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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Liberals' Masquerade

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The topic of leftism in Russia has become surprisingly fashionable of late. More and more voters are beginning to sympathize with leftist -- in other words, socialist -- ideas.

New terminology and concepts are being thought up, such as the "office proletariat," which is supposedly dreaming of a crusade against the postindustrial bourgeoisie as represented by their exploitative bosses. Even Mikhail Khodorkovsky's last article in Vedomosti talked about the inevitable left turn the country was about to take.

Strangely enough, those on the right seem to be the firmest believers that the country is headed left. They have gotten so scared that they are now rushing to give everyone the impression that they are leftists. Yesterday's devout democrats are now willing to present themselves as social democrats. For example, the formal leader of the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, Nikita Belykh, has announced that his party will consciously avoid its traditional right-wing slogans in upcoming regional elections. Liberal State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov continues to gripe about the government's replacement of in-kind benefits with cash payments, though this position would make a lot more sense coming from a Rodina deputy. Liberal politician Irina Khakamada has called for liberals to look left and has proposed using the social-democratic slogan of "freedom and justice."

In essence, the right wing is moving in on someone else's niche in the political market, but those who are already clustered in this market segment have no intention of yielding to them.

And it is no easy task to repackage former liberals as left-leaning fighters for the happiness of the people. The political product they're offering is an obvious fake.

The masquerade that certain liberals have thought up will not do them much good. It's no accident that some far-sighted politicians from the right are calling for voters to boycott elections. Then, these politicians will be able to leave the stage with their heads held high. They will be able to comfort themselves with the thought that they would have won, but did not want to participate in the farce.

Nonetheless, this session of dress-up is more than just a sign that the current political forces on the right are in decline. There is another important circumstance. There are two basic ways to get your share of the good things in life: the way of the homo economicus and that of the homo politicus. The first kind of people tries to succeed by engaging in economic activity. They use their talents to make money. The second type tries to get their hands on the goodies by exploiting their political resources, either via a paternalistic state or at the very least via an uprising of the underprivileged and deprived.

Apparently, the number of homo politicus in Russia is growing in proportion to the price of oil. Those currently in power are setting the tone by spending all their time bustling around petrodollars. An ever-increasing number of parties is banking on the homo politicus. Certain right-wing politicians even seem willing to become Leninesque revolutionaries and are on the verge of demanding a revolt that would give homo politicus an excellent opportunity to redistribute the goodies the way folks did in Kyrgyzstan -- by stealing stolen goods.

Large-scale leftist interference would betray the interests of homo economicus. Naturally, there are more people on the left than on the right in Russia. But this does not mean that the rights of the few rightists should be defended by the daughters of the political superstars of the early 1990s. I personally would prefer a politician with at least an MBA who spends less time playing dress-up.

Konstantin Siminov, the director of the Center for Current Politics in Russia, contributed this comment to Vedomosti.