I’m not sure how to take or what do to with yesterday’s Izvestia’s article (Mosnews has an English summary here) which reports that the slain leader of the Chechen nationalist movement, Alan Maskhadov believed Shamil Basaev was taking money from Boris Berezhovsky to wage war against Russia in the interests of the US and England. This information comes from statements from one “Maskhadovtsy” named Vakhit Murdashev and his lawyer Baiali El’murzaev. According to their statements, Maskhadov wanted reconcile with Moscow because he viewed that the US and England’s geopolitical interests in the Caucuses posed a more dangerous threat to Chechnya than the Kremlin. According to information Murdashev provided Izvestiia,
“Aslan Maskhadov feared that Shamil Basaev fell under the influence of Berezovskii, and worker for him for money, and could lose sight of the idea of independence and go under the sway of the West. If this was correct, [it could] work on tearing the Caucuses away from Russia. [Maskhadov and Basaev] had a fundemental disagreement over this, and in conversations with Murdashev, Maskhadov said that it was better to form an alliance with Russia than fall under the sway of the West.”
Potentially explosive stuff. However, some caution should be taken considering how some of the players are connected. Placing the exiled oligarch and major Kremlin critic Boris Berezhovsky as Basaev’s financier seems way to good to be true from the Kremlin’s perspective. Berezhovsky fled Russia to France to escape a fate similar to Mikhail Khordokovsky. The Berezhovsky-Basaev-US/Britian connection seems too conspiratorial and too easily explained as Russian concern about the US influence in the region. But what this story also presents is some bad news for the Kremlin. When Maskhadov was killed, many commentators quickly pointed out that Moscow now had no one to talk to on the Chechen side. According to other information released since his death, Maskhadov was trying to sue for peace with Russia. There are no such hopes with someone like Basaev. If the report in Izvestiia is true, it only shows further how Maskhadov’s death was a major and tragic mistake.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Yesterday I suggested that Sunday’s regional elections in
suggests that there is a move to create a two party system comprising of United Russia and Just Russia. This issue was first presented in an experts’ panel on Russia Profile shortly after Rodina and the Party of Life united in August. To characterize what is possibly going on in Russian electoral politics, Jim Jatras made this comparison between Russian and Russia under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI): Mexico
The key to the success of this operation [of creating a two party system] is the extent to which the Kremlin sees the second party either as a clever bit of window dressing (hopefully not) or as a serious contender for power (almost certainly not – at least not for a while). In between those two extremes the new party can still play an important role in generating new ideas and legislative initiatives and, perhaps more valuably, serving as a mechanism for monitoring and discouraging the kind of corruption that otherwise would discredit a ruling monopoly.
A good comparison can be drawn here with
, in which the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) played a transparent political game with the Catholic-oriented National Action Party (PAN). The fundamental understanding was that PAN conceded every national race with the compensation of occasional victories on the state and local level, plus minority representation in national institutions. Six years ago, however, after PRI had been in power for 70 years and had become thoroughly corrupt and ineffective, the party’s leaders saw that allowing PAN win presented less danger to themselves, both politically and physically, than continuing to hang on to power. Such a protracted timetable in Mexico would not be realistic, but in 2007, the second party should be under no illusions that it can, or should, expect more than a respectable second-place showing, a la PAN in its classic role as a designated loser. Russia
On Tuesday, the Financial Times pointed out the possibility of PAN Russian style. Despite its tokenness, Just Russia may at some point become a real opposition party “at least in the regions, where personality clashes dictate political divisions, as much as any ideology.” Further,
’s lingering remaining parties can certainly continue to participate, with probably increasing electoral restrictions (here they might take a cue from American ballot access laws), as long as they reach the 7 percent electoral threshold. But how long will that last as more people see their lot better spent on a party that might actually affect power? Will Russian voters soon hear rhetoric about “wasting votes” on smaller parties? Currently it is too soon to tell. However, as it stands now a two party system would certainly sit well with the citizenry. According to a recent poll, their political desires appear to fall somewhere in-between Putin’s “managed democracy” and the old Soviet system. Russia
A recent opinion poll commissioned by the EU-Russia Centre suggested that only 16 per cent believe in “democracy based on a western model”. Some 26 per cent are happy with the current “managed” system, and a further 35 per cent actually believe that “the Soviet system we had before the 1990s” remains the most appropriate for
Such a poll seems to deflate FT’s point that “managed democracy” “provides no safety valve for social discontent.” It doesn’t. But is social discontent really at a level where one can talk about safety valves? To some it does.
