Protesting Putin

By: Grainne Rhuad

By now most of the world is familiar with the picture taken during the May 7th Russian protests.  The stark contrast of innocence facing down riot police has touched the world.  At the same time the rest of the world is slowly coming to terms with the fact that democracy is a lie and doesn’t work, Russians are protesting hoping to make a change within their system.

On May 7th as Vladamir Putin was sworn into office, he was not met with the types crowds he had in the past.  In their stead, there were hundreds of protesters outside being corralled by thousands of police.  Putin has been at the helm of Russia since 2000, first as President and Now as Prime Minister.  With this election, he will likely remain there until 2018 with the option to run again.

It is this long-term rule that people in Russia are tired of.

The demonstrators, separated into several groups, were met by helmeted riot police. A total of 120 were detained, including opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

The day before, protests had turned violent when some demonstrators tried to march toward the Kremlin and riot police beat back the crowds with batons and detained more than 400 people.

While Putin has dismissed the Moscow protesters as ungrateful, pampered urbanites and agents of the West, others are taking them more seriously. “The government must understand that the split in society is getting wider, and the anger over unfair elections and the lack of normal dialogue is growing. In this situation, radicalism is inevitable,” Zyuganov said. “Any attempts to shut people’s mouths with the help of a police baton are senseless and extremely dangerous.” (Source: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/05/07/putin-sworn-in-as-russia-president-after-day-protests/#ixzz1uPDRz700)

This dismissiveness that characterizes Putin is most likely going to be his downfall.  Putin won nearly 64% of the vote. Opposition leaders have denounced the result as “illegitimate”.  It was in response to this supposed discrepancy, that the protests were formed.  Their anger has been fuelled by widespread reports of fraud, including evidence of ballot-stuffing and “carousel voting”, when voters are employed to cast their votes several times at various polling sites.

While OSCE states in their report: “The conditions for the campaign were clearly skewed in favour of one candidate. Also, overly restrictive candidate registration requirements limited genuine competition.” The rest of the report outlines a pretty straight forward election.

Certainly, most countries cannot hope to be any better, it has become an accepted fact that media will pick sides and money will out in such elections.

There is no denying that Putin in the last few years has moved away from the progressive policies of the 1990’s.  He has been more restrictive in response to protest and criticism, both within his country and internationally.  Even recently allowing the statement that Russia will launch pre-emptive strikes if NATO and the U.S.  continues its plans to implement the European Shield.

However, many Russians still believe Putin to be good for Russia, siting his unwillingness to support or excuse the U.S. her meddling in foreign affairs as well as the business he has lately brought to Russia.  Namely huge oil contracts with ExxonMobil for research and development in the Arctic Oil Fields.

But like so many political maneuvers, there is the cost of this deal.  Some believe Mikhail Khodorkovsky is paying that cost.  Khodorkovsky, once head of oil giant Yukos and Russia’s richest man, is now in jail for tax evasion, clearing the way for other oil deals to be made. Putin has also been accused of abusing his hold on energy, allegedly punishing fellow ex-Soviet states like Ukraine with price hikes when they leant towards the West.

It may be Russia’s improved economy that is allowing for protest where before it was impossible.  The cities of Russia are full of work.  With companies and corporations in need of qualified workers at a higher rate than seen in maybe 50 years, as well as supportive services, more people are comfortable.

Comfortable people have more time to think, intellectualize, discuss and ultimately protest.  As it is the city dwellers who are showing up for protests analysts feel it is their increased economic stability that makes them feel they should have more of a say in government.

Perhaps this makes Putin’s “Spoiled” statement make a little more sense.  After all it has been under his leadership that Russia has seen stability and growth.

Political analyst Masha Lipman points out however, “The turning point was the “trading places” trick in that occurred in late September. That was when Medvedev declared he would not run and that Putin would run instead. For his part, Putin said, if elected, he would make Medvedev his prime minister. Medvedev added that they had made this decision several years earlier. It was this contempt of the people that triggered change: the mood became a movement. Elections suddenly mattered: lots of young Muscovites volunteered as election observers and gained first-hand experience with blatant fraud. They changed their electoral behavior and voted for anyone to ensure that the United Russia (the party of Putin’s loyalists) would lose support and seats in the Russian parliament. This activism evolved into mass protests after the December 4 election. It was broadly seen as fraudulent, especially in Moscow where the rigging was especially blatant and the constituency was already more critical of Putin.”

