Technology and populism: the rise of Alexei Navalny

“Kremlin project,” “future tyrant”, “only hope” — in such uncompromising definitions say about Alexei Navalny not only his supporters and opponents, but respected scientists and economists. Arguments about the opposition going for a long time in the moral and ethical plane. If this Bulk — political practitioner, perhaps the only Federal political field. It is practice, which have forgotten the power and which have limited systemic opposition, allowed him to become famous.


The release from prison of the leader of the Left front Sergei Udaltsov and his criticism of opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been extinguished reignited the debate about the Bulk. Numerous discussions about the future of Russia under his presidency (for example, here, here or here) — a clear indication that his coming is more and more perceived not as something out of science fiction, but as a probable event, though this probability is not so great.


The controversy over Navalny is mainly held in the moral and ethical plane: will Bulk a tyrant, he is better or worse than Putin, if not Bulk, then who? Another slightly less popular direction of reasoning — trying to understand who the project is Alexei Navalny? They are built on the obvious suspicion — politician, despite the criticism of Vladimir Putin and his entourage, though, and is under criminal prosecution, but gets probation.


These divination or moralism have little relation to political reality. Bulk, obviously, not a sacred figure in Russian history, which in any case can not offend and criticize, according to his supporters. At the same time, he’s not a loser like all the forces are trying to portray guardians. It is quite popular and unusual for the modern Russian politician. He has strengths that others do not have opposition and even the Kremlin, but there are very vulnerable. Neither in that nor in other there is nothing miraculous and Messianic-sacred. Both depend on the political characteristics of the Bulk.


Network coverage


The reasons for the popularity of the opposition, as well as the way to achieve it is understandable and explainable: they can be easily overlooked for, say, comparing the Bulk with the recently released Udaltsov. The leader of the Left front’s ideological, charismatic, but he is not visible to the masses, and offer the public far from the real requests.

Bulk here looks the complete opposite. He for several years tried to build a base of supporters through trial and error he has achieved in this case significant results. Some time the fans of the opposition was more of an online phenomenon, it is possible that this concentration on the Internet and has brought protests of 2011-2012. People have tried to take to the streets, but to organize the structure of the participants of the rallies failed.


Such an offline structure became the headquarters of Navalny on elections of the mayor of Moscow in 2013. It turned out that the Internet hamsters are able to act in the real world. Now these developments Navalny used in public campaigns, which he calls presidential. Formally condemned as a serious article, he is ineligible to run, but many believe the sentence is unfair, so the opposition can easily convince their followers that the campaign has a right to exist.


No matter what state propaganda about the small number of supporters of Navalny, their number is already noticeable in each major regional town several hundred. They are sincere in their beliefs, active and organized in the headquarters. One such person is worth a dozen regular supporters: he is selflessly willing to tell citizens about their leader, his plans, about what a bad regime and the good Alexei Navalny.


In conditions when public opinion begins to waver, convinced these messengers begin to play an increasingly important role. When people start to change the intonation of the question “if not Putin, then who?” or uncompromising to say “anyone but Putin”, there might be people who genuinely and convincingly explain “Why anyone? There Bulk.”


Such a network does not have a single Russian politician, including Vladimir Putin. Rather, a sincere and ardent supporters of the President have, but it is a structure of type Node, “Antimaydana” and Krasnodar “the troops of Putin.” In General, those people who eschews the government itself, and its loyal inhabitants.


Built a network of supporters of Navalny very high-tech. Apparently, he began to open the headquarters in those cities that were able to give a good turnout at the opening. Photos of queues and full houses flew around the social network. In the pictures it was evident that volunteers are written by different people — and young people, and successful members of the middle class and seniors. Don’t be shy, you are not alone, said the footage.


People and not shy. The headquarters gave the opponents of the authorities the opportunity to meet, communicate with each other, discuss what I like to discuss, feel that a lot of them. Finally, they provide an opportunity to act — even these actions are the distribution of leaflets in the streets. Opposition doesn’t just sit at home and outraged and doing something to the power in the country changed, is the realization is worth a lot. Team building for supporters of Alexei Navalny conduct and government — security forces searching and raiding the headquarters, delay volunteers, forcing the opposition to rally even more.


