Democrats call for opposition bloc


By Renfrey Clarke

MOSCOW — A group of Russian academics and political activists has called for the formation of a new bloc of democratic opposition to the regime of President Boris Yeltsin.

A statement released by the group begins by charging Yeltsin with responsibility for the bloodshed on October 3 and 4, which is described as the "logical conclusion" of "the coup d'etat that began on September 21".

Listing a long series of violations by the Yeltsin regime of human and political rights, the statement calls on "all those to whom the free and democratic future of Russia is genuinely dear" to join in "a broad, non-violent opposition bloc" in defence of civil freedoms and the rule of law.

The eight initial signatories include four professors in Russian institutions of higher learning. Two signatories, Alexander Buzgalin and Andrei Kolganov, are leading members of the Party of Labour.

To the People of Russia:

In the space of less than two weeks, the coup d'etat that began on September 21 has reached its logical conclusion. The fresh shoots of Russian democracy have been drowned in the blood of the guilty and innocent alike.

The responsibility for this rests with the president's entire political course to date — a course which has brought about the deepening of the general crisis in the country. Yeltsin could no longer implement his policies of "shock without therapy" through democratic methods and in the presence of an opposition.

For the introduction of a dictatorship, a pretext was needed. Using the amoral union of Rutskoi's supporters with extremist and fascist forces appealing to people's dark instincts, the authorities provoked violence.

Making a comprehensive evaluation and political analysis of these developments remains a task for the future, but it is already clear that they have opened the way for dictatorship. Subsequent events, including arrests and beatings of people who for the most part had not taken part in acts of violence; the closure of opposition publishing houses and the de facto imposition of political censorship; the threat of a "witch-hunt"; and moves to abolish the Constitutional Court and soviets at all levels are all incompatible with democracy.

We are seeing the emergence of a real danger both of the disintegration of the country, and of a centralised "democratic" dictatorship resting on structures of coercion — district commanders — at the local level.

Despite regional differences in the way the social and political situation has developed, the following statements can confidently be made:

  • political and civil liberties have been trampled on, and this will continue to be the case;

  • local soviets and those regional administrative authorities that have not supported the president will be crushed;

  • entrepreneurial, trade union, social and political bodies that have opposed the president will be subject to persecution.

In these circumstances, one of the most important ways in which the first shoots of Russian democracy and freedom can be preserved is if all those who find the prospect of totalitarian rule unacceptable join in a broad, non-violent opposition bloc around the following tasks:

  • the defence of internationally recognised human rights, in particular the rights to free speech, freedom of conscience and free assembly;

  • the defence of civil, political, social and economic liberties;

  • the defence of trade union, professional, social and political organisations against arbitrary acts by the authorities;

  • the defence of the rule of law, of democracy, of federalism and of national equality;

  • the defence of the rights of opposition forces to act within the bounds of the constitution.

We are not attempting to impose particular structures on the suggested bloc, and we are not suggesting particular people as its leaders. But we urge strongly that the process of unifying all those to whom the free and democratic future of Russia is genuinely dear should begin forthwith.

We are ready to work with adherents of any ideology who are in fundamental agreement with our aims.

We reject a "democracy" based on mass repression.

We reject bonapartism that employs democratic rhetoric in the place of democracy.

V.G. Arslanov, Doctor of Fine Arts; A.V. Buzgalin, Doctor of Economic Sciences, professor; N.S. Zlobin, Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, professor; V.A. Kelle, Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, professor; A.I. Kolganov, Doctor of Economic Sciences; V.T. Loginov, Doctor of Economic Sciences, professor; Iu.V. Nazarov, Merited Artist of the Russian Federation; D.E. Furman, Doctor of Historical Sciences