Wed May 29, 2024
May 29, 2024

The Lies and Reality of Putin’s “Elections”

By POI, Party of Internationalist Workers, Russia

At first glance, Putin’s “landslide victory” in the elections announced by the regime-controlled press may appear to indicate the support and unity of Russians around the president. However, this is merely an illusion, created by the propaganda of the Russian Federation and the world media and public figures associated with Putinism and the satellites of Stalinism.

The reality is that Russia is at war, a war of aggression, occupation, and plunder; it is not a “victorious” war, but one that has been long and bloody. And this determines everything that is happening in Russia, including the so-called “elections,” because there was nothing and nobody to elect.

For more than 24 years, the state security services – the FSB, the successor of the KGB – have been at the center of power in our country. They have strangled any indignation and protest, and carried out “special operations” against any movement of discontent. And now, after the launch of the “Special Military Operation” (SVO, for its acronym in Russian), they are openly establishing a fierce dictatorship that punishes anyone who dares to express doubts about the dictator’s policies. Even, for example, calling the SVO a war! In our country, the elections were just another “special operation” to deceive its citizens and the whole world about “Putin’s firm hold on power.”

“Elections” that Weren’t Elections

The campaign, nomination of candidates, and voting were completely controlled and restricted. The Kremlin-controlled Central Electoral Commission (CEC) selected only four candidates, three of whom were a shameful imitation of the opposition. Under conditions of war and deep divisions in Russian society over the necessity or legitimacy of the SVO, all attempts to nominate an anti-war candidate were stifled. In January, Yekaterina Duntsova, a young activist from the Tver region, was denied the nomination. And at the beginning of the year, the famous liberal activist Boris Nadezhdin, who had indirectly and very lukewarmly criticized the SVO and some dictatorial laws, almost as a suggestion that “what is happening is wrong,” presented his candidacy. This was enough for several hundred thousand angry Russians to form huge queues all over the country to sign their own passport data in support of Nadezhdin. Many, many more people were afraid to leave their information with the authorities. Despite the submission to a dictatorship in an undeclared war, this was a clear manifestation of the deep discontent of a fairly large section of the masses and threatened the spectacle of “elections” and there supposed “overwhelming national support” of Putin.

Nadezhdin was not allowed to register his candidacy to be on the ballot with the “argument” that a certain percentage of signatures were allegedly forged. One might suppose that it would be advantageous for the regime if this timid “pacifist” candidate received a negligible percentage of the vote in order to discredit and ridicule those who disagreed. But the regime feared even such a peaceful and timid opposition option as that of Nadezhdin. As a result, the Central Election Commission presented 145 million Russians with a pathetic piece of paper with strict instructions on how to vote.

Three candidates – all current Duma deputies – who ran “against” Putin were allowed to appear on the ballot. The right-wing populist Leonid Slutsky of the Liberal Democratic Party – founded by the late, eloquent former KGB colonel Zhirinovsky – the unknown liberal charlatan Vyacheslav Davankov of the New People’s Party, and Nikolai Kharitonov, a decrepit stalwart of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. There was no debate among the candidates or with Putin. None of them had any intention of debating. Nor could they offer anything other than Putin’s propaganda. After all, on the issue of SVO, they all agree. They are an integral part of the same regime. Moreover, Putin has long since surpassed them all in his extreme chauvinism and imperial ambitions.

The Regime Fears Navalny Even After His Death

A month before the election, Putin’s most famous opponent, Alexei Navalny, was murdered. He was an opponent whom many considered to be the leader of the protests, although in fact there are many opposition activists in the country who are more consistent and principled than Navalny. The significance of these events was expressed in the question: “If not Putin, then Navalny?” by both opponents and supporters of the regime.

Navalny was recognized as an opposition leader by key figures of imperialism, from Biden to Putin’s former partner, Angela Merkel. In a fair election, he would undoubtedly have been Putin’s main rival. And in the event of a fall of the dictatorship, he would have been the most convenient figure for sections of the Russian bourgeoisie and U.S. and EU imperialism. He was also popular enough among the broad masses to preserve the state apparatus and the rule of capital in Russia. Navalny spent the last two years in a prison under strict restrictions, almost in solitary confinement, his sentence had also been increased. And he was murdered on the eve of the elections. The perversity of this crime is another manifestation of the deep weakness of the regime, which fears its collapse and therefore eliminates any opponent, even those who are completely under the control of its power. Navalny’s funeral in Moscow turned into an open demonstration. For two weeks, tens of thousands of people in many cities across the country – an estimated 100,000 – carried flowers in tribute to the murdered politician in front of monuments to the victims of political repression. In some sectors, there has been a loss of fear. Despite the dictatorship, persecution and surveillance, tens of thousands attended Navalny’s funeral and marched through the outskirts of the capital behind the coffin from the church to the cemetery. Sometimes they chanted loudly, shouting slogans against war and dictatorship: “No to war!” and “Ukrainians are good people!”

