July 20, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10087

Russian Political Scientist Diskin Appeals To Regime Not To Reimpose Stalinist Techniques And Instead Rely On The Russians' Innate Qualities To Preserve Support For The War

July 20, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10087

Russian political scientist and economist Joseph Diskin, a member of Russia's Civic Chamber is fearful that as the war drags on the regime will be increasingly tempted to employ Stalinist tactics of ideological mobilization that cannot succeed without massive terror. Those responsible will face the same dilemma as in the Stalinist era of whether to extract confessions via torture, or risk being accused themselves of complicity with regime opponents. Diskin tries to appeal to the regime by arguing that the Russians as demonstrated by public opinion surveys are behind the regime as far as Ukraine. Russia is a moral country where citizens display self-sacrifice. Therefore, instead of a costly and lengthy ideological mobilization campaign enforced by terror, would it not be preferable to rely on the moral character and volunteerism of Russia's citizens, that the regime has itself so ably nurtured? In contrast to Diskin, the renowned blogger Anatoly Nesmiyan ("El-Murid") claims that appeals to avert terror are outdated, because terror and the renunciation of due process is the only resource remaining to a regime that is at war with everybody.

The two articles follow below:

Joseph Diskin (Source:

Diskin appeals to the regime to spare Russia ideological mobilization coupled with terror and instead rely on the unique qualities of the Russian people:

"Our society is facing another T-junction on the road. The Special Military Operation [hereafter - SVO] has raised questions previously swept under the rug and forced us to answer for ourselves, 'where is the truth?'. A vast majority, around 80%, answered that they were prepared to endure the travails of the declared economic war so that their brothers and sisters in 'Novorossiya' [umbrella term for the breakaway Luhansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic] could live without fear of shelling and torment in Bandera's [Ukraine's] torture chambers so we could all live with a peaceful conscience.

"In this difficult choice, our people's essence manifested itself, 'we don't abandon our own.' I know how heart-wrenching it is to read replies on the Internet to 'reasonable' arguments, 'For how long do we have to lose our loved ones, was 8 years [since the breakaway republics were created in 2014] not enough?'

"The president's decision to launch SVO is first and foremost cane as a response to a moral call, [that acknowledged] the impossibility of further tolerating the Zelensky regime's abuse of not only Donetsk and Luhansk, but also of our 'core population.' This occurred more than once in our history. Russian society couldn't tolerate the Ottoman cut-throats tormenting the 'brothers' in Bulgaria and forced the Tsar to start a war. Bulgarian ingratitude is bitter, but it doesn't change our people's essence [the author refers to Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878].

"The SVO has shaken up all layers of mass consciousness, i.e., the impact of moral evaluation on all aspects of society has grown significantly. One can argue about the details, but clearly a 'Donbas consensus' has emerged in the country.

"But we should already be concerned about its preservation. Our recent history provides an example, the 'Crimean consensus' provided a Teflon effect allowing us to get through the economic difficulties of 2015-2016. This example demonstrates both the importance of the 'consensus' and how easy it's to destroy it.

"The technocratic pension reform [raising the age of eligibility], perceived by many as a violation of the notions of justice, has simply brought down the consensus. The lesson of the 'Donbass consensus' must be protected' and studied. The collapse of consensus represents (apart from nuclear war, naturally) the sole serious risk in the unfolding civilizational confrontation.

"It should be acknowledged that strategies for ideological social consolidation are being sought at various levels of the state system.

"It's already obvious, that the 'technocratic approaches' inertia is simply dangerous. Walking on rakes [meaning repeatedly making the same mistake] without a preliminary analysis of the 'human' dimension of the envisaged measures will inevitably lead to some sort of reform, which will be perceived as a direct insult to the moral sensibilities of many, if not the majority.

"One doesn't have to search long for an example. Yet another tax amnesty passed unnoticed against the background of the SVO. As expected, it didn't bring money [to the budget], but it sent an unpleasant signal; the law-abiding businesses grumbled, 'the lawbreakers have won again.'

"These decisions haven't affected active groups prone to protest. But what if they would affect them? These will facilitate risks of growing political tensions. And for the majority of Russians, maintaining stability is an important value. [This is, actually, true. Inglehart - Welzel research demonstrates this trend.]

