The elections held in September in Russia have changed nothing in the country, or almost nothing.
Do thereby these elections deserve analysis, interpretation, understanding? Why there’s so much fuss about this event?
It is exactly all this fuss that prevents from the analysis as the talks are about Alexei Navalny, not about the election. No doubt that a candidate’s personality in the elections is of paramount importance. If there were no distinction in kind as to who wins the elections, the very elections would be senseless. But analytics is called so just because it is based on analysis that divides a phenomenon into parts, and these parts are dealt with separately or in any combination while the other parts are left out, forgotten for a while in order to be put back afterwards (in dealing with synthesis, for example) into a coherent structure. The past elections are of interest from the point of view of political techniques [Hereinafter terms “political techniques” and “political technicians” refer to “political strategies” and “political strategists”. — Translator's note], and in a technological approach a candidate's personality is just an argument inserted into a certain function, or material used to make the final product, the winner.
Of course, political technicians in pushing their wares often say, “Give us anyone, and we will make him deputy/mayor/president, or any position you like!” But that’s just advertising. If the material is bad, it still won’t work even with the best techniques. True is that with bad techniques one can make even the most ingenious candidate lose.
Techniques are nowadays replacing other forms of work and activity organization because they guarantee a planned result provided performance of standard procedures. The warranty is never 100%, even with Japanese quality control. But the Japanese provide almost complete approach to the 100-percent result! Yes, and this is achieved through technologized quality control that is turned into a humanitarian technique. The problem is that not everything can be standardized, especially in the humanities and in social sphere. And it is not because the man with his immortal soul, with his free will can not be technologized; the man is not a machine. It is because we are dealing not with labor, but with game in the humanities and in social sphere. Techniques were born and have since been developing in the sphere of activity where one can clearly identify a actor or a subject on the one hand, and a material converted to the product on the other hand. One can not just identify these, but also oppose them to each other. Material can resist anything what is done with it. It can be very complicated and intractable, but it can not be malicious as it has no intentions at all; it does not have its own goals, all the more, it does not have opposing goals to the ones of the actor. But in politics, as in humanitarian sphere, such simple distinction and opposition are impossible. Politics is a game of subjects that pursue different goals, often conflicting and antagonistic.
So can a game be technologized? A game can not be technologized, but it can be reduced to activity which is subject to technologizing. There will always be a gap between the activity and the game, but the smaller the gap, the easier it will be to achieve the goals set. In the end, even the classic examples of games such as sports games can be reduced to the activity and technologized. It is not about the fixed matches. The point is that a skilled player has to score goals without fail in standard situations. Most of the goals are scored from the set pieces. Game is game, it is unpredictable, but teams either catch the set pieces, or create them themselves in order to produce standard actions and get the result without fail. So it is in politics, for all its unpredictability. Players, or participants of the political process, seek to be prepared for standard situations because they know what they need to do in these cases, and by working in the political field try to create these standard situations.
The one, who knows more standard situations, wins. That is, there are fewer surprises, unpredictable events and actions of other players and participants that arise for him. Sportsmen, politicians and military men get prepared to well-known and familiar situations, that is, to standard ones, while holding maneuvers and conducting drills. There’s a saying therefore that generals are always prepared to fight the last war, not the one that has yet to be.
It is believed that such generals lose wars. Maybe! But what do then military leaders that nonetheless win wars get prepared to? I would venture to suppose (and this supposition is organic enough for the technological approach) that future winners, just as their defeated opponents, get prepared exclusively to standard situations. That's just the nature, or a type of standard, that differs. Generals that lose are familiar with standard situations from the past military experience, from history and lessons of the military art. But successful military leaders do also standardize situations that they can create in their mind, fantasize. They just event new situations, think them through up to the sequence of all their moves and possible responses of their enemy.
The same thing is true in politics. A losing party may be unsurpassed master in standard situations familiar to him/her, and a winner would just put him/her in an unfamiliar situation in which this skill is unproductive and inefficient. Political techniques guarantee result in standard situations with a high probability, but in a non-standard situation even those who have no idea of the techniques can win, because they act simply, in a primitive, situational way. Actually, this was in the last years of the Soviet Union existence what the changes started from.
