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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.

Other Russia Marches (Yawn) Again.

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I see that Kasparov held another rally in Moscow. Nothing extraordinary seemed to have happened. Kasparov addressed the crowd with his usual “we need a different Russia” message. The crowd of 2000 chanted their usual slogans–“Russia without Putin!” Yawn.

It also seems that the Russian police have learned something. According to the report in the LA Times, “Monday’s atmosphere was less tense as the demonstration got under way, with the square surrounded by troops without helmets or visible batons, instead of helmeted riot police.” And the dwindling attendance also seems to be taking a toll. Kasparov addressed it directly saying, “It is not important how many people decided to come today. We are concerned about our future, about the future of Russia.” Sorry Garry but given the nature of your “movement” numbers kinda are important. Since you aren’t part of the electoral process, the only way to measure your appeal is by how many people bother to attend your rallies.

It appears that the most exciting part of the day came not from the protesters, but from protesters of the protest. Reports the LA Times:

A white truck repeatedly drove by the square blaring maniacal laughter that sometimes drowned out those addressing the crowd. At one point, people on a nearby rooftop unfurled a banner labeling the demonstrators “paid prostitutes” — echoing authorities’ claims that opponents pay people to protest and that Kremlin critics have support from the West.

I smell Nashi. I imagine the white truck looking like an ice cream truck with a giant clown head on it. Something like the ice cream truck in Nice Dreams.

One things for sure. No worry about the speakers not being heard. Whatever the “maniacal laughter” downed out, I’m sure repeat attendees to Other Russia’s rallies had heard it all before anyway.

Since it is clear that Other Russia’s rallies increasingly lack purpose, I can’t help wonder how the LA Times can justify this opening paragraph:

Chess champion Garry Kasparov and allies in Russia’s most vocal opposition movement held their latest showdown today with President Vladimir Putin’s government, keeping up their frequent protests with a demonstration in central Moscow.

I boldfaced the hyperbole in question. Two questions. Does Other Russia really represent a movement? My leftist American friends talk about the “movement” too but I see hide nor hair of it. Let alone it moving anywhere except for maybe further irrelevancy. Yes, Other Russia is vocal, but there seems to be a much larger opposition in the form of the KPRF.

I’m struck by the use of phrase “latest showdown.” Isn’t calling yet another Other Russia rally the “latest showdown” imply that they actually matter in some real political sense? I don’t know, but it seems to me that the LA Times description has more to do with its own fantasies that Russian political realities.