''Grudinin is not attracting voters to polling stations, but begins to eat away at Putin's electorate''

Interview with sociologist and dissident Boris Kagarlitsky. Part 2. Why Putin needs Grudinin and why The Death of Stalin was banned

''Grudinin is not attracting voters to polling stations, but begins to eat away at Putin's electorate''
Photo: Maksim Platonov

Sociologist and dissident Boris Kagarlitsky, who has recently visited Kazan, gave the extensive interview to Realnoe Vremya. In the second part of the conversation, the expert focused on the personality of Pavel Grudinin, told about dissatisfaction with his candidacy in the ranks of the left forces and the Kremlin's setting on the life-long president. He also shared his opinion about the ban of the film The Death of Stalin.

Not the same way with Grudinin

Well, who is Pavel Grudinin?

The current situation with Grudinin is a good chance for the Communist party to finally collapse. This candidate proves by the very fact of his existence that the Communist party is not a workers' party. He embodies something that is contrary to left-wing ideology: he is a capitalist, landowner. He has come to the politics to make a momentary combination. Engels, it would seem, was also a capitalist. But he devoted his whole life to the socialist workers' movement, his real career was not of an entrepreneur, but of a community activist. He wrote, spoke publicly, participated in the revolutionary uprising of 1848, gave his money to the common cause, financially supported Marx. But there just appears a successful entrepreneur who says: I will run from the Communists. What did he do before? He privatized his sovkhoz [state farm]. He was a deputy from United Russia party. He was a confidant of Putin. The emergence of such figure as the candidate of the Communist party is the public statement of the party that it has no relation to true communist, socialist, working-class movement. This is a strong factor of further collapse, and we will see it on March 20th. A significant part of the Communist party did not support the candidacy of Pavel Grudinin on places. This can be seen by the absence of real campaign. From other left wing, except for Sergei Udaltsov and his company, journalist Maksim Shevchenko, no one has signed for Grudinin's campaign.

''The current situation with Grudinin is a good chance for the Communist party to finally collapse. This candidate proves by the very fact of his existence that the Communist party is not a workers' party.'' Photo: vk.com/grudininlive

The Presidential Administration of Russia counted on that the coming of Grudinin would solve a number of problems related to the election, but the result is likely to be the opposite. It is clear that Grudinin will create problems for them, but he will not solve the tasks, which were assigned to him. At the same time, he won't solve the problem of the Communist party. But, of course, he will solve his personal issues.

Does he have chances for the second round?

It is ridiculous. The game is played not for this. When they say that Grudinin is exclusively the product of the administration or, conversely, the fruit of Zyuganov's imagination and internal struggle in the Communist party, it is not quite right. The figure of Grudinin has arisen because of crossing of two processes. Everything is clear with the administration. The real turnout in many regions is 30-40%, the rest is upward distortion. We have been living with this for many years, and nothing terrible happens. But the government itself has tried turning the current election into a plebiscite on trusting Putin with an eye to lifetime presidency. And here, the turnout problem from technical has turned into political.

The formula 70/70: with an eye on lifetime presidency

Do you mean the eastern model with a lifetime leader?

Yes, Kazakhstan-2 is looming in Russia. But will we go on the Kazakhstani path? We have made a turn to the south and east. However, we have not chosen the path of Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea. The real outcome of the plebiscite should be a lifetime presidency. They should have looked for a successor in 2008. This process was postponed for some time and thus they put themselves in a situation when Vyacheslav Volodin said that Putin is Russia, Russia is Putin. Within the range of thinking of the current ruling elite, no other Russia without Putin can be imagined. And they set themselves the task: the election results should be 70 to 70, that is, 70% turnout and 70% for Putin. This is not the result of Sergey Kiriyenko's fantasy, but the result of a serious political calculation. To ensure that the election had a plebiscitary character, they need real 50% of the electorate voted for Putin. 70% turnout with 70% of votes for Putin is more than half of real voters.

This opens up the possibility for further decisions, which can be made on this basis within 3-4 years. It is necessary that, on the one hand, the majority of citizens was for Putin. On the other hand, it is necessary that 30% was against. This proves that we are not Turkmenistan, not North Korea, we have a free country, with pluralism. But if it turns out 40 to 80 at best, the whole picture falls apart. A low turnout – they do not get a real majority, but there appears a totalitarian picture: everything is controlled, subordinated to the only candidate. And then there's Navalny with his boycott. They need a candidate who, according to the administration, will dilute the Putin majority and will bring his or her own voters.

The idea of the Communist party leadership was different. A crisis is growing in the party, discontent, which is politically shaped. This discontent of different people for different reasons is focused on the personality of Zyuganov. The nomination of Gennady Andreevich as a candidate could provoke a sharp surge of indignation. Zyuganov as an apparatus politician realized that he needed to leave the stage. But only for a while. He withdraws from the election, which for the party does not solve and do not give anything except for potential risks. He removed himself from the line of fire and defocused the opposition. There were only 11 votes against Grudinin — from those who thought of themselves as potential candidates (such as Levchenko, the governor of Irkutsk Oblast). Grudinin confused everyone: they were preparing to criticize Zyuganov, but instead they were offered to vote for Grudinin.

This figure suited both the administration and the Communist party's elite. It was a big mistake of both. They were thinking ad hoc, not strategically. Grudinin does not bring voters to polling stations, but he is beginning to eat away at Putin's electorate. The supporters of the Communist party will vote for Grudinin to a lesser extent than they would vote for Zyuganov. Their nuclear electorate is shrinking. But Grudinin as an alternative becomes available to pro-Putin voters because he works on the same state channels, his information is distributed through the same lines as official propaganda.

