Russian socialists on anti-war protests, sanctions and politics on the street

March 8, 2022

A political battle is taking place over the direction of the Russian protests. Socialist Worker’s Charlie Kimber asked the Socialist Tendency of the Russian Federation for the latest news from the anti-war frontline.

Are the anti-war demonstrations growing or has the repression limited them?

It is very important that anti-war activists gather every or almost every day in central squares in the largest cities of the country. It is unlikely that the regime’s guards will be able to completely quell the wave of protests in the coming days.

This is despite the introduction of more and more repressive laws against dissenters and the fact that more than 7000 activists have already been detained.

But these protests have one big disadvantage — they are totally unorganised, and people who have gathered do not know what to do, where to go or how to avoid being caught by the security forces.

This nature of the protests, along with the repression, can lead to fatigue and frustration. If things continue in this vein, the protests run the risk of dying out.

But nothing is lost yet. The anti-war socialists and revolutionaries are fighting to organise the protests. They are introducing revolutionary slogans and demands into the protest, they are agitating the discontented towards not just stopping the war, but towards turning the imperialist war into a class war. This is very important at the moment.

However, all is not as good as we would like it to be. The liberal henchmen of the bourgeoisie in the “Navalny HQ” are once again trying to weaken the protests.

After some socialist organisations scheduled rallies for 6 March at certain times and places, liberal supporters of Alexei Navalny have put forward their own call, with different times and locations. This would split the protesters into two camps, creating the impression of a lack of mass action and making it easier for the security forces to crack down on them.

What are the effects of sanctions on ordinary people? Does the hardship make people anti-Putin or could they turn against the West?

For ordinary people, sanctions by Western countries could be disastrous. Economists are already warning of possible shortages of basic goods and products, rampant price increases, job cuts, mass unemployment and so on.

This situation could “explode” among the masses and raise them to class protest. As we say in Russia: “The refrigerator will defeat the television set,” which means that poverty and need will force the ruling class propaganda emanating from the TV screens to be brushed aside.

But so far this moment has not arrived and the masses, for the most part, support the course of the regime—according to opinion polls 71 percent of the country’s population support Putin’s policies. Therefore, at the moment, ordinary people look with more anger towards Europe and the United States than towards “their” government, which has unleashed a full-scale war.

Are there any signs of a socialist, anti-imperialist, side inside the demonstrations?

Socialists are trying to turn the anti-war struggle into a class struggle. They put up posters in the streets calling for rallies in certain places at certain times, hand out leaflets, hang stickers in crowded places and print pamphlets. For this, activists face a serious criminal offence of “calling for mass disorder”, so I cannot say who exactly is doing this.

Revolutionary socialists are taking an active part in the protests, drawing on the theoretical legacy of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. But there is also a spoonful of tar in this honey. Just as during the First World War, during the years of the split of the Second International, some of the “socialists”, whom Lenin called social-chauvinists, are again raising their heads and opening their mouths.

They support the outbreak of a full-scale war against Ukraine on the grounds that fascists are supposedly fighting for Ukraine and Russia is carrying out “denazification”. We consider this complete nonsense and a betrayal of the interests of the working class.

No war but class war!

Freedom to the peoples, death to the empires!

Peace to huts, war to palaces!

No war between peoples, no peace between classes!

[Abridged from]

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