Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nashi is not ours anymore

The pro-Putin youth movement Nashi is to be dissolved as a national organisation, Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reports. The decision comes after prolonged Kremlin dissatisfaction with Nashi's increasing radicalisation and extremist tendencies as a mass movement.

As previously reported, sentiments have been rising in Moscow that Nashi has outlived its purpose after the December 2007 parliamentary elections. With increasing concern that the radicalisation of the organisation has given it a life of its own - beyond blind allegiance to the Kremlin - fear of what a loss of control over the movement might mean has probably resulted in the decision to disband the movement. In what appears almost as a Russian equivalent to the night of the long knives, the national organisation is dissolved along with all but five of its regional units.

What is interesting is also what the Kremlin chooses to keep on to in Nashi's organisation. Except the five loyal regional units, the rest of the movement's members are referred to participate in the national projects of the organisation. This is in line with how the Putin plan is devised to change and develop Russia. The step from mass movements to mass projects is logical, as mobilisation now has to turn from populism to product. Thus, Nashi's emphasis on demonstrations and picketeering is yesterday's story in Russia. Now all energy must be used to modernise the country in line with the next step of Putinism.

What is surprising with this move is not per se that Nashi is disbanded. Instead, it is the evident confidence and security that the Putinist regime obviously feels even before the March presidential elections. There is no longer any need for a mass movement to take to the streets in defence of power - no need to root out the "extremists" of the non-system opposition of Another Russia. The national projects lie ahead in the guise of "sovereign democracy" to fulfill Putin's legacy. In the eyes of the Kremlin, Nashi is not ours anymore.

This signifies both arrogance and ignorance to the severe problems that may be facing Russia in years to come. With inflation rising and facing an international economic downturn, it is a fight against time to diversify Russian economy and turn it away from its dependence on energy exports, before the momentum of change is lost. We have seen the consequences of falling oil prices before in 1986 and 1998. As global macroeconomic indicators are now turning downwards, Russia can no longer rely on a constant high demand for oil. This would go beyond arrogance and ignorance. It would be outright foolish. Still, Moscow treads on along the pre-determined road to realising the expansionist economic policies of the Putin plan, despite facts pointing to the soundness of the opposite.

To rid oneself of such an instrument of political stability as Nashi in face of future potential middle-class discontent might prove unwise in the long run. One should remember that it is the middle-class that has something to lose from the consequences of irresponsible policies. It is they that might take to the streets in disappointment of gross government failure to deliver on its promises. Then neither laws or brute force will be enough, and without Nashi to defend the regime, it might well meet with an unexpected destiny. Such a scenario is not as far-fetched as might be considered, as the price Russia has had to pay for Putin's political stability is stagnation in most walks of life and society. This, however, the Kremlin fails to see, as it is too busy maintainting the status quo of Russian politics and economy.


andyk said...

I don't think that Russia's stability is so "unstable". The economy is more diversified already. For example, there was no service sector in 1986 at all, and it was much smaller in 1998 than now. Russia is a net grain exporter for the first time since... the 60s I suppose. They have massive currency reserves and little public debt. The government makes a lot of promises, but in reality is spending very little.

Anyway, if the news are indeed true, good riddance. You might find this worth a laugh:


Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Andyk,

Stability is a rising indicator together with GDP-growth. Concerning most other areas where Putin wants to make headway, development has turned negative since 2003. Government is becoming less effective and it seems that Russia has entered a phase of stagnation.

A contrary argument is that the downturn may be explained as an effect of reform, but in this case it seems like a dubious explanation.

As for economy, it is true that the state has great reserves. However, things like capitalisation within the financial sector is low, making the economy sensitive to macroeconomic shocks. Just remember 1998.

It is also interesting that you point out how the economy has diversified and the service sector has grown. This means that the amount of people that has something to lose from irresponsible policies has grown. It is also these groups - the middle class - that the Putin plan appeals to. If government policy would result in bribing the middle class for continued political stability, the effect might be growing inflation and renewed economic crisis.

That is the one factor which may turn people to the streets in defence of what they have earnt in recent years. So, one should not let first impressions last, but take a closer look at the picture to realise that things do not look as good as they seem.