The restoration of capitalism carried out by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU in the USSR in the 1980s led, as Trotsky had predicted in the 1930s, to a fall in the population’s standard of living equivalent to that experienced during times of war.
By Diego Russo
The fall in industrial production was more pronounced than what occurred during World War II. The USSR went from being the world’s second economic power, and the first country to send a human being into space, to becoming a mere exporter of primary resources such as gas, oil, and minerals. Once a source of national pride, public education and healthcare were dismantled. Teachers, doctors, and nurses were forced to live in misery, accepting small bribes in order to survive. The social gains of the revolution were eliminated one by one. Contrary to what the defenders of capitalism claimed—that capitalist restoration would bring wealth and prosperity—it brought only setbacks, as Trotsky predicted.
The restoration of capitalism in the former USSR was not the result of the country’s occupation by the imperialist powers. The restoration of capitalism was carried out by the CPSU with Gorbachev at its head, and accompanied by “socialist and Leninist” speeches to confuse public opinion. It was Stalinism, and no other, which restored capitalism. But the reaction of the masses followed on the heels of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s crime. Capitalist restoration began in 1986, and in 1988 a wave of struggles broke out in various regions of the former USSR, which reached their peak in 1989 with the unification of the demands of the oppressed nationalities and the economic demands of the working class, with the working class at the front lines. This immense popular uprising first overthrew the CPSU’s monopoly on power (article 6 of the Soviet Constitution) and continued until the complete overthrow of the party responsible for capitalist restoration. This process led to the independence of a number of nations, such as Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), the countries of the South Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia), and the Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). In a true domino effect, the process unfolded together with the uprisings that overthrew the Stalinist dictatorships throughout Eastern Europe (Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, ex-Czechoslovakia, ex-East Germany, ex-Yugoslavia, Albania). It was a continental revolution in fact, comparable only in its extent and results to the wave of uprisings that swept Nazism out of Europe at the end of World War II.
It was a revolution that was strong enough to overthrow a dozen dictatorships in one fell swoop, but did not stop the process of capitalist restoration. This is not surprising given that the restoration was carried out by the Communist Party itself, while any left-wing opposition to the Stalinist dictatorship had been harshly repressed for more than half a century. There was simply no political organization in the USSR and Eastern Europe opposed to the restoration and privatization and with sufficient influence on the masses.
After the overthrow of the CPSU regime, Boris Yeltsin, a former Communist Party leader who had been promoted by Gorbachev, took power in Russia, the largest of the republics of the former USSR. Yeltsin’s government was the face of the economic disaster resulting from capitalist restoration. An alcoholic, who represented the interests of the new commercial and banking bourgeoisie that emerged from the previous years’ looting, and surrounded by advisors linked to US and European imperialism, he handed over the country at rock-bottom prices.
In those years, the immense wave of popular resistance that had started in 1988 was able to defeat the military coup’s attempt to re-establish the dictatorship in 1991, and continued in a process of struggles, strikes, and road blockades until the end of the 1990s, paralyzing Yeltsin’s government. These struggles led to the so-called “railway war” in 1998, in which miners from all over the country, with broad support from the population, blockaded all railroads, demanding the payment of back wages. The struggle spread throughout the country, threatening to oust Yeltsin and his entire government. During more than ten years from 1988 to 1999 the Russian working class struggled heroically and uninterruptedly, preventing any stabilization of a capitalist alternative.
In short, the Stalinist bureaucracy, having not been overthrown in time by the masses and having destroyed Bolshevism in the 1930s, restored capitalism in the 1980s, thus becoming the country’s new bourgeoisie. And then the masses took to the streets to fight against the social consequences of the restoration, overthrowing the Stalinist-bourgeois dictatorship and preventing, with the force of their revolt, the stabilization of a new bourgeois power. History so far has confirmed Trotsky’s predictions.
But this is half of the story. There is still a second half which, as Marxists, we have an obligation to explain. At the turn of the millennium, Yeltsin appointed Putin to power. And these twenty-something years since with Putin at the helm of Russia were different from the Yeltsin years.
Putin stabilized the country politically, interrupted the ongoing process of self-determination of the territories of the former USSR, centralized the Russian bourgeoisie, reaffirmed Russian influence over most of the countries and peoples that had been part of the USSR, and established himself as an important actor in world geopolitics. He dismantled the strike movement and the trade unions, and interrupted the country’s strike wave. There was a relative improvement to the standard of living of part of the Russian population (until 2014), including improvements in public services in big cities. In the heyday of this period, the Russian middle class could travel abroad on vacation, buy foreign cars instead of the old Ladas, and feel like “real Europeans”.
