Russia’s first Presidential debate did not live up to its potential for the very reason that there was only one genuinely experienced, learned and visionary candidate who was debating a combination of has-beens, nobodies and one scandalous provocateur. The clear intellectual winner of the debate was Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). By contrast, the other candidates had little to offer. They included two communist candidates and one pseudo-theocratic extremist arguing for a full scale nostalgia trip, while two so-called liberal candidates argued for Russia to become a weaker sibling to the United States.
Zhirinovsky on the other hand, proved not only that his ideas are appropriate for 2018, but that many of his long standing political ideas have been vindicated by the events of the past six years. Zhirinovsky is difficult to classify on a dogmatic left-right spectrum. His primary domestic policy aims at breaking the stranglehold of creditors, dishonest business owners and plutocratic oligarchs. Zhirinovsky does not favour a return to the command economy of the Soviet period either, in spite of his clear disgust with the excesses of unbridled capitalism. Instead, Zhirinovsky argues for a system where the person seeking to open a small business or a family with a small loan should be less encumbered both by state and private sector regulation. Meanwhile, Zhirinovsky and his party propose that major national industries should be effectively controlled by the state so as to ensure that wealth generated by the nation gets reinvested into the nation itself and specifically into the nation’s people, rather than a corrupt 1% of elites. Instead, Zhirinovsky encourages a combination of monetary reform, moderate price controls, individual debt relief, infrastructural investment, the building of small family homes and trading policy that help put more Russians into work in the fields of computer science and engineering.
Zhirinovsky also rejects the excesses of the US so-called democratic model that prioritises sceptical like elections between unqualified candidates over selecting a candidate who will democratise the economy of a nation so that big business works in the national interest and small business can flourish without unnecessary regulations.
In this sense, Zhirinovsky’s long held ideas are in line with a wider global trend which rejects the American model of constant electioneering and embraces what ought to be called a democratic economy – this is to say, a national economy that works in the interest of the majority of the people rather than a few party political elites or private sector oligarchs.
The most successful example of such a model is the market socialism of China which has been most recently expressed in XI Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics For A New Era. This unique system encourages innovation, entrepreneurship and international commerce, but unlike in capitalist systems, the profits of such endeavours remain concentrated within the state apparatus so that they can be reinvested into national programs to eliminate poverty and elevate the condition of the people.
Zhirinovsky has correctly said that Russia cannot adopt a carbon copy of the Chinese system due to unique cultural differences and historical experiences. However, when examined further, Zhirinovsky’s proposals amount to a compromise which embraces many of the efficient elements of the Chinese model, as adapted to the needs and unique characteristics of the Russian people.
This is why Zhirinovsky’s proposals for a cleaner, healthier, more efficient and more innovation economic model represents the economic democracy practised in countries as wide ranging as China, Singapore and increasingly in President Duterte’s reform minded Philippines. These models serve as the basis for 21st century economic growth.
From Russia to South East Asia and to the United States itself, people are less and less seduced by the idea of open ended elections. They instead crave a balance between economic and social security combined with economic liberty and the potential to see increased living standards as the direct dividends of their labour.
This model confirms neither to the dogmas of the old Soviet model nor to the even worse dogmas of the US model that some in Russia who are stuck in a time-warp, still wish to inflict upon their country, even at a time when those in the US are craving a new hybrid socio-economic model to protect them against exploitation from the financial classes as well as the ‘big government’ elites.
It is for this reason that during yesterday’s Presidential debate in Russia, the other candidates refused to debate Vladimir Zhirinovsky based on the merits of his proposals, but instead attempted to provoke him personally through a combination of physical and verbal assaults.
Of all the candidates present, only one understood that the essence of democracy is a system that works for the people in material terms, rather than one which offers false hope through meaningless choices between incompetent individuals offering different versions of similarly failed socio-economic models. Zhirinovsky further understands that the American system is totally ineffective in terms of cutting down on corruption and creating genuinely democratic economic reform.
While the incumbent President of the Russian Federation who was absent from the debate will likely win due to his generally well deserved popularity, when it comes to winning the battle of ideas, that man was Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the candidate who will likely come in second place during the election and thus serving as an intellectual referendum regarding the direction that Russians would like their next leader to pursue.