Garry Kasparov – the Lenin of the Twitter age?
History repeats itself. It brings in new people, new technology, and new surroundings, but it boils down to pretty much the same thing. One of the mainstays of history is revolution. According to Leon Trotsky, “war is the locomotive of history” and war isn’t always separable from revolution.
There’s a reason I chose a quote from Trotsky in that last paragraph, as he was a key figure in one of the most significant revolutions of the 20th century, the October revolution of 1917 in Russia. Without wanting to turn this post into a history lesson, I’ll give you a bit of background. 1917 was a year of turmoil in Russia, with a revolution in February resulting in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Romanov tsar (the Romanovs had ruled autocratically since 1613). Following that, the Provisional Government was set up. That was weak and unpopular and was in turn overthrown via the October revolution driven by Lenin. For an auditory representation of the happenings of 1917, I’d recommend listening to Shostakovich’s 1917, it’s really rather good, and I’m not a fan of classical music.
It was Lenin’s strong political views (Marxism) and oratory skills that persuaded enough Russian citizens to join his cause and seize power in Petrograd. There are people now that also have strong political views, and one such man is chess grandmaster, Garry Kasparov. Now, I’m not saying that Garry Kasparov is exactly like Lenin, that’d be far too bold for me, but I do think some interesting parallels can be drawn between them.
Lenin had to drum up support in and around Petrograd, giving speeches to those who would gather to listen and, through his April Theses, he yielded enough persuasive power to take power from the weak and unpopular Provisional Government. Kasparov is not pioneering a revolution against Vladimir Putin’s regime, but he is a strong and powerful voice speaking up against what he calls Putin’s “Police state”. The obvious comparison would be with Josef Stalin for the police state, and opposition under him was non-existent. But then again, Stalin was described as a ‘Red Tsar’, with his regime almost identical to that of the Romanov Tsars, whose policies were essentially continued by the Provisional Government, against whom Lenin rebelled.
Although both Lenin and Kasparov spoke without hesitation against their contemporary Russian Governments, they did it in very different ways, methods according to their times. Lenin’s was direct, speeches in public up to 7 months before power changed hands. He had a different aim from Kasparov, that’s clear, but would Twitter have been a channel used by Lenin? It’s a major weapon for Kasparov. He provides startlingly frank political commentary on Putin’s policies, condemning the likes of Edward Snowden for “praising a KGB dictatorship”, stressing the extent of Putin’s dictatorial nature, and questioning the moves made by Obama in the age-old troublesome US/Russia relationship.
Through Twitter, Kasparov reaches a worldwide audience. Proof of that is evident in this very blog post, as I don’t live in Russia. Obviously that means that theoretically, Kasparov could have the support of anyone around the globe were he to call for direct action, but I imagine even with the scope provided by the world wide web, there wouldn’t be the commitment or even the support that Lenin had from the residents of Petrograd.
The last major difference I wish to look at is the government that each was/is fighting against; Lenin was faced with an unrepresentative, unelected, temporary body with no secret police force and a world war to deal with, whereas Kasparov objects to a police state-based dictatorship that shows no sign of subsiding, regardless of Kasparov’s argument that dictatorships in this age, while domestically powerful, are internationally weak.
I don’t know how Putin’s Russia will progress; whether he’ll continue in the same vein, repressing the people of Russia and preventing progress, or whether we really will see a repeat of 1917 and a major turning point in world affairs. If the revolution does occur, I’m sure it’ll give future historians a lot to debate, Russia’s always been fruitful in that respect.