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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.

Misha 2% Speaks to the LA Times

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Mikhail Kasyanov, or Misha 2% as he’s known in Russia, was interviewed in today’s LA Times.  Kasyanov proves why that 2% moniker continues to stick.  Like much of Russia’s self-described opposition, he has nothing to say that concerns Russians’ daily lives.  Instead, he counterposes Russia with the “civilized world;” suggests Russia is a “totalitarian state,” and perhaps more insulting thinks that the Russian population are simply duped by propaganda.  Here is one example,

How does Russia view the development of friendly relations between the United States and former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia?

The propaganda streaming today from television screens and newspaper pages is, in a simplified way, calling on the nation to rally together and to protect the motherland. Hinting that war is on the threshold, that the enemies are knocking on our gates and that Russia is surrounded by enemies who want to break Russia into pieces. The current authorities want the citizens to say, “Oh, thank God, anything but war.” They want to cover the problems they’ve created in the last few years . . . by alleging that evil forces surround Russia and dream of its destruction.

Luckily, Russia has Misha to speak the truth to the narod.  In fact, it is his mission in life.  A brave lone wolf in a forest of ignorance. “I consider it my job,” he declares, “to let people know what’s going on, because every day the number of people who can speak the truth and who are not afraid of doing so decreases.”  Misha the Brave.

What strikes me is Misha’s political naivete toward the “people.”  I almost reminds me of logic of Russian populists from the 19th century.  Kasyanov says, “I claim that the current Russian authorities don’t enjoy the support of a majority of Russian citizens. As soon as conditions for daily propaganda disappear, Russian citizens will understand the essence of the current regime.”  He may claim this all he wants, but he’s wrong.  I think a more revolutionary position would be to freely admit that the authorities do have popular support and then ask yourself the hard question as to why.  Citing propaganda and alleging Russia is a closed system is a cop out that only serves to embolden oppositionists’ own egotisical self-proclaimed victimhood. Alternatively, answers to the hard questions of where genuine popular support comes from could serve as a beginning for real politics.  Sadly, many in Russia’s opposition rather be oppositionists in the abstract that speak “the truth” rather than doing the hard organizing to make that truth a reality.

After reading this interview, Misha should be happy with 2%.