poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

February 17, 2010

Surkov: Consolidated power in Russia is a tool of modernization, or, “I believe in miracles…”

Filed under: Politics: Russia — poemless @ 3:18 PM
Tags:

…since you came along. You sexy thing…

Not content with “First Deputy Chief of Staff to the President,” “Grey Cardinal,” “Chief Ideologue (or, Propagandist),” “Co-Chair of the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Civil Society Working Group,” or Nashi puppeteer, our lovely Vladislav has a new title under his belt: Deputy Chairman of the Commission on … establishing a Russian Silicon Valley. Or something. How many more trees will have to die before he is content with the length of his resume? And where on earth does he find the time? The real news here may be that Russia is cloning humans. I wonder if they could make an extra one for me…

Truth be told, I’m not in a huff about Medvedev’s recent modernization drive, unless getting their Olympic athletes’ act together is part of the program. But I am fascinated with Slava’s curious ability to say things that actually make sense, albeit in an irreverent fashion, and seeing those statements served up as evidence of Russia’s psychosis. Also, he doesn’t (or, did not used to) give many interviews. So I gratuitously seize upon them when they appear. Though given his recent PR blitz, I may need to scale back before this becomes some kind of “All Surkov, all the Time” joint. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… Anyway, earlier this week he gave a “now infamous” interview to Vedomosti about plans to create Russia’s version of Silicon Valley, miracles and democracy.

From: Kiev Post: Kremlin says tight control key to modernising economy.

MOSCOW, Feb 15 (Reuters) – The Kremlin’s top strategist on Feb. 15 said Russia must maintain tight political control if it is to successfully modernise its economy and compete with China and the United States.

Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov, a key architect of Russia’s political system, rejected calls for political liberalisation to foster innovation.

“We have a school that teaches that political modernisation — by which is meant political debauchery, ‘anything goes’ — is the key to economic modernization,” Surkov told the Vedomosti business daily.

“There is a different concept, to which I hold, which considers the consolidated state as a transitional instrument, a tool for modernization,” he said. “Some call it authoritarian modernization. I do not care what it is called.”

He does not care what it is called. How hard is that, Obama? Why can’t you just not care if some call your healthcare reform bill “socialism?” Why waste your time with that? Your job is to fix what is broken, not try to personally win over everyone who calls you names.

From: Businessweek: Kremlin Aide Defends Russia’s Top-Down Modernization.

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) — Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s political strategist, defended the system of state control he developed, saying Russia can only modernize if it has a strong central government.
“Consolidated power is the instrument of modernization,” Surkov said in an interview in Vedomosti today. “Some call it authoritarian modernization. I don’t care what they call it.”

Modernization is the new catchword of President Dmitry Medvedev, who wants Russia to kick its dependence on natural resources in favor of a high-tech economy. Surkov, the first deputy chief of staff in Medvedev’s administration, coined the concept of “sovereign democracy” to describe the system of centralized power he helped create during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s presidency.[…]

“Raw resources companies dominate, and the people who got rich and super-rich made their fortune not from new ideas and technology, like Gates and Edison, but from dividing up the property amassed by the Soviet people,” Surkov said.[…]

The Institute of Contemporary Development, headed by Medvedev, published a report this month saying economic modernization depends on political reforms that will turn Russia into a U.S.-style democracy.

While Surkov allowed that centralization has reached its limits, he said Russia is already a democracy.

“If they criticize democracy in Russia, that means it exists,” he said. “If there are protests, that’s democracy. In totalitarian states there aren’t any demonstrations.”

Hey! He’s using my talking points!

Fom the original: Ведомости: «Чудо возможно», — Владислав Сурков, первый замруководителя администрации президента, зампредседателя комиссии по модернизации.

The first thing that struck me was the … call for submissions?

Пользуясь случаем, хочу пригласить читателей «Ведомостей» придумать название и спроектировать нашу Кремниевую долину методом краудсорсинга (сrowdsourcing), или, как говорили раньше, «народной стройки». Присылайте ваши идеи, планы, концепты на сайт газеты. Мы все их изучим. Лучшие в обобщенном виде лягут в основу проекта, который будет утверждаться на самом высоком уровне.

Translation po-Googleskii:

[I take this opportunity invite readers to “Vedomosti” to choose a name and design of our Silicon Valley by Crowdsourcing (srowdsourcing), or, as mentioned earlier, “traditional construction. Send us your ideas, plans, concepts of website of the newspaper. We all learn them. Best summarized form the basis for the project, which will be approved at the highest level.]

