This is a follow-up to my previous post on End Game Against Freedom.
From the film documentary by Andrei Nekrasov who recounted the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in Poisoned by Polonium, Litvinenko in his own words:
Who is Putin?
We are told, "Wait till he's President, then you'll know."
Imagine someone becoming prime minister in Britain with people asking, "Is he a thief, or isn't he?" The real issue here is human morality.
In the Soviet Union, there were two ideologies: communist and criminal. In 1991, the communist ideology died. The criminal remained.
What did Alexander Litvinenko do to get assassinated like he did? When an esotaric radioactive isotope is ingested then you are beyond a simple murder and now must have the resources behind you to actually plan such a killing and acquire such material which is not readily available. That is not the hallmark of the Red Mafia, which would normally just leave you dead someplace, anyplace, perhaps in public to make an example of you. If the criminals want you dead, you are killed. If you are made to suffer, that takes personal and private malice above and beyond simple criminal affairs. When you see material involved that only a Nation with nuclear capacity and the ability to get, purify and deliver a short-lived isotope is involved you are now into State-enacted murder. That is called: assassination.
If this is the case then the crux of the matter is the knowledge he had, which everyone, even Putin, admits are not State secrets. Litvinenko had no access to nuclear weapons or facilities and although he did serve in the military in Chechnya, he was not a high ranking officer in the command staff, but a low level tank commander. So what is it that made him a target to be assassinated?
Litvinenko knew no secrets.
No State secrets, true. But there are that other sort of secret that involves the State...
Everyone realizes I don't know any secrets. The only secrets I know are about organized crime and corruption, and they can't legally be considered state secrets. Even if I wanted to work for British intelligence, I have nothing to tell them. How can I be a traitor to my country?
Why are they so angry with me?
Because I have spoken about the one thing that is important, holy to them. One officer said to me, "You can out all our agents, to hell with them. We'll recruit new ones. But you did one deadly thing. You made public our system of earning money. Do you want us to use the underground?"
That is why they hate me so much.
This system was to choose a series of private businesses and shake them down for money by threats of bringing prosecution against them. As was explained earlier in the documentary, FSB officers are attached to courts as 'lawyers' and they serve as a conduit to inform judges what to do, either through bribes or threats of prosecution against the judge, or just through simple replacement of the judge. Once you take a bribe, any bribe, a judge is then compromised to the FSB. By outing such information to the public, Litvinenko became a threat and was tried for treason. Although he had released no state secrets, only made public those things that the government officials wish kept private about how they shake down businesses. The implication is that this goes beyond just the FSB, although that, alone would be bad enough.
There is another reason for why Litvinenko was on the hit list, and that isn't discussed in this film. He apparently had information on the murder of Vladimir Petukhov the mayor in Nefteyugansk. Before his death, Litvinenko had visited Israel and Leonid Nevzlin:
Yeah, I think in a way he held the door open with us. He visit me three months, I think it was, before he was killed. And he left some papers about what was really, because of some blames on me, what was really under this blame. Because he was part of KGB and, for instance, he knew from the people in the KGB of the real case of the mayor of Neftyugansk, Petukhov. So he left his evidence, names and etcetera, and who killed Petukhov and why he was killed...
That is from Khodorkovsky a documentary by Cyril Tuschi and yet another film I recommend for those interested in liberty, freedom and morality. A bit later in that interview Nevzlin would tell us that he passed that information on to Israeli police and Scotland Yard. Here is an unexpected intersection between one of the oligarchs of Russia, the KGB/FSB, Putin, Litvinenko and the stark contrast between two sides of the suppression of liberty by State power.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, as the documentary examines, is an unusual case in the Russian post-USSR power struggle as he is not part of the functionaries of the State, in main the FSB, nor a part of the criminal class that infested the rule writing of the early Russian Duma. In those early years there was a place for the type of people that Boris Berezovsky talked about with Nekrasov:
B – What a price humans have to pay for knowledge. How hard it is to rise above the common wisdom.
