Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Assassination Attempt on Navalny Marks Breakdown in Relations between Powers and People, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 22 – Political murders and attempted murders have become “just as routine in Russia today as were contract killings in the 1990s about the redistribution of property,” Vladimir Pastukhov says. “This is logical because power is today the chief resource of wealth for those who have it in Russia … its methods were and remain those of bandits.” 

            But the boldness of the murderers and the ways they seek unsuccessfully to hide their tracks are “not simply a sign of the moral degradation of the ruling elite: they are an indicator of the complete cessation of a normal ‘exchange’ between the powers and society” and thus open the way to an even more horrific future (

            At the same time, there are two other aspects of this situation which have become “routine.” On the one hand, the regime organizes a campaign of mockery against its intended or real victim lest people draw parallels with past political murders like that of Trotsky by Stalin, an act that by the way occurred on exactly the same day of the month as the attack on Yavlinsky by Putin.

            And on the other hand, the Russian population did not rise in anger against this action. “In any other society, even in one not terribly democratic, an attack on Navalny would instantly have become the number one political event.” But in Russia, it became just another item in the flow of news, exactly as those who carried it out intended.

            They have made “a cold and cynical calculation.” If they could delay things so that the poison would be pass through Navalny’s system, they could convince many Russians – and it should be said many beyond the borders of that country – that they had not committed the crime that they did. And that will be enough to allow the powers in the Kremlin to continue.

            Navalny by his actions had put himself in a position where such an attack was “only a question of time.  Sooner or later it would have taken place for causes of a purely political character,” Pastukhov argues.  The Kremlin had simultaneously viewed Navalny as an opponent and as someone who kept the opposition from uniting.

            That kept the game going for as long as it did.  But Navalny also played a role. His personalist approach to politics, a combination of Nechaevism and Bolshevism, won him attention and support but also put many people off precisely because he is so much a part of the Russian revolutionary tradition.

             But ultimately Navalny made what has almost proved a fatal mistake: he made his movement all about him; and consequently, when those in the Kremlin became nervous as they have because of the events in Belarus, he became an inevitable target. As Stalin observed, “no person, no problem.”

            The Kremlin was correct in its assumption that millions of Russians would not come into the streets in reaction to an assassination attempt against Navalny. But the powers that be failed to recognize that now these very same people will not come out in support of Putin. The powers have completely alienated the people, and the two now live in different realities.

            If the population crystallizes around someone or some issue, Pastukhov concludes, that will lead to a crisis that the Putin regime will find it difficult if not impossible to escape with its power and money intact.  Ever more Russians can see that, however much mockery the Kremlin is prepared to engage in regarding its intended victims. 

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