Saturday, September 8, 2018

Russian Opposition Must Have a Bigger Agenda than ‘Putin Must Go,’ Rumarchuk Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 8 – As Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev has pointed out, “in Russia, politicians more often raise ‘big questions’” than do their counterparts in the West, talk about the struggle of good against evil or engage in historical discussions rather than address immediate issues that they might actually be able to do something about.

            But he has forgotten to add that “our opposition in this sense is no wit better than the authorities. The meaning of existence of our opposition parties is not even taking power but rather overthrowing the existing regime,” according to Moscow writer and commentator Natalya Rumarchuk (

            The Russian opposition seems to act as if getting rid of Putin is the only item it needs to have on its agenda and therefore doesn’t specify who will replace him or what that individual or group of individuals will do, she says.  But no one is going to come out in support of a party or group that doesn’t offer at least a name and better a program.

            “In 1991, that name was Yeltsin. In 1996, Zyuganov,” and at various points, people mentioned “Yavlinsky and even Navalny,” Rumarchuk says. “But today there is no such individual or group.” From this it follows, she continues, that “we do not have a democratic or indeed any other kind of opposition.”

            That is because “the struggle for power presupposes at least some real leaders who have even an illusory chance for success.”  Moreover, Rumarchuk argues, the Russian opposition “is not fulfilling another important function – to be a real-time alternative to the powers that be.”  There is no shadow cabinet, and there is no alternative program.

            In Russia today, she says, “the majority of opposition program begin with the words ‘Putin must go!’ and end with that as well. As a result, in elections in Russia, the voter is making a choice not between parties but between the authorities and their ouster.”  It isn’t surprising how they vote given their sad experience with the not so distant past.

            “What could the opposition be doing that it isn’t now?” It could specify what it would like to do regarding Ukraine, the US, Boris Johnson, Ukraine, sanctions, and Syria to mention just the foreign policy issues Russia faces and what it would do to address problems at home. But “is our opposition doing this?” The answer is a clear “no.”

            Instead, “it seeks help abroad for the struggle with the powers that be and in part with the majority of the people,” Rumarchuk says.  How can anyone expect Russians to vote for such an opposition?  The answer to that question too is obvious: no one should. And thus United Russia wins because its “opponents” are playing right into its hands.

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