The Big Integration
Early April marked a new wave of opposition coalition building. Three events took place in each of the three main political camps. Liberals gathered in St. Petersburg on 5 April, the leftists met in Moscow on 6 April and the nationalists had their convention on 12 April. The goal of each of these events was to unite the majority of political forces of the corresponding wings.
The liberal conference in St. Petersburg founded a coordinating group, whose task is to prepare the creation of a new democratic or liberal movement. This group included Garry Kasparov of United Civil Front (OGF), former and present SPS leaders Boris Nemtsov and Nikita Belykh, and St. Petersburg Yabloko head Maxim Reznik. Mikhail Kasyanov’s Russian People’s Democrat Union (NDS) movement claimed it would also join the body, as did the Oborona movement. Yabloko’s long-time leader Grigory Yavlinsky has notably ignored this initiative.
The big question, however, is whether these people will be able to find common ground for the new movement. It seems that they have more differences than they have in common. While OGF and Oborona are both members of The Other Russia coalition, which has consistently taken an opposition stance to the power, many SPS and Yabloko members see the Kremlin as the lesser evil compared to the left- and right-wing opposition. They are still thinking in terms of the 1990s struggle of the democrats against “the red revenge”, unable to see that the “revenge” is already here, simply implemented by the KGB, not the Communists.
Meanwhile, some of the Communists, with National Bolsheviks and other left-wing organizations, are trying to join together. Their conference on 6 April called for the abolition of capitalism in favor of socialism, but admitted that they need to “tactically cooperate” with the liberal opposition in order to restore free elections, pluralism, freedom of speech etc. It should be noted by the way that the Communist Party’s long-time leader, Gennady Zyuganov, was absent at this event, just like Yavlinsky at the liberals’ event the day before. Old Yeltsin-era parties leaders appear to be unenthusiastic about these new structures emerging by their side.
The third and the least known meeting was that of the right wing on 12 April. Russia’s extremely fractured nationalist flank gathered in Moscow to discuss its future. They adopted a draft of a statute for a Civil Anti-Fascist Court, which is intended to examine the cases of human rights violations by the Russian authorities.
However, better organization of the political wings is not the ultimate step in the integration of the Russian opposition. Increasing pressure from the authoritarian regime is pushing disparate political forces to unite their efforts. Liberals, communists and nationalists are all equally interested in being able to promote their ideas and to struggle for real power in the country. This means that they need to step over the boundaries of their political camps and cooperate with their recent (and future) rivals.
The left-wing and the right-wing conferences claimed that they would participate in the National Assembly — a new project proposed by The Other Russia. The National Assembly is an attempt unprecedented in recent Russian history to construct an alternative branch of power — a shadow parliament. While the State Duma is losing its last shreds of legitimacy and trust in the eyes of Russian citizens after the fraudulent elections, the National Assembly is here to take its place… in the people’s consciousness, of course. This strategy of creating parallel organs of authority is has been used successfully by Solidarity in Poland as well as in Russia itself in 1917. [Lenin’s 1917 slogan “All power to the soviets!” referred to the spontaneously created workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ councils (“soviets” in Russian) that were springing up in the country as the tsar and the Duma lost all legitimacy in the public’s eye—R.A.]
Dozens of small and large organizations have already agreed to send their delegates to the Assembly, which is to have its first session on 18 May. These will represent all existing ideologies and will form a striking contrast to the dull and gray Putinite Duma.