Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Only an Anti-War Movement Can Shatter the Putin Regime, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 15 – There are anti-war attitudes in Russia, Igor Yakovenko says; but “there is no anti-war movement” despite the fact that Russia has been killing people in Ukraine for four years and in Syria for two and the even more significant problem for the country that “Putin is war.”

            Instead of focusing on creating such a movement, however, “all the civic potential of the Russian liberal intelligentsia is now about defending the film ‘Mathilda’” from attacks by the reactionaries. But to defeat Putin, the commentator says, requires creating a massive anti-war movement” and leading it against him (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5991DCA5387C8).

            There were a few Russian protests against Putin’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014, and there have been a few articles denouncing his campaign since then; but the only real recent moves in this direction have been the actions of Yabloko which has launched a petition campaign under the slogan “It’s Time to Return Home.”

            That isn’t enough, as any comparison to what the anti-war movement did in the United States at the time of Vietnam.  There, people organized, marched and protested even when those involved had to pay a high personal price.  So far, at least, few Russians have been willing to pay any price at all.

            For four years on, Yakovenko says, he has been “a voice crying in the desert of Russian and not only Russian public opinion calling for the convention of an international tribunal for investigating the war crimes of the Putin regime.” He has written articles, spoken on radio, and discussed this with various people.

            “In response,” he continues, he has heard “either silence or indifference or incoherent replies concerning organizational difficulties or completely idiotic proposals to wait because supposedly at any minute the bloody regime will fall.”

            All this reflects a terrible reality: “In present-day Russia, it is extremely uncomfortable to speak not only the truth but even ordinary and normal things.” To say Crimea is part of Ukraine is to put oneself at risk of criminal charges, and while saying that killing is bad is still not an offense, anyone who does will be attacked.

            As a result, “even opposition politicians try not to speak against the war, and if they say they are against the war, they explain it that conducting the war against Ukraine is expensive and at the present time beyond our means.” That is where Aleksey Navalny has come down when asked about his position.

            Even the Yabloko campaign reflects this approach: It talks about the fact that the cost of one rocket is equal to the pay of 250 teachers or 2000 doctors and that it would be better to spend the money on kindergartens instead of “killing Syrians.” 

            What isn’t being said is what must be said, Yakovenko argues.  Killing people in aggressive wars is wrong in and of itself.   Only a politician who understands that and who leads his followers to understand it has any chance of ultimately defeating Putin who is after all the embodiment of war.

            Up to now, the commentator concludes sadly, “such a movement has not been established.” And as a result, “the only honest answer of any Russia to the question ‘who has killed 10,000 Ukrainian citizens and hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens?’ can only be that ‘we in fact have.’”

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