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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.

Political Bodies Without Organs

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There’s a new political contest emerging Volgograd.  No it’s not for votes, though it might give someone a slight edge in the next election.  After all, I’m sure it will garner sympathy from at least a few in the electorate.  The contest in question is which local politician is willing to donate the most organs.  Yes that’s right, organs.  Taking a cue from Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardair, who pledged last week to donate all his organs upon death, local pols from Just Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party, and Yabloko have also stepped forward to offer their vitals.  Reports Nezavisimaya gazeta:

“The Pakistani President’s decision can only be welcomed,” says Oleg Pakholov, the leader of Just Russia in the Volgograd provincial assembly, in an interview with Gorodskie vesti.  “If someone’s organs can save someone else, then why not give them?  I, for example, am ready to give my own.”

The humanitarian gesture of one of the leaders of Volgograd SRs is supported by Aleksandr Potapov, the local LDPR leader and regional assembly deputy.  “I’m uncertain whether my organs will be needed by anyone.  But if they save someone’s life, then I am prepared leave my body for organ transplants.”

Galina Boldyreva, the leader of the regional Yabloko office, accepted the initiative of the Pakistani President with open arms.  “Such things aren’t news in Europe or America,” Boldyreva said, after remembering that in the US the driver’s licenses of many citizens have a sticker that leaves their internal organs for necessary transplants. “Naturally, I welcome Asif Ali Zardair decision with open arms and I am prepared to follow his example,” says the leader of the Volgograd Yabloko.

Not all politicians are so giving.  None of United Russia’s members are following the latest “political fashion.”  “Honestly, I’ve never thought about donating my body for organ transplants,” says UR deputy Angar Politsimako.  When first asked, Politsimako simply rejected the idea of leaving his corpse to be rifled through by some doctor looking to save a life.  But then perhaps contemplating how bad it might look, tacitly corrected himself.  “It’s normal, but complicated” to donate one’s organs, he added.  Just what you’d expect from a chinovnik.  “I’d do it . . . but it’s, it’s complicated.” I can imagine that in Russia donating one’s organs does require a whole lot of spravki.

Well, I doubt any sensible constituent would want an United Russia organ anyway.  Plus I’ve seen those horror movies where an unsuspecting person gets an organ from a serial killer and then to his dismay starts hacking people himself.  Could you imagine what having a United Russia organ is like?  You’d probably have to bribe it just to work!  Or worse, it would use its “administrative resources” to steal all the blood from all the other organs.

In a way, Politsimako’s corporeal stinginess is a metaphor for Russian politics in general.  UR has already got the people’s vote.  And as the great Ice Cube once said, “I ‘ready got what I wanted.  Now beat it!” Indeed, why give up more than necessary when you already have what is really dear–power.  Just Russia, the LDRP, and Yabloko, on the other hand, are so desperate to curry support they are willing to give up their vitals.  See good people, the Russian opposition is willing to sacrifice for you.  Even if that sacrifice means giving up a piece of themselves.

I guess we should all be lucky they aren’t offering to donate their brains . . .