There were elections, there was voting in the USSR. I realize that someone would contest it, play it cool. I'll just add that the very elections and voting in the Soviet Union were so much standardized that it gave predictable results with an accuracy of one percent. Actually, the result itself was standardized: for Estonia, it was allowed 98-99% of votes to be "for" [the Communist Party. — Translator's note], for all the other regions it was allowed only above 99%, with the voter turnout starting from 97%, and above. The technique to ensure this result was simple but effective. The most important condition for the applicability of this technique was the lack of alternative candidates. A trifle; yet, a necessary one. As soon as ideological heresy of possibility to choose from two or more candidates, not just one was admitted, by voting for or against him, as the situation changed radically. The first elections with alternative candidates were held in March 1989. That is, as described by Anatoly Sobchak [a Russian politician of the perestroika era. — Translator's note]:
”Much later, I realized why Mikhail Gorbachev ventured to adopt such a complex and utterly undemocratic electoral system. The well-established party apparatus, smoothly running thanks to past generations of party selection, would not leave the Democrats any winning chance in direct, equal and secret elections. Proven system of red tape and safe mutual assistance of apparatchiks, media controlled by them and money from the party and government funds, possibility of exemption from duties almost any right man and paid support groups, — everything ensured the success to apparatchiks. But Gorbachev and his intelligent team put the machine in unusual ad hoc conditions for the Soviet tradition. Elections by social organizations and by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, division of the country into territorial and national-territorial constituencies — it did give a lot of possibilities. People known all over the country — Andrei Sakharov, Dmitry Likhachov, Ales Adamovich, Yegor Yakovlev, Gavriil Popov, and many others got into the Parliament only through such undemocratic electoral system. The apparatus’ efforts were distracted by organization of the notorious district assemblies. Here, apparatchiks were vigilant and many of the Democrats did not manage to pass through their “sieve”. Nevertheless, there were no district assemblies in public organizations. Moreover, in a number of districts there was a re-run of election. So, the editor-in-chief of the Ogoniok magazine Vitaly Korotich who left the district assembly in the Sverdlovsk district of Moscow in protest against the blatant fraud of the chairman, was immediately nominated in Kharkov and defeated his rivals with great advantage. In Leningrad, in the 50th arrondissement, all the efforts of the apparatus were directed to block the path to the informal leader of the inter-professional club “Perestroika”, the economist Petr Filippov. And it worked: Filippov was the only one who did not pass through the “sieve”, out of four contenders. But another economist, Professor Anatoly Denisov had passed, who won confidently afterwards, and whose name is now known all over the country.”
At those elections, the Communist Party lost, having at its disposal administrative resource, a lot of money, attractive candidates. It was just that the well-tried in decades political technique was inadequate to the situation of that day, or rather, to the artificially created situation. And the winners did not have any political techniques. They did not even know this word. The first political techniques have been imported from the countries of the free world.
The first generation of political techniques in the post-Soviet countries
The voters and the politically active public believed in the election not at once. Firstly, all the attention was focused on what was unfolding at the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union which meetings were broadcasted on television. Therefore, the second alternative elections to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics were held without any techniques. The candidates and their teams operated intuitively guided by ideas taken from books and by common sense. Any tricks were on use; names of the candidates passed from mouth to mouth, pre-election meetings gathered crowds of enthusiasts, members of informal social groups, just curious people. In this atmosphere of total euphoria and flush of freedom, people appeared, willing to be engaged in elections professionally. And they started to learn.
The first team of political technicians was registered a month after the elections of People's Deputies of the USSR. But largely, such teams began to emerge after the elections in the Supreme Soviets of the Soviet Republics. And these teams were mastering the first generation of political techniques. Someone studied on their own, but the majority studied under western trainers and consultants. People were mastering everything indiscriminately: walking from door to door, prototyping leaflets, advertising techniques, ability of knotting a tie. They were though mastering useful things also: political marketing, interpretation of sociological data, active listening and working with objections. Yes, they were studying, and they have studied a lot. Yet, not the knowledge and skills mastered did form the core of the first generation of political techniques, but the teamwork style and political engagement.
