interviews Russian chess-player-turned-opposition-politician Garry Kasparov:
Why did you form the United Civil Front? Are you waging a war?
The ruling authorities have declared a war on the people. The number of people dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the country is growing. After the country’s second presidential election, or rather after Putin’s appointment, this tendency has been increasingly apparent. The regime is toughening its policy line. True, the majority of these people are still showing only passive dissatisfaction, but whereas during Putin’s first term in office, their discontent could not be measured mathematically, now it is there for everyone to see.
Today, the dividing line in Russian society should not run traditionally between rightists and leftists; it should point to the extent to which people are ready to make tough demands upon the current regime. All of today’s political organizations have a narrow focus; it is useless to talk now about the political program we will have in 2007. When the results of elections are falsified, it doesn’t matter who is five degrees more to the left or to the right.
How does the presidential appointment of governors affect you personally?
At first glance, it is hard to see the link between worsening living standards and the abolition of gubernatorial elections. But just consider this: first, the people are stripped of power — they can no longer elect governors and they can no longer vote for single-mandate candidates. Next, the people are stripped of money. More and more people are beginning to see the connection.
You want to dismantle the present regime. But Putin has the support of the majority. Does it really matter if his supporters amount to 60% or 65% of the population?
We are in the year 2005, not 2004. Today we are witnessing regular demonstrations that demand Putin’s resignation. The tendency is obvious: 70 percent of the citizenry used to support Putin; now the figure is 40 percent. One more point: if you ask people about their attitude toward the war in Chechnya, the growing crime rate, and the state of the economy, then the rating of the present regime becomes quite different. Either people don’t look upon Putin as a politician who wields real influence on the country’s life, or they don’t want to be frank on this matter.
What exactly are you going to do?
There is a wide variety of possible protests — walkouts, hunger strikes, demonstrations. It’s difficult to incite a hunger strike — that’s a measure people resort to when they can’t bear to be downtrodden any longer. But we can unite all these people into a broad anti-regime front. They must feel that they are not alone.
Who funds all your programs?
Alas, we live in a country where the lives of our sponsors would be in danger if we named them. All well-known right-wing liberal sponsors of the past are now either abroad or in jail. I can only tell you that we are short of funds. We will not even hide the fact that we have far less money than the amount needed to get our movement going, far less than the democrats spent. However, we are learning to work in such conditions, trying to get the best returns on our investments, counting every kopek.
The tougher the Kremlin’s actions, the greater are our chances of getting help — the number of discontented people grows and more of them wish to help us. In fact, the main potential of our Front is that it exists while the regime is what it is, as long as it engenders discontent.