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Boris Kagarlitsky

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Boris Kagarlitsky on Ukraine: ‘A quadrille of monsters’ and ‘Smashing the feed trough’

Protesters occupy Independence Square, December 2013.

March 2, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- These two commentaries were written in January and February 2014 – before the fall of the Viktor Yanukovich regime and subsequent events -- and have only just been translated into English. They are published at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal as they offer insights into the thinking of an important part of the revolutionary left in Russia.

For more on Ukraine, click HERE.

A quadrille of monsters

Russia: Moscow workers confront bosses over Metro safety

By activists of the Zashchita union, Moscow, translated by Renfrey Clarke

July 21, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The Metrovagonmash factory has begun producing large numbers of railway wagons with defective braking systems. In June, after three serious incidents on the Moscow Metro, the factory was fined 6 million rubles. The trade union Zashchita (“Defence”) has brought a suit in the prosecutor’s office, anticipates the laying of criminal charges against the factory directors, and is beginning a protest campaign.

The factory management and the workshop chiefs are forcing workers to fit defective components despite breaches of technical standards and serious faults in the parts involved. Plant employees are concerned for the reputation of its products and for the safety of Metro passengers. But workers who refuse to install the parts, demanding that quality standards for the factory’s products be adhered to and normal working conditions observed, are being subjected to reprisals and threatened with the sack by Metrovagonmash chiefs.

El estado de la izquierda y los movimientos sociales en Rusia

[English at http://links.org.au/node/3280.]

Por Boris Kagarlitsky

21/04/2013 -- Sinpermiso -- En Rusia, las dos primeras semanas de enero suelen ser una época en la que nada ocurre. Los integrantes de los estratos más adinerados, los burócratas, los políticos y la burguesía abandonan el país con el fin de pasar sus vacaciones en el extranjero, distribuyéndose por los diversos lugares vacacionales según sus medios, gustos y vanidad. Sus destinos abarcan desde hoteles relativamente baratos en Egipto hasta estaciones de esquí en Francia, Austria o Suiza.

Aquellos que no pueden permitirse tales lujos simplemente beben y liberan su estrés ante el televisor, en sus dachas en el campo o en la sauna.

Russia: An oligarch’s mistake, an oligarch’s fate

Boris Abramovich Berezovsky diedin London on March 23, 2013.

By Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Renfrey Clarke

March 31, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- After everyone had finished their coffee, and reached demonstratively for their brief cases, he overrode the feeble impulses of his companions and placed a 50 pound banknote on the table. The change arrived in the form of a mountain of coins – what a disgrace that in Britain 1 pound notes have been taken out of circulation, forcing people to weigh their pockets down with metal! There were a lot of coins, of all denominations. But he sorted them out in a few moments, counted out a 15 per cent tip, raked the rest into his pocket, said his goodbyes and vanished.

“Mathematician”, I thought.

Boris Kagarlitsky on the current state of the left and social movements in Russia

Anti-Putin protest in Moscow.

[For more by Boris Kagarlitsky, click HERE.]

By Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Renfrey Clarke

March 30, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In Russia, the first two weeks of January are a time when nothing happens. Members of the well-heeled layers, bureaucrats, politicians and the bourgeoisie, set off to spend their holidays abroad, distributing themselves around various locations on the basis of their means, tastes and vanity. Their destinations might range from comparatively cheap hotels in Egypt to ski resorts in France, Austria or Switzerland.

People who cannot afford such things simply drink, and shed their stress in front of the television, at their dachas in the countryside, or in the sauna.

Boris Kagarlitsky on the Russian left; Lull before the storm

January 10, 2012 -- Real News Network -- As the Russian protests rocked the plans of President Putin, who, as Boris Kargalitsky wrote, wanted the elections to legitimise decisions that had already been made, these protests, as he said, essentially were led by segments that were more or less neoliberal or nationalist, but not much by what I guess Boris would call the left. And why is that? So now joining us to talk about the state of the left in Russia is Boris Kagarlitsky. He's a sociologist. He was a deputy to the Moscow city soviet between 1990 and '93. And he's currently the director of the Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements in Moscow. 

Boris Kagarlitsky: A very peaceful Russian revolt

Tens of thousands protest in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow, December 10, 2011. Photo by Andrey Kolganov.

By Boris Kagarlitsky

December 21, 2011 -– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The calls by the “moderate left” for passively following behind the liberals are supposedly based on the need to “work among the people”, to go where the masses are. But how, and with whom, are the forces of the left to set out after these ardently pursued masses? With badly printed leaflets full of abstract slogans?

