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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.

Loving Cold War II

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My article, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cold War II, is on Pajamas Media.  It will be interesting to see how the site’s mostly conservative readers respond to a combination of cultural analysis and satire.  Here is an opening taste:

The past two weeks have been a virtual Cold War flashback. Russia invades Georgia. The U.S. condemns Russia. Like during the Cold War, the local particularities of the whole affair matter little. All that really matters is the grand game between the “superpowers.” Like in decades past, they didn’t disappoint. Rhetorical potshots between Moscow and Washington zipped back and forth. All of the familiar signs, codes, and tropes were back.

Still, even though it looked like a Cold War and quacked like a Cold War, there was a constant denial of the Cold War. Secretary Rice emphasized that in no way did the increase in tensions with Russia signal a “new Cold War.” The Russians were also reluctant to embrace the “new Cold War.” When Dmitrii Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, announced that Russia would freeze cooperation with the alliance, he assured reporters that “there won’t be any aggressive action from anyone on our side. We will behave in a pragmatic manner. … There will definitely not be a Cold War.”

Not a Cold War? Everyone is making arguments that the U.S. and Russia are not in a “new Cold War.” Why engage in the old psychological trick of repressing what you really desire? Especially when the truth is so blatantly clear: officials in Washington and Russia truly desire a new Cold War. There is just something comforting in that predictable, bipolar world, where two grand adversaries face each other in a real-life game of Risk. It’s like two arch enemies at battle. Neither can ultimately defeat the other, yet they seem to complement each other perfectly. As the Joker endearingly told Batman in the Dark Knight, “Kill you? I don’t want to kill you. What would I do without you? … You … you complete me.

Read on . . .