A Very, Very Brief Look at Putin’s Russia
By the end of the 1920s, the workers’ state had degenerated into what Trotsky termed a deformed workers’ state. Within the party and the state machinery, the new bureaucracy, made up largely of enemies of the revolution of 1917, expropriated political power from the working class and the peasantry.
This new bureaucratic caste was living off the backs of the workers in a way that closely resembled the capitalists of the west. They had villas, luxury cars, mink coats, jewellery, expensive watches. But of course, they acquired their wealth not through private ownership, but through looting the state’s coffers.
This was also why they had to stifle all kinds of democratic discussion. Because the moment that the lid was lifted, the privileges of the bureaucracy would become the target of criticism.
The capitalists, at least historically, played a progressive role in saving and investing, and received their profits in return. The bureaucracy, on the other hand, played no such role. It was completely parasitic.
The petty bureaucrats sitting at all levels of administration had no interest in developing the economy. They were just interested in their own positions.
Wealth inequality is currently the highest among the major world economies. The wealthiest 1 percent in 2000 owned 54 percent of assets in Russia. In the US, this group owned a mere 33 percent. Today, the Russian oligarchs have slightly increased their share of the pie and own 58 percent.
In 1991, with the failure of the Communist Party, the lack of a subjective factor that could have led the workers to power, the regime managed to find that stability in a new leader, Putin.
Putin didn’t create the criminality of the Russian government. He stepped into what was an active and ongoing criminal enterprise, and exploited the lack of direction and leadership to his personal advantage.
Roughly 80% of all crooked, shady, or dubious international trade and financial deals and arrangements were made by former KGB agents and operatives.
The proceeds and profits went directly into their personal bank accounts held in the West.
Putin was no exception….
As with many bonapartist regimes, Putin relies heavily on playing up the external enemy. He needs successful wars to keep going. The war in Chechnya was such an instance, where he brutally crushed the Chechens. Then he crushed the Georgian army in 2008, followed by the war in the Ukraine in 2014, then by the war in Syria in 2015-16.
Yet, these attempts to gain popularity by whipping up nationalism are having less and less of an effect. And it’s very costly. Russian military expenditure is now higher than the US as a share of GDP, at 3.9 percent, which is more than twice that of the UK.
The Putin regime is living on borrowed time. Putin used to poll 60-70 percent, but now he’s down to 40 percent.
There never was such a thing as a free election in Russia, but the last parliamentary election was more fraudulent than most. Persecution of political opponents has intensified, as has the vote rigging. Maybe as much as half of the 28 million votes of Putin’s United Russia party were fake.
In 2007, at the height of Putin’s popularity, United Russia won 315 seats, with 49 percent of the vote. This year, the opinion polls gave United Russia 35 percent. Yet they still got 50 percent in the elections, enough to secure 324 seats, which happens to be just 4 seats more than the required two-thirds majority required for constitutional changes. Clearly, the regime ensured that they got just enough votes to secure this number.
(Does this look and sound familiar?)
This post is heavily sifted, gleaned, condensed, summarized, and paraphrased from the following sources:
If you wish to argue, dispute, take aim, or take issue with what you’ve read in this post, here’s some contact info:
Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute
United States Department of State