Kommersant Vlast‘ made an funny observation about the websites of Russian political parties. Apparently the verbosity and the brevity of a party’s website is connected to their political orientation. Those on the left are more verbose while those on the right are more terse.
The most verbose is the main page for the KPRF, a whole 2273 words. Yabloko is in second place with 1237 words. United Russia and Just Russia are almost twins with 875 and 840 words respectively. The most concise site is the LDPR (unlike this party’s leader) with 409 words in all.
Forget what this says about the political spectrum. I wonder what it says about how each party perceives the attention span of its supporters?
The KPRF might want to consider turning off the verbal valve. Their site is a wordy mess. Clearly they’ve learned little about political technologies of the day. The best way to appeal to voters is not to inundate them with stuff they have to read. The days of crammed broad sheets are over. If they really want to look at an effective site, they should check out Barack Obama’s. Bright colors, smiling faces, lots of graphics and, most importantly, few words. In fact, the thing that dominates the President-elect’s page most is merchandise. Create an image. Brand it. After that what you actually say is an secondary. Now that’s political technology of the 21st century!
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Sergei Mironov, the leader of Just Russia, calls it “Socialism 3.0”. An interesting choice of words considering that this year marks the 90th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Anniversaries tend to function as both remembrance and rebirth, and the talk of “socialism” at Just Russia’s party congress might certainly be a rebirth of sorts. Even if the revival of “socialism” in Russia might simply be political verbiage rather than possessing any real material content.
Be that as it may, what is clear is that talk of “socialism” is a way for Just Russia to position themselves politically as Russia’s left wing alternative to the Communist Party. To see this all one has to do is peek into Mironov’s historical positioning of Just Russia in the “history” of socialism. In his 30 minute speech to congress delegates he spoke of how the Russian Revolution ushered in Socialism 1.0. This version was something called “war socialism”. This was later countered with Socialism 2.0, a western intervention, presumably to quell the attractiveness of version 1.0 among its populations, that was more “humanitarian.” Both of these, however, “proved to be unsustainable and inviable.” Now Mironov and his party are going top all those with “Socialism 3.0”. Not only will this socialism be the most humanitarian to date, it will do so by recognizing that the “socialist idea is supported by not only economics, but also cultural endeavors of our people. We are for a dignified and secure life for Russians.” Judging from this rhetoric, I fail to see what the upgrade features 3.0 portend to offer.
It doesn’t take a keen observer to notice how all of this sounds familiar. So much that Svetlana Goriacheva, former Communist Party member and now State Duma deputy for Just Russia, made a point to emphasize that Just Russia’s platform is different from the Communist Party’s.
But Just Russia can split hairs over this “socialism” and that “socialism” all it wants. The truth of the matter is that the party, which is nothing more than a Kremlin creation, is there to gradually whittle away at the Communist Party’s electorate. After all, Kremlin doesn’t call it “managed democracy” for nothing, and while many seek to dismiss the notion as simply ideological hot air, there is something very real in the concept.
What is “managed democracy”? Its meaning is right there in its name. It means that in the eyes of Team Putin, the Russian State will erect the building blocks for a stable democratic system that many Western states enjoy, but took decades to develop. As a great power swimming in a sea of “democratic states” Russia can’t afford to waste time taming the groundswell of democracy from below, as say the United States did to its many labor and civil rights struggles of the 20th century, by subsuming little “d” democracy back into the hegemonic machine of big “D” democracy. Such efforts require tolerating the chaotic and sometimes unpredictable nature of social movements long enough for them to fizzle out and reside themselves to work within the system rather than against it. The Russian elite is clearly not ready, or at least confident enough in their power, to give a little in the short run for grander riches in both power and money in the long run. Since the democratic lie can’t be formed organically, it must be manufactured from above.
