Saturday, April 29, 2017

Left-Wing Radicals in Urals See Country on Verge of a Revolution like 1991



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – Encouraged by the Russia-wide protests on March 26, several extra-systemic radical left-wing parties have become more active in the Urals region because they believe that Russia is on the verge of a revolutionary situation like the ones in Eastern Europe in 1989 or the Soviet Union in 1991.

            FedPress journalist Aleksandr Chernokon says that the actual numbers of people involved in these parties is quite small and no immediate threat to the powers that be but adds that the number of people who follow the groups on social networks is much larger and so their ideas, if not their organizations, may be more influential (fedpress.ru/article/1778070).

            One group, the Agitpodgotovki of Vyacheslav Maltsev, has only about 60 activists, according to one of them who asked that his name not be given.  Others, like Vladimir Makhlachev, are less afraid to speak and say that their ideas, which include that natural resources should belong to the people, enjoy widespread support.

            The latter argues that “in Russia, a revolutionary scenario is possible” because elections are meaningless under Vladimir Putin. He adds that such a revolution “could be relatively bloodless as was the case in Eastern Europe or with [Russia] in 1991.” The Russian revolution failed because there was no lustration. In the future, the regime must be cleansed of holdovers.

            The radical groups often try to piggyback on other larger social movements, but they are divided on participation in such things as the May Day commemorations. Some view those as an opportunity to spread their ideas, but others say that there is a great risk that they will be subsumed and coopted by large parties.

            Moscow political analyst Yekaterina Schulmann commented on these developments by saying that “among residents of cities there is no doubt that there will be many of those who are close to leftist views or at least to leftist rhetoric and agendas about a just state.”  But their views are largely unrepresented in legislatures or executive powers.

            That should provide an opening for leftist parties to emerge, she suggests, given that the absence of such parties and strong trade unions in a country lie Russia is “anomalous” given that most Russian workers are low-skilled and the kind that are organized in other countries.  Consequently, the left is certain to view this as an opportunity for itself.

            However, the regime understands this and also that “such a party can achieve success only if there are more competitive elections.”  In an “unfree political system” like that of Russia today, all one sees is “a permanent parade of simulacra” – and that too feeds on the aspirations of the radical left underground.

Putin Ready to Order a Tiananmen But Underlings Won’t Obey if They See a Real Alternative, Yakovenko Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – Like most of immediate entourage, Vladimir Putin views almost all problems in terms of his own security and is quite prepared to drown the opposition in blood, Tiananmen style, Igor Yakovenko says.  But those he would need to carry it out might refuse to act if they were to see a genuine alternative leader they could rally around.

            The Moscow commentator says that the Putin regime has set the stage for this by two of its policies. On the one hand, it has carried out a kind of negative selection for the top positions thus alienating many of those below them. And on the other, it has blocked any chance for leadership change by democratic means (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=59041C41A182E).

            Both of these things strengthened Putin’s hand initially but now they are costing him support because there is a growing sense of “extreme injustice” throughout Russian society, especially among the young and in the provinces – and that provides the basis for a revolutionary challenge to Putin possibly even in this year.

            The Kremlin leader, of course, will immediately view any Maidan in Russia as a threat to himself and be quite prepared to meet it with a Tiananmen-style crackdown, Yakovenko says. “The question is how succession will such an attempt be.” Putin won’t be stopped by “any amount of blood,” and there are those among the siloviki who will do his bidding.

            But that doesn’t answer the question as to whether there will be sufficient numbers “ready to fulfill a criminal order from the commander in chief.”  The answer depends “not only on the size of the crowds which the Kremlin criminal will order to be shot but also on a number of other factors.”

            Many senior and mid-level officers share many of the feelings of the opposition. They are simply not as radically different from it as Putin and his regime suppose.  They too, Yakovenko says, share a sense that Putin has committed injustices that they personally can’t and won’t approve of.

            “But the main thing,” the commentator continues, “is that they aren’t suicidal.” If they are ordered to shoot at demonstrators, some of them will have to ask where they want to be not only on that day but in the future.  And if they see a genuine alternative leader that they can rally around, they may choose to go over to the anti-regime protesters.

            That is the lesson of the last 25 years in Russia, he suggests.  “We show how before our eyes officers and bureaucrats took such a decision in 1991 and 1993” because they saw in Boris Yeltsin an alternative leader that they could support in contrast to the others. That is especially the case because of how Putin has treated some of his most loyal underlings.

            But there is a problem: the Russian opposition has not yet offered to their countrymen such a leader or provided the kind of strategic vision that officials and the population would be prepared to support against a broad crackdown by Putin, Yakovenko says. Indeed, in all recent cases, the opposition has taken a tactical approach and left open the issue of “what next?”

            If the opposition changes, the Putin regime could collapse and even do so bloodlessly as did Gorbachev’s in 1991. But no one opposed to the Kremlin leader should have any illusions  that he will go voluntarily until the opposition consolidates around “either a boycott or around its own candidate.” 

A Modest Proposal for What Should Be Done with Lenin and the 549 Other Bolsheviks Interred in Red Square



Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – Every April since Gorbachev’s time, Russians have discussed what should be done with Lenin’s body now enshrined in the mausoleum on Red Square, Nestor Pilyavsky says. But in focusing on Lenin alone, they forget to ask what should be done with his 549 comrades in arms who are also buried next to the Kremlin wall.

            The Moscow commentator says that to talk about Lenin but not about the others – who include his successor Joseph Stalin, “the legendary sadist Rosaliya Zemyachka, the terrorist Petr Voykov,” and various other heroes of  the revolution, including 422 in mass graves – is “somehow unethical” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5903285C723B4).

                Burying Lenin is one thing but reburying all the others would require enormous time and effort, Pilyavsky says; and destroying the mausoleum would deprive Red Square of its “only stylish building.”  It would deprive that location of its status as a tourist attraction and thus impose severe economic consequences on the city.

            On the basis of such reflections, the commentator makes a proposal which can only be described in Swiftian terms as “modest.”  He proposes “not destroying the mausoleum but even increasing its size and have it cover the entire Kremlin with it like a dome.” Having done that, he suggests, it should be the obligatory site for burying all future Russian leaders.

            “Inside this new Kremlin mausoleum, it would be possible to put their cadavers under glass,” thus allowing them to decompose slowly while providing the kind of spiritual “bindings” that the current regime talks so much about.  And taking that step would remind all leaders: you too, this facility would proclaim, will eventually end up here as well.