Endgame

If you’re hoping to see a new Russian revolution in the next few months, don’t get your hopes up now.  The whole country winds down for the New Year, and though clothing and automobile importers have already suspended their shipments, the streets have been relatively quiet. I’m sure if you bother to look you can find good patriots quietly shuffling into Sberbank to buy every dollar they can, but there hasn’t really been any panic yet.  In January, prices on consumer goods such as food products are expected to rise 15% to start.  Will that set off the crowd? I’m still say no.

Dear reader, please do not think that I have suddenly gone over into the camp of the delusional Russophiles, with their patronizing stereotype of the stoic, simple Russian who bears humiliation without complaint, his sanity maintained by his deep, enigmatic Russian soul.  An infinite number of pro-Kremlin hacks would love you to think that’s the reason behind Russia’s lack of protest or even panic in the streets, but the real reasons are far less romantic.

First of all, many Russians still don’t blame Putin for the current situation. There are people you can blame and people you cannot, the latter two are:

1. Putin

2. The Russian people themselves

So who do most people blame for the current crisis? The list is extensive, but for most people it’s a combination of any number of the following.

1. “speculators”

2. unnamed mid-level bureaucrats

3. America

4. The West

5. America

6. Ukraine

7. the Jews

8. The Masons

9. Jewish Masons

10. Actual masons, as in literally the people you hire to build walls and shit.

Granted I got a little facetious there, but this is a country where Poe’s law is  more reliable than the constitution. The point is that for most people in Russia, their problems are almost always someone else’s fault, unless that someone is Putin.

Another, far more alarming factor is that many of these people still have no idea how incredibly fucked they are. In his press conference last Thursday, Putin told the people that Russia would take two years to recover. The question of how Russia would recover, however, was never answered.

Then this happened: U.S. To Produce More Oil & Gas Than Russia…For Decades

If you’ve been following the news, you know that the price of oil isn’t going to rebound any time soon. At the same time, Russia’s edge in natural gas is losing ground. In other words- they are fucked.

As bad as things got in the 90’s, the oil and the gas were there. All Putin needed to do after re-nationalizing the oil industry was make sure that the proceeds got to the people somehow, in the form of healthcare, pensions, infrastructure, money for start-ups, etc.  Of course that’s not what happened. Instead, the president preferred to hold on to power as tightly as possible, giving out lucrative positions to close personal friends and their family members.  Had the government used its oil and gas revenue to fuel real development in the country, it would have created a much larger middle class and and upper-middle class. The latter would constitute a class of rich businessmen who would not owe their success to Putin’s personal generosity, and thus not be beholden to them. As for the former, we saw what happens when you start to get a growing middle class back in 2011 and 2012. People who go out and make a decent living are inevitably going to want more. They travel abroad to the US and Europe and they see what they could have were it not for the iron grip of corruption, nepotism, and a farcical political system. Therefore Putin could not use Russia’s oil wealth wisely, because doing so would require him to give up some of his power.

Now it’s too late. Russia will lumber on as its currency reserves hold out, but oil prices aren’t going to go back to triple digits any time soon, and Russia’s advantage in natural gas will continue to decline as well. The ruble’s collapse and his impotent “counter-sanctions” have pretty much killed what’s left of foreign capital investment. Of course people will blame America by way of the sanctions, but the simple truth is that America and Europe were able to place sanctions on Russia because it was possible; that is to say that they could do without Russia. And why could they do without Russia? Simple- Putin didn’t use the country’s advantage when he had it. He kept the country on the “oil needle” as some Russians say, likening crude to heroin. When it came to development and diversifying the economy, they built go-nowhere projects like Skolkovo and babbled about nano-technology while they couldn’t even provide a decent postal service.

So end the days when people like me could honestly say, “Russia has its problems, but it also has great potential.”  Russia’s advantages were a very technically-oriented, resourceful young generation. Directing oil and gas revenue toward projects which would help those people develop their own businesses and industries could have truly brought Russia into the 21st century. Alas, those people couldn’t be trusted. They think too freely. They’ve been abroad and they’ve taken notice that Germans, Swedes, Americans, Canadians, and many others don’t seem to need a “strong leader” to provide them with “stability” at all costs. They aren’t content to give up their freedom to Putin’s neo-feudal system which puts them at the mercy of greedy, thieving bureaucrats. They make jokes, they write stories, they protest. Hence the government sought to appeal to other bases.

These other demographic groups included state workers who can be easily controlled, babushkas, ignorant youth, and utter lumpen types. Those who can think have been labeled “the creative class,” or more often than not, the “fifth column.” Putin fears intelligence, and prefers the stupid. Appealing to the stupid has its downside, however. With Ukraine slipping from Russia’s grasp in 2014, Putin gambled Russia’s future on one last desperate move in the Crimea, and he lost.

Had the Russian people remained resolute in 2012, things might be different. The country still had major advantages in oil and gas. Alas, they preferred to deny reality and blame America instead. Now even if they got rid of Putin and his system, Russia would have very little to offer. It might end up worse than the Yeltsin years, and the blame for this must fall not only on Putin and his circle of friends, but much of Russia’s population. They could have had freedom, but they chose “stability.” They could have had prosperity rivaling that of the United States, but instead they chose hypocritical, laughably non-existent “spiritual values.” Rather than reach out to the world and promote a positive image of Russian culture, they opted instead for xenophobia, paranoia, and hatred in the foolish idea that a strong Russian master would rain crumbs down on them simply for being Russian like him. For these things they gave away their dignity and their freedom to Vladimir Putin, and he used that submission to rob the nation blind until it passed the point of recovery. Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seku would be impressed.

It could take a year, it could take another decade, but now that Russia’s trump card has been spent, the end is inevitable.  Other peoples of the world ought to sit up and take note, that they might not make the same mistakes as did the people of Russia.

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4 thoughts on “Endgame

  1. Aster

    “They could have had prosperity rivaling that of the United States”

    Not…sure that’s ever really been an option. The US is the world’s premier superpower – Russia does not have the sheer dominance that the US and it’s allies have over much of the world market and does not practice neo-colonialism and superexploitation from the third world in the same way for much of it’s social structure (interesting on that note how people who would otherwise regard Lenin in esteem shriek when the ramifications of his arguments on imperialism are extended to *them* and their immediate social group). As you’ve said before, their ‘model’ largely consists of unceremoniously squatting over crumbling soviet energy infrastructure to maintain captive markets.

    Reply
    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      Russia has an advantage in the fact that the idea of state/public enterprises are not the anathema they are in the US. If you had an honest government that made sure the revenues from the state enterprises actually got to the people, they’d be able to solve all kinds of problems that America can’t just because gubmint = soshulizm in that country. I usually use Norway as the go-to example, but China is also an example in this respect.

      Reply
      1. Aster

        Seems a bit voluntarist imho – getting “honest politicians” in when you’ve got an economy like Russia’s which *can’t* produce ‘honest politicians’ by western standards (such as they are) doesn’t ensure social democracy or social liberalism or even just a functioning liberal democracy of any sort.

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