Despite the racist anti-asylum seeker policies of consecutive British governments, Conservative and Labour, on April 1st ‘Russian dissident’ Vladimir Ashurkov was granted asylum in Britain. So, what makes him such a special case?
While the corporate media and bourgeois parties are always racist, hostility towards asylum seekers and economic migrants has been on the increase over the past years. British workers are bombarded daily by the bourgeois media message that the country is swamped with outsiders and that somehow there’s a connection between this process and the continuing decline of living standards (hush, nobody mention capitalist crisis).
Repressive legislation introduced (not for the first time) under Labour
The Blair government introduced the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act which meant criminal proceedings for asylum seekers who arrived without a passport; it allowed the government to withdraw support for asylum seekers with children and included measures against so called “sham marriages”. The section of the bill relating to marriage was later deemed unlawful by the High Court. Of no surprise, the act came on the back of Labour’s chums in the Murdoch media having a campaign to “end asylum madness now” (not applicable to wealthy Australian neo-fascists). (Guardian, Comment, Jan 15, 2009)
Quite simply, all legislative changes are aimed at making the process more complex, time consuming and obstructive. As a result in 2013 Britain received only 23,507 applications for asylum. In contrast Germany received 109,600 applications. (UNHCR) Of the 23,507, only 5734 were granted asylum. (Migration Observatory). Many of those rejected come from countries ravaged by British imperialism.
Increasingly draconian measures are also seen to have discouraged the desperate from seeking solace in Britain. For example, over 1000 children are detained by the British government each year. (Refugee Council) Conditions in detention centres are so grim that to quote no-deportations.org.uk,
“Since January 2007 there have been 1,837 attempted suicides across the UK Detention estate”.
Even those who are granted asylum are not given the chance to make a new life for themselves. Instead they live as economic prisoners.
“The majority of asylum seekers do not have the right to work in the United Kingdom and so must rely on state support. Housing is provided, but asylum seekers cannot choose where it is, and it is often ‘hard to let’ properties which Council tenants do not want to live in. Cash support is available, and is currently set at £36.62 per person, per week, which makes it £5.23 a day for food, sanitation and clothing.” (Refugee Council)
As much as the bourgeois parties and media whip up anti-asylum seeker and anti-immigrant hysteria, both immigration and asylum are inevitable under the economic system over which the bourgeoisie preside.
In the first instance, so long as there is war there must be asylum.
So long as there is imperialism, there must be war.
So long as there capitalism there must imperialism. These are the most basic facts.
“To eliminate the inevitability of war, it is necessary to abolish imperialism.” (Stalin 1952: p41)
In the second instance,
“Just as capital moves from one place to another, and from one country to another, in search of profit, so does labour, overcoming many obstacles, move in order to make a living and escape destitution and unemployment in places where capitalism has failed to develop altogether, or is insufficiently developed, or is in decline, to the centres of its expansion.” (Brar 2009: p8)
With this said, Ashurkov is a special case. He does not flee war, nor persecution, hunger, nor misery. He only flees justice, and Britain has a long and proud history of receiving such despots, criminals, dictators and business friends of our ruling class. Awaiting trial for embezzlement, and with his oligarchic background we can also safely assume he does not seek to escape destitution.
On the back of a ruling class onslaught to stigmatise asylum seekers as cheats and criminals, here we have an actual criminal granted asylum! But as said, Ashurkov is a special case, he is bourgeois and an enemy of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
His profile is par-for-the-course for the ‘Russian opposition’. A graduate of Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania, Ashurkov was than an executive at oligarch Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group. In this role he was responsible for asset management within Alfa’s subsidiary group CTF Holdings.
The proposed narrative is that he then quit business for politics. We communists know that he merely took the cause of business into the political realm.
Either way Ashurkov joined the side of the ’liberal, anti-corruption’ campaigner Alexei Navalny, taking up the position of executive director of Navalny’s Progress Party. The role primarily involved fundraising, with Ashurkov courting Russia’s most wealthy elites. But his fundraising techniques were deemed fraudulent. According to the Guardian
“Russia’s powerful investigative committee accused Ashurkov and two other activists last summer of embezzling the campaign funds they gathered for Navalny. Since donations had to be made to a campaign bank account, which involves a cumbersome transfer process, the activists donated 1 million roubles (then about £20,000) to the account, then suggested supporters reimburse them little by little through the easy electronic payment service Yandex.Money.” (Guardian, Apr 01, 2015)
Of his accomplices “Konstantin Jankauskas and Nikolai Lyaskin, are, respectively, under house arrest and an order not to leave Moscow.” This is the extent of the threat to Ashurkov’s person.