The first generation of political techniques was implemented by teams of different specialists, experts, and simply by handymen. The specializations were formed in teams; sociologists, psychologists, speech writers, advertisers, experts in various fields were claimed. The central place in a team was most often held by the candidate who was not the customer, but a member of the team, the first one, the chief one, but a part of a team in the first-generation political techniques. He, like everyone else, worked for an idea. Even if it was just a cynical lust for power, he could not hire a team of specialists, as candidates, generally, did not have such budgets. Most of the candidates were from the non-formal environment or from groups of intelligentsia. They fought with the nomenclatura placemen, with party chiefs or good economic executives, ie with the old nomenclatura.
Representatives of the old nomenclatura almost did not make any contribution to the development of political techniques of the first generation; they just relied on administrative resources, dependent performers and rests of their former prestige. Sometimes they won. But it was only because their opponents lacked enthusiasm, energy and professionalism.
Soon enough it became clear that western trainers and consultants were not able to teach a lot initiative and educated team members. All the Western techniques and knowledge were suitable for "infantry", ordinary performers and volunteers, but in professional areas post-Soviet people were even stronger than those who tried to teach them. It also emerged that Western teachers couldn’t teach some things at all. Fundraising and role of civil society in politics and electoral process should be marked out of these things.
That is, fundraising was also taught, and the role and importance of civil society were talked about. But the post-Soviet political technicians considered this knowledge as nonsense and Western intellectuals’ romantic illusions that did not have anything to do with practice.
American and European fundraising methods did not work in our country. There were resourceful managers who found their own methods of raising money for election campaigns, and these methods were nothing like the Western. Nor could they be like the Western in a country with a devastated economy, unformed financial system, and hidden money circulation schemes that dominated.
The role of civil society even as presented by Western consultants was perceived as a system of constraints and obstacles to the achievement of election campaigns’ purposes. And political technicians who weren’t bothered with the values of civil society became successful.
Under the first generation of political techniques, the customer and the candidate most often was the same person, or a group of persons, if the political techniques team was formed under parties or political entities. Teams did not perceive themselves as mercenaries, but as support groups of political leaders, whose ideology, goals, and values they shared. It was a romantic period in the political life of post-Soviet countries, but it finished quickly. The period finished, but not the very political technicians. Such teams can be found until now. In addition, if somewhere can still be found people who teach political techniques, these techniques are of the first generation, despite the fact that these do not work anymore.
The most important characteristic of the first generation of political techniques is that they have been designed for political competition for the sympathy of free voters. They are successful and effective only in situations where state institutions, legislation, laws, media, financial system, and everything else represent the infrastructure for the political process; where state institutions are not involved in the political struggle on the side of one of the competing parties, but remain neutral.
The result, which the political techniques of the first generation are aimed at, is achieving the coordination of positions and, in the first place, coordination of statements and declarations of the candidate with the opinion of the majority of voters, with the mood and expectations of the electorate. Political technicians of the first generation did equally distribute their activity both to the voters, and to the candidate himself. The candidate is being taught, educated, his hair being cut; everything is being done for the voters liked him. An indication of how it works is a candidate’s rating. If the rating is high, there will be votes, will be victory.
Political techniques of the first generation are very vulnerable. They are easy to be made ineffective. It only takes one or more of social institutions to abandon neutrality and take the side of a candidate, this candidate is hors concours. Political techniques of the first generation cannot bring a candidate with a rating of 6% to the victory; there’s need of a different approach.
Should a candidate cease to be ideological leader of a team and take the position of customer, and start hiring political technicians, as opportunities to work with him, press on him will sharply reduce. He will agree to get a haircut, as well as change the tie and rhetoric, but he won’t allow teaching, training and educating himself. Thus, one should work not with him, but for him. And that's well another technique.
The second generation of political techniques
Political techniques were rapidly developing. Market of political techniques emerged, and there was a fat money turnover at the market. Political techniques adapted to the market, trying to survive in the fierce competition.
