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Kasparov Vision of Russian "Solidarity"

Gary Kasparov, the grand Russian chess master and leading political opponent of the Putin-Medvedev autocratic regime outlined a vision in an article Space for Solidarity .

The key highlights of the article is that Russian "Solidarity" should not be an exclusive club of liberals or, in words of Kasparov, "liberal ghetto". Kasparov vision is that Solidarity is a public forum for a variety of oppositional forces to express their opinions peacefully, compete with each other by persuasion instead of violence and learn to make important compromises with each other to find a constructive alternative to Putin regime. He believes that Solidarity needs to include a variety of political forces, including liberals, social-democrats and rational nationalists/patriots.

Kasparov rejects suggestions of some of his liberal colleagues to get rid of "red" and "brown" element referring to presence of non-totalitarian socialists and patriots in the movements. Kasparov clearly states that turning Solidarity into liberals-only club would defeat the very purpose of creation of Solidarity--restoration of free and honest political competition. Kasparov recalls 1993-1996 the support alliance of Russian economic liberals, such as former prime-minister Chubais, with Yeltsin inner circle to stifle opposition to Yeltsin economic policies. The following quote from Kasparov' article summarizes very well his ideas:

"We should get rid of the idea inherited from Yeltsin-Putin "liberals" about liberalism without democracy. No matter how correct from liberal-economic perspective the steps of autocratic power may seem, they bring the country to dead end--not just economic but political one too. Free enterprise competition is impossible without free political competition, without equality before law and division of powers."

The essence of Kasparov' thought is that it is imperative to seek a political dialog with rational opponents as long as basic criteria of mutual respect and recognition of the need for the citizen rights are met. If Solidarity can become a platform offering a real and constructive alternative to Putin "power vertical", than it will be a giant step toward building civil society in Russia.

Birth of Civic Society in Russia ?

Russian far eastern Vladivostok region has been plagued recently by a wave of motorist protests against increased import duties of foreign, primarily Japanese, cars. The picket lines by motorists in Vladivostok were broken up by local police units on Saturday . However, protests continued spontaneously and Sunday may see protests by motorists and car dealership service workers in dozens of Russian cities. The car businesses sprung up in Russia were built around selling and servicing imported cars. Increased duties may leave hundreds of thousands of people without jobs at times of Russian and worldwide severe economic and financial crisis, when loosing a job will not guarantee that you can find a compatible one any time soon.

The protests come at times of increased activity by Russian opposition groups. The question is whether the latest wave of political protests will translate into a political movement that would demand bringing the Russian brutal and corrupt governmental system under civic control or will it become just another outburst of protests that will end up inconclusively, as it happened in the wave of 2005 protests against benefit reforms. While a number of observers may agree that Putin-Medvedev system of "power vertical" with centralized and corrupt powers unanswerable to anyone except themselves is not viable and effective, the question is whether opposition has a working plan to turn Russia into effective and civilized state that does not trample on its own citizens. The answer, obviously, lies with fractured opposition itself.

Two most recent news highlight a dismal state of protecting the liberty and life in Putin-Medvedev Russia.

First was a sentence of racist gang members in Moscow court for murder of non-Slavic looking migrants in Moscow. The group was formed in 2006 by Moscow area teens with a specific aim to murder non-slavic migrants, predominantly from Caucasus and Central Asian regions of the former Soviet Union to "cleanse Russian blood". The group admits responsibility for the death of 20 people and at least 12 attempted murders between August 2006 and October 2007. The youthful gang members, mostly in their late teens, did not show in court any remorse for the murders and in fact, displayed pride in what they did. The group members received from 6 to 20 years in prison. The gang leader, 17-yrs old Artur Ryno, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in general security penal colony. As Russian rights activists have noticed, this sentence is equivalent to 6 months per each murder. For more information on sentencing the gang and public reaction to it, read here and here .

The next piece of news is a harsh crackdown by Moscow and St. Petersburg riot and special police units OMON on the attempted peaceful march of dissenters from the recently formed movement "Solidarity" modeled after the legendary Polish opposition movement of the 1980's. Moreover, the special police was present in full force before the announced oppositional march and was quick to arrest 150 something people even before march started. In other words, OMON is always ready to hit hard at peaceful and not popular opposition, but it is nowhere to be seen when Moscow youthful racial gangsters commit their murders, sometime in broad daylight in public places, such as parks, subway stations, etc.

These two stories show that Russian officials clearly inadequate in assessing the threat posed to Russia. Currently liberal opposition poses very little threat to Putin-Medvedev regime. It is not popular with average Russians who identify opposition (and not always unjustly) with the post-Communist chaos and shady privatization deals of the 1990's that enriched a small circle of Kremlin-connected businessmen (known as olygarchs) while impoverishing the vast majority of Russians. The recent worldwide financial crisis and associated drop in oil price, the main source of revenue for Russia, may increase somewhat popularity of liberal oppositional groups, but it is very hard to say by how much. However, the racial pro-Nazi gangs are clear and present danger for Russia. Only for the past ten months in 2008, these gangs killed 113 and wounded about 340 people throughout Russia according to Moscow Human Rights Bureau. The members of these gangs grew up in post-communist economic and moral chaos of the 1990's or subsequent resurgent chauvinistic and intolerant atmosphere of the early 2000's. As BBC's Moscow correspondent and blogger James Rogers pointed out:

Artur Ryno and his gang are the extreme, dangerous face of generation who have grown up in an ideological vacuum.

Russian skinheads were estimated to be at least 100,000 strong as of early 2007 according to Russian Interior Ministry press service chief Oleg Yelnikov . These gangs are present in nearly every major Russian city and ready to strike again and again at anyone they consider the enemy of Russian people. The list of enemies now includes the Russian officials themselves. A few days ago, the severed head of Tajik migrant worker was found in Moscow outskirts with the attached note identifying killers as the members of previously unheard of "Russian Nationalists' Combat Force". The note said that the murder was in revenge for rape and murder of Russian teen girl Anna Beshnova, 15, by suspected Uzbek migrant worker . The note also threatened to sever the heads of Russian officials responsible for dismal immigration control.

This is a clear indication that Russian youthful racial death squads feel that they have a right to murder anyone they want to. They are young monsters who grew up in liberal post-Communist moral, social and economic chaos of 1990's and subsequent rise of chauvinism in Russia in late 1990's and 2000's. Both liberal opposition and Putin brutal chauvinistic regime are responsible for turning a large number of Russian youth into cold blooded racial and ideological killers. The former are responsible for enthusiastically supporting Yeltsin policies that neglected Russian youth and focused on enriching pockets of selected group of Kremlin friends. Putin regime repeated use of anti-American and anti-Western sentiments and politically motivated murders (Anna Polytkovskaya, Aleksandr Litvinenko, Sergei Yushenkov to name just a few)combined with unjustly brutal execution of war against Islamic separatist-terrorists in Chechnya and North Caucasus created an atmosphere of brutal lawlessness and might-is-right culture that Russian post-Communist youth was first to pick up.

Will it take severed heads of Russian officials for Russian government to realize that they are cracking down hard on wrong people ? Will it be necessary to impose martial law to prevent racial gangs going on murder rampage ? Something drastic must be done to prevent racial murders in Russia from continuing to spiral out of control and threaten any semblance of law and order in Russia.