Today I am particularly concerned about one important question: can we finally emerge from cultural one-dimensionality in the interpretation of events, and in particular of the last significant historical incident that we had to experience—Prigozhin’s March on Moscow? When will our thinking finally stop being flat and one-dimensional and turn to the depths of meaning behind the surface of historical phenomena? Will we soon see in the interpretation of historical episodes, especially such as hostilities, revolutions, revolts, not just a game of egoistic material interests, not a moment of a card game between cheats, not a set of casual emotions, human passions, resentments, indignations, but a picture—exposition—of the movements of spiritual reality, a measured march of the Spirit, a battle of Minds, a battle of worldviews behind the most extravagant manifestations of revolts and revolutions?
Modern societies (Modern and Postmodern) have long since transcended any Tradition: we tend to smirk when heroes proclaim, God-seeking or God-bashing, the search for an ideal city or a society without flaws. But even in non-traditional civilizations there are remnants (sort of “scabs”) of the Spirit. Man is a spiritual being, endowed with the Logos, the Mind; and no matter how damaged the proportions of his worldview may be in him, there is no other way but to call the human mind, the intellect, to account.
In analyzing Prigozhin’s march on Moscow, I would suggest a more complex interpretation than is customary in today’s press and examine this phenomenon as a “march to the left,” from the perspective of “leftist ideology.” What does “leftist ideology” mean? On the whole, behind it lies the pathos of the emancipation of the individual, with which New Age liberalism is filled. But having freed man (according to the original plan) from the fetters of hierarchy, the prescriptions of religion, the class system, clan inequality, from the Church’s claims to exclusive mediation in the relationship between God and man and from the latter’s obligations to eternity, the immutable foundations and truths (the idols of “cave,” “market,” “square,” etc.) of Francis Bacon), liberalism wiped man into a “blank sheet,” an “atomic individual” with an autonomous will from nowhere, from nothing; and then imposed on this being without lineage and tribe a new cartography of immutable definitions and burdens—only of a secular, horizontal, profane nature. Modernity spoke of the Leviathan-state, keeping the individual from ceaseless combat with other similarly untroubled human units struggling for survival, the foundations of selfish capitalism, about profits and bank interest as the unquestionable norms of liberal society, about secularized reason, about the bourgeois ideals of the human lifeworld, about individualism and atheism as components of a worldview, about the social contract as guarantor of individual security, etc.
The result was an apparatus of ideological restriction and social coercion, as well as a mechanism of class inequality, homologous to that of the Premodern, only more rigid, mechanistic, and uninspired, with a disregard for social values, culture, history, and a mockery of what used to be called “spirit,” “ideal,” “tradition,” “continuity.” Such a leftist version of ideology is called “leftist liberalism.” It combines the absolute freedom of entrepreneurship, private property and capitalism with the infinite freedom of the individual in the sphere of morality, in relations with religion, clan, culture, society (libertarianism).
In the modern world this kind of liberalism is called, “Li-Li” (liberalisme libertaire)—private property, big capital, plus unlimited freedom in all spheres, up to the stage of “divide and conquer.”
But there is a second version of “leftist ideology” in which the principle of the emancipation of the individual in society is linked not to individual emancipation, but rather to the principle of the prohibition (a significant restriction) of private ownership of the basic means of production in the material-production sphere. This type of ideology relies on leftist economics (public ownership of the means of production), and views the individual not as a completely free atomic individual, but as a member of society bound by a social ideal (project), class affiliation, and ideology. This type of ideology is called “socialism.” Marx believed that socialism, as society is consciously transformed in the direction of freedom and culture and the liberation of the individual from social constraints, develops into “communism.” This is where we will stop in our theoretical preliminaries to the main theme.
So, what is behind Prigozhin’s march?
We propose to consider this excess in contemporary Russian political life as an exposition of a leftist, socialist (not liberal!) trend in our society.
Why was this march on Moscow rather ambiguously received by people? Why was the reaction of our military and security structures so weak and uncertain? How was the march able to advance almost unhindered to Moscow (reaching some 200 km from the capital)? Why did we see on YouTube, how in Rostov-on-Don, only a few people on the streets (mostly elderly) trying to persuade the Wagnerites to turn back and return to their positions, weakly reproaching them for their disobedience to the state, while another part of the population (and the much larger part of the population supported the fighters) calling them “our guys” and “heroes,” and insisting that “everything is right, it’s all right,” and even scolding the elderly, who tried to shame the boys in camouflage and accuse them of violating state discipline. Why are there still people in the security forces who secretly or openly sympathize with this rebellion as a way to convey certain ideas and meanings to the authorities, as a last resort to convey to the political elite the main message of the people, as well as their despair and hope that something will turn for the better in the life of society?