"In the face of moral upheaval, I hope that technocratic approaches will become decreasingly acceptable. But what will replace them?

"Attempts to find ideological bases for social consolidation have already been observed. The dream of repeating the apparent success of Stalinist ideological mobilization beckons.

"True, the Soviet school, the Komsomol [youth movement] and the [Communist] Party forged an educated and highly patriotic generation. 'Tenth-graders' came to replace [at the front of WW2] the junior commanders killed by the end of 1941. They, the young lieutenants, strengthened the army's spirit, in heroic battles they embodied the slogan 'Not a step back' [the author refers to Stalin's order № 227]. These schoolchildren, who at the front turned into captains, majors, and even colonels, became the backbone of the great army that defeated the 'fascist beast' in its den.

"There is a very great temptation to repeat that success. But its chances and costs must be assessed. Above all, there is resistance within society that in its majority, as surveys demonstrate, favors ideological pluralism. Two-thirds of young people support it. Very many are wary of an ideological role for the state.

"Overcoming this resistance inevitably involves political repression. The latter is an inevitable instrument of ideological mobilization. What we falsely call the 'Stalinist repressions' have little to do with the personality of the 'leader and teacher,' but came an inevitable result of a model for creating the ideological pillars of the political and economic system.

"Soviet history demonstrates how the focus on slogans and the pursuit of 'good' reports' numbers grew, but responsibility for the final results was declining. S. G. Strumilin, Deputy Chairman of the USSR Gosplan [state planning commission], said, 'It's better to strive for high indicators, than to sit in prison for low ones.' The understanding that the collapse of the Soviet system had been predetermined by the fact that the formally planned economy had been replaced by its 'nomenklatura' [high officialdom] imitation, increasingly unable to solve urgent problems is disappearing from mass consciousness.

"[Back in Soviet times], instead of meaningful debate, there was a contest between irresponsible populists and ideological doctrinaires. These were all inevitable trends of ideological mobilization.

"It must also be borne in mind that ideological mobilization with its 'witch-hunting' inevitably turns into an uncontrollable terror. P. A. Kropotkin demonstrated this in his seminal work 'The Great French Revolution.' Yes, and we now know that the OGPU investigators were facing an abhorrent choice: to receive orders and titles for beating out 'confessions' from 'enemies,' or to turn into 'camp dust' for criminally condoning their schemes.

"But there is another risk. Ideological mobilization is not instantaneous. In order for it to take effect (a debate on the 'right' ideology choice, retraining of the required personnel, the reformatting of the educational and parental system, the mass education of millions) will require at least 15-20 years. Are we prepared to face the coming global and civilizational disturbances, in the background of acute ideological and political struggle and the inescapable weakening of the entire system of social and political institutions?

"Drifting into a minefield of ideological mobilization is a low-profile process. That is why it's so important to monitor its 'sprouts,' so as not to reap the poisonous fruit later on. In turn supporters of the mobilization must take responsibility for cultivating the sprouts.

"So, is there a way at all to preserve the 'Donbas consensus?' There is! But in order to reach it, we need to get out of the rut and ask the question: why do we [not philosophers and political scientists, but society] need ideology. When the moral effect of religion declines, other pillars of public morality are established in its place: norms, values and ideas that allow us to answer the question of what is good and what is bad. Depending on the main value, different ideologies are being formed. Justice - socialism, personal freedom - liberalism, nation - patriotism, etc. But most importantly, ideology strives to provide a basic framework for public morality.

"However, if one to look at the issue from this perspective, then a chance for a different strategy becomes apparent. A strategy based on our own civilizational peculiarities, on our cherished historical and cultural traditions, but also (and this is very important) on the achieved level of social development. A society that places much emphasis on morality's role in cultural tradition has no need to take a detour through ideological mobilization. It's possible to implement a strategy of strengthening the moral foundations of social and state development.

"The first thing to do is to overcome the stereotype that has developed over the past two hundred years: that the main thing is to change the political system. Both flanks of our ideology have strangled an attempt of the great thinkers, the authors of 'Vekh,' to convince society that positive transformation is impossible without educating it.

