Navalny protests are “madhouse” and aimless – Ostashko

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March 27, 2017 – Fort Russ –

Ruslan Ostashko, Live Journal – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

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Alexey Navalny being arrested on March 26th

It’s always nice in the morning to read the reactions of the political, media, and spin doctor crowd to some token public event. The unifying characteristic of the wave of analysis thrown into social networks is complete unwillingness by most authors to at least in some sense understand the subject of discussion. They’re faced with an entirely different task, namely entering Sunday’s events into a specific expert’s already ready-made agenda. 

It turns out that almost everyone spits on the truth. Some are busy promoting the message that “the regime will soon fall and Putin is warming up the helicopter to flee to North Korea” while others are pushing the thesis “Volodin is guilty of everything, he’s the one that didn’t allow Navalny into the Duma, who needed to be kept handy there as a beacon of democracy.” Still others say that too much money is being allocated to propagandize spiritual values in school, yet it turns out that students are en masse coming out for Navalny. 

It’s a madhouse. 

Let’s start with the fact that Sunday’s rallies looked numerous only amidst the total draught of protest activity which we’ve gotten used to in recent years. In fact, there hasn’t been and couldn’t be such under Volodin. Even his political opponents generally recognize that when Volodin is engaged in the presidential administration’s internal politics, thousands of students coming out on the streets under Navalny’s leadership is impossible in principle.

Now about the regime that is certain to fall. The regime will still be around for the funerals of those numerous experts who have been predicting its demise for many years already. Much more serious forces would be needed to overthrow it, and if part of the ordinary population has already forgotten about the “Maidan”, well, tired of this topic on TV, then the government will remind them and won’t play like Yanukovych. The stakes are too high and the Ukrainian example is too blatant.

Now a few words about the rallies themselves. These rallies are generally not in support of Navalny. They’re not even against Medvedev. And not even against corruption. Each city and region had its own set of causes that participants blended into one movement so that everyone would notice them. 

In some cities – in Moscow for example – a significant part of the protest was really just made up of students who coveted Navalny’s promise that he’d win 10,000 euros for them from the European Court of Human Rights. Maybe it’s better that the younger generation be vaccinated against such political idiocy at such an early age. 

In other places, hatred for a particular governor and his actions played a significant role. This is the case of Saint Petersburg, for example. Somewhere in this tight tangle were interwoven defrauded investors and debtors. And there were also environmental protests. In Kazan, for example, it turned out that the local elite still can’t explain how it let the republic’s second largest bank help itself to plundering the population.

Now the government is faced with big, difficult, and responsible work. But this work is not on indulging Navalny like some analysts suggest, and is definitely not about tightening the screws in schools. The more the conventional Snezhana Denisovna rubs today’s students for patriotism, the stronger these students will hate patriotism and the more likely they’ll be to go out for any anti-patriotic movement. We’ve already had two cases in history when first students and then Soviet school pupils actively rebelled against the official ideology. Maybe it’s time to consider the past’s mistakes? The screws should not be tightened on students – they should be given the opportunity to join movements that give them the chance to let off steam and not be smothered by officialdom and mothballs.

And someone really needs to grasp and solve regional problems so that they don’t tighten into one impossible knot. If this doesn’t happen, then no work on schools will help. But once again, understanding regional problems does not mean indulging Navalny and certainly not showing gentleness towards those beating up police as happened in Moscow. 

Apparently every few years a new Bolotnaya Square case is needed for the new generation of political activists to feel on their own skin what is permissible. Perhaps things will all be well for society if a few dozen participants in Sunday’s riots are demonstratively, most severely punished under the criminal code, thus cursing their decision to break the law. This would work like a vaccination for millions.

And we can’t not say a few words about our Western partners who just couldn’t keep silent and couldn’t refuse doing all of Russia’s patriots a great service. The State Department and European Union simultaneously demanded that all those detained at illegal actions be released, condemned authorities, and generally did everything they could so that every normal person has no doubt as to who benefits and gains political points out of this whole pseudo-protest movement. The State Department and EU would be wise to keep silent to observe secrecy, but they can’t do this as a matter of principle. They want a show of heroic force and will announce what, or rather whom grants are going to. In this context, the possibility that the Anti-Corruption Foundation will finally be slapped with a criminal case for inciting mass riots looks particularly attractive. And long overdue.

And finally, I’ve observed how every time the non-systemic opposition proclaims that it has captured the Internet and social networks. The first time the non-systemic opposition had such a celebration on the street was when Live Journal became a “forge of ideas” and throughly Western and liberal platform. The second time was when Navalny seized Facebook and Twitter, where any manifestation of patriotism was subjected to ridicule and bullying. This time, a complete and final capture of YouTube has been declared, and Navalny has been deemed the king of video content. 

But there’s no need to panic. YouTube really does have enormous mobilization potential and the new generation really does prefer to consume content through the eyes rather than read long and boring texts. But this does not mean that video hosting is some kind of reserve for Navalnyites. We are also working in this format, and the patriotic seizure of YouTube is only a matter of time, resources, and effort by those who can create correct and interesting content. 

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If the government wants to respond to this challenge in time, it will succeed. My traditional answer to the question “what is to be done” following what happened on Sunday boils down to a simple formula: we have to work and then everything will be fine. 

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