Authors: Andrej Il’nitskij & Maria Lenchenko – 28/05/2020
THE FUTURE OF RUSSIA AND AUTOCRACY FOR THE XXI CENTURY
Russia of the future is a social Empire based on the principle of “autocracy”, not in the sense of restoring the monarchy, but in the sense of true people power, where we (Russians) led by a strong leader hold ourselves. The constitutional provision on people power is implemented through the unity of the vertical of power of the popularly elected national leader and the horizontal of power resulting from effective local self-administration. Elites are nationalized, bureaucracy is put in the service of the Fatherland and does not have political powers.
The global socio-economic crisis triggered by coronavirus has shown the weakness of existing mechanisms for the solidarization of society and power. Opinion polls and analysis of Russian media and social networks show a growing distrust of government structures. Data from leading research sociological groups (VTSIOM, FOM, Levada center) show a trend towards widening the gap between government and society. According to the Public opinion Foundation, for the period from April 5 to May 3, 2020 the number of people who believe that the President is “doing rather well in office” has fallen from 67% to 61%, and “rather poorly” has increased from 18% to 24%. The President’s confidence rating has fallen from 63% to 57% over the past month, and distrust has increased from 25% to 31%. According to the Levada center, only in March-April 2020, the confidence in the President decreased from 83% to 68% (i.e. by 14%). There is instability and a decrease in the loyal part of the electorate.
This was especially evident in social networks and mass media, whose audience actively influences the mood of the entire society. According to the “Kribrum” monitoring system 71% of Russian networks users negatively assess the work of the authorities in terms of measures taken in connection with the coronavirus. 60% of Internet users negatively assess the government’s efforts to mitigate the consequences of the crisis.
Thus, the coronavirus worsened the crisis of trust between the government and society, and “self-isolation” just exacerbated atomization. It is necessary to analyze and find social mechanisms that can ensure solidarity and unity of the government and society. Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev wrote: “We will be destroyed at once if we are separated, our strength is in unity, war, good-natured nepotism, which multiplies the growth of the people, and in the natural growth of our inner wealth and peacefulness”. The relevance of Mendeleev’s thought is difficult to overestimate.
Crisis of the future
Unfortunately, the distinct contour of the future has not been presented today. Political elites have shown failure by acting reflexively, lagging behind events, without being able to shape an agenda based on strategic national interests. Moreover, in the strange default mode, strategic and actively promoted policy documents are “pushed back”.
Let’s recall the “Strategy 2020” developed at the end of the “zero” years, which was never implemented. Instead of the expected GDP growth of 64-66%, the growth for more than 10 years amounted to only 5.8%, instead of the increase in real incomes of the population by 64-72%, they decreased by 5%, instead of reducing the poverty level from 13.14% to 6-7%, the indicator fell to only 12.7% at the end of 2019. There was no analysis of the reasons for the non-fulfillment of this critical program, as well as part of the provisions adopted later in 2012. At least he is unknown to us and has not been brought to society, which is an additional factor in the decline of confidence in power.
Thus, the elites withdrew themselves from the “formulation of the future”. Responsibility for the strategy and operational decision to overcome the crisis was shifted to the President and to the society, which should show reason, understanding and somehow organize itself in the right way. The expert support of the policy was almost completely reduced to the PR design of the head of state’s speeches. The reason is not only servility, but also the absence of a system of truly influential think tanks, which have not fully developed in the new Russia.
The chronic illness of the ruling elites is a lack of understanding of the importance of the strategy and the inability to do so. Their reflexive and sometimes just striking position in fact removes bureaucracy from the vanguard that should lead to the future.
The targeting crisis is global. The coronavirus pandemic exposed the fragility of humanity value priorities. The outstanding sociologist and philosopher of modern times Zigmund Bauman noted as early as 2017: “The dream of a Western man about a” better life “dissolved his marriage in heaven with the future. And in the process of divorce the dream was also turned into a commodity, let through consumer markets, viciously robbed”.
The coronavirus revealed an acute crisis of social and cultural identity. The failure of the state to protect the population from global problems (both anthropogenic and natural) with the available tools and resources has led to the undermining of the policy of globalization. The emergence of an economic and social crisis is natural, although the forms in which it appeared were not previously characteristic of political systems. The starting points were: the crisis of the world economy, the impossibility of further maintenance of the speculative financial system of capitalism, in the same conditions without change of the mechanism and proportion of withdrawal of investment resources; a crisis of politics alliances, global and regional supranational bodies (UN, NATO, EU, ASEAN and others), which have not coped with the role of engine of global mobilization and reformatting the world in the face of threats.
