Kasparov: Russian Civil Society Has Fully Matured

Garry Kasparov. Source: Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto AgencyOpposition leader Garry Kasparov comments on mass anti-government protests in Russia this past weekend. While police estimate attendance to be 40,000 people, most independent analysts put the figure between 80,000 – 100,000.

Freedom Never Freezes Over
By Garry Kasparov
February 6, 2012

The success of the February 4 protest exceeded even our greatest expectations – the number of participants surpassed our most optimistic predictions several times over. So it’s strange to hear such intense discussions about how the birth of civil society in Russia is only just beginning now.

Tens of thousands of people who came out into negative twenty degree Celsius weather to an organized opposition march put forth concise political demands to the current government and demonstrated unwavering decisiveness in insisting on their constitutional rights. Between the two rallies on Bolotnaya Square, more has passed than simply eight weeks – an entire historical epoch has passed. The protest against mass falsifications during the State Duma elections on December 4 has precipitously turned into a categorical rejection of Putin and a demand for his unconditional withdrawal from Russia’s political scene. All the talk about the danger of overpoliticizing the protest movement has been refuted by the dynamic growth of the number of participants and the heightened energetic fever pitch of the demonstrations.

February 4 also gave us an answer in the argument of whether or not there can realistically be constructive cooperation between disparate political forces in organizing mass anti-Putin demonstrations. The organizational committee’s fears that there could be possible conflicts between activists from leftist, liberal, and nationalist-patriotic wings were dispelled during the rally on Bolotnaya, where a singular stream of people merged under different-colored flags without breaking down into any chaotic clashes. We can say for certain that civil society has passed the test of political maturity. Ideological differences were relegated to the back in the face of a shared enemy, fatal for our country and for all of us.

The Putin regime, steeped in lies and corruption and having legalized complete lawlessness, has now brought together millions of Russian citizens who, under the slogan of “Russia without Putin,” see the possibility of having their social and political demands fulfilled. For leftists, this means the battle against oligarchic capitalism and for social justice. For the nationalists who have joined the protest movement, it’s the prospect of creating a united political nation that will put the interests of Russia above partisan ones. For liberals, the main issue is creating fully-working democratic institutions and establishing effective protection for civil rights, which in principle is a general demand of today’s entire protest movement on the whole.

This national agenda is not strictly bound to March 4, since it’s already obvious that none of the “opposition” candidates allowed by the Kremlin to run for president are in any state to take upon themselves even the most minimal commitment to dismantle the Putin regime. Those who refused to participate in the February 4 march and rally, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov, thereby signed statements attesting to their political impotency, and Prokhorov’s activeness boiled down to intentionally placing a column of his own supporters at the front of the march, giving off a promotional effect to show he participates in anti-Putin demonstrations. However, unsurprisingly, Prokhorov’s own quasi-political activities are no departure from the typical ethics of Russian oligarchs, who are accustomed to leeching off the fruits of other people’s labor.

The effect of the unbelievable burst of civil activeness in the center of Moscow was only highlighted by the crippled pro-Putin rally on Poklonnaya Hill, which combined the worst qualities of Soviet formalism and Putinist corruption. In comparison with the harsh but essentially nonviolent rhetoric used on Bolotnaya, Putin’s fans devolved into hysterics, spewing verbal abuse and curses against dissidents and openly calling for violence and bloodshed. A photo of Sergei Kurginyan with saliva running down his chin couldn’t be a better illustration of what the watchdog of the regime really looks like.

But there’s no need to pay attention to the Kremlin’s ideological epileptics. We already know that there are many of us, and with considered, concerted actions we can make the agony of the Putin regime as painless for our country as possible. To save our country, a large, diverse crowd of people came out to demonstrate on February 4. And regardless of the biting cold, they stood on Bolotnaya Square under Russian flags, imperial tricolors, red flags, and orange banners, and, putting all that aside, listed to the voice of Yury Shevchuk, who sang a song about a homeland…