Take for example, Boris Kagarlitsky. I tend to agree with much of Kagarlitsky’s analysis. He is one of the few that do solid analysis of
from a leftwing perspective. He makes some interesting observations in his most recent column, “March 2007 vs. March 1917. Historical parallels.” Kagarlitsky believes that the lacks a safety valve for popular movements in the system is its potential contradiction. “As long as the authorities don’t change the social policy,” he writes, “the union of the liberals and different social movements will only grow stronger. The growing social discontent will lead to further politicization of the society.” His historical basis for this is February 1917, when the Russia population seethed with discontent. Similarly lacking a mechanism for relieving social discontent, the Tsarist system imploded in matter of days under the pressure of popular protest. Russia
In fact a reenactment of the February Revolution (minus October, of course) appears to be the desire of the Other Russia movement. But alas as Kagarlitsky correctly notes, “The 1917 February’s political activists were much more serious and dependable than the leaders of the United Civil Front, left alone “The Other Russia”. The civil society, at least in the cities, was incomparably better structured. The labor movement was better organized. All in all, the negative aspects are similar, while positive are not so far.” Thus contradiction of this movement, and thus the saving grace for Putin’s managed democracy might be their unwillingness to consider “radical measures.” Or to put it algebraically, a negative plus a negative equals a positive. At least it’s a positive for the emerging two party system of United Russia and Just Russia. As for
left-liberal forces? Well, the ball is not in their court. Nor are they even in the game. As Kagarlitsky concludes, “The authorities will continue ignoring protest actions as long they are united. As we know, revolutions start with the crisis of the elites.” It appears that one goal of a two party system is to prevent just that. RussiaTags: Putin|Russia|democracy|two party system|liberal democracy|capitalism|Russian elections|United Russia|Just Russia|Other Russia|KagarlitskyPost Views: 162
By Sean — 12 years ago
English language blogs on Russia and the CIS suffered a major setback last week. After almost two years of providing news and commentary on all things Russia, Andy from siberianlight.net has called it quits. This is a loss for us all. There was some indication that this might happen when Andy took a short leave of absence to recharge. It was nice to see him return albeit briefly.
I only recently discovered siberianlight.net a few months ago while searching for blogs to link to this site. To my delight I found Andy’s site. It became an instant source of information and inspiration. For those who don’t know (and I doubt many reading this blog are unfamiliar with siberialight.net), Andy’s site provides probably the most comprehensive collection of links to Russian and English language blogs. Andy says that he will keep the site up for a while. This is good news because even if he won’t be making posts, it will serve as a vital resource.
Though I don’t know Andy personally, I want to thank him for his work. His kind mentions have pointed many readers to my blog. His posts were always opinionated, informative and balanced. To his credit he often commented on the quirky aspects of Russian life and news that seems to escape many blogs on Russia, including this one. Most amazing is that many of his posts were done with brevity, something that I myself can’t seem to master. I only hope that he reconsiders and finds the time and energy to start anew. Siberianlight.net will be sorely missed.Post Views: 116
By Sean — 11 years ago
Friends at UCLA have been asking me about this interview with Perry Anderson what was published in Kommersant in October. The Russian version can be accessed here. I provided them a synopsis of it, but inquires continued to the point where I just decided to translate it. I provide it here for the rest of you non-Russian speakers to read. — Sean
The Future of One Illusion
31 October, 2006
Twenty years after the collapse of communism leftist ideology has neither lost its actuality nor its political perspective, argues Perry Anderson, a scholar of contemporary Western Marxism, professor at University of California, Los Angeles, and editor of the New Left Review, who was brought to Moscow as part of the “Russian Debates” project. Kommersant columnist Igor Fediukin spoke with Perry Anderson about Hugo Chavez’s regime, the “New Left” in China, and the political situation in Russia.
Do you think that there will be a future for Left ideology?
It is best to answer this question with a phrase from the well known French historian Fran?ois Furet, who died a few years ago. He was a communist in his youth but in his middle age became one the sharpest critics of both socialist ideology and the Soviet experience. Here, at the end of his last book, The Passing of an Illusion, he wrote that today it is difficult to imagine any other kind of social formation that is outside from which we all live, but it is simply impossible to imagine that democracy will remain congealed in its present form.
One often hears that the contemporary Left has been shattered and cannot propose a constructive program?
The slogan of the World Social Forum is “Another world is possible.” Twenty to thirty years ago this seemed obvious. But today this is sounds like heresy, the primary doctrine became the slogan “There is no alternative,” which Margaret Thatcher put forward at the time. So that to simply retain the possibility of a global system is a very radical form of opposition. That [the Left] seems crushed; there is nothing unusual here. In the 19th century, when the modern left movement was born many tendencies existed: they followed Marx, Proudhon, Saint Simon, Fourier, social democrats and anarchists. The Left movement has always been pluralistic, although in Russia this is less clear because of the long standing monopoly of one of them.
