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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.

On Mikhail Fishman’s Coke Scandal

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I’ve been going back and forth about commenting on the whole Ilya Yashin-Oleg Oreshkin-Mikhail Fishman bribing cops scandal.  Part of me finds it utterly hilarious that someone in Russia (i.e. Nashi) has nothing better to do with themselves or worse is so afraid of the “opposition” it has to concoct some shoddy video kompromat to tarnish said opposition’s “good” name.  Also, catching them bribing cops is hardly scandalous.  If they offered the cops bribes and the cops refused now that would be scandalous!  Anyway, isn’t the more important issue not Yashin, Oreshkin, and Fishman giving bribes, but the cops taking them?

Yet, somehow someone (Nashi) thinks they have to target Russia’s wilting opposition.  Before we go on, let’s get something straight.  Oppositionists are not being targeted because of the “rising” protests in Russia.  Or because Putin & Co. are “scared.”  My guess is that the origins of this video reside among some Nashist/Molodaya gvardiia political pranksters (note that the video first appeared on Molodaya gvadiia’s website.) who need to justify their own existence.  Plus let us not forget that Nashi in particular has a long track record of concocting such pranks/scandals.  Rousing liberals and whatnot are pretty much their sole reason to exist at this point.

As far as I’m concerned the opposition doesn’t need Nashi to bash it.  It does a pretty damn good job of this itself with its “sky is falling,” protest-mania, and Putin as Great Satan politics.  As A Good Treaty noted, people like Yashin have a tendency to hang themselves if you give them enough rope.  If the opposition’s lust for the spotlight isn’t enough for them to induce self-conflagration, then their own political analysis is enough to summon the men in white coats.  If you need to be further convinced of this, just read Yulia Latynina’s latest ramblings or A Good Treaty’s report on her recent talk in Washington.  As Woody Woodpecker was fond of singing, “Everybody thinks I’m crazy!  Hey that’s me, that’s me, that’s me . . .”

But I digress . . . I won’t do over the ins and outs of the current scandal.  I will just refer you Michael Idov’s and Good Treaty’s breakdown.  If you need to see the videos in question, then here they are:

Of the two, the one that allegedly shows Mikhail Fishman allegedly snorting coke and then allegedly having sex with some mosaic-faced dev is the one that is making the most waves.  And why not? Coke and hookers are good scandals.  Frankly, I don’t give a shit who Fishman dips his dick into or what he puts up his nose.  I’ve met the guy and found him intelligent. I love Russian Newsweek and wish that the American Newsweek could be as interesting.  Plus as Idov notes, Fishman has no political aspirations.  He’s a pretty stand up journalist.  Also, catching him with coke and girls, as we all know, are two qualities that only add to your investigative acumen, not take it away.  If Ames and Tiabbi are any examples, Russian journalists would do well to snort more coke and screw more models-posing-as-hookers!  I can’t help see the irony in the fact that the so-called scandalous video hellbent on destroying Fishman has instead instantly transformed him into the most notorious Russian journos on the internet. I wouldn’t doubt that in a few weeks he will become the guiding light of the Russian media among Western commentators.

It all, therefore, makes me wonder if Fishman’s sudden stardom is what compelled Ilya Yashin to post his own almost threesome tell-all with “dildos, whips, handcuffs, and ball gags.”  The only problem is that Yashin, perhaps too paranoid or just paranoid enough, passed on the threesome when the devs added a bag of snow to their S&M party.  If there ever was a time to flick that angel screaming “Set-up! Set-up!” off your shoulder, it was right then and there.

Thankfully, I doubt we’ll be seeing Fishman’s rendition of Tiger Woods.  If anything, the video tape only proves that he’s doing something right–both in bed and in journalism.  According to a statement on his LJ blog, Fishman says that the “provocation” was an attempt to get him to change the investigative line of Russian Newsweek and send a signal to all journalists: “Keep quiet.”

Unsurprisingly, Fishman isn’t backing down or giving into threats.  He vows that the magazine will go on as usual.  We shouldn’t be surprised.  Clearly a man who isn’t afraid of dildos, ball-gags, handcuffs, and whips isn’t so easily intimidated.