If at first you don’t suceed…
I’m always in awe of those who, despite vastly more repressive situations than those in the UK, will try and stand up to repression over and over again. There’s an old Chomsky quote that goes something like “If you go to one demonstration, that’s great, but authority can deal with that; what you have to do is keep coming back with increasing pressure”. In Russia right now, there’s a bunch of people who seem to be trying with everything they have to do just that…
A bit of background might be helpful. There’s a campaign called “Other Russia” which is aiming to hold Putin to account for the ways in which he is undermining democracy. One its leaders is former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, and another is a former Prime Minister. They’ve been holding a series of rallies in the major cities of Russia, some of which have been state-sanctioned, and some of which have been banned.
Well, this weekend has been a big one for there campaign. The BBC announced on Friday that they would be attempting to rally in Moscow, despite government assurances of arrests and heavy police presence. When I say heavy, I mean around 9000 riot police facing off to around 5000 protesters. Kasaparov was arrested, and has now been released after a hasty trial fined him around £20 for “Public Disorder”. The rally failed to go ahead, and so one might be given to feeling a sense of defeat. But then, these people have guts and determination…
“Russian Opposition in fresh rally“. They’re at it again. You’d have thought these people would learn not to mess with Putin, but thankfully for democracy, no they haven’t. But it seems the authorities were going for a different approach up in St Petersburg: let them rally, stop them marching. Not good enough! They attempted to march all the same, and one group it seems managed this, though they paid a price when they were eventually found and attacked by the police.
This group may be short on numbers, they may be facing one of the biggest authoritarian regimes in the world, they may be taking on the holders of the keys to Europe’s gas supplies*, they may be faced with a country who’s bulk-population have supported dictatorships many times in the past, but these are people who really are determined.
There is almost no British equivalent I can think of. While Faslane 365 is doing well at teaching people to go back for more, they’re a very compliant bunch when it comes to demands placed upon them by the state. Unfortunately, F365 seems to be developing a crowd who will take direct action within the state framework, rather than outside it. But hey, at least its teaching people to go back for more.
In contrast, we’re a pretty tepid bunch who just let ourselves be walked over. And if we don’t watch ourselves, we’ll have just as big problems defending democracy over here. We already have the doctrine of state-sanctioned-protest in the form of SOCPA and applications for processions in London. Its not a protest if the government gives it a stamp of approval, its a piece of theatre for dampening the force of antipathy towards the government.
Enough ranting, enjoy the good weather, and apologies if I don’t get to write much any time soon.
* This point is highly relevant: it explains why suddenly Blair and Merkel aren’t so much as opening their mouths over this one. Sadly, we see vested interests, and despite the summer months meaning less gas needed, we’re still being complicit in these crimes.