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Mass protests in Russia offer a glimpse into what a real revolution may look like

Tuesday 1 March 2022, by siawi3


Mass protests in Russia offer a glimpse into what a real revolution may look like

Photo: Protests in Russia

Tom Coburg

27th February 2022

There have been mass protests in many Russian cities, with people demanding an end to the war against Ukraine. From Ukraine itself, people are being urged to take up arms. And there are several reports of cyber attacks against Russian targets.

Multiple mass protests

On 24 February, journalist Alejandro Alvarez posted on Twitter videos of mass protests in cities across Russia. In his Twitter thread they included: St Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaliningrad, and Volgograd. Those demonstrating could be heard shouting in Russian “No to war”:

Ukraine resistance

Many of the brave Russian protesters were arrested and under the notorious Russian prison system may face imprisonment, beatings or worse. Though they will no doubt inspire the people of Ukraine to stand fast in their opposition to Putin’s war.

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Indeed, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the people of his country to rise up and take up arms against the invaders:

That follows authorisation by the Ukrainian parliament for volunteer groups and paramilitaries to use small arms and other weaponry.

Ukrainian MP Sviatoslav Yurash explained:

We are arming people who will be taking that fight to the Russians in every way. We are a nation of 40 million people and we are not going to just stand idly by as Russia does as it wants all across its borders.

We will fight with everything we have and all the support the world can provide us.

Cyber resistance

There are also reports that hacktivists have temporarily taken down the website of Russia Today (RT):

Other Russian sites reportedly brought down include the Duma (Russian parliament), the Russian Ministry of Defence, and the Kremlin. There’s also a claim that the website of the Russian energy giant Gazprom was taken down.

Moreover, on 26 February, ‘Anonymous Ukraine’ issued a warning to Putin and put out a call to other Anonymous hacktivists to step up the attacks:

War crimes

Meanwhile, Amnesty International reports that Russia may be guilty of war crimes. Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces have included hits on civilian areas as well as hospitals.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, commented:

The Russian military has shown a blatant disregard for civilian lives by using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas. Some of these attacks may be war crimes.

Possible outcomes

One suggestion to how Putin’s war could end has come from former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis:

In the past, armed resistance groups made up of citizens around the world have supported the fight against authoritarianism. One example is the International Brigade in Spain in 1936-39.

Indeed, it’s now reported that Ukraine is setting up an “international” legion for foreign volunteers to join the Ukrainian army. Zelensky explained:

Every friend of Ukraine who wants to join Ukraine in defending the country please come over, we will give you weapons.

Though the details of how that would run are not clear. Nor how local democratically-organised militias would or would not fit in with this initiative. Also, the call out could easily attract the far-right from every corner of the globe. That is not an exaggeration, given the integration of ultra-nationalists such as the Azov Battalion into Ukraine’s military structure.

Another possible outcome is Russians deploying sheer people power to demand the end of the corrupt and autocratic Putin-led regime. But this would require protesters taking to the streets not in their thousands but in their millions – and in every city and town in Russia. In short, a real revolution – by the people, for the people.

Putin’s Achilles heel?

Russia knows too well that Ukraine has a proud history of resisting totalitarianism. The Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine (RIAU) consisted of a 100,000 strong army, led by anarchist insurrectionist Nestor Makhno. The RIAU fought a campaign against the Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the Communist revolution. In defence of the libertarian communes and “free soviets”, its long-term goal was to form a stateless, anarcho-communist society. That goal was never achieved.

As for the current conflict, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine may ultimately prove to be his greatest mistake. For in recent days, the Russian people may have tapped into hope for a real revolution.