Russia: The mobilized people against Putin and his authoritarian regime

We support the mobilizations for democratic and social rights. We do it from a perspective of class independence, without placing our trust in the liberal opposition of Alexei Navalni.

By Ruben Tzanoff

The most important cities of Russia are seeing the development of mobilizations made up of thousands of people, called by the opposing leader Alexi Navalni. They have a heterogeneous social component as it counts with the participation of workers, the youth, university students, women and pensioners, and also sectors of the middle class and, in a minor degree, the bourgeoisie. As our comrades of Eastern Europe explain us: “It is important to emphasize that in Russia there is also the so called “generational syndrome”, which took place recently in the Belarusian protests. Putin began to fulfill the duties of the president of the Russian Federation by Yelstin’s decision on December 31st, 1999. A whole generation of Russians have already grown up in conditions of unchallenged and anti-democratic government. A generation that is already expecting any change, both in their lives and in the State. The personification of the street protest is not occurring so much in terms of support to Navalni as in terms of hate towards Putin.” The recent events have made it clear that the Bonapartist regime of Vladimir Putin is not as stable as the Russian propaganda regime intends to prove and that the masses are increasingly less willing to stand the current anti-democratic “stability” of social deprivation.

Brutal repression

The political power has responded with repression, persecution and jail for thousands of people just for the fact of taking part in the mobilizations. According to independent news outlets, there was a record of 5,646 arrested people—among which there are dozens of journalists—in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and other cities. The human and democratic rights are still being miserably violated, as told by our comrades from Saint Petersburg: “The protests are peaceful, but the police mobilizes more and more agents, use pepper gas, paralyzing grenades, batons and paralyzing weapons.”  Until the verdict of the trial to Navalni: “Those detained during January 31st are still in buses without enough water, food or heating. Without places to sit or sleep, people have remained in cages for more than 50 hours.” There are more than enough reasons for the social unrest contained for years to be making its way out. The power knows this, thus it acts brutally to generate fear and prevent the mobilization from spreading and going deeper, as it happens in the neighbor Belarus with the heroic struggle of its people against the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko, protected by Putin.

There are also dissatisfied bourgeois sectors. For years, Putin methodically introduced his friends in the highest level of Russian capitalist class, favoring their personal businesses from the State structure. The economy still depends mainly on the international trade of hydrocarbons (gas, oil and its refined products), tightly controlled by an oligarchic elite strongly linked to Putin. This reality has generated dissatisfaction among bourgeois sectors that aspire to obtain a bigger portion of the profits, for which they show a glimpse of their wish for some kind of soft transition from Putin’s Bonapartism towards a new format of State power that favors them.

Navalni, the tip of the iceberg with a sea background

The trigger of the process of mobilizations was the assassination attempt through poisoning to the main opposing leader, Alexei Navalni. His recovery was completed in Germany and, when he returned, he was arrested in Moscow. As a corollary, he has just received a sentence of three years and a half of prison under the accusation of failing to complete the term of a prison sentence in 2014, which was orchestrated by the government and declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. Trying to capitalize on the social unrest, Navalni is currently calling to organize independent unions, demands salary and pension raises, and other demands. Still, we do not place any trust in him. He is a leader that defends the capitalist system, is pro-imperialist and does not condemn the Russian expansionist aspirations. He began his career as a right-wing nationalist. He was an organizer and participant of the so called “Russian marches” of Moscow, which gathered the most reactionary, far-rightist and conservative part of the marginal political forces of Russia (neo-Nazis, skinheads, Russian monarchists, etc.). After being financed by Western bourgeois sources, he gradually turned to the liberal opposition to the Kremlin, focusing on making anti-corruption proposals, without fully severing the ties that linked him to the conservative sectors.

Not seeding political expectations on Nalvani does not mean closing our eyes to a clear fact: the intention of the regime is to silence and crush anyone who thinks differently than the power. The Nalvani case is the most well-known in the West, thanks to the leaders who oppose Putin that give it a broad coverage. However, he is not the only one. There are activists from the left, for human and social rights, from the workers’ movement, from feminism and environmentalism that are persecuted and imprisoned for their demands. 

Putin’s partners in crime

The main left-wing parliamentary force in Russia, the Communist Party of the post-Stalinist Russian Federation, led by Gennady Zyuganov, has been incorporated into the capitalist power. Barely camouflaged, what’s left of the CP actively works in favor of the violent imperialist foreign policy of the imperialist Russia, supports Putin’s regime and urges the masses to abstain from participating in the manifestations, which it calls “liberal protests”. This standing enters the influence area of “campism”. It is the policy unfolded by the communist parties, the center-left and the reformists to push the vanguard and the mass movement towards the support to Russian and Chinese imperialism, falsely claiming to be “progressive” in comparison the Yankee and European imperialism. We cannot believe that they can express so much cynicism, after seeing the Russian interventions in Syria, the support to Lukashenko’s dictatorship in Belarus and the war in Donbass to appropriate part of Ukraine’s territory. From the International Socialist League, we reject campism as a trap to crush the independent mobilization of the working people against exploiters and oppressors, wrapped in whatever national flag.

Let’s support the mobilized people of Eastern Europe

Our place is with the people that marches and we participate in the mobilizations with a policy of class independence. Against the communist parties and their satellites, we share what our comrade Rumati of the International Socialist League expressed: “Instead of criticizing the masses for the protests, the Russian left-wing opportunists should help the masses to learn from their own experience, which is what class consciousness is about.”

(Russia: Mass protests and the “left”)

We demand freedom for political prisoners, the end of repression and persecution. We advocate for the formation of an Investigation Commission Independent from the Russian justice manipulated by Putin, that investigates with transparency and till the last consequences the violations of human rights and the assassination attempt of Navalni. The material and political culprits must be punished. Despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, the planet is crossed by great struggles and rebellions. Beyond their features and rhythms, they come together in two kinds of demands that join in the need of fulfillment of democratic and social rights. The struggles in Eastern Europe are beginning to synchronize their gears with the other regions of the world, thus we must support them. The unity in the struggle of the people of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine can strike a tremendous blow to exploiters and oppressors. For this reasons, we call to carry out solidary actions outside the embassies or consulates of Russia, for the democratic freedoms and social rights the exploitative and oppressive governments if Eastern Europe deny their people. In this road, it is necessary to build revolutionary parties, with the strategy of defeating capitalism, so the workers and the people govern in a socialist system. True socialism is synonymous with the compliance with the most elemental needs of the working class with the broadest democratic freedoms to debate and decide over their own economic and political destines, the mobilization and with social control of the population over the actions of the government, the unwavering struggle against all kinds of imperialism, and the solidary internationalism among the struggling people. In other words, socialism with workers’ democracy has nothing to do with the bureaucratic, oppressive model of privileges for the elite in power that Stalinism regressively imposed in the former USSR and other countries in Eastern Europe and the entire world. It is the strategy for which those who are part of the International Socialist League organize and fight.