Already in the first half of the 1990s, there were managers who knew how and where to get money to finance a pre-election campaign, without letting their candidate know about this. Thus, such managers of political techniques’ teams didn’t care much about a candidate’s personality. Market of applicants to candidates emerged, and managers themselves choose whom would they do a candidate. And so, if you call a spade a spade, candidates began to be sold. Well, or hired. In this market, there were former deputies, mayors or presidents exhibited who didn’t manage to secure leadership in their teams, to keep it in the mistaken belief that their very deputy's past would guarantee them popularity and influence. However, such cases were not common; almost all of these personages have gone from politics forever.
More often, the things were different. Political technicians self-defined as service organizations that sold their services. And they were selling their services to the one who paid the most. As soon as a sufficient number of political technicians, service providers appeared, there appeared also clients of these services with all the advantages and disadvantages of wild market customers. At buying political technicians’ services, they began to dictate their rules on the principle of “the customer is always right”. And political technicians had to admit it. If a customer really wanted to hold for deputy his lobbyist, a man without convictions, without ideology and position, there were those who took up for it. If a customer offered a bandit as a candidate, political technicians had to hold him, as well, through the election procedure.
Such circumstances not just made pragmatic cynics who did not care whom to hold, competitive in the market of political techniques; they made political technicians radically change the techniques themselves.
If the task for political technicians of the first generation was to study moods, expectations and opinions of the electorate, and to bring the candidate’s position, program, declarations and statements in accordance with them, then the second generation of political technicians was put in front of a completely different task. It was necessary to ensure that the electorate liked the available candidate. If a candidate was a bandit, then let the voters love the bandit, if he was an egghead scientist, let them love the scientist, if a nationalist — the nationalist, a communist — the communist.
And if the task is formulated in this way, one can not operate with the old methods. It’s useless, making a bandit walk from one door to another, as everyone will see the bandit. It’s harmful for a four-eye candidate standing at the entrance of a factory and shaking his voters’ strong bunches of fives. A candidate in such a situation should better be hidden from the voters, and his image “sold”, designed and glued previously in consultation with the customer.
But modeling a candidate’s image is not enough, as there is an alternative, and the alternative candidate may be very attractive, compared to whom your candidate would be uncompetitive. No problem! Political technicians do have additional task then, to discredit the rivals. This task was no less exciting than the direct one, selling a candidate to voters.
At this stage of the political techniques’ development everybody started to talk about them: from top officials to those who never went to polls (and such people existed even in the Soviet Union, where the voter turnout was of 99%). And the political techniques of this period became known as the dirty techniques; people started savoring black PR.
These techniques were indeed rather dirty. But they had better aspects, also. These techniques could be refined and accurate, talented performers were involved to implement them; they has given a wealth of material for the analysis and understanding of the transition period, the Soviet legacy and all the new that has appeared in our country in recent years.
Leading political technicians of that time became stars, their popularity compared with the popularity of politicians. Some of them have earned the reputation of all-powerful masters of political destinies, comparable with the Masons, the Elders of Zion and the agents of world government. Ukrainian parents intimidated their children by Gleb Pavlovsky’s name. Political technicians of the post-Soviet countries went global with their services. The highest achievement of that period could be considered the second election of Boris Yeltsin, whose popularity was minimal at the time of beginning the campaign (in various estimates, it varies from 6% to 9%); everybody knew him and no one wanted him. But he was held for a second term, even from the second round.
Political techniques of the second generation destroyed the infrastructure of the civil society and the state. This fact would've been worth analyzing separately, but it's hard not to agree with the statement that the presidential election of 1996 would have been impossible having independent media in the country. Well, the media were engaged to the elections on the side of the incumbent president. After such an engagement the media could not regain independence, and no one was going to “return” them freedom either. Thus, out of the infrastructure, media has become a political techniques’ component, and has been used in the field of political services.
But the political commitment of media lies on the surface; it’s just striking the eyes. The same thing though happened to the other institutions: police, prosecutor's office, even to business. For the purposes of political techniques, for holding the right candidates people started buying any organizations, entities, and entire institutions.
But political techniques of the second generation have their weak spots.
