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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

POWER PLAY: Bureaucracy Lurks Behind 'Civil' Society




In the name of "reform," the new administration is rapidly creating an omnipotent government, a bureaucratic state. Surely none of those running the Kremlin now ever read the books of Ludwig Von Mises, whose writings against such methods are a timely warning that omnipotent governments are consistently ineffective in the long run.


At least three countries know that better than any others: Russia, Germany, Italy. The latter two have learned their lessons from history and now prosper. But our country always seeks its own way.


Now the Kremlin administration has developed a phrase for that old/new way: "manageable democracy." Read: Democratic institutions - whether parliament or civil associations - should be preserved, but their essence should be carefully selected, so that those assumed to be representatives of society will be de facto representatives of the state: obedient, indebted to those who chose them.


The latest Kremlin neologism is "nedogovorosposobny," one with whom it is impossible to make a deal. The inventor is Alexander Voloshin, the reappointed chief of staff. Those nedogovorosposobnye unwilling to cut deals with the Kremlin are enemies who should be treated as such. The list of nedogovorosposobnye is not short. It includes politicians, newspapers, TV stations, human rights groups and other organizations of civil society. The policy for dealing with them is unimaginative, but no less efficient. Some have been stripped of access to countrywide TV channels. Others who can still express their views will be replaced by associations the Kremlin has selected or will select.


One organization that has been left out in the cold is the Russian Jewish Congress, a charitable foundation that spent over $6 million last year to support the educational, cultural, religious and other needs of a community that lived through centuries of state-run oppression. But RJC's most invaluable contribution - as a longtime volunteer, I should know - is that many members of the community see it as a source of protection if things get ugly. RJC is an umbrella organization for some 60 other Jewish organizations. That makes it dangerous for the bureaucratic state, all the more so since the RJC president is Vladimir Gusinsky, whose Media-MOST is at now odds with the Kremlin.


Now, in the secrecy of the Kremlin and through the invisible hand of Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, another organization - the Federation of Jewish communities - has been developed, which will be loyal to its creators and pronounced as the only representative of the community, thus marginalizing RJC and others. In a more startling development, Adolf Shayevich, the chief rabbi of Russia and a member of the presidium of the RJC, got a call Wednesday from the Kremlin administration, asking him to resign.


Never mind that most who hide behind this Kremlin creation never gave a cent to the needy. Never mind that their cynicism (what is good for my pocket is good for the country) is the source of a growing anti-Semitism. Substance doesn't matter.


Dogovorosposobnost matters. Quasi-civic organizations are the only ones a bureaucratic state can tolerate. Once again, the ends justify the means. The problem is that the ends for the Kremlin and for the rest of the nation are different.


Yevgenia Albats is an independent journalist based in Moscow.