Are protests likely to do any good in a system where one man effectively has control of the government?  The people seem to think so. The opposition leader and member of the Solidarity movement political council, Boris Nemtsov seems to think so stating in an interview, “Russia’s future depends entirely on the level of protest, not Putin. Protests cannot constantly grow. They are not a linear process. The current protests do not amount to a revolution that would lead to explosive changes but the revival of civil activities and development of civil society. This is why there are always ups and downs. Indeed, now the protests are weakening, but this does not mean that they have exhausted themselves.” (Source: http://valdaiclub.com/politics/41601.html )

When asked if he thinks “The screws will be tightened.” (on the protestors) Nemtsov answers, “This depends only on us. If we sit in a kitchen, Lukashization is inevitable. If we take the initiative and protest, things will change. We are witnessing a decline of the Putin regime with all its convulsions, idiotic escapades and provocations. Clearly, it does not have the energy and strength to oppose the nation. But if the people sit quiet, the government will be able to tighten the screws with ease and Putin will turn into a 100% Lukashenko clone. He is 50/50 now.”

In agreement is Alexei Navalny, a crusading anti-corruption blogger and new-wave folk hero. He says: “A revolution is inevitable, and that it won’t be something plotted out ahead of time. It will start with an incident — an arrest, maybe, or a protest — and then snowball unexpectedly and unrelentingly. It will happen,” he told Esquire, “just because most people understand that this system is wrong.”

 

 

 

13 Comments on “Protesting Putin”

  1. The Western world has a very poor understanding of the politics and dynamics involved with Russia. This is mainly due to the long-held assumption that even if Western democracy is flawed, it is still the best system of governance in the world. The flaws, which were easily glossed over in former years have come glaringly into the light, creating enormous upheavals in all the Western countries. Majority vote is easily manipulated when you have large sums of money to invest in advertising propaganda. Lobbying demonstrated its own pit falls when lobbying became an assortment of gifts and bribes. Salt was applied to the wounds when Corporates were declared persons.

    Over the last forty years, Russia has become increasingly more democratic. This is not to say it has accepted the fundamental rights and values of capitalism. It has veered in a separate direction. When Mikhail Khodorkovsky was placed in jail, it was approved rather enthusiastically by the majority of the Russian people. He had swindled the public out of large sums of money. The Western world, and in particular the capitalists of Forbes magazine and consequently, the rest of Western media, were not so approving.

    What the media doesn’t understand is that the “leftists” objecting to Putin’s policies wish a return to the communist state. They feel much of Russia’s “purity” has been lost by handing control of various resources to private enterprise.

    I feel Putin is in a very difficult position. Russia is basically a socialist state. He is trying to straddle the challenges of socialism combined with democratic capitalism. The two forces do not meld very well together, especially for a people with very little experience with capitalistic enterprise. The Western media, i am sure, is very delighted that Russia is experiencing the same difficulties with civilian protests that have surfaced in the US and Europe, but once again, they show their abominable lack of knowledge of Russian politics by believing the protests are for essentially the same reasons. I won’t pretend to know that much about the Russian people and their motivations, especially in matters involving overt aggression toward other countries, but i feel pretty positive when i state that Russia knows it would be foolish to follow the example of runaway capitalism in the West and will take extreme measures to prevent it.

  2. The fact that the Russian protests earlier this year were funded by US backed organizations and actively encouraged by people with vested interests and largely unpopular. A detailed analysis of events in Russia by Justin Raimondo here http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2012/03/06/western-hypocrisy-and-the-russian-election/

    This is not like the uprisings in Tunis and Egypt. It is a propaganda war and should not be difficult to look through. The protests in Russia btw, sand nowhere as compared to the scale of the wall street protests in the US or the number of widely televised and documented incidents of police brutality. What about the ‘dismissiveness’ of Barrack Obama and his govt.? That of course will never be highlighted. And you link to Fox news for an objective source?
    This is strange for an article on Subversify.. or am I mistaken?
    To whoever’s been following Russian politics and the propaganda tactics of governments of US, UK, France and Russia, it is easy to look through the nonsense.
    From the article that I have linked to, an excerpt:

    “The nations of the West should look to clean up their own houses before they go around chastening other countries for allegedly “undemocratic” practices. And if they want to know what or who is the greatest threat to the sovereignty and self-governing aspirations of the world’s peoples, then all they have to do is look into a mirror. “

  3. Jennifer, yes, i think that’s exactly what it is. Whenever we voice complaints about US politics, we’ll invariably hear someone say, “at least we’re better off than Russia.” It’s becoming glaringly apparent we are not better off than Russia. We are not better off than Russia, than Iceland, nor than in large portions of South America. These countries have all gone through their blood struggles and if they haven’t set things right, at least they’ve set things better.

