Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Russian spring in the swamp

I wanted to add a few piquant details about the direction of Russian spring. The next gathering is not until December 24th and the media has already shifted its gaze to events gathering steam elsewhere, but not all the lessons have been drawn yet. One of the main challenges facing the opposition is its fragmented nature. The party they oppose, United Russia, is a potent embodiment of statism.

The demonstration in Moscow on December 10th was initially scheduled to take place on the prestigious Revolution Square, but was later moved by the authorities to the Swamp Square, citing legitimate concerns about inadequate capacity of the former to hold the swelling ranks of those pledging to attend on social websites.

The authorities negotiated the change with two of the leaders of fragmented opposition: Boris Nemtzov and Vladimir Rhyzakov, who agreed to the change, angering others who felt betrayed.
Nemtzov on his way to the demonstration went past Moscow's Triumphal Arch to gather demonstrators from the Revolution Square and brought them to the Swamp Square. It was an odd mixture of a Roman triumphal processing and Ivan Sussanin story - a man who promised to lead invading Poles throw a swamp, but brought them its most dire center instead. Nemtzov's name means 'from/of German' in Russian which is not a flattering connection there. I hope Nemtzov becomes an effective latter day Moses, because Russia desperately needs new leadership. It may be my angst or simply that experience teaches on to be pessimistic about freedom in Russia, but I cannot help but think of all the little odd signs.

It may be that the authorities, even Putin himself, thought it would be significant to relegate this movement to the Square of the Swamp, rather than allow them to defile the Square of Revolution, which Put must hold in high esteem, because he considers dissolution of USSR to the be greatest calamity of the 20th century. I wonder what calamities Putin has on his list. On my list greatest calamities during the last century dissolution of USSR ranks 77.

They say history repeats itself as a face, consider another connection. The previous Moses of Russia - Lenin - started his revolution with German blessing, and quickly took Russia out of WWI - look at how well that turned out. Lenin was a Ivan Sussanin in the sense of being a demagogue the plunged the country into civil war, starvation, collectivization, and all forms of repression through murder that were part of 'terror of the proletariat' from the beginning, before Stalinism took over.

It would easier to dismiss these tenuous connections as paranoia, but they are too numerous to dismiss.
Here's the translation a great section fromlenta.ru article:

"Nemtzov, chipper after his last detection on Triumphal Square, appeared on 'betrayed' Revolution Square ... collected people around him and took them to the Swamp. He was accompanied by a young leader from a wing of "Just Russia", Dimitri Gudkov. The line of people, streaming towards Lubyanka, stretched for several hundred meters".

Lubyanka was the infamous torture chamber of NKVD where people, including non-violent political dissidents disappeared never to be heard from again. Or emerged broken in body and spirit, to the extent that makes one question whether death would have been preferable. It is still an active center of operated by the newest security services FSB, recently renamed FSS. Change of names is typically a bad sign, it means the old organization played dirty, and the situation is 'cleaned' by breaking the historical connection though a change of name, in the same way as ChK became NKVD, which became KGB.

Here's another section. Do these writers intentionally put humor in their articles, or is that just a reflection of absurdity of reality?

"Suddenly to the right of Karl Marx (statue) appear a multitude of young men with imperial flags. Correspondent of 'lenta.ru' inquired with one of the flag bearers what movement he represents, but the young man replied he doesn't belong to any movement, and was handed the flag at the entrance to the meeting grounds.

A kindly man holding a bundle of wrapped up flags who was giving them out insisted that he was only giving them to "Russians" - members of a nationalist movement by the same name. In addition to "Russians", one could see representatives of "Russian social union" and "Russian mass movement" among other radical right-wingers. This tight throng adorned with a large number of colorful flags the nationalists moved in the direction of the Swamp.
After the right-wingers left, the Revolution square became quite desolate. For a time flags of communists and "Left front" still fluttered there, but soon they too streamed in the direction of the official meeting place. Leader of "Another Russia", Edward Limonov (from 'lemon' in Russian) remained as a last curiosity left in the Revolution square at the foot of the monument (to Karl Marx), surrounded, as always by a tight right of grim young men."

"... In addition to the usual slogans, the holler 'We're not going to the swamp!' - limonians (followers of Limonov) totally refused to protest on the Swamp Square."
"'Cosmonauts' (Russian special security forces 'Omon' dressed in its winter garb) periodically gathered into detachments and marched in various directions from their buses, but in the end nobody was detained on the Revolution square. Limonov summarized the situation: 'My revolution was stolen!' got in his car and drove home. The only remains of the demonstrators on the Revolution square were scattered papers, police and the statue of Karl Marx."

