Tag Archives: demonstrations

A Big Deal

In case you haven’t heard yet, yesterday Russia experienced its largest protest action since 2012. Sanctioned and unsanctioned anti-government protests took place in over 80 different cities all over Russia. Over 700 people (including American Guardian reporter Alec Luhn) were detained in Moscow, where the march went ahead without official sanction.

Of course if you watch any news besides Russia’s major state-run networks, you probably already know about the protests.

protestlive.png

Moscow

Now I had planned to write an explainer about the significance of these protests, but as it turns out, Mark Galeotti handled that:

 

I have a few points I’d like to add to Mark’s, but before I do, check out that massive collection of Osprey military history books on the right. That’s an impressive collection. This is a measure of wealth among military history nerds. A friend in the States is hanging on to my Osprey collection (which is about the same size as what you see there) so that, as per tradition, they may be buried with me when I die so I’ll have something to read in the next life. For as it says in The Havamal, “Cattle die, kinsmen die, you yourself must die. But I know of one thing that never dies- the fame of a dead man’s Osprey book collection.”

Now getting to my own points about the protests, I think the first thing to keep in mind is that the Moscow march was unsanctioned and it happened anyway, drawing as many as 20,000 people. This makes it smaller than some of the recent sanctioned opposition marches, but huge by unsanctioned protest standards. I can’t stress this unsanctioned part enough. People tend to get carried off by police even during sanctioned meetings in Moscow. If a meeting is unsanctioned, it’s possible to get hauled off by police just for getting too close as you pass by. The implication is that if the meeting is unsanctioned and you go to it, they have every right to take you (they actually don’t, according to the Russian constitution). Yet in spite of this threat hanging over everyone’s head, about 20,000 Muscovites decided to roll the dice. This is very important. It shows that there is a growing number of Russians who refuse to submit so easily.

Another interesting point is how the Russian state media almost totally ignored the protests. While yesterday’s events were unfolding in the center of Moscow, several state news outlets were covering the exciting story of a cow in the US that led police on a wild chase after it had escaped. This is curious because you think it would have been a great time to deliver a call to arms to the alleged 96%, the die-hard pro-Putin majority who support the Glorious Leader out of sheer patriotism and who don’t want to see him toppled by a US-sponsored “Maidan.” But alas, they decided to cover almost anything but this, including a helicopter crash in Ukraine. Of course.

Lastly, I’m now in a position to better gauge Ukrainian reactions to the protest, and while some of my friend were at firs highly skeptical and critical of the protests before they took place, that attitude changed somewhat when they saw how many Russians came out in spite of the threats and arrests. Ukrainians are understandably upset because most Russian opposition figures, including Alexei Navalny, typically tip-toe around the question of the Crimea and the Russian occupation of the eastern Donbas. What I would remind them is that first of all, there’s often a big difference between Russia’s opposition leadership, which has many ideological problems beyond the Ukrainian question, and the rank-in-file. Anti-war messages and Ukrainian flags were more visible at the past two Nemtsov memorial marches. In fact, this year’s march apparently had a lot of Crimean Tatar flags, which is even more controversial as it directly highlights the Crimean issue.

Ukrainians have every right to feel betrayed by the Russian people, including opposition supporters, but there comes a time when you have to ask yourself whether you’re going to remain bitter towards everyone or start forging ties with those who are closest to your side. Let’s not forget that at Maidan, a number of political groups with horrible ideas were tolerated and even respected because the brutality and corruption of the Yanukovych regime deliberately forced disparate groups into one camp. If it is wrong to associate Maidan as a whole with those marginal groups (a mistake I was once guilty of), it is surely wrong to pretend that Russians willing to risk arrest and much worse for the sake of standing up to the regime are no different from a pro-Putin vatnik just because they haven’t yet accepted the reality about the Crimean annexation and occupation. These are the people who you can actually dialog with, but not if you just dismiss their protest offhand, the way you were all dismissed as neo-Nazi Banderites by the Russian media back in 2014.

One more important thing to keep in mind on this point is that while it is true that many anti-Putin Russians still hold imperialist views on the Crimea, you’re unlikely to find any who support the war and occupation in the Donbas. In fact, I’d say very few Russians in general actually support the war in the Donbas. While it is important to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity in total, it is the Donbas that is literally bleeding Ukraine at the moment. A new democratic regime in Moscow may be unlikely to hand over the Crimea without a struggle, but they’ll happily end the war in Ukraine to stop wasting state resources and lift the most hard-hitting sanctions. Also, if Putin feels threatened at home he will have to cease or at least greatly scale back his military adventures, and that includes in the Donbas.