The rest of the article was a bit tedious until the last few paragraphs:

Мне кажется, главная задача демократического общества — беречь людей. Друг друга беречь. Не колошматить друг друга по поводу и без, а беречь. Минимизировать риски гибели людей. Я не говорю, что сейчас нужна сверхцентрализованная власть. Нужна консолидированная, которая контролирует ситуацию.

— Но разве этому мешает появление большего числа сильных партий?

— В Америке система двухпартийная. Вы ее упрекаете в недостаточном либерализме? Кто сказал, что партий должны быть много? В США был период, когда 40 лет подряд (с 1954 по 1994 г.) в палате представителей большинство удерживали демократы. Там нет демократии, нет развития?

— Но президент при этом был из другой партии…

— Пятьдесят лет в Японии у власти была одна партия — не было развития? Да так развивались, что нам и не снилось. А в 1990-х гг. мы не развивались. Да, кучка людей развивалась. И стала почти европейцами. А остальные? Остальных — их большинство! — пришлось вытаскивать из бедности в нулевые годы, тупо возмещая им убытки, которые они понесли в прошлом десятилетии. Или Швецию возьмите: 70 лет была одна партия у власти. В Швеции нет развития?

— То есть вы удовлетворены нынешними демократическими институтами в России?

— Нет конечно, никто не удовлетворен. Но я хочу также напомнить: безудержная критика демократических институтов — это естественный признак демократии. Это не я сказал, а один известный европейский политолог. Если критикуют демократию в России, значит, она есть. Если есть митинги протеста, значит, есть демократия. В тоталитарных государствах протестных акций не бывает. Да, мы нуждаемся в критике, понимаем, что система глуховата к критике, недостаточно восприимчива. Мне самому многое не нравится. Президент больше любой оппозиции делает для борьбы с коррупцией, отсталостью, для развития политической системы. Но говорить о том, что политическая система, существовавшая в 90-е при Борисе Ельцине, которого я уважаю, в администрации которого я, кстати, работал (придя туда, когда никто туда особенно не рвался), но говорить, что эта система больше соответствует задачам модернизации… Это такая ложь! Да Борис Николаевич и выдвинул-то Путина потому, что надо было остановить распад страны. Он же и сам видел, что система не работает. А теперь работает, хотя и скрипит иногда.

— Но, может, хотя бы сигнал дать, показать перспективу: сейчас модернизируем только экономику, но потом — допустим, через 20 лет — возьмемся и за политику.

— А это само собой. И не через 20, а немедленно. Но не резко. Оба послания президента реализуются в этой части. Со временем в России, как и везде, будут две доминирующие партии и еще несколько других — это я сказал много лет назад. При этом «Единая Россия» имеет все шансы снова победить и в 2011 г. Почему бы и нет? Это полезно для целей модернизации. Систему надо адаптировать к меняющемуся, усложняющемуся обществу. Но это не значит, что мы должны от системы отказываться. Ее надо сохранять. И не впускать то, что может ее разрушить. Эта система не отделена от народа, как кому-то кажется, она глубоко укоренена в социальной ткани. Тот, кто хочет разрушить ее, социально опасен. Критически важно сохранять политическую стабильность. Стабильность не значит застой, не значит остановка. Это инструмент развития. Из хаоса модернизация не получится. Не факт, что второй приступ распада Россия вообще переживет. Хотя точно так же не переживет она и отсутствие развития.

Trans:

[I think the main task of a democratic society – to take care of people. A friend of a friend to take care of. Do not clobber each other on occasion, and without, and cherish. Minimize the risk of death. I’m not saying that now need supercentralized power. Must unite, which controls the situation.

– But does this prevent the emergence of more powerful parties?

– In America, the two-party system. You blame her lack of liberalism? Who said that parties should be a lot? In the United States was a period when 40 consecutive years (1954 to 1994) in the House of Representatives, the majority held by Democrats. There is no democracy, no development?

– But while the president was from the other party …

– Fifty years in Japan has been in power for one party – there was no development? Yes so developed, that we never dreamed. And in the 1990’s. we have not developed. Yes, a handful of people developed. I was almost Europeans. And the others? The rest – most of them! – Had to pull out of poverty in the zero years, stupidly compensating for their losses which they suffered in the past decade. Or take Sweden: 70 years was one party in power. In Sweden, there is no development?

– So you are satisfied with the current democratic institutions in Russia?