Through his fundraising endeavours, the nature of this so-called anti-corruption popular movement is revealed,
“His mission…is quietly enlisting financial backing from the country’s business elite and young professionals…the minimum donation is $10,000…Opposition politics have long been forbidden territory for Russia’s business elite since Putin…brought the powerful oligarchs to heel.” (The Moscow Times, June 12, 2012)
Or in Ashurkov’s own words
“The erosion of the elite’s support for Putin – all this will inevitably lead to change in Russia”.
Despite his safety in Russia, Britain has fallen over itself to grant asylum. The motives are simple – it is his usefulness to imperialism that underpins his asylum, not the non-existent humanitarian grounds. Again Ashurkov’s own words are revealing. “I am more useful at liberty, even in London, than under house arrest in Russia.” It would seem Britain has found its new Berezovsky.
An example of Ashurkov’s usefulness is his accusation that the Russian state was involved in the recent murder of Boris Nemtsov. Ashurkov contradicts himself in claiming “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. But I think such crime would not be possible without some involvement of the Russian security services.”
However, as noted in April’s Proletarian, Nemtsov’s killing has similarities to recent cases in Argentina, Mozambique, Tajikstan and an attempted hit in Venezuela. So the case of Nemtsov,
“is but one of a recent pattern whereby opponents of regimes in imperialism’s cross hairs are killed in mysterious circumstances – only for this to be used to facilitate attempts at ‘regime change’….And all these five cases, on four continents – same play, different cast – in practically the same month! Clearly the hand of Langley, Virginia, home to the notorious CIA, cannot be ruled out.” (Proletarian, April 2015, Turmoil in Argentina)
If dependent on the bourgeois press we would be bound to think that the Progress Party, is just that, a party of progress. We would also think that they are involved in a broad, peaceful, grassroots campaign. We would think that its leader Navalny is a fearless liberal on an anti-corruption mission.
Not since the national embarrassment and imperialist stooge, Boris Yeltsin, has a Russian politician received such backing by our national media. As they do not back politicians out of the goodness of their heart, Navalny must offer them something in return.
He offers them a destabilized, weak, broken and impotent Russia. He offers them Yeltsin’s Russia, in 2015. A Russia which will roll over and have its belly tickled by imperialism, on the issue of Syria, on Ukraine, on every coming issue imperialism is yet to throw at the world.
By merely scratching the surface we are able to see a much more ugly reality than depicted in the press. Regardless of the benign, often-glowing media terminology, side by side with the unregulated rule of the market, is a nationalist ideology of racial purity. The economics of Pinochet meets the social ideology of Hitler, all in Navalny.
For the media cannot conceal that Progress is a far-right nationalist party, guilty of stirring up racial hatred and violence. Whilst rising nationalism in Russia has been covered, the role of Navalny and co. is generally glossed over, particularly by the British media.
In a few rare moments of clarity though, firstly, the New York Times reported
“Liberals, meanwhile, have deep reservations about him, because he espouses Russian nationalist views. He has appeared as a speaker alongside neo-Nazis and skinheads, and once starred in a video that compares dark-skinned Caucasus militants to cockroaches. While cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, he says that in the case of humans, “I recommend a pistol.” (New York Times, December 10, 2011)
Also reported in the Guardian
“Last week, Alexei Navalny.., posted a provocative item on his site. It was an open letter addressed to the present mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, accusing him of authorising the theft of pro-Navalny banners from the city’s municipal high rises. “Could you please answer my question?” asked Navalny, 37, tartly. “Why do you, along with your migrant workers for municipal utilities, steal our Navalny banners from the balconies of the residents who have installed them?” (The Guardian, The Observer, August 11, 2013)
Navalny has also previously called for the forced repatriation of Georgians from Russia. Clearly this nationalist has a short memory, with the very existence of his nation today being the result of the Georgian son of a cobbler.
When in July 2013, an unfortunately not too uncommon occurrence happened in the small town of Pugachyov. According to Radio Free Europe
“Tensions were sparked when 20-year-old Ruslan Morzhanov — a half-Tatar, half-Russian recently demobilized paratrooper — was stabbed to death in a late-night altercation. Police have detained a 16-year-old ethnic Chechen who they say has confessed to the killing. According to many reports, both men were drunk at the time and were arguing about a woman.
