Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

From February to October


In his Annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, President Putin placed special emphasis on the anniversaries of the February Revolution and the October Revolution:

This is a good moment for looking back on the causes and nature of these revolutions in Russia. Not just historians and scholars should do this; Russian society in general needs an objective, honest, and deep-reaching analysis of these events.

Indeed, history is a great teacher giving us a variety of cases and making us draw numerous lessons. However, we need to learn from our experience and apply our knowledge to specific circumstances and particular landscape for these lessons to be more than just a tribute to the memory of the events. We must learn from our historical, political, and social errors and contribute to the state’s development. The available data shows clear evidence that the February Revolution and the October Revolution had roots in a complex mix of internal and external factors. We should particularly emphasise that problems leading to a coup or a revolution aren’t exclusively domestic ones. Still, A M Gorchakov, an outstanding diplomat and Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire, who studied the French revolutions that broke out in 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871, quite rightly noted:

Unless the government has made an error, a revolution won’t break out; the government is to blame for every revolution.

Therefore, let’s consider the contemporary internal political situation in the Russian Empire. 1917 became a turning point in the period of Russian history that started with the 1861 Emancipation Reform abolishing serfdom. Although it was the most important of the “Great Reforms”, however, it laid a foundation for future social upheavals. In fact, the emancipation of the serfs impoverished them. The reform took 20 percent of land away from serfs, and the size of land allotment almost halved, shrinking by 43 to 50 percent (5.24 hectares per person earlier against 2.84 after the reform). Meanwhile, those people had trouble assimilating into urban life, so numerous serfs were on the edge of survival. In retrospect, one can justifiably state that the events of 1917 were the direct continuation of the events of 1905 and completed earlier processes.

Secondly, the integration of largely agrarian Russia into the world capitalist system, which started in the 1850s, adversely affected most of the population. The country experienced two opposite trends. On the one hand, foreign investment allowed introducing new technologies and constructing plants, factories, and roads, with foreigners owning 90 percent of Russian mines, 50 percent of chemical enterprises, 40 percent of metallurgical and machine-building plants, and 30 percent of textile mills. On the other hand, the rising export of resources, including capital, needed to support economic development, stood in the way of the emerging Russian bourgeoisie. To put it differently, foreign capital was both an engine and a brake on domestic savings, and the country gradually gave up its financial and resource independence. As a result, industrialisation was in its initial stages up until World War I. Industry earned 6 billion roubles, whilst agriculture remained the major source of national wealth, earning 24 billion roubles, accounting for 75-80 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the population worked in agriculture, and the rural population constituted 87 percent of the total.

Thirdly, the state’s growing dependence on foreign loans provoked revolutionary upheavals. Russia accounted for 1.998 billion USD, or 31.2%, of the total external debt accumulated by all countries, and amounted to 6.317 billion USD by early 1914. However, the state remained the largest landowner, factory-owner, wholesale merchant, creditor, and so on. Naturally, capital-owners strongly opposed the situation, which fuelled tension between wealthy capitalists and the state. The big bourgeoisie mainly aimed to reduce the role of the state in the economy and limit it as much as possible; their idea was to transform capital into power. The fourth reason translating into large-scale demonstrations across the country was a logical extension of the above-mentioned causes. On the one hand, the difficult socioeconomic situation aggravated by the war provoked political disgruntlement. On the other hand, wealthy capitalists actively backing workers’ councils and establishing an extensive network of organisations fuelled popular resentment. Since 1916, prices rose four- or fivefold, and Russia saw a four-time increase in cash, with gold, in fact, withdrawn from circulation. Strike movements, unrest in villages, and rebellions on the periphery were exhausting and destabilising the state.

Weak government enjoying little popular support constituted a fifth, and perhaps most important, cause of the February Revolution, with the enrichment of the few accompanied by the impoverishment of the many. Specifically, Carl Fabergé received an unprecedentedly high number of orders in the crisis year of 1916. Thus, the paralysis of the state, mostly of the national security agencies, gripped the country. Already at war, Russia had a systemic crisis, resulting in the élite’s inability to perform its basic functions, infrastructure disruptions, and ultimately overt sabotage. As such, the revolution didn’t break out until the Tsar’s abdication, specifically until Nikolai II left his people and army to their own devices. Until then, one could see events as a plot or a rebellion, quite reversible phenomena. However, the Emperor’s abdication unleashed irreversible, and at the same time, most radical, processes, with the February Revolution followed by the October Revolution.

Finally, one should again point up that the internal factors of the February Revolution emerged full blown in the context of the world political game. The February Revolution came to be of crucial importance in the struggle for European and global primacy waged by Great Britain and its allies. Specifically, the fight aimed at erasing Russia from the geopolitical map and reducing it to a resource source, which was impossible to accomplish without the deposition of Nikolai II. At the Tsar’s abdication, Lloyd George actually said in Parliament:

[Through this], Britain achieved one of its major war aims.

