I want to give a quick plug and shout out.
Daut at Ufa Blog seems to be pretty plugged in to Russian anti-fascist activism and the rise of right wing racism. His newest post is a letter about the murder of anti-fascist activist Alexander Ryukhin, which I mention in my last post.
I’m also happy to see that
You Might also like
By Sean — 12 years ago
If there is a phrase that characterizes recent parliamentary and presidential elections in former Soviet Republics it’s “colored revolution.” If I keep harping on the point that that the “revolutions” in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan have sent political shockwaves through the CIS, it’s because the actions of ruling governments continue to use it as an excuse for repression. The latest country this colored specter haunts is Kazakhstan, which holds presidential elections on Sunday. The government has already issued a warning to opposition parties that if they even attempt to erect a tent in a city square, they will be severely dealt with. Then a prominent opposition member, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, was found murdered, um . . . I mean committed “suicide” just before he was to release information about the current president, and election front runner Nursultan Nazarbayev’s corruption. I wonder if the channeling of $84 million in bribes to leading Kazakh officials, with Nazarbayev being one of them, by oil consultant James Giffen in exchange for oil rights to Mobil Oil and Texaco is the big corruption news? At any rate, the “suicide” is rightly being challenged by Nurkadilov’s family. And if that wasn’t enough, apparently relatives of oppositions are being beaten, detained, and in one case kidnapped.
It all makes you wonder what the Kazakh government will do next. They have the proverbial warnings, beatings, assassinations, and paranoia covered. What is an authoritarian state to do next? I know! How about detain and expel some foreign journalists and human rights activists because you suspect that they are trying to export “colored revolution”? This is what Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is reporting.
Thus far the government has detained and looks to expel two Ukrainian journalists who were invited by the youth group Youth Information Service of Kazakhstan to cover the elections. This isn’t the first foreign expulsions. Over the last few weeks the government has expelled hundreds of Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks as well as Chinese and Turks. In addition around 500 people have been detained in Almaty, which is a center for the opposition. The government states that the expulsions were a result of a sweep for illegal immigrants. Others think it’s to prevent oppositionists from hiring immigrants to attend anti-government protests. All I have to say is who the hell knows. I know one thing, even without out all the repression to prevent colored revolution, I doubt there will be one anyway. But I guess we will have to wait until Sunday to be sure of that.Post Views: 35
By Sean — 11 years ago
The “March of Dissent” has certainly come and gone. The demonstration was modest and certainly ineffective on a political level. And while I don’t think the event should be overblown, I do think the March does raise some interesting questions about the Russian state, how it deals with opposition, and perhaps how it understands its power. In this sense, the “March of Dissent” continues to haunt.
From news reports, it appears that a smorgasbord of Russian security forces were on display for the “March of Dissent”—OMON, MVD, militsia, plain clothes police. Estimates put the citywide deployment at 8500, with 1000 of them at the march. The march itself was with little disturbance. Leaders from the Other Russia coalition simply made speeches denouncing Putin. Few demanded or attempted to break the ban on marching. “We decided to spare your heads,” Eduard Limonov explained the lack of challenging the ban to the crowd. This, however, didn’t satisfy the rank and file Natsbol minions. 200 of them followed by Red Youth Vanguard activists broke the police line and began marching up Brestskaya Ulitsa. Few at the rally followed, symbolizing how unwilling supporters of Other Russia were willing to risk their bodies. OMON officers quickly swarmed the marchers and arrested 40.
Why were so many police deployed for such a small demonstration? And what does it say about the Kremlin?
In an opinion in today’s Moscow Times, Lynn Berry addresses the same question: Why such a display of force?
The OMON officers, wearing camouflage fatigues and black helmets with clear face masks, were joined by units of younger Interior Ministry troops, police and their colleagues in plain clothes, including, apparently, the men sitting next to us. A total of 8,500 troops were deployed for a rally that drew 2,500 people at most, their numbers inflated by journalists, although hundreds more activists might have come if they had not been stopped along their way.
The show of force was impressive. Trucks with water cannon sat on Tverskaya, and a police helicopter thundered over the square, which was encircled by metal barriers and concentric rings of troops.