''It is necessary that, on the one hand, the majority of citizens was for Putin. On the other hand, it is necessary that 30% was against. This proves that we are not Turkmenistan, not North Korea, we have a free country, with pluralism.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Now he is appearing less on federal television.

Matter of course. Officials saw their mistake and tried to correct it. They are beginning to remove him from television. But it's too late: they have already seen him there. Now, when he is removed, they will only reinforce the effect: the mechanism of rumours will be launched. And it only goes to the electorate of Putin. Now the administration risks to get 40 to 60, even worse than it was at the beginning.

At the same time, the crisis in the Communist party is escalating. Every second Grudinin's speech causes a scandal among the voters of the Communist party. He did not mention a word about the crackdown on the trade union Labour Association, did not go to Anpilov's funeral. He constantly demonstrates to the ideological communist electorate that he has nothing to do with them. The only thing that is fixed in his speech — he is the director of ''Sovkhoz named after Lenin''. But it works only on pensioners. Any person aged younger than 60-70 understands that it is not a state farm, it is a brand, it is the joint stock company called Sovkhoz named after Lenin. The farm has long been privatized. More and more people become to understand that the owner of the company is their class enemy.

The Left Front represented by Udaltsov is also making a big mistake because he is trying to promote Grudinin as a person representing the Soviet past. It is discordant with the reality, challenges and opportunities of the Left Front. What do they want to change in the society? To go back to the USSR? But it is impossible, you need to offer something new. Why the director of a joint-stock company, landowner must return us back to the USSR? The dissonance will only get intensified.

So, the crisis is growing in the Communist party as well as in the administration. How are they going to come out of it? The administration will emerge from the crisis at the expense of the Communist party's draining. It has no other choice but to tamper with the meter. One should understand that the ''governors' fall'' has created an unpleasant situation. A significant part of the governors wants to return to Moscow, and they do not feel themselves linked to the regions, where they could be for a long time. All new governors are aware that they will be graded by how they will bring the results to 70/70. If a governor simply draws these figures, he will not be punished. But if he counts the real figures and shows a failure, he will definitely be punished. We remember the Saratov mathematical anomaly: at all polling stations, all the results were the same up to tenths while having different figures. They adjusted the results to some pattern. Any governor would choose the Saratov scenario and draw the result, even knowing that it would be a scandal, protests.

In the conditions of mass adjustments there should be an opposition candidate who would tell that everything is fair. Grudinin is an ideal candidate for this. Besides, he has already stated to the Central Election Commission that he is satisfied with their work, he likes how everything is arranged. As soon he states this again after the election, a wave of indignation will fall on the Communist party: not only the power will be to blame, but also the party will be a part of the falsification that nominated such candidate. The left electorate will have no other choice but to participate in the protests, which will be organized by Navalny movement.

This means that there is no alternative at all, except Navalny. Therefore, the idea of the ''red boycott'' promoted by the majority of left-wing organizations is expedient in purely ideological terms: they can say that in addition to Navalny there are also other options for protest, it is possible to ensure the minimum pluralism at least at the level of symbolism. In reality, Navalny is much stronger than them. But separating from Grudinin and proclaiming the ''red boycott'', the left opens up some chance for the future after March 2018. Otherwise, it turns out that the entire protest field, with the left and right, is taken by Navalny.

Grudinin will lead to a growing ''red boycott'' in the left wing. The same line will be quietly supported by many from the Communist party or those who is close to the party. They will have to justify themselves, after all. Otherwise, they will fall into political oblivion.

Now I will definitely watch The Death of Stalin

The film The Death of Stalin has recently been banned from screening. Why? By the way, what do you think about such films?

I have not seen this film, but I would watch it. I suspect, it is bad. I have a low opinion of European films about Russia because the Europeans and Americans cannot make good films about our country.

Even about pre-revolutionary Russia?

For example, Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley is a good film, but not about Russia. It even shows as if everything takes place on a theatre scene. By the way, the English screening of War and Peace of the 1970s in 13 series is an example of successful European film about Russia. But they even didn't try to portray the Russians, they decided to make a film about aristocracy – and they succeeded because they have their own aristocracy. In the 19th century, Russian, English, French, German aristocracy were almost the same. So they played aristocracy, and it turned out to be very convincing. And Tolstoy became very similar to Thackeray. When they filmed the new series War and Peace, they failed this time because they were trying to portray Russia.

''As for The Death of Stalin, perhaps, it is only our pretension – of people of Russian culture – that we do not trust foreign interpretations. Perhaps, we are more demanding. But it is not a reason to ban anything''

The Soviet culture quite successfully screened Western literature and history. A typical example is the series about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson starred with Livanov. Although there are many historical lapses: starting with that London was filmed in the Baltic, hence there are many architectural lapses; at some point there were policemen with pistols, although that time they could be only with batons. Nevertheless, the British accepted this film. If you come to The Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street, you will hear famous music from the Soviet series and see the photo. We managed to capture the spirit of the culture.

As for The Death of Stalin, perhaps, it is only our pretension – of people of Russian culture – that we do not trust foreign interpretations. Perhaps, we are more demanding. But it is not a reason to ban anything. The thing is not in the culture, even not in the film, but hysteria that has captured out officials. They got used to manage the processes, but here they do no even understand what to do. The easiest solution – to ban, cancel, close. It is the manifestation of perplexity. But the film will be on the Internet anyway. I wouldn't go to the cinema, but now I am definitely going to watch the film.

By Timur Rakhmatullin