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By Tony Iltis
August 27, 2008 -- Since the European Union-brokered ceasefire brought the shooting war between Georgia and Russia to an end on August 12, there has been a war of words between Russia and the West. One point of contention is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia-proper (that is, Georgia excluding the de facto independent territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia), in particular the towns of Gori, Zugdidi and Senaki and the port of Poti.
The war began with Georgia’s August 7 attack on the territory of South Ossetia. Russia responded with a military assault that first drove Georgian troops out of South Ossetia, then continued to advance within Georgia-proper.
Russia agreed to withdraw when it signed the ceasefire and has since indicated that it is doing so — but slowly, and not before systematically destroying Georgia’s military capacity.
A bigger difference, based on competing interpretations of what is and isn’t Georgian territory, is Russia’s stated intention to maintain a beefed-up peacekeeping presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
August 16, 2008, Radio New Internationalist
The new superpowers
Commentators claim that as a superpower, the US is in decline. Is this the case?
By Tony Iltis
August 16, 2008 -- On August 7, after a week of border clashes, Georgia's pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili launched a military attack against South Ossetia.
South Ossetia, while internationally recognised as part of Georgia, has been predominantly under the control of a pro-independence administration since Georgia separated from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Since a 1992 ceasefire, the South Ossetian statelet has been protected by Russian peacekeepers.
Within 24 hours, Georgian troops had taken the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, after destroying much of it with artillary. More than 30,000 refugees (out of a population of 70,000) fled across the border to the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, which is part of the Russian Federation.
Using this, and the killing of 20 Russian peacekeepers, as pretexts, Russia intervened in full force: bombing targets throughout Georgia, driving the Georgians out of South Ossetia (including territory not previously held by the South Ossetian administration) and crossing into Georgia-proper to take the town of Gori.
Bad habits are contagious
By Boris Kagarlitsky
August 14, 2008 -- Georgia has resolutely condemned Russia's actions in Chechnya. Russia has severely criticised NATO actions towards Serbia. Later on the Georgian authorities tried to do the same thing in South Ossetia as the Russian authorities had done in Chechnya. Moscow decided to treat Georgia in the same way as NATO had treated Serbia. Bad habits are contagious.
A report of the Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements, Moscow
By Vasily Koltashov
Translated by Renfrey Clarke, Links – International Journal of Socialist Renewal (http://links.org.au)
Moscow, June 9, 2008 -- In the early weeks of 2008 virtually all Russian and foreign experts viewed the situation in the world economy favourably. Warnings from a few analysts that a major economic crisis lay ahead were not taken especially seriously by optimistic-minded populations.
On January 22 the stock exchanges were shaken by the first slump, followed by a series of new collapses. The world’s share markets were destabilised. Inflation accelerated, with food prices beginning to rise sharply. A number of American and European banks announced colossal losses in their results for 2007. The scale of the economic problems in the US became evident. A new world crisis had begun. The emergence of its first symptoms provoked numerous questions concerning the nature of the crisis, the reasons behind it, and the logic shaping its probable development.
With Boris Kagarlitsky, Institute For Globalization and Social Movements, Moscow.
Since the collapse of the old Soviet Union in the 1990s and the end of the politically bankrupt regime of Boris Yeltsin in 2000, Vladimir Putin has consolidated power in Russia. He has ruled over an economy growing at about 7% per year, and, in Kagarlitsky's view, establishing Russia as an 'empire of the periphery'. The left and workers have faced enormous challenges in the new (and not so new) Russia in the face of massive economic restructuring and major political obstacles. This discussion will address how the left, workers and unions are attempting to re-group and respond to these challenges.
This resolution was adopted by the 18th Congress of the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia, held in Sydney, January 5-10, 1999.
I. Theoretical framework
1. For orthodox Marxists, as Lenin explained in his 1917 book The State and Revolution, the state is a centralised organisation of force separated from the community as a whole which enforces, through special bodies of armed people and other institutions of coercion, the will of one class, or an alliance of classes, upon the rest of society.
Not long before the European elections, in which the social democratic vote collapsed, two of the most authoritative social democratic leaders, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, published a letter in which they formulated the principles of the so-called "new centre" (neue Mitte). These principles could be summed up as arguing that the traditional ideas of social democracy (redistribution, a mixed economy and state regulation in the spirit of Keynes) needed to be replaced by new approaches in the spirit of neo-liberalism.
