Monday, 26 November 2007

NBP hoods undermine Kasparov's claim to legitimate dissent

Garry Kasparov has become the most recognisable face of Russian dissidence remaining in Russia, particularly for Americans. The former chess champion is emblematic in the western media of the Other Russia umbrella movement formed to coalesce disparate political groups opposed to Vladimir Putin.

Kasparov is widely viewed in Russia as a pro-American stooge but in the west he is increasingly seen as something of a martyr for democracy, silenced and bundled into the back of police vans by sinister minions of the dictator Putin. No doubt his latest arrest and 5 days prison sentence will elicit more sympathy.

Whilst it would be hard to argue that political opposition in Russia is given the freedom of expression and democratic rights which it should, it is worth pointing out the nature of some of the membership of the Other Russia and considering whether all of its members would be welcomed unto the streets of many western capitals to protest or whether their behaviour would be tolerated by the forces of law and order.

The Other Russia encompasses parties ranging from the anarchic left to extreme rightists and nationalists. Both main democratic parties functioning in Russia – the liberal Yabloko party and unremitting free-marketeers, the Union of Right Forces, refuse to join the grouping because of extremist elements (although members within both parties are involved). Consider Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party who appear to have been pivotal in fomenting problems at Saturday’s demonstration.

Limonov is perhaps the coalition’s second most high-profile leader. He is a bizarre figure and his banned party are unpleasant to say the least. Behind the red brown fusion of communism and National Socialism his party propounds, lies the supremacist ideology of neo-Eurasianism. This doctrine proposes an Empire stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific under Russian dominance. These rarefied beliefs manifest themselves on the ground in fascist and racist hooliganism. It is hard to imagine a party less compatible with western conceptions of liberal democracy.

By allying themselves which such parties Kasparov and other members of Other Russia undermine their credibility as upholders of a democratic ideal. The hooliganism that accompanies the National Bolsheviks provides a pretext for the rallies being disrupted and leaders being arrested. Because Kasparov and the like oppose a regime or find it oppressive and inimical to freedom, this is not an excuse to share a platform with communists, fascists or bizarre combinations of the two, who would be, by any standards, many times more dangerous than any regime led by Putin should they ever come to power.

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