The question is why.
Perhaps the authorities feared a clash between the demonstrators — led by opposition heavyweights Garry Kasparov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Irina Khakamada, Eduard Limonov and Vladimir Ryzhkov — and activists loyal to the Kremlin. Although such a clash was not inconceivable, it could have been prevented with a far more subtle deployment of police. And on Saturday the only “activists” interested in provoking a clash appeared to be working for the police anyway.
An act of intimidation seems more likely. Many more ordinary people might have come to the rally if they had not had to walk through police lines and metal detectors, or if they had not feared getting caught between metal barriers and surging lines of police if a clash had broken out.
But the main intention appeared to be to create a sense of danger and to suggest the demonstrators were a threat to Russia by casting them as extremists and in the pay of Russia’s enemies in the West.
But in the end, Berry concludes, “this overt demonstration of strength comes off as a projection of weakness.”
One may suggest, as Berry does, that intimidation explains it all. Painting Other Russia as “fascists” and lapdogs fed with Western money is an effective way to discredit their cause, whatever their cause may actually be. The explanation then is easy. The Kremlin is simply authoritarian and the show of force was merely to scare the opposition or others who might join it. Perhaps. This view explains what we already imagine about Putin and his rule.
I think this explanation is too simple. The divide between force and consent is a slippery slope. Effective states seek to build their hegemony on a balance of force and consent. Force maintains the parameters of what is acceptable and unacceptable politics, while consent justifies and reproduces those parameters. A show of too much force, however, can undermine the stability of a state’s hegemony to the point where force can actually be a sign of weakness rather than strength. Moreover, too much force can give legitimacy to a movement that appears fringe and ineffective. It also produces an air of crisis, which the Kremlin certainly wants to exploit, but in the end might not be able to effectively manage. In the end, one must wonder: If the Kremlin was so sure of its power, that is its hegemony, why didn’t it deploy a much more modest force or simply ignored the rally altogether? If anything, this is one big question that results from a rather minor event.
Tags: Putin|Russia|Other Russia|March of Dissent|National Bolsheviks|youth|Russian politics|protest|democracy|hegemonyPost Views: 41
By Sean — 11 years ago
Yesterday, I wrote about Putin and the task of controlling the regional power. An article in today’s Kommersant gives a picture of one of the methods the Kremlin is using to not only combat political opposition to its rule, but to combat corruption and oppositionists within United Russia itself. However, while this may be the end, the means hark back to both a Soviet past and the timelessness of generational conflict.
The method is a group of youths called Molodaia gvardiia (Young Guard). The name’s Soviet connotations can’t be missed. Molodaia gvardiia was the main journal and publishing house of the Komsomol, not to mention a synonym for its role in the Soviet Union. Its Komsomol roots, however, go much deeper than its namesake. Its task is to not only search for enemies of Putin; it also seeks to root out corruption and intransigent regional leaders, even if they are high profile politicians or members of United Russia. According to its leader Ivan Demidov, “No one in the Party is free from responsibility. We must influence power. And if conflicts arise in the regions, which Radov [a pioneering activist in Molodaia gvardiia] spoke about, we will be on the side of the law before anything.” When asked if this meant moving against corrupt officials in United Russia, Demidov cautiously answered, “all will depend on the situation.”
But others contend that there is no conflict between United Russia and Molodaia gvardiia. One representative from United Russia told Kommersant that “that United Russia was prepared to deal with internal corruption itself” and that the group was a good idea because “they could help us.” Others, like political analysis Stanislav Belskovskii see the youth group as a means to pit the young idealists against the entrenched old guard as a way to wage internal party struggles within United Russia. “In the upcoming elections in 2007, Molodaia gvardiia by its own initiative will search for enemies of Putin and possibly will be used to struggle against competitors of United Russia, with Party life first of all,” Belskovskii told Kommersant.
Conforming to the Party line might just be the task. In February, members of Molodaia gvardiia demanded the resignation the governor of Perm for aiding fascists by being lax support to antifascist efforts in the region. Observers then noticed that the apparent call from below coincided with the Kremlin’s desire to clamp down on the governor.
