The crisis has passed with us. The resources, accumulated during the years of oil and gas boom, have helped fixing holes in the banking system and in the stock market. Economists will be discussing for long the price the country has had to pay for this model of taking the way out of crisis. They are already saying about inevitable surge of inflation and about problems with getting consumer’s credits, and about reduction of housing construction.
Much less certain look the crisis consequences for the Russian society. They reason on the state TV that nothing has changed for major part of our people, and that all the parameters of economic development would be restored soon, and the consumer’s boom and the incomes growth would continue. The latter statement makes one doubt. The price paid for overcoming the crisis demonstrates that the times are over where the government operated with unlimited resources. And over is the careless life of different groups in the society that are used to live under the principle “we do nothing, and money just comes to us”.
A serious social and political problem has appeared, as during the Russian boom years significantly big strata of people has formed who are convinced about stability and immutability of their position. These are people with different social status and income level – from managers of prosperous companies and stock exchange brokers to some categories of the budget-paid workers. The common thing about them is their general mood of life and expectations that “tomorrow it will be better than today”. Having got to believe in the radiant future, those people have given up the politics in recent years, leaving it to authority to do whatever it considers right. At the end of the day, this is normal condition of a deal, a kind of social contract. However, capitalism has its own laws, and it does not matter for the global economy what the reasons for crisis are in this or that country – change of the state of the market or gross mistakes by the government. What matters is that with capitalism the periodical crises are inevitable. After years of the consuming boom, bringing down to Earth, accompanied with reduction of demand for goods and services, is always felt to be painful. One may recall examples from recent history of the ‘90s where the crisis affected the previously prosperous economies of Japan and the Far East “tigers”.
It is important that the society looks on the crisis as not on a tragic coincidence of circumstances or annoying mistake by the history, but as on an unpleasant reality one must take into consideration. The drama of the moment is that the authority does not tell Russian they would have to give up their hedonistic attitude to life and would have to set about hard working, like it was in the cursed ‘90s.
The logic by the authority is understandable; it wishes to keep the social contract in the form it exists now, as it is very convenient in governing the country and enables easy achieving the tasks the authority poses for itself. The reaction by the society is understandable too. Our people were never taught living in the market economy, and after the hard ‘90s everyone wants “living well” to continue. The less readiness there is on the both sides for facing the harsh realities, the more unpredictable might be consequences of such facing. For those in the lower strata it might turn into urge of interests for politics with an obviously oppositionist attitude. The problem is that there are no oppositional and influential forces in the country. Whether all that would lead to new upsurge of the “street” politics and what kind of politics it might be – liberal or that authoritarian and of “super power” - this question cannot be answered at the moment. No less important question is what would be reaction by the authority facing with the changed reality. Would it respond with more solidarity with the purpose of protection the class interests of the state bureaucracy and related to it business? Or would it come to understanding of necessity of making serious corrections in the policy? The answer to this question is also uncertain today.
Due to all those uncertainties, today it seems possible tens of different scenarios of our near future. The combination of reactions by the two key players – authority and society – generates this variety of choices. Clear is one thing: the sooner both players realize that repetition of the past is impossible for the country, the better it will be for the country, as it is always easier finding the optimal solution, with rational attitude towards the reality.