Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Khimki Crowd Assembles to Show Support for Arrested Long-Haul Truckers



Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 24 – Russian officials, disturbed by the appearance of a crowd of supporters of the long-haul truckers police arrested in Khimki near Moscow on Sunday, not only organized a late-night court session to fine the three strike leaders but hustled off to some unknown location the nine others.  Their fate is as yet unknown.

            After the three were released following the imposition of fines ranging from 10,500 to 30,500 rubles (200 to 600 US dollars), they spoke to the crowd and detailed the inhuman conditions in which they had been kept (activatica.org/blogs/view/id/3507/title/s-zaderzhannymi-dalnoboyshchikami-proishodyat-strannosti).

            The strike leaders indicated that despite the fines, the truckers were going ahead with plans to establish a second location in the Moscow region for striking truckers to park and provide mutual support.  And they said they would press for the release of the nine others who were scheduled to face a judge on Monday morning but did not appear before him.

            The fact that the detained drivers attracted a crowd of local supporters and journalists has made it more difficult for the authorities to “fabricate cases and condemn innocent people,” the Activatica portal says.

            Another indication of the Russian authorities’ nervousness about the long-haul drivers’ strike yesterday when the Duma took up a measure that would extend the blocking of messenger services like Zello that the drivers have used to organize the strike over the last two months (mk.ru/politics/2017/05/24/gosduma-predlozhila-puskat-v-messendzhery-po-pasportu-i-cenzurirovat-ikh.html).

Putin’s Russian World Increasingly Informed by a Nazi Aesthetic, Moscow Specialist Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 24 – Many commentators have discussed whether Vladimir Putin is a fascist in any serious sense, but most have failed to consider one area where fascism has clearly arisen in his Russia: in the aesthetics that increasingly inform Moscow’s public life and that have obvious parallels with those of the Third Reich, Innokenty Malkiel says.

            “The legions of tomorrow marching through Red Square are a multitude of strong young men lacking any individual characteristics,” the art specialist says in a commentary for Open Russia. “The monochromatic, red-gold or black-white, ascetic but at the same time monumental” reflect values “from ancient Egypt to Stalin’s times,” but they are now being presented not as something from history but “as a model for the future” (openrussia.org/notes/709612/).

            “Masculinity, militarism, monumentalism, and an appeal to antiquity are all things we have already seen and not so long ago – all of 70 or 80 years ago in Nazi Germany.”  And some things we see in Russia today “shock by their similarity (is this accidental?) with the forms of Albert Speer or Arno Brecher of that period,” Malkiel says.

            In all too many cases, he continues, the fascist aesthetic of Leni Riefenstahl is present and “behind it stands a corresponding ideological basis.”

            “At first glance,” Malkiel continues, “the ideology of ‘the Eurasian Movement’ is unlike the ideology of the NSDAP. However, when one talks about ‘a Eurasian Union’ on the space of the former USSR, the question arises: by what means will ‘the reunification’ of these territories be carried out?”

            And when one asks that question, he says, “we see there populism and expansionism and ‘special path’ and militarism and extremism – that is, most of familiar aspects of fascism.”

            Fifteen years ago, Eduard Limonov, then a comrade in arms to Aleksandr Dugin, praised the Eurasianist for being in the Russian context “’the Kirill and Methodius of fascism.’”  Today, Malkiel says, “the catechism of a member of the Eurasian Youth Movement” does not leave any doubt about that.

            “You must be a master,” that document reads. “You were born to rule Eurasia. You are more than a man. Our goal is absolute power. We are the Union of Lords, of the new overlords of Eurasia. We will turn everything back. Such is the white testament of Eurasia.”

            Such attitudes have spread beyond politics, Malkiel continues. They are now informing the work of many Russian artists who say these are simply a matter of “the Russian style,” an indication of just how far they have spread into the popular culture and how much that style now simply represents a recrudescence of “a fascist aesthetic” in Putin’s Russia.

            That is clearly seen in the posters Russian artists prepared for the Sochi Olympiad, which like their Nazi predecessors featured “’true Aryans, blond and blue eyes in front of buildings whose neo-classical architecture completely coincides with the style of the Third Reich.”  It is impossible,” Malkiel continues, “not to see corresponding parallels.”

