Staunton, VA, April 17, 2017 – The Kremlin has imposed a media blackout on the Russian truckers’ strike that is now in its third week and has been joined by drivers in at least 80 federal subjects, but unfortunately, coverage of this worker action by the Western media has been almost as sparse.
On the one hand, this reflects the Kremlin’s ability to keep the story out of all but a few Moscow outlets on which Western journalists typically rely and the fact that the most important centers of the strike – in the North Caucasus, the Far East and Karelia – are far from the Russian capital.
And on the other hand, it also reflects the tendency of Western outlets to devote enormous attention to actions by small groups of liberal intellectuals and political opponents of Vladimir Putin rather than much at all to the far larger economic and increasingly political protests of workers like the long-haul truckers.
Now, however, the truckers themselves are coming to Moscow, and one can hope that perhaps Western outlets will devote more attention to them. On the capital’s ring road, police blocked a small convoy of striking truckers who sought to attract attention to their cause.
With luck they will succeed and get more attention. When they pulled into a parking lot, their leaders say, the police told them to move along because they were on private property.
The truckers deserve such coverage not only because of the size of their protest but because the leaders of their movement are often delivering political messages more significant than those offered by the more mediagenic intellectual demonstrators.
One of their number, for example, pointed out that “the biggest problem” of Russia is that “there is no society or structures of society. [Instead, the country’s current leadership] has destroyed it as a class,” much as Soviet leaders claimed to have destroyed this or that “class” in the past.
“We need a trade union,” he continued, “but no one wants to take part in it” because the dispersal of the previous protests and “the absence of normal political system within the system” has taught people that “it is useless to struggle.”
“People simply don’t believe that it is possible to defeat this monster” consisting of the Kremlin and the Russian legislature.
Their lack of such belief, he said, “arises from our television, from the federal channels” which everyone watches and which promote the idea that fighting the system is a hopeless enterprise. It would be too bad if Western media outlets would convey the same image of Russia and Russians to their audiences.