– No, of course, no one is satisfied. But I also want to remind you: the unrestrained criticism of democratic institutions – is a natural feature of democracy. It is not, I said, but one prominent European politician. If you criticize democracy in Russia, so it is. If there are protests, then, is democracy. In totalitarian states protests do not happen. Yes, we need to criticism, understand that the system is deaf to criticism, not receptive. I am very much not like. President more than any opposition to making the fight against corruption, backwardness, for the development of the political system. But to say that the political system that existed in the 90’s under Boris Yeltsin, whom I respect, the administration of which I, incidentally, worked (when he came there when no one in particular is not eager to go there), but to say that this system is more consistent with problems of modernization … It’s a lie! Yes, Boris Nikolayevich and put forward some of Putin because it was necessary to stop the disintegration of the country. He himself saw that the system is not working. And now works, although it creaks sometimes.

– But, maybe even give a signal to show the future: now only modernize the economy, but then – let’s say, 20 years – take a look and for the policy.

– And that by itself. And not in 20, but immediately. But not dramatically. Both the President’s message implemented in this part. Over time, in Russia, as elsewhere, are the two dominant parties and a few others – I said this many years ago. Thus, United Russia has all chances to win, and again in 2011, why not? This is useful for the purposes of modernization. The system must adapt to a changing, increasingly complex society. But this does not mean that we should abandon the system. It must be preserved. And do not let something that can destroy it. This system is not separated from the people, as someone thinks, it is deeply rooted in the social fabric. Anyone who wants to destroy her, socially dangerous. It is critical to maintain political stability. Stability does not mean stagnation, does not mean stop. This is a tool for development. From the chaos of modernization will not work. Not the fact that the second attack of the collapse of Russia in general survive. Although these did not survive it, and the lack of development.]

Makes sense to me…

I’ve been reading David Hoffman’s The Oligarchs and am coming to the realization that I have some kind of PTSD from living in Moscow in the 1990’s. I suspect I am not alone, and if you were an incredibly cynical type, you could draw the conclusion that people like Surkov are playing on those fears in order to garner more power for themselves. In fact – they probably are. But this – to me – does not negate the fact that these fears have some basis in reality, as the recent global economic meltdown as a result of reckless free-market economics illustrates. I am no economist, but I do ask myself the following: is it true that Russia is somehow exceptional, that there is something unique about the country that makes the laws of the free-market unable to work there? Or is it that those laws do not work anywhere without strict regulation, government “interference,” top-down control? So when people like this write thinks like this:

In a nutshell, Surkov is saying: “We’re Russian! We don’t know any better! Even though we’ve tried this same thing numerous times, and it’s failed every time, it’s what we do. And we’re going to do it again. Muscovites once, now, and forever.”

Surkov’s belief is that something innately Russian condemns its people to remain forever on the hamster wheel from hell (to reprise a metaphor). To justify this position, he has to present false choices and distorted pictures of the alternatives.

I am inclined to wonder, who is really on the hamster wheel from hell?

Advertisements

11 Comments »

  1. Oh no. Apparently Slava’s also taking submissions from … Ashton Kutcher! Gah!

    Comment by poemless — February 18, 2010 @ 2:21 PM | Reply

    • Cognitive Dissonance: “innovation” and “Ashton Kutcher” in the same sentence.

      Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 18, 2010 @ 6:32 PM | Reply

  2. This gets a bit more interesting. I found the following in an article about the power struggle du jour between the PM-Surkov-Orthodox Church and President-INSOR-liberals over the modernization debate. Actually has little to do with the debate, but is relevant to a complaint I have made time and again about the liberals:

    From RFE/RL:

    Here’s Masha Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Center writing in “Yezhednevny zhurnal” on February 12:

    Where are Russia’s political rulers situated on the pathway to the desired future? Because the political reforms proposed mean a substantial reduction of their authority. No politician will do this voluntarily — only under tough pressure from social or political forces or under the influence of the most severe circumstances. That is how Gorbachev acted when he began perestroika. But his example can hardly inspire those who are in power today. And indeed Russia’s present situation is not as desperate as that of the USSR at the end of the 1990s.

    And even if Russian liberals would attain their dream of democratic elections, Lipman writes, they would still remain a minority in Russia’s deeply conservative society — and would likely lose at the polls and be unable to enact their political program:

    Let us assume that the progressive minority would be able to unite and transform into a political force, into a coalition of modernizers. But then, after all, the conservative majority — with its leaders — would become another political force. And if in fact in our wished-for tomorrow democratic elections are held, then who has the greater chances for victory?