So from the Ukrainian point of view, it’s important to realize that a seed has been planted and it needs to be nurtured. Just three years ago it seemed like all resistance in Russia was dead and buried. Now Putin and his cronies are waking up to reality- that the opposition they thought they’d all but stamped out is not only alive, but actually growing and spreading in places they never expected. Given the fact that non-political labor protests and strikes have been increasing throughout provincial Russia in the past few years, it’s only natural for them to eventually become politicized as more and more formerly regime-loyal people wake up and realize that the problem isn’t the “bad boyars” but the Putinist system itself.

It may go slowly or quickly, but one thing’s for sure- it’s only downhill from here for the Kremlin regime.

 

 

 

 

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The price of stupidity must be high

I’m probably going to get a bit of flak for this rant, but at least take into account the context. Today thousands of Russians attended a demonstration in Moscow to declare their absolute loyalty to the government that routinely steals from them, destroys any prospect for a healthy future, and generally treats them like children. Since its obvious that the action is largely financed by the state, it serves as yet another example of how that state, rather than actually fix problems and cultivate genuine patriotism, prefers instead to piss away money suppressing people’s complaints about said problems.  This, of course, is a recipe for disaster and it serves as another reminder that squirm and thrash as it might, Putin’s Russia is in for a spectacular collapse. It may not be this year, nor the next, but it’s coming.

In general I would say I regret this. However misguided I might have been as a young man, I loved Russia and did not want to see her destroyed and humiliated again. But when I look at something like this idiotic Million Moron March and see how readily people will come out and bend over for a few hundred rubles or because their bosses told them to, it just washes away any pity I might have for them. You see these state workers like teachers and medical personnel, who have already started experiencing cutbacks and layoffs, and they dutifully come out to support the same people who are ordering the cuts so as to preserve their own luxurious lifestyles.

Back when the Tea Party movement became popular in America, I used to say it was regrettable that these people would never get what they said they wanted, i.e. a massive gutting of all government services. A common feature of the Tea Party, and indeed American conservatives to this day, is that when it comes to government spending, they seemed to go by the following rubric:

1. Government spending that benefits me personally is necessary and good.

2. Government spending that does not clearly benefit me personally is wasteful and wrong.

This is why you’d see so many elderly Tea Partiers screaming about taxes and “socialism” while benefiting from things like Medicare, Social Security, and in some cases, government pensions. This is why people who receive farm subsidies or government contract jobs could come out and rail against “wasteful spending.” People who received a college education thanks to the US military had no problem screaming about “fiscal responsibility.”

The reason all these people can continue to support a party and policies which go against their best interests is because they will never actually get the “small government” they want. The old folks will still get their Medicare and other state benefits. The farmer keeps getting his subsidy, the military retiree keeps getting his pension from Uncle Sam, the contractor keeps getting those juicy government contracts. This is because capitalist libertarianism is essentially a fraud. It’s promoted by the richest class, aimed at the middle strata, the people who are sure they too would be millionaires if it weren’t for all the wasteful spending, taxes, and regulations. The actual billionaire knows how important the state is to his business, and thus is happy to conclude government contracts or lobby for tax breaks and deregulation while the rubes go out and scream about illegal immigrants taking benefits they aren’t even eligible for. For all its talk of small government, the Republican party is still rooted in reality, if only behind closed doors. Thus, Johnny Jerkoff in his tri-corner hat will never be told one day that he’s getting laid off because the government decided to stop contracting and to let the market decide how to maintain infrastructure.

Russia, of course, doesn’t have such a system. It is no longer run by people who have any grasp of reality. When the ruble took a dive last December, within weeks you had Duma deputies seriously claiming that the Russian central bank was working for the United States. Today they sponsored a rally against a revolutionary opposition movement that doesn’t exist. From Putin on down, Russia is governed by people with one singular purpose, preserve the wealth they have or steal until they achieve the lifestyle they desire. This means that when it comes down to their luxury cottages or the babushkas and their local health clinic, the latter don’t stand a chance. This also means that when those same babushkas take hand outs to go and protest in favor of that same government, I can’t really feel sorry for them when the consequences of their actions.

