1. The arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny when he returned to Moscow from Germany has provoked the largest street protests in Russia since 2012. On 23 January, tens of thousands of people rallied in nearly 100 cities all over the country, despite temperatures as low as minus -50 Celsius. In central Moscow, Reuters reporters estimated that up to 40,000 people participated in the demonstration. On various occasions, protesters chanted “Putin is a thief”, “Disgrace” and “Freedom to Navalny!” The wide-spread popular response to the call for demonstration by Navalny supporters is all the more impressive as the rallies were declared illegal and authorities had publicly warned against participation.
2. Unsurprisingly, the regime has reacted with brutal repression. According to the OVD-Info group, which monitors political arrests, 3,068 people had been detained in some 90 cities, among them 1,167 people in Moscow alone. Among those arrested was also Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Alexei, albeit she was later released. Nevertheless, calls for more demonstrations on next weekend are already circulating.
3. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and its Russian comrades fully support the mass protests against the arrest of Navalny. We join the call for his release not because we share his political and ideological opinions. He and his opposition party Россия Будущего (“Russia of the Future”) are bourgeois liberals. They combine a pro-capitalist program with demanding a de-centralization of power. They call for an end of wide-spread corruption and of Putin’s all-powerful bonapartist presidency. Navalny has strong support from the European imperialist powers – in particularly Germany and United Kingdom – which hope to utilize him as an instrument for weakening their imperialist rival in the East. However, it would be wrong to characterize Navalny and his movement as “Western puppets”. He has a long-standing record of pro-democratic protest activities against the corrupt and bonapartist Putin regime. Because of this record, Navalny has become a symbol for democratic aspirations of the popular masses.
4. We also aware that Navalny is unwilling and incapable to overcome a reformist strategy for the protests – despite having at his disposal unprecedented support and popularity (his last Youtube video has got 64 million views within four days)! He believes that protests should only be used to out-vote the Putin government or to convince some oligarchs, slabovikis and middle-class people to stop supporting the regime. Even now Navalny calls to stop protests when they are becoming too large to handle. Hence, even the pro-liberal press calls him and his supporters as a “opposition until 18:00”. We remind the old wisdom said by the U.S. socialist Eugene Debs about Kerensky and similar forces: “Some intermediate class invariably supplanted the class that was overthrown and “the people” remained at the bottom where they have been since the beginning of history. They have never been “ready” to rid themselves of their despots, robbers and parasites. All they have ever been ready for has been to exchange one brood of vampires for another to drain their veins and fatten in their misery.”
5. The RCIT also calls for the release of the activists arrested in the so-called “Network case” as well as of the anarchist Azat Miftahov who had been recently sentenced for 6 years in prison! All of them were charged by clear loopholes in Russian laws and using barbaric methods like tortures and strange, invisible “witnesses”.
6. As revolutionaries and Trotskyists, we have nothing in common with the policy of Stalinist forces like Zyuganov’s KPRF which has collaborated with the Putin regime in various forms for years. Socialists and democrats denounce the Putin government as a chauvinist bonapartist regime which serves the interests of Russia’s monopoly capitalists. Likewise, the RCIT characterizes Russia as an imperialist Great Power (like the U.S, EU, China and Japan). We fully support the right of the Chechen people – who have experienced barbaric oppression by Russia in the past decades – to form their independent state. Likewise, we support the struggle of the Syrian people against the Russian occupation forces and the Assad dictatorship.
7. The RCIT also denounces the diplomatic protest of European and North American governments against the arrest of Navalny and the yesterday’s police violence. Who are they to lecture Russia?! Just a few months ago the French government, later joined by Austria, waged unprecedented repression against the Muslim migrant community. Macron also wants to criminalize making pictures of police! And when tens of thousands of people marched in the streets against such a law, the police reacted with brutal force. Furthermore, all over Europe governments are imposing anti-democratic mass curfews against the people under the pretext of COVID-19. No, the US and the EU are denouncing Putin not for any concerns about democracy but solely because they seek to advance their geopolitical interests in the inter-imperialist rivalry. Similarly, United Kingdom uses the COVID-19 crisis as a pretext to expand censorship against left-wing forces and limit the rights of transgender and Muslim people (while their liberal democrats are only concerned with “authoritarian politics” and the oppression of minorities in foreign countries like Russia or China).
8. We consider it as urgent for progressive activists to support the mass protests. However, socialists should participate with an independent program which combines democratic demands with calls for the expropriation of the oligarchs and the nationalization of their corporations under workers control. Socialists should also advocate anti-imperialist positions (Freedom for Chechnya, Russia forces out of Syria, etc.) and, at the same time, stating their equally ferocious opposite against Western imperialism. Finally, we think it is important to transform the movement from one of occasional street demonstrations to a general strike by the workers and students. We call those who agree with such a perspective to join the RCIT in building an revolutionary organization in Russia and internationally!
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The RCIT has published various documents on Russia. We draw reader’s attention to the following links:
Fight against Russian capitalism and imperialism at home and abroad! Provisional Platform of the Revolutionary Communists (Russian Federation), September 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/platform-of-rcit-russia/
Petr Sedov: Protests in Ingushetia: Down with the Yunus-bek Yevkurov Government! For national self-determination of the Ingushes! No to Russian Imperialism! 29 March 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/protests-in-ingushetia-russia-down-with-the-yunus-bek-yevkurov-government/
Michael Pröbsting and Petr Sedov: Mr. Ichlov’s Truth Barometer. A reply to a polemic against the RCIT by the Russian left-wing journalist Boris Ichlov, 7 September 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/truth-barometer-reply-to-russian-journalist-boris-ichlov/
Joseph Adams: Britain: No to the Anti-Russian Hysteria and Chauvinism! 09.11.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-no-to-the-anti-russian-hysteria-and-chauvinism/
Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/