Firstly, this technique is very expensive. So expensive that even the conversion of all elected positions in high-income source wasn’t compensated any more. Most of positions don’t allow stealing so much either. In the first years of Putin's rule a question arose as on reducing the cost of political techniques and unprofitability of many elections. The decision to the question was simple. On the one hand, there was need to return to the appointment of a number of officials and, thus, reducing the number of elections. On the other hand, reduction in price of the political techniques’ services was achieved by the transition from purchasing institutions and agencies to the direct bribery of voters.
Secondly, the point is the exhausted imagination, creativity, sophistication of the very political technicians. They were just tired and exhausted with inventing incriminating evidences and creating their clients’ images. And the public was tired of it, as well; there was aversion to the election at all. And here it is necessary to take into account the third weak point that could be the core one.
Thirdly, political techniques of the second generation are, perhaps, effective only when the votes are being counted. Counted, not drawn.
As there began the time when the votes were not counted any more. The era of color revolutions came. Elections as an element of the political process no longer performed their primary function, to provide legitimate change of power and rotation of political elites. And along with that political techniques of the second generation with political technicians lost their value, as well.
I am talking about generations of political techniques, not about their typology or classification. Within a single generation, political technicians differ in many respects. But these differences are now outside of my interest.
The political techniques’ alternation of generations can not be empirically discovered in Belarus. For all the time of our country’s existence, we have had only one election where the political techniques of the first generation were applied. Since 1995, political technicians in Belarus have immediately started to develop own new techniques, bypassing the second generation stage. The protracted period of the third generation of political techniques’ formation in Belarus disguises them, makes it difficult to analyze them, on the one hand, and forces applying to foreign experience, to the Russian one, in the first place. Still, the third generation of political techniques in Russia is a modernized copy of the Belarusan political techniques, nothing more.
Perhaps the separation of the three generations of political techniques is valid only for the region bounded by the three post-Soviet countries: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In other countries or regions, everything looks different. But this distinction should not be exaggerated. Political techniques of the first generation haven’t since worked almost anywhere. The conservative government institutions and real civil society did not allow political techniques of the second generation, emerged in the USA for the first time taking similar forms as in Russia. But from time to time it is possible to observe them in the USA in all their glory, even if more often we can meet them in an artistic form (“All the King's Men” by Robert Penn Warren, or “Wag the Dog” by Barry Levinson). And there is a tendency to the mastering of the third generation political techniques in all the countries, especially where socialism triumphs, and political correctness replaces ideology.
The political techniques’ generation alternation deserves special consideration. Second-generation techniques ousted their predecessors in the competition, while many teams emerged in the first generation era still continued to operate in the second generation era, having only changed methods and approaches. But many teams of the second generation were destroyed during the transition to the third generation. Possibility of independent funding of political activities was liquidated. In Belarus, in the first year of the Lukashenko’s rule, all independent businesses were either nationalized or put under control. In Russia, there were methods of bullying (Mikhail Khodorkovsky), raider attacks. The capture of media may be of particular interest (Vladimir Gusinsky, Boris Berezovsky, and many others).
The third generation of political techniques
Political techniques of the third generation solve the problem of preservation of the voting procedure with the possibility of external control over the procedure and its transparency, while controlling the results.
This task is beyond the power of separate, even most skilled and sophisticated political techniques’ teams. The customer for these techniques is obvious; it’s ruling elite, clique, junta, or something like that. But the problem is that there is no one who could provide this service to the ruling elite. Therefore, a subject of the order merges with an executor of the service. And a state with all its institutions becomes a tool to solve this task. State structures can not afford themselves being neutral in the solution of this problem. The third generation of political techniques involves not only media, police, and intelligence services, but education system, big businesses, as well.
It would seem easy, just falsifying the voting, entering in ballots as many votes as we consider right for us! Or even easier: canceling elections as useless, still the majority of the population is not interested in them (see dynamics of voter turnout in the last decade).
But then it turns out that the election and free will are still regarded important by some citizens, and these citizens are active, capable of solidarity, resistance and self-organization. It turns out that there is not only subordinated population, but also the civil society in a country, besides the state and the elite that controls it. And undermining the election credibility, fraud and manipulations cause civil society’s strong dislike, up to the Orange Revolution. If authorities aren’t changed in the election, they are being changed in other ways.
