“We have no democratic traditions, we have to create them. Only a revolution can do this”. ( L. Trotsky “Democracy and Revolution”)
By Jan Kryzhkevich
About 250,000 people took part in protests that spread across Russia on January 23. The protests took place in the vast majority of the capitals of the Federation’s subjects, as well as in several other large cities, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. This is the most massive protest action since the collapse of the USSR, which marked the beginning of a new wave of workers discontent with Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.
The formal reason for the ongoing protest was the arrest of Alexei Navalni, who returned from Germany after his treatment for poisoning. However, the main problems of today’s Russia lie not in the conflict between Navalni and the Russian authorities, but in the terrible situation into which the country has sunk during Vladimir Putin’s reign. It is not only the depressing economic state of the workers, but also the obvious slide of the Russian state into the abyss of totalitarianism. The absolute lack of rights of ordinary citizens in the face of authoritarian power has formed a “demand for real democracy” in society, which in the context of progressive poverty is gaining critical mass, creating the prerequisites for a revolutionary situation.
Despite the relatively small number of protests across Russia, this time there were several times more protesters than at the authorized demonstrations in 2011, not to mention the “Marches of Dissent”. The unprecedented geography of the protest is as impressive as it is a confirmation of the beginning of the mass politicization of Russian society, emerging from a state of deep apathy and indifference.
The story of Alexei Navalni is only a trigger for the all-Russian protest, but not the reason. Among the protesters there are many who do not support Navalny, and not only because of his imperial statements and outspoken nationalism. In fact, the political course of Navalni’s unregistered party (“Russia of the Future”) is no different from the Kremlin’s current aspirations, in terms of carrying out neoliberal reforms and further enslaving the Russian people through transnational capital. However, by skillfully using the theme of corruption and including the leftist rhetoric of the struggle for democracy, Alexei Navalni managed to attract many supporters, especially among young people, and today he is the most prominent politician in the opposition.
“Russian winter” as a continuation of the “Belarusian autumn” …
One of the important factors that activated the Russian protest was the example of neighboring Belarus. For more than half a year, Belarusians have regularly come out to protest against actions, despite massive political repressions, beatings, torture, kidnappings and murders of opponents of the dictatorial regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Throughout this time, actions of solidarity with the Belarusian people have been carried out in Russia, many famous people publicly oppose the atrocities of the Lukashenko regime and Belarusians have established a real mental connection with the distant and permanently rebellious Russian Khabarovsk . The slogan: “No place for dictatorship from Khabarovsk to Brest!” Characterizes the common goals of Russians and Belarusians in the best possible way , despite the completely different local demands of the protesters of the two countries.
It was Putin who saved Lukashenko’s regime from its inevitable fall last August. The Kremlin provided the Belarusian dictator with political, informational and financial support, clearly identifying the possibility of external intervention in the event of the victory of the Belarusian revolution. Taking into account the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass, the Kremlin’s military threat to Belarus seems quite real. In principle, Putin can not allow the victory of the Belarusian revolution, which could become a destructive example and provoke a serious destabilization of the political situation in Russia itself. Therefore, today, when Belarusians take to the streets of their cities, supporting the protesters in Russia, they understand very well that as long as Vladimir Putin is at the helm of Russian power, it is practically impossible to defeat Lukashenko’s regime. Despite many external differences, the essence of the political regimes in Russia and Belarus is practically identical: it is the desire for unlimited power through illegality and arbitrariness, elevated to the rank of state policy.
The liberal nature of the protest movement in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia does not exclude the participation of the left in it. Revolutionaries should not ignore revolutionary processes, but actively participate in them, promoting an international agenda in the struggle for political rights and freedoms, for Democracy and Socialism. The political subjectivity of the protests in the post-Soviet space is just emerging, which opens real opportunities for left activists to create a unique political organization capable of assuming a decisive role in the struggle to liberate the peoples from the yoke of authoritarianism and neoliberalism. The task is extremely difficult, given the difficult legacy of Stalinism, which completely discredited the idea of the left, and the shameless speculation of the authorities on the problems of the workers.
So far, for many citizens of the countries of the former USSR, the left-wing movement in Russia is associated with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, a party of officials, bureaucrats and oligarchs, led by Russian billionaire Gennady Zyuganov and the Belarusian dictator. Alexander Lukashenko is often called a consistent socialist and a true defender of the interests of workers and peasants. No wonder that it was the communist Ziuganov, as a guest of honor, who invited Lukashenko to the upcoming Belarusian People’s Assembly (prototype – CPSU Congress), to be held in Minsk on February 11-12 this year, to justify massive repressions by “will of the people”. Maniacs will always demand from the authorities the methods of defamation, falsification, desecration and distortion of Stalin’s reality, no matter what ideological clothes they wear.
However, he who distorts the ideas of socialism, trying to cloak his own tyranny in the interests of the working masses, cannot deceive and destroy the people’s desire for freedom and justice. The class contradictions underlying the conflict between the authorities and the people can only be resolved in a revolutionary manner. Serious economic turmoil awaits us, and the agenda of the left will be more relevant than ever. And today, in a tenacious and bitter struggle for human dignity and real democracy in different countries of the world, another revolutionary bridgehead is being created for future victories and new achievements.