Alexi Navalny is no “honest guardian” against Kremlin oppression, anarchists warn

Following political protests against corruption in Russia on March 26th which saw hundreds of arrests, led by lawyer and political figure Alexi Navalny, Russian anarcho-syndicalist group KRAS-AIT argues that for the country’s poor, his “responsible” free-market vision offers no respite.

Opposition politician Navalny, posing as an honest guardian of the people’s interests, has called on the population of Russia to take to the streets in protest against corruption and embezzlement by top State officials. This pretender to power, who has accused our current rulers of carving up a cake baked with the sweat and blood of ordinary workers, asserts that “because of the corruption around us we see poverty and ruin.”

Yes, we have every reason to be dissatisfied with the socio-economic policies being pursued by the current regime of oligarchs, the plutocrats. The gap between the richest and the poorest in Russia breaks all world records. At a time when 40% of the population barely has enough money for food and about 70% of the population earns less than the so-called average wage, the rich are bathed in the most unimaginable luxury. Last year alone, despite the so-called “crisis” — or rather, because of it — the number of Russian dollar millionaires grew by 10%. Authorities complain about a lack of money in the budget and on this pretext plan to further reduce spending on health, education and social benefits, while raising taxes on consumers and hiking the retirement age. In this case, any proposals aimed at encouraging the rich to share a little bit of their loot from the common people is immediately and irrevocably met with hostility.

All this is true. But those who call on us to protest against the “corruption” say not a word about how they intend to change the socio-economic policies of the current regime. Even a meager reduction of the yawning gap that separates rich and poor in Russia is not included in their plans and intentions. They did not raise the question of a change in ownership structure, which for most of them, as well as for any other adherents of capitalism, is “sacred and inviolable.” The current political opposition are as ardent a set of supporters of the “free market” as the powers that be. Low wages, cuts in social spending, the arbitrariness of employers, brutal exploitation and lack of rights for employees — all these principles are equally dear to the heart of the opposition as they are to today’s rulers.

Our poverty does not stem from the “corruption” which Navalny and co criticise. This opposition is outraged that officials, in their opinion, rake too much from the Treasury, patronise related businesses and encourage the owners of enterprises, firms and banks to pay them bribes and kickbacks. But what do we, doctors and workers, teachers and the unemployed, students and pensioners, care how those who force us to work our whole lives for their benefit divide the spoils of what they’ve stolen from us? It is we, not they, entrepreneurs and bankers who create all the wealth while receiving from them these pitiful pennies, often enough only to die of hunger. Our troubles are not generated by the fact that someone with political and economic power shares it or does not with other masters. Our anguish is the result of the existing social system. The point is not to merely replace one bad person with other rulers. It is necessary to radically change the whole current policy. In other words, to change the system.

Navalny and his supporters are the least suitable for this purpose. An entrepreneur, exploiting the labour of employees; a political adventurer who was expelled from liberal Party because of his nationalism; who held the neo-fascist Russian March, a preacher of rabid chauvinism; an unconditional supporter of capitalism. The man himself belongs to the camp of the gentlemen, even if it is their currently “offended” faction. He is no better than our current rulers, and does not offer anything in return for his tyranny.

Our requirements today must not become empty and meaningless phrases about “anti-corruption” in the hope some other “honest” bureaucrats will be able to carry out the mythical and impossible task to create a “clean and fair” capitalism. It does not matter what clique will form the government — we want to live better.

There must be new demands

We demand real freedom, of association, for rallies, strikes and trade union activity!

We demand an end to anti-social policies: of low wages and systematic reduction of real incomes for the general population, the destruction of social security, the commercialisation of education and health care, privatisation, and permanent increases in prices!

We demand an end to “economic reforms” which more and more help entrepreneurs, bankers and bureaucrats get richer while ordinary people poorer. All these measures must be discontinued immediately!

We demand cancellation of the infamous law against “extremism” to stop the arbitrariness of overt and covert police. People need rights, not repression and extortion! Our towns and villages must be for residents, not officials!

We don’t need “fair elections” in which different brands of politician are merely fighting over who will skin us next.

We need a decent life!

We demand:

* An increase of pay rates to average European levels

* Automatic wage increases in line with rising prices

* A six-hour day and five-day working week, without cutting wages

* Paid leave for a period of not less than one month and paid sick days for all workers

* Reduce and freeze the prices of basic goods and services

* A prohibition on dismissals without the consent of the staff

* Free medical care, education, urban transport and housing services

We do not believe that representative democracy and its elections, presidents, governments and Dumas will be able to solve our problems. They do not have the right to decide and speak for us. Only when the system of general government comes direct from where we live, work and study, can we all become masters of their own destiny.

Russian section of the IWA