And only the fear of the Orange Revolution or Arab Spring phenomena forces the authorities to follow the labor-intensive method as to creating new techniques. The techniques of holding the elections without the people's choice.
Alas, after two decades of independence, after the political experience acquired is almost impossible to return to the Stalinist version of the election. Sham elections are not to be brought back, no matter how one would like to do it. But one can cheat, can’t he?
Deceiving voters, using all the media propaganda power and administrative resources, bribing voters in the opponents’ ranks, all these skills have already been mastered in the heyday of political techniques of the second generation. But the skills have been mastered both by the ruling elite, and by those who would like to become it; thus, by the authorities and by its opponents. If we leaved things the way they are, both parties would have further continued competing in the improvement of political techniques of the second generation, until the cost of elections is equal to the GDP. But the outcome of this competition is not known beforehand. And the whole intrigue is to guarantee the result, saving the power.
All of these tasks, problems and troubles are solved (would have been solved) when out of the control proper of the political and electoral processes one is moving to the management of social life. After all, the very political and electoral processes are only a part of the social life of citizens. How to do it?
It turns out that is not too difficult, having at one’s disposal sufficient resources. Let’s reason in order.
Elections in politics, it is when out of several candidates people choose the one whom to entrust the power, and all the due attributes: resources, rights, and guarantees. And when it comes to the candidates’ competition, everything is determined by voters’ attitudes, qualities and virtues of candidates, and, of course, by the efficiency and effectiveness of political techniques. The winner is the one whose dignity is more appealing to voters, who is more experienced in political techniques. That is, when it comes to choosing the candidate, it’s late correcting anything.
But one can step back: not to choose between several candidates, but choose the one who will be the candidates! Political elections are governed by laws, they are held according to certain rules; international observers, candidates themselves, court and prosecutor's office, etc. monitor compliance with laws and regulations. But the choice of those who will be candidates is not so strictly regulated.
Yes, it is possible, through violation of the laws and rules, blocking the way of a popular and attractive citizen to become a candidate. Voters will know about him, while they will have to elect out of other candidates. But one will be charged afterwards with laws and regulations’ violations. And if the response is wrong, either the Orange Revolution or Arab Spring could happen.
And if trying to redirect voters' attention to the figures, whose appeal we will be able to control? One can, for example, discredit really dangerous and acceptable competitors well before the election, on the distant approaches, and propose managed and controllable people to the protest voters. These managed people will then become candidates. And since they are controlled, the degree of their appeal is controlled, also, as well as their rating growth or decline.
I’ve told many times already how it has worked in Belarus. A classic example is connected with Alaksandr Milinkevich who has acquired rich experience in the 2006 elections, has wised up, got a lot of influential friends and partners. He could’ve become dangerous in 2010. But in 2010, it was already too late to promote him. Therefore, the campaign to discredit him began immediately after the Ploshcha dispersal. And instead was promoted Alaksandr Kazulin, who was imprisoned in order to attract to him the attention of radical youth, to arouse sympathy of romantically inclined human rights defenders. Well, there was only left presenting a dozen of weak candidates who weren’t aspiring to something serious, and the was no reason to fear the outcome of the election.
Yes, the Belarusan regime is rude and blunt. Therefore, having won the situation in 2010, he blew himself. Yes, the regime did not hesitate to physically eliminate dangerous competitors in the past. But in the framework of the third-generation techniques, it is not necessary.
These techniques allow cultivating such leaders of the protest electorate that can themselves reduce these protests, make the energy of protesters take a safe course for the authorities. These leaders are not grown in test tubes, but suitable figures are found at the forefront of protesters.
And all this is happening against a background of complete delight of the protesters.
Well, the delight will continue until we understand what is being done to us.
In the meantime, here is one of the best sketches to the analysis of political techniques of the third generation by Andrey Illarionov:
With this special operation, the current authoritarian regime has seriously beaten Russian civil society. In the political and practical terms, the recovery of lost positions can take years to the society. Only understanding of what has happened, how it happened and why can accelerate the process.