Boris Kagarlitsky: Reflections on the Arab revolutions

By Boris Kagarlitsky, translated from Russian by Renfrey Clarke

November 28, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “Turning-points in the history of humanity,” a contributor to the left-wing Algerian newspaper Le Matin observed in the summer of 2001, “are never simple for contemporaries to understand. Rarely are people able fully to assess the significance of these episodes, or their consequences. The developments concerned do not proceed in the manner, or at the time and place, that people expect. The early years of the twenty-first century have seen this rule reaffirmed. During this time, new and increasingly powerful trends have been mingled with the heritage of the past, dragging us back. History, however, operates through these new forces, which gradually but inevitably will succeed in overcoming the inertia of the past.” (1)

Boris Kagarlitsky: Políticas económicas después de la muerte del neoliberalismo

Boris Kagarlitsky.

[In English at http://www.links.org.au/node/2593.]

Por Boris Kagarlitsky, traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

El sistema económico internacional que se perfiló después del colapso de la Unión Soviética todavía no está muerto, pero está moribundo. Lo vemos todos los días, no solo en informes sobre la crisis sino también en otras noticias de todo el mundo que cuentan la misma historia: el sistema no funciona.

La verdad es que el sistema nunca ha funcionado para los pobres y las clases trabajadoras. No se diseñó con ese propósito, no importa lo que nos digan todo el tiempo sus propagandistas y diversos intelectuales corruptos. El sistema funcionó para las elites: generó una tremenda redistribución de la riqueza y del poder a favor de los que ya eran ricos y poderosos. Aunque las elites no tienen suficiente coraje para admitirlo, hay que transformar el sistema.

Boris Kagarlitsky: Economic policies after the death of neoliberalism

Boris Kagarlitsky.

By Boris Kagarlitsky

November 2, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The international economic system that took shape after the collapse of the Soviet Union is not dead yet, but it is dying. We see that daily, not only in reports on the crisis but also in other news from around the world that tells the same story: the system isn’t working.

The truth is that the system has never worked for the poor and for the toiling classes. It wasn’t designed for that purpose, no matter what its propagandists and various corrupt intellectuals keep telling us. The system did work for the elites; it generated a tremendous redistribution of wealth and power in favour of those already rich and powerful, in favour of the bourgeoisie. But now it no longer delivers even for them. Though the elites aren’t brave enough to admit it, the system has to be transformed.

This is a real systemic crisis, if not for capitalism, then at least for its neoliberal form. And this crisis can’t be overcome until neoliberalism is eliminated. Whether this will also be the end of capitalism will depend on the scale of global struggles and their outcomes.

The Lessons of Prague

By Boris Kagarlitsky

The events of September 2000 in Prague marked a turning point. When the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund planned their annual meeting for the Czech Republic, they hoped for a peaceful gathering in the only eastern European country where hatred of neo-liberalism has not yet become a mass phenomenon. The outcome was that the international bankers were obliged to flee from a city whose streets had become the scene of battles between police and thousands of demonstrators from all parts of Europe. The bankers did not even manage to hold a concluding press conference.

By no means all the participants in the movement against capitalist globalisation, however, interpreted what had happened as a victory. Many were shocked by the violence on the streets, and still more were dismayed by the united attack mounted on the movement by the media.

It is thus essential to draw up a balance sheet of the events and to form conclusions. After Prague, the movement is clearly shifting into a new phase. It is not simply that disagreements have begun appearing among the protesters. The international financial organisations are not standing still either. For them, Prague was a severe defeat, in a certain sense even more serious than the "uprising in Seattle". For this very reason, the "executive committee of the ruling class" will inevitably draw conclusions from what has happened, and will adjust its course.

Facing the crisis

By Boris Kagarlitsky

The first years of the twenty-first century are not bearing out the hopes of the global elites. As is often the case, the pompous ceremonies have been followed by major setbacks. A warning that should have been heeded was the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the consequences of which were overcome only at vast cost. Ideologues and journalists, however, reassured the world with references to the peculiarities of the “new economy” that had triumphed in the late twentieth century in the US and Western Europe. According to this theory, we have entered a new phase of history in which the main factor of development is becoming a talent for innovation which in theory is organically present in Western culture. The Asian countries, oriented toward industrial production, are held to be simply incapable of entering this beautiful new world.

'Political capitalism' and corruption in Russia

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 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.

What remains of Soviet culture?

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?

The Golitsino consensus

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.

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