Healthy conservatism as the national idea of Russia

MOSCOW, 28 Oct 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

In his “Valdai speech” this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as always, noted the main thing – the world we are used to is changing. Moreover, the changes are not just global, but overwhelmingly systemic in nature.

These are not temporary fluctuations that can be dealt with based on previously accumulated experience. There is a transition of quantity to a new quality. This is the era of change that Chinese wisdom does not recommend living in. But there’s nothing one can do about it. As Alexander Kushner aptly put it: times are not chosen, they live and die.

It cannot be said that the changes have become sudden. They always were happening. Slaveholding crumbled under the feet of feudalism. It, in turn, ceded the world to capitalism. Scientific and technological progress accelerated the pace of transformation. According to the official chronology, the slave system existed from 8 BC to the 15th-16th century of our era.

If we do not count China, then the feudalism that followed existed approximately from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 15th century until the so-called “Spring of the Peoples” of 1848. If the slave-owning era took about 1300 years, and the feudal one – almost as long, then capitalism came to its current systemic crisis in just less than 200 years.

However, this is not surprising. Technology compresses time. In 1552, it took Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible about four months to assemble a 150-000 army and bring it to Kazan. Four centuries later, in preparation for the Berlin offensive operation in 1945, the Red Army command in 11 days transferred four combined-arms armies, numbering over 3 million people, 350 kilometres from the area of the cities of Danzing and Gdynia to the border of the Oder River. And this year, within the framework of the strategic exercises “West 2021”, over 250,000 people and 350 units of ground combat equipment were transferred over 230 kilometres in less than 30 hours.

Some 300 years ago, transcontinental trade covered only luxury goods, such as silk, tea, spices. Today, 90% of all consumption consists of products produced far from the store where they are bought. And at least 70% – far from the country in which this store is located.

But the main experience is different. Almost all trade, economic, financial and military-political mechanisms created after the Second World War are no longer working.

The coronavirus literally destroyed the decades-old mechanism of trade and industrial relations in a matter of weeks. Due to a technical problem, the backbone routers responsible for coordinating network traffic between Facebook data centres collapsed. This resulted in the termination of not only this particular social network, but also many related services.

Got and unrelated. The consequences of the problem are still being registered all over the Internet. It would seem, one would think, it’s some kind of network for publishing photos, but then it turned out that in Russia alone at least 15% of small and medium-sized businesses and other similar services are directly tied to it.

And the worst of all is that elementary common sense, which underlies the basic worldview, based on which people develop and perceive ideas that then become starting points and subsequent goals for management decisions, is under threat.

The European Union has been actively implementing the concept of “green energy transition” in combination with the idea of the absolutisation of the free market for almost ten years. It was assumed that this would give the European consumer a combination of unlimited access to cheap energy with an increase in the environmental cleanliness of the environment.

All attempts to rationally explain to Europeans the systemic logical errors of the “green concept” were unsuccessful. As a result, the EU today has received the deepest energy crisis, threatening not just an increase in unemployment due to the extreme high cost of electricity and natural gas. There is every reason to expect that due to the critical shortage of basic heating, many Europeans risk not surviving this winter physically.

What is happening poses a basic question for Russia – how to live on? The collapse of the USSR in 1991 meant not just the termination of the existence of the state structure of the Soviet Union. It marked the recognition by society of the failure of the ideological concept of building communism. Capitalism was recognised as “correct”.

One can argue about the degree of its “correctness”, but it cannot be denied that the collapse of the Soviet system most clearly demonstrated that any global process, including the economy, is based on ideas. More precisely, the economy remains the same, but it is the ideas that carry out the final adjustment of the entire variety of the complex mechanism of economic relations. In every sense – from the relations between individuals to the interaction between social groups, and even between society and the state.

And now Russia is faced with the need to formulate a new idea for itself. Call it whatever one wants: Soviet Dream 2.0, the idea of the Russian World, new socialism, the national idea, with or without the prefix – Russian. The main thing is that right now is the time to determine the values that should serve as a starting point in the future long-term public-social and socio-economic system of fundamental ideas “about good and evil, about what is right and what is not”.

The main problem here lies in liberal democracy, which for half a century of its dominance, especially over the past two decades, has convinced people that any development is a change that always goes to the benefit of society.

One of the key parameters for assessing the need for change is the subjective perception of “the people are unnerved”. For example, the state gets on people’s nerves. Any state, as a systemic phenomenon. It constantly introduces bureaucratic restrictions, changes laws, restricting the freedom of citizens to do whatever they want, establishes some borders with customs, robs through taxes.

In short, it takes away too much and gives unacceptably little. And in general, the most correct thing is to be a citizen of the world, collecting buns as fully as possible where they are given, and getting rid of any duties on an extremely large scale that a person (or company) does not like to perform.

However, now it turned out that the changes caused by these “unwilling ones” did not lead at all to what was declaratively expected. The changes did not go at all for the good. The struggle against white racism turned into the same racism, only black. The desire to protect women’s rights has led to the infringement of the rights not only of men, but, paradoxically, of women themselves and even children.

The indiscriminately thoughtless struggle “for the protection of children’s rights” began to tear children away from their parents and give them to families of perverts. And the demands to revise the role and place of people in the family directly undermines the fundamental basis of society as a whole, turning it into a crowd permanently fighting in the “all against all” regime.

Nothing good can come of it all. A clear confirmation of this is what is happening today in the Western world. This makes one wonder “do we need it to be like this”? And if not, which way should Russia go next?