N- Is it even more difficult for Russians, would you say?
B - I know what you mean. The Russian mentality is that of slaves. That's why the system of forced limitations is so welcome. So why then am I advocating liberalism in Russia? Am I contradicting myself, advocating freedom for the Russians, going against the nation's character? So, is Russia ready, which means her people ready to take up the responsibility of freedom? I think they are ready. Because once the tyrannical dictate was lifted, millions of entrepreneurs appeared, a myriad of independent politicians and journalists appeared. Russia turned out fully prepared for this crucial, historical step. We only needed to move forward and consolidate that freedom. And so my main conflict with the authorities today is about individual independence. All those stupidities – media controls, "vertical power" – have one result. Destruction of freedom in the minds of Russia's citizens.
Of that new entrepreneurial class was a group that would start from the ground-up, and would attempt to actually put real capitalism into play in Russia. Of those Mikhail Kodorkovsky is the most notable as he started with next to nothing to form a bank in Russia without even knowing how a checking account worked because there had been no banks, no checking accounts, no savings accounts, nothing like that in the USSR. They had to ask experts in to teach them the basics of banking and they did make mistakes, but also made money as Bank Menatep was far more secure than anything else in Russia at the time, which is not to say that it was secure by Western standards as the scandals that came to it demonstrated.
Bank Menatep would also fund a bid for the Yukos oil concern, which had been a State run oil system in the USSR. Bids from outside Russia were excluded, and while there are complaints of corruption about that it must also be asked what government would want to hand over such a large concern to foreign owners? If a reasonable and reliable bidder inside Russia could be found then why not hand it over to them? It was sold at a fraction of its value at $300 million, which was a huge amount in those days in Russia.
Do remember that a few years previously there had been, effectively, $0 in Russia, and Putin's swindling of St. Petersburg via non-use of sold goods abroad was placed in its lower range at $92 million. Yukos also had $3 billion in debt, so anyone who was purchasing it was getting a massive amount of debt and the responsibility to pay it off. This was also in a period in which Saddam Hussein was effectively bottoming out the oil market by selling Iraqi oil far under market prices so as to depress the oil market. Given that background and realizing that transparency was necessary for running the firm, one would have expected failure of Yukos. Instead it succeeded, wildly, because it was a transparent, open organization that allowed public scrutiny of its affairs and transactions.
From Irina Yasina journalist who worked with Khodorkovsky to help establish his education works and who was the director of Open Russia:
At some point, Yukos was also a non-transparent company. Minority shareholders were treated badly and no quarterly reports were submitted, like in the West. That's what it was like in the beginning. After a series of scandals, Khodorkovsky understood: If you make a company transparent, you attract investment. He learned from his mistakes and knew this would also make money. So it was actually a business project.
And that made him rich, at one point the richest man under 40 on the planet and headed to become the richest man on the planet, period.
If oligarchs are to be deplored, and oligarchies which they are a part of, then what about an oligarch who is setting up a template for breaking up the oligarchical system? Khodorkovsky and the people that came to Yukos were embodying a spirit that did not see them spend on lavish estates, fast cars and the high life, but something far different. They did live in good homes, yes, but Khodorkovsky also started funding scholarships and schools. It is forgotten that in the early days of US capitalism there were more than Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, but also Carnegie, Ford and Westinghouse. Even Rockefeller would start building foundations, charities and just give money away.
On the advice of an American PR firm, Khodorkovsky establishes in 2000 Open Russia an organization to support education in Russia. Khodorkovsky invests $100 million in universities, boarding schools, and training programs for journalists.
In Russia, which did not have such a foundation of moral philanthropy as we know it in the West, to find it suddenly appearing in the post-Soviet era in Russia is nothing short of astounding. Khodorkovsky, even before he was charged with crimes under Putin's regime, had started that transformation by talking of the need for a civil society so that freedom can flourish.
From Khodorkovsky's mother, Marina Khodorkovsky:
Education! Mischa's central idea was, that democracy doesn't trickle top down. It has to become a necessity from the bottom up. When people start to broaden their horizons, they start to think and develop other interests. That was his core idea.
