This may not have much to do with Russia at present, but any discussion of Marx is never too far from thinking about Russia of the past. David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at CUNY, has done an amazing service by making his course “Reading Marx’s Capital” available online. Harvey is one of the preeminent Marxist thinkers. His most well known books are The Condition of Postmodernity, The Limits to Capital, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, and The New Imperialism.
The class consists of 13 two hour videos. The first two are available. I present “Class 1, Introduction” below. I will post “Class 2, Chapters 1-2” tomorrow. Subsequent classes will appear as Harvey makes them available.
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By Sean — 3 years ago
Barbara Allen is an associate professor of history at La Salle University where she specializes in the Russian revolutionary movement and the early Soviet regime. Her research interests include the history of working-class opposition to the Soviet Communist Party’s dictatorship. Her most recent book is Alexander Shlyapnikov, 1885-1937: Life of an Old Bolshevik which was just released in paperback.
John Lennon, “Working Class Hero,” John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970.
By Sean — 7 years ago
It’s a few days old, but I wanted to draw readers’ attention to an article I wrote for the Exiled on Alexei Navalny as a potential unifier of Russia’s middle class and nationalists. Here’s a snippet:
On December 5, the day after Russia’s Duma elections, the anti-corruption crusader and popular blogger, Alexei Navalny, told a raucous crowd, “I want to say to you: Thank you. Thank you for playing you part as a citizen. Thank you for telling these assholes, ‘We’re here!’ For telling the bearded [Electoral Commission head Vladimir] Churov and his superiors: ‘We exist!’ We have our voices. We exist! We exist! They hear that voice and they are afraid! They can chuckle on their zombie-boxes. They can call us “microbloggers” or ‘network hamsters!’ I am a network hamster, and I will slit the throats of these cattle!” Shortly after giving this speech, Navalny was arrested, and by the next morning, sentenced to 15 days in a spetspriyomnik (special detention center) outside of Moscow. Navalny was released on December 20, and has been considered among many the de facto leader of the Russian opposition.
Why Navalny? One reason is that declarations like “I will slit the throats of these cattle,” though metaphorical, are no mere puffery. Unlike many in the Russian opposition, Navalny puts his words into action, and in a climate where more than a few government critics have met their demise, this action puts his life on the line. Yet, he remains fearless. “It’s better to die standing up that live on your knees,” he told the New Yorker’s Julia Ioffe last spring. With that kind of gumption, it’s safe to say that Navalny has become a nagging pain in the ass of Russia’s corrupt elite. He’s done so not by staging rallies, leading a political organization, or seeking political office. Navalny is an activist of the 21st century: his weapons are a blog, Twitter, and a crowdsourcing website. His army is motley of “network hamsters” ready to root out big moneyed corruption by combing through dry contracts posted on his site Rospil. The results are impressive. Since Rospil’s creation in December 2010, Navalny and his army are responsible for the cancelling of $1.2 billion worth of state contracts. Given all this, it’s amazing that someone has yet to slit his throat.
But Navalny is more than an anti-corruption crusader and renowned blogger. The thirty-five year old Muscovite lawyer is also emblematic of two forces that were once supporters of Putin, but are now increasingly turning against him: the urban, educated middle class, or ROG (russkie obrazovannye gorozhane) as pundit Stanislav Belkovskii has dubbed them, and Russians with nationalist sympathies. On the surface these two groups appear antithetical to each other. The former are often described as “hipster-gadget-lovers” (khipstery-gazhetomany) more interested in Moscow’s cafes, clubs, and sushi bars, and, until two weeks ago, showed no interest in politics besides ranting on their Live Journal blogs and Twitter accounts. The nationalists are portrayed as racist working class street thugs whose sense of Russian victimhood speaks through fists and boots to the heads of migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus. Nevertheless, both groups share common ground: they’re by and large suspicious of the West and the Russian liberals who extol its values, patriotic, despise corruption, view immigrants as destroying the integrity of the Russian nation and increasingly loathe Putin and his cronies. With a foot in each world, Navalny is emerging as the logical person who could unite them around a new mass political movement based on what Alexei Pimenov recently called “an anti-corruption pathos plus the national idea.”
You can read the full article here.
By Sean — 5 years ago
Guest post by William Risch
In a December 25 interview with the magazine Foreign Policy, heavyweight world boxing champion Vitaly Klychko explained the significance of Ukraine’s Euromaidan protest movement to Belgrade-based journalist Harriet Salem: “Now people in this square [Kyiv’s Maidan] understand that they have power in their hands and the opportunity to change the situation in our country. Our country is very young, and this is a very important step, that every citizen is aware that his future depends just on him.” Klychko, true to his boxer image, advocated a knock-out blow against President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime: “We understand that to make real reforms, we must topple the whole system.”
Klychko was not the only one claiming to stand with the people. On December 15, after visits to Kyiv by European Union foreign policy commissioner Catherine Ashton and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, U.S. Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy spoke to the Maidan. As reported by the Washington Post, Murphy told the crowd, “You are making history. If you are successful, the United States will stand with you every step of the way.”
I was at that rally. The senators’ voices, interpreted by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Borys Tarasiuk, were muddled. While I filmed Murphy and McCain, fellow historians with me ignored the speech. They discussed with a local resident contested 2012 parliamentary elections being rerun that very day in five districts.
Were these politicians really with the people? On December 16, I took part in a march on the Central Elections Commission. About 150-200 people protested the results of the special parliamentary elections, claiming they had been falsified. Speakers said Klychko was going to speak, but in the end, he didn’t show up. The night of December 17-18, Klychko spoke to the Maidan’s “Night Watch,” an all-night disco and political rally aimed at keeping police forces from breaking up the Maidan. He gave a stirring speech about the hard work it takes to realize one’s dreams, and then he left.
The night of December 19-20, I volunteered to watch over the Maidan’s barricades. Warming up to a makeshift bonfire in freezing temperatures, I spent the whole night talking with other guards about why they were there. One man, 38 year-old Serhiy from Poltava, said he had lost his small store to bank debts, his wife had left him, and he was unemployed. As we debated over what Serhiy should do – get a lawyer, find another job, or emigrate to to America – the Maidan’s hourly singing of the Ukrainian national anthem began. Everyone suddenly stopped arguing. They tood up and silently watched the musicians performing on the large TV screen. Across the Maidan’s barricades, others joined us in silently saluting the anthem or singing. In that moment, no foreign dignitary, no celebrity like Klychko, spoke for people like Serhiy. If anyone, it was us, the people of the Maidan, who stood with him.