Amnesty, and the Failure of the Navalny REvolution

I don’t like spending too much time on the story of Alexei Navalny. For all of its personal drama and tragedy, ultimately, I suspect, it will end up being a mere footnote in history. Basically, as I see it, Navalny is a political dead end, not the paradigm changing revolutionary that so many in the hack pack believe him to be.

That said, people seem to expect me to churn out Navalny stories, so in response to the demand, I have written a couple.

The first, which you can find on the website of the Centre for International Policy Studies here, is a fairly basic survey of the whole Navalny saga, and explains why, in my opinion, his return to Russia and subsequent arrest has not sparked the mass political turmoil that so many pundits were expecting.

The second article, which is on RT here, looks at Amnesty International’s decision to stop referring to Navalny as a ‘prisoner of conscience.’ I point out that the decision makes little sense given that a) the hate speech Amnesty refers to is not relevant to Navalny’s imprisonment, and b) Amnesty continues to insist that Navalny’s jailing is political. The message seems to be that we only deem people ‘prisoners of conscience’ if we happen to like them. I conclude that this is a bad precedent.


18 thoughts on “Amnesty, and the Failure of the Navalny REvolution”

  1. Kudos to RT for printing a piece with the level of logical complexity that seems to have long been driven out of public discourse everywhere and also so distant from the official point of view that I wouldn’t believe they will dare to publish anything like that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The curious thing about Amnesty International is its propensity to provide reasonably accurate factual coverage while offering an extremely distorted legal interpretation. The excellent scholar Norman Finkelstein has documented extensively how Amnesty’s factual accounts of Israeli operations against Gaza are often accompanied by poor legal analysis with, for instance, deliberate targeting of civilians during Operation Protective Edge being passed off as ‘disproportionate force’. The same might be said for the recent change in Navalny’s status.

      In both instances, moreover, the difference has limited practical significance as far as the law is concerned. It is crucial, however, for the court of public opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I immediately thought of Norman Finkelstein too. He uttered his dissent in a more abstract way though. (Amy Goodman, Peace Now, interview?) It triggered memories of charity galas. …

        I was with him concerning BDS, unfortunately he was attacked heavily for his position. …
        Aaron Maté interviews Finkelstein on the ICC decision.
        What the ICC decision on Palestine actually said, On February 14, 2021, In Blog, Featured, News, Video.

        Would a more targeted approach have helped to shift public opinion? Would it have helped to make Israel to share Jerusalem as the capital of two states?


      2. Moon, Norm is amazing. I am privileged to know him as a friend.

        As he argues in his 2018 magnum opus on Gaza, an indictment like the Goldstone Report would have dealt the Israeli Government a heavy blow following its criminal actions in 2014. It would also have made it harder for Obama, Israel’s enabler-in-chief, to continue supporting the military operations. But it was not to be.

        For all their praiseworthy factual reporting, human rights NGOs frequently get the legal analysis wrong, allowing their work to be misused by both state and non-state actors.


      3. Moon, Norm is amazing. I am privileged to know him as a friend.

        I like him a lot too.

        Once stumbled across what felt like part of a larger coordinated character assassination network surfacing on an academic list. His clash with Alan Dershowitz. You recall? Contacted him to make the highly hilarious recommendation to not approach matters like that. Such exchanges drive a potentially wider interested audience away, I argued. It felt he harmed his mission,

        Agree on “amazing scholar.” I was pleased when I saw the late Raul Hilberg supported his critique concerning Goldhagen too. He must have reminded him of his own struggles. What I found especially evil were the attacks on his mother. His most widely spread book over here in the German library network database is, you guess which. I do not intend to read it. But I understand his motivation in looking into matters quite well.

        OK, occasionally I wish he would temper his style in some passages. But that is me. 😉 And I haven’t read him for a while.


  2. “The only reasonable answer is that Navalny had lost his roof – i.e. a political decision had been made to lock him up.”

    Bingo, Professor! That’s the main story here. Up until now Navalny has enjoyed “krysha”, but now he does not. Whoever figures out this one (how Navalny lost his “krysha”) should get the Russian equivalent of the Pulitzer prize.

