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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.

There Is No Other Way

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Minimalnaya-zarplata-600x400

Oleg Shein posted the following on his Facebook page:

Today, the State Duma adopted a law raising the minimum wage from 6200 to 7500 rubles. This is definitely a good move. In fact, it’s not so small for workers who earn pennies. In 2011, 2.3 million people earned less than a subsistence wage in the formal sector of the economy alone.

But there’s cause to compare this with other countries. 7500 rubles equals $116 at the current exchange rate. At a standard 40 hour work week totaling a 167 hour working month, this comes to 70 cents an hour. The Russian Federal State Statistics Bureau traditionally considers the ruble undervalued by about 40%, as is easily found on its website. If we assume that the ruble is not undervalued by 40%, but by 70%, then the hourly rate minimum wage would be $2.

Compare this with the minimum wage purchasing power parity of other countries. Honduras $2, Laos $2.10, Iraq $ 2.40, Thailand $2.86, Paraguay $3.57, and Turkey $5.89.

Who would have thought that 25 years ago Soviet citizens compared the incomes in the USSR with Norway and Sweden? And the reason is simple: to receive a decent wage under capitalism, you have to fight for it, form trade unions, go to protests, and go on strike. There is no other way.