February Theses for the Citizens of Russia
February 28, 2008
Recent events – the October-November Bacchanalia of an “election campaign”, the special operation called “02 December 2007”, the military-“Nashisti” occupation of Moscow on 2-6 December, and the special operation now underway known as “02 March 2008” – represent a qualitative break in the situation with Russian society and government. This new situation allows the formulation of a number of key theses.
On the Legitimacy of the Regime
The illegitimate character of the “elections” of December 2, 2007 and March 2, 2008 make claims by their “victors” to have won government office in Russia illegal. That means that not only the elected “State Duma” and its deputies, not only the “president” now being elected, but now also the lower officials being appointed by this Duma and this “president” – all are illegitimate.
On the Risks to Russia
The illegitimacy of the regime is leading it to an even larger-scale use of falsifications, bribery and violence against the citizens of Russia. The creation of absolute power by this illegitimate regime – along with destroying the fundamental institutions of government and society and monopolizing all political, economic and information resources in the hands of the regime’s representatives – enormously increases the level of risk for the country and its people. The main threats today are not so much threats to the economy or people’s well-being as direct threats to people’s security and lives.
On Our Aims – Long-Term and Short-Term
The main objectives for those who consider themselves citizens of Russia will be the prevention of a national catastrophe, ensuring the security of the people, and preserving for Russian society the basic norms of human morality in more difficult less agreeable circumstances. In the final analysis, it will be impossible to achieve these objectives without the replacement of the current regime. There should be no place on Russian soil for the regime of a political and criminal thug.
On the Possibility of a Gradual Evolution of the Regime
The hopes of many that the regime might be changed by nurturing, education and persuasion have been proven baseless. All efforts at changing the regime by cooperating with its leaders have ended in failure. Those who were changed were not the chekisti – siloviki [TN: political slang for former intelligence officers in positions of authority in the government]; it was not the siloviki who adopted the norms of civil society, but the representatives of the civil bureaucracy who took up the craft and habits of the siloviki. The current regime in Russia has proven itself to be incapable of internal evolution.
On Cooperation with the Regime
There should be no doubt about it: cooperation with this regime by law-abiding, civil professionals does not weaken the regime, it strengthens it. Attempts to influence officials of the regime through knowledge, argument and logic simply arm the regime intellectually and further strengthen it in the war it is waging against the citizens of Russia.
On Expectations for a Political Thaw
Expectations of a political “thaw”, a possible liberalization and democratization of the current regime in connection with a rotation of personnel in the position of president, have lost all bases. There is nothing in the personal characteristics of tomorrow’s “president” – neither in his education, world view, professional resume, past experience, degree of independence, nor amount of real authority; no sort of new demand for democratic change from the regime’s political base (intelligence officers and bureaucrats, Russian monopolists and the Western political and business leaders); and nothing in the key conditions of modern Russian society – neither in the monopoly on information, repression against opponents, nor the price of oil; there is nothing at all providing any reason to expect genuine – not just stylistic – change for the better. More likely the opposite.
On Ways to Change the Regime
In democratic societies the changeover from one political regime to another occurs as a result of elections – parliamentary or presidential. There is no point in feeding any illusions here: for the Russia of today, this path is closed. Under authoritarian systems of government, the political regime can be overthrown only by revolution, coup, or external occupation. Under conditions in which the regime has a monopoly on the law enforcement and intelligence structures, and taking into consideration the regime’s willingness to use them against peaceful citizens, any call for forcibly changing the regime is tantamount to a call for suicide.
A call for violence would be extremely undesirable. Nonetheless, it cannot be entirely ruled out. The law-abiding citizen who is attacked by bandits has the right to self-defense. The presence or absence of uniforms on the bandits at the time of the attack does not make them guardians of order.
On Term Lengths
The terms of the current regime may turn out to be longer than they seem to be or one might hope they are today.
On Unification of the People
Attempts at survival by separate parties, organizations or groups are, in the current situation, doomed. Those few victories the people have enjoyed over the regime in the past few years have been possible only when the people were able to unite: against the monetization of allowances [TN: lgoty, generally given to pensioners or the disabled, consisting of discounted or free food, transportation, utilities, etc.], for the defense of Shcherbinskiy, in the defense of Lake Baikal. Without unity, the people cannot defend their rights in an even limited way.
