By Paul Goble
The Putin regime has banned the Navalny staffs, the public face of the opposition leader’s efforts to promote public policy in Russia. Now, at least some of his supporters will continue to function underground, something with uncertrain consequences for the future of the movement and of Russia as a whole.
No one in the Putin regime or among opposition circles believes that the suppression of the Navalny staff will lower the level of anger in the population or the propensity of the Russian people to take part in demonstrations in the future, but the two groups view the future very, very differently.
Those who back Navalny suggest that the banned staffs will either operate independently of any central organization under new names or go underground and continue to operate from there. Indeed, some of his supporters say that going into the underground is the only appropriate step given the increasingly repressive regime and the need for greater radicalism (svoboda.org/a/31231387.html, ehorussia.com/new/node/23352, ehorussia.com/new/node/23340 and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=608BF00B08EDD).
Those in the government speaking anonymously to the URA news agency who want to see the Navalny movement defeated have another take. They believe that the suppression of the staffs will disorder the movement because all real decisions in the past have been taken centrally rather than by regional offices (ura.news/articles/1036282251).
In some places, they say, those who have been part of the staffs may be able to function but they won’t be able to coordinate and any protests will be restricted in their scope and often contradictory in their methods and message. Many Navalny people will fall away because of fears of arrest, the government officials say.
If the staffs go underground, they will become more radical and emotional and thus increasingly marginal as far as electoral politics are concerned, these officials say. And those who had been part of the Navalny protests will drift toward demonstrations organized by the KPRR, Just Russia, and the LDPR, allowing the government to control them more easily.
It is likely that both perspectives reflect some of the truth of the matter, but how the two will play out in the coming weeks and months is far from clear, no matter how certain either the supporters or the opponents of Navalny’s movement cast their comments on the day when the staffs have been finally banned.