Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Russian People, Russian Opposition Divided on ‘Change,’ ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 3 – “Change” is an extremely powerful political word, but it doesn’t mean the same thing for all those who use it, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” says. In Russia today, both the Russian people and the Russian opposition want change, but the first wants it without any radical break with the existing system while the second wants Vladimir Putin ousted from office.

            Thus surveys show that the Russian people are angry about many things – “Nezavisimaya gazeta” publishes today an article suggesting just how angry many of them are about how many things (ng.ru/politics/2015-11-03/1_regions.html) – but polls suggest that they back Putin and don’t want any fundamental change that could threaten stability.

            The opposition, in contrast, the paper’s editors say, want Putin out of office and a radical change of the Russian political system; and they hope that eventually Russian society will come to agree with them on that point. As a result, the extra-systemic opposition has put off its planned protest from November to December (ng.ru/editorial/2015-11-03/2_red.html).

            “The word ‘change,’” “Nezavisimaya gazeta” argues, doesn’t have such a “magical political effect that it is sufficient to write it on a poster and the movement or party will begin to gain strength, a mass following, and attract tens of thousands of votes.” Using it bring success only when “various social groups feel the need of some changes or other.”

            “Not a single sociological poll confirms that the demand for change in Russia is massive and has seized various social groups,” the editors say. “If one speaks about economics, there is more a demand for greater stability, greater predictability secured by the state, and still larger social guarantees.”

“This must not be called a demand for change because citizens want the retention of the existing model of redistribution of incomes,” they conclude.

The Russian opposition defines change as a change in the powers or “more precisely, the exit of President Vladimir Putin. For various groups of the ‘extra-systemic’ opposition, this can be considered a unifying and consensus demand, but tis electoral weight is relatively small,” while support for Putin is “high.” That is a reality which “it is impossible to ignore.”

Sergey Sharov-Delone, a member of the opposition Committee on Protest Activity, told the paper, the editors say, that “organizing a mass meeting has become more complicated because earlier ‘those who disagree’ reacted to concrete events but now they seek to define the agenda.”
            This conceptual shift is “at the very least strange,” the editors continue. “In all countries of the world, an opposition which wants to come to power acts in a reactive manner. It reacts to what it views as the unsuccessful initiatives of the ruling elite.” It criticizes these things and thus seeks allies in the population who agree.

            “The Russian extra-systemic opposition is not in a position when it can act ‘on its own.’ It does not have a single deputy in the Duma; it lacks organization and financing; and it is cut off from the mass media,” the paper’s editors point out.
            Consequently, if the opposition leaders want to expand their influence beyond those limited numbers of Russians who already support them, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” concludes, they need to adopt “a more mature tactic than waiting for society to come to accept their vision of reality.”

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