Understanding Navalnyi

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Understanding Naval’nyi

David Mandel

To understand Aleksei Naval’nyi’s significance for Russia as a leading figure of the opposition, one needs some idea of the nature of the political regime of President Vladimir Putin. This is ‘Bonapartist’-type regime, in which the state administration, and proximity to it, are the principal sources of accumulation. Consequently, this administration’s holding onto power is the core interest of the state, and corruption is at its core. (The constitution was recently amended to allow for a possible Putin presidency until 2035.) This regime was initially established with the enthusiastic support of the major capitalist states, which eventually became disappointed when their creation rebelled against its... semi-colonial status.

In terms of political liberties, the regime can be termed ‘soft dictatorship’: it tolerates these liberties (much more than the former Soviet regime, apart from its first and last years), but only insofar as they do not pose what it considers a serious threat. And the margin of toleration has been narrowing progressively over the past decade, so that even one-person picketing was recently subjected to restrictions. Legal strikes have long since been practically impossible. Socially, this is an extreme neoliberal regime.

Since the main thrust of Naval’nyi’s political activity has been the exposure of official corruption, both economic and political (falsified elections), and since his calls to demonstrate – and these demonstrations are illegal – have mobilized tens of thousands, the regime naturally views him as a serious threat. He has been subjected to various criminal prosecutions (preventing him, among other things, from running in presidential elections) and to last August’s nearly-successful assassination attempt, about which the regime has not yet even opened a criminal inquiry.

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