After Morzhanov’s funeral on July 8, several hundred locals headed to a predominantly Chechen neighborhood and a street brawl ensued.” (Radio Free Europe, July 10, 2013)
The uncommon event of two drunk young men getting into a fight over a woman, with tragic consequences. The far-right seized on the incident, turning it into a race issue and taking violence to the streets. Unfortunately, this is where Navalny and co. step in. In response to the events Navalny signed this statement as 1 of 5 members of the ‘Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition’.
“Only when the scandal becomes the subject of significant coverage in the mass media do the local authorities begin to attempt to fund those who are responsible.
This scenario attests to the Federal government’s fundamentally flawed policy in the sphere of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations.
An attempt to compare to “extremism” a lawful protest of the native inhabitants against the demonstratively provocative behavior of emigrants from other regions, behavior which gravely contradicts local traditions and moral norms…
Until this problem is recognized honestly and publicly announced on the highest level the situation won’t change, and episodes like Kondapoga, Sagra, the unrest on Manezh square in Moscow, Demyanovo, and Pugachev will be repeated again and again.
The Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition demands a decisive and effective reaction from the police and the investigation of any destabilization in Russia that occurs on an inter-ethnic basis. Such events should always be the basis for a public investigation. And, most importantly, the authorities shouldn’t try to take revenge on those who suffered – and subject to repression protesters who often represent completely different nationalities united against unwarranted external aggression.”
The statement was saliently analysed by Mark Adomanis of Forbes who had this to say,
“This is pretty nasty stuff. Here we have Alexey Navalny, everyone’s favorite “liberal,” looking at a race riot and basically saying “yup, those guys have the right idea!” What happened in Pugachev wasn’t about any elevated concept, it was a crude and violent attempt at collective punishment of Chechens for the crime of being Chechen. It’s worth noting that the disturbance in Pugachev wasn’t caused by “external aggression” or someone whose behavior “gravely contradict local traditions,” as the KSO laughably tried to argue, but by a single 16 year old Chechen who engaged in the time-honored Russian tradition of getting massively drunk and starting a fight.
Navalny, of course, will remain popular in the West because of his ostentatious contempt and hatred for Vladimir Putin. It’s worth remembering though that his nationalism (which is usually glossed-over) is not in the slightest bit “liberal” but is actually remarkably regressive and reactionary. The KSO, like Navalny, isn’t expressing a coherent political philosophy so much as they are generalized disgust for the authorities. That is entirely their right, but we should be able to see such cynicism for what it is…
The state is mostly saying the right things about the treatment of minorities: the version of nationalism preached by Putin and the Kremlin is an inclusive Rossiski type not the ethnically determined Russki favored by nationalists. To greatly simplify a much more complicated story, anyone (be they ethnically Chechen, Tuvan, or Jewish) can be Rossiski while a Russky identity is necessarily limited to those whose parents were themselves ethnically Russian. The state will occasionally give a wink and a nod to the nationalists, but its policies have been, and remain, structured around an inclusive non-ethnic conception of what it means to be Russian (which is why nationalists increasingly disdain the Kremlin).” (Forbes, July 15, 2013)
Finally, recent history tells us that it is Russia who can act as a haven for those fleeing the persecution of the imperialists, not vice-versa. This is what the case of Snowden showed. To contrast the Snowden and Ashurkov cases we also see that Russia granted asylum to a man fleeing real persecution, as the sentencing of Manning to 35 years shows. Whereas Ashurkov has been granted asylum in the notoriously stringent Britain for being potentially placed under house arrest alone!
At the same time some of the most desperate victims of imperialism in general, and British imperialism in particular are either locked out of Britain, detained, or at best, living as an economic prisoner. We must continue to call for an end to the hypocrisy of “UK” asylum and immigration law. And so we reiterate our position, the position of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), that
“This party firmly believes that immigration is not the cause of the ills of the working class in Britain, which are solely the result of the failings of the capitalist system.
Immigration and asylum legislation and controls under capitalism have only one real goal: the division of the working class along racial lines, thus fatally weakening that class’s ability to organise itself and to wage a revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of imperialism.
These controls have the further effect of creating an army of ‘illegal’ immigrant workers, prey to superexploitation and living in dire conditions as an underclass, outside the system, afraid to organise and exercising a downward pull on the wages and conditions of all workers.
The scourge of racism, along with all other ills of capitalism, will only be finally abolished after the successful overthrow of imperialism. But since immigration can no more be abolished under capitalism than can wage slavery, our call should not be for the further control and scapegoating of immigrants, but the abolition of all border controls, as part of the wider fight to uproot racism from the working-class movement and build unity among workers in Britain, so strengthening the fight for communism.”