In this sense, then, the architects of Russian democracy are working from a political position akin to Alexander Gershenkron’s ideas about the benefits of economic backwardness. Here the Russian state is privy to all the bells and whistles that most “mature” democratic states possess and use so effectively to keep their populations gleefully bathing in their own repression. Mass media, the internet, political PR firms, consultants, advertising, pundits, spokespeople are all available in Russia to package and repackage democracy as a slick, smooth, and shiny object, all consumable in one bite, or at least in one sound bite. If postmodern life is a characterized by a litany of single servings, then there is nothing to suggest that “single serving democracy” can’t be one of the choices available at the smörgåsbord of affective chimeras that constitute the modern political subject. With this in mind, if “democratic backwardness” is truly an advantage, then the Russian elite’s ability manipulate democracy’s most advanced technologies to overcome that backwardness might prove to be nothing less than revolutionary.
This is where the Just Russia’s “Socialism 3.0,” Nashi’s DMD militias, the fiction of the “specter of colored revolution,” Zubkov’s nomination, “Operation Successor,” the demonization of Berezovsky, Litvinenko, Other Russia (as if they have any power), the curtailment of NGOs, the Public Chamber, and many, many other forms of “democratic management” all enter the picture. All of these little pawns are put into motion with the hope that democracy will function in Russia like it does elsewhere else–a predictable, well oiled machine where the people are made to believe that they do the choosing, when in reality the range of choices is no more diverse than one between Coke and Pepsi.
This is by no means to suggest that Russia is any less democratic than their Western counterparts. It’s that the mechanisms for realizing democracy in Russia are much more visible, harder, and violent. With that in mind, as Mironov announces “Socialism 3.0” as part of global history of socialism, one can’t help wonder what political upgrades “managed democracy” looks to bequeath upon the world.Post Views: 456
By Sean — 9 years ago
Protests flared around the world last week in response to the global economic crisis. Last Thursday, a one day general strike of 2.5 million people brought France to a standstill. Wildcat strikes hit Britain as workers at two nuclear power plants protested the use of foreign workers. An action of a few hundred Black Bloc anarchists in Geneva turned violent when police blocked them from entering the city’s center. Protesters responded with bottles, the police returned with clubs and tear gas, arresting 60. A column of Greek farmers consisting of 300 tractors, trucks, and other vehicles protesting the drop in commodity prices were met by riot police. One farmer tried to ram a police van as protesters chucked potatoes, tomatoes, and rocks at the cops. Clashes between farmers and police continued into this week as more of the farmers pour into the port of Piraeus. Protests in Iceland brought an interim Left-Green coalition to power which promises to implement measures to quell protests. Latvia saw a protest of 10,000 people turn into a riot against their government’s dealing with the economic crisis. Many of neoliberal miracles of the last decade–Estonia, Lativa, Ireland, Ukraine, and Iceland have hit the economic wall. Experts say that Ireland is the worst hit in the Eurozone. There a job is lost “every five minutes.”
Indeed protest is in the air. More importantly economics stands at the center. As the Guardian described last Thursday:
It’s a snapshot of a single day – yesterday – in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of central and eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.
Exactly 20 years ago, in serial revolutionary rejoicing, they ditched communism to put their faith in a capitalism now in crisis and by which they feel betrayed. The result has been the biggest protests across the former communist bloc since the days of people power.
Europe’s time of troubles is gathering depth and scale. Governments are trembling. Revolt is in the air.
And not just in Europe. There is an estimated 20 million Chinese migrant workers who’ve suddenly become unemployed, adding to the estimated 10 million jobs lost in December when manufactures shut their doors. The high levels of migrant unemployment are feared to make an already tenuous situation in the countryside worse. About 50 to 60 percent of rural families’ incomes come from remittances sent from migrant factory workers. Chinese officials are already contemplating a “softer line” to protesters by urging Party officials to address people face to face. And then there is the shoe throwing copycat in London who failed to plant his rubber sole on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s grill. Some experts are seriously wondering if China is on the brink of an enormous social explosion, if not revolution.