Do you consider the government in Venezuela leftist?
What is happening in Venezuela is certainly the development of left ideology, if only because there is the large scale redistribution of wealth in the country. To make a generalization from the example of Venezuela would be foolish because the situation there is a product of a very peculiar history and enormous oil wealth. The existence of such wealth does not necessarily signal its redistribution. The previous parliamentary system was utterly oligarchic; the wealth of the country was in the hands of the elite. Chavez’s government changed this situation and along with this there was no talk about dictatorship. Chavez regularly holds elections. This, of course, is democratic populism, but a political system that cannot be called closed: in Venezuela there are bitter debates on television, in the press, and the opposition if carrying out a difficult struggle. So it is certainly a fairly radical leftist government. One the other hand, we cannot make a conclusion on the basis of this model as to what the “Left of the 21st century” will be.
Does the European model truly present itself as some alternative to the American model?
Already beginning in 1947, the historical differences between the average European state and the United States were quite apparent: the European state was always more “social,” more disposed toward interference in the economy, more liberal in its outlook in that they abolished the death penalty, etc. However, today on the basis of these historical differences an extremely self-satisfied and self-confident ideology of European superiority over the United States has been created. We see this among the leading philosophers and intellectuals in the mass media. But behind it, there aren’t any serious differences between the two halves of the Atlantic world. The countries of Europe are all the more moving to the American model, reducing the programs of the “welfare state.” And even in the area of human rights, the Europeans have fewer reasons for pride than it seems to them. European governments have allowed the creation of secret CIA prisons in their territory.
What do you expect from the tremendous growth of Asia?
We already now see a change in the global balance of strength—this is certain and unavoidable. Another issue is whether the growth of Asia will lead toward the emergence of new rules to the game, new codes of conduct for states on the world stage and at home. I doubt this. The elites of “new Asia” separate Western norms and costs, and the differences here are small, it seems. Along with this, if China will grow further at such a tempo, the demonstration effect will be enormous and many countries in the Global South will begin to contemplate whether to choose such a model for their development. Strictly speaking, many prominent economists are already talking about this in Russia.
In your opinion, will this situation develop in Russia?
The most astounding fact in post-Soviet Russia in relative comparison is the political apathy of the population. Even in 1991, when the citizenry brought down blows of enormous power, strikes, protests, meetings were confined within the state, which felt a corresponding shock. By contrast, there is a completely different picture in China. There is an enormous number of people and groups in the country who poignantly feel injustice by the chosen model of development. What shape all of this will take is unclear at present, but the most significant intellectual tendencies in China of the last ten years are appearing as a “New Left” movement. In Russia there simply isn’t, but in China there is and the state apparatus and old intelligentsia are afraid of them.
There is another interesting difference between Russia and China. There is a high level of corruption in both countries, but the social discontent in Russia is far less. [Russian] society accepts it as an acceptable method of intercourse with the bureaucracy. In China the hostility toward corruption is very great; it provokes a general animosity in people. And in contradistinction from Russia, high level bureaucrats can pay for corruption with their head.
Is a Mexican model of dictatorship possible for Russia?
Many speak about the Mexican model in Russia, but you see, [in Mexico] the PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party, was a genuine party. For example, there were relatively very strict rules for sixty year period. The President could do what he wanted even to a larger degree that in Russia, but upon leaving the President could do nothing. The PRI was a very powerful party in this regard because it really was a party of revolution. It personified enormous changes in Mexican history. In China, appropriately, there is also a party in this sense, that there are internal debates, leaders consider each other.
How do you preserve your own beliefs despite the fact that history took a completely different direction?
My generation was formed in the 1960s, when a revolutionary tidal wave rolled all over the world—from the Cuban Revolution to the Cultural Revolution in the West. If you develop your personality at such a moment, you feel an attachment to a wider circle of people and ideas, and this brings you energy and confidence. But further, when this wave collapsed, it was still a question of personal temperament and intellectual progression. One person changes their opinion, another doesn’t. I will say this: Remember the French Enlightenment in the 18th Century—Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau. They after all lived in an epoch when absolutism was at an apogee. Not a single one of them lived to see a serious political change. But this did not hinder them, for example, from being persistent opponents to the Catholic Church. It is important to think historically. Life brings surprises to Rightists, Leftists and Centrists, and predictions and expectations often turn out to be mistaken.
Post Views: 193