The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Putin Re-Elected, What Next?

Mar 25, 2024

This article is translated from the March 21 issue, #2903 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Unsurprisingly, Putin was re-elected president of Russia with almost 88% of the vote and a voter turnout of 73.33%.

In the big cities, the management of companies and administrations put pressure on their employees to indicate whether they were going to vote, where, on what day and at what time. It was a thinly veiled threat to the undecided. On the carrot side, as usual, the authorities also organized raffles at polling stations. But social networks also produced some edifying micro-reports. In one production area of a Moscow factory, for example, only three out of ten workers were preparing to vote. Admittedly, this example cannot be generalized, even if others point in the same direction.

After blocking the candidacy of anyone remotely opposed to his policies, Putin garnered a large number of votes among the bureaucrats and the wealthy, of course, but also among the working classes. This is probably less a vote of confidence, as it once was, than a vote of fear. Fear of the crackdown on anyone who criticizes the government. Fear also, and the government has played on this, of a military defeat that the population equates with material and human sacrifices made in vain, as well as a promise of a worsening of their situation.

Having eliminated all legal or tolerated forms of dissent, Putin has linked the regime’s fate and his own to war. This has manifested itself in increasingly unpopular measures, such as expanding the draft. He said he would refuse to do so before the election, but he may do so soon, just as he raised the sales tax to 20% just after the 2018 presidential election. This time, workers will have to tighten their belts all the more as inflation eats away at their purchasing power, while the Kremlin has already slashed social budgets, with the war budget absorbing half the state’s revenue. The result is that, deprived of any legal means of expressing their discontent, Russian citizens are sometimes expressing it more radically. Even in circles other than those of the petty bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and student youth, who in the recent past have formed the bulk of anti-Kremlin demonstrators, some have resorted to actions that have become the legal headlines.

In several cities, videos have shown voters throwing dye into ballot boxes or setting them on fire, knowing that the police would come down on them. Then there’s the pensioner from Perm, a large industrial city in the Urals, who set fire to a military recruitment post. Arrested, she said she wanted to denounce the fact that she could no longer pay her rent with her pension.

Such examples have been multiplying since the war in Ukraine began, in regions and sectors of society that had no reputation for protest. In Bashkiria, a working-class crowd recently clashed with the police, who had to use gas against the demonstrators—a rare occurrence in the last thirty years. But most of these actions are individual, unorganized and even desperate.

Because the war and the oligarchs demand it, Russian power can only accelerate its attacks on the working population. In the face of this, they will have to rediscover the path of organization and collective struggle for their class interests.