Perhaps we live in a world which has grown too soft. We have people who weep for the suffering of people in Donetsk and Lugansk who supported a separatist uprising and invasion and now cry about how their cities have been destroyed and they were cut off from their pensions and salaries. Indeed, there are people in these cases who are genuinely innocent, and I do reserve pity for them, but I’m beginning to think that people who set fire to their own houses need to live with the consequences of their actions.

Civil War-era picture showing how Southern women supported secession and war, only to find themselves starving soon after.

Civil War-era picture showing how Southern women supported secession and war, only to find themselves starving soon after.

Old Donbas woman with flag calling for Putin to send the Russian army. In the next panel, the Russian soldier says: "You called?"

Old Donbass woman with flag calling for Russia to invade. In the next panel, the Russian soldier says: “You called?”

In short, the price of human stupidity has become far too cheap in modern times. There’s always some journalist who will listen to your story of how you did something incredibly stupid and now you’re paying for it, and you’ll be totally absolved of your complicity and portrayed as this victim of unhappy circumstances. When the price of stupidity is cheap, people will be more inclined to dabble in it. They will not learn any valuable lessons.

Some may say it is cruel to demand that the price of stupidity remain ever high. I object. It is not cruelty to allow people who engage in self-destructive actions on such a massive scale to face the consequences of those actions without being bailed out by those of us who would never engage in such idiocy. People who engage in these actions get other, truly innocent people in trouble or in some cases, killed. It’s the latter we should save our pity for.

So let us not waste our compassion on those who won’t appreciate it anyway. Let people suffer the awful consequences of their actions and do not give them an ounce of pity until they publicly declare that they were wrong, explain why they were wrong, and tell us what they indeed to do to rectify their past actions.

When inflation continues to rise and price goods beyond the range of those pensioners and students who came out to kiss government ass, maybe then they’ll realize they chose the wrong side. They wanted a strong leader, they got it. They wanted the “stability” of dictatorship instead of freedom and actual stability that comes from rule of law, they got that too. The more a leader receives praise from the people he abuses, the more brazen and bold he will become. They’ve bolstered his faith in their submissiveness.  Let them suffer the consequences and serve as a lesson to all those who were at least smart enough to abstain from such stupidity.

Variety Pack

As I recover from last night’s festivities, I developed three potential topics for upcoming articles. This, of course, would require me to write and release them over the course of three days. Seeing as how I don’t get so much free time anymore, I decided it would be better to combine those topics in a more concise fashion. Think of it as the equivalent of a Simpsons Halloween episode.

Part I: A Parallel Universe

The Russian government and even many ordinary Russians are still crowing about “returning the Crimea to Russia.” They aren’t saying much about returning its electricity, but they’re just thrilled that the peninsula is “theirs” even if they’ve never been there and can’t afford to go there thanks to the impending economic crisis. What is more, and in fact crucial to this point I’m making, is that Putin and all his lackeys have transformed the Crimea into some sort of Russian holy land. Russian Jerusalem. The joining of the Crimean peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR is the only Soviet edict  everyone can openly criticize these days, but to be sure that’s probably because it’s one of the few Soviet laws they actually remember. Crimea, we are told, is like the Russian equivalent to the Temple Mount. That it was left part of independent Ukraine was a historical travesty akin to the Roman exile of Jews, except nobody was exiled in this case. Crimea is sacred Russian ground; keep that in mind and stick with me here.

Now I’m sure I’ve already brought up the paradox that the Crimea was more accessible to Russian citizens when it was in Ukraine, but recently I’ve discovered an even more ridiculous paradox, thanks to reading the idiotic screeds of Russian patriots.  The standard Russian narrative is that the people of the Crimea voted to separate from Ukraine because of Maidan. Well, actually it’s because they wanted to avoid the war that broke out in the Donbass, even though that occurred nearly a month after the referendum in the Crimea. No wait, the Russian troops were there to save the Crimean people from a war like that which hadn’t yet started in the Donbass. But those troops who saved the people weren’t there because this was a referendum, not an annexation, and…Shit.

Okay I’m sorry, I just remembered that there’s never one Russian standard narrative, or at least not one that is coherent and doesn’t play so wildly with the space time continuum as to open up a rift to another dimension. Let me start over.

A basic claim of Russian annexation apologists is that the loss of the Crimea is Ukraine’s fault. If they hadn’t driven Yanukovych out of power, they’d still have the Crimea. No Maidan, no annexation totally legitimate referendum. Guess what- we’ve got a problem here.  Time for a thought experiment.

