Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Putin’s Call for Russians to Pay for Health Care Will Increase Social Inequality and Worsen Public Health

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that Russians should pay for a portion of their health care not only violates the Russian Constitution which mandates government-financed care for all but will also increase social inequality and worsen public health, according to Russian experts. 

            It is not clear exactly what form such co-payments would be – his own press secretary says no program has yet been coordinated with the Presidential Administration – but the fact that the Kremlin made it just five months before the election and at a time when he is spending vast sums on the military and “mega” projects like bridges to Crimea and Sakhalin is striking.

            Putin’s words underscore his contempt for ordinary Russians and his willingness to see the health of many Russians deteriorate still further given that many can barely make ends meet at this time of economic crisis and will certainly be forced to choose between food and housing, on the one hand, and medicine, on the other.

            The Russian leader may believe that such proposals will largely avoid criticism because they reflect trends in other countries, including in the United States, where a much-less-hard-pressed government is still trying to shift medical cost burdens from the taxpayers as a whole to those who need treatment.

            But experts in Moscow are already criticizing the whole idea because of its economic and health consequences, and no one expects it to be implemented any time soon. Indeed, like an increasing number of Putin initiatives, it may never happen. However, it is an indication of what he thinks and of how hard pressed Russia’s budget is given the crisis and his military spending.

            For a selection of social and economic criticism that has surfaced so far, see vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2017/10/17/738102-rashodi-na-zdorove. More is certain to appear in the coming days as Russians focus on this latest attack on their rights and as experts consider the impact more income inequality and ill health will have on population growth rates.

Systemic Liberals and Communists Helping to Keep Putin Regime in Power, Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – It has become a commonplace to observe that “the Kremlin is losing control of the situation” and that it is using “preventive repressions” against not only its obvious opponents but even its own followers, Liliya Shevtsova. But despite regular predictions of its imminent demise, the Putin regime remains entrenched in office.

            There are many reasons why this is so, reasons reflecting the political culture of the country; but one of the key sources providing the Kremlin with “a cushion” against change deserves more attention than it has often received, the Russian commentator argues (svoboda.org/a/28791261.html).

            This source involves “the discrediting of the leading ideological trends and their party formation which form the essence of normal politics.” Instead of such people playing their expected and necessary roles, they have become among the regime’s chief props and have yield the political arena to others who also help the regime stay in power.

             “A special role in the imitation of ideological-political life is being played by ‘the systemic liberals.’ They not only took part in the rebirth in Russia of the system of personal power, but it is precisely they (and not the siloviki) who today are the decisive force in securing the continuity of this system.”

            “What would the Kremlin do without Nabiullina and Dvorkovich, Siluanov and Oreshkin?” Shevtsova asks rhetorically. “’The systemic liberals’ not only guarantee the economic resource for a degrading construction and thus extending its life but also deprive liberalism of the opportunity to become an alternative to autocracy in Russia.”

            In a similar fashion, the KPRF is also a prop for the system, the Russian commentator says. It ensures the channeling of left-wing protest in directions that do not threaten the Kremlin and thus “has become an obstacle on the path of the rebirth in Russia of independent left-wing forces, including social democracy.”

            Without these trends, the political field would seem to have been left to the Russian nationalists, but they have been gelded by the Crimean Anschluss and the regime’s crackdown against their leaders, Shevtsova continues. Those who remain outside of prison have become “allies of the authorities and have lost their anti-regime tone.”

            The absence of any political channels for the expression of grievances leaves the population with only one option: the street.  And that channel, Shevtsova says, almost certainly will be brutal reflecting the brutality that has been visited upon it by the current occupations of positions of power.

            Those members of the liberal or left elites who thought they could cooperate with the Putin regime and change it from the inside should recognize that any possibility for that has been ended by the arrests of Belykh and Ulyukayev as well as by the unending replacement of governors with those who are little more than cogs in the Putin machine.

            In short, Shevtsova writes, “the Kremlin has closed the question of the reformation of Russia ‘from above’ and ‘from within,’ leaving society only one scenario—the scenario of the street revolt. And what else could one expect if the powers that be aren’t prepared to lift the cover on the bubbling teapot?”

            And that has another consequence everyone should face up to: “Any mass street protest always is directed at destruction and not at construction, toward radicalism and not compromise, to one-man leadership and not the search of coalitions, and finally to revenge and not forgiveness and peacemaking.”

            The Putin regime, “seeking to secure itself eternal survival has prepared a symmetrical response. And the harsh force from above is today, the more powerful will be the future response of those below to force. And no one can anticipate when this cause and effect link will go into effect, a year from now or five years? Or perhaps tomorrow?”

            But whenever it is, the protests that will bring the regime down will “put off the real transformation of the system” because they will represent only the change of the occupants of the positions of power and not of the regime itself.  “Regime change without a change in principles will lead to the reproduction of autocracy albeit with different persons in charge.”

1917 has No Place in Putin’s Russia in 2017, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

                Staunton, October 17 – The massive indifference of Russians now to the revolution of a century ago is “no accident,” Sergey Shelin says.  There are no parties bearing the positions of the opposing sides, the Soviet system destroyed both the participants and the links between them and the next generations, and the Putin regime itself has a schizophrenic view on the event. 

            Russians this year are fascinated by a movie about the future last tsar’s love affair with a ballerina, the Moscow commentator says; but they are mostly indifferent to the revolutionary events which led to his overthrow and to the establishment of a system that still casts an enormous shadow on their lives (republic.ru/posts/87044).

                There is no continuing connection between the people of 1917 and those of 2017 -- the Soviets saw to that, destroying many and forcing others to identify in ways that were not accurate but very much required.  And “the rapidity with which people forgot” the November 7th holiday in the 1990s “as soon as it ceased to be official shows it had long lost its importance.”

             In fact, “the spell” of the Russian revolution in contrast to the spells revolutions elsewhere cast on their populations was much smaller precisely because of the totalitarian nature of the regime that that revolution brought to power and its assumption that it had to control everything past, present, and future, the commentator continues.

            As a result, Shelin writes, “already in the 1990s, May 9 began to be viewed as the foundation day” of the country’s political system and thus “Stalin in a corresponding fashion as its founding father.”  Under Putin, that has only intensified; and it leaves little room for the revolutions of 1917.

            Today, that “grandiose” revolution has become “the stepchild” of the political system, and people are neither thinking about its meaning, identifying with its heroes on any side, or asking questions about what might have been. That will happen eventually perhaps but it is not happening now.

            And the Putin regime is not displeased with that because it has an ambiguous relationship to 1917, Shelin argues. On the one hand, it wants to trace its patrimony back a thousand years; but on the other, as the website of the FSB which traces that organization’s forefathers only to the establishment of the Cheka makes clear, it is rooted in the system of that year’s victors.

            Thus, in one respect, the Putin government is on the side of the Reds, and in another, on the side of their opponents. No wonder it cannot come up with a clear message, and no wonder in the absence of such a message can the Russian people find something to cling to. The situation with May 9 in contrast is simple and easy for all concerned.

            Eventually, radicals on the left may rescue 1917 asking the questions Russians won’t ask now and drawing the conclusions about what to do next. But 2017 is not the year for that, and so the centenary of the revolution is the very worst time to try to celebrate or even mark that event, Shelin concludes.