According to the ideological propaganda of the Russian regime “Russia, before it kneels, will rise again.” For two decades Putin had very high levels of popular support. He actively intervened in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Venezuela, Caucasus, Belarus, Central Asia, etc. He annexed Crimea and maintains pro-Russian pockets within the borders of several other countries. He is an idol of the so-called “new European right” and at the same time of part of the Latin American left, especially that of Stalinist origin.
It is this process that we will try to explain in this article. How did this turn in the political situation occur in the transition from Yeltsin’s government to Putin’s? How did a revolutionary situation become reactionary? Where does Putin’s supposed “strength” come from? What is the character of his government and regime, and what are the prospects for the country and the surrounding regions?
Oil, gas, and mass immigration
Western analysts generally refer to one fundamental reason to explain Putin’s success: high oil and gas prices over the past two decades. And indeed, Russia ranks second in the world in terms of both production and export of these fossil fuels. And prices remained consistently high until the onset of the global crisis, and even after a sharp drop, they have remained high in the recent period. This makes it possible to generate a significant surplus for Russian coffers.
This, in turn, allowed for the mitigation of some of the restoration’s effects, such as maintaining public services that were destroyed in other countries where capitalism was restored, or having a slower privatization plan. The high oil revenues accumulated by the State allowed for low taxes and the maintenance of public services at acceptable levels, which had an impact on the population’s standard of living. There was no need to resort to private healthcare and education, although it was often necessary to pay small bribes for services. Public tariffs, such as water, gas, heating, and electricity, had risen sharply in price, but are still low compared to other countries. Gasoline was also cheaper, even though its price had been increasing.
In addition to the oil boom, the world economic growth attracted foreign investment, which also contributed to a relative growth in the Russian economy, making extensive use of cheap immigrant labor from the former Soviet republics, especially from Central Asia and the Caucasus. In this period Russia became the top third immigrant-receiving country in the world, behind only the USA and Germany. Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, as well as Ukrainians, Belarusians and the peoples of the Caucasus, came to constitute an important and highly exploited part of the Russian working class. Their countries’ economic decline forced these workers to migrate to Russia in order to support their families. The high price of the ruble that was maintained until 2014 due to the oil boom, meant that even with low wages these immigrants were able to send part of their earnings back to their families in their home countries. Remittances from immigrants in many cases were the main source of income in some of these countries. By way of comparison, wages in factories and construction sites in Russia today are lower than wages in equivalent jobs in China.
But these economic elements don’t explain the whole. It is neither oil nor immigrant labor that explains low wages, the atomization of society, the absence of workers’ organizations, Russian chauvinism, reactionary ideologies, etc. After all, not all countries that export oil and gas, or that receive immigrants en masse, enjoy the stability of the Russian regime. To understand the full picture, it is necessary to add an analysis of political factors to the economic ones.
The Chechen war
The event that marked the transition from Yeltsin’s government to Putin’s government was the Second Chechen War (1999). During and after the dissolution of the USSR, national movements repressed by decades of Stalinism came to the fore in various regions of Russia. The “hottest” spot in this regard was the North Caucasus, which encompasses a number of historically oppressed peoples and regions, such as Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya, among others. The Russian Federation has about 160 different nationalities, oppressed by the Russian majority. Russia under Yeltsin had been defeated in the First Chechen War (1994), then living as a de facto independent region. And Dagestan was on the same path, which would lead to the loss of the entire Russian Caucasus region, which in turn could serve as an impetus for other independence movements.
It was at this time that Yeltsin appointed Putin, a former KGB agent and head of its successor organization, the Federal Security Service or FSB, as Prime Minister. Putin was appointed in August 1999 and by September he coordinated operations against the national movement in Dagestan and initiated the Second Chechen War. The war was brutal, the capital Grosniy was destroyed by Russian artillery, the national movement was massacred, and a sector of the Chechen bourgeoisie led by the Kadyrov clan, made a pact with Putin to share power under rule by Moscow, thus building an ultra-reactionary and repressive regime. The terrorist attacks on Russian territory prepared public opinion for the massive support of Putin’s military actions in the Caucasus. There are serious indications that these attacks were fabricated by the Russian government itself (the FSB). They fulfilled the role that the September 11 attacks would play for Bush just years later, giving him the opportunity to win public opinion, restrict democratic freedoms, centralize the State and undertake military aggression against other peoples.