There is a central dynamic in capitalism that is a moral one and it has to do not just with wealth but its uses. Khodorkovsky writing from prison:
I must thank prison. In a way I am freer here than when I was leading the company. I'm only responsible for myself, here. Here I've come to realize that owning assets, especially large assets, does not automatically make a person free at all. As a co-owner of Yukos, I had to expend huge amounts of energy to protect this wealth. I had to abstain from anything that might jeopardized my wealth. I also had to impose limits on myself, because speaking openly and frankly could have harmed those assets. I had to ignore a lot and put up with many things all for the sake of my personal wealth, to preserve it and increase it. Not only did I control this wealth, it controlled me, as well.
These are not the words nor thoughts of a man in bed with a regime or criminal organization, but a capitalist with morals and ethics speaking about what acquired wealth does to one. Unlike George Westinghouse, Mikhail Khodorkovsky hasn't learned the morality of ethical use of capital, but he has learned the basics that even Rockefeller had to learn: when you have so much wealth you are its prisoner as well as its owner and you are the one for your own sorry state of circumscribed freedom. The only answer to this burden is to lessen it: Andrew Carnegie sold his entire company to J. P. Morgan, while Ford ensured of good worker pay so that they could afford to actually buy the products they made, and Westinghouse concentrated on improving the workplace, work hours, working conditions, and lives of his employees so that they could own the homes the lived in that had electricity and running water in them.
Capitalism is based on providing goods that are wanted by individuals at the lowest price possible to make a profit so as to not only sustain but increase production, while lowering costs. If no one wanted the goods or services provided, a company would go under, and yet we, in the West, now have a corrupted banking system and industrial system where companies are supported by the State and must answer to its tune. All in the name of 'saving' such companies that rightfully deserve to fail. If Yukos was barely able to support itself and had huge debt, then what does it say when the company is turned around, opens its books and becomes successful? In other words it stepped free of regime support, learned what it means to be accountable to shareholders and then did the right thing to increase its transparency to increase its business and attract more capital.
At heart capitalism and companies are moral and ethical organizations of individuals while government is an organization of power. When companies and governments work together it is to the detriment of the moral and ethical roots of capitalism and does nothing but make stronger the power of government over its citizens. Contributing factory space, production time and other commodities at a low price to defend a Nation where a company resides is one thing. To take orders from government in peace time on what to make, how to make it, how to produce it and then to kick-back money to campaigns and politicians is inherently immoral as it robs shareholders of their say in the company, and unethical as it puts those in charge of the company in the position of betraying shareholders for their own interests in a share of government power and support. It is, in other words, fraud.
Yukos was a very wealthy company and one of the wealthiest in Russia when Putin came to power. This from Aleksey Kondaurov, former KGB general:
The relationship between Putin and Khodorkovsky was in order. They met regularly and discussed various issues. We had good relations with the government. After all, the operation was really very powerful. There was no other company like ours. We were the country's biggest taxpayer. We paid more taxes than Gazprom, who were bigger than us. Which is why we had a good relationship with the secret service.
Via paying taxes, Yukos becomes something quite different than the other companies run by oligarchs who had non-transparent companies: a respected business. Transparency, paying what you owe in taxes, paying off debt, gaining investors, and becoming rich are combined together and they cannot be separated. Becoming rich is only a sin if it is your sole and only goal, and this was not the case with Mikhail Khodorkovsky who ensured that his business did the right things to demonstrate that it had responsibilities to attend to in the governmental affairs area via good relationships with government but also to support its civil duty to pay taxes like any good corporate citizen. It was not there asking for special privileges, special monies, special projects or other such things in promises for political support from the company. And the FSB, Putin's own organization, understood just who it was that was the largest taxpayer in Russia and appreciated that, respected it, save for at the very highest of ranks.