It is necessary to note the crisis of the social model which was based on the “middle class”. It ceased to be a driver of development long before the pandemic occurred and it is unlikely that it could be revived at the end of Coronacrisis. According to “National Strategic Narrative,” published in 2011 in the United States under the signature “Mr. Y”: “We have no answer to the fundamental question asked by more and more of our fellow citizens. Where is our country going, what is its place in the future world? What purpose? How do we get there? What guide stars will be a reference point for us? Our falling roads and bridges reflect falling self-confidence. Our education reformers often seem desperate that we can one day effectively nurture a new generation for a 21st-century economy. Our healthcare system is increasingly defending from other developed countries”. The combination of two factors in the global crisis was already mentioned: on the one hand – the effect of synchronism of economic and political crisis trends and the total nature of erosion of systemic global institutions, on the other – the formation of a hybrid political and economic space in which political, economic and sociocultural aspects of development become inseparable.
So, there is a global structural and communication failure. Under the threat of coronavirus, States have been forced to suspend production and close borders, economic policies based on globalization processes – strengthening the interdependence of national economies due to the increasing speed and volume of goods and services, technology, capital, and labour across State borders – have been out of the game.
Crisis of institutes
There was a break in the feedback between society and power, social elevators stopped. Tiberio Graziani, a prominent Italian political scientist and analyst, president of the International Institute for Global Analysis Vision & Global Trends, notes: “I’m extremely dismayed by the weak solidarity shown by the European Union, its delay in planning aid to member states such as Italy and Spain. The current pandemic has exposed the fragility of states, at least western ones, their subordination to the owners of large supranational digital infrastructures and corporations…”.
The weakness of traditional political institutions – parties and social movements – was evident in both on the West and in Russia. Where were the political parties where the ONF, the public chambers, the Human Rights Council and others that should consolidate and militarize the population during the period of coronacrisis? This work was transferred to the President, the executive branch and the media, while social and political institutions were outsiders.
The system of democracy which was based on ensuring mutual responsibility and trust between power and society, fell into a deep crisis everywhere. People stopped feeling like they were influencing power. Thus, the system of ensuring the loyalty of society and power, which was based on the principles of convincing communication aimed at forming a trust attitude towards the subject (power) in the object (in this case society), has been destroyed.
Russia’s hasty transition, following the West, to an information society only exacerbates the risks. We live in what analysts are already calling the “post-truth era”. There is a huge increase in the amount of information consumed, which is increasingly difficult for a person to understand. People perceive information only at the level of headlines, without going into details and essence. According to VTSIOM, only one in two Russians said that they are able to distinguish truth from lies, and only 12% believe in the veracity of officials (according to the Levada center).
The breakdown of truth is one of the world’s leading trends. And if there is no truth, everything is possible. The coronavirus pandemic brilliantly demonstrated the effectiveness of public consciousness manipulation technology – the world was ruled by paranoia and fear.
What should we do to ensure trust and – as a result – loyalty? We can force loyalty by building mechanisms of total control. This is a system of domination in which every object of society – from the individual to social associations – is monitored. A proven, but extremely costly and therefore short-lived system. An alternative is to create a motivating system of voluntary loyalty, which is based on trust between the government and society on the basis of common goals, values and the resulting joint action. To form a motivating system, it is necessary to look for points of crystallization of the socio-economic fabric on the new foundations of solidarity – in the territorial, economic and social dimensions
The disintegration of truth is one of the world’s leading trends. If there is no truth, then everything is possible. The coronavirus pandemic brilliantly demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology of manipulating public consciousness – the world was ruled by paranoia and fear.
One of the lessons of the Coronacrisis should be a new spatial development of the country, because after all, a balanced spatial distribution of the population is an element of national security. Our spaces – the opportunity to disperse, to move inland from the coming trouble, to regroup and to come with renewed strength – are what have saved us for centuries, saves us now, in the age of coronacrisis.
The province and its resources are the backbone of the country. It is advisable to review the policy of territorial development – to move from consolidation and concentration to a reasonable dispersion, where local schools, kindergartens, shops, clinics, small businesses, gyms and courtyards are prioritized, that is, to operate in a mode of ensuring a high social standard of walking distance. We can say that this is also the formation of a kind of “social shelters” in the event of a crisis.
