Alexei Tsvetcoff: A Supremely Intelligible Speech


Vladimir Putin, “Address to Russians on the 2018 Pension Reform,” 29 August 2018

Alexei Tsvetcoff
August 29, 2018

Putin’s speech was supremely intelligible. It boiled down to this. We could just as well not change the retirement age over the next ten years, but we are going to do it anyway merely because we want to do it. We are going to fuck each of you over to the tune of one million rubles at least, because we like lining our pockets with the money, and no opposition can do anything to stop it.

We are not going to raise the taxes of the oil and gas bourgeoisie, because we are the oil and gas bourgeoisie. The Pension Fund’s palaces and the palaces per se of the ruling class are beautiful, but there is no need to touch them. Let them be. Anyway, things could be a lot worse, believe you me.

The speech was an open declaration of class warfare on the majority on behalf of the ruling minority. It was a rude statement by the modern-day equivalent of Yuri Olesha’s Three Fat Men, a group of people rendered insolent by their impunity.

The tsar in his mercy granted indulgences. He took three years off the proposed new retirement age for women, and six months off the retirement age for the first cohort whom the reform will roll over, as well as promising guaranteed employment and property tax benefits for pre-pensioners, and so on.

This summer’s political upsurge has borne preliminary fruits, but they are decorative. The wave of opposition to the proposed reforms must rise higher and higher, and popular hatred must adopt really effective guises, meaning guises that frighten the regime.

A genuine mobilization of society would smash this reform, conceived by thieves, to smithereens, and maybe some other things as well—if such a mobilization occurred, of course.

If the entire country takes to the streets in September, we shall soon see a new speech by Putin, in which he says he has changed his mind. Now the authorities will be gagging, demonizing, isolating, and banning vigorous opponents of their mean-spirited reform on a daily basis. All of us, therefore, must become vigorous opponents of the reform.

Alexei Tsvetcoff is a well-known Marxist writer and manager of the Tsiolkovsky Bookstore in Moscow. Thanks to Valentin Urusov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Greg Yudin: The Last Circle of Hell

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, speaking at meeting with relatives of miners who perished in the Severnaya coal mine in Vorkuta, Komi Republic. Photo courtesy of
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, speaking at meeting with relatives of miners who perished in the Severnaya coal mine in Vorkuta, Komi Republic. Photo courtesy of

Greg Yudin
March 3, 2016

The transcript of Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Severstal president Alexei Mordashov’s meeting with relatives of miners who perished in the recent coal mine disaster in Vorkuta makes for hellacious reading. It is like the last circle of hell.

I won’t even mention the fact they did not want to take any responsibility for the incident, that it was their incompetence which lead to the deaths of rescuers, and that they covered for a flagrantly brutal system in which miners were forced to turn off sensors and worked like slaves.

But these people really, seriously consider themselves heroes, because they came to the meeting with the unfortunate relatives.

Dvorkovich: You know, many people tried to dissuade me from coming here and traveling here at all, because it is incredibly difficult, really difficult. Nevertheless, my colleagues in the republic and I decided we had to share this grief along with you.

I can just imagine the “many” people who tried to dissuade Dvorkovich.

“Arkady Vladimirovich, what is with you? Why are you going there? There are those stupid widows there. They don’t understand a thing, and they cannot control themselves. How are you going to help them? All the orders have been given already. They will get the money, bawl a bit, and calm down. Dmitry Anatolyevich is not insisting that you go. As it was, we were planning to order a table at a restaurant and drink a toast for the greatness of Russia and our common victory in this difficult time. Well, and we would drink a toast for the dead miners, too, of course.”

“No, I have to go! Of course I know it will be hard for me, very hard. I must show the country’s leadership is mindful of the common people and shares their pain.”

“Oh, Arkady Vladimirovich, what heroism! You’re a hero. It is people like you who make Russia strong.”

You get the sense they flew in from another planet. Why do miners tamper with the sensors? What do you say? They are afraid of losing their jobs? Let them find another job! We have a free labor market. Loans, you say? You cannot afford to buy an engagement ring? So who forced you to take out a loan?

Mordashov: Well, you know, coming to see you all was a personal choice for each of us. Those of us present here made this choice. We cannot force anyone else to make it.

How has it happened that Russian officials and fat cats have come to think they could choose not to come and talk with the relatives of victims, that it is their “personal choice”? I remember quite well how twenty years ago or so Prime Minister Chernomyrdin talked with terrorists to save people’s lives, but nobody reported that it was his “personal choice.” Because it was his job.

But now a billionaire from the Forbes list and a guy who has spent the better part of his life as a government minister say with a straight face that after a disaster involving dozens of victims it is okay not to come and explain themselves, and that basically they are doing people a favor by traveling from Monaco or wherever they live and stopping by this godforsaken mine.

Actually, it isn’t difficult to understand why these bastards consider themselves heroes. Because hiding behind them is a man who sixteen years ago, when the Kursk sunk, was so frightened he went into seclusion for several days, but then called the widows of the drowned submariners “paid whores.”*

Since then the country has been ruled by men and women incapable of sharing the grief of their own people in a way that at least would appear convincing, because they fear and despise the people.

Translated by the Russian Reader

*The new Russian president grew particularly irate early in his tenure when the submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000 and Russian television aired tough reports about the government’s slow response and dishonest public statements. Even state-controlled Channel One, under Berezovsky’s control, broadcast critical segments, including interviews with the wives of Kursk sailors distraught at the way the situation was being handled

Outraged, Putin called personally to rail about the report and accuse the journalists of faking it. “You hired two whores … in order to push me down,” Putin exclaimed, as former anchor Sergei Dorenko remembered it. Dorenko was taken aback. “They were officers’ widows,” he said, “but Putin was convinced that the truth, the reality, did not actually exist. He only believes in [political] technologies.”

Putin’s anger boiled over at a closed-door meeting with relatives of the crew six days after the submarine sank. When fuming relatives shouted him down, saying they knew from television that the Russian government had initially turned down foreign assistance, Putin bristled.

“Television?” he exclaimed. “They’re lying. Lying. Lying.”

Peter Baker and Susan B. Glasser, “Nuts and Bolts of Project Putin,” Moscow Times, June 8, 2005