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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others'

It will not be the first time democratic elections are held in Russia, yet this does not make understanding the political spectrum any easier. It seems that either those on the "right" are showing "left" inclinations or the left is being carried toward the right. Indeed, the electorate has behaved contrary to expectations: Election results have proven again and again to contradict almost all predictions and polls.


To understand what is happening, let's try to shift our habit of seeing politics as either left or right and instead look at how society is divided and reflects the political spectrum.


In any society, anywhere from 6 to 20 percent of the working population can be found that strives not to work under any circumstances. We'll call them bearers of a "lumpen" psychology. Their opposites, carriers of a "professional" psychology, on the contrary, are always hard at work. The third group includes those who vie to be in charge in order to have the advantages of power. In the U.S.S.R., such people tried to land positions on the lists of the nomenklatura, from which they could not be removed. I will call these people carriers of "nomenklatura" psychology.


Pure representatives of each type probably make up not more than half of society. The rest share characteristics of several groups or are capable of going from one group to another, depending on their living conditions and what position is more advantageous at the time. For example, one can find people from the lumpen group among professionals. There are also lumpen within the nomenklatura. In Russia, the so-called "thieves-in-law" are an example of such people.


Those who bear a lumpen psychology are not only drawn from marginal layers of society, the criminal world and joblessness, but in the U.S.S.R., were represented in all layers of society and professions and were used to receiving money on the basis of their loyalty and physical presence at work.


All such people live by the motto that was devised by a comic hero of a popular Soviet film: "Wherever I have worked, I only have not worked." Their basic income and needs are limited to "bread and circuses," and the means of satisfying them is "at the expense of others," whether it be parents, society (in the form of the government), "class enemies," non-Russians, the rich -- in a word, everyone from whom one can grab something. In any society, they make up the social base for crime and the extreme right and extreme left.


Contrary to the lumpen group are the professionals who are society's main producers. For them, work is a means of self-realization and well-being. It is not power but a career, professional growth and an increase in the quality of life that interests them. They are creative and competitive on the job market, which makes them less socially aggressive but more individualistic. This last quality makes it more difficult for such people to form political unions. If they make up the majority of the "middle class" and are in greater numbers than other groups, then society can rest assured about its present and future.


The nomenklatura, which knows how to mask the true motives of its conduct, is the group most closed to study. This is a fellowship of average people, whom one could characterize by George Orwell's slogan: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." Not having the ability, occasion or desire to vie with professionals on an even playing field, the representative of the nomenklatura provides himself with advantages he derives from the power of a clan. Some are born into this group; others make their way into it through party, government or social connections or as a result of an advantageous marriage. In any case, their basic interests and needs have a family-like cooperative nature. For such people, work is usually something of a pretense. Everything that the nomenklatura has can only be defended collectively by reserving the right to change the rules of the game, since the loss of any position of power is undesirable and even dangerous. They manage to hold on to power, by soliciting the support of the lumpen group and narrowing the opportunities for professionals to advance socially, including using repression and war.


It is not difficult to understand how someone from the lumpen group might vote for Vladimir Zhirinovsky on the federal level and Boris Nemtsov on the local level. The grandiose plans and manners of the LDPR leader strikes such a person as victory for himself, but only on a state level where he is guaranteed impunity. On the local level, such a leader may not act to his own advantage, since these guarantees do not exist.


The electorate of Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov is more difficult to determine. Of course, the lumpen group is also strongly represented here and is mainly made up of the nomenklatura of a secondary echelon, which was left without power nor its piece of state property as a result of the reforms. But there are also those who are convinced supporters of the communist idea. Many elderly people, whose best years were spent during the war and reconstruction of the country, when the administrative-command system seemed justified and the only one possible. They simply do not think of other conditions, especially since they lost most of what they had worked hard for during their lives.


The "party in power," now as in the past, is unquestionably the party of the nomenklatura, although in many cases it will be supported by professionals. Included in this group are Our Home Is Russia, in the strict sense, and Russia's Democratic Choice, which, to a large degree, is made up of "professionals from the nomenklatura." Former Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov and Women of Russia also belong to this category, although the relationship of the latter is hard to determine, insofar as women in Russia are not normally associated with the nomenklatura given their position in society.


Is there a party of professionals and who are their leaders? During the previous elections, this role was filled by the Yabloko faction, although conditionally, because of the absence of a serious alternative, which the small faction was unable to provide. It is better to speak not of parties but rather of deputies and presidential candidates from among the professional group. Such people include Grigory Yavlinsky, Alexander Lebed, Svyatoslav Fyodorov, Galina Starovoitova, Sergei Kovalyov and a few others. If they unite and create a "government of honest people," then the professionals have a chance of winning the election, although not a very large one. But in this case, they could count on a maximum of 30 percent of the vote in the first round if, of course, the elections are fair.


Any other attempt at a "government of national accord" is doomed to the heroes' fate of the fable about the swan, the crab and the pike. The load that they tried to carry in vain will remain in place.





Tatyana Matsuk, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Employment Studies and the Russian Labor Ministry, contributed this essay to The Moscow Times.