After Helsinki, where Putin and Trump exposed their personal relationship to the world, in a perfect exemplification of the dialectic, Trump returned to feel the wrath of his people, and Putin to feel the pride of his. Yet the dialectic is no simple polarity, no either or. Alongside the rage that spewed forth from so many (see below), the voices ofthose who saw the possibility for peace and harmony could be heard. Voices such as that of Stephen F. Cohen speaking on Fox News: “For yourself, for me, for the American people. Do you, these people who are hunting Trump. do you prefer trying to impeach Trump to trying to avert war with nuclear Russia? That is the bottom line, and that is where we’re at today. “ (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/07/17/stephen_f_cohen_do_you_prefer_impeaching_trump_or_avoiding_nuclear_war_with_russia.html).
Yet even though he came home from the Helsinki meeting a conquering warrior basking in the praise and pride of his people, Putin left and came home to protests and anger .Ominously, the meeting in Helsinki occurred the day before the 100th anniversary of the assassinations of the Romanoffs. There was hardly more than a passing acknowledgement of the event in Moscow, yet the omen was there: even the greatest leaders fall. To be sure I am not predicting Putin’s assassination…no. But his political survival is yet another issue. In a July 8 poll by the Public Opinion Foundation only 49 percent of respondents said they would vote for Putin if elections were held Sunday. That’s a drop of 62 percent from the previous month. In a June poll by the independent Levada Center, trusted by most academic researchers, only 46 percent of respondents said they thought the country was headed in the right direction, while 42 percent said they thought things were headed in the wrong direction — a shift from 60 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in April. That’s a 30-point drop in net sentiment in one month. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/07/19/vladimir-putins-approval-ratings-are-dropping-this-is-why/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.802b94d9a87b.
Even before he left for Helsinki, Russians were taking to the streets to protest the government’s pension reform program that would hike the country’s retirement age. https://themoscowtimes.com/photogalleries/russians-raise-fists-posters-against-pension-reform-62296.
I did not need to read any opinion polls. I only had to go and sit with my friends in Perovskiy Park. The only thing on their minds was this pension hike. Vitaly says “He announced this during the World Cup when all the people were thinking about football. He thought no one would notice.” Everyone nods their head in agreement. Then there is the clampdown on landlords to register their tenants, which means they would have to pay taxes on their income. There has been a general decline in wages, a definite increase in the price of food. I live within one hundred yards of five small supermarkets. For years I watched the poor dumpster diving. The memory sticks in my mind of an old woman rising up from the dumpster, her face filled with near ecstasy as she sucked on a half rotten, unwashed peach, moaning in delight. Poor people, old people waited for the outdated bread to be thrown out then fell upon it, grabbed it up and took it home. Three or four months ago, the board of health put an end to it all; they demanded the dumpsters be locked in brick or metal containers. The people tore the doors from those containers.
Putin faces a nation of people who are wanting. It is the same nation of people who made revolution not once, but twice. And just as he has risen to unprecedented heights of popularity in that nation, his popularity is now waning in the face of want. As the sanctions settle in, as the military budget is forced to grow in the face of America and NATO’s military threat, the gas and oil windfall no longer suffices, and Putin turns to the people already struggling to extract taxes and limit social expenditures.
The external contradiction between America and Russia, has given rise to internal contradictions within each nation, and it is these internal contradictions which will determine the destiny of their leaders.
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.