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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.

Gunpowder Economics

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Feeling the pains of economic crisis? Can’t find a suitable place for expanding market share?  Don’t fret.  There is one sure fire way to keep those exports up.  Sell more weapons.  President Medvedev seems to agree, according to comments he made on Tuesday.  Russia sold 10 percent more weapons in 2008–a record $8.35 billion worth.  The Russian President hopes that 2009 will be another bumper year despite the economic crisis. “We must treat markets more attentively, look in different directions, diversify our supplies, reach markets where we haven’t been present.”  Or to quote Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross, “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.” That means closing those sales to returning customers like China and India and increasing market share in Venezuela, Algeria, and Iran. It is this kind of success that makes Russia’s second to the US in the death market.

Second? Indeed, both AP and the NY Times point to Russia’s silver metal to the US’s gold.  AP even goes so far to say that Russia is in “a close second” to the US, though how close isn’t mentioned.  Actually, the Russia’s and the US’s arms market share isn’t close at all. The United States sold $36.4 billion in arms last year, a whopping 45% higher than 2007 and four times more than Russia.  Sales are expected to top $40 billion in 2009. Take that you Russians!  A-B-C! Such salesmanship has already catapulted the US over Russia’s 2008 record.  The United States has already filled orders for $11.8 billion since October when the fiscal year began.

Money flows from the barrel of a gun bypassing the mouths of the destitute. Or as President Ike Eisenhower said in 1953, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.  This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.”