Vienna, November 3 – A youth group of the Kremlin’s United Russia Party now openly backs xenophobic ideas that its own leaders only a few months ago had decried as nationalist or even fascist, a reflection of disturbing trends among Russian young people and in the ruling party of the Russian government itself.
On Saturday, approximately 30 activists of the Young Guard of United Russia staged a demonstration in front of the Moscow offices of the Federal Migration Service (FMS), demanding that the service reduce or even eliminate altogether rather than double as the FMS has announced the quota for labor migrants (www.nr2.ru/moskow/204326.html).
The Young Guardists, the New Region news agency’s Denis Frunze pointed out, “who until recently had accused their opponents from the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) of nationalism or even fascism conducted [on Saturday] actions in several Russian cities under slogans that completely coincide with the demands of the Russian nationalists.”
“We consider,” one of their leaders told the journalist, “that at a time of economic crisis, illegal migrants are occupying workplaces which Russian workers, many of whom now find themselves in difficulties, ought to occupy.” That is especially true, Masha Sergeyev said, “in the construction business.”
The demonstrators, Frunze noted, carried signs featuring railroad tickets with the slogan “go home,” symbolizing their desire that the Russian authorities either move to prevent illegal migrants from coming into the country at all or resolve to send those already here back to their homelands.
Sergeyev insisted that these demonstrations have “nothing in common” with the DPNI’s Russian March scheduled for tomorrow. “Unlike them,” he said, we are not calling for any pogroms. We are pushing for a legal initiative to lower the quotas of labor migrants and expose the companies which use an illegal foreign labor force.”
Another Young Guard leader added that “we have never and will never seek to ignite xenophobia and hatred in our society be it on the basis of nationality or any other characteristic.” Unlike DPNI, he continued, the Young Guard does not consist of “marginals” but of “politicians working legally to lobby on behalf of the interests of the majority of citizens of Russia.”
Despite that assertion, many in DPNI are delighted by the shift saying it opens the way for the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders (www.apn.ru/opinions/article20947.htm). But the two groups are not comfortable with each other: Fearful of provocations, the Young Guards tried to keep the DPNI away (kontury.info/news/2008-11-01-433).
The relationship between the Young Guards and their parent organization, United Russia, is complicated (www.anticompromat.ru/molodayagv/molgv_spr.html). In advance of the protests, spokesmen for the latter said that calls for the expulsion of gastarbeiters were “excessively radical” but otherwise backed the Young Guards.
At a time of economic crisis, Andrei Vorobyev, who heads the central executive committee of Kremlin’s United Russia Party, “we consider it wise to reduce quotas for migrant workers” so that Russian workers can get jobs.”
At one level of course, this is simply good populist politics at a time when many face economic hardships. But the actions of the Young Guard, and the failure of United Russia to condemn them in a more thorough-going fashion point to a danger many do not want to face: the possible linking up of populism and xenophobia that could give rise to fascism.
At present, that is precisely what DPNI and the organizers of tomorrow’s Russian March appear to be hoping for. Fortunately, it is still something United Russia and the Young Guard feel compelled to denounce. But it is also something that by their own actions and statements, these two Kremlin-backed organizations have made a great deal more likely.