The main idea that most worries, alarms, excites the hearts of modern Russian, or Russian, people is the idea of justice.
It has been said that love is above justice. But for love to have its say, society must have at least a minimal level of justice, which then allows love to smooth over contradictions and sharp edges. When, for the most part, justice in society is lost, so is deep social solidarity, the involvement of people with each other and with the state.
Western-style liberalism, which de facto (without being named) has become a program ideology in our society, has never included justice in its set of priority guidelines and values. The liberal individual is an independent atom, a lone wolf who fights for his own selfish interests and agrees to take into account the public interest only in moments of serious threats to his own existence.
There are two models of the individual in liberalism—the Hobbesian, “man is a wolf to man,” and the Lockeian, “man is a ‘blank slate.” The wretchedness, insignificance and vulgarity of both liberal interpretations of man are simply amazing—according to Hobbes, the individual should be treated as an embittered beast, which, in moments of rage and irritation, should be just as violently and fiercely suppressed by the forces of an infinitely superior state-monster, Leviathan, driving the individual into a cage, intimidating and punishing. According to Locke, the individual should be seen as a passive “blank slate” (tabula rasa), on which society places some writings, and then erases them and writes down new theses—new rules of life.
Modern Western society uses both models, sometimes arguing about the need for draconian suppression of the individual (realism) or its “humanistic” programming (with a chip or brainwashing in the form of totalitarian demagogy and propaganda).
Let us take the example of a modern Russian person, or a Russian person of non-Russian nationality, who speaks Russian and has lived in the Russian Empire for a number of years. Let us remind him of the history of the Soviet period, when social justice was the central principle, the root of the life of society. And let us find out that the idea of social justice, social solidarity, brotherhood of nations, social mutual assistance, a society not divided into classes, with a more or less equal distribution of natural and social wealth, is one of the dominant trends in the aspirations, thoughts, and hopes of our contemporaries. For a great part of Russian people, for whom “Soviet society” has long been viewed no longer as impoverished, unattractive, totalitarian, closed, and repressive, as our Westernizing liberals have been telling us for the past 30 years, echoing the Western media of the times of the collapse of the USSR.
Today, the majority of Russian citizens dream of the project of a socially-oriented society—the distribution of private property is proportional and well-balanced. People are attracted to the ideals of honest coexistence, decency and righteousness in public relations, the principles of rewarding a person for his labor and contribution to social construction and multiplication of public, not personal, welfare. The modern Russian tends to apply moral criteria to the entrepreneurial and political activities of the elite, the leaders of the nation. This involves an appeal to the traditions of the Russian world, with its critical assessments of selfish individualism, dishonesty and unrighteousness in economic life. People are fed up with deception, trickery, scams, lies, falsifications on the part of shrewd privatizers of people’s property, who shamelessly appropriated plants, lands, forests, subsoil in the 1990s, when the Soviet statehood was broken, and who continue manipulating property in the form of bankruptcies and re-privatization today, using the situation of the Special Military Operation.
These days, a growing number of the Russian population is experiencing nostalgia for a just social society, realizing that the destruction of Soviet socialism occurred not only for internal reasons, but also because of the active intervention in the economy and the state by Western countries, motivated by the task of eliminating a social system alternative to the West and the suppression of the Russian-Soviet civilization opposed to it by basic worldview values. This nostalgia of the modern Russian for social justice is expressed in adherence to one or another variety of non-capitalist model, one or another version of socialism, which is considered the preferred project for the future of Russia.
This motif has become the dominant line in the public opinion of Russian citizens today, especially when it has become obvious that the capitalist society of “the common welfare,” as advertised by Western propaganda in the 1970s and 1980s, has failed. This myth of Western consciousness is now perceived as a bluff, a mirage, which was created in order to confuse Russian dreamers and practitioners of the unique socialist model of society, in which people were provided with a basic fair distribution of material goods, opportunities for quality education, acceptable health care.
By the 1960s, socialist society had reached its limits, was on the verge of “fatigue,” decay and death; it required rethinking, deconstruction of meanings, correction of postulates—”correction of names.” It required a shake-up of the party elites, a revision of ideological cliches, and a return to Russian history and the traditions of the different peoples inhabiting the Russian-Soviet empire. It was necessary existential and spiritual reanimation of society.
