Poverty, Debt, and Resistance

A cross-post from the other blog.

On reducing resistance to Empire via debt loads, instead of death camps.

Denis Grekov considers how a weak economy and rising public indebtedness affect ordinary Russians’ readiness to protest

In Russia today, the cost of stability is at an all time high. Today, the Russian authorities are compelled to dedicate more and more resources to overcome a growing crisis of confidence in their ability to govern efficiently. It is often remarked that sanctions, stagnation, endemic corruption at all levels of the “power vertical,” and the country’s technological and economic lag will inevitably lead to the collapse of the Putin regime. But are things really that simple? What is mentioned less often is the fact that these same factors may also help to preserve of domestic political stability. For example, the use of emergency powers, a strengthened determination to retain a hold on power, strong-armed economic methods to control poverty, and increasing emigration all play a role in stabilising the regime. These are troubled times, but troubled times present the powerful with new opportunities.

It is worth mentioning that Russia’s deteriorating economic situation has led to a convergence between Moscow and the regions. In absolute terms, the gap between incomes in the capital and elsewhere in the country decreased from 2.5 to 1.9 times by 2017. This means that in Moscow, once the epicentre of protest sentiment, the share of the middle class is declining and the number of people more or less dependent on state funds is growing (remember that the state has a share of up to 70% in the Russian economy.) Meanwhile, despite official statements to the contrary, the conditions for small business have become progressively more difficult over the past few years. We need only remember the “night of the bulldozers” in 2016 (when local authorities in Moscow tore down over a hundred “unregistered” kiosks and small shops – ed.) or the new “anti-money laundering” initiatives introduced this April, which allow banks to block “suspicious” accounts and blacklist them, while allowing them to withdraw money up to 20% of the account balance. As such, overall private debt is increasing; small and medium sized businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on external funds. This has important political consequences; it is undermining the economic foundations of many of Russia’s protest movements. The typical belolentochnik (White Ribbon protester – ed.) in the eponymous mass protests of 2012 was a Muscovite member of the middle class whose financial stability allowed him to participate in protests with relatively few repercussions, and to sponsor civic organisations and support other activists.

Russia’s Managed Poverty, by Denis Grekov

[snipped some sci-fi… but most is kept below, to alert the reader of another control tool.]

The First Imperium was closest to Stalin’s Russia than anything else. For one thing, there was no money in the Ziru Sirka, just a certain allotment of resources depending on your caste, position, location, etc. No money = no ownership, no private income, no personal resources.

Second, everything everywhere was tied to the three major bureaux (bureaucratic corporate-government-castes). Again, no private business = no private resources. Obey, or starve/die/get a personality rebuild.

As far as economists are concerned, the current situation looks grim. But the authorities may take a different view; as we have seen, growing levels of indebtedness correlate very well with the decrease in protest activity. Of course, this does not mean that people are satisfied with the situation, but when their incomes mostly go towards loan repayments, the average Russian citizen begins to regard participation in public protests as much riskier and potentially much more expensive. They risk more than just having to pay a large fine; even a simple job redundancy due to an administrative arrest could have huge repercussions given that 32% of Muscovites and 43% of residents of the regions have no savings whatsoever.

Russia’s Managed Poverty, by Denis Grekov

Ever wondered why Jesus preached a good deal more on money than on heaven or hell? Or the Proverbs pounded on and on about good business practices? Or the Law was so stringent on predictable weights and measures for trade?

You can’t be free if you are a debt slave. You can’t lead in public life if you are dependent on a single employer or a Great Man for your daily bread.

Let he who has ears to hear, hear.

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