Gusev: Russian activists facing danger

Alexei Gusev is a professor of history at Moscow State University and chair of the Praxis Research and Educational Center in Moscow. The following is a letter he sent to Richard Greeman, who asked that I post it online.

Dear Richard,

Thank you very much for your solidarity and support! Sorry for delay in answering you: the events are so important and developing so fast, that we have to react to them immediately. The left democratic wing of the University Solidarity union issued a statement of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ukrainian universities, students, free labor unions and civil society which in a day collected 35 signatures from professors working in 8 Russian cities (new important contacts with politically progressive people were established during this campaign). Now it is published on the web-site of the principal university of Ukrainian capital – Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

But situation in Russia, in the context of Ukrainian events, is getting quite dangerous. The ruling regime is very frightened by the victory of Ukrainian revolution and ready to launch new repression against dissidents. Today 7 victims of Bolotnaya case (participants of mass pro-democracy demonstration in Moscow on 6 May 2012) were sentenced to prison terms from 2,5 to 4 years. Pro-government writers comment that now, after Ukraine, riot police is justified not only to beat, but to shoot protesters too. We narrowly escaped arrest when this policemen in full ammunition brutally dispersed a 1000-strong picket near the court building protesting against shameful Putin’s “justice” (about 500 people were caught on Friday and today for just staying outside the court building). At the same time, leading propaganda officers of the regime (like an Orthodox fundamentalist Milonov, member of Putin’s party and Municipal council of Petersburg, and notorious TV figure Soloviev) initiated a witch-hunt against “anti-patriotic underground” consisted of Ukrainian revolution supporters which have to be “unmasked” among university professors and students.

Anti-revolutionary and anti-Western hysteria is on TV screens every day, population is being prepared for accepting harsh measures against opposition which is now associated with “traitors of the Motherland”. In the propaganda state-sponsored film “Biochemistry of Treason”, demonstrated on prime time on the main federal TV Channel, dissidents of today who “betray” Putinist regime, were presented as a link in the chain of treason – from revolutionaries of 1917 (who betrayed Tsar Nicolas) to general Vlassov’s ROA (who betrayed Stalin) and opponents of Brezhnev. It is announced that the next part of this film will cover, in particular, treacherous activities of Bronstein-Trotsky, enemy of the people and spy, who betrayed Russia to Nazi Germany. Who could imagine in early 1990s, when we met you for the first time in Moscow, that all these things would happen in Russia in 2014!… We are really worrying about possibilities of a purge in universities and other forms of crack down on the opposition that could take place in near future.

The additional complexity of the situation is that the massive media propaganda against the Ukrainian revolution combined with great-power, imperialist sentiments and Stalinist rudiments in social consciousness lead to a confusion even among some members of independent unions. The heated debate is going on there on the Ukrainian question, with some people taking anti-revolutionary side.

The tiny Russian and Ukrainian left (I am not speaking about various kinds of Stalinists, of course) is divided too. Some tend to see in the revolution only rightist political forces and even talk about “Nazi and Western imperialist coup”, rhetoric close to that of the Kremlin. Others are interested only in “social and economic slogans”, but to raise slogans like “Lower cost of public transportation” when there is fighting and people are dying on the streets is not very effective line (this could be said mostly about anarchists who, as usual, tend to ignore importance of politics, state power and National question). And only small part of the left, including supporters of various libertarian, democratic and socialist ideas openly joined Maidan movement and structures of self-organization and self-management created by it. Some of them were killed in action by Yanukovich troops. RIP. Ukrainian free trade unions, which on our November conference declared their Left Democratic political orientation, of course, actively participated in Maidan from the beginning.

Among the Western left I see the same confusion. I am not talking here about people like Stephen Cohen, whose pro-Putin position has been clear long before and now simply manifested itself one more time in his anti-revolutionary writings. Other people too turned their backs to Maidan because of the role played there by rightist Ukrainian nationalists. But, on one hand, the role of the right is very overestimated by them (not without the influence of Russia Today etc). See the article on that question by the recognized expert on Ukrainian far-right: http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ru/2014/02/the-ukrainian-protests-are-about.html On the other hand, this part of the left seem to forget or ignore the fact that throughout history nationalists have been involved in all revolutions on the imperial periphery. And in spite of that, Socialist left never refused to give full support to the Polish uprising of 1863 or Hungarian uprising of 1956, where nationalists participated together with other political forces, etc. To counter their influence is possible only by participating in mass popular movement.

Thank you again very much for helping to explain to the Western audience our and Free Ukrainian trade unions’ position on Ukraine!

In Solidarity,

Alexei

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