Navalny The Tightrope Walker

November 7, 2013

This editorial, translated from the pro-Kremlin Izvestia, attempts to analyze the decision made by opposition leader Alexei Navalny to avoid the “Russian March,” widely attended by Neo-Nazis, for the 2nd year in a row, while still calling his supporters to attend.

There are several possible readings of Sokolov’s statements. One reading is that he is baiting Navalny to participate next year, while making him look like a weak leader in the process.

We have also translated Navalny’s full statement. Though he is properly quoted here, his own argument, whether one agrees with him or not, is perhaps unfairly represented here. -Ed.

One thing gives the former candidate for mayor of Moscow constant headaches, something he wanted to get rid of at all costs: It is the day of November the 4th, which is now consistently commemorated with the ‘Russian March.’

If the government, while continuing to experiment with time, passed a calendar reform, establishing that the 5th of November immediately followed the 3rd, such a reform would be met by A.A Navalny with the utmost approval. Because the disappearance of the 4th of November from planners would get rid of the problem of the Russian March. It would remove the painful antinomy of remaining a (self-declared) Russian nationalist who doesn’t go to the Russian March himself, yet calls for his supporters to attend.

Last year, A.A Navalny didn’t go to the march, claiming he was bedridden with illness. “This magnanimous Russian is suffering from a severe plague” is an entirely legitimate excuse, it cannot be helped. The trouble is, however, that one cannot resort to diplomatic illness every 4th of November – they’ll begin to laugh. Therefore, another means has been cooked up.

Now it is no longer illness that prevents the participation of the nationalist leader in the Russian March, but provocateurs and paparazzi. “My appearance at the Russian March is now transformed into an infernal comedy film: like St. Boniface surrounded by children, I would go out into a crowd of 140 photographers and cameramen, trying to shoot me against a backdrop of sieg-heiling schoolchildren. Of course, our ‘Kremlin friends’ will do anything to ensure that there’ll be lots of these “Sieg Heil” kids around me at all times. And then the ‘television anchor’ Solovyov and the ‘journalist’ Kiselev will spin this on federal TV for the next three months, saying that “The liberals have quickly united with the fascists, sniffing the sweet smell of pogroms.” Thus explains the cyberactivist, adding that he did not want for “the Kremlin efforts to discredit me to lead to the discrediting of the Russian March.”

This is a risk, but there is a simple way to protect oneself, and the march. That is, as befits a celebrity, to appear at the march in the midst of a large entourage of supporters, numbering 50, or better still, 100. For the people’s favorite, behind whom stand millions, to find such a number for his train shouldn’t prove hard. And, taking their beloved leader within a tight circle, they could completely protect him from provocateurs.

The Kremlin rabble would be put to shame yet again.

There can be only two obstacles to such an obvious victory over the enemy. Perhaps such a quantity of faithful followers, prepared to march together with their leader, does not exist. Or these supposed supporters are instead prepared, even now, to go to the ‘Moscow – Open City’ event in huge quantities. For them, the Russian March is not kosher enough. And neither is it sufficiently halal.

If this is so, then the leader should perhaps persuade, by his personal example, the waverers of the kosher-ness of the Russian March. Or, if it proves impossible to conduct such a campaign, he should reconcile himself with the fact that this type of march induces acutely idiosyncratic behavior in his followers, and lead them on a different march that does not generate such spastic reactions amongst them.

His chosen tactic, not to go himself, but to urge the others that: “Participation in the Russian March is vital – anyone who is considering whether to go or not, come,” is equally incomprehensible (or all too well understood) to both marchers and anti-marchers.

There are people in the Bolotnaya movement, who castigated the authorities with terrible words and cried out loud: “To the fight, to the fight, let’s battle against the darkness!” but meanwhile carefully avoided participating in actions that could result in misunderstandings. Everyone knows that “you’ll find the brave in the battle, and the cowards amongst the political commissars.” Those political commissars don’t earn much respect. This includes the nationalists. The liberals too, are unlikely to be stupid enough (not all of them at least) not to understand that A.A Navalny avoids the Russian March purely out of fear of the powers that be. But if that fear was to subside for some reason, he would march on, much to the delight of his liberal allies.

Undoubtedly, all politicians, and infinitely more so politicians in the demagogic mold, need the skill of a tightrope walker. But the tightrope act demonstrated by our hero, with regards to the Russian March, is extremely difficult to call a success.