My speech at the opening of the high-level roundtable “Voices of the Anti-war Movement. Strenghtening the Structures of Russian Civil Society” on Thursday 21.09.2023 in Brussels.
The question is: how to strengthen the Russian civil society and, as a Frenchman, I would like to remember you what happened in my country during and after the war.
The huge majority of the population supported Maréchal Pétain, the Vichy regime and if not the collaboration with Hitler a policy of complete appeasement.
Politically and morally speaking the situation was even worst that the one prevailing now in Russia.
So first no shame! Russian people is frightened and lost as the French people was at that time and that is unfortunately not surprizing at all.
What is the way out?
– It is not enough to say peace and democracy, because this words are beautiful but are goals not tools.
– It is not enough to say Western values or Western model because we have at least two Western models, because those models are far from being perfect and because you should do better than us,
– Russian people don’t know any more were their country stands in the world. They don’t know if Russia is still a great power or not. They don’t know what will happen to their economy when oil and gas are no longer essential to the world economy. They don’t know whether the Federation will survive and if they wish it to survive. In a word the peoples of the Federation don’t know what their future will be and should be,
– You got to answer those questions, probably with different ideas, but to give answers to your people. So you have a lot of homework. You got to organize discussions, seminars, political discussions, polemics and to do that in the medias of the opposition now living abroad. Those websites are read and followed by a lot of people in Russia. This is not the entire population, certainly not but let me remember you that during the war the entire France didn’t listen to Radio Londres. It was a minority, but the minority grew up and after long discussions, the Résistance published a program which actually defined our country for decades. This program proposed the main lines of the French welfare state.
It is arrogant to say so but I will be arrogant and will tell you: Do the same! Liberté is not enough. Liberté doesn’t go with Egalité and Fraternité. Speak about social justice, fairness, taxes on the richest people, reducing undue wealth.
And now a last point. I will be even more arrogant than before, but you got to speak about your history and to honour it. Russian history was terrible. Staline invented mass deportation before Hitler did. You were the last country in Europe to outlaw what was actually slavery but for now almost two centuries the best and the brightest of the Russian people fought and often gave their lives for European modernity, freedom and democracy. It was already true in the ninetieth century and never forget 1905, February 1917, the hope after 56, the dissidence in the 70 and the political wake up of Russia during Perestroika. Freedom is certainly not a new idea in your country, this is a road to re-open, a goal you will reach sooner than expected because you are close, very close to post-Putinism.