Staunton, August 15 – Given that each new protest in Moscow has brought more people into the streets, many sympathetic to the opposition have concluded that it will go from strength to strength and ultimately win the day. But Aleksandr Kalinichenko says that time is working not for the protesters but against them.
After each protest, the Russian blogger says, some observers say “the end is near, that the the rulers have driven themselves into a corner, and that as soon as tomorrow someone will make the last push and the situation will radically change” (newizv.ru/article/general/15-08-2019/nizy-vse-esche-mogut-pochemu-vremya-rabotaet-protiv-protestov).
But again and again and despite such predictions, this hasn’t happened; and Kalinichenko argues, the very same fate awaits those now protesting about the registration of candidates for the September 8 Moscow city council elections. They will cease to be the focus of interest, and any problems they present to the rulers will ebb away.
He gives as an example the case of the long-distance truckers’ protest against the government’s Plato taxation program. Initially, it appeared that the truckers had all the advantages: the country needed them to make deliveries and they were prepared to challenge the regime.
That was certainly how commentators and the blogosphere presented things; but it wasn’t very long until those who had been excited by the truckers looked away and the truckers felt compelled to return to their jobs lest they lose their livelihoods. A few weeks after everything had looked so promising, no one heard anything about them.
The situation with the anti-trash protests in Shiyes has followed much the same trajectory, Kalinichenko says. At first, there was an adrenalin rush and the protesters captured the imagination of the blogosphere and the commentariat. But then everyone began to look away, and the protesters began to go home. With the onset of winter, even more will.
After journalist Ivan Golunov was freed, commentators like Vladimir Pozner suggested that the opposition had finally “experienced the taste of blood” and that it would become even more radical and force the regime to retreat. That idea informed the protests about election registrations, the blogger says.
“But are these events in fact a continuation and development of the Golunov case?” It is possible the two are mixed together in the minds of some, but they aren’t for most. Instead, the protests about the one and the protests about the other are in fact separate and do not add to one another: in fact, they compete with one undercutting the other, weakening both.
That is true of protests across the country. Each looks to his own problems and no one works to combine them into something genuinely massive, Kalinichenko continues. And that means that each will run its course and pass away without having the revolutionary outcomes observers are invariably predicting.
“Time always works against protest” of this kind. None of the demonstrators hold out for long. “Information isn’t controlled by those who are protesting. Even the Internet more often follows the stories of the official media than creates its own news.” And that gives the powers that be the whip hand.
In short, Kalinichenko says, “each solves his own problem and doesn’t even think that the problems are connected.” As a result, each is dramatic; but each is short-lived and does not lead to the formation of a country-wide opposition that must be created if the predictions of commentators are to have any chance of coming true.