March 21, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9838

As Sanctions Bite And War Fever Intensifies, Russia Revisits Soviet Concepts

March 21, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9838


The tough Western sanctions on Russia coupled by the campaign against opponents of the war in Ukraine have revived terms from Soviet history in the popular discourse. One is War Communism– the policy instituted by the Bolshevik government between 1917-1921. The economy (including property owned by foreigners) was nationalized and centrally directed by the government. The peasantry was compelled to deliver farm produce to feed the cities for at best rock bottom prices or sometimes the produce was simply requisitioned without compensation. War Communism produced severe economic dislocation and led to sabotage in the agricultural sector and was replaced by the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921. NEP restored small businesses to private ownership and imposed a reasonable quota on the peasants for delivery to the government, while allowing them to retain or sell the balance. Under this policy, the economy rebounded. NEP lasted to 1929, when Josef Stalin, who had emerged victorious in his struggle against the intra-party opposition, imposed collectivization on agriculture and launched the first five-year plan in industry.

Another term in use during Soviet times was the social contract. The people, in return for obtaining an increasingly higher standard of living, would forego political participation and would let the leadership run the show without their input. This idea of the social contract was appropriated by Vladimir Putin, who in addition to touting his role of restoring Russia's great power status, also favorably compared the economic fruits of his rule to the economic privation that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is clear that this vision of a social contract is currently untenable. After years of anemic economic growth, the current sanctions have hit Russia hard. Even Vladimir Putin acknowledges short term difficulties and economists predict a double digit decline in GDP. Under the best circumstances, Russia's citizens will experience a decline in their standard of living before things get better.

In this context, Moskovskiy Komosomolets columnist Dmitry Popov offers a revised social contract with pronounced populist overtones. In an article titled "Putin Left No Other Choice: We Are the Power Here", Popov claims that the Russian people have ceased being quiescent. They support Russia's civilizational mission in the war and this represents their side of the social contract bargain. In return, they demand from Putin the realization that "the officials, even those that have ministerial portfolios, are the real fifth column." Officialdom must serve the people instead of the reverse situation that obtains today.

For Kommersant commentator Dmitry Drize, the current hysteria and the shutting down of debate coupled with the calls for punitive measures against foreign property owners and government control over the economy presages a return to the failed policy of War Communism that did not end that well for the Soviet Union.

The two columns follow below:

In this Soviet painting by Ivan Vladimorov 'The Agitator", Siberian peasants are gathered for a session with a Communist Party propagandist during the War Communism era.(Source:

Dmitry Popov:  'The New Social Contract Must Establish...That An Official, A Deputy, A State Employee Is A Servant'

Dmitry Popov laid out his vision for a revised social contract:[1]

"We definitely need a new social contract, not a piece of paper with signatures, but a common understanding and agreement on how to get on with our lives. Since it's obvious: the old, disembodied and dependent Russia no longer exists. And the old social contract, prolonged in 2014 by the Crimean consensus, has expired.

"Some two weeks ago, our entire social structure looked rather sorrowful. The situation was as follows: there is a simple majority of the people, i.e. the Russians (the broad popular masses according to the old [Soviet] terminology); there are fat cats (oligarchs, bureaucrats and officials-oligarchs); there is the self-appointed 'conscience of the nation', in other words – 'Russian intelligentsia.'

"As a result of the authorities' actions (albeit crooked and askew) during the 'savage 1990s' and 'satiated 2000s' to maintain their own power, some sort of 'stability' has been formed.

"The 'broad popular masses' practically resigned themselves to an unalterable government, the impossibility of a 'breakthrough' as well as a radical change in their own lives. In principle, [they] demanded only one thing: don't bother us, let us live this way in peace. All of these demands, with the sole exception of an increase in the retirement age, were met. In addition, people were receiving constant promises and handouts in the form of unstructured social benefits. Thus, a semblance of care was achieved, which allowed for population to not completely die out.

"At first, 20 years ago, the authority exchanged the population's civil liberties for some kind of stability (and one can understand the compatriots who lived through the 1990s). Then, in order to quickly secure a rise in living standards, the authorities exchanged the country's technological sovereignty for Western achievements: machines, planes, cars, clothes, food... However, all of our billionaire businessmen, market leaders, are, actually, not entrepreneurs at all.

"In serious American or Chinese capitalist companies, they would only be trusted to clean the office, because all they've learned to do well is sit on state money and divert it to their offshore 'pockets.' Thanks to that the officials, were able to paint for those above them with positive images of achievements and successes. We have a developing industry here, and agriculture - there, we also manufactured a purely Russian-made aircraft (with 75% imported parts).