            (His article is especially useful because it features pictures of this new art.)

            Some Russian artists argue that they have the right to use fascist symbols because the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany and thus can appropriate its art, but “in fact,” they are using it in anything but a critical way but rather to promote a similar aesthetic and a similar political agenda.

            And “present-day Russian ‘stormtrooper artists’ and ideologues of extreme right views with each year see ever more in Putin and his regime ‘a common spirit.’” Dugin is among them. Almost a decade ago, he said that Putin was “returning to us the symbols of the Soviet period and respect for it” and the need to exclude all Western influence on Russia.

            Already at that time, he continues, “Dugin sensed the side to which the Russian powers that be were drifting. The events which have followed” have only encouraged “the ultra-right ideologues and artists” to conclude that he was right.

            “Today we see,” Melkiel says, “how nostalgia for the Soviet empire is being reborn along with the aesthetics of that time, the aesthetics of Stalinism which in many of their manifestations are almost indistinguishable from the aesthetics of Nazism.” Indeed, it is “more correct to say that today we see their new birth in combination with each other.”

            This trend, he suggests, is leading to “the complete political disorientation of the population” and thus making the rise of “ultra-right nationalism and the worldwide trend toward population” more likely and more dangerous.

            “To let the fascist genie out of the bottle is easy, but to put it back is difficult,” the commentator says. “The last time this required tens of millions of lives. Given the existence of nuclear weapons, how many more might be required now?” And could it be that this aesthetic may lead some Russians to demand a fuehrer who would go even further than Putin has?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Despite His Suspicions about the Internet, Putin may Soon Begin to Tweet, Gontmakher Says



Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Vladimir Putin is deeply suspicious of the Internet, viewing it as a source of “disinformation and manipulation,” Ekho Moskvy editor Aleksey Venediktov  says ((echo.msk.ru/blog/pressa_echo/1985746-echo/). But he is also a very clever politician who recognizes that there are some things he must adapt himself to, Yevgeny Gontmakher observes.

            The Internet is one of those things, the sociologist insists in an interview with Roza Tsvetkova of Nezavisimaya gazeta today, and thus the Kremlin leader is likely to make use of it in various ways, including Youtube interviews and Tweets, in the future – and possibly sooner than anyone now thinks (ng.ru/ng_politics/2017-05-23/9_6993_twitter.html).

            Before the electronic age, the sociologist begins, a politician’s success depended on his ability to use oratory and the print media to reach and mobilize voters. After television appeared, he or she had to learn how to use it. “Now there is the Internet,” something no longer “exotic” even in Russia, “a Rubicon has been crossed,” and political leaders must adapt to it.

            “For the new generation of Russian politicians,” Gontmakher says, “the Internet is the only variant available to promote himself … A Politicians must be able to interact with people via the Internet, to get their reactions back.” Up to now, however, the number of leaders who can do that can “be counted on one’s fingers.”

            Gontmakher says that he “does not exclude that in the nearest future, not in these presidential elections but for example in the next parliamentary ones, television debates, which no longer interest anyone, will be shifted to the Internet, online,” where people will be able to react and far more will watch.

            He says that he does not exclude that “in the Internet will be presented some exclusive materials with Putin, perhaps in the form of the Youtube.”  Putin is “carefully studying the experience of the American elections,” and so are other (e.g., ng.ru/ng_politics/2017-05-23/9_6993_party.html), as are leaders of the LDPR and the KPRF.

            The Internet is one of those irreversible forces, one that has profound consequences for both society and the powers that be.  It helps promote the former because “social networks are the most horizontal links, the most civic society.” But for that reason, the powers that be as a vertical find themselves “in a certain sense” at odds with this.

            Some among the powers may want to ban it, but doing so in Russia, with its millions of users, would provoke a crisis, Gontmakher says.  And thus they must adapt because “to go against the flow would be deeply counter-productive.”  And that process of adaptation will only accelerate.

            Why isn’t Putin on Twitter now? the sociologist asks rhetorically. The reason likely is that Putin, Medvedev, the ministers and the head of the Presidential Administration are politicians. And for them, the time when as they though politics was only in the offices of those at the top … is already passing – and doing so irreversibly!”