia became the "poisoner of opponents" (Yushchenko, Litvinenko) and "killer of journalists" (Politkovskaya, Khlebnikov).   Then we had "Russia - the aggressor of democratic Georgia",  and now the evil patron of Gaddafi and Assad in the UN Security Council, the organizer of stolen elections, oppressor of the democratic opposition and suppressor of sexual freedoms.  Interestingly, this constant stream of accusations has created somewhat of a backlash in Russia where the words "our geostrategic friends" has now become a funny euphemism for "our sworn enemies" and the West's hypocrisy towards Russia turned into the topic of humorous demotivators like these two:

This first one shows the Russian spy Anna Kushchenko (aka Anna Chapman) and the universally despised "democratic" opposition leader Valeria Novodvorskaia with the following caption: their secret agents only look good in Hollywood movies.

The second one show a graph of Russian US Treasury holdings with the caption: and this is when the USA understood that Putin was stealing elections in Russia.

The fact is that the West's negative attitudes towards Russia are not so much seen as a threat, but much more so as a joke.

It is not surprising at all that the various propaganda campaigns  I mentioned above go little to no traction with the Russian public opinion (according to independent polls, the Pussy Riot sentence was approved by the strong majority of Russians).  And yet, the West is fundamentally mis-reading Russia (again).

A lot was said about "the Church" in Russia and its role in the Pussy Riot issue, and yet I would argue that the influence of the religion in general or the Moscow Patriarchate in particular is grossly over-estimated by the media.

Religious feelings are complex and hard to measure, but being myself an Orthodox Christian I would argue that the very minimal condition to consider oneself an Orthodox Christian would be to at least attend the Paskhal ("Easter") service since Pashkha ("Easter") is, by far, the biggest and most important religious feast/celebration in the Orthodox Christian calendar.  In Moscow, the city police keep a careful statistic of the amount of people who actually attend this unique religious service celebrated at midnight.  For years the figure of actual attendees have been very stable: roughly 1% of the population of Moscow!  In other words, 99% of Moscovites are not even religious enough to attend the most important Orthodox service of the year.  Not very impressive, don't you think?

While it is possible that in some Russian cities with a special religious history (Suzdal, Sergiyev Posad, Sarov, etc.) this figure might be somewhat bigger, I am quite confident that the figure for Moscow is higher than in most of the rural or even urban areas of Russia.  The reality is that true deep spirituality is only a reality is a very small percentage of the Russian population.

Nationalist feelings in Russia are far more prevalent, but I am quite sure that they are mostly rather moderate and not as prevalent as some people claim.  I have no statistic to prove this, but I will say that I personally know the Russian nationalist circles very, very well, and that I am absolutely certain that they are not a majority phenomenon, at least not yet.

The interesting thing, however, is that a full decade of unconditional support by the West for the Jewish-democratic oligarchy under Eltsin followed by a never-ending and completely hypocritical anti-Russian propaganda campaign by the West since Putin got to power has had a deep effect in Russia - the one of greatly fostering national and, to a certain degree, even religious feelings of affiliation even amongst those who otherwise might not have felt them at all.

Again, setting aside all this absolute baloney about the "Kremlin controlled media" or "stolen elections", there is a reason why pro-Western political parties simply cannot make it into the Duma (nevermind the Kremlin) just as there is a reason why the Putin/Medvedev regime, for all its very real faults, is still so popular: the vast majority of Russians want to "push the West out of Russia" and this feeling plays a much stronger role in the anti-Pussy-Riot sentiment then religion or nationalism even though the latter are gradually becoming involved in this dynamic as identity symbols.

This reminds me of the two Chechen wars which saw numerous instances of Russian soldiers replying "Khristos Voskrese!" ("Christ is Risen!" - a traditional Paskhal greeting) to the Chechen "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greater) even though the vast majority of these soldiers had little or no religious education to begin with (probably true of most Chechens too).  To put it differently, the more the likes of Madonna will trample upon Orthodox crosses, the more people in Russia will feel that the Cross is something important, if not sacred, to them.

Nikolai Starikov
I was recently watching a video of a lecture by Nikolai Starikov, one of the most influential young Russian intellectuals, who when he was asked what kind of ideology Russia could oppose to the Western one simply answered "national sovereignty and social justice".  Even though most Western Russia "specialists" fail to see the nuance, this is, in reality, a very far cry from any religious or nationalistic resurgence.