Then there is Russia. Russia joined the chorus of global protest as thousands rallied in several cities last weekend. Actions targeted the economic crisis, the government, car taxes and the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastatia Baburnova. Important issues for sure. Still these protests appeared no more stage managed than past ones. Many of the usual protagonists were center stage–Other Russia, National Bolsheviks, anarchists and others from the Russian “Opposition.” OMON played its usual part as dastardly antagonist, though one should recognize that this time its iron fist wore a velvet glove. The dance between OMON and dissenters went according to the usual script. The only additions were the unknown assailants who attacked a group of marchers in Moscow. Each side appeared to get what it wanted. OMON (i.e. the state) showed its ability to keep order. Other Russia affirmed its self-importance and secured its foreign press coverage. As one commentator said about the Moscow action: There were “more journalists than participants.”
Perhaps most interesting was Russia’s real political opposition joined the protests’ ranks. The Communist Party attracted large crowds in the provinces. In the Far East, the communists wedded the unpopular car tax with challenges to the “government of oligarchs'” promises to “make life better by 2020”. Maybe this is the first sign that the KPRF might actually become an opposition in content rather than only in form.
Popular discontent is growing in Russia. No one argues against this. Recent polls indicate a increasing drop in Medvedev’s and Putin’s popularity. The former is hovering around a 51 percent approval rating, while the latter commands a 65 percent majority. A Levada Center survey found that people are increasingly questioning whether the government has a plan to deal with the crisis. “Twenty-eight percent of respondents said their biggest grievance was that leaders “can’t deal with the economic problems in the country,” and 17 percent faulted the Kremlin for not having a “well-considered plan of action,” reported the NY Times.
Growing public discontent also fuels speculations that there is widening rift within the Kremlin elite, particularly between the President and Prime Minister. Is the supposed rift a sign of healthy and needed disagreement at the top? The beginning of the son moving to bury the father? Or is this simply wishful thinking fueled by general social uncertainty? If there is any rift at the top, I don’t think veiled criticism uttered by Medvedev against Putin will be the telltale sign. If any fissures emerge, they will begin just below the tandem as Russia’s political boyars use the situation to rally around one or the other to better jostle against their rivals.
Despite the growth in Russians’ public frustration with the authorities, one shouldn’t jump the gun and put their hopes before reality. Granted the police are concerned, particularly about the potential rise of “extremist” youth on the left and the right. But to call last weekend’s protests “rare” or a sign of the Kremlin’s rule looking “shakier” are more rooted in fantasy. The problem is not that protests are rare. One might say there are too many that are too often ineffective.
The reality is that while last week’s protests should be situated within the larger trend of global discontent, they nevertheless show the longstanding poverty of Russia’s self-proclaimed political Other. National Bolsheviks, Red Vanguard Youth, and Other Russia political celebrities will find little public support with slogans and flares. Clashes with provocateurs and skirmishes with neo-Nazis may give the taste of a Wiemar flavor, but it occupies a fringe on Russia’s political palate. The truth of the matter is that Russia’s wannabe revolutionaries are either incapable or unwilling to do any real organizing that weds politics and people’s lives. Instead, ephemeral calls for democracy and rights stand in for real political action.
Perhaps this points to poverty of liberalism itself. And here Russia isn’t alone. Opposition movements have completely purged the hunger for state power from their gut. A general strike of 2 million French a century ago would have brought the state down. If not, it would have certainly lasted for more than one day. Revolutionaries of yore wouldn’t have bothered calling for the resignation of politicians. They would have demanded the destruction of the state itself. Russia’s revolutionaries too, except for the hapless liberals, would have spent more of their energies burrowing within the working masses than wasting them on spectacles.
But what makes the Russian opposition so pathetic is that it rejects its own history. Revolutionaries of the late 19th and early 20th century–whether they were populist, socialist, or anarchist–faced more difficult challenges than the oppositional diletantes of today. They had no websites or youtubes to organzie and propagate with. The Tsarist regime was far more repressive. Funding was more scarce and cadres were smaller and even more vehemently fractuous. Yet, they were far more organized, purposeful, and diligent. And more importantly they endeavored to connect with people’s everyday lives.
