The Protest Movement, its "Leaders" and "Celebrity Guests"

19 September 2012

By Andrei Kovalev

It seems that the force for positive change that had been growing in Russia (the awakening for many people of a sense of self respect, and as a consequence the emergence of a mass protest movement in Russia) is now on the wane. This is happening for a number of reasons. The main one is the lack of an opposition per se. Criticism of the authorities does not make an opposition. And somehow one can't see anyone trying to get themselves into power since Putin's enthronement - after all it is a pretty frightening prospect...

Hence also the slightly sad and supplicatory nature of the protests (yes, supplicatory, this may be how you offer a petition but not how you make demands!). They petitioned for the release of political prisoners - as if any dictator with even the slightest shred of self respect would grant such a request. They requested that the results of the stolen elections be overturned, in other words they asked that the authorities practically sign a confession to their own criminality. A similar item on their wish list was the request to have new honest elections. And the request calling for Churov the head of the Central Electoral Commission to resign was simply laughable. However, the authorities have been more cunning in dealing with the request for the registration of opposition parties: the way that parties are being allowed to register will reduce them to complete insignificance. ‘We have met your demands, now choke on the result,’ the authorities gloat.

The petitions of the "leaders of the opposition" delivered to Dmitry Medvedev, the apparent head of the Russian state, and certain negotiations between these leaders and the true masters of Russia have nothing to do with the protest movement whatsoever and have only served to compromise it.

But the "leaders" of those who disagree with what is going on in Russia whether willingly or not have betrayed their dissenting constituency. Some betrayed them, in good faith, having honestly lost their way, some out of a sense of their own helplessness and others betrayed them because they were carrying out orders from above...

But even this isn't the main issue.

Unfortunately, in its current form the protest movement in Russia is doomed to failure because in fighting Vladimir Putin and everything that he has done since 1999 the opposition is not fighting the cause but the consequence of the problem.

In a way it would somehow be insulting to Russia if this insipid, ill bred, little man were the real cause of the country's current woes. As if he was in a position off his own back to expunge the country's constitutional rights and freedoms, starting with the freedom of the press, to destroy the country's parliamentary system and to shape the judiciary and the business community to his own ends...

But the myth of an all-powerful Putin is to the benefit of those who really run the country: this myth allows them to mask reality, to deflect people's anger against just one specific manifestation of the system as opposed to the system itself.

To be fair it has to be said that it's not just Putin that is the target of this anger. There are many others, including businessmen, journalists, politicians and members of the clergy...

They all have one thing in common: membership or close ties to the secret services. It was the secret services that conclusively and irrevocably (because they had the ability to do so), came to power under the mask of Vladimir Putin in 2000, and they will never willingly give up their power. It is they who are deciding the fate of contemporary Russia, it is they who dictate to the courts what sentences should be handed down, it is they who determine what will and what will not make it into the media, and it is they who punish or pardon the country's citizens.

Naturally, they do all this through their network of agents, through the operational reserve (i.e. operatives who are working under cover, whose true loyalties frequently remain completely unknown to anyone), trusted representatives and the people who they "blackmail and control". As a result, on the surface everything appears in good order, because everything is being carried out by State Duma deputies, judges, journalists and sometimes criminals. And there are good grounds to believe that some "leaders" of the opposition are amongst their number as well.

People are coming out onto Chistiye Prudy, Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Prospect demanding fair elections and that they be treated with basic respect by the authorities. Essentially, they do not need "leaders", let alone leaders who are primarily interested in maintaining their own interests. At the most what are needed are "co-ordinators".

The Arab Spring took place not only without leaders but also without co-ordinators, a function which was largely carried out by social networks. Therefore, do we really need these "celebrity guests" in order to make something happen in Russia? Especially when these "celebrity guests" are capable only of empty chatter and aggrandising themselves.

However, truly democratic people, and most importantly people who are well known throughout the country and whose reputation remains unsullied, could have become a symbol of the protest. As far as leaders are concerned - genuine protest leaders can never be those who use protest as a means of feeding and promoting themselves. They appear spontaneously, and, most importantly, not on the basis of any agreement reached with the Kremlin or the Lubyanka.

I only hope that these "celebrity guests" don't succeed in totally degrading the protest. They should be allowed to speak at the protest rallies, but they should not be allowed to make any decisions on behalf of the protestors.