It was a challenge that presupposed a leap in the ideological, philosophical rethinking of Soviet ways and achievements. All this implied an upsurge of the philosophical imagination, a rebellion of the spirit, a revolt of thought. But where there is a challenge, there is also a solution. “Where there is danger, there is salvation,” Rilke wrote. Soviet philosophers, scientists, thinkers, and politicians managed not to realize the challenge as a challenge, and did not dared to enter the sphere where the existential cold of a cooling society could have turned into the bright light of a new world. Renewed socialism did not happen, and Soviet society, betraying the high ideals of justice, followed the vulgar and criminal program of liberal capitalist decay and dehumanization of humanity, which today has already declared itself as the main threat in the coming decades.
What our society, represented by the Soviet elites, was not able to do then (in the 1970s-1980s), we have to do now. We need to engage our imagination, mobilize philosophical, political, and economic thought, and be so decisive as to move away from the rut of colonial capitalism, whose features people see everywhere and which are recognized by our honest political scientists of today. These features must not only be recognized and actualized, they must be exposed, rejected and overcome in the direction of a common ideal, the Russian dream of a just society, in which the highest value is the fate of man, his dignity, his fulfillment, his spirituality.
Contemporary Russian capitalism is a kind of imitation and parody. It was set up by American political technologists and liberal economists who came to Russia. Only from outside, at that moment in 1991, could a “stunned society” receive and adopt such harsh and cynical prescriptions. Only our enemies could have laid into the foundation of Russian society such monstrous models of unfair privatization, fraudulent tricks with collateral auctions, through ideological theses about “abolishing ideology,” the principle of the priority of international laws and rules over national ones. The years of Putin’s rule were a time of realization of the need for our country’s sovereignty and important steps on this path.
Today, residual colonial capitalism in Russia demonstrates all its weaknesses. The country has almost lost its industry, has raised an entire generation of colonial managers who can only adapt Western technology to local conditions, without making any effort of intelligence to lead the country on a path of independent development, not according to the scenarios of enslavers from across the ocean. Putin’s attempts to claim the country’s sovereignty after Yeltsin’s destructive decade of Western reform have not yet led us to restore our industry, science, higher education, and creative human capital to their fullest potential. In the 1990s, Western handlers destroyed our ideology and economy very thoroughly.
But our people know from our history—first they destroy to the ground, and then… And then comes the thought, imagination, dream, mind, will, courage, the ability to risk, to decide, to create, to create, to liberate the inner forces. Next, it is about the spirit. About understanding the destiny of the Russian people and state, their movement in world history, the role and meaning of Russia in the world. All this awakens the forces of the people, ignites an inner fire, excites hope, gives birth to the belief in victory. At this moment we need to have the courage to take action—somewhere along beaten paths, somewhere along completely new trajectories. At the critical moment of a special operation, it is precisely transformations that people demand.
And all their expectations are projected onto the March on Moscow. Prigozhin himself may not fully understand everything, but he feels that the people’s thirst for justice is going over the edge. People guess Prigozhin’s motives and goals for him, although, of course, many of them do not justify the means to achieve these goals.
But people are eager to reconstruct the dilapidated social structure; they want new solutions and, first of all, concerning those figures who have settled down in bureaucratic offices and discredited both themselves and the government. The people are hungry for a victory. And they rightly see the inadequacy of the efforts exerted by the state apparatus cadres. And it doesn’t even matter whether they are sincerely dedicated to victory and the prosperity of their homeland or they just secretly have a screw-you attitude and are just pretending.
Prigozhin’s march is the culmination of profound processes in our society. It would be a terrible mistake to reduce it to some secondary reasons, motives, and grounds. Prigozhin’s march on Moscow is more than Prigozhin’s march on Moscow.
In essence, this is an ultimatum from our society to the government, which, while restoring sovereignty, pays no attention at all to the fundamental basis of our true Russian identity, which is connected with a keen sense of Justice, the inextinguishable will to build a solidary, friendly, community-based society. The Soviet period, socialism was not an accidental period in our history. It is irresponsible to consider this period a deviation. A Russian person will never be happy individually, in a society where there is no justice, equality and love. And attempts to build an unjust society and preserve capitalism are doomed to historical failure.
Prigozhin’s march on Moscow is not the end, but a new beginning. And it would be better if it were the beginning of REVOLUTION from above, with the preservation and strengthening of our state, rather than the other way around.
Natalia Melentyeva is the wife of Alexander Dugin and is an activist, whose work is widelt respected in Russia. This article appears courtesy of Katehon.