“No War!”?

The elections took place under the noise, not of fireworks, but of shelling. Two years ago, the powerful leader told the Russians that he would launch a special military operation “for the good and security of the country.” As usual, he lied: today there is a war in Russia itself. A week before the elections, massive Ukrainian drone attacks on major oil refineries caused a 10% drop in the production of oil products. In just one week! Companies located hundreds or more than a thousand kilometers from the front line were attacked: Ryazan, Leningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, and Samara regions along the Volga, Oryol, and the Krasnodar regions. The attacks have continued. There was a bombardment of Belgorod, a city of 300,000 inhabitants and capital of the region of the same name on the Ukrainian border – 80 kilometers from Kharkov.

The Ukrainian offensive there has been so harsh that educational and cultural institutions, as well as shopping centers have been closed. There are many dead, wounded, and much destruction. Sirens have been wailing for days. And in the midst of this howling, citizens are being urged to vote for “stability”, “security” and “prosperity.” In addition, in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, Russian territories close to the Ukrainian border, there have been military clashes in the villages of Tëtkino and Spodaryushino, as well as in the town of Grayvoron. These are real battles with heavy equipment, fought by the forces of the so-called “Free Russian Legion” and the “Russian Volunteer Corps.” According to these fighters, they are liberating their country from the forces of Putin’s regime. The day before the attacks, they issued several open warnings to civilians to leave their homes. And all this in the middle of elections: military clashes on the border, shelling of towns and villages, burning of oil plants and oil depots. This is a real indicator of the fragility of the Kremlin regime, embodied by genocidal people with imperial ambitions.

Two Years of Full-Scale War

The country is experiencing its second year under conditions of military conscription. Since October 2022, in addition to the tens of thousands of convicted prisoners hired as mercenaries by the “Wagner Corporation’ and other private military companies, three hundred thousand inhabitants of Russia have been torn from their peaceful lives and compulsorily sent to war in Ukraine. The recruitment has had brutal features: raids, police visits, and camera surveillance. The provinces have been particularly affected. For example, in Yakutia and Buryatia in Siberia. There, in the conditions of the Far North, able-bodied men were taken from the villages and families were left without their breadwinners. There were cases when all the men simply ran away and went into the boreal forest before the military commissars arrived. In Dagestan in the North Caucasus, protests against the mobilization continued for several days.  At these rallies, outraged residents shouted directly to the officials that this was a war that no one needed.

Two months before the elections, mass protests took place in Bashkortostan over the trial of Faíl Alsynov, a Bashkir activist, national rights fighter, and environmentalist. About 15,000 people in a small town in the Urals came out to support Faíl, and when he was sentenced, riots and clashes with the police began. This protest under the dictatorship led to dozens of arrests and even the death of two activists. This shows the tensions within the country caused by the violation of the rights of oppressed nations in a multinational country.

Domestic repression has intensified especially under Putinism. Some glaring examples are in Chechnya, which has been destroyed by two wars and the establishment of a Kremlin lackey collaborationist regime headed by the criminal Kadyrov clan. In addition, there has been a special regime of security forces throughout the Caucasus, and the enforcement of a law, passed several years ago, on the non-obligatory teaching of national languages in each “autonomous” republic of Russia. There has also been a leap in the repression of the Crimean Tatars, after the occupation and annexation of the peninsula in 2014.

The SVO has further strengthened the oppression of other nationalities by the Kremlin throughout the vast territory and has been expressed in ethnic cleansing measures with conscription to the extremely unequal front.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

As we have seen, the failure of Putin’s blitzkrieg in 2022 has weakened Russia’s political regime. Failures at the front, and barely perceptible advances into Ukrainian territory with colossal casualties do not strengthen power, but rather weaken it. To see and understand the weakening of the political regime in the Russian Federation is an important task for activists and those in solidarity all over the world and especially for the working class and all rank-and-file workers. This is despite the insane propaganda of a “victorious” war by the Russian media and public figures associated with Putin-Stalinism around the world. In addition, despite the congratulations on Putin’s “sweeping” election victory, we witnessed a war of attrition that has dragged on and become the biggest political defeat for Putin during his time in power.

