People in revolutionary Moscow and its surrounding areas have been talking more and more about one thing: if there's going to be a run-off election between Vladimir Putin and Gennady Zyuganov, should you vote for the Communist leader?
Russian history almost every time seems to come together so quaintly that one has to choose between two evils. The only thing is that should there be a run-off election, there is no “greater evil,” not even a rational choice. It all comes down to what your tastes are (what you like and don’t like), which creates a dilemma fraught with moral doubts. How could an educated, forward-thinking person with steadfast democratic convictions and clear-cut moral principles vote for Putin? There’s no way. How could such a person, on the other hand, vote for Zyuganov?
A former colleague of mine and a big fan of alcohol loved to ask in the middle of the work day, “Want a drink?” After getting turned down, he would just make sure three seconds later: “What about now?” It’s exactly the same thing with Zyuganov. The anti-Putin minded intellectual at first will decide to pass on voting for Zyuganov, but then after giving it some thought, could very well vote for him based on the simple logic of “Anyone but Putin.” And this is exactly the type of willingness that many of my commendable colleagues have been voicing, since, “We can’t bear this … anymore”
There are people who oppose this route as well. Their anti-communist convictions and memories of the Communist era keep them from preferring Zyuganov to Putin. They too have a hard time stomaching just the meddling sight of the former KGB officer Putin as their president. But then when they think back to 1996 and all the moral sacrifices that were made when Boris Yeltsin seemed to be the lesser of two evils, or even a symbol of good, they cannot allow themselves to vote for a communist. And this is despite the talk that Zyuganov isn’t the same person he was in 1996 and that the communists today are “soft” and concerned to a large extent with their own interests rather than the public’s. So in case the communists should take power, then they are unlikely to nationalise everything left and right, repress people, etc. After all, it won’t get any worse than with Putin.
One of our friends and intellectuals even believes that the recent protest activity in Russia has to end with the authorities making a shift to the left, since the people dream of a leftist shift in the country. The way I see it, however, is that we already have a leftist/populist leader in Putin, who consequently has been building a system labelled as “state capitalism,” which is the sibling of state socialism. Others find it important that there be an alternative to Putin per se, no matter what that alternative may be. So this is why you get all those cookie-cutter Russian patrioteers like Belov-Potkin or Thor taking the streets.
The third option is clear as day: skip the run-off election should it take place.
Making a choice, just like one’s faith, is a very personal thing. And here it is an especially difficult choice. Zyuganov as an alternative is the same as a boomerang making its way back from the mid-1990s.
This is history taking revenge for Boris Yeltsin having picked Putin as his successor. I am confident that Zyuganov didn’t even think of making a come back this way, riding the momentum of a boomerang emblazoned in national patterns and decorated with Stalin’s enormous portrait. Twelve years under Putin has brought the voter to this point. But it’s not as if Putin came to us from a well. He came from Russian history, and in turn many of the people who now see the beacon of democracy in the friendly interface of Gennady Zyuganov had voted for him.
So be careful what you wish for!