Solidarity or Solitarity?
As reports in the Moscow Times and New York Times regarding the effort to hold a national “Day of Rage” in protest against the malignancy known as Vladimir Putin made clear, the efforts “fizzled” and “fell short” even by the rather pathetic standards of civil society in Russia. Chatting with us on Twitter, opposition leader Oleg Kozlovsky explained that there were three reasons for the failure: apathy, fear and ignorance. Undoubtedly, though he’s too polite to say so, he meant these terms to apply as much to the benighted leadership of the “Solidarity” opposition movement as to those it calls to action, the people of Russia.
Perhaps the movement would be better named “Solitarity.”
The two main driving forces behind Solidarity, Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov, are great at explaining to the intelligentsia and to foreigners why the Putin regime is bankrupt. Both have made invaluable contributions with their writings to our understanding of Putin’s pathetic failure across the board in developing policies to turn Russia into a modern, successful nation. And Nemtsov has gone further, documenting with his series of white papers (translated into English by this blog) all the failings and corruptions of the Putin regime for any responsible Russian citizen to read.
But when it comes to galvanizing Russians on the street with the spoken word or with bold, inspirational actions, both fall hopelessly short. And what’s worse is that both seem unwilling to step aside in favor of other activists who might be better qualified in these areas, to say nothing of nuts-and-bolts issues like basic logistics and planning, much less to actively seek out and promote such persons.
Kozlovsky states in regard to the most recent protest action: “I wouldn’t call it a failure. It’s thousands of people, dozens cities.” Russia is a nation of tens of millions, a nation of people who blithely turned in their neighbors, or looked other way as others did, during the time of Stalin. These are the standards Russia’s courageous opposition leaders are forced to adopt, and let’s be clear: They need more courage to face the “apathy, ignorance and fear” of their fellow citizens than they need to deal with the vicious thugs who call themselves police and government officials. Kozlovsky himself was arrested and held for hours in Moscow when he tried to attend a peaceful demonstration against Putin in Pushkin Square. He put his own safety and future on the line, and for what? For a few hundred ordinary Russians to follow him?
But courage is not enough. It may well be that, as has occurred so many times in the past, Russia’s fundamentally corrupt and incompetent government will destroy itself and the nation. But unless Russians are willing to build a brand new type of government, and to make the sacrifices that requires, Russia will only go on repeating the mistakes of the past and collapse once again into dismal failure. Russians must show that they are willing to defend their future from the malignant hoardes of Vladimir Putin, or else they cannot expect truly brilliant leaders, like a Gandhi or King, to step forward and risk all on their behalf.