    I’m no fan of Masha, but I absolutely must give her credit for raising the question and acknowledging the reality.

    BTW, “Yezhednevny zhurnal” appears to be an example of Surkov’s “proofs” of democracy. Which is to say that it is a Russian outlet publishing some notably harsh criticism of Putin, Surkov, etc. There’s even a headline, “Ferocious man-eater invites cooperation from young girls,” about Surkov’s consolidation of power interview. I suppose they’ll all be shot tomorrow, but as of my last google, freedom of the press in Russia was not extinct.

    Comment by poemless — February 18, 2010 @ 6:19 PM | Reply

    • Three cheers for Lipman’s honesty about United Russia probably being the only force in Russia holding back a very popular, very reactionary populism in Russia. That said, her Washington Post op-ed this morning, “Protests are showing cracks in Kremlin policy,” is still more of the same garbage Russia commentators have excreted into the Western media for decades.

      She starts off so well, too: “[the protests] were not related and are not likely to evolve into a national political movement.” But, by the end of the piece, the Kremlin is barricading itself behind “heavily armored vehicles” and the economic crisis has made the government unpopular. “Resentment has festered into protests” and the Kremlin can’t behave as it used to.

      So a few protests by snubbed car-owners and polluted lakeside dwellers means the Kremlin must change course? A million people demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq in New York City and President Bush dismissed it as just another interest group. The sad thing is that Bush was probably right, even if we’re talking about a view shared by 50% of the public at the time. For all our talk about liberty and speech, the masses don’t make policy. (On the other hand, thank God.)

      Comment by No Plans for the Moon — February 19, 2010 @ 10:10 AM | Reply

      • Well, different countries are impacted by protests in different ways. You can protest your brains out in the US, and it will have little if any political impact. In France, a few civil servants can bring the whole country to a halt and influence policy. In Poland, it can bring down an whole regime.

        The protests in Russia, or rather coverage of them here, illustrates the weird bias we have. When people are prevented from protesting: it’s evidence of government cruelty. When people do protest: it’s evidence of government weakness. Apparently the only acceptable situation is one in which no one protests and no one wants to protest. That’s a tall order – there are regular protests in America. Of course, when Americans protest: it’s evidence the protesters are unhinged ideologues, fringe types, who probably should not be taken seriously.

        Comment by poemless — February 19, 2010 @ 11:14 AM | Reply

        • That’s a good point regarding protests’ different impact in different societies. My impression is that the Kremlin today is not nearly as vulnerable to popular unrest as it was during the Soviet Union. While the ‘power vertical’ might be slow to respond to certain local issues in Russia’s political periphery, the authorities seem to take labor issues and taxpayer grievances very seriously. Sometimes they back down (think of the attempted monetization of pension benefits)and sometimes they crack down (think of when they sent Moscow police out to the Far East).

          It seems to me, though, that the former happens a lot more often than the latter. After Kaliningrad, United Russia convened a special commission to try to understand the nature of the protests, which were allowed to happen and took place without incident. Following the outrage to the Evsiukov shooting spree, Medvedev has fired a bunch of the top police command.

          Is this superficial? Are politicians really just using these opportunities to save face or get payback on personal opponents? Probably. But I think there’s an American patent on that tactic. Or maybe it belongs to the ancient Greeks…

          On a related, maddening note, how long have we heard that the financial crisis is supposed to undermine the current ‘regime’? Every time some event in Russia kicks up the ‘Kremlin cruelty’ or ‘Kremlin weakness’ debate, as you put it, we’re inundated with dire prognostications about the necessity of liberalization or the impending unraveling of Putin. The country would be knee deep in blood right now, if even half the alarmists and hawks out there were right.

          Comment by No Plans for the Moon — February 19, 2010 @ 1:17 PM | Reply

  3. actually if you can read russian language forums all this project of managed democracy have failed miserably. there is more scathing criticism of Putin-Medvedev regime than on any Western or Eastern sites. many people have avatars like photoshoped picture of Putin and Medvedev melted into one Putvedev or just simply their two pictures with sign “Two disasters of Russia” {Две беды России}. I think people have started to realize that they have exchanged relative prosperity and rampant consumerism for their freedoms and feel naturally suffocated.

    it’s not a wise strategy and soon enough the authorities will realize that. they should give back some freedoms people need just to release some steam. I dout that Mr Surkov realizes this.

    offtopic – I woke up today to watch the final of men’s figure skating. overall it was very bleak show and I liked only two performances – by Japanese guy who won bronze and by Johhny Weir. Is he Russian (he was speaking with his legendary coach Tatjana Tarasova in fluent Russian) I wonder?