Former Yukos lawyer, Dmitry Goldlobov recounts what happened:
Putin told them: "Okay guys, stay away from politics, okay?!" And everybody agreed. Everyone nodded and said: "Okay". Khodorkovsky nodded as well. He didn't say: "Dear Mr. Putin, I won't stay away from politics! I'll be just in the Duma" or something. He agreed. And afterwards he violated that deal.
Why? That idea behind Open Russia: a better educated civil society with many interests and a bottom up democratic institution. To have that sort of institution, to get to a democracy, there needs to be a competition in ideas and ideologies. And Litvinenko already told us what remained after the USSR in the way of ideology: criminal ideology. If Boris Yeltsin had tried to build something better but was overcome by the corrupt institutions that remained, particularly the FSB but also the infiltration of the criminal class into business and politics, then what did Vladimir Putin represent?
Litvinenko had outlined this, as well:
In our country, the special services are, in fact, a secret political organization that uses sharp methods, secret methods, not against spies and terrorists, but solely to keep a ruling class in power. In 1999, for example, to seize power, the FSB used secret methods that are only allowed against terrorists and spies. If the army were to seize power, they'd roll in with tanks and guns and fly in with jets maybe. But everyone would notice. The FSB, on the other hand, has secret methods, and nobody noticed anything until chekists made up the government and seized every organ of power. If the KGB was the armed unit of the Communist Party, then the FSB is the armed unit of – of a caste of corrupt Russian officials.
If you are aware that to run an ethical concern, be it business or government, there must be transparency, and the man in charge and, indeed, the whole establishment of government, is not transparent but has a veneer of democracy on top of it, then what do you do? Ethically you know that any agreement you make with such a government can be over-ruled by those in power at a whim. In fact the FSB is particularly good at 'compromising' people and bringing false charges to conviction via a compromised judiciary process. Without criminal, judicial or police help, just why would you stand by a corrupt government? Even worse, what can you do to change it? Khodorkovsky realized that any agreement he made with Putin was ephemeral as Putin had already been shown to be underhanded in his business and official dealings before coming to office. A corrupt government does not gain the loyalty of ethical individuals be they citizens or corporations.
For doing this, Khodorkovsky's bank had a sanatorium, the RUS, seized by the State. This was a good if not the best hotel in town and its seizure was rumored to be done on Putin's orders for his wife, who liked the place. No real legal pretext was given: assets were seized without any indications of having done anything wrong. Khodorkovsky did nothing, at first, as this was an act of raw power by the Kremlin. Other business leaders approached Khodorkovsky to speak out about corruption in the Kremlin during their annual, televised meeting with Putin on 19 FEB 2003. Leonid Nevzlin was his business partner and summarized it like this:
Khodorkovsky was asked to bring up the topic of corruption at the Kremlin. I remember he was unsure whether he would or not. But it had to be done on principle.
And then Alexander Temerko, a former Yukos VP recounts:
Voloshin told Khodorkovsky: "TV will be there! We'll instruct the stations to broadcast your speech about corruption! And Putin will definitely react in the right way."
That is charming naiveté, at best, as it must be remembered that this is the same Putin who deceived St. Petersburg, ran the KGB/FSB, worked to launder money for drug cartels in Germany and who had now taken offense that some business leader might actually be funding the opposition and responded by seizing assets using the power of the State to do so. With those things known, and do choose just one or two before the seizure event, why would anyone expect Putin to act 'in the right way'?
From Aleksy Kondaurov, a security advisor:
At the meeting with Putin he said – and I think this sealed Khodorkovsky's fate – "We started the corruption process, so we should end it."
From Igor Yurgens, Economic Advisor to President Medvedev:
I was present at the meeting and I can tell you that, uh, uh, he handled that confrontation [?] in an arrogant manner. To be objective I can tell you that sitting in front of the acting President accusing the President, practically, of covering up for the corruption in the State controlled oil company. That was a little bit too much. He could have chosen a more elegant way or less confrontational way, but what he said was true.
And part of what was said at the meeting:
Khodorkovsky - Experts from our organizations analyzed the extent of corruption in Russia and all arrived at the same figure: it is estimated at $30 billion.