But Russia’s liberals of today, let alone many of Europe’s former “socialists,” makeshift anarchists, unionists, and environmentalists, decry this past because of its association with Communism. Well, like it or not, the communists won and they did so not by calling for resignations, democratic elections, human rights, or freedom of speech. Their position was encapsulated in two words that today’s opposition are too incompetent to imagine or too timid to utter: state power.Post Views: 616
By Sean — 9 years ago
A suspected murderer, an ex-KGB turned oligarch, and a “dissident” liberal are all part of what will prove to be a mayoral election of the year. The three aren’t the only candidates. Of course, every official Russian political party has thrown their hat into the race. The aforementioned Lugovoi will run on the LDPR ticket, Anatoly Pakhomov represents United Russia, Yuri Dzaganiya for the KPRF, and recently announced Just Russia candidate Viktor Kurpitko. Other possible candidates include a possible run by former Bolshoi ballerina Anastasia Volochkova and the head of Sochi’s arm wrestling federation Stanislav Koretsky (whether the latter will take in repeated viewings of Sly Stallone’s Over the Top for inspiration is unknown). The prize is Sochi the Black Sea coastal resort town that will host the 2014 Winter Games. Or rather the real prize is the $12.5 billion in allocated government funds to make Sochi an Olympic Winter Wonderland.
Oppositionists and outsiders are hopeful given last week’s election of a political outsider to head Murmansk. Sergei Subbotin’s win shocked the Kremlin and United Russia (so much so that the region’s governor was sacked, er resigned, this weekend allegedly for supporting Subbotin.). But before oppositionists get all uppity, they might want to take notice that upon election Subbotin immediately announced his support for Putin though refused to join United Russia. So I bet Murmansk is a loss, the Kremlin will eventually live with it. I seriously doubt that it will take any political gambles with Sochi.
The election will certainly prove to be, in the words of the New York Times, “the season’s most sensational political sideshow.” In fact the fun has already begun, even before the ballerina and arm wrestler have declared their candidacy. Today, “Kremlin critic” Nemtsov was reportedly doused with ammonia outside his campaign headquarters. According to his spokeswoman the attack was carried out by two assailants. “A person with long hair, women’s clothes and a deep voice approached [Nemtsov] with a bouquet of flowers while an assailant splashed him with ammonia,” she told the AP. Nemtsov, however, wasn’t injured despite some of the ammoniacal fluid got into his eyes. He even went on about his scheduled news conference. The police were called, but in pure fashion they showed up more than an hour later.
The fact that Nemtsov wasn’t injured makes me wonder whether the substance was the pungent liquid at all. There is only one other substance I can think of that smells of ammonia but doesn’t carry any dangers: piss. I’m not the only one wondering if he was subject to a golden shower.
And if Nemtsov was doused with piss, then who were the pissers? In an interview on Ekho Moskvy, Nemtsov claimed the attack was the work of Nashi. “The regime, obviously finding itself in a hysterical position, decided to use criminals, in particular Nashists, judging by the tactics.”
It certainly smells of Nashi. After all, the youth group has been quite active doling out provocations of late. In addition to, the stunt they played on Ilya Yashin, a member of the pro-Kremlin group has recently admitted to carrying out the cyber attacks on Estonia, including exacting revenge on Kommersant with a denial of service attack on the paper’s website after it published an article on the incident, picketing Novaya gazeta for publishing an unflattering article about the new patriarch Aleksei II, protesting outside the latest Khodorkovsky trial and demanding Sberbank’s top managers to give back their bonuses. Interestingly, the police detained thirty-five Nashists in the Khodorkovsky action and twelve in the Sberbank.
I guess you can now add pissing on Nemtsov to the list.Post Views: 1,036