    In the meantime, Amnesty stinks! [but for the wrong reasons, as usual…] ! Also, Navalny should have been sent to serve a real sentence a long time ago, for KirovLes at a very minimum. Ignoring his racism for a minute or two, this guy, he is actually an egregious white-collar criminal, and that is separate from his political pretensions.

    Sel Vorik


  3. First of, heartfelt thanks for CIPS article. It is supremely clear and well balanced, and therefore perfect for sharing with Western laypeople who ask Navalny questions. Also, for this purpose, the fact that it’s not on RT really helps. Bravo! 👏

    Second, I really do wonder how AI makes its decisions. I.e., how in hell do they know if Yves Rocher case is politically motivated, and to what extent? It appears that they essentially go with their “gut”, as George W taught us.

    It would seem that almost any case involving an opposition politician can be persuasively argued to be politically motivated (especially in a country whose political structure is perceived as being not up to standard).

    Character evidence is admissible even in criminal trials. It has always been taken seriously. In the world where the whole truth is basically unknowable, it is as good a proxy as any.


  4. Lekhaim Navalner had… quite… a history vis-a-vis Amnesty:

    Imagine that! But in just 2 short years, Nava will rat out to the “Bloody Regime” ™ then a prominent neo-nazi Maxim “Tesak/The Blade” Martsinkevich and “land” him a lengthy prison sentence. Strangeky enough, he didn’t deman a “prisioner of conscience” status for the fella. That’s what a year in the Yale Uni does to the people – a miraclous transformation and total “image” makeover! Well, that, and participation in Moscow’s mayoral elections.

    Also, by the same author:

    P.S. Reading numerous hosannas to Navalny by the Western punditrty, propacondoms and “Russia experts” this past 6 months was a de-light. Like “Killing of Babchenko 2: Electric boogaloo”, only no one dies here – not even a piggy.


    1. Thanks Lytt, great article, interesting author. And now I finally order Laruelle. Yep, sounds familiar the good old networks and familiar patterns.


    2. Curious, or getting curiouser and curouser, really,
      Laruelle’s book, which looks great, was available to me for free via Amazon Kindle ebooks cum Creative Commons license.

      But Denis Lavinski is banned on twitter? I certainly would have wished I had followed him there more closely there to understand what exactly happened.

      How did you label artists, or didn’t want to signify artist by however word you used: kreakl, the kreaklariat, the creatives?


  5. For those, whose ideological purity forbids to touch anything “pro-Kremlin”, I present shy and conscientious piece by Maria Alexandrovna “I’m over 50 and still Masha” Gessen at not enough racially diverse New Yorker:

    “Yevgenia Albats, a Russian investigative journalist and a close friend of the Navalny family’s, told me that she persuaded Navalny to attend the Russian March… Albats was in her late forties and an observant Jew. Navalny, in his late twenties”

    Oy gevalt-gevalt!

    “Navalny has often said that he saw the Russian March as a form of valid political expression, that in the kind of Russia that he and his supporters are fighting for—a free, democratic society—the Russian March will be a festive annual event like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “He believes that if you don’t talk to the kind of people who attend these marches, they will all become skinheads,” Leonid Volkov, who runs the political-organizing part of Navalny’s organization, told me over the phone. “But, if you talk to them, you may be able to convince them that their real enemy is Putin.” Volkov, who is Jewish, lives in exile in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.”

    Oy vey iz mir! Suddenly, Mark Izrayelevich Galperin as the leader of the Russian ethno-nats column at several Russki Marches makes perfect sense. Btw, why no one is demanding to recognize Galperin as the prisoner of conscience? Ain’t there some anti-Semitism here at work?


    1. “Navalny has often said that he saw the Russian March as a form of valid political expression, that in the kind of Russia that he and his supporters are fighting for—a free, democratic society—the Russian March will be a festive annual event like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

      If I were working for The New Yorker, this WHITE SUPREMACIST hate speech would sure make me feel physically threatened and emotionally abused. And I, from my safe space, would’ve immediately organized a petition to cancel Ms Gessen.

      But hey, that’s just me. It sounds like the editorial board of The New Yorker condones WHITE SUPREMACY. How sad.


      1. Have you read it? Surreal. On the other hand, her/their* Wikipedia article is even more surreal.

        * if it wouldn’t need all these verbal acrobatics, I would be willing to consider that non-binary trans may well signify an important step ahead on the long and hard path to human emancipation.


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