“Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis) is the belief in liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, and the free exercise of religion.”
A high-ranked official from the United Russia party Andrei Isaev produced an anti-liberal manifesto, “What does the ideology of liberalism bring to Russia?” (Yes, it’s that Isaev who on Dec. 30, while congratulating Russians with the approaching New Year, told them that in 2012, they will face “a new battle for the freedom and independence of Russia against attempts by the United State of America to establish control over our country.”) Isaev is in charge of the party propaganda portfolio, so his desire to bring some ideological clarity — at the time when United Russia struggles to formulate its “ideology” – is quite understandable.
According to Isaev, the major ideological threat to Russia comes from liberalism, which, as Isaev regretfully notes, is becoming a “fashionable ideology” in the country. Too bad, says Isaev. It was liberals “who flooded France with blood” (that’s how Isaev interprets the historic events of the French Revolution). It’s liberals who, while speaking of the freedom of religion, harass the Church, including as of late the Russian Orthodox Church. And, to my great surprise, it was liberals who caused the split of Serbia and the creation of independent Kosovo.
Naturally, Isaev reserves the harshest words for the home-grown followers of liberalism:
“The major political recipe of [Russian] liberals is the return to the 90s when there were many parties, no parliamentary majorities, endless discussions going, and new Cabinets and coalitions [constantly] formed.”
What a horror! Compare that to the virtues of “social conservatism” espoused by Isaev. Would it not be nice to have no political parties created without explicit nod from the Kremlin? Would it not be nice for United Russia to always have the constitutional majority in the Duma (and the Duma itself being not a place for discussions)? And would it not be nice to have the same ministers occupying their seats for years regardless of performance? Heaven!
Quite expectedly, Isaev composed a long list of people responsible for the shameful perversion of the intrinsically conservative Russian soul; Grigory Yavlinsky, Mikhail Prokhorov, Alexey Kudrin and Igor Yurgens top the list. Yet, I couldn’t shake off the impression that the real target of Isaev’s manifesto was none other than his fellow “edinoross” Vladimir Pligin, the chairman of the Duma committee on constitutional law.
Pligin is well-respected by the presidential administration and the Cabinet as the most prolific lawmaker of the United Russia Duma faction: for the past 12 months – even despite the distractions of the election season – Pligin has introduced 18 draft laws (compared to Isaev’s three). Besides, he’s one of the very few people in the party leadership who does have coherent ideological views. Recently, Pligin jumped into the ring by insisting that in order to remain relevant, United Russia must develop a solid liberal platform, morphing eventually into a right-of-center party.
As United Russia is facing unavoidable and unavoidably painful “re-branding” – with likely cadre reshuffling and even change of the formal leadership — the internal squabbles are bound to intensify. And as it often happens in politics, fighting for the place under the sun takes shape of “ideological” debates. It thus appears that Isaev’s anti-liberal fatwa is just one of the first salvos of the future battles.