Putin’s criticism of capitalism during his Valdai speech, as well as a series of other brightly coloured ideological statements by the head of state, is a very serious event. Putin is a pragmatist and realist, and he has tried to stay as far away from ideology as possible throughout his rule. This was his signature style: no ideological preferences and, on the contrary, restraint of any ideological extremes. This is related, in particular, to the complete incoherence of United Russia, where a large black hole adorns the place of an idea.
Until recently, Putin was satisfied with this, at least because it worked and did not interfere with his management. And now Putin makes such sharp and unambiguous statements: modern capitalism is a dead-end, liberal values destroy society, and there is a need for a massive turn towards conservatism.
Formal political scientists immediately became confused. Criticism of capitalism is a thesis of the Left. It turns out, Putin is for socialism. But the liberal agenda – LGBT, feminism, democracy of minorities worldwide – is supported precisely by the Left. And finally, Putin directly appeals to conservatism and Russian political philosophy.
This is not a set of random and contradictory theses; it is an outline, albeit preliminary, of an entirely original ideology that can be broadly called ‘right-wing anti-capitalism’. This perfectly fits the monarchist Ivan Ilyin mentioned by Putin (a right-wing anti-capitalist), Berdyaev’s project (the New Middle Ages, also right-wing anti-capitalism), the entire Slavophile tradition, Eurasianism, and Russian religious philosophy. And this is where the most interesting part begins: right-wing anti-capitalism is incompatible with the three classical political ideologies of the West. Capitalism and its total apology lie at the heart of classical liberalism. Putin criticises it. Therefore, liberalism – the First Political Theory – is radically rejected by Putin. Left-wing anti-capitalism – that is, communism or socialism, the Second Political Theory – is incompatible with conservatism. Therefore, Putin clearly does not have that in mind either. And finally, the Third Political Theory – nationalism or fascism – is obviously not seriously considered by Putin: it is another offspring of the West, incompatible with Russia’s historical experience.
So, we are approaching the Fourth Political Theory closely. It is most consistent with ‘right-wing anti-capitalism’. And only by deciding on an unequivocal break with the three political theories of classical Western modernity, Russia will be able to win back a fully fledged theoretical horizon for itself. The only question left is when Putin will directly turn to the Fourth Political Theory.
I always love reading Dugin; he’s never boring. That said, judging from Dugin’s comment on the Victory Day speech, I wonder if Dugin is just seeing what he wants to see in Putin.
I suspect Putin’s critique of corrupt liberal values here might also be for Western consumption to a degree; that is, for those of us in the West who also oppose the global capitalism and hedonism that characterize the Left. We are also those most likely to sympathize with Russia’s dilemma in Ukraine.
If you use the political coordinates fraudulently defined by liberalism you are a victim of liberalaism. Social conservative values does not mean “right-wing”. There are many socially conservative leftists.
Further: Social progressive values are cynically used by imperialists, and their cosmetic implementation in capitalist society is destructive: but none of this means that social progress itself is a bad thing.