True, the authors of the letter took their distance from neo-liberalism itself, stating that they did not share its illusions that all problems could be solved through market methods. At the same time, they proposed to solve the problems of world trade by liberalising it further. Instead of solidarity, they called for increased competition, and instead of job creation, for preparing young people better for life under the conditions of a constantly changing market conjuncture.
By Boris Kagarlitsky
Boris Kagarlitsky is a contributing editor of Links. His books include Square Wheels: How Russian Democracy Got Derailed and The Mirage of Modernisation.
- The Western view: from optimism to pessimism
- Privatisation and corruption
- The norms of "political capitalism"
- Putin's 'dictatorship of the law'
The Western press discovered corruption in Russia in the late 1990s. At this time, the Western reader was deluged with reports describing not just the crimes of the "Russian mafia"—whose origins were invariably traced back to the old political police, the KGB—but also bribe-taking, embezzlement and illegal transfers of funds abroad by top-ranking bureaucrats. The high point of the criticism was a scandal, which the press termed "Russia-gate", concerning Russian accounts in the Bank of New York. The family and close associates of President Boris Yeltsin were linked to the illegal transfer of funds to the West. Later, former Kremlin chief of staff Pavel Borodin was even arrested in the US on charges brought against him in Switzerland during the heat of Russia-gate. The Russian prosecutor's office, however, was clearly reluctant to collaborate with its Swiss and US counterparts, and the affair began to dissipate.
By Boris Kagarlitsky
A decade after the official dissolution of the Soviet Union, the question of the Soviet heritage remains the topic of heated discussions in Russia and other post-Communist countries. Some people explain all the problems and disagreements as survivals from the Soviet past, and dream of a time when the collective memory will be wiped clean of the last traces of the Soviet experience. Others carefully cherish Soviet traditions, saving whatever can still be saved and preserving it. Among sections of radical youth there is a half myth, half fairy tale about life in the USSR, a version that mixes the truth with the idealised recollections of grandfathers and grandmothers who take their grandchildren to Communist demonstrations. As the grandchildren grow up, they do not become admirers of Stalin, but feel a robust loathing for the people who destroyed the country and impoverished its people. Even without the grandparents, they would have thought exactly the same, since their own experience of life proves to the younger generation, on a daily basis, that present-day Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are societies that are not so much creating the conditions for future development, as squandering and destroying the inheritance from Soviet times. The most important questions remain at a certain distance from all these disputes: What was it that made Soviet culture unique and attractive? What is its place in history, and what did it leave behind?
By Boris Kagarlitsky
Links contributing editor Boris Kagarlitsky is well known for his many books and articles on Soviet and post-Soviet society. Translated by Renfrey Clarke.
For many years, Russian leftists have talked of the need for a process of unification. The results, however, have been poor. The reasons for this have not lain in the disagreements and ambitions of leaders, or in the ideological positions of the various groups. The main problem has been the weakness and immaturity of the movement itself. Experience has shown that the weaker the left is, and the smaller its influence on society, the greater its inclination to sectarianism.
The events that unfolded from June 20 to 22, 2003, in the town of Golitsino near Moscow can be considered crucial not only because a conference on the future of the left finally initiated a unification process, but also because this meeting itself provided evidence of a level of maturity and seriousness in the movement that is quite new and unfamiliar for Russia.
By Boris Kagarlitsky
By Aleksandr Buzgalin
January 2005 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people who came from all over Ukraine to blockade the centre of Kiev have shaken not just this country but the entire world, which has watched the unfolding events with astonishment and alarm. These notes were prepared following a journey to Kiev, where together with comrades from various left organisations and currents in Kiev, our journal held a roundtable seminar on the topic, "Ukraine: Lessons for Russia". The writing was done in a single day, while my impressions were still fresh; I hope the resulting faults of style and structure will be forgiven. Before the seminar took place, I participated in extremely important meetings and discussions with dozens of activists in the tent city on Independence Square.1
by Aleksandr Buzgalin and Andrey Kolganov
Aleksandr Buzgalin and Andrei Kolganov are economists and political scientists at Moscow State University who are associated with the social and political journal Alternativy.
January 2005 was a profoundly significant month for Russia in many ways, but above all as the month when our people, after a sleep of many years, demonstrated their capacity for joint actions in defence of their common social interests. As many as 300,000 people in more than fifty regions of Russia came out onto the streets over a four-week period, beginning with the symbolic date of the anniversary of "Bloody Sunday". Why did this happen? What was the objective meaning of these events? What could the left have done, or not done, to assist these mainly spontaneous initiatives of the population? What lies ahead, and what can and should be the strategy and tactics for supporters of social renewal? What lessons should we draw from the first successes and failures?