Dear friends, I welcome all the participants of the “Conference on liberal values and conservative trends in politics and society”.
It is indeed an important conference, because in current conditions it is not only important, but I can even say courageous and ethic act to discuss such problems in Russia.
I acknowledge everyone for preparing this conference, for taking part in it and I’d like to thank all of the foreign participants, who found the opportunity and came to Russia in such a difficult times.
I sincerely regret that I was not able to come to attend the conference personally. It’s the first time in my career when I was one of the sponsors but was not able to come to the conference. It’s connected to my obligations as the Saint-Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy and also my participance in a ‘Forum-2000′ conference, founded by Czech President Vaclav Havel, which takes place in Prague.
So that’s why I couldn’t come to this conference personally. Yet, I’d like to thank the organizers for opportunity to address participants and respectful speakers by this video clip. I’d like to share some of my observations on the subjects of today’s agenda.
First of all I’d like to give some definitions, terms of liberalism and conservatism in Russia. At the moment these definitions are quite vague and I’d like to acknowledge that these terms are not clearly defined in the global practice either.
So now I’d like to give you our own definitions of liberalism.
That’s the freedom of speech first of all, that’s religious tolerance, that’s the right to live, the right to freedom, the right to private property, the right to protection against the abuse of power, and the limiting the powers of the government, by law and the system separation of powers.
These major principles are something that Russia currently does not have.
Liberalism is the equality of people, free to persuade the knowledge of the world and themselves, protected from obscurantism and physical violence, based on the human rights, the Declaration on Human Rights.
In other words, liberalism is a legal state and the protection of the rights of any minorities. Liberalism economically is the state involvement in the economy to provide the equality of opportunities for all the actors and no more.
Conservatism on the contrary, proposes continuaty and inviolability of rules, and opposes revolution. It uphold good, by the way, not everything. Conservatism and conservatives rely on social institution in politics, on liberalism in the economy and on the ethics, tied to the religion. It promotes institutions and prevents state involvement in the economy and in the private life. Conservatism takes care of aristocracy, supports social environment where people want to see some positive role models. For instance, conservatism is a European tradition of deep respect for highly qualified professionals like doctors or architects, or lawyers for that matter. Conservatism in the US is promoting entrepreneurship, and there are a lot of self-made people, who in deep respect for leveraging their talent, for shaping their destiny. Even in the Soviet Union we had conservatism traditions: respect for top class engineers, scientists, academics, teachers, which had long standing tradition.
Well, in Russian politics we don’t see any kind of conservatism, that’s the Russian establishment likes to boast. Real conservatism is against pseudo-aristocracy, it does not accept denial of values, it is against corruption, it is against exploitation in everyday need of the legislation.
Real conservatism supports reaching political balance without use of force.
Regime that does support political stability using force, will sooner or later bring the country to crisis. And from this respect it’s a full contradiction to what is called conservatism.
Talking about the economy, I must say that discussing liberal issues associated with Russian market, we have to admit that in the Russian economy we have no liberalism at all. Because all the property, more or less, is associated with authorities. The reform of the 90s, based on the so called ‘loans for shares’, semi-criminal auctions created the System of total fusion of power and property. And that system has nothing to do with the market mechanisms, market economy and modern liberalism.
If we recall such authors, philosophers like the founder of the objectivism, Ayn Rand, who people believe was extreme liberal, and I have to state that even from that point of view there is no way to define today’s Russian economy, founded in 90s, as liberal. Because all major fortunes in Russia and all the wealth, which raised small group of only 5% of Russian population, were created through connections with the authorities.
In this respect we don’t have any free market, no competition, and what we have is a hybrid referral system of pseudo-capitalism.
You have to be aware of this when talking about Russia, because it is impossible to work out the successful strategy of future. Actually this is something that we were talking about both in Russia and abroad, emphasizing the fact that these critical circumstances do not allow society to become modern in Russia. The major European, if not say global crisis, had to happen, so those circumstances slowly and gradually to be noticed.
What do we have as a result of that non-liberal and non-conservative model in Russia?
The events of the last year show that it turns not in the way of conservatism or liberalism – it’s a move against reason. This movement, which has been taken by the government in external and internal policies, is negative and for all. For conservatives and liberals, lefts and rights, because that direction leads the country to chaos, to destruction of all rules of life, both inside the country and around the world.
The first and Second World wars led to the destruction of the Europe. It was a colossal civilization crisis, which could result in the destruction of the civilization as such. Victory over nazi appeared to be major prerequisite, but not the final solution. And the final resolution of the new quality was the creation of the European Union. It is the model, which seemed to overcome this civilization crisis, which was marked by the first half of the 20th century in Europe.
The fact that Russia now opposes the European Union, strange people in Russia, stating that the Russia is not Europe, is a serious civilization threat. It is serious, because it is becoming and practical policy.
An example we can see when people say that they want to persuade the conservative politics, we have to be warned that violation of the state borders, shaped during past 20 years, is not a conservative policy. It is policy of post-modern chaos, and it is a very dangerous movement. There’s no way Russian ruling circles can be called conservatives. Conservatives are people of different nature. Today’s ruling elite hates everything that alien and does not look like them. They are social populists, they defend traditional values the way that they look more like islamic fundamentalists and traditionalists, that is to say, reactionaries.
I cannot resist to quote an article, which Vladimir Putin used in his message to the Federal Assembly. This article, written by Nikolay Berdyaev and quoted by Putin, ends with the statement of the historical doom of that kind of conservatism. Berdyaev wrote, “If it’s government that is conservative but separated from the people, then all the development of people becomes painful. Hateful and repulsive conservatism is powerless. It can violate, but it cannot attract to itself and lead.”
When people associate conservatism with a barrier to the creativity, then the revolution becomes imminent.
The conclusion is clear. The national interest of Russia is European Russia, in internal and external policies and in the way of life. And the basis of the movement is a reasonable combination of the modern liberalism and conservatism. It is the way to what is called responsible policy, that Yabloko party so wants to build in Russia. Other approaches, as we see, result in nothing.
I think that this conference is very important, because it addresses very complex challenge to find a way out of the current situation. It should be peaceful and rational, it should not humiliate anybody and it should not lead to bloodshed. We’re looking for a way out of that situation which we are in right now, it is our main objective. In addressing this challenge we want to rely on experience of our colleagues from Europe, and this is the meaning and the goal of today’s conference.