Conference Report

In the days before the Other Russia conference in Moscow on July 7-8, the Russian media was celebrating the collapse of the Other Russia coalition. It was no surprise that the Kremlin organs that dominate the media here were delighted at the prospect of another election season with no opposition and no accountability. Even the few sources that were relatively neutral toward us played a somber note. We had hoped to be able to present a united opposition candidate for the March 2008 elections while maintaining the integrity of our program.

While the first goal will likely not be achieved, we have not given up or given a centimeter on the second. Not a single activist has left the Other Russia! Our organizers and marchers are with us more than ever. As Limonov said recently, this is not a trade union for generals. Several prominent individuals and their party bosses may have turned tail, but the thousands who make up the body of our coalition are standing solidly against the Putin regime. The foundation of the Other Russia remains strong on our two pillars: first, a non-ideological coalition pursuing the dismantling of the Putin regime and, second, democratic principles internally. Names do not matter, principles do.

Mikhail Kasyanov wanted the presidential candidacy and to know the result in advance of the contest. He never supported the regional conferences. We believe it’s important to try democracy ourselves, not just tell the rest of the country it’s a good idea. We cannot support what they call the “dedazo” in Latin American juntas and pseudo-democracies. Choosing a candidate with a “finger” is one of the things we are fighting against. It’s not just about removing Putin and his gang; it’s about destroying their corrupt system. The people must choose the candidate, not the parties.

As for Vladimir Ryzhkov, he is still hoping for a spot on the list of the SPS (Union of Right Forces), one of the several groups claiming to be in opposition to Putin while still playing by all of the Kremlin’s rules that render them powerless. To obtain a high spot on that list of candidates requires making public statements that amount to a loyalty oath to the Putinocracy. Publicly breaking with Other Russia is one of those statements. The deals many liberals are cutting with the Kremlin won’t be so public, unfortunately. We will see what they say come December when they have again had the doors of power slammed in their faces by those who not only kissed the right backsides but who also have something to contribute to the coffers of those in charge.

There will be three major dates in the next stage of the Russian political opposition. One will come in September when the party lists for the parliamentary elections are approved. Many of those currently trying to stay in the good graces of the Kremlin will nevertheless find themselves shut out. The second will come at the end of November when the results of the elections will be fairly clear. Several other parties will then realize they are also out of business. Finally, in December it will be clearer who is winning and who is losing inside the Kremlin. At each stage we can expect new converts to the real path of opposition with the Other Russia.

At the conference we decided that it was important to participate in the December 2 parliamentary elections. We have few illusions that the convoluted system the Duma has put in place will allow our list of candidates to actually participate. We cannot miss an opportunity to declare our continued presence and to make our goals known. An important element of our overall strategy is to expose the shortcomings of the system and to reveal its anti-democratic nature. Our constitutional rights are being violated and this cannot be demonstrated unless we participate in the process. The current rules, with their countless absurd requirements, do not reach even a minimum level of rights. We will go out in force and nail our list to the door of the central election committee and demand the removal of the myriad restrictions that prevent the opposition from participating in the process.

We are going to move forward with the regional conferences. We will organize, from scratch, the elements of basic democracy in Russia. The conferences will be required to first select the delegates to the September congress, where our parliamentary list will be determined. Next they will propose their presidential candidates. The next major Other Russia congress is scheduled for the end of September. The agenda of the delegates will be to decide the platform and to approve our list of candidates. The question of a united candidate may also be addressed, although it may be more appropriate to wait until the beginning of December, after the moment of truth of the parliamentary elections.

The story of the Other Russia is far from over and we thank you for your continued support.