The special operation coming to its final was one of the most large-scale and successful operations of the current authoritarian regime for all time of its existence. According to the degree of success, this special operation in domestic politics as on the preparing and carrying out aggression against the Russian public movement can apparently be compared to the most successful special operation in Russian foreign policy as on preparing and carrying out aggression against Georgia in 1999-2008.
The main short-term goals of the special operation is maximizing voter turnout at polling stations and, therefore, “legitimization” of “fair elections” have, certainly, been achieved. It should be particularly noted that the work to maximize voter turnout and to legitimize the "election" was basically made not by the regime, but by the “opposition”. In the Russian secret service it has always been considered highly professional action and special chic, conducting special operations at the expense of an enemy, in the truest sense of the word.
Along with it, a series of tactical, essential political and legal tasks for the regime has been solved: legitimization by Russian public opinion of selective choice of candidates “allowed to the competition” in local and federal elections, legitimization of the so-called “municipal filter”, legitimization of the “deputy apportionment” — distribution (selling) by the regime of pro-government deputies’ votes.
Political and ideological disorientation of the public movement was brilliantly held. Efficient and effective exchange of slogans of winter 2011-12 occurred, when there were demands of fair elections, recognition of illegitimate election results at the so-called parliamentary and presidential elections, resignation of officials who committed crimes against the electoral rights of citizens, on a non-political, absurd and unrealizable demand "Hold Navalny for mayor of Moscow!” The requirement for the release of political prisoners was de facto exchanged for a personal desire to directly participate in the share out of 1.6 trillion-budget of Moscow. The demand for freedom of political prisoners turned bought for the opportunity to "arrange benches".
Radical retrogression of the political debate was successfully implemented. There were thrown in Russian society xenophobic slogans and demands, being de facto recognized by the former as having the right to exist openly. A site of a popular radio station regarded as “liberal”, published openly a Nazi manifesto. Verbal aggression has become the norm, while being a sure precursor and herald of aggression in action. Wishes, requirements, dreams related to the implementation of direct physical violence were widely popularized and savored with great passion, as on “sending to forced labor”, “burning”, “hanging”, “killing”, “hanging on a hook”, “firing a rocket”, “directing a thermonuclear bomb”, “watching the glasses melt”...
Participants of the civil movement were successfully imposed on such directly immoral principles of behavior, such as: “The end justifies the means”, “He who is not with us is against us”, “Opponents must be destroyed - to begin with morally” (“as time for incineration hasn’t come yet“), “Political expediency is more important than ethical principle and philosophical position”, “We will close our eyes, ears, noses, and vote in such a way as unseeing, deaf, insensitive people”, “Yes, he is a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch!” The key condition for the country’s return to the civilized way of development through the rule of law has been replaced by lawlessness — now not only from the authorities’ part, but also by the so-called “opposition”.
Opponents of participation in the regime’ special operation, opponents of the so-called “Single uncontested leader of the opposition”, just citizens trying to sort out what exactly stands behind the noisy chatter extolling election techniques and hiding their ideological emptiness, they all underwent unprecedented aggressiveness of harassment, intimidation campaigns and moral terror, that were not only close by their violence to the Nazi Regime campaigns, but have probably already surpassed them. The main goal of such harassment, making opponents fall silent, was actually achieved in many cases.
A major medium-term task of the regime as to split the national movement was successfully solved. Violence of disputes, character of abuses, extent of harassment, unprecedented persecution of the opposition movement, drawing of the proscription lists on former allies in recent months have far exceeded the corresponding criticism concerning the regime. The most serious institution established by the national movement for all time of its existence, the Coordinating Council, was de facto eliminated.
The idea of joint, collective, parliamentary and therefore compromise and tolerant actions in relation to each other that had taken root with great difficulty in the national debate and the practice of the public movement was effectively replaced by the idea and practice of uncontested cult of the leader.
The key role in the regime’s special operation as to discredit and defeat the organized public movement has been still performed by Alexei Navalny, along with other members of the Navalny group, as well as with other “syslibs” [system liberals. — Translator's note], “opinion leaders”.
