On March 26th, large demonstrations erupted in major Russian cities throughout the country. Organized by Alexei Navalny – leading opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin – the demonstrations protested government corruption, demanding that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resign due to a recent scandal.
Predictably, all major corporate media outlets heralded Navalny as a hero. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption campaigner who helped lead the 2011-2012 protests, has shown a knack for turning repressive action against him and his followers to his own advantage.” But there is indeed a highly reactionary side to Mr. Navalny that corporate news outlets dare not expose.
Who is Alexei Navalny?
Of all people, it is quite ironic Navalny now leads a movement protesting corruption. This past February, Navalny was found guilty of embezzling $500,000 worth of timber from Russian state-owned timber company Kirovles while working as a volunteer. Prior to that, Navalny was convicted of defrauding $440,000 from a cosmetics company in 2014.
On top of his white-collar crime record, Navalny has supported various fascist tendencies during his rise to political prominence. In 2006, Navalny announced his support for the Russian March, which his own (former) party Yabloko condemned for its “fascist, Nazi, xenophobic manifestations”.
Navalny went on to endorse the “Stop feeding the Caucasus!” campaign opposing financial aid to poor regions comprised (mostly) by ethnic minorities. In 2011, Navalny even described himself as a “nationalist democrat”.
Furthermore, Navalny co-founded the Democratic Alternative movement using funds from the U.S. State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED is a slush fund used by the U.S. government to fund political organizations and “civil society” groups that will further U.S. imperialist interests.
Corruption is indeed a major issue in Russia, and many people feel justified anger at the blatant influence buying carried out by the oligarchs that grew rich by plundering the formerly socialized property that belonged to all during the Soviet period. What Navalny and similar right wing forces are doing with the recent demonstration is attempting to exploit that sentiment to advance their own reactionary agenda.