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Incorporating the Opposition

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Contract with the devil

Grigory Pasko, journalist

The regional congress of non-commercial (human rights and civic) organzations (NCOs) took place from 4 through 7 December in Penza. In the year 2005, the congress took place in Poland, while in 2007 — in the Ukraine. Then the co-organizers were the Council of Europe and representatives of the NCOs. This time, for the first time ever, appearing as co-organizer of the event was the Commission of the Federation Council of the RF for Questions of the Development of Institutions of Civil Society. This circumstance aroused the indignation of Russian human rights advocates, because there exists a long-standing understanding – the state must not participate in such an event in the capacity of an organizer, inasmuch as in this case it itself forms the agenda, the participants… In short, it functions according to the principle: whoever pays the piper gets to call the tune. The «tune» for the Russian power is just one and it’s rather old: to incorporate Russian NCOs into the infamous vertical of power.

Several Russian human rights organizations (the Center for theDevelopment of Democracy and Human Rights, the Youth Human RightsMovement, as well as the foundation “Interligal”) headed by the MoscowHelsinki Group (MHG) officially reused to participate in the Penzaevent, and another more than 50 Russian NCOs declared their solidaritywith the position of the human rights advocates, however participationin the congress they leave to their discretion. “We would not beagainst representatives of the power being guests of the event, and notorganizers. We wanted NCOs to be in the organizational committee, toformulate the lists of guests and to agree on the topics fordiscussion. But they didn’t give us any of this“, — declaredchairperson of the MHG Ludmilla Alexeeva.

In the Council of Europe, which also appeared as co-organizer of thePenza forum, they did not hide that they had oriented themselvestowards cooperation with the Russian power and pro-Kremlin NCOs. “Insuch a country as Russia, to speak with the powers is imperative, –declared president of the Conference of International NGOs attached tothe Council of Europe Annelise Oeschger. — That is, our cooperationwith state structures is very pragmatic“.

The question about whether or not Russian human rights advocates(the opposition, civic organizations and movements….) ought tocooperate with today’s Russian power arose long ago already. And tothis day there isn’t a unitary opinion on this account.

Those inclined towards cooperation with the power substantiate theirposition thus: “That’s just the kind of country we’ve got.  Our peopleis still not ready for democracy…”

And here is the opinion of others.

Actor of stage and screen Oleg Basilashvili: “I think that the taskof cultural figures — is to be always in opposition. Because culturecalls for a certain absolute of freedom. But any state, even the mostdeveloped, still squeezes on freedom in one degree or another. Find mea real Russian writer, artist, who wouldn’t be in opposition.Internally, at the very least.

Andrei Illarionov, senior scholarly fellow of the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute in Washington; former advisor to the president of the RF: “Formyself, I consider this impossible. Work in the power or cooperationwith the power — the difference is not one of principle. In either casethere’s a contract present — written or unwritten, but with conditionsunderstandable to both sides. You have to look at the conditions of thecontract. The power in our country is not democratic, not free, notlegitimate and on top of that destroying its own citizens. If the powerdoes this intentionally and doesn’t conceal what it will do goingforward as well, then one must not cooperate with such a power in anyform whatsoever. …Those who adopt a decision about cooperation withsuch a power must realize that they are bolstering this regime, makingit stronger, smarter, more cunning, more shifty, more legitimate in theeyes of society, in the eyes of the outside world and in its own eyes.That is, they don’t simply cause themselves moral harm, but they alsoinflict material loss and harm on their own country.

Politician Boris Nemtsov: “I consider that… to cooperate with apower, that constantly lies and behaves itself with the utmostcynicism, this is obscene, and then before children, close ones andfriends it will be shameful. So to distance oneself from such a lyingand cynical power – this is unconditionally a noble thing, and withthis it is difficult not to agree.

On the website are posted the results of a survey.

Should the opposition cooperate with the power?

The results of the online poll:
yes: 724 (38.6%)

no: 1062 (56.6%)

I’m having difficulty responding: 90 (4.8%)

Results of the telephone poll: yes: 50 (20.1%)

no: 199 (79.9%)

I also think: well, how can you cooperate with those who are accessory to this list::
– the rout of NTV,
– the Stalinist national anthem,
– electoral legislation,
– «NordOst»,
– the rout of «YUKOS»,
-the execution shooting of children in Beslan,
– the appointment of governors,
– Basmanny justice,
– political prisoners,
– gas wars,
– the anti-Georgian hysteria,
– the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya,
– the anti-Estonian bacchanalia,
– total corruption …

One could continue the list. And with such a power you cancooperate? Even if someone decides this, sooner or later the power isstill going to trick them. Cooperation with such a power – this istruly treason to one’s motherland.
That’s what I think.

Addendum: In the time since I wrote this article, yet anotherexample was added to the question “to cooperate with the power or notto cooperate”: former leader of the SPS Nikita Belykh has gone into theservice of the Putinite power, having agreed to become governor ofKirov Oblast…

Photo: The faces of representatives of the modern-day Russianpower. It is with them that they’re calling for us to cooperate… (photofrom the author’s archive)