    Sujay, thank you for the link. As i read,i reflected, the author has a stronger knowledge base about Russian politics than i do, but his assessment was pretty much the same as my own.

  4. @Sujay, thanks for the link, it is a good one. I only acknowledged Fox for the quote by Zyuganov. Never would I use them or any mainstream news outlet as a ‘reliable’ source. However, unlike other news outlets, I do give info on where I get direct quotes.

    Also, as the author of this I am not making any value judgements on the democracy of Russia. My main interest is to highlight the protests and point out how/why they are different from others occurring just now around the globe. I believe you are quite right in stating we shouldn’t muddle in Russia’s affairs. That, however does not make them less interesting or important.

  5. This idea that we shouldn’t meddle in other countries affairs is nice except that we always HAVE meddled, when it came to enforcing our own interests. For instance, we have been actively seeking Israeli alliances and foregoing aid to Palestine people for years. We have been active in Central American politics, especially when we had business interests the “spread of communism.” And we’ve been active in meddling in Far East affairs when we knew we could profit off of CIA drug dealings. So…this sudden idea that when human rights are involved, we should stop meddling? It’s a bit vulgar to me.

    I would not presume to meddle in ANY country’s affairs for ANY reasons, if it were left up to me. I agree with the general theory of leaving the citizens of each country to decide for themselves. And I carry that over to the transplants who immigrate here, bringing their fear of repression with them. Leave us to decide about our country too! Why? uught their political ideas to the U.S., based on their own repressive governments. For instance, people fleeing communist countries often have brought a strong anti-socialist/communist stance here. Take right-winged wealthy Salvadorans, for instance, who fled their country during the civil war and time of Roberto d’Aubuisson’s regime. They have actively tried to influence U.S. politics based on the fact that they lost properties and wealth from land reform policies. And the same can be said of many who escaped repressive policies in Cuba. Look at how they brought their fascism to the U.S. And there are people from Vietnam, Thailand and many Soviet bloc countries who immgrated here with their own strong ideas of how America should fear socialism, when socialism had never been implemented here.

    So maybe the same can be said for each of them, no? But the point is that we are no longer autonomous regions. We have a certain amount of global dependence, as well we should. So each and every one of us DOES have an interest in countries worldwide, as well as our own countries. So it is great to have many opinions to learn from, instead of being fed information like pablum, because THAT is what one side wants us to know.

  6. @ Jen,

    “This idea that we shouldn’t meddle in other countries affairs is nice except that we always HAVE meddled, when it came to enforcing our own interests.”

    Ok, I wasn’t going to say anything before (as most people here know my views regarding states – i.e. they’re all enemies of regular people) but this displays a *huge* misconception of the relationship between average person and the state – simply put, there is no “we” meddling in the affairs of other peoples across the globe. The interests being served by the U.S./NATO military empire are not those of regular people, but rather those of the ruling classes of the state.

    “We” derive no benefit from the actions of the MIC, nor do “we” have any decision-making authority over it (and we never did…) – “we” are not doing shit over there, but *THEY* (“they” being the corporate CEOs, polticians, lobbyists, military brass, etc…) are the ones committing these acts in our name! And they didn’t even bother asking our permission first: no, they just arraged for some false flags to scare people into compliance with an agenda they had outlined years in advance…

  7. Azazel,

    The idea that one lives in a community or society, uses its goods and services, and then declares themselves separate than the community is vulgar to me.

    We’ll have to disagree somewhat on this one; because I HAVE always and WILL always consider citizens of a state, as the body of the state; wealthy elite or not. That the state is not run by all of the people, and only by SOME of the people, is where you and I might agree.

    But that is not the way things are supposed to be. And that is what the 99% Movement is about; bringing it back to the citizens and taking it away from the control of the elite. I do not consider myself an “enemy” of my country, its citizens, or even of the globe. I consider myself the opposite…more of a friend of all. As such, the country that I am a part of a community with, HAS INDEED represented my interests, albeit poorly. And as a citizen, I have a moral duty not to throw up my hands, give up, and say, “Oh I don’t have any say or control.” When you do that, you truly have lost your value.

  8. @ Jen,

    “The idea that one lives in a community or society, uses its goods and services, and then declares themselves separate than the community is vulgar to me.”

    When the “community” (if the state can be called such…) delivers its goods under false pretenses or advertises slavery as a “service” that one supposedly benefits from it’s only rational to separate yourself from it to the greatest degree possible – to do otherwise would be as preposterous as praising the snakeoil salesman for selling you the “cure” to a disease he afflicted you with.

