Monday, May 8, 2017
The Key to Understanding the New Russia: It is Now a Conservative Power
For many of us who grew up during the Cold War (or who simply study 20th Century history), old habits are hard to break. We remember the Soviet Union, which was a bed rock ally of every left-wing government and movement in the world. In the right/left dichotomy, the Soviet Union was on the left.
Of course, for most of its history (with the notable exception of the Soviet period), Russia was a reactionary power. In the 19th Century, winds of change were causing monarchies to either topple (France) or to cede power to democratic processes (the UK, and to a lesser degree Italy and Germany). Russia was the exception. It remained an autocratic monarchy until the end of World War I. And in social and economic policy, it remained deeply reactionary, with freedom of Russia's serfs not occurring until 1861.
The key to understanding Russia today, in my view, is to recognize that Russia has reverted back to its reactionary roots. This is true both domestically and in its foreign affairs. While gay rights are ascendant throughout much of Europe, repression of the LBGT community in Russia is on the rise. While the rest of Europe has become deeply secular and un-churched, Russia's Orthodox Church is increasingly powerful in political affairs.
Even apart from efforts by Russia to influence political development worldwide, conservatives across the world have expressed admiration for Putin's Russia. Right wing Christians in the U.S. like Russia on social policy, and the French traditional conservative candidate (Fillon) also expressed admiration for Russia based on its conservative social policies. And, as we now know, Russia has been actively supporting reactionary forces across the world (including LePen in France).
Clearly, Russia has geopolitical reasons to support the right in Europe even aside from ideology. It wants to disrupt NATO and the EU, and the right is the best vehicle to do so. (Mush as the Left was the best vehicle to do so during the Cold War). Nonetheless, I think we miss the big picture here if we don't begin to take into account that Russia is, once again, a reactionary power.