Suppose that Maidan didn’t drive Yanukovych from power. Imagine that however you want, from the protest never happening in the first place, to the crowds dispersing in the wake of the 21 February agreement. It’s your pick because it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Yanukovych is in power. What would that mean for the Crimea? According to the Kremlin’s top leadership, its media’s pundits, and legions of vatniks on the street, the Crimea is only in Russia because of Maidan and the “coup” against Yanukovych. That means that if Maidan hadn’t happened or if Yanukovych somehow remained in power, the Crimea, that island of holy Russian land, would still be a part of Ukraine. Even if Ukraine joined Russia’s Custom’s Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, it would still be part of Ukraine and they still couldn’t make it any more accessible to Russians than it already was. The horrible, travesty of historical justice would still be enshrined in law.

Remember, the Russian government had made no open attempt to raise the issue of the Crimea up till that moment when they organized their little uprising. Russia did not dispute the territorial integrity of Ukraine and had not raised the issue of returning the Crimea.  While you would hear ordinary Russians lament the “loss” of Crimea from time to time, but everyone pretty much accepted it. I never heard anyone suggest that Russia should take it by force, and besides, most of those same people preferred to vacation in Turkey, Egypt, or Europe.  Thus we have no choice but to assume that based on the “patriots” own claims and the fact that Russia had not raised this issue prior to the annexation, the absence of the “coup” would have left the Crimea in Ukraine, ostensibly forever.

Of course we all know what really happened. While it is true that the Russian military had a plan to return the Crimea with the help of local collaborators, this was most likely nothing more than a hypothetical, the kind of plan that all military forces around the world create by the dozen. In the wake of Maidan and the flight of the president, however, they saw an opportunity, and the Kremlin is nothing if not ridiculously opportunistic.  Putin was desperate for a victory as the Russian economy was already starting to decline in 2013 and Maidan proved how much of a failure his regime was, in the sense that people were willing to engage in massive, violent protests just to get as far away from Russia’s orbit as possible. Maidan was proof that given a choice, nobody wants to be associated with Russia because Russia has nothing to sell.  I think it is in that context that Putin decided to bet on the Crimea, giving virtually no thought to the long-term consequences of doing so.

Still, it is worth remembering this thought experiment the next time an annexation apologist starts lecturing you about the sacred status of the Crimea to Russians, and how a historical injustice was rectified. Remind them that their heroes were not making any attempt to address that supposed injustice for roughly thirteen years, and even they insist that this rectification occurred only because of the Maidan protests. Do be aware, however, that should you so remind your interlocutor of these facts, they will most likely start babbling about Libya, Kosovo, Iraq, and the Donbass. They will also most likely dispute the existence of objective truth. You’ve been warned.

Part II: Why Russians don’t protest

As some of my readers may know, the Russian court moved the sentencing of Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg from 15 January to 30 December. It is well known that supporters of Navalny, the dastardly Western agent who conspires to overthrow the Russian government by blogging about corruption, had planned a rally in support of their hero for the 15th. Therefore the snap decision to change the sentencing to 30 December, announced only the previous evening, is largely seen to be a ploy aimed at heading off protest attempts.

A demonstration took place on Manezh square outside the Kremlin nonetheless, but it was estimated that only around 1,500 people showed up to the protest that lasted roughly two hours. I don’t even know if that number factors in the pro-government counter-protesters who of course labeled everyone “Yankees” and told them to leave Russia if they didn’t like it.

To Westerners who aren’t very familiar with Russia, the apathy and submissiveness of Russians must appear confusing indeed.  Their government treats them with utter contempt and reminds them of it almost constantly. To live in Russia is to constantly be reminded of how you have no rights, and that people with more money than you can do what they want with impunity. I’m not basing this solely on hundreds, of anecdotes and news stories I’ve heard or read over the years, i.e. on that which I have witnessed as an outside observer. My family and I have personally experienced this sort of corruption in action.  With me this has always been somewhat mitigated by my status as an in-demand professional, at times my income, and my passport, but ordinary Russian citizens do not possess these privileges.  They are totally at the mercy of those who have more power or connections than they do. Any foreigner, upon being made aware of this fact of life in Russia, may be dumbstruck as to why Russians tolerate this humiliation. It seems as though they should have been in the streets years ago, even when things were objectively better.

