By Paul Goble
Frightened by the implications of the events in the Middle East, Moscow has finally banned the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), a group that over the last decade has played a major role in shifting Russian nationalism away from the margins of Russian politics to their center, according to one Moscow analyst.
In an article on the APN.ru portal at the end of last week, Aleksei Abanin argues that the decision of the powers that be to take that step will do little to restrict the rise of Russian nationalism and may in fact trigger its spread to even broader groups in the population, thus further weakening the regime (www.apn.ru/publications/article24072.htm).
And while Abanin’s article is certainly excessive in its praise for an organization that has taken openly racist stands toward members of many ethnic and religious minorities and through its website and actions whipped up hostility toward them, its content is a reflection of the thinking of many Russian nationalities at the present time.
According to Abanin, “over the course of the ten years of its existence, the DPNI raised the propaganda of nationalism to a qualitatively new level, by reorienting it from narrow subculture circles to a mass audience” and thus providing the seedbeds for the growth of “an enormous quantity of talented cadres for the Right Movement.”
These people, he says, include, “civic activists, ideologues, human rights defenders, public social figures, publicists and so on.” And together they “carried out many large-scale (and not very) street measures, put out and distributed an enormous quantity of agitation and analytic materials, [and] provided help and support to an enormous number of Russian people.”
In addition, Abanin insists, DPNI “took an active information (and not only) part in the treatment and resolution of all the most serious conflicts and incidents in which Russians were subject to pressure, discrimination or terror by outsiders [and] made an enormous contribution to raising the importance of national discourse to a high political level.”
Thus, in sum, he says, the Movement “made possible the demarginalization of the image of Russian nationalism in the consciousness of society” and thereby contributed in this way to its transformation into “a real and THE ONLY political force which really has the mass support of the people” and is capable in the midterm of replacing the rotting RF regime.”
Because DPNI from the outset constituted a serious “headache” for that regime, Abanin says, the regime began to subject it to repressions already in 2005 when the first Russian March took place and when the DPNI “having understood the senselessness of attempts” to cooperate with the powers “went over into open opposition” even as it remained within the law.
By staying within the law, the DPNI made it difficult for the powers that be to move against it unless they were prepared to violate Russian law on their own and thus show their true nature to the Russian people even more clearly and definitively, the Moscow nationalist commentator continues.
Consequently, and short of that, the regime began to use its “beloved methods” against DPNI, including the dissemination of “yellow compromise” materials and the sponsoring of “the escalation of internal conflicts [within DPNI} with the goal of splitting the organization.” But neither proved effective, Abanin insists.
And their failure prompted the authorities to make use of “police repressions against particular activists and regional sections. But even this did not help the system destroy the spirit of the comrades in arms of the Movement and force them to begin to leave its ranks in massive numbers.”
Instead, DPNI’s street demonstrations “became ever larger and began to generate within the Russian elite not angry responses but real concern. And when throughout almost the entire Middle East suddenly broke out a wave of popular revolutions, the concern of the elite was transformed into fear.”
“For if a revolutionary could unexpectedly take place in Tunisia where no organized opposition existed,” the powers that be in Moscow reflected, “then what might happen in Russia where the national opposition, even given its serious internal contradictions and pressure from the powers, is able to assemble thousands of people in meetings?!”
According to Abanin, “the probability of the realization in the Russian Federation of ‘an Egyptian scenario’ after the prohibition of the largest legal nationalist organization will not fall but only increase.” That is something Moscow does not understand because it does not recognize that “in the first instance, it is not an organization that brings people to meetings.”
Instead, he continues, “Ideas” are what cause people to protest, and “however many movements and parties are banned, good and brave people cannot be. And it is impossible to ban people FROM THINKING WITH THEIR OWN HEADS,” at least for any prolonged period of time.
Abanin thus concludes that while “there is no longer a DPNI, its task will live! In the minds, hearts and actions of thousands of Russian people whom this organization helped to throw off the chains of slavery and gave direction as to how much be constructed a better world than the one in which we now live.”