Last weekend’s demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg which were attacked by the police had been organised by “The Other Russia” (TOR), initiated by Garry Kasparov in 2005 and formally launched in 2006.
TOR’s founding conference condemned Putin’s government for “the destruction of civil liberties and the cleansing of the political field.” The conference committed TOR to “freeing the country from outbreaks of prejudice, racism and xenophobia,” to “returning Russia to the democratic path,” and to “restoring the constitutional norms and the rule of the people.”
The two central demands raised by TOR are unobjectionable: free and fair parliamentary elections in December of this year, and free and fair presidential elections in March of next year.
But the signatories to TOR’s founding statement include politicians and political leaders – such as Mikhail Kasyanov, Victor Anpilov, and Eduard Limonov – whose politics have nothing in common with the worthy liberal goals expressed in the statement.
Appointed Prime Minister by Putin in May of 2000, Kasyanov was popularly known as “Misha Two Per Cent” throughout his term of office, for allegedly requiring two per cent ‘commission’ on all loans to private businesses. Kasyanov was an uncritical Putin loyalist until his sacking in February of 2004. Only after his dismissal did he begin to criticise Putin for undermining democracy in Russia.
According to one Russian political commentator, “Kasyanov’s ratings and popularity are minimal. In the eyes of the population, Kasyanov is a symbol of corruption, and no opposition forces can seriously support him." But this will not prevent TOR from, in all likelihood, selecting Kasyanov as its candidate for the 2008 presidential elections.
Anpilov is the leader of the so-called “Workers Russia” organisation. The organisation and its leader are unashamed anti-semites and admirers of Stalin. According to Anpilov: “Stalin saw the danger to the party … represented by the remnants of the Zionist Bund that had wormed their way into the Bolsheviks in 1917 and quickly seized the key posts in the party and the state. With typical decisiveness Stalin took practical measures to restore the proletarian character of the party.”
Why TOR believes that Anpilov will help “free the country from outbreaks of prejudice, racism and xenophobia” remains to be explained. The same applies to TOR’s readiness to welcome Eduard Limonov and his National Bolshevik Party (NBP) into its ranks.
Limonov and the NBP are more neo-fascist than Stalinist. Limonov has, or had, links with fascists such as Alain de Benoit and Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, and with Jean Francois Thiriart in Belgium, as well as having been an enthusiastic supporter of the regime of Radovan Karadzic in Bosnia. Despite Limonov’s political evolution in recent years, he remains a Russian ultra-nationalist.
TOR is not an influential organisation. Its ability to achieve publicity for itself owes less to its degree of support amongst the general population than to the direct-action tactics employed by members of the NBP, carried out under banners deliberately reminiscent of Nazi insignia.