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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.

Kagarlitsky: “Such is the logic of capitalism.”

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Boris Kagarlistky’s new article “Labor Movement and Civil Society” is a must read. I especially liked these two excerpts:

The significant outcome of the events at the “Ford” plant lies in the fact that the labor movement has attracted public attention. They started to talk and write about it, they started to look at it – some with hope, others with apprehension. In essence the labor movement proved to be so far the first and the only real manifestation of the civil society in modern Russia. Not of the artificial one, established for Western grants or sitting in a fake Public Chamber, but of a real grassroots movement.

The owners of enterprises respond to the demands of employees with natural irritation. Though there are differences. Western managers used to negotiate with strikers. Managers and owners, representing Russian capital behave in a quite different way. During the strike at the Murmansk sea port the internal security “dealt” with the employees. But when the strike was called in the port of Novorossiysk, which is larger and more important for the economy, the local Main Department of Internal Affairs was involved at the instance of the administration to suppress the troublemakers. According to Alexander Schepel, leader of the Russian Labor Confederation, the more influential the owner of the enterprise is, the more aggressive is the interference of authorities. Some involve security service, others call for special police squad, and others involve Prosecutor General’s Office to deal with trade unions.

Were is the Western media’s outcry about this? I doubt you’d find many Wall Street Journal editors among these guys.

I also thought that this was an interesting observation:

“Social peace” which reigned in Russia during the most part of 2000s naturally ends with the new surge of the class struggle. It is a paradox that one thing has predetermined another one. The same economic growth which primarily made the blue collars calm and obedient, has all in all provoked new demands of the lower strata. Such is the logic of capitalism.

In other matters, poor Zyuganov can’t get any workers to come hear him speak. In Ivanovo, a heavy machinery worker told the Moscow Times, “Zyuganov is from last century.” Yeah, take a clue from Castro, you fossil.

I can only imagine this scene:

“Now I am ready to answer your questions,” Zyuganov said.

The first to step forward, production department head Sergei Vlasov smiled as he asked how the Communist Party, if it ever came back to power, would avoid making the same mistakes as in the Soviet era.

“Our party has reviewed its policies three times,” Zyuganov replied. “We have condemned those mistakes.”

Vlasov later said he had been unimpressed by Zyuganov’s words. “I haven’t received an answer to my question,” he said, adding that he was not sure he trusted the candidate enough to vote for him on March 2.

What’s more, Vlasov said, it didn’t really matter, as First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was a shoo-in to win the vote.

“There are no alternatives,” he said.

Then Vlasov hit him with this:

Vlasov criticized Zyuganov’s lack of effort in opposition, accusing him of just “sitting behind a desk” instead of working. Zyuganov replied that the party was working, but Vlasov remained unconvinced.

“The television shows you just sitting at a desk,” he said.

Ouch. I wish I heard something like this in the American campaign.

The the plant director hit him with this one:

Mokrov, the plant’s general director, labeled Zyuganov a “coward” prior to his arrival.

“He practically won in 1996,” Mokrov said, referring to Zyuganov’s near victory over the incumbent Boris Yeltsin in the second round of presidential voting. “Why didn’t he go for the victory?”

Zyuganov has been criticized from some corners for not calling his supporters out onto the streets in response to the questionable tactics that allowed Yeltsin to pull ahead. Many supporters believe his reaction should have been more like that of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine in 2004 and 2005.

I don’t know. For fear of civil war, maybe?