Finally, yet importantly, the February events have a special meaning amid more frequent coups, more broadly known as “colour revolutions”. Current seizures of power fit into the structural pattern of the 1917 February Revolution, as they tend to capitalise on popular discontent to cause political destabilisation and breed opposition groups. Globalisation-shaped technological innovations also affect this. Whilst anti-monarchy propaganda circulated via newspapers and leaflets, today’s new mass media network takes the place of the press, revolutionary clubs, and strike committees. At the same time, the “Februarists” and contemporary “revolutionaries” share similar tasks and objectives, namely the overthrow of the state. Moreover, the February events and putsches have another important aspect in common, particularly their essential requirement to neutralise, even liquidate, the political leader. His or her deposition (or assassination) presages chaos, civil wars, and economic and political devastation, rather than the triumph of freedom and law.

8 April 2017

Yelena Ponomareva

Professor MGIMO

Rethinking Russia



The Absurdity of Saying “White Privilege”



If you have no confidence in yourself, you’re twice defeated in the race of life.

Marcus Garvey

I’ll admit that I was a part of the same crowd I’m now picking up a pen to speak against. I too once went around foolishly talking about “white privilege” this or “white people are evil” that. This was not too long ago… a time when I used to see justice through coloured binoculars and I was part of the very divisive culture I thought I was speaking against. It took two years of hardship for me to finally shed my blinders and see injustice as it is without putting an adjective in front of it. What I witnessed from South Carolina to Colorado (and countless regions in-between) as I sojourned from state to state and mission to mission is this. Poverty comes for all and it doesn’t discriminate based on the preposterous labels we append to ourselves. These designations of white and black are insidious, but they’ve worked perfectly. Black and white are constructs meant to ghettoise people behind prisons of contempt in order to fracture humanity. There isn’t one person in this world who’s black nor is anyone white; monstrous men who had everything to gain by dividing us imposed these words upon us.

Over generations, we accepted these hateful labels and made them a source of pride. Why do I say the labels are hateful? Go ahead… look up the definition of the word “black” in Webster’s Dictionary. You’ll discover nothing but one slander after another as they use black to describe worthless and insignificant things. At the top of the definition, you’d see that vile label ascribed to “black people”, followed by words like dark, evil, wicked, and (most perniciously) black is those things that don’t have light. People don’t understand that they use the word “black” to dehumanise us and to imply that we don’t have God’s light in us. Now, go ahead, look up the word “white” in the same dictionary. You’d see white described in the most glowing ways. White is the full presence of light and it’s affixed to people who come from Europe. White is pure, clean, of good character, and free from blemish. As we are dehumanised, other groups are elevated, and in the process, the world is shattered into a battle between “black” and “white”. This is how the One Percent can conquer and subjugate the 99 Percent.

Don’t you see what these demonic men were up to in the past when they came up with the constructs of “black” and “white”? They were insulting us to the core and saying that we’re valueless as they elevated themselves to the status of heirlooms. Now, I know some people would try to say, “They don’t get to define what we are, we do”. This is absurdity of the highest magnitude; “they” gave us the word black to define us. Trust me when I tell you this, our ancestors in the continent we now imprudently call Africa didn’t call themselves “black” before foreigners invaded, colonised the continent of Ethiopia, and shipped off her children to live a chattel’s life in chains. By accepting the word “black”, we accept inferiority. Too many people overlook this fact and instead choose to lash out and bang on “white privilege”. However, calling people “white” is the privilege itself! No one is white, the minute you say someone is white, you might as well get on your knees and say “master” for that is the implication of the paradigm of the labels black and white. Black mires us in third-class citizen status and white confers upon people from European descendants the prominence of the preferred tribe. Do you know what the word “negro” means? It’s “black” in another dialect, so is a word less insulting when it’s in English than when you utter it in another language?

The source of our enslavement is within; this is why Bob Marley sang that song “free yourselves from mental slavery”. Accepting our identity through the identification others gave us is nothing more than accepting bondage. Words are super-powerful; nothing in this world matches the potency of the tongue and the words that flow from it. By saying that we’re black, we speak inferiority into existence; calling others white confers superiority unto those who call us black. Sadly, the loudest idiots get the microphones; thus, a herd of unoriginal thinkers lead us, who convince us to get on bended knees and beg for acceptance instead of lifting ourselves. After all, you can make money in race hustling, but actually teaching people to feed themselves takes away future customers. These things have real life consequences; we spend all our time protesting outward while turning to a rhetoric of hatefulness instead of fixing ourselves from within. Like I said, I’ve done this too… I’m not speaking from a point of piousness. Nevertheless, we’ve been following the same playbook for generations; banging our heads into walls won’t knock the walls down, it just leads to migraine headaches. Having pain doesn’t give us the right to pass on pain to others. Blaming the masses of our less-melanised brethren for the sins of a few is no different than when a “white” person says all black people are thugs. Bigotry is bigotry… we don’t get a pass just because we’ve felt a bigger injustice.

