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Russia: report of a meeting of the anti-Putin opposition

From Vladimir Sirotin (Moscow), translated with explanatory notes by Stephen Shenfield

Yesterday [January 5, 2012] I was at a sickening meeting of the Organizing Committee for Honest Elections and Against the Putin Regime (or something like that).

It was attended by a very ill-assorted bunch of people. Sitting on the platform were Udaltsov, Geidar Jemal, Lev Ponomarev, Ilya Ponomarev, Vladimir Tor, Ivan Mironov, Mr. Krylov and a number of others. (1) The picture looked surreal.

The main theme of the overwhelming majority of speakers was that everyone must unite in the fight against Putinism and for honest elections – leftists, liberals and nationalists! This was said quite openly and publicly. “We have here four caucuses: leftists, liberals, Russian nationalists and cultural figures.”

Buzgalin spoke briefly. (2) He said that supporters of democracy with social guarantees should unite with supporters of socialism, but it will hardly be possible to cooperate with nationalists. This immediately provoked catcalls from the nationalists present. Very soon he left the meeting.

It was constantly said that no part of the anti-Putin coalition should be more opposed to any other part of the coalition than to the Putin regime. Although it was admitted in passing that were it not for Putin and the elections “90 percent of those present would not sit next to one another.” The old human rights campaigner Mrs. Alexeyeva (3) declared that absolutely everyone must unite!

As it was possible to put your name down to speak, I asked for the floor. I was next to speak after Biits, (4) who said not a word about the nationalists. I said roughly the following:

“For what are we fighting? I think that we must fight for democracy, freedom, the broadest human rights and social guarantees. In short, for a radical-democratic revolution, so that after that we can pass on to a socialist revolution! Someone said here how bad it was that Kudrin and Xenia Sobchak addressed the meeting on December 24. (5) Maybe so. But something else is much much worse – the fact that people of supposedly democratic views are allying themselves and uniting with fascists and nazis. This is monstrous! Of course, the Putin regime is not going to be overthrown in the immediate future, but if this is achieved then Russia will be at great risk of a fascist victory.”

I was met with yelling, hissing and hooting. Tor, Krylov and Mironov started to shout: “Send all Russian nationalists to a concentration camp! Appoint Vladimir Sirotin camp commandant!” “You said it, not me” – I responded. A considerable section of the audience clearly expressed sympathy for the fascists.

The remaining speeches continued to focus on the need to unite in a “coalition”. True, Lev Ponomarev said that he did not want to collaborate with Mr. Tor, as a person who openly professed xenophobia. Again catcalls, hooting, slow clapping, shouts: “Enough! Shut your filthy mouth! Your time is up, grandpa!” and so on. They were mildly asked to let the man finish. Mr. Human Rights declared that xenophobia was not an insult, but that he was against the supremacy of any race or ethnic group over others. Roars of indignation. He mumbled: “No no, Krylov has proposed a resolution with which I agree, about equal rights for all Russian citizens. No need for that.” And he fell silent.

Then Mr. Tor declared: “We Russian nationalists really exist! We do not intend to fly off to the moon! Those who don’t like it can clear out themselves!” He was applauded by at least half the audience.

Several times I approached various people of very democratic convictions and asked them: “What is going on? How is this possible?” They replied that they all want to topple Putin, so they have all united against the regime. Some agreed with me but asked me “not to break ranks”!?! I spoke with the human rights activist Nadezhda Nizovkina, for whom until recently I had great respect. She said that “intellectually, in theory, I am with you completely, but if we get rid of them [the fascists] we shall have fewer people!” I almost swallowed my tongue. I felt even more nauseated and left without waiting until the end of the meeting.

Explanatory notes

(1) Sergei Udaltsov is a leader of the Vanguard of Red Youth (Soviet-style “communists”). Geidar Jemal is a prominent Islamist and admirer of the Iranian regime. Lev Ponomarev heads the organization “For Human Rights”. Ilya Ponomarev is a businessman with interests in oil and information technologies and a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Tor, Mironov and Krylov are Russian nationalists. Vladimir Tor and Konstantin Krylov are leaders of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration and the Russian Social Movement, respectively; Ivan Mironov is associated with the “Homeland” movement. However, there are other Russian nationalists who support the Putin regime.

(2) Alexander Buzgalin is a representative of the “democratic left” and a coordinator of the social movement “Alternatives”.

(3) Lyudmila Alexeyeva was a prominent member of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group under the Soviet regime.

(4) Sergei Biits, editor of the Trotskyist newspaper For Workers’ Democracy.

(5) Alexei Kudrin was finance minister from 2000 until September 26, 2011. Xenia Sobchak is a TV celebrity and clothes designer. Some object to their participation in the opposition coalition on the grounds that they are too closely associated with the Putin regime.

Other articles (in English) by Vladimir Sirotin

“Xenophobia in Russia,” The Socialist Standard, January 2010 

“The Myth of Soviet ‘Socialism’,” The Socialist Standard, November 2009 

Johnson’s Russia List Research & Analytical Supplement No. 45, November 2009. Children and Adolescents in the USSR and Post-Soviet Russia 

World Socialist Party (US)

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