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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.

Happy Birthday Rose Revolution! Here’s $250 million

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President Bush sent a gushing statement to Georgia on the fifth anniversary of the “Rose Revolution.”  Bush said in White House press release,

One of the most inspiring chapters in the history of freedom was written by the Georgian people during the Rose Revolution. Thirsting for liberty and armed only with roses in hand, citizens throughout Georgia peacefully staked claim to their God-given right of liberty. These demonstrations proved once again, that when given a choice, people choose to live in freedom.

On this anniversary, Americans honor the brave Georgian citizens who defended freedom, and we renew our commitment to supporting Georgia’s democracy, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We also look forward to the day when the light of liberty shines on all people throughout the world.

Blech. Under normal circumstances, one could, in fact, one should ignore Bush’s blathering.  His days are numbered, he’s the lamest of all lame ducks, and frankly even he’s looking like January 20 can’t come fast enough.  But these aren’t normal circumstances.  Especially since along with an anniversary greeting came $250 million, the first installment of the $1 billion the US promised to send Georgia as compensation for Saakashvilli’s little war.

The money is to prop up Georgia’s budget as follows:

The USD 250 million grant will fund Georgia’s budget expenditures to cover state pensions, state compensation and state academic stipends – USD 163.3 million; health care costs for people living below the poverty line – USD 26.1 million; allowances to individuals displaced by the conflict in Abkhazia USD 6.1 million; financial support to schools through a voucher system on a per-student basis USD 24.2 million; USD 30.3 million will be allocated for compensation and salaries for government employees of all ministries excluding the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, according to the U.S. embassy.

I love how the Bush Administration snuck school vouchers into the aid.  They’ve been trying to shove this code phrase for privatizing public schools down Americans’ throats to no avail.  One sure way to force a privatization experiment ship it to a foreign country all nice and wrapped up with aid money.

Now granted, in the big scheme of things, $250 million is chump change to the US coffers. It pisses away $1 billion in Iraq in three days.  But considering the recent uproar over holding US automakers responsible for putting themselves on the brink of bankruptcy, shouldn’t there at least be some commotion over sending money to bail out a country that got itself in a mess? Guess not.  Apparently claiming your “God-given right of liberty” comes with a few perks and a lot more dollars.