Russia

Yeltsin was a symbol for the capitalist system that emerged following the capitalist counter-revolution he headed. The fact that his death yesterday was met with indifference in Moscow shows just how weak support for capitalism is in the capital, a city where unlike in the provinces a layer of the population is better off than in Soviet times.

In the Russian political dictionary Kondopoga has emerged as a new negative concept. Over a short period we have already experienced a number of such events, and everywhere along the same lines. Mass disturbances under nationalist slogans, which stemmed from everyday conflicts, xenophobic pogroms, public calls “to clear off the blacks” – all this is Kondopoga.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not the end of Marxism. On the contrary it confirmed what the Marxists had stated long ago, that the bureaucracy was a threat to the very survival of the planned economy. But there was no Marxist party on the scene that could offer the workers an alternative. Thus the whole system imploded with devastating effects on industry and with it the working class, which was thrown back decades, divided and atomised. It became a passive force, which explains the impasse facing today’s Russian left. But now we can see the first signs of the working class beginning to come together again as a class.

The recent conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the price of gas brought to the surface the contradictions in the Ukraine, a country which is being pulled towards the western sphere of influence. That was what the so-called Orange Revolution was about. Now the Ukraine people are disillusioned as they watch an international conflict for control of resources that stretches right across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

A long standing dispute at the Saint Petersburg docks is escalating into what could be come an all-out strike. We have received a request for international solidarity. Please act now. Raise this in your union branch and send messages of solidarity.

Putin is still holding on to his popularity among wide layers of Russian society. But his party, United Russia, is not doing so well. In a series of local elections it has done rather badly. This reflects a crisis within the Russian ruling elite. The Communist Party (CPRF) has made some gains, in spite of the total inertia of its leadership. Misha Steklov in Moscow looks at the situation facing the country.

Misha Steklov in Moscow comments on last month’s victory of the Russian team, CSKA (The Central Sporting Club of the Army) over Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Cup final. “From the Taiga to the British seas, the red army is the strongest of all,” went the chorus of the fans. But only the words of the song reminded you of the club’s origins.

On March 8th, Aslan Maskhadov was killed. There are currently conflicting reports as to how Russian forces killed the recognised leader of Chechen resistance against the Russian state. His death has been painted as a personal victory for President Putin, who was compelled to admit the weaknesses of the Russian state following the Beslan tragedy. But there is still no end in sight for the war of attrition between Chechen independence fighters and the Russian army.

In the aftermath of the Beslan massacre President Putin has used the pretext of the fight against terrorism to abolish the direct election of national deputies and regional governors. He has also introduced other measures which are an attempt to gain tight control over the state apparatus. But he is doing this as a growing disillusionments spreads among the Russian masses. At the moment this remains below the surface, but it must emerge in one form or another at some point.

We received this report shortly after the storming of the school in North Ossetia. It highlights the divide between the ordinary people of Beslan and the authorities, and also the responsibility of the Russian government in creating the conditions upon which terrorism flourishes. The barbarity of what happened in Beslan has struck the minds and hearts of millions of people around the world. The unfortunate thing is that all this will now be exploited by the Putins of this world, and by the Blairs and Bushes too. This barbaric act of individual terrorism will not serve the cause of the Chechen people.

The events unfolding in Russia are of a dramatic nature. Gunmen are holding 350 children, parents and teachers in a school in Beslan, North Ossetia. The taking of these hostages is the latest in a series of attacks that have shaken Russia in the recent period. All this is a product of the ongoing conflict in Chechnya. Earlier this week there were new elections in Chechnya and another stooge of Moscow was elected president. This has not served to pacify the area.

It is clear that the Putin regime can't solve the problem of Chechnya. It is now slowly becoming a problem of all of the North Caucasus. The Russian army can't do anything about it, but Putin cannot put an end to the war either.

Behind the recent split in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) lies the sinister hand of Putin. He wants to eliminate any kind of opposition on the left as he embarks on one of his most vicious attacks on the Russian workers. He will fail to destroy the CPRF, but the lessons for the left must be drawn.

In Sunday’s elections in Russia Putin won a “landslide victory”. No one was surprised at this. It was a foregone conclusion, as it was not really an election but a plebiscite in the tried and tested tradition of all Bonapartists. Putin had tried to eliminate all opposition parties. The only opposition party, however, that managed to muster a sizeable vote was the Communist Party. Fred Weston looks at the implications of this.

In a surprise broadcast address to the nation last Tuesday, just three weeks before the presidential election, Putin announced that he had sacked his government. The main aim was to get rid of the prime minister, and this has been accomplished. The short-term effect of these changes will therefore be to reinforce Putin and his Bonapartist regime. However, the “strong man” has feet of clay.

A bomb exploded in the Moscow metro at 8:40 local time this morning, at the peak of rush-hour in the busiest underground system in the world. So far the number of casualties has reached 39, though this is bound to increase.  There will be neither lasting prosperity or peace for Russians or Chechens as long as capitalism and the national hatreds it breeds on both sides continue to exist.

On Sunday December 7th, Russians went to the polls to choose representatives for the state Duma, the lower house of parliament. The figures given in business daily Kommersant, based on 97.87% of the total vote, are as follows: United Russia 222 seats, the CPRF 53, LDPR 38, Motherland 37, independent deputies 65, and deputies from political parties who were elected on a first past the post basis 16. This result gives Putin a free hand in controlling the parliament. It is another step towards the consolitation of a bonapartist regime.