The strategy of concentrating resources in megacities contradicts the civil code of Russia and lays a social bomb for our future.
The lack of socio-spatial thinking in politics leads to the loss of population, the formation of social voids, the creation of “exclusion belts” of satellite cities and suburbs inhabited by paupers, often ethnically painted. Now one third of Russia ‘s GDP is generated in two support megacities – Moscow and St. Petersburg. But any design is sustainable when there are a minimum of three supports. The third should be the cities and territories of development of Siberia and the Far East where many types of resources, industrial and scientific potential are already available, but there is a shortage of personnel and managerial competences, as well as the main problem and threat – depopulation.
Today the big city is identified with a political alternative to the state. There is a utopian picture of a world where megacities have their own political resources and political power. And regions remain powerless, and inequalities arise that pose a threat to national security.
The crisis of “crowded” living, exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemic and self-isolation of the population, brought to life a long-forgotten solution. The development of urban agglomerations, which are studied by social Sciences, implies the presence of a certain building structure, not only in terms of architectural and engineering features, but also the socio-economic development of the territory. The morphology of the territory should be based on the priority of the social standard of walking distance, namely the presence of various socially significant objects (clinics, hospitals, educational institutions, cultural centers), residential areas and the like, as well as elements of the natural landscape of the territory.
To ensure national security, a social and economic model of mobilization type is necessary built into the system of state administration, which duplicates/insures in case of various types of hybrid crises such as coronavirus or man-made failures in the future. To begin with, it is possible to introduce into official circulation such a concept as socio-informational stability of the state and its territories. It would determine the ability of state and social structures to maintain their capacity in the face of cyber threats, including those associated with negative information campaigns, which can be triggered by various types of disasters, such as epidemics.
We can borrow a lot from the experience of the Soviet system which was based on ensuring a social standard at the place of residence. The spatial organization of urban settlements was also determined by sound economic planning principles.
The ideas of rational multi-layered social and territorial planning should be taken as a basis in the formation of an image of the future understood by society. Russia is a civilization of space, our values and our mentality were so formed. “Crowded” living and concentration do not correspond to Russian psychology.
Empire of democracy
Nationalization of economic growth (hampered in the existing geo-economic context by the dominance of the financial and investment liberal model) is needed. There is a clear request to rethink social and territorial policy towards a single standard of life that permeates all its components. After the coronavirus epidemic, arguments about the need to master the spaces behind the Ural (Siberia and the Far East) sound new.
The high internal tension associated with the retention of huge heterogeneous spaces, Russi ‘s constant presence in the thick of geopolitical struggle make the task of consolidating society and power, ensuring national security and the development of the state essential and decisive today. There is a need for qualitatively stronger sustainability of the social structure.
Russian philosopher Vasyliy Rosanov wrote: “The only vice of the Russian state is its weakness. A weak state is no longer a state, but simply it is not”. The “Russia of the Future” model is a social empire based on the principle of “autocracy” not in the sense of restoring the monarchy, but in the sense of true popular power, where we – Russians – led by a strong leader hold ourselves. This categorically supports the request for sovereignty, strategic awareness and complexity of public administration, which accumulates internal and external factors of Russia ‘s growth. To implement this model, a new strategy of socio-political and spatial structure is needed, based on three components – security, preservation of the people and territorial and economic efficiency. The constitutional provision on popular power should be implemented through the unity of the vertical power of the popularly elected national leader and the horizontal power resulting from effective local self-administration.
Elites are nationalized, bureaucracy is put in the service of the Fatherland and does not have political powers.
Feedback is provided through a meeting of the best people of the country initiated by the President of the Russian Federation – leaders of public opinion, an asset of local self-government: scientists and engineers, farmers and workers, students and teachers, doctors and clergy, power and military classes, deserved veterans and great athletes, heroes of Russia and ordinary workers – representatives of all peoples of the multinational country. This assembly is both constituent and institutional.
Building of a “social empire”, based on an autocratic tradition and a high social and territorial standard of quality of life, providing the population with equal access to free modern medicine, fundamental education and safe infrastructure in walking distance. The ability of the state through reverse ties and dialogue with society to form an attractive model of social structure ensures Russia’s economic and technological self-sufficiency. This is the most important task of the current period of our history. By solving it, Russia will become a power that sets a social model for peace.
Source: Russia in Global Affairs
Andrej Il’nitskij – Full State Counsellor 3rd Class of the Russian Federation
Maria Lenchenko – Political analyst