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From Russia to Syria and Lebanon: One Party in Many parties

From Russia to Syria and Lebanon: One Party in Many parties

Monday, 27 September, 2021 - 09:15

United Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s party, was granted half of the Russian electorate’s votes. Still, the other half did not go to the opposition, any opposition. It was shared by parties that all support the president. These parties could object to detail here, an incompetent minister there, or minor irregularities at the polls, but they unanimously agree that Vladimir Putin is the only one who can embody Russia’s dignity and steadfastness in the face of hostile foreign powers.

The Russians who do not share this view, like the dissident Alexei Navalny, were banned, as they had been in Iran, from taking part in the elections. Putin’s Russia, which refuses the “imposition of Western values” on non-Westerners, finds copying nothing but Khomeinist Iran’s values tempting.

It is a farce that cannot but remind us of the farcical “people’s democracy” created by Soviet communism to destroy democracy and, at the same time, control the peoples of Central Europe.

However, the farce that is the Russian election would not be complete without its similarly farcical parties and ideologies. The parties no longer express divergent views and interests, the function that defines parties. On the other hand, they all agree on the basics. Nothing is more basic than lining up behind the president, and while these aligned parties’ names vary, between communist, nationalist, democratic and liberal, those descriptions do not correspond to what is being described. Words do not mean what they are supposed to mean. Vladimir Zhirinovsky established this method that has made a farce of political life since 1989, before Putin’s rise, when he called his ultra-nationalist party the “Russian Liberal Democratic Party.”

The reality is that the parties that shared the Russian electorate’s votes are all part of a single party that has many heads or many parties. The one party, hidden behind the scenes, is the populist-nationalist party, and Putin is its undisputed leader. Only thus could democracy spring from our “values” and “authenticity,” and become a force of unity and not division and strife!

The Syrians and Lebanese understand this approach very well.

These two countries are not the only examples that could be given. Nonetheless, they are two glaring cases: Behind Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stand the Arab nationalists, be they Baathists or Nasserists, Syrian nationalists, the proletarian Communists, and the Islamists who follow Hassan Nasrallah. They all consider one another “brothers” and “comrades.” The only thing that distinguishes one party from the others is the extent of its loyalty to the leader and his apparatus. As for the Russian and Iranian support for Assad, it removes any doubts that may remain about this fraternal, heavenly bond.

In order to strengthen this bond, correcting erroneous historical events is a needed. Neither did the Syrian nationalists assassinate the Baathist officer Adnan al-Maliki, nor did the Arab nationalists kill communist leader Farajallah al-Helou or Syrian nationalist officer Ghassan Jadid, nor did Hezbollah supporters assassinate the communist intellectuals Hussein Mroueh and Hassan Hamdan... Imperialism and Zionism are always the assassins, and the victims are their victims alone. Whoever says otherwise is either a damned orientalist or a student of orientalism.

Defending ideas and politics thereby becomes tied to the defense of facts and truth. That is true for both Russia and Iran, as well as Lebanon and Syria.

Blurring concepts and disdain for them have also undermined the notions of right and left, conservatism and liberalism, religiosity and secularism... This approach managed to make major inroads in some of the world’s oldest democracies. We find this, for example, in the French “leftist” Jean-Luc Melenchon, as well as in the French “rightist” Marine Le Pen. That is because stances on ideas and interests are no longer the priority.

Instead, the focus is on the position to the outside and the identity that this outsider is supposedly threatening. And there is always a wholesome leader, like Putin or Assad, who is appointed protector of that identity in the face of the outside, which is always an elastic concept; it can encompass imperialism and Zionism just as much as it can refer to globalization and multinational corporations, refugees and immigrants, or those aspiring for freedom or independence in all their varieties.

It would be misguided to bet on partisans taking a stance to save their parties and the ideas they believed in when they first joined those parties from the lies that misrepresented them. The normalization of lying has prevailed with the help of petty interests, implications in acts of violence here or there, and, of course, concern for the party’s survival after the erosion of its previous raison d’etre. In light of this persistent misrepresentation of parties and ideas, the outcome can only be the stifling of public debate, the exacerbation of intellectual and cultural stagnation, and their spread across countries in their entirety.

Indeed, when the Russian model or the Iranian model is imitated and followed, it becomes difficult for the outcome to be different from what it has been: zero added to zero.

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