"The 'intelligentsia'... was feeding off and gorging itself on the state's budget while repeatedly defecating on that very state in particular, and the country as a whole. [Intelligentsia] called Russians genetic trash [referring to Ksenia Sobchak's statement]; explained to children that their country's history is bloody darkness and that they should be ashamed; needling and chortling at Orthodoxy, at the Victory Day parade; and so on and so forth. [The Intelligentsia] squealed about repression when they jammed their knuckles by getting their hands too deep into the treasury, and tried to get in power by bringing immature minds [i.e. the youth] to the streets. In other words, they did all the things that "Russian liberals" have done from the days of yore. However, now, the "stability," which was driven by the Western hand towards the disintegration and annihilation of Russia has collapsed.

"This week saw the continued exodus of the 'best people' for whom the country, 'stinks of combat boots' from here (however, the money they get from these combat boots does not smell for some reason).

"Naturally, these include people of simply delicate mental state, who have commonplace fears. But there are also nice jokers and wags, who were amusing people during the evening broadcasts of state channels. Now, they are already located in the Promised Land [an aside at comedian Maxim Galkin, who is reportedly in Israel], and take pleasure in posting videos on their social accounts, depicting the killing of the Russian soldiers.

"Everyone should have a chance at repentance and return [to the Motherland]. Except (and this is already part of the new social contract) from now on they wouldn't be getting a penny of public money. Not in any form. They'll have to earn it, through their own creativity, if someone willing to pay could be found. Whether or not such people will be found, we will see very soon.

"This week, following the final shut down of Facebook and Instagram for allowing users to wish death to Russians, the creative class began relocating to domestic social networks. So far, we are witnessing an amusing comedy: the most useless and mindless part of the creative class is thrashing about, having no understanding how it is now possible to make money the old way, i.e. without producing anything useful.

"By the way, I was very pleased with Roskomnadzor's wording, when they closed Instagram, 'The social network will be shut down because it is harmful to the mental health of the younger generation.' We told them that constantly, but the authorities finally got the message.

"But the same applies to the media and education. All this infection, which always calls for apologies, spawns a guilt and inferiority complex, whispers that the Panfilov's 28 Men [who held off 54 German tanks in the 1941 Battle of Moscow] were not heroes at all, must be removed from school textbooks, swept out of university corridors and classrooms. And this will also be a part of the social contract: children must grow up proud of their history, of their country, they must be brought up to become normal, strong people, not gender-neutral, body-positive, hypocritically tolerant globalist amoebas.

"Officials and power are the most difficult and most important part of the social contract. This week Putin met with Lukashenko. Very important words were spoken there, "together, united, we can achieve even greater successes than the USSR." (This, by the way, is how the anti-people information machine works surreptitiously. It was said that the Soviet Union had achieved "colossal success under sanctions." But many, even the state-run media shamefacedly removed the word "colossal" from the quote.) The results of the meeting made it clear that our highest leadership understands: things aren't going to be as they used to. Now we are on our own, only unconditional technological sovereignty... [will do].

"However, the officials, even those that have ministerial portfolios, are the real fifth column.

"Where is the news about the resumption of IL-96 plane production (which Putin flies) and of Tu-214 (which I flew to Egypt 10 years ago) for domestic flights, or the resumption of small aircraft manufacture for the regional aviation fleet? (There are several models that are already operational, including abroad. They buy our planes, but we do not need them. How come?). There is nothing on this score. There is news about the fuss over leasing of foreign planes, they say it's not good to confiscate them, we are picking a fight, and we won't be able to maintain the aircraft.

"Why can't they grasp the idea: relations have already deteriorated. That's it. When are they going to get it through their heads: they've already quarreled, that's it, that's it. You have to figure out how to service the planes yourselves. It had to be done yesterday. Where's the news about plants, businesses, and fast food chains that left Russia being nationalized? There is none.

"This week the corresponding draft government decree was made public, but it came immediately under attack by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which claimed that this would offend our Western partners. It's as if they said, 'What if they would want to come back?' Where is the news that the space leased by Western stores in shopping malls is being handed over to Russian entrepreneurs? (By the way we have wonderful fashion designers). Where is the news that new plants are being built in order to produce our own paper for newspapers, magazines and books?

"Eh, there is a vast field of such questions. I can enumerate them endlessly. Most importantly, there is money in the treasury for all of this, for our own things. We have no time to lose. Those, who now look with hope at the 'partners,' who have wiped their feet all over us, who are trying to wait out for the return of the old order, they are the enemy. They should be removed from their positions before they squeal.