There are many reasons why Russians don’t stand up for themselves, but probably the most common or at least the most important these days is the belief that protesting doesn’t help anything. Either it makes things worse or it does’t accomplish anything. As is the case with many things in Putin’s Russia, the Kremlin takes advantage of certain historical events and weaves them into its own cynical narrative.

Early on I noticed that Russians were interested in anything but politics. Back in 2006 and 2007 things were looking up for many people. It’s not that they attributed this to Putin; they rolled their eyes at the government’s propaganda and they could easily recount a litany of encounters with corruption they or their friends had experienced.  They saw no point in politics though, because they had come to believe they have no power whatsoever. The government clearly fostered this notion. On the other hand, back in those days the state was rather liberal. They went on stealing and the people could busy themselves with whatever they liked, be that all manner of foreign dance or music or traveling abroad. The state didn’t demand patriotism and conformity. Realistically, people had little reason to protest in those days, though that might have been a mistake on their part.

Of course virtually nothing came of the protests in 2011 and 2012. This fit the state narrative, that protesting doesn’t accomplish anything, quite well.  Crackdowns soon followed, reminding the people who was in charge. Putin’s return was accompanied by the campaign promise of “stability,” and protests go against that. The state media just loves showing footage of mass protests and riots in other countries, especially the US or in European countries. The message is always the same. “Look at how those countries are all in chaos. Russia’s not like that. We have stability here.”  Russians are encouraged to put a high value on stability, even though they don’t actually receive it. Russian life is anything but stable.

The media is also careful to make sure its audience always misses the point of protests in other countries. For example, they will say that Europe is in chaos and show you images of protests from Greece, Spain, Italy, etc. Of course many European countries do have serious problems, but they also grant their citizens enough freedom to take to the streets and be heard. They are able to put some pressure on their governments, even if it achieves little in the short term. The Greek protester or the American Occupy supporter may not have achieved their goals, but they both made their ideas a part of their countries’ political discourse. They stood up for what they believed in public. The Russian on the other hand stays home and grumbles, afraid to do anything that will threaten the stability he never actually receives in exchange for his servility.

Of course Russians are allowed to protest some things, but the targets must be authorized. For example, there is a limited ability to protest local bureaucrats or businessmen; just hope they aren’t well connected. You cannot blame Putin or the government; you must pretend that the Great Leader is unaware of the machinations that go on somewhere down the chain. This is essentially what happened at a recent demonstration by teachers and medical professionals in Moscow last month. Even then some people got carted off by the police. Of course you can always protest the United States or some European country. Russian citizens are allowed to let off some steam against pretty much anyone except the people who are actually responsible for their problems. Of course this is often portrayed as patriotism, but patriotism cannot exist in such a highly atomized, cynical society. When you look at the Ferguson protests across the United States, that is real patriotism because hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who may never have even visited Missouri and who certainly did not personally know Mike Brown took to the streets in his honor. They realized that what happened to that one individual matters to them to, and to the country as a whole. While the Russian media portrays these protests as chaos, they are in fact a sign of strength.

As far as historical background goes, there are a few key events observers must take into account. The first is the movement which brought down the USSR. Russians and many other former Soviet nationalities suffered a lot from the destruction of their country. Some peoples suffered more than others. There is plenty of blame to go around on all sides, but the Kremlin has created a narrative whereby the blame lies solely on a small minority of “traitors.” These were the “liberals” who came to power with words like freedom and democracy on their tongues, and indeed chaos followed in their wake. Realistically speaking though, these two things were not always connected. Plenty of liberal democracies didn’t experience what Russia went through in the 1990’s.  Russia’s problems were connected with specific historical, cultural, and economic factors, and many of those so-called liberals had little control over them.

Another key event was the crushing of the demonstrations in Moscow in October 1993. I often remind people that as much as Putin has done to reduce people’s personal freedom today, it’s worth remembering the far more violent crackdown Yeltsin unleashed in ’93 when speaking about this topic. This is especially important because many Russian oppositionists have a problem with presenting the 90’s as a positive time. I realize that in many cases they are referring to the potential of Russia to develop a functioning democracy, but the fact remains that it did not, and many people had horrible experiences during that time. Ignoring the crime of suppressing demonstrations with tanks and snipers cedes the moral high ground and sends the implication that the opposition wants Russia to be as it was in the 90’s, i.e. weak and humiliated.