Putin – You've mentioned the merger between Rosneft and Severneft. I obviously feel that Rosneft's chairman should react to this and offer further explanation. Although some aspects are immediately obvious: Rosneft is a state-run company which must increase its reserves. Because these reserves simply aren't sufficient. Some other oil companies, such as Yukos, have excessive reserves. Yet how has Yukos achieved this? That's a question we should discuss today. As well as payment or non-payment of taxes. We did discuss this with you previously, didn't we? Not long ago. Your company also had difficulty paying taxes. But respect is due to the management of Yukos – for coming to an agreement with the tax authorities – settling all claims and issues with the state. But how were these problems created? Perhaps that is why so many people study tax law. Are you following me? I'm hereby putting the ball back in your court.
So what is Putin's point? Yukos, by his own admission, has paid up on its taxes and is, indeed, the largest taxpayer in Russia. It has large reserves of oil, yes, but gained via commercial activity as he puts no other activity forward that can explain that. Marginal tax rates are not enough to make or break expansion of reserves and if he has complaints about what prior administrations did in awarding Yukos, then why doesn't Putin want those administrations investigated? Of course he was the head of the FSB under those administrations and if he had anything at the time, he should have spoken up. Of course there is that matter of SPAG with Putin sitting on its board and being head of the FSB while the company was charged and convicted of money laundering for drug cartels... perhaps he had other worries at the time, eh?
What you see at work, however, is the head of a corrupt State, or soon to be head, dodging responsibility and transparency, while complaining that a transparent company that has done the right thing might be in the wrong. If you bring up the Yukos reserves then what about Rosneft's inability to perform marginal expansion or just pay for oil on the open market, or purchase the rights from other companies to their reserves? If there are any problems with Yukos on taxes then what about Rosneft and its main function of actually running its oil affairs competently? This is how you cover up corruption at the State level: you blame the innocent or cast doubt on their legitimacy. Any head of State that is pointing out all the wrongs in others, is in the process of casting them as not being upright while not addressing if he or she has the moral and ethical stature to actually accuse others of anything. The more you hear haranguing, accusations, belittling, and bringing up past affairs that are ALREADY SETTLED, then you are hearing from someone who, themselves, have something to hide.
It is this that is the indicator of a corrupt State. If Vladimir Putin wanted to have businesses stay out of politics then, really, the State must stay out of interfering with businesses. The moment a State decides to wield its power to tell companies what to do or actually purchases companies to be run by the State, then the companies involved have a right, duty and obligation to protect the assets they have from their shareholders and have direct input back into the State. This is the heart of the process of corruption and collusion between a State, any State, and its business community. It is one thing to uphold laws of transparency of accounting, keeping good books, and being accountable to shareholders and quite another thing to impose the power of the State towards State ends on private concerns. Russia, of course, has an entire history of just this problem, going back to the Czars and including the entire history of the USSR and now the post-Soviet era.
From this confrontation Khodorkovsky would attempt to get foreign companies, Exxon and Chevron, involved with Yukos not only to allow those companies into the Russian market but give Yukos a foothold in the American market. He would establish a foreign outpost of Yukos in Houston, TX which would become the basis of such agreements and would also serve as a separate part of Yukos outside of Russian laws. Of course this wouldn't do as it would make Yukos an independent, international concern. This resulted in the arrest of Yukos leading official after Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev while he was in hospital and then whisked away to an FSB secret jail. Isn't it wonderful when State run secret police have secret jails? At that point Khodorkovsky started telling those close to him in the company and his family to get out of Russia because he didn't want any more hostages taken by Putin.
The State sent people to Khodorkovsky trying to extort money from him so that they would leave him alone. But he had already seen that sort of trap: once you give money like that you are on the hook forever and they can reneg on the agreement at any time and jack up the costs on a whim. Besides, Yukos was transparent, had regular outside audits and published those openly. Yukos had no money to give that could not immediately be seen, and Khodorkovsky had already said that he wasn't running away from Russia as a political exile. Yukos had paid its taxes, settled any arrears and was in good standing as a taxpaying company. He was, in other words, not giving into the temptation of easy corruption, an easy life. That isn't his goal any longer, but for that longer vision of an informed Russian civil society, and he knows that he will pay a price to be on that road.
