Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Khabarovsk Actions Shouldn’t Be Called Protests, Local Lawyer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 3 – Russians elsewhere have been surprised by the continuing street actions in Khabarovsk, Konstantin Bubon, a lawyer from there says, in part because they insist on calling these demonstrations “protests.” If they were protests, they would have ended long ago; but because they are something else, they continue.

            In a comment for the SibReal portal, the lawyer argues that what has been going on in his city is a broad demand by its people that they be recognized as full partners with the state rather than reduced to its plaything. They are not against Moscow as such but only against the center ignoring them as a subject of politics (sibreal.org/a/31030482.html).

            Bubon suggests that what is happening therefore can best be understood in terms of a metaphor. “Let’s try to compare relations between the Khabarovsk demonstrations and professional politicians with the interrelationships between demand and supply in the marketplace.” Those in streets are demanding “honest and open politics.”

            By continuing their actions, “the people of Khabarovsk have shown that the struggle for their votes has meaning to the same degree that the struggle of entrepreneurs for their spending in the market has.” That is why by remaining in the streets they have shown that they are not just “protesting” something but seeking recognition as political actors worthy of recognition.

            Put another way, the people of Khabarovsk have shown themselves to be “grateful voters who actively support those they have voted for,” something that sends a message to their successors and to Moscow that those who do respond to the people will gain support and those who don’t won’t.

            That is why, Bubon continues, he “from the very beginning did not like the description of the Khabarovsk events only as ‘a protest.’” Those who have gone into the streets there aren’t objecting to one action by the powers and are not so much in conflict with the powers that be as seeking to enter into an exchange with them.

            “Khabarovsk residents are seeking to show themselves to be subjects and participants of social life and are endowed with their own will. Far Easterners are tried of being the objects of a one-sided, command and not always competent and well-intentioned administration” by others. And that attitude has been reflected by the diversity of those going into the streets.

            What Khabarovsk understand but Moscow does not yet, the lawyer concludes, is that “relations based on voluntary exchange are always more effective than those based on giving orders, force and central planning.” The collapse of the Soviet system showed that, and Moscow now, albeit unwillingly is going to have to recognize that reality.

            The people of Khabarovsk will stay in the streets until Moscow comes to its senses.

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