If Navalny is Locked Up…

April 24, 2013
Alexey Navalny

Russia will get on a course that it won’t be able to depart from until it reaches its final destination – the station called “Revolution Square”.

The point at which we got on this track leading to a dead end was on September 24, 2011. Back then, I quoted an article from The New York Times:

This month saw the beginning of a new Russian revolution. It may take another twenty, thirty, maybe even forty years, before the Russian people will take to the streets to overthrow the dictator. How soon it will happen will depend mainly on oil prices. However, starting September 24 revolution, not evolution becomes the most likely medium-term course of events in Russia”.

In December we somehow managed to get off that fatal track, and now we are about to get back on it under much gloomier circumstances, against a background of reprisals and imprisonments, which might suggest that the revolution could happen much earlier than in 20 years.

This is not a figure of speech, this is not crying wolf. This is just a logical chain of events.

If Navalny is locked up, the probability of the same happening to those arrested under the “May 6” case becomes pretty much 100%. And make no mistake about it, they won’t stop at that. Because once they said “a” and “b” they have no choice but to go through the whole alphabet.

If Navalny is locked up, that will mean the end of centrism, of political middle ground, that has been advocated by people like me over the last year and a half. We’ll just have to shut up. It will turn out that those who tried to convince us that playing a political game with the Putin regime you cannot play by the rules, that white ribbons and bright smiles would not disperse this cloud, they were actually right.

Centrism is a very wide definition. It covers all those who advocate a phased-in, shock-free transition to democracy – from Putin-esque Kudrin and Prokhorov on one side to radical Navalny on the other, and “people like me” somewhere in the middle.

Yes, Alexei Navalny is also a “centrist”. Despite his political rally rhetoric, he never called for dismantling the existing political system, he just wanted to get rid of corruption. He never intended to storm the Kremlin, he wanted to participate in elections. In these respects he is a reformer, not a revolutionary. A prison term for Navalny would mean a demise of the very idea of non-violent reform.

In any case, the Putin regime will not last for too long, because in the modern world the autocratic model of government is archaic and disastrously inefficient. The problem is, there will be no peaceful resignation after lost elections. There will be an overthrow of the government— with a lot of noise, and possibly with splashes of blood. As a result, somebody who is able to overcome all that blood will rise to power. It could be Navalny, however not the same Navalny, but a different person, hardened by prison.

If Navalny is locked up, the revolutionaries will inevitably become the mainstream of the opposition. And I’m not talking about harmless clowns like Limonov, or disgruntled intellectuals like Kasparov and Piontkovsky. New leaders will come to the fore with their new methods. Uncompromising struggle will become the main slogan: “It’s either us or them”.

As for the “centrists”, they will split into two groups. One will join the “revolutionaries”, the other will join the ranks of the Putinists (until the first signs of trouble, of course). “People like me” will not join either group. We will not join the Putinists for obvious reasons—they stink. But we will not call for revolution either. We are totally aware that we might call for that, but it will be the young ones who will have to face police batons, and maybe even bullets.

But it’s not about “people like me”. Over the last year and a half we flashed through “their” political news, and once it’s over we’ll be relieved to get back to our normal lives, to our work.

On second thought, there will be no relief. The will be sadness and a feeling of guilt. We tried to prevent a disaster, but failed. This is what has been constantly on my mind lately.

If this will happen (and if they lock Navalny up, it will inevitably happen), all of us are in just for that – a disaster.

Meanwhile, in Rublevka a little man is swimming in his large swimming pool, plays with big dogs, revels in his power and thinks he will live forever. And he doesn’t see, hear or understand a damn thing.