These historical factors do not excuse the Russian attitude towards protesting, and taken by themselves they don’t even fully explain it. The Kremlin’s media and army of pseudo-intellectuals take these events and then weave them into the larger tapestry. “You are powerless, there are problems everywhere, at least you have stability, don’t rock the boat, protesting never solves anything,” and so on. That is the cynical message, the soft power. Just in case the message isn’t clear enough, however, the state is more than happy to resort to intimidation and force. That seems to be the trend since 2012.

Part III: How to spot a troll

Recently I was having a discussion with a reader about Kremlin trolls, aka Nashi-bots, and other regime supporting sources you find on the net. When it comes to comment trolls, they can often be spotted by their poor English skills, in spite of the fact that they claim to be Americans, Britons, Canadians, etc. They also tend to have names which signify their nationality. Of course if you’ve ever made the mistake of reading comments on sites like Youtube or Yahoo News, you know how difficult it can be to distinguish between a non-native English speaker and a half-literate dumbass.

Personally I’m not too interested in comment trolls. Far more important are various “independent” sources who either have their own platforms, or who are cited as sources by outlets such as RT. Here’s a particularly interesting example of a phony think tank possibly set up by Russians. Its rhetoric appears to be anti-Russia, but apparently their conclusions amount to something like, “Russia is just so dangerous we have no choice but to let it do what it wants!” I highlight this example because it is a rare instance of a possible Russian propaganda ploy which attempts to impersonate its own opposition, i.e. an anti-Putin false flag of sorts.

It’s important not to give into paranoia and hysteria and start flinging accusations of Kremlin agent left and right. This is precisely what the Russian government wants; it is the exporting of the same cynical narrative to the rest of the world. Therefore I wanted to share a few tips on spotting Kremlin shills based on my vast experience in this sphere.

-First of all, educate yourselves on various political movements. Read about libertarianism, Communism, and even far right-wing extremism. The more you know about various ideologies, their history, and their key figures, the more you will be able to spot the ideological slant in people’s writing. This is immensely helpful.

-Putin fans tend to be right-leaning populists. The more intelligent ones among them are good at concealing some of their more reactionary views from the eyes of leftists or otherwise progressive leaning people. Luckily there are a few ways to draw them out into the open. Bring up topics like LGBT rights, abortion, feminism, etc. These people will rarely make arguments in favor of any of these things.  If the person is claiming to be a leftist, especially a Communist or socialist, keep a close eye for their positions on social issues. Pretty much every Communist or socialist party in the world today favors women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights. If you see a self-proclaimed Communist coming out against these things, you’ve probably got a Putin-lover on your hands.

-Excessive talk about BRICS, replacing the dollar as a reserve currency, etc. Russia’s psuedo-intellectual hacks have deluded themselves into believing that BRICS is some kind of anti-American, Warsaw Pact-like alliance, led by Russia of course! Pro-Kremlin hacks will often regurgitate these talking points, as well as predict the coming collapse of the dollar, claim that Russia is becoming more powerful, and so on.

-Look for anti-globalization rhetoric. Some of the more clever far-right wing extremists seized upon globalization because it helps them blend in with left wing movements. Anti-globalization appeals both to less-educated leftists and right wing nationalists.

-They claim they have complaints about Putin, but usually only when someone asks, and those complaints basically revolve around him needing to crack down harder on dissent, force some kind of ideology on the people, etc.

The above are just a few items I could think of after a night of New Year’s festivities. Obviously I could probably add many more items just as I could probably write entire articles on any one of those I’ve provided above. These are essentially off the top of my head.

Again, it doesn’t help to be paranoid or toss accusations at anyone who seems to display one or two possible indicators. Don’t make assumptions based on one article or appearance; try to get a good, representative look at their work. Also keep in mind that if they are being cited by a pro-government source, they may have been deliberately misquoted or taken out of context.  Happy shill hunting in 2015!

Two Items

On 29 October, police shut down an obvious coup d’etat attempt organized by the Russian seventh column. A mob of about 30-35 fifth columnists, obviously in the pay of the US State Department, descended upon the office of Moscow’s mayor. Clearly their plan was to overthrow the government of Russia and then turn over Russian sovereignty to the United States. Luckily, the ever-vigilant police were on the scene to prevent this coup, and to stop Russia from becoming America’s 51st state, Gaylabama. Nice try, Obama!

Seriously though, what happened could barely be called a demonstration. As far as I have managed to gather from reading about the story and from the video, a group of teachers and doctors actually made an appointment to speak with the mayor or someone in his office regarding the state’s failure to keep up their end of the bargain on some kind of housing provision.  Unfortunately I cannot speak authoritatively on this because I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of provisions for teachers and state-employed doctors, but I do know for a fact that both education and healthcare are major targets of severe budget cuts made necessary by the government’s recent international dipshittery.