On a Platform for Unification
Unification of the people of Russia is not possible on either an ideological or political basis. The people of Russia support a wide variety of viewpoints, world views, ideologies and political currents. Formation of a massive political party would be possible only with the help of a totalitarian ideology and military-like discipline, or on the basis of bureaucratic loyalty. Unification of the people can be created only on the basis of moral principles that distinguish the democratic opposition from the authoritarian regime. But unification of the people cannot be constructed solely to oppose the regime; it must have a positive aim as well.
On the Aims of Unification
In Russia today there is no goal more important and no national platform broader than the restoration of civil rights and freedoms, ensuring the primacy of law and independence of mass media, and creating a democratic political system in the country. So a working title for the unification movement might be “Civil Movement” or “Civil Coalition”.
On the Principles of a Civil Movement
The guiding principles of the Civil Movement are for democratic principles in the organization of society and governmental authority: for legal equality of all citizens in Russia, regardless of their situation in life, status, political views, nationality, creed or gender; for tolerance toward the views of others as long as they do not violate the Russian Constitution; for freedom of speech; and for honest political competition. In interactions between the people and the regime’s representatives, the guiding principles remain the rules for existence worked out by the prisoners of the Gulag: “Don’t believe (the regime). Don’t be afraid (of the regime). Don’t ask for anything (from the regime).” It would be worthwhile to add to these a fourth principle: “Don’t cooperate with the regime or participate in its dealings.”
On the Participants in a Civil Movement
Supporters of liberal, conservative, patriotic and socialist points of view could all, within the framework of a Civil Movement, cooperate with each other in the project of creating a free Russia, as long as their joint program for action does not contradict the principles of the inviolability of the individual, legal equality for all citizens, and honest, fair and democratic elections. Advancing various political agendas by participants in the coalition would be possible to the extent that they do not contradict basic civil freedoms and democratic principles for the organization of society and government.
On the West
Any expectation of support – even just moral support – for a Russian civil movement from the political leaders and governments of the West is without basis. For many Western leaders, the current regime in Russia is more convenient, comfortable and pleasant than its opponents would be. Western leaders have accumulated considerable experience in cooperating with and supporting authoritarian regimes in Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The restoration of civil freedooms, legal order and democracy are matters for the Russian people themselves.
The increase in the price of oil in recent years was not the reason for the socio-political degradation of the country, and neither will a future drop in price guarantee the civil and political emancipation of Russia. The root of the problem lies not in the molecules of oil, but in the views, ideologies and outlooks on the world that prevail among representatives of the current regime and those parts of Russian society that consider inequality of people under the law, authoritarian organization of government, and use of violence against citizens as possible, tolerable, desirable, and normal.
On Participation in the Special Operation Called “02 March 2008”
Participation by the citizens of Russia in the special operation called “02 March 2008” is unacceptable. Non-participation by citizens in the so-called “presidential elections” as a form of boycott presents the regime with an additional means for falsifying the official results. For citizens concerned about the fate of their country, not trusting the current regime and not desiring to have their own small resource used against them, have one possible course of action remaining: take the ballot home with you.
On Counting the Removed Ballots
Ballots that have been taken home can and should be counted – outside of official voting places and outside the election commission. Counting of the removed ballots is necessary not in order to show the results to the regime, or to convince them of something or mock them. It is necessary for the citizens of Russia to conduct a different election, build a different system of government power, elect a different parliament, and create a different country. Removed ballots might be exchanged for “citizens’ ballots” that could be used to elect members of a Civil Movement proto-parliament.
On the Proto-Parliament
The major project that might unify participants in the Civil Movement could be the formation of a proto-parliament through elections using “citizens’ ballots” that would be received in exchange for unused ballots from the official “presidential election” of March 2. In doing this they could draw on their experience with free elections developed during the “Other Russia” primaries in the Summer-Fall 2007 period. The main objective of the Civil Movement should be the discussion of issues associated with ensuring the security of citizens, restoration of civil freedoms, establishment of legal order, and the creation of a democratic political system in Russia.
On the Basic Program of a Civil Movement
Working out a final program for the Civil Movement will demand time and cooperative work from its participants. But several key requirements for the basic program can be formulated as follows:
1. Immediate release of all political prisoners.
2. Immediate end to all political repression.
3. Immediate elimination of all limits on the activities of the mass media.
4. Elimination of limits and prohibitions on political activities.
5. Restoration of basic civil freedoms, including the sanctity of the individual, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of assembly and association.
6. Introduction of a criminal prohibition against interference by the executive branch of government in court decisions.
7. Restoration of election laws to what they were as of December 31, 1999.
8. Cancellation of the official results from the special operations of 02 December 2007 and 02 March 2008.