Technology and populism


The network of supporters is not the only benefit of the campaign Bulk. He’s one of the few Russian politicians (and now, perhaps the only one) who uses in his work with the society of modern political technology, as if from them or refused at the headquarters of the Bulk. They look like a carbon copy with a bright and successful Western campaigns, but the PR of the rest, including Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, did not even reach the level of the Russian campaign of the nineties.


On the background of the crisis and rising social unrest, the President catches a pike and complacently talking with children. The Edinaya Russia bear long been depicted with a bag of loot in his mouth, the Communists go under portraits of Stalin, Zhirinovsky rolls around on the mattress with the young supporters that is still able to surprise and entertain, but his influence ends.


Technology as part of public policy in the context of the Crimean consensus and drying appearance was regarded as something superfluous — why once again excite people and attract his interest? When Vyacheslav Volodin was considered a perfect campaign, where the winning candidate from power without excessive noise and dust provided administrative dependent electorate, and the majority of citizens from elections in the party.

In this empty niche and came in Bulk. His campaign has a recognizable brand, albeit suspiciously similar to the symbolism of the campaign of Hillary Clinton, photos from the opening of the headquarters or mass actions are always clear and convincing. The Fund of struggle against corruption uses are at the peak of popularity, the format of vlogging. Visit their transfer coming popular Internet characters, their fans watch the videos and be interested in the team Navalny.


Bulk accounts for its past mistakes (for example, during the mayoral campaign in 2013), and is now among the main themes of his campaign not only against corruption, but concrete promises to raise the minimum wage to 25 thousand rubles, and expenditures on education and health to increase two times. Paternalistic is configured for Russian voters are plans a balm for the soul and a real revelation, it has long no one ever promised anything.


Let Navalny and accused of populism (and rightly so), but he’s answering the eternal query, and in the world populists increasingly win elections. In Russia the role of the main populist since the beginning of zero took on Vladimir Putin, and then the power was to limit such promises of other political forces not to they did not get underfoot. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky a long time promises “every woman on man, and man a bottle of vodka,” to restrain their ardor Communists and spravorossy. But the main Bulk of public thesis is simple and clear: if officials will not steal, and security forces would receive less from the budget, money in Russia will be enough for everything: roads, wages, pensions, health care, education. These provisions are consistent with the reasoning of the average Russian and it is close.


In short, Navalny just mastering the territory, which left both the government and systemic opposition. In the beginning the Kremlin indulged queries on paternalism and populism, but in 2014 sharply took a course on spirituality. The query remains, and the Bulk answered. He also occupies the territory of the systemic opposition, which ceased to criticize the Federal government and its individual representatives.


Approval of the “Bulk one struggling with power, so it should be supported” sounds plausible, although somewhat slyly. On anti-Putin positions are Yabloko or PARNAS, however, that any other party of special interest, even among the opposition voters did not cause. Apple accused of many years the leadership of Grigory Yavlinsky, the whole history Parnassus — history of internal conflicts and mutual accusations. Here, Navalny enjoys the situation and considers the mistakes of others. It has established unregistered Party of progress, all have forgotten, but struggles inherent in the life of the party, around opposition no. Emphasizes Alexei Navalny and his supporters and the status of the new man. Formally, the anti-Putin glade he was not alone, but to its competitors in opposition, he is without respect, and they to him, too.


Finally, the growth of the fame Bulk greatly contributed to the spread of the Internet. According to the VTsIOM poll, TV remains the main news source for 52% of Russians (two years ago it was 62%), and trust him in case of conflicting information 46% (against 60% two years ago). The Internet has become the main source of information for 32% of Russians (against 22%).


In such circumstances, Navalny was seen as a real candidate for the presidency, began to talk about it, to praise, to criticize. The seriousness of perception contributes to the fact that public sentiment is not exactly described: the results of opinion polls, of course, say that 86% of the population support Vladimir Putin and all the initiatives of the government, but these figures are not taken seriously even in the Kremlin. With the mythical great support of government, besides, you never know what quality, Bulk deal easier. After all, the person primarily relies on his own experience and convictions: “what kind of polls among my friends all criticize Putin” or “Who’s heard of Bulk? Simple people about him and don’t know!”.


In the rarefied air of propaganda Alexei Navalny is Vladimir Putin — at night all cats are grey. However, for this he himself has to use propaganda language. For example, photos from discovery headquarters and meetings done with good camera angles; in the arguments the opposition uses cliches constantly calls the source of attacks on the headquarters of the Kremlin, first Deputy head of the AP Sergei Kiriyenko, though, most likely, sedition, “just in case” eradicate either the governors or with the local security forces. We are dealing with the opposition “true-truth.” The truth no one knows, so the truth is the truth. This game takes and the government itself — the pogroms in the headquarters of Navalny is clearly saying that in the Kremlin are afraid of it.


