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On 26 May, the Russian CWI together with a number of activists from the “OccupyAbai” movement organized a legal demonstration against police repression in central Moscow’s Pushkin Square. It attracted about 400 people. The main reason for the action was to protest the continuously provocative actions by Moscow’s police, the latest example of which was the attack made on the mass demonstration on 6 May. This demonstration was part of the huge ongoing protest movement calling for the ouster of Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose rule is increasingly recognized by the public as corrupt and thuggish.
Apart from the CWI, a number of other groups participated in an organized way – amongst others, the Russian Communist Workers Party, the Libertarian Party, the Moscow Radical Feminists, and the Rainbow Association. There also were a number of anarchists and other activists from “OccupyAbai”.
Members of the CWI pointed out in their speeches that the current actions of the police are an attempt by the authorities to demonstrate their strength in preparation for the coming social explosion. While some of the speakers spoke of the need to flood the police chief and prosecutor’s office with complaints about individual police actions, we pointed out that the ordinary police themselves will suffer from the looming cuts and that we would be better off agitating for the rank and file to join trade unions and participate in the fight against poverty and the dictate of capital.
Unfortunately there were quite a few far-right Russian ultra-nationalists in the crowd. At the beginning of the protest an organized group of far-right-wingers turned up. They had a banner reading “Freedom-Nation-Order” and began to distribute leaflets in the name of the party “A Great Russia”. These leaflets called for the release of far-right extremists from prison, the establishment of a “national dictatorship” and praised as a hero the former Russian army officer Budanov, who had raped and killed a Chechen teenager.
Naturally we were not prepared to see such leaflets distributed at our protest and asked those distributing to leave. After arguments ensued, they went outside the police fence, where they carried on their provocations. After they unfurled their banner again, the police detained them. Those that were left went around the press complaining that the organisers had stitched them up to the police. They weren’t able to further disrupt the demo, however.
These far-right ultra-nationalists have attempted to latch on like parasites to the recent wave of mass protests calling for “national unity” against the supposed “regime of occupation”. But this can only be interpreted as the unity of the workers and poor with the rich and powerful, just because they are Russian. But by putting out these calls they frighten from the protests many others – including the national minorities, migrant workers, women, and sexual minorities. Indeed, on the first of the mass protests the liberal platform speakers were welcoming the presence of the ultra-right in the name of unity whilst these same self-appointed storm troopers were going through the crowd physically attacking LGBT activists. Those who keep arguing for unity with these ultra-rights are closing the gate on the potential participation of literally millions of working people of other nationalities.
Fight the far right!
Over the past years, dozens of journalists, social and trade union activists have been physically attacked by these fascists. Several have been killed, including former Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) member Stas Markelov, whose murder is now marked annually by an anti-fascist demonstration. In addition, hundreds of migrants and national minorities fall victim to these murderous brutes every year
Unfortunately many of the so-called lefts have proved to be the fascists’ best friends. Supporters of Sergei Udaltsov’s so-called Left Front came up to us at the demo and screeched that we should not have asked the ultra-right to leave. “We don’t agree with the nationalists”, they argue, “but we are friends with them!” After the police detained some of the nationalists, members of the Left Front went to picket the police station demanding their release. The Left Front has since stated publically that they had nothing to do with kicking the nationalists off of the square. We for our part repeat “that in the struggle against the policies and repression of the bourgeois regime, there can be no unity but class unity”.
Now the cyberspace is full of calls to seek out CWI member Konstantin Cumni “for giving up our lads to the police”. Whilst the threats are coming from the far right, the “liberals” are jumping on the band wagon, calling for the CWI to be banned from further protests. Many of those in the leadership of the left organisations, undoubtedly unwilling to break with their new ultra-right friends, prefer to keep quiet.
Fortunately most of those who take part in the mass protests have a different opinion. In December, when the CWI and LGBT activists had to repeatedly fight off the attacks of the far-right, ordinary protesters joined in to help. Again on 6 June, when the far-right attacked the CWI column, we were able to rebuff the attack with little difficulty.
Neither Konstantin, nor the CWI are on the retreat. This weekend sees the now annual “March for Equality”, started on the CWI’s initiative and uniting women, LGBT, and social activists. It is usual for gangs of rabid reactionaries to gather in an attempt to attack this march. In another week, we have the next of the mass anti-Putin demonstrations. We will continue to argue our case for these protests to have a left face, to argue for social justice and genuine democracy and for the unity of working people of all nationalities in the struggle against this dictatorial regime.