In this way, Putin and the FSB regime gained political strength, defeated the independence and trade union movements, and built up the ideology that the country would again be “rising from its knees” and “reconstructing the Russian Empire.” Putin used this political force to discipline and centralize the Russian bourgeoisie around him, eliminating dissenters, cleansing opponents from the political space, and building a strongly Bonapartist regime in which all other institutions were subordinated to Putin and the powerful FSB. The regime he sought to create was one whose main task was to prevent self-determination of the peoples under Moscow’s control and to preserve Russia’s status as a privileged semi-colony, which would maintain influence (and profits) in countries nearby and those of the former USSR. Therefore, Putin’s regime is a structurally reactionary one internally and directly counterrevolutionary in relation to the processes of national independence in its area of influence.
In 1999 the Popular Front and the Communist Party prepare for defeat.
How did Putin manage to make this transition from a wave of popular dissatisfaction and struggle to victory in the Second Chechen War and the building of his Bonapartist regime? How did he succeed where Bush, with far more resources, could not? How, in the context of a revolutionary situation, with a great upsurge of workers and oppressed peoples, did the sinister FSB become the regime’s key institution for the first time since the death of Stalin? The key to understanding all this is the Primakov-Maslyukov Popular Front government, a front between the FSB and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), which came to save Yeltsin’s neck and clear the way for Putin.
During the immense wave of struggles against Yeltsin, the Communist Party appeared to be in opposition to the government. Primakov, a former member of Gorbachev’s Presidential Council, former head of the KGB/FSB, former member of the CPSU, and at that time without affiliation to any party, was chosen as Prime Minister by Yeltsin under pressure from parliament. He thus became the new head of government with the support of the CPRF (and practically all parties since it was a national unity government), with Maslyukov of the CPRF as his deputy prime minister and person responsible for the country’s economic portfolio. In this way, the FSB returned to the center of power at the hands of the CPRFR, an arrangement that has continued to this day. The government of Primakov-Maslyukov was then seen by the masses as a beacon of hope, a government that would stop privatization, restore public services, and meet the strikers’ demands, etc.
But what the regime actually did was quite the opposite. After assuming power, Primakov declared that he was not preparing any “red revenge” nor would he halt the course of pro-capitalist reforms. On the contrary, taking advantage of his popularity, he prevented the fall of Yeltsin, demobilized the ongoing struggles, negotiated a new agreement with the IMF, carried out a maxi devaluation of the ruble, and approved a series of very harsh reforms which Yeltsin had lacked the strength to implement, including tax reform. Demobilization and disappointment with the new government clearly played a demoralizing role. After ten years of uninterrupted struggle, the overthrow of the Stalinist dictatorship, the prevention of the 1991 attempted coup, the near defeat of the Yeltsin government, the workers and the oppressed peoples of Russia found themselves tired, disillusioned, and without an alternative. Disillusioned with bourgeois democracy, with capitalism, with Stalinism (identified with socialism). It is in this swamp of weariness and general disillusionment with everything and everyone that the ultra-reactionary and chauvinist ideologies of reconstruction of the Russian Empire begin to sprout.
It was this state of demoralization that allowed them to dismantle the struggles and strikes, to prepare for Yeltsin’s successor, and prepare the provocation which primed public opinion for the new war against Chechnya. Having fulfilled his nefarious role (this government lasted only eight months), Yeltsin dismissed the Primakov-Maslyukov government and a few months later resigned and handed power over to Putin with the ground laid for his counter-revolutionary offensive. Primakov was still popular and was the favorite in the 2000 presidential elections. But two months before the election he withdrew his candidacy, leaving room for Putin’s electoral victory and his consolidation of power. As a reward, Primakov becomes Putin’s advisor and performed a number of functions in his government until his death. And the CPRF, as a reward for its services rendered was incorporated as part of the new regime, becoming the main party of the so-called “pro-Putin opposition.”
Without understanding this other Stalinist betrayal that opened the doors to Putin, one cannot understand Russia today.
