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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.

Georgia’s World Bankroll

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The BBC aren’t the only ones still sorting out South Ossetia.  Mark Ames dismantles the NY Times coverage in “The Cold War that Wasn’t“.  Like most American media, the Times was fully on board with the Russia = bad, Georgia = good crusade.  That is until facts made it too difficult to blindly sustain that line.  Even then, the Times made no overt self-criticism, and instead opted for articles showing that maybe Georgia wasn’t the glowing democracy that we all were made to believe it was.  A good correction, though horribly academic when it was published two months after the conflict was over.  Taking this as a cue, Ames rhetorically asks, then answers:

It’s interesting that the Times published this exactly two months after Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia–a military decision so off-the-scale idiotic that to call it a “gamble” is an insult to struggling addicts like Bill Bennett.

The real question, then, is why the Times waited until this late to question its own position–why wait until the war was long off the front pages, to publish an article about what everyone with an ounce of journalistic curiosity already knew–that Saakashvili was about as much a democrat as he was a military genius?

The push in the West by outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post to get a new cold war on hinged on two major fallacies: (1) that Russia invaded Georgia first, totally unprovoked, because Georgia is a “democracy”; and (2), that Georgia is a “democracy.”

Justin Raimondo over at tackles the Georgia issue by focusing on the fact that Saakashvili’s little war got him a big payout in return, proving the profitability of being recognized as a Western-style democracy.  The World Bank donors’ conference in Belgium has $4.5 billion in Western money coming to the rescue to rebuild the Caucasian nation’s “infrastructure.” That’s about a billion more than the World Bank’s initial target. Though not intended for the Georgian military, one only assume that much of those funds will find its way weapons purchases.  In more honest times, the US and its European allies would have just given weapons to Georgia.  However, in these politically correct, “humanitarian” times, militarism must be shrouded in the facade of aid.  And the fact that none of this money will go to the real victims, the South Ossetians, is a no brainer.  As Raimondo concludes, the donor’s money will most likely slither its way

through Saakashvili and his cronies, who would rather leave the shattered infrastructure of bombed-out Tskhinvali as it is today, a stark reminder of what may very well reoccur should the Ossetians persist in going their own way. If anyone rebuilds, it will have to be the Russians. The private sector aid will be used to buy up Georgian assets on behalf of Western corporate interests. The difference between the World Bank figure and the number announced in Brussels – nearly half a billion – will cover bribes, covert action operations carried out by Western intelligence agencies, and other incidentals.When challenged, proponents of foreign aid programs invariably reply: yes, but look at the minuscule numbers! Why, foreign aid is less than one percent of the total overseas budget, including, one supposes, military expenditures – but so what? The point is that these programs do real harm, in most cases achieving the exact opposite of their intended purpose. And in this particular case, the entire package is premised on a lie, and a freshly debunked one at that. What’s really going on here is that the West is rewarding Saakashvili for his recklessness, and inciting him to commit fresh assaults. This course guarantees war.