    Plushenko was not at his best, his landings were wobbly and deservedly he was punished for that. Evan Lysacek was skating clean but not risky and his program was rather mechanical, robotic and not inspiring, very unlike his short program which in view was the best. The Japanese was overall the best performer but unfortunately he fell trying to do quad. Such a pity. The worst performer was Chan of Canada, he was mechanical, not artistic, fell badly once and landed on two legs once. How on earth he overtook Johnny Weir who did not fall and was very elegant and inspiring? I think there is another judging controversy brewing.

    Comment by FarEasterner — February 19, 2010 @ 1:49 AM | Reply

    • I’ve seen a lot of comments on a lot of forums, and yes, scathing criticism indeed. Moreover, a surprising level of just plain rudeness (the internet, alas, brings this out in people.) I do not 1) claim to speak on behalf of the Russian people, pretending to know what they want, or 2) dictate what is best for Russia. That’s not for me to do. My interest lies in things like Western media coverage, dilettante political science (ideology v. pragmatism, capitalism v. democracy, etc…) and a general fascination with Russia. Back to the internet forums. My point is that the vocal criticism found there is actually evidence of some level of intellectual and political freedom. Not, perhaps to the degree desired. But enough to make comparisons of Putin to Stalin look hyperbolic.

      Internet forums… It’s natural that people who share a worldview flock together. They’re a good indication of how a certain part of society thinks, but are hardly scientific surveys.

      “I think people have started to realize that they have exchanged relative prosperity and rampant consumerism for their freedoms and feel naturally suffocated.”

      This is an intriguing statement to me. A decade or so ago people started to realize that they had given up prosperity and security in exchange for their freedoms. So I am told. And so I witnessed. What freedoms do you seek that you do not have? I am interested in very specific answers. What is it you do not have, and how would you suggest obtaining them? Also, if it is any consolation, I know no one, in the US, Europe, anywhere, who is not critical of their government. Politicians are all corrupt crooks who never do enough. This is probably true, but I’m more interested in what they are doing in the circumstances they must operate within, and the impact of their decisions on the common good and health of the society.

      “I dout that Mr Surkov realizes this.”

      Mr. Surkov has a pronounced opportunist streak and may be buying time, but I am certain he realizes the trade-offs you mention. Given he’s been one of the architects of them and beneficiary of both the Yeltsin era debauchery and Putin era authoritarianism.

      offtopic –

      Johnny Weir is American, but has been bitten by the Russian bug and is a rabid russophile. I think he deserved the bronze. I agree with you about Plushenko and Lysacek.

      Comment by poemless — February 19, 2010 @ 11:01 AM | Reply

  4. I wonder, what if Joe Stack had happened in Russia? There seems to be a lot of effort to show him as a troubled individual and not representative of any ideology or symptomatic of a dysfunctional system. Which is actually probably true. But it is interesting to imagine if this would be the case if his name were Iosef Stakhanov and he flew a plane into some Ministry of Finance office. I mean, a lot of his complaints (tax system rigged to benefit those in power & inconsistent, unfair application of the law, lies about it being a free country, lies about democracy, not fair he can’t make money and/or keep it, etc.) are taken extremely seriously by the WaPo etc. when coming out of the mouths of Russian liberals…

    Comment by poemless — February 19, 2010 @ 12:42 PM | Reply

    • Might it depend in part on whether Russian commentators and politicians decided that “Iosef Stakhanov”‘s complaints could be manipulated or venerated to express or symbolize particular agendas and/or desire to manipulate/persuade the populace? Perhaps even to the point where the act that “Iosef” perpetrated could then be interpreted as a political act (which, in the case of Joe Stack, may have been a twisted motivation anyway)?

      Perhaps a cynical way to ask it may not be what would happen if such an event would happen, but rather who in Russia – or wherever – thinks they could take the event and backstory and make it “useful” to them …

      Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 19, 2010 @ 1:30 PM | Reply

      • I’m not terribly concerned about how the Russian press would present it. It’s how the America (British, etc.) media would frame it. It’s a rhetorical question, since I already know the answer. Just pointing out the inconsistency…

        Comment by poemless — February 19, 2010 @ 1:39 PM | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: