Russia

Vladimir Bukovsky: Russia will disintegrate

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Vladimir Bukovsky paid a visit to Georgia in early December 2011 at the invitation of Ilia State University. The legendary Soviet dissident, writer, scientist and political activist spent twelve years in Soviet prisons and psychiatric hospitals before he was exchanged, in 1976, by the Soviet government for imprisoned Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalán. Since then, Vladimir Bukovsky has lived in Great Britain. He is the author of many books and other publications. In an interview with Tabula, the renowned dissident and human rights activist talked about post-election developments in Russia, crisis in Europe and popular ideologies in the West.

How would you evaluate developments now underway in Russia – the result of parliamentary elections and society’s protest against them?

There is nothing new about all that. It is no secret for anyone that elections have always been rigged. The only difference is that, this time, a few more people took to the street. However, that number of protesters is insignificant for a country of such a scale. Of course, one has to take the first step and, therefore, I support this protest. But I do not expect rapid changes.

I can guarantee that this regime will not be able to stay for the next twelve years. I am sure, however, that Vladimir Putin will become the President – but for how long, that is a separate question. Russia will simply disintegrate; it is left with no resource to exist. I cannot predict now how long Russia will be able to survive in such a situation – two years or three years. Everything depends on global conjuncture. If oil prices plummet, crisis will occur sooner.

The U.S. Secretary of State harshly criticized Russia’s parliamentary elections. International observers also delivered strongly worded critical assessments. Will all of this affect the attitude of the West toward Putin’s regime?

Such things happened in the past as well. Previous elections were also tampered with and it was not difficult to notice them. Then, the Russian authorities actually barred international observers from that election. However, all this did no harm to the legitimacy of Putin’s regime in the international arena.

At the same time, in recent times, the Kremlin increased its anti-Western rhetoric. Will this lead, in any form, to a new Cold War?

A new Cold War is impossible because Russia has no longer that potential which it had in Soviet times. This country, today, actually has no armed forces. It conducted the war with Georgia with great difficulty. Russia is not able to oppose the entire world, especially given that no one knows whether Russian missiles fly in reality or not.

Fanning such sentiments only helps Russian authorities in domestic affairs; it even appeals to a segment of the population. However, application of one-and-the-same method, year after year, proves inefficient. The government cannot offer anything new to the society, has no recipe or proposal for the improvement of the situation in the country….

But Putin’s government offered stability to the society and a better life compared to previous years, and people were happy about that…

In reality, they were not able to ensure stability. It is crisis in the world now, but they do not have any response to that crisis. They pledged to ensure stability in the Northern Caucasus but nothing has changed there and instability has spread all over the entire region. The economy is decreasing constantly. Putin made a statement about setting up a Eurasian Union and he did so when some cracks appeared in the European Union. It is high time for him to realize that such things do not work any longer.

The Russian government feels that it has no future. But they will try to retain power by any means, especially given that the government is equivalent to wealth today. At the same time, however, they have no force to retain the regime. The army does not exist; there is discontent among internal forces. Only special services are left which are not large in number.

Therefore, Russia will start falling apart – federation subjects will declare autonomy. The weaker the center becomes the stronger the movement away from the center will grow. They have to do something about the Far East, Tatarstan. Russia is a huge country, and KGB special forces and [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov’s fighters will not be enough to send them out everywhere.

In your opinion, the disintegration of Russia is a more realistic thing than new forces coming to power?

I cannot see any alternative to the government today. Such forces do not exist. In such a situation, the disintegration of the country is more logical, especially considering that that is not a new tendency. Such things have happened repeatedly in Russia’s history. This is a stage that [Russia] must go through, and I do not see any big tragedy in that.

How would you evaluate Western policies toward Russia?

The West, today, does not have any sort of policy toward Russia. They do not perceive Russia either as a partner or an enemy. When U.S. officials were asked about the aim of reset policy, they answered that Russia would help the U.S.A. in dealing with Iran. Why should Russia do that? Its key interest lies in high oil prices. Therefore, any problem in the Middle East plays into the hands of Russia.

The United States has realized that the reset was a mistake. It was just wishful thinking. As far back as in the 1930s, Western analysts believed that Russia would become a civilized country. The same happens today.

You are very skeptical about the European Union as an institution and draw parallels between it and the Soviet Union. What do these two have in common?

Back in 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty was signed and the European Union was established, it was clear for me that that structure was the imitation of the Soviet Union – not with such evil face as the Soviet Union had, but structurally and ideologically it served the same idea. The Soviet Union was run by a Politburo which was not elected by anyone. The same is [true of] the European Commission. Management there is also performed by undemocratic methods.

In its current shape, the European Union is a stillborn intelligent concept of Western socialists which is detached from life – a sort of Menshevik Soviet Union. But we know that socialism does not work anywhere – not in Africa or Asia or in Europe. The Soviet Union fell apart because of the crisis of socialism.

Initially, European integration developed toward the common market. There is nothing bad in that – the lower the tariffs and restrictions, the better for the economy. European left-wing forces were against the common market, but at the end of the 1980s everything changed. They decided to, let’s say so, get hold of Euro-integration and turn everything around to their benefit.

What happens in Europe today was not started just now. The situation was ripening during several years. However, it was clear that everything would happen this way anyway. Socialism is a non-productive system. Its idea is distribution rather than production. When there is something to distribute, you seem to be OK. When resources are depleted, the crisis emerges. Therefore, any type of socialism has identical ending – no money available, as it is in Europe now.

The European Union has come up with a grandiose idea to ask Chinese for money but Chinese do not have that much money either. Socialism is a bottomless barrel, a black hole. If Russia drowned in that, everyone would drown too. Compared to Europe, Russia was a fabulously rich country in natural resources. However, it went bankrupt. Bankruptcy is one of the outcomes of socialism.

How much are current European leaders able to improve the situation?

There are no leaders there at all. The Western elite are comprised of nonentities. It is bureaucracy to the third power. People who had never done anything useful in their lives were always represented in bureaucratic systems and dealt with some abstract issues.

Which of the European leaders is able to look at developments soberly? The tendency of expansion in Europe will be replaced by the tendency of disintegration and fragmentation. Nor will Benelux survive, and no one can tell how long will Belgium itself exist. More than half of the Dutch demand that the national currency, florin, be reinstated. The faster and with fewer losses this process develops, the better.

You also often criticize the ideology of political correctness. Why?

What we witness now is Marxist revisionism, Marcusianism. There was such a philosopher, Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School of critical theory – he challenged Marx on the issue of who is a revolutionary class. Marx believed that such class was proletariat or the

industrial working class. Talking about industrial proletariat is ridiculous today. Moreover, it is difficult today to say exactly what, for example, a production tool is. What is a computer? Is it an object of consumption or a production tool? Or, say, software?

In the 1960s, it was already clear that Marx’s concept did not work. Therefore, revisionist philosophers emerged, with Marcuse among them, asserting that the revolutionary class is anyone who is marginal, anyone who cannot fit into life. According to Marcuse, we must declare norm as pathology and vice versa. And only then will we beat the bourgeois society once and for all. Everything started with that.

Who lobbies these ideas – governments, political parties?

Everything started from university campuses. In 1984-1985, I was at Stanford in California, with Berkley next to it – a well known hotbed of radicals. A new feminist movement emerged there. I remember, I was heading for a lab and let two girls pass through the door first. They looked at me with contempt and shouted at me “male chauvinist pig.” I was oppressing them by treating them as ladies. Then, I just laughed at that. But in five years time it spread all over Europe and the United States.

By the way, the American army has an approved uniform for pregnant soldiers. Have you ever heard of such a thing? One cannot deny army service to a lady in the U.S.A. because it would be considered as discrimination. Women file complaints in courts against such discrimination and are awarded millions [of dollars] in those cases. Once they get into the army, they complain that they are not treated properly there – soldiers whistle at them, joke about them, etcetera, and this may also bring them millions.

But, all this did not end with feminism. The United States had a problem with the black population which seemed to have been solved in the 1960s and equality established. Soon thereafter, however, it turned out that, despite established equality, no particular social progress was achieved among the black population. Therefore, they invented positive discrimination and quotas. Black people were promoted artificially to the detriment of the remaining population. The same holds true for disabled people and homosexuals. A topical issue today is the protection of animals’ rights.

The “protection” of ostensibly oppressed minorities has led to total absurdity today. All this is not accidental. This is a well-thought-out plan which is directed toward the demise of normal society. Lenin also protected powerless proletariat in such a way, but in reality tried to get a grip on power in that way.

Socialists could never put up with historically established institutions, including private property, family, national state, and fought against them. Utopians never stop. If they fail to do something, they never admit that their concept was wrong. They just say that they did not go sufficiently far.

You filed a complaint with the London Court against Mikhail Gorbachev. Is there any chance of holding the former or the current Head of State to account?

Unfortunately, the role of Gorbachev is incorrectly perceived in the West. In reality, he is an ordinary communist leader and, like any of his predecessors, his hands are stained with blood too. The most regretful thing is that we have not had any trial of the communist regime. Boris Yeltsin and his colleagues refrained from doing that. As a result, the entire world turned upside down. The case against Gorbachev will contribute to a trial over the Soviet system. We are less interested in the personality of Gorbachev himself.

We are suing Gorbachev in London Court for violation of the Geneva Convention. However, a private complaint of that type has not much chance of success. Our action is just a first signal. Now, Lithuania will ask for extradition of Gorbachev for the events in January 1991. Georgia can also lodge a complaint against him for events in April 1989, and I cannot understand why it is not doing so.

Many organizations operating in the West demand that Kremlin authorities be brought to account for cases of, for example, [the deaths of whistleblower Sergei] Magnitsky, [former security agent Alexander] Litvinenko, [journalist Anna] Politkovskaia and others. As soon as people in the Russian government lose their immunity, the issue of their responsibility will be raised.

You visit Georgia time and again. What do you think of those changes which have happened in Georgia in the past few years?

Georgia is a good example. Changes have really been implemented. One should not expect big changes in a short span; people are quite inert. The police reform in Georgia is striking and everyone sees that.

Establishment of non-corrupt police in the post Soviet space is a unique case. The British police are regarded slightly corrupt, although corruption exists there in the lower echelons. Police in France and Italy are far more corrupt. Corruption is rife in most parts of Eastern Europe, and they say they can do nothing with that.

However, Georgia’s economic situation is rather difficult. You are a small country and have lost a traditional market. This is a hard blow for any economy. To attract investments even by establishing a favorable business climate is a very difficult task, but headway is clear. Now, as I can see, investments have increased, more construction works are in progress than two years ago.

Gradually, Georgia is becoming accustomed to the opinion that one must rely on oneself. However, if you have perseverance to achieve aims, anything can be attained sooner or later. The same holds true on an individual level – individuals must take care of themselves and not pin hopes on others.

The state must not create jobs. This is a Soviet habit and, where a state tries to do so, it distorts the economy and totally useless jobs are created. Look at Greece – how many jobs were created and where that led the country.

If businessmen seek solutions, they will find them. The state can provide insignificant help. The best thing for the state to do is not to interfere with private initiative. If the state asks for more, it will do so at the expense of our rights. The state can help business by improving relations with other countries and opening up new markets.

For example, to negotiate free trade with the European Union?

No. You will never achieve agreement on that. They want you to become like they are. They will give you subsidies if you agree to their rules and restrictions. You have to treat them with caution; they are people of ideology.

Accession to NATO is desirable for Georgia, but this will not happen easily now. It is difficult to achieve consensus on that issue in Europe. Moreover, territorial problems of Georgia hinder that. Conflicts in Georgia must not be settled by force; this must be a political decision.

Russia will weaken and start disintegrating. It will have no time for the Caucasus – be it Chechnya, Dagestan, Abkhazia or South Ossetia. At that very moment, everything will improve.

Sooner or later, solutions will be found. I can hardly imagine that the current Soviet regime will be able to exist more than three to four years. That means that the disintegration will start there whereas normalization here.

The West must be afraid of such a scenario…

They have always been afraid - even of disintegration of the Soviet Union. But it is not up to them to decide. In 1991, in Washington, some – as if friendly – politicians argued with me, saying that they did not need an independent Ukraine. I told them then, “No one is interested in what you want. If a fifty-million strong population wants to create a state, they will create it and you will be unable to do anything about that.” There are stupid people not only here but there as well.

 

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