    “We’ll have to disagree somewhat on this one; because I HAVE always and WILL always consider citizens of a state, as the body of the state; wealthy elite or not.”

    Oh, the common man is part of the body alright – they’re the parts that are most expendable because there are many of them!

    “And that is what the 99% Movement is about; bringing it back to the citizens and taking it away from the control of the elite.”

    It’s impossible to bring control back to regular people because regular people are not and never were in the driver’s seat – that’s something I wish I knew when I was younger…

    “I do not consider myself an “enemy” of my country, its citizens, or even of the globe. I consider myself the opposite…more of a friend of all.”

    You misunderstand – I’m not an enemy of “my country” because I have no allegiance to countries. Period. I am an entity unto myself that recognized no social bond that I had no hand in making as having power over me: the fact that the state does not recognize this state of being and tries to force it’s own social contract down my throat makes it my enemy.

    “And as a citizen, I have a moral duty not to throw up my hands, give up, and say, “Oh I don’t have any say or control.” When you do that, you truly have lost your value.”

    I haven’t thrown up my hands and given up hope – rather I have just realized that trying to change this thing is an exercise in futility and instead focus on preparing to repel and outlive it…

  9. I doubt there are many communities where you don’t benefit from some of the goods and services, such as food, shelter, clothing, utilities; even if you disagree with the administration of those services. Otherwise, what is the point of going on in life? It would be much more noble to end such a miserable existence than tolerate it without trying to change it; because that WOULD be a form of slavery.

    What is the purpose in life if you lead such a lone existence, always feeling like you are the bottom rung of a rickety ladder?

    Even in my worst days of being held against my will, weak with hunger, dehydrated to the point my skin stood on edge, and nursing weeping wounds of puss while wondering if I would lose my arm from a dog attack while fearing the people holding me, I did not suffer such hopelessness. I always had hope of recovering my life and finding some of the enjoyments from it. Even knowing what type of evil existed then — and would continue to exist if I were rescued — I didn’t feel as if I had no place in life.

    And when I came home and was left to the streets, I still had a vision of surviving and recovery of my life. Today, I have found that recovery and although I’m aware of the people out there who would exploit me in a minute if I let them, and if they had a profit to gain, I still feel I belong to a community. Since this is a basic human need, to remain emotionally healthy, I accept it. Even in the poorest areas of El Salvador, I saw people enjoying basic goods and services, often even knowing the price of the food basket was higher than they could afford. But these things did not force them outside of communities; it caused them to fight the system. That to me, is the spirit of life. Giving up and accepting defeat? Not so much!

    Outliving misery? Not my thing.

  10. Rome … the royal houses of Europe .. the British Empire … Nazi Germany .. and America .. in the end is government ever really effective against power and greed and the arrogance of thinking that anyone has the answers to the unequal distribution of compassion .. the Catholic Church .. the Mormons and Southern Baptist (etc).. do any of them really represent the voice and will of a creator … our time on earth is short .. funny how we work so hard to make sure it is as base and defeating of any moral ground, and that it goes on and on …. has there ever been a time of hope in all history .. why expect anything else .. it is up to each of us, one on one to make a difference …. not a political movement .. but a personal commitment to a justice that we all feel in our bones ….

  11. @ Jen,

    1. My reliance on the present society has been reduced to a minimum – as of now, me and mine are capable of survival in the event of total socio-economic meltdown.

    2. As I said before, I haven’t given up hope – I’ve only realized that the system is not built to change, thus leaving only the option to resist it or destroy it. Fortunately the odds are very good that it will implode on itself within my lifetime (as it looks like the U.S./NATO empire is going through the same phase as the latter-day Roman empire): which means a chance for me and mine to take advantage of the ensuing chaos and institute a locality crafted in our image – and that’s where my hope lies!

    Remember that the death of one society opens up niches for others to occupy and flourish in – that chaos is where the opportunities are…

  12. @Rich- I would say government IS power and greed and corruption. So for it to be effective against this would mean self destruction. Not too many orgainisms are keen on self destruction.

    In the end personal commitment to our own set of ethics is really the only thing we have any control over, so yes, in that way it really is the only thing that matters.

    @AZ, I agree the system is not built to change. In fact ANY “system” is assumably set up to not change so resisting it becomes the best option. Now, I don’t think resistance is always the same for every instance. Sometimes, ignoring something is enough, other times other measures are necessary.

    As for Russia, they are young in their idealism of Democracy I think. While their culture is a lot older than ours. Ultimately I think their culture will out, but their idealism will of course change.

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