Recent Posts

Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

Katrina’s Death Blow

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Events have called for a pause in speaking about Russia. It is impossible for me to take in the force of the news. Reports from CNN and other news outlets give a gruesome picture. Democracy Now! has done some excellent reporting. I encourage readers to tune into to their episodes over the past few days. All of the tensions that under “normal” circumstances lie below the surface of New Orleans has exploded to the surface, fueled by desperation, frustration, and anger. All I feel here in Moscow is sorrow, bewilderment, frustration, anger, and embarrassment of the inadequate response by the Unites States Government. So many people are suffering, and it seems all people can do is moralize about looting. Are we so naive to think this wouldn’t happen!? There isn’t much more for me to say that hasn’t or is being said by many media outlets around the country.

Take for example, an editorial by the New Hampshire Union, one of the most conservative newspapers in the country, wrote a blistering editorial against the Bush Administration’s response, or lack thereof. The editorial reads in part:

“As the extent of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation became clearer on Tuesday — millions without power, tens of thousands homeless, a death toll unknowable because rescue crews can’t reach some regions — President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before.

Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage.”

A desperate and empassionate editorial from the Biloxi, Mississippi’s Sun Herald asks:

“Yet where is the National Guard, why hasn’t every able-bodied member of the armed forces in South Mississippi been pressed into service? On Wednesday reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics. Playing basketball and performing calisthenics! When asked why these young men were not being used to help in the recovery effort, our reporters were told that it would be pointless to send military personnel down to the beach to pick up debris.”

Many are noting how the response by the National Guard has been hampered by the Iraq War. 40% of Mississippi’s National Guard and 35% of Louisiana’s are in Iraq. I can’t imagine the frustration of these soldiers having to watch and not help their families and neighbors.

And finally, as the fears and warnings that it was not if a hurricane like Katrina would strike New Orleans and Gulf Coast, but when, come to fruition, NOW there is recognition that all the reporting New Orleans’ The Times-Picayune about Crescent City’s inadequate infrastructure. As usual too little to late.

I know the traffic on this site isn’t heavy, but being on the other side of the planet I feel obligated to at least list organizations where people can donate money, goods, etc.

American Red Cross
Operation USA
Salvation Army