One disturbing part of the video shows a woman talking about how some “column”(she’s not sure whether it’s the usual fifth column or possibly the sixth or seventh) must be behind this injustice, and she’s sure that president Putin can’t possibly know what’s going on. In other words, the bureaucrats who are behind this mess are supposedly part of Russia’s 5th-48th columns of US State Department-paid agents, and she’s hoping that daddy Putin will be informed of this travesty so that he can make this all better.  Can you see why I get fed up with this country sometimes? A year ago it would be hard to find someone so stupid as to think Putin was somehow unaware of the corruption here. Now Putin is looked at as someone who is aloof from the system, and his name is invoked in hopes that he will set things right. In reality, while Putin may not know about this specific injustice, he’s more aware than anyone of what Russia has in store. He knows about budget cuts before anyone else. He must be able to infer what results they will have, but he just doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect him. If it gets too bad, he’ll be on a plane with a shitload of money in his accounts.

Of course it doesn’t matter how loyal these people are to Putin, because they have already identified themselves as fifth columnists. They protested; Russians aren’t supposed to do that.  You’re supposed to obey your leaders, no matter how corrupt, because…because….uh…AMERICA! GAY PEOPLE!!! BLEAAAARGH!!!

One other thing I’d like to note about this is the reaction this video has got from some Russians.  Here’s an example off Vkontakte.

“Эти бюджетники всегда голосуют за “Единую Россию”, потому что она им обещает квартиры, зарплаты. А как только трудности в стране – сразу майдан? Пусть едут в глубинку работать. И почему за популизм Собянина должен отвечать Путин? За Лужкова тоже Путин должен был отвечать?”

The main gist here is that the people seen in the video supposedly always vote for United Russia because they are promised apartments and salaries. I’ve seen similar sentiments expressed in the comments section of the video on Youtube.  I realize that some of these people may be right to some extent, but this is really the wrong attitude to take if you want change in the country.  So let’s say these people did vote for United Russia and support Putin. Why not acknowledge the fact that they were duped, like many people in Russia in the past 23 years? Why not reach out to them and show them why they were misguided when they thought that the leadership actually cared about them?

No doubt one could argue that a major reason for the failure of Russian opposition politics is that society is so atomized and people would rather attack other like-minded individuals over things they did in the past rather than respect the fact that they made a change in their lives.  Would it really be better if all these people just stayed home and continued to support the government?  It reminds me of the damned if you do, damned if you don’t attitude in American politics. What’s that? Your job doesn’t pay a living wage? Maybe you should have gone to college! What’s that? You’re buried in student debt? Maybe you shouldn’t have gone to college if you couldn’t afford it!  AMERICA!

The next story is from the “You have got to be shitting me” file, and it comes to us from the tiny non-country of “Novorossiya.” It’s fairly noteworthy that many of the local supporters of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics are quite elderly.  Well if they were expecting pensions from their new, unelected leaders, they can go fuck themselves according to the guy who was made premier of the Donestk Republic by a citizen of Moscow.

Alexander Zakharchenko told his citizens that they should ask Kyiv to pay their pensions, since they paid taxes to Ukraine all these years. That’s right, they tried to create their own country and refused to fully disarm and integrate into Ukraine, but Kyiv is still responsible for the pensions of people who are supposedly citizens of a separate country.  Okay.

Apparently some days before in the “Lugansk Republic,” not to be confused with a traditional republic where you vote for people who supposedly represent your interests, a peaceful demonstration of citizens demanding pensions and unpaid salaries was forcibly driven off by militiamen. In the process, shots were fired to disperse the crowd of unarmed fifth columnists, who had the audacity to demand that their new “government” actually function like a state.  Fortunately, their were no casualties.

I offer these two examples for those lying Team Russia fans, Eurasianists, and RT lovers who present Russia and Novorossiya as an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism and in some cases, a step towards socialism.  This is a “state” where unelected armed men, many from a different country, drive workers and pensioners away with gunfire when the demand their benefits and salaries.  This is a “state” which forcibly separates from another state, then tells the people who supported it that they should appeal to the latter for their pensions.  I’d call it a fucking joke but it’s just not funny. This farce will do nothing but prolong the humiliation of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples for years to come.