A turning point in the political situation
Putin’s victory reversed the balance of forces that opened with the 1989-1991 revolution which overthrew the country’s Stalinist dictatorship, closing a ten-year revolutionary stage and opening up a reactionary, and directly counterrevolutionary stage in the North Caucasus which has continued to this day. The new Russian bourgeoisie under Yeltsin was living a serious contradiction since it faced the task of completing the restoration of capitalism in a country where there was a significant uprising of workers and popular struggles. For its part, the working class was fresh from the victory over the Stalinist dictatorship responsible for the restoration of capitalism and had won a series of democratic freedoms. Independent trade unions were being organized, there was political effervescence, and new political groupings were emerging. The immense ideological confusion among the masses (associating socialism with Stalinism and democracy with capitalism) was accompanied by a powerful process of self-organization and powerful workers’ strikes in defense of their demands. No serious capitalist restructuring plan was possible in a country with so much political upheaval. No one would invest in a country under these conditions. That is why China, where the uprising against Stalinism had been crushed by the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party, became the priority destination for capitalist investments, even though it was led by the Chinese CP. The Russian bourgeoisie needed “stability” above all in order to be able to rebuild the bourgeois order. It needed to stifle the national movements and the workers’ uprisings. It needed its own massacre of Tiananmen Square. Putin achieved this with the Second Chechen War.
Putin relied heavily on the notorious Russian patriotism to consolidate the population around him, stalling independence movements in the country, asserting Moscow’s control over the whole territory, and that of the former Soviet republics. He then built a new regime different from that of Yeltsin, which was strongly Bonapartist, based on national oppression and the exploitation of non-Russian peoples and nations and, at the same time, on the exploitation of the Russian people themselves who were intoxicated with nationalist sentiment. It can be characterized as an ultra-reactionary regime, with the FSB/KGB as its central institution. It intervened in neighboring countries repressing popular movements and asserting itself as a regional bastion of the counter-revolution. This counterrevolutionary role became evident in its response to the revolutions in Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, Belarus, Kazakhstan, etc. It has also expressed support of counterrevolutionary regimes in the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as in distant regions, such as Cuba, Mali, Venezuela or Nicaragua. Putin is always ready to support any dictatorship.
At the same time, from the economic point of view, it is a regime that perfectly suits the semi-colonial character of the Russian state, which is dependent on foreign capital and technology, suffering from the deindustrialization, privatization, and “primarization” of its economy. It is a country that has become increasingly a supplier of oil, gas, and minerals to the great industrial powers. The country has become deeply indebted and dependent, technologically backward, and eaten away by the corruption of a totally dependent bourgeoisie and State bureaucracy, who are the intermediaries of the imperialist plunder of Russia and its neighboring countries.
A factor that keeps Putin’s government stable today is the absence of political alternatives. After Putin’s party, United Russia, the second political force remains the CPRF. While the party engages in populist agitation against some reforms (without actually mobilizing and limiting itself to small demonstrations to stake out its position and take electoral advantage), fundamentally it defends Putin’s policies, especially at the international level. The Russian Communist Party supported the annexation of Crimea, being more realistic than the king and “demanding” from Putin the recognition of the occupied regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as autonomous states, they also advocated for repression against the revolution in Belarus and Kazakhstan, etc. The Communist Party is also against democratic demonstrations in Russia, including those in protest of the arrest of liberal opposition leader Navalniy last year. In people’s minds, if the choice is between Putin and a faded red copy of him, it is better to stay with the original. It is a party linked to the FSB, the Orthodox Church, and the Armed Forces. Deeply chauvinistic and xenophobic, it opposes some isolated measures of Putin’s policies but not the government as a whole, let alone the regime. It is sarcastically treated by the people as the “pro-opposition”.
On the other hand, there is a part of the liberal opposition (though not all) that sometimes acts outside the regime. It represents the part of the bourgeoisie split in the sharing of power. Navalniy is its leader at present. At the moment it is very isolated and suffered a defeat in the struggle to release Navalniy from prison last year. Its policy is to seek openings within the regime, yet this strategy has not been successful since the regime runs a tight ship. Its agenda is focused on democracy and anti-corruption, but does not go beyond that, it also advocates for the privatization and opening of the country’s economy to foreign capital. But since Putin himself largely implements this very agenda, these liberals have almost no economic plan and they find it difficult to differentiate themselves from Putin in this regard. However they do empathize with the democratic sentiment of a sector of the population, and have particular weight with youth and the middle classes in big cities, especially in Moscow. But they channel this sentiment into the regime, calling for participation in the elections controlled by Putin where they encourage voting for any opposition party, especially the Communist Party. Thus, they work to transform a vote that would be anti-Putin into a vote for the regime.