In many ways, so check the policy and in the presidential election does not seem so impossible as released Navalny from custody before the mayoral campaign 2013. The rigor and restrictions of Russian law has always implied the ability to ignore them: as you say in the Kremlin, so be it. This uncertainty in the relations of power and Bulk allows companies to take risks, to raise the stakes and exacerbate the situation. Careful administration can also be understood: Vladimir Putin and his entourage have something to lose, but the opposition’ve got nothing to lose.


Crimean-Donbass period of history and the dominance of propaganda, oddly enough, also playing in favor of Navalny. Many Russians now think in binary categories: good — evil, black — white. In this coordinate system the politician, who long and persistently calls himself the only opponent of Vladimir Putin, is using the same binary system and speaks the same language of propaganda, has additional benefits. In this system it is easy enough to switch roles, so the chances Navalny come to power, the look is not exactly zero.


This is not to say that the image of Navalny, even in the minds of opponents of the authorities it’s simple. Liberal-minded citizens are not very happy with his position on the introduction of a visa regime with Central Asia and the former’s participation in the nationalist Russian marches. Periodically there are claims of possible connections of the opposition with power or at least with “one of the Kremlin towers”. These suspicions propaganda willingly stirs.


Oddly enough, these rumors play more into the hands of Bulk — representatives of influential elite groups they become food for thought. For example, a reputable Krasnoyarsk entrepreneur Anatoly Bykov directly calls Bulk “Kremlin project” and clarifies that this so takes opposition seriously. Talk about “the origin of the Kremlin” opposition make the interaction with it legal and maybe even “approved”. The psychological barrier for the built-in vertical a businessman or a politician partly removed.


The challenges of growth


However, the advantages of Alexei Navalny may become for him in the same serious disadvantages. Technology and populism is a good thing, but to succeed, they require strict adherence to the selected line. Like anything complex, but this simple recipe has only one enemy, political style, and can be, and the nature of the Bulk.


He can’t go, someone to meet — even his supporters. It invites the volunteers to put up with his actions and to explain their usefulness. While it works: sympathetic to the Bulk of the people did not hesitate to condemn criticism against him — say, any comments are harmful because beneficial to Putin. Most social media posts and even columns are quite eminent scientists end the Bulk can be mistakes, but he’s the only one fighting with the “bad corruption”, therefore, a priori, is always right. A point to Navalny and his staff really like: why to change, to learn something, to transcend themselves, if possible in what does not deny?


This position is very dangerous in communicating with their own supporters, which is the Forte of Navalny as a politician. Emergency calls there have been a lot of debate with a prominent member of the defunct new Russia Igor Strelkov, event volunteer Alexander Turovsky. The reality is that “good propaganda” Navalny attracted to idealists, for their slogan “one for all and all for one” is not an empty phrase, but a debate with the leader of the militants impossible.


Take into account the demands of supporters not so difficult: for example, spend a few moments on the excitement of victims of the security forces of volunteers in the video, but this is not happening. – Bulk of adherents always ready to justify the actions of their leader — he was the only one and you are working for Putin and he is hurting. But this approach is not enough: with the expanding number of supporters need to work and find compromises, and this Bulk can not do it.


It is naive to talk about as the Bulk of the coming tyrant, but political style he is clearly authoritarian and monologic: in 2013, he quickly fenced off from journalists, even personally familiar with the press Secretary and now seriously argues that the media do not really need, because you can convey its the only true point of view in a personal blog. This monologist — the main enemy of success Navalny, because idealists are easily frustrated, and that can’t happen.


If you follow technology, it is a broad network of supporters should carry the weight of the populist ideas of the Bulk and prove that behind his back there is popular support. This is a good illustration — the message is the messenger; it is a network depends on the result of public campaigns Bulk. If he shows flexibility now, it will get easier. The masses, who, with the help of volunteers learn about the Bulk, are not very interesting moral and ethical questions and the slogan “one for all” — will perform the minimum wage, pensions and roads that can be fixed thanks to the fight against corruption. If the network starts to tear, and the background to this is, the way of the populist and technologist Alexei Navalny will end in the middle.