Two days before his arrest giving a speech at Belgorod University, Mikhail Khodorkovsky said:
Elections alone won't build a civil society. But it's a first step towards creating a normal state, in which it isn't merely pleasant to work, but also to live. Let us build it together. Thank you.
And then in a television interview on Belgorod TV the day before his arrest:
Interviewer - You were in America when your Yukos offices were searched. But you still came back to Russia. Aren't you afraid that men with handcuffs might suddenly turn up?
Khodorkovsky – As long as our country isn't fully a civil society, nobody is safe from the people with the handcuffs.
The trial on tax evasion, itself, was a pre-determined affair run by the FSB and, ultimately, Putin. Khodorkovky's denial for early release similar and hinged on missing a sewing class in jail, while otherwise being a model prisoner. As his time in prison was running out Putin had him tried and convicted of other charges, stealing hundreds of millions of barrels of oil which, strangely, no one can find missing or hidden, anywhere. Yet still he was convicted of doing the impossible. The message was clear to those that followed Khodorkovsky's path in business or who hadn't thought that the State would reach out to seize any of the oligarchs: they fled Russia. And who spoke out against this?
The silence from the West is deafening.
There were long standing groups working to free political dissidents in the USSR who dared speak out against the regime. But Khodorkovsky, for all his insights into what it takes to have a civil society, gets no support. A business man who has straightened up the ways of his company and himself, who supports a freer and more well informed society, who behaves with demonstrable morals and ethics can't get that. Yet he did the right thing, by forming an organization with the goal of expanding the civil sphere, personally donating to schools and institutes, donating to a political opposition so that there could BE a political opposition that could get its ideas before the public. Too bad it comes from a businessman and not some lowly transgendered artiste speaking in coffeehouses, huh? The latter would get some press, at least. An ethical businessman who happens to be the richest man under 40 on the planet?
Joschka Fischer, former Foreign Minister of Germany about what happened after the imprisonment of Khodorkovsky with respect to Khodorkovsky and then Yukos a bit later:
We had a vested interest in asking, can't we solve the Khodorkovsky issue –even after his arrest? Can't we solve this, so that he might be released from prison? But Putin was highly emotional and totally rejected it.
It concerned the property right at Yukos. In respect of which the international part of Yukos filed a lawsuit with a Texas court. The question was: How can the property rights of Yukos be transferred? We had a meeting with former German Chancellor Schroder, Putin and myself – and the Russian Foreign Secretary. And we met on this sailing ship that's permanently moored in Hamburg, "Rickmer Rickmers" or whatever that ship is called. We sat below deck. Putin was quite cheerful –wel, yes, in a good mood, saying: "Tomorrow, you'll see how it works!". Exactly that day Yukos was put up for auction and suddenly an investment group from Novosibirsk, or Irkutsk, or wherever, turned up out of the blue, made a bid for Yukos. And was awarded the rights. They immediately sold them on to Rosneft and disappeared into thin air. And with this trick, the address, at which a civil lawsuit in America could have been served, simply vanished. And Rosneft could say, "I don't know what the problem is. We acquired it lawfully. Any issues you have with this investment group that doesn't exist anymore are not our concern". Therefore the whole issue, at least, regarding the legal aspects, was rigged.
That is what is left in the place of an ethical business situation: one in which a State-owned concern that can't manage itself well is given the assets via a rigged system that is opaque to all concerned in order to escape legal ramifications of seizure of property. And those in power in the West who are elected officials and should be seeking to have other governments respect human rights?
Again from Joschka Fischer:
The world isn't what you imagine. There are interests and values. But the idea that there are human rights and we will enforce them by any means, is of course absurd. Then you'd create the opposite of human rights. That's not how the world works.