"The new social contract must establish in the public consciousness that an official, a deputy, a state employee is a servant. A person who serves, serves the interests of the country and the people. He works not to fill his own pockets with money, but his country's coffers. He responds to legitimate popular demands and immediately fulfills them. He's accountable to the people. It is they, who work for us, not otherwise.

"Thus, now it's our task to realize a simple thing: we are the power here. 30 years of national humiliation are behind us. The bureaucratic apparatus will change; the state will change. Amazingly, it was really Putin who left the state with no other choice. Either our government will serve the people, or the former will cease to exist. Why? It's a simple chain of reasoning, which you can recreate for yourself. As Ramzan Akhmatovich [Kadyrov] says: he who doesn't understand, will understand.

"It's we, who must build the beautiful Russia of the future, not in the narrow sense of the word, but in the broadest possible sense. The moto 'Don't touch us, let us live in peace' doesn't work anymore. We need to shake off this stupor, not be afraid of demanding, not be afraid to assert our position. We shouldn't be afraid to say loudly and firmly: this is my country. This is our country. This is us, the civilized world. And we are for peace. Thus, it is our army that is saving humanity from globalist degeneration right now. And understanding this is our part of the social contract."

Dmitry Drize: We Must Preserve What Is Left Of The Market Economy

Dmitry Drize sympathized with industrialist Vladimir Potanin's foreboding that the popular call for the confiscation of foreign assets in Russia and severing ties with the global economy will be merely the first step leading to the abolition of the private sector and a return to the failed policy of War Communism:[2]

"Vladimir Potanin spoke out against confiscating the assets of foreign companies that leave Russia. According to the head of NorNickel, this would bring the country back to 1917. Later, the entrepreneur gave a long interview to RBC, in which he explained his position his stance: it's possible to discuss nationalization, but it would be wise to refrain from the crude seizure and requisition of foreign property.

"He referred to the [foreign] investors, and some of them can still theoretically return. They left under the influence of public pressure and, partly, due to emotion, as no one ordered them to. The fog will clear, the situation will calm down, and production will resume.

"Regarding the external administration regime, which the government has decided to impose on foreign assets, Vladimir Potanin believes it is the right move, since it will save the property.

"This speech prompted a great public outcry, i.e. [people were thinking], "the comrade made tough statements, on the verge of sedition, something is clearly not right here." However, why can't one of Russia's largest businessmen express his opinion? What sedition are you talking about? It's being said for the good of business.

"Now there are threatening calls to take the gloves off against foreign capitalists, to deal with them 'with all the severity of the law,' i.e.  to arrest and seize businesses, initiate criminal proceedings etc. Mr. Potanin's arguments (and not exclusively his own) are that we have to act with a cool head, putting emotions aside, because the main task is to safeguard the economy. Otherwise, if in addition to foreign sanctions, we'll start to punish ourselves in such a way, then things won't turn out best.

"There is no sensation in [saying] this, the important thing is who will say all this publicly. Vladimir Potanin is not alone; his colleague Oleg Deripaska is also active right now. I don't see why not, as long as it works. But I want the discussion to be more active.

"There is nothing sensational in this, the main thing is the person, making such public statements. [In this regard], Vladimir Potanin is not alone: his colleague Oleg Deripaska also actively supports [this position]. I don't see why not, as long as it will do some good. But I desire a more active discussion.

Vladimir Potanin (Source:

"I probably need not remind you what 1917 was like, what events took place then, particularly in the economy. I do not want to go back to those times.

"And besides, it's a well-known fact that War Communism and requisitioning proved their ineffectiveness. In contrast, NEP demonstrated just the opposite.

"So far, there is talk about support for and even freedom of entrepreneurship.[3] But, as we can see, there are also many supporters of War Communism. And regarding the latter, the powers that be experience a certain anxiety.

"True, one could say that the oligarchs are primarily worried about themselves; their logic is clear: first the foreigners will experience War Communism and then the domestic oligarchs.

"Especially since they have already suffered in the West. There is a classic argument: we don't have that many oligarchs, and one day we'll run out of them. You get the idea what comes next. Maybe, politics-wise, this is somewhat of a winning move, but we shouldn't forget about economic efficiency as well.

"After all, it would be desirable to preserve the market economy and take advantage of the chances that are now available for further sustainable development. But the main thing is not to kill of what is left and was created with so much effort. As you know, 'to destroy is not the same as to build.'"


[1], March 13, 2022.

[2], March 14, 2022.

[3] See Putin's speech in, March 16, 2022.

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