This has been main effect of the long Western ideological propaganda war against Russia: to create this sovereignist and anti-capitalist reaction.

Yet, even though they are very far from being religious obscurantists or rabid nationalists, people like Starikov absolutely despise Wahabi terrorists or the folks who supported them against their own people ("human rights activists" like Sergei Kovalev or pro-Western opposition figures like Novodvorskaia), they feel a deep sense of disgust for the homo-lobby or the "Rioting Vaginas" (as Starikov calls Pussy Riot), and they deeply and profoundly reject the Western model of a uni-polar (i.e., imperial) New World Order dominated by an ideology of exploitation, greed, profit and violence (which is, sadly, all that the West stands for today).

This sovereignist and anti-capitalist movement is not uniform and is therefore not centered around, or lead by, any one single party or individual.  It is, however, well-represented in most Russian political movements and parties (with the logical exception of US controlled puppets like Iabloko or Golos): Putin's United Russia, of course, but also Ziuganov's Communist Party, Zhirinovski's LDPR and even Mironov's Just Russia.  I would also argue that a majority of the opposition to Putin is strongly influenced by such sentiments (Udaltsov's Left Front, Limonov's National-Bolshevik Party - what a name! - or Egor Kholmogorov Russian Nationalists).

What this movement also has in common is a great sense of confidence that Russian can, and will, prevail over the West in any new Cold War: they feel that the US-run international capitalist system is a collapsing pyramid scheme, that the US military is really unable to actually win a real war, that the EU is paralyzed by a massive social and economic crisis and that basically the future is behind Russia and the other BRICS countries

Of course, the West still has a great deal of military and economic power and these sovereignists cum anti-capitalists are not seeking to openly confront the West, nor have they any desire to compete globally against the US Empire and its 700+ major military bases worldwide.  Instead, they are quite content to openly defy the West on their own home turf - inside Russia - and gradually built up the Russian society around the dual goals of sovereignty and social-justice (and God knows that a lot of work still needs to be done in these two realms!).

Alain Soral
This is not unique to Russia.  In France, for example, there is a most interesting movement gradually coalescing around the author Alain Soral who has created an organization called "Equality and Reconciliation" (E&R) which centers around the slogan: "The Left of Labor and the Right of values", something very similar to what is taking place in Russia, I think.  

E&R is uniquely French, just as Starikov's movement is uniquely Russian, but they share some very fundamental values and beliefs beginning by a total and comprehensive rejection of the current Western ideological model of globalism and capitalism.  

This makes me wonder in how many other countries besides Russia and France the same process is taking place?

It is very hard to predict where this movement is going in Russia.  Personally, I think of it much more as some kind of "Petri dish" or "ideologically fertile ground" than as a finished, defined, product.  Sovereignty and anti-capitalism are definitely good values, but they are also very hollow or shallow, they lack any kind of ideological or, even less so, spiritual depth.  These feelings, this movement, currently lacks shape and it could evolve in many very different world-views, movements or policies.

Dmitri Rogozin
I will conclude this sketch by saying that while the Putin/Medvedev tandem currently clearly greatly benefits from this "sovereignist and anti-capitalist" movement, the leaders of this movement have absolutely no loyalty to the current regime.  Yes, at this point in time, most sovereignists/anti-capitalists are supporting Putin/Medvedev because they see no alternative to them, but they are also very busy creating their own political parties.  And, in some topics, such as the entry of Russia into the WTO, the sovereignists/anti-capitalism are in an open and very vocal opposition to the Kremlin.  

Even more interestingly, and in stark contrast to the situation in France, there are very influential people already inside the Russian government, such as Dmitri Rogozin, who are ideological far closer to a Starikov than to Putin or Medvedev.  Putin and Medvedev understand that, and they are willing to work with them, but they are quite aware of the fact that Rogozin has a support base very distinct from their own.

The current Western "Free Sex and Blasphemy" crusade against Russia, far from intimidating or embarrassing anybody, is actually perceived as a sign of the extreme weakness and even degeneracy of the West.  Even the apparent (?) US determination to deploy an anti-missile system against Russia is primarily perceived as a huge waste of money, an act of ideological stupidity which can be rather easily countered, not as some kind of fear-inspiring threat.

In the meantime, some folks in Saint Petersburg will have a good time trying to sue Madonna for "propaganda of homosexuality" before turning to the far more serious business of sovereignization and social justice.

And the BBC, CNN & Co. will never notice a thing :-)

The Saker