Tuschi – But you're still quite an idealist when it comes to the world in general.
Fischer – But I am also a realist.
T – No, you are not at all.
Indeed our rights are endowed to us as individuals and governments are creations of man, not Nature. Human rights cannot be enforced by governments at all. It is, however, governments that have the responsibility to respect human rights as they are the creation of men. Fischer is quite right in that government is not the enforcer of rights as that would make it the granter of rights. With that said it is not absurd for people to seek to have governments respect human rights, especially those of their citizens.
Milan Horacek, Human Rights Delegate in the EU government:
In all my human rights work, this is the first time I've defended a capitalist, but they are also entitled to human rights. Which is why I said in my plennary speeches that, at the age of sixty, I have now decided to defend rich people. One can't distinguish between human rights for the young, old, poor or rich.
From Andre Glucksmann who covered some of this in the Nekrasov film:
Putin's regime is a regime of oligarchs who own Russia in its entirety, who sell their oil themselves making a huge profits while 50% of the population lives below the accepted poverty line. So it's a regime of profiteers. But you may call it what you like. Of the many types of capitalism, this is one of the worst if it's capitalism. If it's socialism, it's also very ugly. So it's -
Nekrasov – It isn't socialism.
G – Well it does have many socialist characteristics. There is the power of the police, the power of the army, the absence of freedom of expression. Virtually totalitarian. I also think there are rich men who have become strong supporters of public freedom, that's to say, the rights of man, social security and so on, who find themselves in deepest Siberia. I mean Khodorovsky. So I think it's necessary to support both the unemployed who demand food and the capitalists like Khodorovsky, who may be called a capitalist, but he is also for freedom. On the other hand, we must condemn all those who suppress and prohibit freedom of expression. In my opinion, Russia has gone back to something it had under the tsars. Always – At some points, the possibility of real reforms, efforts for reform. But under the tsars, under communism and today, it was and is an autocracy. What your Putin calls "vertical power". That's the way things are now. In my opinion, that's dangerous. Not only for the Chechens who are being massacred without anyone allowed to say how awful it is, and not only for Russia that is being stifled, but also for the West.
What we can get from these two films is that there is a deep sickness in Western culture as a whole as seen by the inaction of governments with regards to Russia. But this goes further than just Russia or governments.
Again from Glucksmann:
You know, France, among the elite, has always suffered from the morbid influence of a Russian mirage. Later it was the Soviet mirage, bit it had been a Russian mirage. In the beginning, the French salons of the 18th century were full of admiration for Catherine II and, before that, Peter the Great. Peter the Great was received by the French Academie just like Putin now. Together with Bernard-Henry Levy and Philippe Sollers, I wrote a petition to say it was shameful. But there is indeed a kind of innocent and inane admiration, that is to say ignorant admiration, for a state that asserts itself as rational and Western in its appearance.
Nekrasov – So what about Chechnya?
G – That's a scandal! But even Voltaire knew that Peter the Great had killed his son under torture. But he tried to hide this fact. There were also some partisans of Russia at the time of the philosophers, like Diderot. But he went to see Russia, and though he could no longer protest openly – since he was paid by Catherine II – he left some papers in his drawer. When Catharine read them, she was appalled. What did he write? He wrote, "The Russia of Catherine II has rotted before it ripened." Instead of ripening, it has rotted. I'd say its not just the leaders. There is something wide-spread, a wide-spread malady that exists. When Hermann Broch, the great Austrian writer, was asked in 1945, "So you think all Germans were fascists? Nazis?" He said no. "So?" He said, "Listen, there are Nazis, and then there are those who let them come to power, who stood by and let it happen." And that includes all Europeans, without exception. There is then a crime of indifference that is even more fundamental because it is the condition that permits the Nazi crime. The Nazi crime itself was committed by the Nazis and the part of the population of Germany and also of Europe, but only a part. Yet the crime of indifference that first authorized the Nazis to take power, and later to wield it in the known way, that is a general crime committed by the Europeans, the leaders and also the population. The crime of indifference consists of closing one's eyes when criminal behavior begins.