"Peter Struve[1] wrote, 'Presenting the most radical demands, calling the people to action in their name, our radical intelligentsia completely abandoned education in politics and replaced it with excitement.' A return to the precepts of the 'Vekh' means that the necessary condition for preserving a consensus is to take into account the moral dimension of the society's development.

"The social changes over recent years facilitated important preconditions for this. With the support of the state, a multi-million-dollar sector of volunteers has developed. The very nature of their high humanitarian mission attracts into it morally sensitive people and cultivates civic engagement and responsibility in them. These strata are present a reliable indicator of the moral dimension of social development and, more recently, - a social mobility 'tool.'

"The impact of civic activists on broader social strata is also important. It's based on a very high level of public approval for the activities of our volunteers. There is a chance, and not a small one.

"So, where to start? First, the question of preserving the 'Donbass consensus' should be placed at the center of the public agenda. Second, [it's required] to begin the development of a broad public coalition for strengthening the moral basis of state and social development, which should be a coalition of authoritative (not nomenklatura, but of truly authoritative) representatives of civil society.

May the testament of the F. I. Tyutchev's[2] genius inspire us,


"'Today's proclaimed oracle.

"'can only be forged with iron

"'from blood...

"'But we shall try to forge it with love...

"And then we shall see what is stronger...'"[3]

Anatoly Nesmiyan says that we should not be surprised at the regime's increasing repressiveness,

because that is the only route open to it:

"Yesterday Putin signed more than a hundred-odd bills. They effectively impose martial law on the economy.

"The government can apply coercive measures to any economic actor at any time, workers can be involuntarily transferred to a permanent work regime, which presumes a minimum number of days off. The punitive machine was allowed in an extremely procedure to interpret the meaning of 'treason' for an unlimited range of individuals on virtually any grounds.

"By and large, nothing much has happened, to put it bluntly. The regime is no longer able to operate in any other way, as terror has become the only tool of governance.

"Previously, terror [as a tool] was applied within the framework of the existing legal system, which, let's be frank, was already beyond any notion of legality. Nevertheless, some procedures still existed. Today it has been decided to abandon them, as the system has no capacity for both toughening terror, and compliance with the norms and laws. One has to choose one thing and it's not surprising that norms and rules have to go.

"In this regard there are exactly two problems. Terror isn't only a costly undertaking, but also one with a critical vulnerability. It must always expand its coverage and increase magnitude. That is, its 'resource-intensity' must continuously increase. In conditions where there is in fact a war going on, it's an extremely costly process per se. (I am not referring to events unfolding in Ukraine, as these are a particular example of the general state of affairs, but to the general state of the system, which is at war with everyone: with the people, with the system itself and with external threats. War has become the sole means of the regime's existence).

"When the system's resource is exhausted, there is only one way to find additional resource for terrorist management: by simplifying the system its management, by reducing it to primitive ad hoc reflexes. In this case, a resource is freed up by foregoing any complex activity and is directed into maintaining violence and terror. But that is the problem: it is a one-off mechanism. This resource is finite and not overly great.

"The second issue is that the administrative system is incapable of executing procedures for any routine management. Management is transformed into a reflexive action. Any project activity under conditions of chaotic terror and violence of all against all loses its rational meaning. Thus, the new batch of laws merely capture what has already taken place in practice.

"This is why these bills are unsurprising, as they strictly follow the frameworks of the paradigm that now defines the existence of the regime. It's in agony, it's convulsing, it is killing indiscriminately everyone whom these convulsions hit.

"'The closer the collapse of an empire, the crazier its laws,' Marcus Tullius Cicero. Everything has already happened before us, everything has already been said. We will follow the same path to the collapse of the system, which is shaking in agony and bankrupted. There is nothing unusual about what is happening."

Anatoly Nesmiyan (Source:


[1] Struve was an economist and political scientist, who made an intellectual odyssey from Marxism to constitutional democracy. He opposed the Bolshevik Revolution and went into exile.

[2] A Russian poet and diplomat (1803-1873), believed that Russia was a Christian state and the Russian people were a Christian nation with a propensity for self-sacrifice.

[3], July 14, 2022.

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