On the other hand, these liberals either support or remain silent on the regime’s chauvinist foreign policy. Navalniy has clearly said he would not return Crimea to Ukraine. He has also been silent on the Syrian War, and at best criticizes its economic cost. Liberals are seen as defenders of the Yeltsin era and of a “democracy” that failed to put food on the table, and as agents of the US and the EU. In this sense, their electoral support is very low, although they have more support it Moscow. They have no level of organization within the working class. But they have led what demonstrations there have been against the government in recent years. And the workers, at the very least, know Navalniy and listen to what he has to say.
To sum up, the CPRFR has been the defender of the Stalinist dictatorial regime that restored capitalism in the former USSR, and in fact supports Putin wholesale. Meanwhile the liberals defend the Yeltsin period. With such an opposition, Putin can easily rely on common sense that things are “bad with Putin, but would be worse without him”.
Is Russia “recovering” with Putin? What is Russia today?
In spite of the media campaigns echoed by leftist sectors that portray Putin as nationalist, anti-imperialist, willing to confront the US government, and defend and develop his country, the reality is quite different.
In spite of its aggressive policy in relation to the processes of struggle in neighboring countries, Russia is not a new imperialist country, nor is it on the way to becoming one. Nor is there anything “Soviet” or “socialist” about it. Under Putin the capitalist colonization of the country has only deepened. Russia today is more dependent on the export of primary resources like gas and oil, and on foreign capital and technologies than it was twenty years ago. During this period a series of transformations took place as industries were privatized or shut down, there was a massive inflow of foreign capital into the local economy, the economy was primarized, and there was a sharp drop in investment in science, technology, and education. The country and its companies also became indebted to international banks at an unprecedented level. Large Russian companies such as Gazprom, Rosneft, Sberbank, etc., all have debts to international creditors equal to the value of their assets. In practice, Western creditors are the real owners of these companies. Multinationals are all present in Russia, occupying in the domestic market the spaces previously occupied by national companies.
The manufacturing industry is losing importance within the country, and the only sectors that are growing are those controlled by foreign multinationals. The aerospace sector, once an industry of national pride, has been left behind in international competition due to a lack of investment and technological backwardness, preventing renewal and innovation. Industries are living off their past glory and investments. The only exception to this general decline of industry is the so-called military-industrial complex, as it is a strategic sector for the regime and enjoys large state investments. In this purely economic sense, Putin’s government, despite its differences in the political sense, is a pathetic continuation of the Yeltsin years. Russia not only remains a dependent semi-colonial country, but it is becoming increasingly more dependent.
The world economic crisis hit Russia hard as with it came a decrease in investments and a fall in oil prices. The country’s budget turned into a deficit and investment capacity was reduced, forcing the government to make a very unpopular welfare reform and deep cuts in social services, which increased social dissatisfaction and set into motion more difficulties for Putin.
Despite the relative recovery of oil prices, they did not return to the levels of the previous decade. The world economic crisis is not heading towards any solution in the short and medium term and foreign investments have collapsed. The regime’s surviving achievements are relativized in this sense as there has been a decline in public services, increases in tariffs, and the younger generation no longer has access to state-run public housing while private real estate prices are out of reach for the majority of the population.
There is discontent within Russia about the economic situation and the repression of democratic and national demands. Russian nationalist ideology continues to play its role in preventing this discontent from being directed against Putin and his regime, but the contradictions are accumulating.
Ukrainian and Syrian revolutions threaten the regime
The Ukrainian Revolution, which overthrew the dictator candidate Yanukovich, opened a deep crisis in Putin’s government. It was his first and biggest political defeat. Recall that the Ukrainian Revolution overthrew the Yanukovich government even after an agreement between all political forces in Ukraine, the U.S. government, and Putin aimed at keeping Yanukovich in power for eight months and then calling for new elections. The revolution not only overthrew the government but also destroyed the hated political police, the Berkut, whose members were hunted down house to house. The revolution threatened the whole regime whose base was located in the FSB, while it also fueled other national independence processes and put in check the whole myth of the “reconstruction of the Russian Empire.” It was the first grandiose act of a supranational revolutionary process, directed, though not entirely consciously, against the Putin regime. Putin realized the risk and was forced to strike back hard, annexing Crimea, fomenting war in eastern Ukraine, and opening a series of contradictions that he did not want with US and European imperialisms.
Likewise, the Syrian revolution threatened to expand the Arab Spring to the Muslim Caucasus. Hence the violence of Putin’s reaction which destroyed Syria with his bombings and saved the Assad dictatorship at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead.