If you want to fight injustice, great! However, for God’s sake, stop putting adjectives in front of injustice. Don’t fight for black justice or brown justice, fight for justice on its own for doing anything less makes you part of the very injustice you fight against. This system of oppression that robs hope from the masses and bleeding people the world over thrives only through division. Its weakness is unity. Therefore, when people take to the podium to speak of “white privilege”, “Muslim terrorism”, or “Mexican illegals”, they feed into the divisiveness that fuels the fire of global injustice. In what world is it right to blame the whole for the excesses of a fraction who happen to be of that identity? If it’s wrong when they lump us all together and characterise us as such, it’s equally wrong to do that to anyone else. If you insist on saying “white privilege”, take a drive down to the Appalachians, or failing that, go down to your local homeless shelter. There, you’d find teeming masses of so-called “white” people mired in perpetual hopelessness and indigence that’d shock your conscience. I dare you to go up to a “white” homeless person and tell him he has “white privilege”. The same root of injustice that robs the inner cities of Chicago of hope and hobbles “black” folk into cyclical poverty is what cripples “white” folks into dependency and privation in states like Idaho, Alabama, and Texas.

The way to find the liberation that’s eluded us for centuries, the only way to heal the wounds of generational injustice, is to find love within. The élites loved Malcolm X as long as he preached the divisive language of “white devils” and “white privilege”. Once Malcolm travelled to Mecca and saw the sea of humanity praying together, he realised that we should pursue the quest to end iniquity without exclusion, he stopped speaking of “white devils”, and instead embraced universal justice. That’s when the powerful eliminated Malcolm. So discount every “black” leader and author and every “white” firebrand who preaches from the pulpit of “us versus them” as frauds and see them as only demagogues who work and get paid by the same system they speak against. If you want to know how Donald Trump won the election, look no further than the “us versus them” paradigm that we elected the fraud Obama to eradicate, only he breathed butane into the fire. “White” folk got tired of being made guilty for the endless ways the system of oppression hobbles the masses in America and throughout the world. A culture of endless grievances made them feel aggrieved too. The same way “black folk” turned out in mass to vote for an empty-suit Obama because he spoke our pains, “white folks” did the same as the pugnacious pig that is Donald Trump spoke to their pains too. This is what happens when we let our emotions lead us; dark souls will keep coming around to lead us by the nose. We end up getting the government we deserve.

Enough of the nonsense, stop acting the victim and complaining about what the “white man” did to you and realise that they suffer too. I know some will cite examples of how “white people” stuck in poverty don’t have it as bad as “black folk” stuck in indigence… this is such folly. Poverty is poverty; those stuck in it have minimal chances to escape the clutches of destitution. Once someone is mired in homelessness and is sentenced to a life of concrete mattresses and newspaper blankets, they have little hope to go from that level of despair to finding renewal. Instead of judging who has it worse and turning the suffering of people into abstract philosophical debating points, how about we stop seeing through colour and just help people who suffer as we’re best able? However, first, heal thyself… for you can’t help others before you mend within. Stop tearing others down from without, let’s take a pause, and find a way to fill our hearts with love rather than letting anger be our guiding flame. Loosen from our souls such hateful pejorative words like “black”, “nigger”, and “habehsa” given to our ancestors to dehumanise them and make them the lesser. Lastly, if you really do care about ending injustice and want to fight for equality, here’s a radical proposal. How about we see both humanity and injustice without appending an adjective of colour, class, or ideology in front of it? Be about love for everyone or else count yourself as part of the injustice that takes from all.

14 May 2017

Teodrose Fikre

Ghion Journal


11 July 2017. We’ve Reached Ten Million Hits

Filed under: personal reflections — 01varvara @ 00.00
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We’ve reached ten million hits. I started doing this in November 2007, almost ten years ago. I’m still here… on the other hand, some of my critics have long since fallen by the wayside. I offer an eclectic mixture of Orthodox Christianity, Russian culture, Leftist politics, and humorous animals. Like all grounded people, I’m a bundle of contradictions! Beware the monomaniacal and earnest… such people tend to extremes and disregard people. Although this is most prominent amongst the “conservative”, trust me, there are “leftists” who are just as acrid and nasty (especially, those involved in “identity politics”).

LOVE rules this House… LOVE of Life, LOVE of God, LOVE of Truth, LOVE of our “little brothers”, and LOVE of Justice and Mercy. If love doesn’t rule your house and set your heart ablaze with the desire to set things right… well, you have a major malfunction. Remember… you must love the “Other” as they are, without any desire to remake them in your image. If you do this, people will notice… people can smell bullshit from a distance. Trust me, I’ve seen it in my life.

Thank you for being here with me. Come, sit down by the fire and have a warm… you’re at home and always welcome. The road goes ever onward… shall you share the road with me for a spell?


11 July 2017. A Point to Ponder from James Connolly

1936 CPUSA election poster


In the long run, the freedom of a nation is measured by the freedom of its lowest class. Every upward step of that class, to the possibility of possessing higher things, raises that nation in the scale of civilisation.

James Connolly

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