Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Russian Protests Supporting Gaoled Alexei Navalny: Where Does the Left Stand?

with 3 comments


Demonstrators clashing with the police on Saturday in Moscow.

The BBC reports.

Hundreds of people have been detained as police try to stop nationwide protests in Russia in support of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

Mr Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said she had been detained at a protest in Moscow, where tens of thousands have gathered.

They were met by large numbers of riot police in the capital’s Pushkin Square, and beaten back with batons.

Mr Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile critic, called for protests after his arrest last weekend.

He was detained on 17 January after he flew back to Moscow from Berlin, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal nerve agent attack in Russia last August.

On his return, he was immediately taken into custody and found guilty of violating parole conditions. He says it is a trumped-up case designed to silence him, and has called on his supporters to protest.

Prior to the rallies, Russian authorities had promised a tough crackdown, with police saying any unauthorised demonstrations and provocations would be “immediately suppressed”. Several of Mr Navalny’s close aides, including his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, were arrested.


OVD Info, an independent NGO that monitors rallies, said that more than 1,600 people had been detained during protests across the country on Saturday.

Here is another report:

Internationalists would first of all see the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny., his poisoning, and the arrests of protestors in human rights terms.

As in this:

If this had happened in the USA or in Europe the left would be up in arms.

Here are some of the few initial left reactions:

Ken Livingstone’s team, now lined up behind the Chinese capitalist dictatorship:

Overt Pro-Putin ‘Anti-Imperialists’ tekn apart by Paul Canning:




Navalny’s Return and Left Strategy by lefteast

(Extracts: follow link for full article)

Russia has had an eventful week and it’s not even finished. First, Alexey Navalny flew back to Moscow, then he was immediately arrested upon crossing the border, and the next day his team published a video illustrating Vladimir Putin’s own corruption and calling upon all citizens to come out to the streets against the government on January 23. What is the Russian left to think of all this? Navalny is certainly not its own, but should it stay away from the protests and the brewing political crisis? We asked Ilya Budraitskis, Ilya Matveev, and Kirill Medvedev, for their opinion.

Ilya Budraitskis, Moscow-based historian, political writer, and co-author of the Political Diary podcast


Navalny’s bold and precise populist strategy is in fact aimed at creating a protest coalition, with an important place reserved for the representatives of the system parties (above all, the Communists), who will refuse to play by the Kremlin’s rules and are able to conduct lively and offensive electoral campaigns.  A key element of this strategy is Navalny’s rhetoric, in which the issues of poverty and social inequality have taken the place of liberal-democratic values. The high-profile anti-corruption investigations that have earned him popularity have an emotional impact on a huge audience (for example, his latest film about Putin’s palace, costing 100 billion roubles, was viewed over 50 million times by Friday), since they directly indicate the extreme stratification of Russian society. In an environment of openly falsified elections and unprecedented police pressure, electoral protest can only have an effect if it is supported by a mass non-parliamentary street movement. And only such a movement can determine Navalny’s personal fate today — if hundreds of thousands across the country do not stand up for his immediate release in the coming weeks, he will surely face a long prison term.

In my view, participating in such a movement — with our own programme and demands — is today the only chance for the Russian left. Moreover, it is the left that can most coherently express the sentiments that are increasingly pushing people to active protest: social inequality, the degradation of the social sphere (especially health care, which became dramatically apparent during the pandemic), police violence, and the absence of basic democratic (especially labour) rights.

Kirill Medvedev, activist of the Russian Socialist Movement, musician from the Arkady Kots Band, editor of Zanovo-media

But the more convincingly Navalny works with the theme of corruption and the ostentatious consumption of top officials, the more the limits of this rhetoric are exposed in a country like Russia, exhausted by inequality and permeated by class contradictions. Now the situation looks like this: Navalny is showing us the palaces of the rulers, playing with the fire of class resentment, while at the same time (together with his comrades-in-arms) promising businesses complete freedom in the Beautiful Russia of the Future. They say that the problem is not the palaces and gigantic fortunes per se, but where they come from. But of course, with the further development of this populist line, it will no longer be easy to separate the corrupt “friends of Putin” from those whom Navalny calls “honest businessmen,” but whose fortunes are just as huge, and similarly generated by illegal schemes from the 1990s and 2000s and, of course, by over-exploitation of workers. All of this opens up great opportunities for leftist politics, which, with an equally skillful combination of valor and rationality, could produce a far more powerful wave of discontent and a far more coherent program of change than Navalny’s eclectic populism.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 23, 2021 at 5:14 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Nothing concrete, as yet from the mouths of the horses in the stables in Moscow and London. RT website play reports pretty straight, but did insert this interesting paragraph “Navalny’s team has a long record of staging unsanctioned assemblies, claiming that Russian rules regulating public events are too restrictive to opposition movements. However, in this case, authorities also pointed out that mass gatherings are prohibited under regulations designed to control the Covid-19 pandemic. Law enforcement has been using megaphones to instruct people to maintain social distancing and keep their masks on, rules disregarded by many of those who have flocked to Pushkin Square.

    The Morning Star, at least the web edition have kept shtum so far. Their ire and lead foreign story is directed at a group many thousands of kilometres south of Moscow. “Controversial civil defence group the White Helmets has been gifted almost £1 million to make personal protective equipment (PPE) by a British, US and Dutch government-funded organisation in Syria. A report in the Guardian earlier this week revealed the large sum had been handed over by Humanitarian Grand Challenge (HGC), a non-profit human rights organisation.
    The White Helmets, which has been accused of maintaining links with jihadist organisations, claims to have made two million masks and other forms of PPE to distribute among the population in areas held by al-Qaida associated gangs.”

    david walsh

    January 23, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    • This is interesting, apparently the documentary has dented Putin’s image, (via the French site Mediapart)

      Putin’s palace. History of world’s largest bribe (English subtitles). Navalny was behind posting this:

      It is a rather long….

      Andrew Coates

      January 23, 2021 at 6:16 pm

  2. The Left should obviously be against Putin’s regime. That does not mean FOR Navalny or other bourgeois forces. This is a repetition of the early 20th century debates between Lenin and the Economists. Of course, the Left must engage in political struggle for greater political freedoms, but it can never do that by limiting itself to the programme of the liberals, who in any case, would stab the workers in the back at the first opportunity.

    Whatever the actual class composition of the people taking part in the protests, the protests themselves are middle-class in nature. Such protests, and many more can be seen across the globe, are doomed to failure. The elements involved are disparate with no homogeneous concept of what they are for rather than what they are against. They will easily fracture. More importantly, why is the Putin state going to worry too much about a load of students or middle class people getting cold on the streets each weekend. So long as the workers continue to work and produce new value and surplus value, Putin and his kleptocrats will continue stealing large chunks of it, and the economy will continue on its way as normal.

    The turning point in Egypt in 2011 was when the workers joined in the political struggle and attached to it their own economic and social demands – many of which, however, were contrary to the interests of the liberals involved in the earlier period of the struggle, just as was the case in Russia in 1905. The position of the Left should as always be March separately strike together. We support the demands of the liberals for greater political liberty, but they do not go far enough to protect the interests of workers; we do not trust the middle class liberals involved in the current struggle, who history tells us will betray the workers if they obtain their own aims, or if the workers begin to take the lead; the current struggle is a dead if left to the liberals and amorphous street protests. Only the organised class struggle of the proletariat can defeat Putin.


    January 24, 2021 at 11:55 am

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