8 May 2023
As someone who has long been observing the opposition’s unification and even participated in a few efforts of that sort, I now see no point or real possibility in it.
Unification is needed for joint work to achieve a result. Right now the opposition has no plan for joint actions capable of leading to a result. On the contrary, various groups and detachments of the opposition can function on their own, addressing their own audiences and thereby obtaining at least a partial result.
At the tragic stage in history where we find ourselves, there is no point in unification, and if and when the situation changes and there looms on the horizon a chance of victory over the regime, I’m sure there will be a unification of efforts to the extent required.
On the other hand, any attempt at unification runs into administrative and organizational problems. Who is in charge, how to set up the hierarchy, who has what rights, who can speak in whose name, and so forth. All these questions are always extremely problematic and traumatic, and in the present situation of defeat and the absence of a clear path to victory even more so. At the same time, the organizational and administrative difficulties of unification are made worse by the fact that the ranks of what might be called the Russian opposition have been seriously filled by new people and even entire cultural and social groups. Meanwhile, the new participants do not have the not very successful oppositional experience of the 2000s and 2010s, they are attached to completely different models, and they belong, primarily, to generations much younger than those who are usually mainly represented in opposition forums. This engenders if not conflict (although frequently it does) then definitely mistrust, misunderstanding, and just plain dissonance.
I repeat, though, I see no disaster here. Only good can be expected from the fact that one hundred flowers are going to bloom. Monopoly and unification are in the general case an evil that chokes off creativity and initiative, which are now much more important than coordinated actions.
But these considerations are more a reaction to the perpetual lament about the opposition’s inability to unite and the fears that attended the meeting in Berlin in late April. In reality, everyone there had the intelligence and tact not to announce unification. Based on the results of several incoherent and in my view not very constructive debates, some of those gathered approved a declaration.
Its overall political content is banal, and the several dozen signatures exhibited as evidence of the declaration’s weight and representativeness are a little frightening for belonging to a set that hasn’t changed for decades and for their all too obvious associations with yesterday.
Nonetheless, two points in this subject seem to me fairly positive.
First, the very attempt to bring about some coordination, which, unlike organized unification, is useful. Actually, I hope the Berlin platform being built will in this sense be a more effective and institutionalized construction.
Second, the sole not completely banal component of the approved text is the declaration by the signatories that they will refrain from public disputes in the antiwar and democratic movements. Not that there is any great hope for a result from this kind of declaration, but if at least some of the arrows opponents of the war and the dictatorship are letting fly at each other would fly instead in the Kremlin’s direction, that’s good. The very idea that it is worth abandoning private disagreements in the context of resisting the undisputed and obvious evil seems to me perfectly correct.
Translated by Marian Schwartz