Staunton, July 16 – By preventing opposition candidates from even being allowed to run, the Kremlin is creating its own nemesis, the appearance of real politics with real political leaders, something that reflects the stupidity of the authorities who cannot see or do not recognize what they are doing, Leonid Gozman says.
Most important, the opposition political argues, is this: those Russians who were trying to register as candidates despite all their radicalism by so acting were agreeing to “play according to the rules.” Consequently, the authorities could have entered into dialogue with them, splitting some off and strengthening the regime (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/182902).
“But to use such opportunities,” Gozman says, “one must have intelligence” and that is exactly what the powers that be in Moscow don’t have. Instead, they blocked these radicals and thus opened the way for even more radical opposition figures to argue with success that any compromise with the powers that be is impossible.
To be sure, he acknowledges, having two or three opposition figures in the Moscow city council would create “definite problems for the authorities,” more outside the council than within it, because their presence would show that opposition to the current regime is not hopeless and can even on occasion succeed.
But the Kremlin did what it has usually done – it blocked their candidacies and dispersed or detained those who came out in support of them. Given its power resources, the regime can do that at least for a time, but by doing so, it has not only made any concessions later harder for it to do but also ensured that the opposition will become more radical.
The result of the Kremlin’s latest action based on its failure to understand both its own interests and what is happening in society, Gozman says, is that “the chances for harsh scenarios – from a revolution to the introduction of martial law have risen sharply.” Neither side can back down easily.
Opposition figures can’t back down either because to do so would cost them their political careers. The leaders of protests, he points out, are “leaders only to the extend that they express the attitudes of the population” and especially of their immediate entourage. Consequently, they almost certainly will become more radical or be replaced by those who are.
In this rapidly deteriorating situation, Gozman says, “the stability of the powers that be is defined not by how many people are prepared to actively speak out against them.” Rather it is the number of those who are voluntarily ready to come to the defense of the authorities. Today, he suggests, there aren’t that many left, just as was the case in February and October 1917.
That is because those who work for the regime recognize that if the regime does fall, they will be at risk of judicial and possibly other forms of reprisal; and they know that those who act most vigorously now to defend a weakening state are likely to be the ones against whom most vigorous actions will be taken by the successor state.
In this situation, many commentators are talking about whether the opposition will unite; but that is the wrong way to look at things, Gozman says. What will happen and indeed is beginning to occur is “not the unification of existing structures” but “the formation of new ones” under new people.
Those leading protests now are doing so as individuals, cooperating with other individuals. None of them genuinely represents any political parties, “a large part of which if they existed at some point in the past, already represent candy wrappers without any candy inside.”
“Politics,” Gozman says, “is a dialogue with society.” The existing parties may talk to each other but they long ago ceased to talk to society. Those who are trying to take part in city elections, in contrast, are talking with society and thus are engaged in the most immediate form of political activity.
According to the opposition politician, “this is a new situation,” one in which even if Kremlin forces keep these new politicians from participating, there are now “politicians and, what is the main thing, politics.”
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