 The regime fears its downfall. Its popular support is weaker than ever. Its support among the “monolithic” bureaucratic apparatus is illusory, as the rebellion of Prigozhin and Wagner last year showed, when the apparatus was frozen and paralyzed waiting for a solution. U.S. and EU imperialism fear such a fall no less than Putin himself. After all, for two decades this murderer, originally from the KGB, was a loyal partner of the CIA from the FSB, maintaining the repressive order in Russia and the neighboring countries of the former USSR in order to trade resources and bargain for spheres of power within the framework of the world order in crisis. Today, Western imperialism does not know what to do with the gendarme of Eurasia, but continues to protect it from defeat in the war. Meanwhile, it continues to deceive the Ukrainians with promises of providing them with sufficient weapons or future “security guarantees.”

The regime, further brutalized by this failed war, can still inflict much death, destruction, and repression. But it is increasingly vulnerable. The armed resistance, led by the working men and women of Ukraine, has been successful in holding back the Kremlin’s invading forces, despite a lack of ammunition, aircraft, and offensive weapons. But they themselves are suffering colossal sacrifices and losses. Workers all over the world, activists, and oppressed social sectors have been showing their solidarity with the Ukrainian people in this difficult struggle. Among the workers and the oppressed, there has also been a growing rejection of Putinism, which is spreading its poisonous tentacles all over the world, recruiting agents in the bourgeois elites, in the Stalinist parties, and in the mass media.

For the Defeat of the Russian Federation

The Russian people are divided. It is difficult to say how many opponents of Putin, the war, and the dictatorship there are. Most people are silent. They have been gagged with dictatorial laws against criticism of the SVO or the authorities, especially the armed forces, with bloody repression and the imprisonment of thousands of activists. Plus, the rabid and chauvinistic propaganda persistently manipulates the conscience of millions of Russians. But life and the reality of war are much stronger and harder than the most sophisticated propaganda. The coffins of Russians killed at the front are reaching more and more families. The possibility of a new wave of conscription – which has been delayed until after the elections – and which could at any moment destroy the life plans of hundreds of thousands of men, is a constant worry. Most people feel the senselessness of the war. There is much fear, stress, worry, increasing poverty, and blood….This is the reality of Putin’s Russia, “a stable developing power respected by all,” according to the official slogan.

We Russians do not need this massacre. It brings nothing but losses to the country. This has already become clear. The regime is devouring itself with a messianic imperial war. The elections have long been a farce. The constitution has been mutilated just to keep Putin in power. The armed forces have been degraded by the influx of criminals coming out of prisons and heavy military losses in the invasion. Local governments are unable to perform basic tasks such as cleaning the streets, providing electricity and heat, or managing the infrastructure of housing and municipal services.

The Russian Orthodox Church is rapidly becoming a cult in the service of war. Russian oligarchs and elites who emerged from the Soviet nomenklatura created a state called the Russian Federation in 1991, and today the Putin regime is methodically destroying the institutions of its own state. Is this worth lamenting? Of course not. During the 30 years of the existence of this state, the situation of the exploited and oppressed masses has only worsened. There have been 30 years of wars, poverty, and oppression in the service of the accumulation of immense fortunes by various layers of oligarchs and the new nomeklatura of the FSB. Above all there has been oppression of non-Russian nationalities. With great Russian chauvinism, Putinism has deceived and poisoned the Russian people and the workers themselves, who in reality receive only death, poverty, and degeneration due to the imperial expeditions of the elites.

Russia needs fundamental changes. It is time for the Russian working people to free themselves once and for all from the ideas of the Great Power, to stop being fodder for imperialist dictators. The Russian people must put an end to the oppression of other peoples as soon as possible. The Russian bourgeois elites are incapable of creating a state without oppression and wars. But the workers and toiling masses have no reason to be in opposition to one another.

Therefore, the workers of Russia, the multinational working class of our country, by taking power into their own hands, can guarantee to all nations and peoples the right of self-determination, to create a union of workers’ states, united by solidarity and true freedom, and for the sake of progress and social justice. The oppressed masses, led by the working class, will put an end to exploitation and oppression. To begin this path, the Putin regime must be defeated!

No to the war!

For the overthrow of the Russian Federation!

Fight against all agents of Putinism!

Solidarity with the resistance of Ukraine!

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