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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.

Fragmenting Putinism

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This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “Surveying Putin 2.0“:

In his seminal essay on hegemony, State and Civil Society, the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci summed up the post-WWI revolutionary convulsions with the following:

“In Russia the state was everything and civil society was primordial and gelatinous: in the West there was a proper relation between the state and civil society, and when the state trembled the sturdy section of civil society was at once revealed. The state was only an outer ditch, behind which was a powerful system of fortress and earthworks.”

I was reminded of this passage as I tried to mentally sum up Putin’s first year of his third presidential term. The Russian state is once again suffering from tremors, the climax of which—Putin’s formal return to the presidency and the Bolotnaya “riots,”—will be a year ago next week. And though it’s a stretch to apply Gramsci’s analysis of the Russia of 1917 to the Russia of 2012-13, how Putin has dealt with this newly diagnosed epilepsy suggests the calculation of hegemony has moved demonstratively toward force. At the moment, the Russian state may not be “everything” or its civil society “primordial and gelatinous,” but they are both increasingly farther away from what Gramsci calls a “proper relation.” This turn to force—and to be clear, by force I mean Putin’s reliance on coercive measures rather than soft, inclusive power—is making the ground under Russia’s body politic fragment.