Tuesday, April 4, 2017

For Russians, ‘Plato No Longer Just an Ancient Greek Philosopher,’ and the Kremlin is Worried, Gozman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 4 – Many Russians draw a sharp distinction between the political protests of March 26 and the ongoing economic strike by the long-haul truckers, Leonid Gozman says, but in fact, the truckers’ strike is “a second front” alongside the March demonstrations against the lies the government has told.

            Ever more Russians recognizing that reality, the Novaya gazeta commentator says, given that they now recognize that “Plato is no longer just an ancient Greek philosopher” but a system of government exploitation of another group of the population. And because that is so, the Kremlin is nervous (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/03/72007-vtoroy-front-protiv-lzhi).

                Today, “everyone knows about the long-haul truckers,” he says, and while their strike now may not have the dramatic consequences of the railroad workers’ strike in 1917, given that enough “strikebreakers” are likely to be found. But the regime’s response even to what they have done so far shows that “the powers that be are obviously getting worried.”

            When the strike began, the Kremlin calculated that it could deal with the matter by claiming that the truckers were carrying “contraband” tomatoes and that these had narcotics inside them. But “the people didn’t believe that.”  Now, Moscow has sent forces to surround the truckers in Daghestan underscoring the fact that “jokes are finished.”

            The authorities didn’t expect the truckers to strike. They assumed that because those workers only make money once they deliver the goods that the powers that be via the traffic control system had the kind of leverage on them that would prevent them from taking any action. Protests if there were any would be limited to curses directed at the regime.

            But the powers that be were wrong, and they were wrong, Gozman says, because they introduced the Plato law without making the semblance of an effort that there was some logic behind what Moscow was doing, an insulting indication that the powers viewed the truckers as “fools and slaves.”

            Of course, Gozman continues, that is how this regime talks with everyone, be they Muscovites complaining about their housing or academics upset by cuts in their funding and loss of control over their work

                The long-haul truckers, however, “are no fools but in part they demonstrate a self-respect 100 times that of many intellectuals.  They are independent people, property owners who live by their work. With people of that kind,” the commentator says, “the powers that be don’t know how to interact.”

            And now the truckers are angry, not just because of their loss of income but because of the insult to their dignity, in exactly the same way those who participated in the demonstrations in 2011 were or those who went into the streets in a hundred Russian cities on March 26.  “Just like us,” Gozman says, the truckers are “not just for themselves but for everyone.”

            In that way, they are “our allies.”   Moreover, they have shown themselves politically wise by keeping their distance from Russia’s pseudo-political parties lest they be used.   That is exactly the right posture, he concludes, but other Russians need to recognize that the truckers very much need “solidarity and understanding.”

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