Do you see governments trying to pick winners and losers for technology?
How about bailing out banks and deciding which financial institutions need to go under and which should remain?
Have you ever seen a government bail out a failing firm for any reason beyond saving some section of it for defense related purposes?
The disease is socialism, and it doesn't matter if you call it International, National, Communism or 'The Third Way', it is a horror whenever it starts because it is utilizing the power of the State to bring society under its control via controlling its businesses either via outright expropriation (Nationalization, which means a bunch of bureaucratic cronies who don't know the business will run it) or via cronies and payoffs (which means a bunch of business people who don't know how to run a business efficiently but do know how to grease palms is running it).
Cronyism starts via 'subsidies' and the State telling private firms and individuals what they can do through enticement. Or via rigging the market via 'regulations', which tend to favor larger firms over smaller, since they can grease palms more thickly. Those that point this out as corruption become the targets for well funded political attacks, which then turns into laws limiting what you can and cannot say about such activities. Those laws are enforced by some National government police system, which typically is a Secret Service. Power is thus transferred bit by bit from government to just a single organ of it: the Secret Police. It may start as a form of Praetorian Guard or some such, but at some point the leader of the Guard becomes the head of State.
It is why the Red Guard was killed off by the Reds after the October Revolution: the State had the Cheka and it was far more efficient at finding threats to the State than the Red Guard was. It is the reason the early Black Shirts in Italy were hunted down by the State. And the SA by the SS in Germany. Even the most fervent ideological supporters of the ruling caste found themselves on the outs when they were no longer necessary to grab State control. In fact they were a threat to State control as they knew how to get up the rungs into power.
And the population as a whole?
Docile. Not wanting to think about what the ends were of these means. Lulled into poverty and then distracted by merely physical means, like hard drugs, sex, music and concentrating on frivolities while the State provided more and more of their lives until the State could decide who lived and who died. That is the end-game of every Western terrorist group, and the object is to seize the State police power. Mind you they never think that they can be destroyed by that same power once control over society is concentrated into the hands of the very few. Men like Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky and Litvinenko are threats to this system as they tried to show the corruption at the heart of the State, did their best to educate themselves and then realized that the entirety of society needed to be educated as well.
Litvinenko was assassinated for speaking the truth.
Berezovsky fled and that gives him limited input into Russian society.
Khodorkovsky... he helped to set up the way the laws worked in post-Soviet Russia, and admits this and that they were as moral as they could be, those who did this, but that their society was unable to see what morality was. Once awakened to what was wrong, he became transparent, funded education, pushed for a more open society and then funded the opposition movement. He was no longer going to be playing the game he set up because it is corruptive, and continues past wrongs. He subjected himself to a corrupt system with typical outcomes, which he knew. He left Putin with a truly awful decision.
A dead Khodorkovsky is a martyr and can never, ever change how he thinks.
A live Khodorkovsky might be re-corrupted, but you also know that he knows exactly what the system can do to him and the more you make it bad, and the longer he perseveres, the worse you look. Not manly at all for the manly Putin to have a businessman tortured because he refused to play ball. But you can't lock him up forever. And without him the economic system has lost its vibrancy, its ability to rapidly expand... and yet the very qualities that allow it to do that means that the State control is threatened.
As the man who spent time in jail with Khodorkovsky said: he is alive because he is standing in someone's way and they can't just kill him. Yet, in unjust exile, his point becomes stronger by the day. Strong enough to pierce the indifference of Russian society?
He is in jail for a reason.
Would you gladly submit to a corrupt system created by your own ignorance and indifference so as to change it?
That is the dilemma of The Prisoner and his answer still stands:
I will not be pushed, filed, indexed, stamped, briefed, de-briefed or numbered. My life is my own.
It is the only way to be free when the State seeks absolute control over you via society.
Don't think of Khodorkovsky as a man, just as #6. And still he smiles in court a testament to the power of just one man.