The specific method of solving the main regime’s strategic task towards the civil movement as to eliminate the latter hasn’t been chosen yet. Obviously, range of options extends from weakening the protest movement through discrediting its so-called “leaders” for their unlawful/illegal actions to its complete defeat modelled after the Belarusan sample of December 2010. In case of recognition by the regime of Alexei Navalny’s merits in disorientation, disorganization and disintegration of the public movement, and in case of admission by the regime of possibility of the further effective performance of “leader of the opposition” role, either complete cancel of the Navalny’s sentence imposed by the court Kirov, or replacement of the real sentence to a probation are possible.
The nature, the scale, the elegance of the special operation carried out, its operational support, dynamic adjustments along with the continuing variety of options for the regime evidence both the high intellectual potential of its developers and executors, and the successfully ongoing covering operation carried out, in particular, by such aggressively promoted theses as “the power has gone mad”, “they do not understand anything”, “their left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing”, “the factor of a fool”, etc.
And then what?
Technological development can not be stopped, although many would like to, and some do even try.
Moreover, alternation of techniques’ generations is only possible in a developing society, in an open society, different from the traditional one, where the same technologies can be cultivated for centuries.
Good or ill, but if political techniques become obsolete and should be changed not for the same type techniques, but for next-generation techniques, then our countries’ societies develop. The speed of alternation of technological generations may indicate the dynamism of development.
Situations where romantic political technicians of the first generation had to create, to fantasize, have become standard for the second generation of political technicians. These situations did not require creativity, but only routine operations. Accordingly, the second generation of political technicians easily beat creative and inventive political technicians of the first generation.
And as always, ruling clans, juntas, elites have now started implementing political techniques, and for them everything that bothered minds, ingenuity, even cynical one, of political technicians of the second generation has become a routine, too.
In autumn 2004, two groups of political technicians of the second-generation encountered at the Maidan square in Kiev. For them it was a situation that required all their creative and intellectual forces. The Maidan was a place for creativity, drive and energy. It was a game of almost equal contenders, a game with unpredictable results. And the winner was the best. While the Ukrainian authorities and the ruling elite were out of work, they just did not understand what was happening; they could not take adequate decisions.
But it took only two years, and the Kalinouski Square in Minsk became already a standard situation. It did not frighten the ruling clique of the regime; they knew how to behave and what to do. Some excitement and indecision on their part were caused only by the fact that they had to resolve a situation that could escalate into a color revolution, for the first time; for the first time, but with a predictable result. The regime was fully prepared for this situation, which has already become standard.
Year 2010 in Belarus was the first demonstration of the completeness of political techniques of the third generation. Hidden behind the ideological chatter and shock after December 19, everything that happened in the course of 2010 was left without analysis and evaluation. Therefore, brothers Russians have been forced to make our discoveries anew. Well, let it be, repetition helps to memorize the lessons learnt.
There’s no need to regret the past, the beauty and romance of political struggle of the first generation political techniques’ era. There’s need to create new situations in which the third-generation political techniques will be ineffective. This does not mean that we have to rush and invent political techniques of the fourth generation. Perhaps, it will be enough making useless and meaningless political techniques of today’s Belarusan and Russian ruling clans. In Ukraine, there have not yet been applied political techniques of the third generation, but if Yanukovych decides to stay and establish new ruling clan over the long haul, then he will need to resort to the same methods as Lukashenka and Putin did. And Kiev may once again become a political trendsetter of our time.
In Minsk, we are just not in time for 2015. All that can be done in Minsk is not to play along with the regime, not to become puppets in its play called “elections”. But I'm afraid that we are late in this affair, as well. It has turned out that the public likes such performances. So, a candidate for Navalny is being looked for in Minsk. Yet, there is no such role. Navalny is a performer of an old role in a new play.
There is nothing new under the sun. And the political techniques of the third generation are not new either. They took a lot from the Stalin's Soviet techniques. And something in them is even more ancient. And the role, performed by Navalny in the Moscow’s play in September is as old as politics itself and intrigue in it.
This article was originally published on September 13, 2013 in Russian.
Translated by Yauheniya Kislaya.
Other news section «Political techniques in modern authoritarian regimes»