A democratic socialist candidate for the Russian parliament. What could possibly go wrong?
On the other hand, we are ready for coalitions. When we formed our university unions, we immediately had to form coalitions. To do something at the level of the university, the State Duma, the government, we had to unite everyone and avoid division. Therefore, we were always looking for the possibility of cooperating with people with more right-wing opinions, and we were almost always successful.
I was nominated by the Communist Party, so I am supported by the people who traditionally vote for the Communist Party. Yes, I agree with the Communist Party’s program in social matters – against raising the retirement age, against solving budgetary problems to the detriment of retirees, for increasing the minimum wage, for free education and medication. The democratic left-wing community also automatically supports me. And as for the people who usually vote for Yabloko: for them, I am not an irritant either. I know a lot of members of this party who support me. I am supported by people of completely different opinions, with the exception of the extreme right.
I am a candidate for the general opposition in the party. Even though, I stress, I am not a civil servant of any political party and am not looking for a career here.
Why did you choose to cooperate with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation? Isn’t Yabloko a Social Democratic Party?
Yabloko is a fairly right-handed party. It has a social democratic wing, but its representatives play the second and third roles, and many at the head of this party are against progressive taxation. The Yabloko are therefore by no means social democrats, even by the standards of social democrats in Europe today.
On the other hand, Yabloko just wouldn’t have risked naming me. The Communist Party took a risk. They fully understand who I am, that they can have problems if I win – there is no leverage on me. I will join the Communist Party faction, but I will not vote against my conscience. I will use the faction platform to convince Communist Party deputies to vote for something I consider necessary, I will be in dialogue with them. But if they try to force me to vote for something that contradicts the interests of my constituents and my opinion, I will not fold.
Does your cooperation with the Russian Communist Party scare anyone? How do you explain to them why it is necessary?
Yes, that scares some. I explain it the same way I explained it to you – what I have in common with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, what are our differences, that I am not a member of this party and that I do not make a career in it, that I will maintain a position independent from the leadership of the Communist Party.
I explain that the candidates of the Communist Party are now the only way to beat United Russia in the elections. You may not like leftists at all, but if you don’t want United Russia to win, vote for their main competitor. In our neighborhood, the main competitor is me.
If you enter parliament, will you be ready for ad hoc alliances that are not always pleasant? Apparently this is a given for official Russian policy, what can be done about it?
There are people that I would in no way be on the same side with – they’re all ultra-right. But if it is necessary to unite people with different views on certain issues, then you cannot even ignore United Russia. Not in terms of a cyclical alliance with them, but we must force them to take certain positions. And that requires talking and negotiating. At the same time, of course, you cannot back down from your positions or make concessions on global issues.
Besides Oleg Shein, who would you cooperate with from the official opposition?
I am impressed with how [the Communist Party parliamentary deputy] Valery Rashkin spends a lot of time in gatherings for all active groups that ask for it. It should be welcomed, it helps people.
From the Moscow Duma, I like what Elena Yanchuk and Evgeny Stupin [nominated by the Communist Party] do and say. They help initiative groups, rely on real groups of citizens with their own interests and try to represent them. In my opinion, this is how MEPs should operate – when a politician is a spearhead, an instrument in the hands of citizens’ associations, and even to a certain extent controlled by them. They are not necessarily left-wing politicians: Moscow City Councilor Yulia Galyamina also relies on self-organized citizen groups that have flourished in her neighborhood.
If you ask questions in general about politicians, I take inspiration from Jeremy Corbyn for giving the party back the mass character, the radicalism, the left attitude, to move away from what this party has become in the 1990s and 2000s. American politicians, Bernie Sanders, who is a symbol of the democratic left movement, which has grown in this country and around the world all these years. Sanders’ attempt to participate in the presidential campaign, along with his charisma, significantly influenced the growth of this movement.
But Corbyn lost the election.
The main thing is that he tried. This effort has inspired millions of people around the world.
After the discouragement and decline of 2014-15, when the civic movement in Russia was pushed back, some people with leftist views in the country saw what was happening in Britain, what mass support there was d ‘below and how a more radical wing of the Labor Party emerged. This prompted them to reduce their pessimism and take a fresh look at the situation in Russia, the prospects for leftist politics here and around the world.