It is here that Putin’s Molodaia gvardiia harks back to a more particular Soviet incarnation: the Legkaia kavaleriia (Light Cavalry). The Light Cavalry was a movement within the Komsomol that Nikolai Bukharin initiated in a speech at the 8th Komsomol Congress in 1928. Bukharin, among others, called for the League to create “initiative groups” to conduct “raids” of Soviet shops and factories to root out corruption and bureaucratism. The move was justified with reference to a section of a speech Lenin gave at the 3rd Komsomol Congress in 1921, which outlined the tasks of the Youth League:
It is the task of the Young Communist League to organize assistance everywhere, in village or city block, in such matters as — and I shall take a small example — public hygiene or the distribution of food. How was this done in the old, capitalist society? Everybody worked only for himself and nobody cared a straw for the aged and the sick, or whether housework was the concern only of the women, who, in consequence, were in a condition of oppression and servitude. Whose business is it to combat this? It is the business of the Youth Leagues, which must say: we shall change all this; we shall organize detachments of young people who will help to assure public hygiene or distribute food, who will conduct systematic house-to-house inspections, and work in an organized way for the benefit of the whole of society, distributing their forces properly and demonstrating that labor must be organized. (“Tasks of the Youth Leagues,” Collected Works, vol. 31)
The Light Cavalry was more than simple “shock force” against poor accounting and bureaucrats. Their “raids” on Soviet institutions also incorporated class politics. Cavalristy routinely denounced corrupt Party members, traders, kulaks, and other “alien elements” they found in factories and shops. In addition, the military rhetoric of the Light Calvary should not be overlooked. Their penchant for military metaphors was part of a general cultural trends in the late 1920s, when Komsomols spoke of their activism in terms of armies, soldiers, campaigns, raids, scouts, fronts, fights, and battles. These expressions symbolized the attempt by a generation to memorialize a civil war that had preceded them by ten years.
If the Komsomols of the late 1920s were using the opportunity to fight their “civil war,” what are Putin’s young guardians fighting for? Social mobility is surely one. There is no better way to rise in the ranks by denouncing your elders. Battles against internal and external enemies is a good way to cut one’s political teeth. Access to regional power is another. Be sure that those who root out corruption will get the nod for those new vacant positions. Thus the young continues to eat its old. Or as Turgenev eloquently put it:
“So that,” began Pavel Petrovich, “that is our modern youth! Those young men are our heirs!”
“Our heirs!” repeated Nikolai Petrovich with a weary smile. He had been sitting as if on thorns throughout the argument, and only from time to time cast a sad furtive glance at Arkady. “Do you know what I was reminded of, brother? I once quarreled with our mother; she shouted and wouldn’t listen to me. At last I said to her, ‘Of course you can’t understand me; we belong to two different generations.’ She was terribly offended, but I thought, ‘It can’t be helped–a bitter pill, but she has to swallow it.’ So now our turn has come, and our successors can tell us: ‘You don’t belong to our generation; swallow your pill.'”
Update: There is another, perhaps more important Soviet connection to Putin’s Molodaia gvardiia. Molodaia gvardiia was also an Komsomol underground anti-fascist partisan group formed in 1942 after the Nazis occupied Krasnodon. Their existance and membership was revealed to the Nazis by turncoats in the groups. In Janurary 1943, the Nazis began arrests of its 80 or so members. Only eleven members escaped capture. All seventy arrested were tortured and thrown to their death in Coal Mine No. 5. Its leaders Oleg Koshevoy, Lyubov Shevtsova, Viktor Subbotin, Dmitry Ogurtsov, Sergei Ostapenkov were shot the next month in the town of Rovenki, only five days before the Red Army liberated it on Feburary 14, 1943. The Soviet novelist Alexsandr Fadeyev wrote a novel called Molodaia gvardiia commemorating its underground activities.
Of all the Soviet connections cited above, I now think that this is the memory the Putin group is hoping to tap–a patriotic youth organization committed to fighting fascism and enemies of the state.Post Views: 50