It cannot be said that no one has thought about this before. Conversations about the need to form our own Russian national idea have been going on for a long time. But, unfortunately, they looked more and more like a dog chasing its tail. With outright confusion in the semantic understanding of the terms “Russian” and “national” in the field of the difference between the nation, as a result of the bourgeois mechanism of self-consciousness of society, and nationality as an ethnic category.

Roughly speaking, there’s been a conflict around the uncertainty: who are the Russians – all the citizens of Russia, regardless of the content of the “fifth column”, or only ethnic Russians, and all other representatives of almost 190 peoples and nationalities living in Russia – no?

And also – in which country do we all want to live in? In a socialist one, as in the USSR, “only without the shortcomings of the Soviet socio-political system”? In a capitalist one, “only without the shortcomings of the concept of capitalism”? Or maybe in an idealised monarchy, “only without the crunch of a French bun”? Or is it in a frankly fictional fairy tale about some kind of “Ancient Rus” with capital letters, kokoshniks, kosovorotkas and total wooden architecture?

And here it turns out that, apart from healthy conservatism, there is simply no other path to the future for Russia (RUSSTRAT wrote about this the other day here and here).

However, conservatism should not be confused with Black Hundreds. It is conservatism only in relation to the current Western liberal postmodern cultural bacchanalia.

The one where there is “parent No.1 and parent No.2”, where parents are exposed as tyrants in relation to unhappy children, where family values are openly called outdated atavism, where “electricity is taken from the outlet, and heat is taken from the radiator”, where citizens have indisputable rights simply by the fact of their birth and without the slightest dependence on the size of their contribution to the general society, and where any – even one with a completely sick head – minority is endowed with greater rights than the other confidently standing majority.

And most importantly, a direct rejection of common sense is postulated as a natural norm. For example, when the scope of civil rights needs to be expanded indefinitely, and the number of civil duties, at the same time, reduced as much as possible, ideally to zero.

In this sense, the absolute conviction of the indisputability of rights and the law, the need to have duties, prohibitions and taboos and the desire to preserve the traditional foundations of one’s own world is conservatism. In all senses – from the balance and semantic content of the concept of rights, including their close relationship with the concept of duties, to the inseparability of the connection between the concepts of society and the state.

The coronavirus has clearly demonstrated the unacceptably low efficiency of corporate and all sorts of public supranational structures in the field of solving complex, especially large-scale and crisis tasks.

It also demonstrated that the degree of efficiency in general of all social institutions (from individual, to public, political and administrative-state) depends very closely on the clarity and strength of the connection between the system person-society-state. In any of its aspects: public, social, economic, moral.

The connection is not so much legal, that is, based on publicly formulated legal norms and the effectiveness of the social-state mechanism of compulsion to comply with them, as it is arising from the same perception of the entire set of fundamental values ​​at each of the levels, from the individual level to the socio-political one.

Many people often repeat the saying that it is not clean where they clean, but where they do not litter. But few people think about its real meaning. Why are they not littering? Because the fines for violation are large and for the overseer for every ten meters, as, for example, in Singapore? Or because people themselves consider “garbage” for themselves the same fundamentally unacceptable behaviour as, say, eating unwashed food or confusing a kitchen with a latrine?

On the other hand, in order not to fall into “Black Hundreds”, conservatism needs a “healthy approach” that takes into account the ongoing civilisational and technological changes, as well as realising sound analysis of the accumulated experience. Any. Social. Economic. Political.

For example, that the leader should be changed not because they “have already governed for some time”, but primarily on the basis of an assessment of the results of their work, as well as the fact that there are better candidates. The best, not because the promise is more beautiful, but because of the positive experience of their previous work.

Experience also requires the recognition of the obsolescence of the “social concept of classes according to Marx”. Any internal fight always destroys society. Again, it often contradicts elementary logic. For example, everyone who is dissatisfied with the level of their financial situation (not only in Russia, but in the world as a whole), demand “more money.” What for? To live better, in the sense of expanding access to increasingly numerous material and social benefits.

But, in fact, this is the desire for wealth. Moreover, as the practice of Scandinavian experiments with “unconditional income” has shown, having acquired it, the majority of citizens have an increased desire to stop working, turning into ordinary rentiers. That is, to become exactly the same “rich” as those whom the “poor” are furiously demanding to be “dispossessed in justice”.

And there are a lot of such moments that require sound adequacy. There are two problems with them. Firstly, almost no one really wants to discuss them openly. Secondly, in this discussion, most of the participants are frankly reluctant to arrive at robust, realistic outcomes that take into account the interests of all. And not only those who insist solely on “take away and divide up.”

In this sense, it is advisable to take a closer look at the Chinese experience. It proclaimed and put into practice the construction of a “welfare society”. Note, not universal equality, not classlessness, and not some kind of abstract social justice. Namely, prosperity as a system in which everyone can live “well”. Without canceling neither property inequality, nor social elevators, nor the obligation to work, nor the obligations of a citizen to society, and everything else.

This is what healthy conservatism should ultimately mean. On the basis of which the national idea of ​​Russia should now be formed. There is no other way. To live “not like … (in Europe, China, in Africa, emphasise what is needed, add what is missing)” we, first of all, for ourselves must clearly define “how we are fundamentally different from them”. And not just for show, but really the way we ourselves want to live. Not because the laws make it so, but, roughly speaking, at the behest of your own soul.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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