Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Solidarity with Russian leftists

TODAY, WE, the representatives of Russian leftist organizations, turn to our comrades all over the world with an appeal for solidarity. This call and your response to it are very important to us. Right now, we are facing not just another instance of dubious sentencing by the Russian "justice" system or another case of a human life broken by the encounter with the state's repressive apparatus.

Today, the authorities have launched against us a repressive campaign without precedent in the recent history of Russia, a campaign whose goal is to extinguish the left as an organized political force. The recent arrests, threats, beatings, aggressive media attacks and moves towards declaring leftist groups illegal all point to the new general strategy on the part of the authorities, much more cruel and much less predictable than that of recent years.

The massive protest movement that began in December 2011 radically changed the atmosphere of political and social passivity established during the Putin years. Tens of thousands of young and middle-aged people, office workers and state employees began to appear on the streets and to demand change. On December 10 and 24, 2011, and then on February 4, 2012, Moscow, Petersburg and other large cities became the sites of massive rallies, demonstrating a new level of politicization of a significant part of society.

The "managed democracy" model crafted by the ruling elite over many years went bankrupt in a matter of days. Political manipulations ceased working in the face of real politics, born from below. The movement, whose demands were initially limited to "honest elections," quickly grew into a protest against the whole political system.

After the elections of March 4, 2012, in which Vladimir Putin, using a combination of massive administrative pressure on voters, massive falsifications and mendacious populist rhetoric, assured himself of another term, many thought that the potential for protest mobilization had been exhausted. The naïve hopes of the thousands of opposition volunteers, taking on the role of election observers in the hope of putting an end to voter fraud, were crushed.

The next demonstration, which few believed would succeed, was scheduled for the center of Moscow on May 6, the day before Putin's inauguration. And on this day, despite the skeptical predictions, more than 60,000 people showed up. When the march approached the square where the rally was to take place, the police organized a massive provocation, blocking the marchers' path to the square. All those who attempted to circumvent the police cordon were subjected to beatings and arrests.

The unprecedented police violence produced resistance on the part of some of the protesters, who resisted arrests and refused to leave the square until everyone had been freed. The confrontation on May 6 lasted a few hours. In the end, over 650 people were arrested, some of whom spent the night in jail.

The next day, Putin's motorized procession headed for his inauguration through an empty Moscow. Along with the protesters, the police had cleared the city of all pedestrians.

The new protest movement had demonstrated its power and a new degree of radicalization. The events of May 6 gave rise to the Occupy movement, which brought thousands of young people to the center of Moscow and held strong until the end of May. Leftist groups, until then peripheral to the established liberal spokesman of the protest movement, were progressively playing a larger role.

Read the rest here. Consider it a reminder that nearly a century after Red October, the call for an alternative to capitalism remains loud and clear.

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