There are a few gems in the above, which I wanted to point out before continuing with the rest of the article.
The first paragraph is probably the most revealing: Russians want change. One of the most popular songs during the demonstration was an old song by (deceased) Victor Tzoy "We await change". What change will they get? A young man enters the Revolution Square is handed an anachronistic imperial flag, and he marches with it without hesitation! One is tempted to say that the contempt of Russian leaders for intellectual capacity of their people is justified. It is worth pointing out that since the entire Russian family was executed on Lenin's orders, the return of the empire has been rendered impractical. That these ideas are seriously entertained by some people is only a sign of the vacancy in their hearts, the nihilism of contemporary Russia. Unable to forge a just civil union based on logic and brotherhood, they harken back to the old tsarist days, when the society was based on the belief of divine right of tsars - basically the mystification of religion, let's call it 'grace.' Maybe grace as a foundation of a society is preferable is the society consists of brainless sheep that pick up and march with any flag that they are given.

Other notable things are: the humorous contrast of Karl Marx overlooking the latest attempted revolution. The left-wingers were left on the Revolution square alone for a time, sterile and insulated from criticism are the original October revolutionaries, who hijacked the nascent Russian democracy and instituted the dictatorship of 'Bolsheviks' ('majority' in Russian, who actually were not very numerous). We know how well that turned out. The would-be Lenin, Limonov, threw in the towel declaring 'his' revolution to be stolen. Do we need any more evidence to disqualify him from leading anything political? Such conceit is very dangerous in leaders. It's amazing he didn't have the presence of mind to pick his words in a better way, but they are consistent with his actions. 'My way or the highway', same intolerance for dissent was present in October revolutionaries in 1917.

I have condensed the remaining story below, and added some observations.

The start of the meeting on Swamp Square was delayed, as more participants streamed from the Revolution Square. In addition to Russian songs the crowds played Queen's "I want to break free". The meeting was opened by a colorful individual, the author of a web hit "Our nut-house is voting for Putin". A number of serious leaders all expressed the same demand: annulment of fraudulent results.

I wish them luck. He’s the kind of hollow promises given to demonstrators by the representative of United Russia, Andrei Isaev, that his party will 'hear' the protesters in the swamp. Just like Syrians in similar situations he also moved to cast aspersion on the legitimacy of protests: If you simply want to express your mistrust, you protest to what happened - do it, but do not let yourself to become 'pawns' in the hands of those who want to destroy our country'.

Medvedev recently made it clear that any anomalies that occurred were too small to jeopardize fairness of the results.

That's an amusing statement considering some regions famously reported 146% turnout, and Putin had to punt when he was asked the uncomfortable question of plausibility of 99.5% favorable vote in Chechnya, whose capital Grozny was leveled by Russia forces during a decade long suppression of a separatist movement. Putin and his crony stood by 99+% results. What should be clear to any serious observer is that the thinnest and most implausible veneer of decency and lawfulness suffices in Russia. Or at least it has for a long time. There is a misbalance between force and lies. The current regime will either fall because of its corruption or stand if it is able to ratchet up force. It cannot survive on lies alone, however, Russians are experts in modern, non-lethal repression. It may not be enough given the level of frustration of the public, however, the tactics of opposition, makes as much difference as its potential. Divide and conquer, said the Romans. Can opposition be unified?

Some opposition leaders proclaimed that United Russia has pulled off a miracle by unifying the opposition. I see too much daylight between the leaders, however.

The correspondent of lenta.ru asked some young people 'Why did you come here?', and 'What next?'

The answers were because the students didn't know anyone who voted for United Russia, but didn't have an answer to the second question.

It looks like it is amateur reformists against the professional security forces of the state, media, and even the law. This arrangement of forces is not favorable to the opposition. In a similar situation a hundred years ago Lenin called for professional revolutionaries. Of course, power corrupts, and it would be unfortunate to repeat aspects of Soviet history, but while this connection calls for caution, it does not invalidate the need for full time political operatives in the opposition.

The form that Russian repression is going to that is that taught to them by Mongol overlords centuries ago, and formulated by Stalin in a motto "No man, no problem". The professional revolutionary elements among the opposition are a source of strength, but also the vulnerability Russian security is going to exploit. There are already plenty of cases where the leaders of various movements have been jailed. The state is in danger of overusing this key element of repression - then being jailed by the state will become a badge of honor. Khadarkovski, the leader of the dismantled oil company UKOS, has been jailed by Putin for several years, and had his sentence semi-legally increased, will eventually gain his freedom in another several years, and people like him could become unstoppable leaders of a wave that will sweep away to corrupt oligarchy that has a stranglehold on the Russian people.

No comments:

Post a Comment