Sunday, March 22, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Latest Moves Make Revolution ‘Inevitable’ But Not Necessarily Soon, Activist Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 22 – Moscow’s decision to bring Mikhail Khodorkovsky to trial again is a clear indication that Russia will experience yet another revolution because this persecution of the former oligarch will “bury” any hopes among the liberal intelligentsia for “the peaceful evolution of the regime,” according to a leading democracy activist.
But if this makes a revolution inevitable, Yevgeny Ikhlov of the Movement for Human Rights argues, this observation does not mean that such an upheaval will necessarily take place soon given the resources available to the regime and the lack of organization and discipline among its opponents (
Indeed, he points out, takes no great insight in order to make such a prediction given that a revolution at some point is “the fate of any non-democratic regime.” But having recognized that such a regime will break if it does not bend, he suggests, helps to focus attention on just what such a revolution should seek and what forms it might take.
The “most immediate goal” of such a revolution, Ikhlov argues, is “the overthrow of the feudal and in essence ‘parasitic’ power of the siloviki, oligarchs and the magnates of government-monopoly business.” In short, it must seek to defend “the ‘simple’ people (including small and mid-sized business) from corruption, diktat, and arbitrariness.”
“From the point of view of long-term historical perspective,” he suggests, “it is not so important whether this revolution will proceed under democratic slogans with calls for the defense of human rights or under nationalistic ones.” Instead, it only is critical that this event end the current undemocratic regime.
When this will take place, of course, is far from clear, he says, although he suggests those who want to bring Khodorkovsky to trial are advancing the date of the revolution. That is because “at that instance, the liberal intelligentsia which now devotes all its efforts” against a revolutionary approach “will stop this hopeless enterprise.
Instead, Ikhlov suggests, there will begin “the formation of pro-revolutionary slogans of the type ‘better to stand up once than to spend all one’s life on one’s knees.’” Once that happens, that means “the revolution will take place,” he argues, and in the best case, it will occur peacefully and without bloodshed in the name of the defense of human rights.
If it happens soon, the human rights campaigner says, then “the revolution will free Khodorkovsky. And possibly, in its honeymoon period, he will play the role of a Russian Marquis de Lafayette,” overseeing what the current regime fears most: “a new perestroika,” “the self-organization of civil society,” and “a common idea of reform.”
But despite everything that continues to be said about “the still remarkable reserve of political strength of Putinism,” Ikhlov continues, he remains “firmly convinced that inside the ruling group there is a serious undercover struggle which has led even to the stage of the preparation of latent palace coups.”
Behind the façade of united state power, the Moscow activist continues, there are at least five different groups within this elite -- the power vertical, the “Chekists,” the regional barons, the mid-ranks of the siloviki, and the billionaires—many of which find themselves at odds with the others and thus potential allies in a revolutionary situation.
Under certain conditions, the current powers that be could simply collapse or be swept from the scene; under others, this process could take place through a political roundtable; and under others, it could even take the form of the gradual conquest of power through elections, something that might not even look like a revolution.
But breaking out of Russia’s authoritarian system will be a revolutionary step, Ikhlov argues, and he suggests that there will need to be arrangements like those in Portugal after the end of Salazar’s fascist regime or even some kind of “Supreme Revolutionary Committee” or “Council of Public Vigilance” to ensure the transition.
None of that will be easy to do because there is no one blueprint for making the change, and Ikhlov implies, although he does not specifically say, that it is entirely possible that a revolution could again take place in Russia that far less would change than those who made it hoped and expected.

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