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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Evolving From Private Jets to Communism

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I recently paid a visit to someone living in a prestigious apartment building with a great view of the Kremlin. The complex was built during the final years of the Soviet Union to house members of the political elite. Some of the residents struck it rich when capitalism appeared, while others suffered a decline in fortunes and opted to sell their apartments or rent them out to wealthy Russians or foreigners. Nevertheless, amidst the sea of expensive imported cars in the building's parking lot, you can still spot a couple of Soviet-era Volga cars and a few Zhigulis.

A rack with free newspapers stood in the spacious entry hall on the ground floor. Next to Elite Real Estate were issues of Dostroika, or Completing Construction, the newspaper of the Union of Right Forces party, or SPS.

"What do you think of them?" the concierge asked me unexpectedly, referring to SPS.

"Honestly, I don't think about them at all. They are all leftovers from the Yelstin era, which means they only know how to lie and steal," I said, playing up to the elderly woman, who was probably working as a concierge to supplement her miserly pension. After all, you will rarely find a pensioner who likes liberals.

"That's what everyone says," she responded with unexpected sadness.

"Do you have a child who works for Dostroika?" I asked.

"No," she said. "But I distribute the paper around the city."

I picked up a copy and read through it at my leisure. The first thing that caught my attention was the shoddy quality of the paper itself. But even more shocking was the content. All of the articles spoke about how poorly pensioners live under President Vladimir Putin's administration and how their only hope for a decent life as a pensioner is with SPS. I found it extremely difficult to read this long diatribe to the end.

The SPS publication reminded me of the low-quality newspapers that I frequently came across in the provinces in the early 1990s; they were put out by the communists and had similar content. I even recalled how their editorial offices looked: small rooms in local state-owned printing houses, where middle-aged people knocked out their fiery masterpieces on typewriters. Perhaps the only difference is that the communists sold their publications to the working class at public gathering places, while SPS distributes their newspapers for free to the wealthy in elite apartment buildings.

This got me thinking about the evolution of liberalism in Russia.

In 1993, liberals in government used tanks to fire at the Russian White House, which served as the parliament at the time, because the politicians who had barricaded themselves inside the building were fierce opponents of the Kremlin's liberal economic policies. The Yeltsin administration openly declared that the government's economic course was not intended to provide a safety net for the weak. Back then, liberals called these anti-Yeltsin lawmakers "red-browns."

In the run-up to the 1996 presidential election, the liberals sounded a loud alarm throughout Russia and the world as to what horrors would take place if the communists were to return to power.

During the State Duma elections in 2003, SPS unleashed a barrage of television ads that showed party leaders Anatoly Chubais, Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada speaking from the cabin of a private jet.

For the 2007 election campaign, SPS has now decided to show its concern for society's most humiliated and downtrodden, and publishing a paper of low quality is evidently one manifestation of this.

If this trend in Russian liberalism continues, SPS will be using Stalinist slogans in the next elections in 2011.That is, of course, if the liberals, led by Nemtsov and Masha Gaidar, don't join the Communist Party by then.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Strategii i Praktika Izdatelskogo Biznesa, a magazine for publishing business professionals.