It is the same reason why Putin directly supports the dictatorships of Belarus and Kazakhstan against the uprisings in these countries. National movements in neighboring countries and within Russia are growing stronger in a wave that is sweeping through Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and now Kazakhstan. Likewise, instability is growing in the Caucasus, as evidenced by the recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the frictions between Chechnya and Ingushetia, or the skirmishes in Central Asia on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
A Putin defeat in Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, or the Caucasus could be the catalyst for pent-up popular dissatisfaction, as it would unmask the ideology of a new Russian Empire and potentially put an end to the reign of Putin and the FSB.
A regime in contradiction with the international balance of forces.
From a geopolitical point of view, the space Putin occupies could be described as within the gaps between imperialisms. Putin maneuvers within the contradictions between US and European imperialism to negotiate more advantageous positions for himself. This is where the myth of Putin’s anti-imperialism, nationalism, and patriotism in his “confrontations with the USA” come from. The rise of this policy took place during the Bush Administration and its “war on terror,” where Putin played on Bush’s contradictions with France and Germany to gain political position and become an accomplice of the US war in Afghanistan by offering supply posts on Russian territory, bases for NATO, as well as military equipment and technical personnel. With Obama, who was trying to re-establish ties with Europe, Putin had more difficulties, and in the end he supported Trump in the elections with the ultimately failed hope of reviving the “war on terror.” Today he continues to play with these contradictions, as in the case of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline where there are conflicts of interest between the US and Germany, more recently he is playing with the contradictions between the US and China.
On the other hand, Russia occupies a political role on the world stage disproportionately superior to its real economic importance thanks to two elements inherited from the former USSR: a nuclear arsenal and armed forces comparable to those of the USA, and its influence in the entire region of the former USSR. These two elements are a triumph in the hands of the Russian bourgeoisie, and at the same time, a point of permanent tension with world imperialism and in particular with its armed wing NATO.
What in theory would be a strong government also brings with it an element of instability within the world imperialist order. Since the US defeat in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush, the United States, and with it the whole of imperialism, found itself politically incapable of undertaking new military adventures and has opted for other tactics. Instead of trying to defeat processes of struggle or national independence with an iron fist, because of its weakness it has preferred to divert these processes inside democratic regimes through elections in order to “sterilize” them. This is what we call “democratic reaction” i.e., the stabilization of volatile political situations by means of election. When the Arab Spring occurred, the US and European imperialisms who were unable to openly support their friendly dictators, preferred to divert the uprisings through electoral processes in order to try to destabilize these countries and maintain their influence and business earnings.
This “tactical flexibility” of imperialism does not serve Putin well. Putin’s is a government that emerged from the of destruction of the Caucasian national movements. There is no “democratic” tactic possible when it comes to the independence of regions under Russian influence. When the Ukrainian Revolution took place and lead to new elections in the country after the fall of the Yanukovich government, the outcome was unacceptable to Putin since it made the same process possible in Belarus and Russia, thus threatening his rule. The same was true of the Syrian Revolution, where a victory could reactivate the independence processes in the Muslim regions of the Russian Federation, especially in the Caucasus. Therefore, while the United States played its “democratic” card, Putin had nothing left but brute force. This situation opens up a series of differences and contradictions between the US, the EU, and Putin, in each of these regions, often placing them in opposing camps where they defend militarily confrontational governments and regimes. In this sense, Putin, who needs more and more foreign investment in Russia, has become a hostage to his own regime and incapable of any tactical flexibility. He is hostage to his image as a “firm hand” in his rule. The Russian bourgeoisie wants an ever greater integration with international capital, but the geopolitical situation puts Putin, in many cases, at odds with Western governments.
These contradictions led to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the fomenting of war in eastern Ukraine, and Putin’s military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria. These, in turn, led to US and European sanctions against Russia. These sanctions are an additional element that aggravate Russia’s economic situation, as they especially affect the oil sector which desperately needs new foreign investments.
Putin needs more and more American and European investments and, at the same time, he is forced by the very dynamics of the processes to enter into continuous conflicts with them. It is a knot that he has been unable to untie, and that tends to worsen in the event of new revolutionary processes in his region. This is not improbable, since in the last year alone we have seen the revolution in Belarus, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the uprising in Kyrgyzstan, the Kazakh insurrection, and now the tension on the Ukrainian border.
Putin, with his counter-revolutionary policy, has brought together the revolutions in the former Soviet spaces as one big multinational revolution against his own regime. From all indications as in 1989-1991, the defeat of this bastion of counterrevolution will require concentrated efforts of the workers and peoples of all these regions against their common enemy.