Kasparov’s Political Gambit to Bring Down Putin Regime
MOSCOW, Russia -- Former chess champ and chairman of the Russian Opposition Organization Committee 2008 - Free Choice, Garry Kasparov has announced that he is going to set up a united civil front in Russia. Following is an interview he gave to MosNews.
Why did you form the United Civil Front? Are you waging a war?
The ruling authorities have declared a war on the people. The number of people dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the country is growing. After the country’s second presidential election, or rather after Putin’s appointment, this tendency has been increasingly apparent. The regime is toughening its policy line. True, the majority of these people are still showing only passive dissatisfaction, but whereas during Putin’s first term in office, their discontent could not be measured mathematically, now it is there for everyone to see.
Today, the dividing line in Russian society should not run traditionally between rightists and leftists; it should point to the extent to which people are ready to make tough demands upon the current regime. All of today’s political organizations have a narrow focus; it is useless to talk now about the political program we will have in 2007. When the results of elections are falsified, it doesn’t matter who is five degrees more to the left or to the right.
Who will be your followers?
There is great potential both from the left and from the right. That is the rank-and-file activists who are not always content with their political leadership. Negotiating with the Kremlin is always part of the political game of that leadership, part of the political process. We don’t think there is any sense in holding such talks. The Kremlin accepts an opposition political organization only if it fits its current plans and its general conception.
What harm has the ruling establishment done to the people?
It has abolished gubernatorial elections, sharply toughened legislation regarding the registration of political parties and holding of processions and demonstrations. It has virtually banned referendums. Voting in elections is becoming a rubber stamp for decisions made elsewhere.
How does the presidential appointment of governors affect you personally?
At first glance, it is hard to see the link between worsening living standards and the abolition of gubernatorial elections. But just consider this: first, the people are stripped of power — they can no longer elect governors and they can no longer vote for single-mandate candidates. Next, the people are stripped of money. More and more people are beginning to see the connection.
One should also understand that, having liquidated elections in Russia, the regime will not stop. We will see how it guarantees its self-reproduction. The Khodorkovsky case is a landmark we have passed. The regime has developed a grasping conditional reflex. A regime that uses its administrative lever not to falsify election results but to steal an oil company must fight for its self-preservation.
If we have a pyramid of power in which officials of all levels are appointed, then the top cannot be elected as well. Once the regime has decided on self-reproduction, it won’t consult anyone. But if the regime breaks the law, it must be dismantled.
You want to dismantle the present regime. But Putin has the support of the majority. Does it really matter if his supporters amount to 60% or 65% of the population?
We are in the year 2005, not 2004. Today we are witnessing regular demonstrations that demand Putin’s resignation. The tendency is obvious: 70 percent of the citizenry used to support Putin; now the figure is 40 percent. One more point: if you ask people about their attitude toward the war in Chechnya, the growing crime rate, and the state of the economy, then the rating of the present regime becomes quite different. Either people don’t look upon Putin as a politician who wields real influence on the country’s life, or they don’t want to be frank on this matter.
What exactly are you going to do?
There is a wide variety of possible protests — walkouts, hunger strikes, demonstrations. It’s difficult to incite a hunger strike — that’s a measure people resort to when they can’t bear to be downtrodden any longer. But we can unite all these people into a broad anti-regime front. They must feel that they are not alone.
We want to unite all of them — from the radical activists of SPS, who denounce the party leadership’s conciliatory policies, to Limonov’s followers, who exist in the form of “free radicals” and go by the principle of “protest for protest’s sake.” The problem with the Communist and Rodina parties is that they simply can’t get rid of their Kremlin birthmarks. Rodina chairman Dmitry Rogozin uttered many nice words at his party congress but he hasn’t yet learnt to say “Down with Putin!”
Apart from everything else, we will help people who are dissatisfied with the present regime by giving them advice or doing something practical for them. We intend to organize an alternative system of information so that people have a single informational space.
What do you expect to achieve after doing all that?
We could hope for a miracle of course — that life will suddenly become wonderful, with the ruling establishment suddenly changing its mind and building a paradise on earth for us. If that comes true, nothing will be left for us to do, and we’ll let Putin proclaim himself tsar and rule the country for ever.
But we believe there will be no miracle. A social protest will start turning into a political one involving 40-50 percent of the population rather than 5-10 percent. In response, the ruling authorities will toughen its regime, revealing its true face, and start gradually losing its supporters.
Who funds all your programs?
Alas, we live in a country where the lives of our sponsors would be in danger if we named them. All well-known right-wing liberal sponsors of the past are now either abroad or in jail. I can only tell you that we are short of funds. We will not even hide the fact that we have far less money than the amount needed to get our movement going, far less than the democrats spent. However, we are learning to work in such conditions, trying to get the best returns on our investments, counting every kopek.
The tougher the Kremlin’s actions, the greater are our chances of getting help — the number of discontented people grows and more of them wish to help us. In fact, the main potential of our Front is that it exists while the regime is what it is, as long as it engenders discontent.
Why do you think that in fighting the Kremlin you stand a better chance of winning than others?
Unlike the majority of players on the Russian political scene, I have a reputation, and I will retain it in any case. Many politicians found our manifesto too tough for them to sign. They all need to consult someone before making a decision, since they all have so-called “political partners of priority.” As for me, I always make decisions by myself, and no one can make me change my mind once I have made a firm decision. My decision as to the present situation is this: with the present regime, we can only negotiate its capitulation.
Will you also participate in the parliamentary — not street — battle?
We will take part in it with pleasure when it makes sense to do so.